2022: UNMC’s year in review

UNMC Today walks back through a 2022 filled with major accomplishments for UNMC, including:

  • Pancreatic Cancer Center of Excellence launched, funded
  • Nebraska Center for Women’s Health Research at UNMC
  • UNMC part of $450 million COVID research study
  • Saddle Creek redevelopment
  • UNK-UNMC Rural Health Education Building moves forward
  • UNMC enrollment rises for 22nd straight year
  • Allied Health marks 50 years
  • Public Health, Nursing, Dentistry grants support workforce
  • ‘Only in Nebraska’ campaign kicks off
  • $20 million gift to UNMC College of Pharmacy

Pancreatic Cancer Center of Excellence launched, funded

The UNMC Pancreatic Cancer Center of Excellence received $15 million in one-time funding via the Health Care Cash Fund. The funding will be matched by $15 million in philanthropic support.  Already, UNMC receives about $8 million in grant funding annually in the area of pancreatic cancer. More physicians and scientists will join the team aggressively pursuing new treatments and therapies. Pancreatic cancer is the fourth-leading cause of cancer deaths in Nebraska.

Sunil Hingorani, MD, PhD, a highly accomplished and internationally recognized pancreas cancer researcher and clinician, has been named the inaugural recipient of the Nancy Armitage Pancreas Cancer Clinical Research Presidential Chair and the first director of the Pancreatic Cancer Center of Excellence at UNMC and Nebraska Medicine.

Golf’s global ambassador, Gary Player, and Berenberg, the world’s second oldest bank, reaffirm their commitment to fighting one of the deadliest known cancers. The 2022 Berenberg Invitational at GlenArbor Golf Club raised $750,000 for pancreatic cancer research at UNMC and Nebraska Medicine, bringing Berenberg’s combined donation over two tournaments to $1,450,000.

Nebraska Center for Women’s Health Research at UNMC

In April, the University of Nebraska Board of Regents approved the creation of the new Nebraska Center for Women’s Health Research at UNMC. The goal of the center is to coordinate and organize research activities in women’s health, said Carl Smith, MD, Olson Professor and chair of the UNMC Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. John Davis, PhD, will be the inaugural director of the center, which will build on the strong work of the Olson Center for Women’s Health.

UNMC part of $450 million COVID research study

UNMC is part of an almost $450 million, four-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to study up to 20,000 adults and children to better understand the full scope of post-COVID symptoms with the goal of improving treatment and health outcomes.

Some of the questions to be asked by NIH’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute RECOVER (Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery) research study include how many Americans have long-term effects from COVID, what their symptoms are and how the effects occur in the body.

“We’re excited to be able to contribute to a national effort. UNMC’s participation ensures that Nebraskans will be represented,” said David Warren, PhD, assistant professor in the UNMC Department of Neurological Sciences and co-principal investigator of the research study.

UNMC’s participation in the adult arm of the RECOVER study is as part of a consortium led by West Virginia University.

Saddle Creek redevelopment

In June, the University of Nebraska Board of Regents approved a Saddle Creek administrative facility for UNMC. The building will be located at the corner of Saddle Creek Road and Farnam Street and replace UNMC’s current and inefficient administrative building at the corner of 40th Street and Dewey Avenue, which was built in 1950 and originally designed as a children’s hospital. The new administrative building will provide a work environment reflective of both hybrid and in-office working models.  Construction on the $21 million project will start this summer and run through December 2025.

In September, the board approved UNMC’s plan to build an innovation hub on its new Saddle Creek campus in Omaha. The project will bring UNMC’s UNeMed and UNeTech branches together to facilitate the growth of research and innovation and allow entrepreneurs, investors and innovators to collaborate in the renovated 1906 Omaha Steel Castings industrial tract, located south of Farnam Street between 48th Street and Saddle Creek Road.

The Innovation Hub will be a UNMC-owned facility within the larger office development project known as Catalyst. Remaining space will be unfinished and leased to a wide spectrum of biotech and technology startups.

“The UNMC Innovation Hub at Catalyst is the next step to transform the Saddle Creek Campus from industry to innovation,” said UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, MD. “The flexible lease space will support entrepreneurial businesses in a collaborative environment, will generate income for UNMC and spur regional economic development.”

With approval from the University of Nebraska System Board of Regents, the former home of the Munroe-Meyer Institute, on the UNMC campus near the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, was razed in 2022. The project included razing the old Hattie B. Munroe and C.L. Meyer buildings, which made up the MMI complex, as well as the former J.P. Lord School, which was attached to the MMI structure.

The demolition may provide space, in part, for the future home of Project NExT, a public-private partnership that creates a federal, all-hazard health security disease response space.

UNK-UNMC Rural Health Education Building moves forward

In August, the University of Nebraska Board of Regents approved the program statement and construction budget for phase two of the UNK-UNMC Rural Health Education Building on the University of Nebraska at Kearney campus.

Construction of the $85 million facility is expected to begin in September 2023, with projected completion in July 2025. Thanks to approval from the legislature, the proposed facility received $50 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding for capital construction, plus $10 million for iEXCEL technology startup costs. Further, the legislature has committed the necessary sustainable operational funds to support faculty and staff. The university has committed to raising $35 million in private funding for construction.

“Adding a second health science focused building at UNK creates opportunities for students who want to both pursue — and practice — their health careers closer to home, which help us build a stronger rural workforce, increase access to rural care and help communities thrive,” said Jeffrey P. Gold, MD, UNMC chancellor. “In short, it will transform lives for generations.”

The project expands on an already successful collaboration between UNK and UNMC, phase one of the $19 million Health Science Education Complex (HSEC), which opened in 2015 and offers nursing and a variety of allied health profession training programs on the UNK campus. Phase two will enable UNMC to expand the presence of its allied health and nursing programs, launching new programs that will train physicians, pharmacists and public health professionals.

The project advances UNMC’s mission — as Nebraska’s only public academic health science center — to train and build the state’s health care workforce. In addition to expanding opportunities in allied health and nursing, it will bring new options to the UNK campus, including medicine, medical nutrition, genetic counseling and respiratory care — all high-need areas in rural Nebraska.

UNMC enrollment rises for 22nd straight year

For the 22nd year in a row, enrollment at UNMC grew this fall, as a record 4,406 students are attending UNMC, up from 4,387 students last fall.

UNMC saw its largest enrollment increases in graduate studies, public health, allied health professions and resident physicians (house officers) – medical school graduates who come to UNMC and Nebraska Medicine for their residencies.

“Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, people are seeing the importance of the health professions,” said UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, MD. “This latest class of UNMC students recognizes the role of medical and health professionals in protecting their communities and has stepped up to join their ranks. We are excited to welcome them and respect their commitment to making a difference in the lives of the people in their communities, in the state of Nebraska, across the nation and throughout the world.”

While enrollment UNMC grew for the 22nd year in a row this fall, the UNMC College of Public Health was one of the areas that saw the greatest increase.

The college saw a 5% increase in enrollment, with a total of 393 students this fall — its most ever, drawing from 42 states and 21 countries.

“Our students now represent a cross section of the whole United States and increasingly the world,” said Dean Ali Khan, MD, MPH. “They are committed to improving the health of their communities and were attracted to the college’s world-class teaching program and its focus on innovative solutions for our numerous global public health challenges.”

Allied Health marks 50 years

Allied health at UNMC began in 1972 with three health professions programs, as a school that was part of the UNMC College of Medicine. Now, in 2022, as UNMC’s sixth college, it celebrated 50 years of history and the years to come.

Public Health, Nursing, Dentistry grants support workforce

A nearly $3 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration will allow the UNMC College of Public Health to recruit 240 community health workers over the next three years to take part in a newly developed training and certification program led by UNMC.

Dejun Su, PhD, associate professor at the UNMC Department of Health Promotion, led the effort to secure the federal grant to substantially expand the community health worker workforce in Nebraska.

“Community health workers are uniquely positioned to help us address social determinants of health and bridge the gap between the health care system and underserved communities,” Dr. Su said. “This training program represents a great opportunity for Nebraska to expand and enhance its current community health worker workforce and promote its integration into local health care delivery to address health disparities.”

UNMC has partnered with a number of health care and community organizations across the state in this project, including Nebraska Medicine, CHI Health, Methodist Health System, Nebraska Health Network, OneWorld Community Health Centers, Nebraska Urban Indian Health Coalition, Winnebago Comprehensive Healthcare System, Partnership for a Healthy Nebraska, the largest pharmacy network in the state, Nebraska Enhanced Services Pharmacies and others.

“The program will showcase a unique whole community approach to address health disparities that is possible because of the long-standing partnerships fostered by UNMC,” said Ali S. Khan, MD, MPH, dean of the UNMC College of Public Health.

The UNMC College of Nursing has been awarded a Health Resources and Services Administration grant that will provide close to $4 million over the next four years.

The project, “An Innovative States-wide Nursing Workforce Clinical Preceptor Academy,” will enable work on multiple facets of nursing workforce preparation within a four-state region, including Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri.

This funding, according to project director Heidi Keeler, PhD, provides “resources for innovative education, workforce development, and community engagement needed to address an issue pertinent to all of us: growing and maintaining a prepared nursing workforce.

“At one time or another, we will all require the astute care skills of a nurse,” Dr. Keeler said. “This grant will help ensure that the nurses who train up and coming nurses are ready, available and supported in this critical work, which ultimately results in safe quality care.”

The Nebraska DHHS Office of Oral Health and Dentistry (OOHD) recently received a four-year oral health workforce grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and is partnering with the UNMC College of Dentistry, Munroe-Meyer Institute (MMI) and local health departments to:

  • Increase access to quality, age-appropriate dental care for older adults and those with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD); and
  • Strengthen the dental workforce’s capacity and preparedness to provide high-quality oral health care to adults with IDD.

Only in Nebraska’ campaign kicks-off

On Nov. 18, the University of Nebraska announced the public launch of “Only in Nebraska: A Campaign for Our University’s Future.” The campaign is a historic effort to encourage at least 150,000 benefactors to give $3 billion to support University of Nebraska students, faculty, academic programs and research to address the needs of the state.

$20 million gift to UNMC College of Pharmacy

Joe Williams’ $20 million estate gift will change the college’s trajectory. The gift allows the UNMC College of Pharmacy to endow its deanship; endow a student scholarship fund and funds for faculty support which include available matching dollars to spur even more giving from the college’s supporters; funds to further develop the UNMC Center for Drug Discovery; and unrestricted dollars that the college will use to bring its strategic initiatives to life.

“It allows the college to truly change its trajectory,” said UNMC College of Pharmacy Dean Keith Olsen, PharmD.

Williams was one of the College of Pharmacy’s greatest success stories. And, with his wife, Millie, one of its most steadfast supporters. Williams started as a traveling salesperson and worked his way up to president of pharmaceutical giants Parke-Davis and Warner-Lambert.