Campus leaders discuss mask protocol, diversity efforts

UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, MD, Sheritta Strong, MD, assistant vice chancellor of inclusion, and Jane Meza, PhD, interim executive director for the Office of Health Security

UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, MD, Sheritta Strong, MD, assistant vice chancellor of inclusion, and Jane Meza, PhD, interim executive director for the Office of Health Security

Campus protocols have not changed in the wake of increased cases of COVID-19, said Jane Meza, PhD, interim executive director for the Office of Health Security. But that also means masks still are required in any clinical or patient-facing areas of campus.

Dr. Meza gave an update on campus safety, and Sheritta Strong, MD, assistant vice chancellor of inclusion, spoke on campus DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) efforts at the March 13 monthly campus forum hosted by Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, MD.

Dr. Meza said it is easy, while walking through campus, not to notice you’ve walked into a mask-required area. She asked that UNMC students and employees carry a mask “and watch for signs.”

Will that requirement be lifted in the near future? That is up to our clinical partners, Drs. Gold and Meza said. But many patients seem to appreciate the additional safety measure.

There remain no restrictions on gatherings or events on campus, Dr. Meza said.

See the video of the March all-campus forum:

Dr. Meza also reminded the campus community that UNMC follows Executive Memorandum 25, under the office of the president of the university. This means any travel to nations with a Level 3 or above health warning from the State Department or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first must be cleared by Dr. Meza’s office.

Drs. Gold and Meza also pointed out that the nation’s public health emergency status expires May 11, meaning COVID-19 testing and vaccination likely will no longer be free.

Dr. Strong urged everyone to strategize around gender equity, noting it is Women’s History Month. She noted inclusive hiring tools available on campus, including a faculty search committee guidebook and interactive modules.

Dr. Strong reflected on the State of Diversity presentation held in January with Nebraska Medicine. She hailed the UNMC College of Medicine’s community academy, UNMC College of Allied Health Professions’ efforts in holistic admissions and the UNMC College of Public Health’s intercultural development inventory as recent points of pride.

In other news from the forum, Dr. Gold:

  • Congratulated honorees from UNMC’s Distinguished Scientist ceremony and looked forward to the Impact in Education awards, scheduled for March 30 at 3 p.m. in the Durham Research Center Auditorium.
  • Pointed to Match Day, this Friday, March 17, when UNMC’s fourth-year medical students learn where they’ll do their residency training.
  • Issued a reminder that Friday, March 17, also is the last day to offer comments on the 2024-27 strategic plan.
  • Predicted that we may hear an announcement on the search for a new dean of nursing by the end of the week. Stakeholders will be “thrilled with that announcement when it is made,” Dr. Gold said.
  • Thanked Russell McCulloh, MD, for taking on the job of associate vice chancellor for clinical research and welcomed David Doty as director of Sponsored Programs Administration. Doty, who has led the office of sponsored programs at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln since November 2019, will assume his new role on April 3.
  • Praised Nicole Kent, student regent, and others for their legislative testimony on behalf of UNMC and the University of Nebraska.
  • Hailed the good news that an interlocal agreement with the state Medicaid office will result in a significant increase in graduate medical education funding, meaning more graduates and fellows in Nebraska’s rural and urban settings.
  • Urged the UNMC community to take part in the March 30-31 UNMC Giving Day — For the Greater Good. It’s not about amount, the chancellor said, but participation — and competition with the university’s other campuses. “I am confident that the med center will show them how it’s done,” he said.
  • Previewed his upcoming new podcast series, especially an inspirational interview with Timothy Shriver, PhD, chair of the Special Olympics International Board of Directors. Watch UNMC Today for details on its release.
  • Acknowledged that an emphasis on wellness and fighting against burnout while employees face rising costs and sometimes diminishing resources at work may be a “disconnect.” “I am so well aware because I hear it every day,” he said, noting UNMC is “trying to thread the needle the best we can.” The med center has been at the forefront of combatting burnout for more than a decade, he said.

Dr. Gold closed by reminding the audience of UNMC’s counseling and wellness resources, encouraging people to be there for one another. Remember the 988 national suicide hotline, Dr. Gold said. And when you have a minute, take it. And breathe. “Use that time to reflect for yourself,” the chancellor said.

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