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Chancellor Gold visits South Omaha to build connections

From left, Albert Varas, president and CEO of Latino Center of the Midlands, UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, MD, and Emiliano Lerda, co-founder of co-warehousing and community space Elevator. Varas is a UNMC board of counselor member, and Lerda is board chair.

UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, MD, joined with board of counselor member Albert Varas and Emiliano Lerda, chair of the board of counselors, for a breakfast meeting with South Omaha community leaders on July 31 at the Latino Center of the Midlands.

Varas, president and CEO of Latino Center of the Midlands, said the purpose of the event was to build increased awareness of UNMC and to strengthen existing and build new connections between UNMC and South Omaha community leaders.

“My hope is that the folks here in the room are able to get a general update on what’s going on at UNMC, so that they can be more closely aligned with the mission of the medical center and to know what resources would be available for the constituents that we serve.”

As an example, he praised UNMC’s Athena Ramos, PhD, associate professor in the Center for Reducing Health Disparities at the UNMC College of Public Health. “Dr. Ramos does amazing work with a lot of the population that we serve – and we know she exists and what she is able to do, but I don’t know if some of the guests who are coming know.”

To that end, Varas said, he and Lerda had invited not only leaders from well-known South Omaha organizations, but others “who are doing important work in South Omaha but may not have the same level of access to UNMC,” as well as up-and-coming community leaders.

Attendees included representatives from the Consulate of Guatemala, OneWorld Community Health Center, Immigrant Legal Center, Intercultural Senior Center, Omaha South High School and the Nebraska Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, as well as University of Nebraska Regent Elizabeth O’Connor and Nebraska State Sen. Tony Vargas.

In a wide-ranging, 90-minute discussion, Dr. Gold and community leaders discussed topics such as behavioral health, equitable access to health care in the immigrant and refugee community, social determinants of health, workforce issues in the community and the importance of nurturing homegrown talent in an effort to address them, among other topics. The importance of Project NExT, the new academic teaching facility, also was discussed by the community members.

Lerda, co-founder of Elevator, a co-warehousing and community space for small businesses with physical goods, was pleased with the exchange of ideas and the dialogue between Dr. Gold and the attendees, saying that he would like to see a return to a more regular cadence of meetings between UNMC and community leaders.

“The community then can hear all that UNMC is doing in the community and the world, and UNMC can hear from the community as well,” he said. “What are the pressure points, what are the issues? Both longstanding issues and emerging issues.”

Dr. Gold left the meeting with a list of topics to explore and questions to follow up on.

“Any time the med center has the opportunity to engage with a community, whether it’s South Omaha, North Omaha or our recent trips out in rural Nebraska, it’s just air under our wings,” he said. “I love this time in the community; it allows me and our team to listen carefully to what the needs are currently.  I always learn something new and different.

“As I like to say, if I don’t have homework, I don’t think the visit’s been successful – and I have quite the homework list, so I’m ready for next steps.”

1 comment

  1. Heidi Keeler says:

    This is so exciting and inspiring!

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