Chancellor welcomed Dr. Sweasy at Thursday’s forum

Jeffrey P. Gold, MD, and Joann Sweasy, PhD

Jeffrey P. Gold, MD, and Joann Sweasy, PhD

Joann Sweasy, PhD, still pinches herself when she walks through the doors of the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center.

Dr. Sweasy, who took on the role of director of the Eppley Institute for Research in Cancer and Allied Diseases and Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, said she hopes to continue the mission of building on the center’s reputation both regionally and nationally.

Dr. Sweasy spoke about her initial impressions and early goals alongside UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, MD, during Thursday’s all-campus hybrid forum.

The Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center is the only NCI-designated cancer center in the state and is one of 72 in the country, Dr. Sweasy said. Patients treated at those facilities have better outcomes and better quality of life.

“We have an amazing group of people,” Dr. Sweasy said. “We’d like to become a trusted partner of Nebraskans. We’ll reach out across the state, build community outreach and engagement, and expand and build the incredible science here.”

Plans for growth are exciting, Dr. Gold said, and there’s still much work to be done. The cancer center is well positioned for comprehensive designation, he added.

“It will be important to have this designation,” Dr. Gold said. “But the truth of the matter is, it will recognize our ability to provide cancer prevention and care for the entire state of Nebraska, which is really what’s exciting to me.”

Dr. Gold also:

  • Discussed the status of zero-based budgeting. Chancellors from the four University of Nebraska campuses are meeting with President Ted Carter and Mr. Chris Kabourek, who will become interim president on Jan. 1. Dr. Gold said the meeting offered a chance to consider what was learned during the process of compiling budget information, consider what opportunities could be better on campus and what lessons from campus could be shared elsewhere. “This was a critically important meeting,” Dr. Gold said. “After these meetings, we’ll have a better idea of the budget and, rest assured, I will transparently share updates with the entire campus.”
  • Gave an update on construction around campus. The Board of Regents recently approved moving forward with planning for an infectious diseases air transport training facility. Student Health will move in mid to late January. The ice rink will reopen after renovations. After the skating season, a canopy cover will be created and installed to allow for use in inclement weather and in summer. Ground has broken on the CORE Building and Innovation Hub at Catalyst.
  • Offered an update on Project NExT. The project is split into three phases, with the first dubbed Project Health. It involves public private partnerships and addresses what to do to replace aging clinical facilities, expand residency and fellowship education, and create more rotations for health professions students. Dr. Gold said dirt may move on the first phase, at the former site of the Munroe-Meyer Institute, by spring 2025.
  • A presidential search committee has been formed to find a replacement for NU President Ted Carter. A priority candidate is expected to be identified by early to mid-February, Dr. Gold said.
  • Touched on Helix, a program offered by Nebraska Medicine and UNMC that would offer whole genome screenings as part of a national research project. Screenings will provide specific genetic information for every participant. Free screenings will be available for faculty, staff and students, Dr. Gold said.
  • Recapped the first session in the Breakthrough Thinking Conference Series. The session, presented by Maria Langworthy, PhD, addressed generative artificial intelligence. University officials have done significant work surrounding artificial intelligence and how it can play into strategic planning. A future session will address best practices, particularly in research environments. 
  • Congratulated winter graduates ahead of commencement on Dec. 15 and recognized Maj. Gen. (ret.) Paul Friedrichs, MD, who will receive an honorary degree.

In closing, Dr. Gold wished the campus community a happy holiday season and issued a call to action to help those around us. “I want to be sure to wish each of you and your families the very best of a happy and healthy holiday,” Dr. Gold said. “Please also remember those who may not be so well advantaged and see if there’s part of your holiday celebration that allows you to reach out and help others.”