Jennifer Harney, M.D., and her Aurora, Neb., family are forever grateful for a newborn screening mandated in Nebraska 50 years ago. That, and the care from Nebraska physicians saved her from permanent, serious physical and developmental disabilities.

Dr. Harney, who graduated from UNMC medical school in 2011, will graduate from residency training this spring and plans to practice medicine in central Nebraska, where she grew up.

One UNMC pediatrician in particular – the late Hobart Wiltse, M.D., of Falls City, Neb. – had a major influence on her becoming a physician. After testing positive as a newborn for Phenylketonuria (PKU), an inherited disorder, she saw him periodically at the UNMC Munroe-Meyer Institute. Without medication and a special diet, PKU builds up in the bloodstream causing irreversible, severe brain damage.

“If it were not for him, and the treatment they gave me, I would be in a wheelchair having seizures,” Dr. Harney said. “He changed patients’ lives, families and the people he taught. That’s the doctor I hope to become.”

She continued to see specialists at the Munroe-Meyer Institute during her pregnancy and gave birth to a healthy boy, Finn, this past October 2017.