Pathways

Nebraska Public Service Lab is ISO/IEC 17025:2017 accredited

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The Nebraska Public Service Laboratory (NPSL), housed on the UNMC campus, is pleased to announce that it has received ISO/IEC 17025:2017 accreditation by the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA) for laboratory testing associated with the impartial identification of seized controlled substances.  ISO/IEC 17025:2017 is the international standard specifying the general requirements for the competence, impartiality and consistent operation of testing laboratories. This achievement occurred following a thorough assessment and review of the NPSL’s quality management system to include policies, procedures and technical expertise.  Accreditation was granted under the field of Forensic Testing for Seized Drugs.

The NPSL performs testing on seized controlled substances as part of a contractual relationship with law enforcement agencies.  Testing activities include identification of unknown substances to include crystalline material, liquids, blotter paper, pills, plant material, fungal material, powders and food items as well as determination of methamphetamine purity. 

Figure 1 illustrates counterfeit pills commonly containing fentanyl but manufactured to look like pharmaceutical oxycodone pills.  Figure 2 is the view of cystolithic trichomes on a dried Cannabis plant through a specialized microscope.  Figure 3 depicts measurement of methamphetamine in preparation for quantitative methods for determining purity.  Accurate determination of purity is an important step in the process.


"No single event has influenced my career as much as this pandemic," Joshua Santarpia, PhD


(Joshua Santarpia, PhD)

Joshua L. Santarpia, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Pathology and Microbiology is also the Research Director, Chemical and Biological Programs at National Strategic Research Institute.  Dr. Santarpia is featured in UNMC Newsroom, an online platform that features scientists, doctors, professors and other academic and medical professionals at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.  This particular article highlights Dr. Santarpia's career path as a scientist and how his decisions and experiences molded him into the researcher he is today.  Read about it here.   

Six residents accepted to USCAP 2022

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Top Row L-R: Ahmad Alshomrani, MBBS, Matthew Carda, DO, Daniel Harter, MD
Bottom Row L-R: Julie Eclov, MD PhD, Joe Rohr, MD PhD, Pranav Renavikar, MBBS

Congratulations to our residents Drs. Ahmad Alshomrani, HO-II, Pranav Renavikar, HO-II, Daniel Harter, HO-III, Matt Carda, HO-IV, Julie Eclov, HO-IV, and Joseph Rohr, HO-IV for their acceptance to the annual meeting of the United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology. They will compete for the Stowell-Orbison Award, the highest honor bestowed at this meeting to trainees. We are excited for their successes and look forward to their continued achievements. Our residents have a proven success in abstract submission and publication undeterred by COVID restrictions, with more than two dozen resident-led presentations and publications in the last two academic years.

 

 Cystatin C Testing

Improving Accuracy of Kidney Function Diagnoses


    Sam Pirruccello, MD
Scott Koepsell, MD, PhD
   Scott Koepsell, MD, PhD

 A new method of testing has been released here at UNMC, improving the accuracy of diagnosing kidney function.  Our pathology group led by Sam Pirruccello, MD, with support from Scott Koepsell, MD, PhD, recently formalized the use of Cystatin C testing as a more reliable alternative to creatinine in the evaluation of kidney issues.  The standard procedure for indicating kidney health has been measuring the level of creatinine in a patient’s blood.  But creatinine levels are not the best measure because creatinine is produced by muscle mass and the results can vary depending on the patient’s race, gender, age and diet among other factors.  Dr. Pirruccello sees the implementation of Cystatin C testing as a tremendous asset to patients as the results can provide physicians with a more accurate diagnosis, potentially resulting in improved outcomes for their patients.

 

Community Heroes Night:

UNMC heroes honored


Pictured L to R:  Dr. Pete Iwen, Tony Sambol, Emily McCutchen, Amy Roden, Elizabeth Mitchell, Greg Beall and Bin Li.

On Sept. 11, 2021, some of our own were honored as Community Heroes at the Union Omaha Soccer game. The Omaha Union Owls took time to recognize UNMC's Nebraska Public Health Laboratory (NPHL) led by Peter Iwen, MS, PhD, D(ABMM), F(AAM) at Werner Park, and to say thank you for the scientific research the lab performs on Coronavirus and other infectious diseases, benefitting the local community and the entire world.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
Joshua Santarpia, PhD and St. Patrick Reid, PhD provided substantial research for UNMC spotlight into COVID-19's airborne transmission.


(left to right: Joshua Santarpia, PhD; John-Martin Lowe, PhD; Lowe St. Patrick Reid, PhD)

UNMC and Nebraska Medicine have been on the frontlines of the coronavirus since its arrival in the United States. In February 2020, before the disease was termed a pandemic, we were treating patients from a cruise ship who had tested positive for COVID-19.  Months later, UNMC scientists began a research project on how COVID-19 was being transmitted, determining that aerosols are the primary spreading source. Studies lead by three UNMC co-principal investigators, including Joshua Santarpia, Ph.D.; St. Patrick Reid, PhD; and John-Martin Lowe, PhD, determined the virus spreads through air particles exhaled by people carrying the disease. This important finding was first reported in July 2020, and recently was peer reviewed and accepted for publication in Nature’s Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology.

This is an important revelation. Early on, it was thought the virus spread through droplets - that it was acquired by touching something contaminated by the disease. Such a critical finding lends knowledge to help us reduce the spread of the disease, emphasizing the important strategy of mask wearing and other preventative measures.  Dr. Santarpia says research shows virus in air particles to be very tiny - smaller than a micron, which is one thousandth of a millimeter.  The best protection we have against the spread of the virus is by wearing good quality masks that stop these microscope particles from entering our airways.

Dr. Santarpia was asked in a press conference on August 26, 2021 how this finding will aid in fighting the spread of new variants.  He says his group is studying that now, but getting vaccinated and wearing masks will help reduce the risks, but people also need to be careful about the number of people who they are interacting with. “Husker games don’t have to be super-spreader events. Know who you’re with and wear good, quality respiratory protection.”  (Photo above was taken during testing of cruise ships in 2020.  Dr. Santarpia is second from the right.)

Mobilized Compassion


(pictured at left: Dr. Ana Yuil-Valdes, Assistant Professor, Department of Pathology and Microbiology, University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC); Maryrose Murphy, Executive Director CAP Foundation; and the late Dr. Gene Herbek, Methodist pathologist. CAPF STT 2018.)

Dr. Ana Yuil-Valdes, UNMC Assistant Professor, is fascinated with examining tissue through a microscope.  It’s part of the reason she became a Pathologist.  She also understands the importance of preventative health care and the role pathologists play in that aspect of a patient’s health.  Dr. Yuil-Valdes is the lead pathologist for See, Test and Treat (CAPF STT), a College of American Pathologists (CAP) Foundation initiative that delivers free, pathologist-led cervical and breast cancer screenings to uninsured and underinsured women.  With the support of this initiative, Dr. Yuil-Valdes selflessly shares her fascination and expertise by providing annual health screenings to women in the Omaha area. 

See, Test and Treat was developed by the late Dr. Gene Herbek and his wife, Jean. The couple recognized an urgent need for preventative health care in underserved communities.  In 2011, with the support of the CAP Foundation, the Herbeks started See, Test and Treat to provide cervical and breast cancer screenings to women who have little or no access to such care. 

Dr. John Baker, UNMC Associate Professor, introduced Dr. Yuil-Valdes to See, Test and Treat four years ago when he asked if she would help with cervical cancer screenings.  She immediately felt at home with the patients and remembers, fondly, speaking to a group of Hispanic women.  “They had many questions and I could provide the answers to them in Spanish.  It was gratifying to see how comfortable they were knowing they could relate to this doctor who shared in their culture.“  And that relatability, as well as her enthusiasm for the program got the attention of Dr. Herbek.  In 2018, Dr. Herbek asked her to take over the planning and organizing of See, Test and Treat.  Without hesitation she said she would and asked Dr. Herbek to be her mentor.  2019 was Dr. Yuil-Valdes’ first year as lead pathologist and organizer of the See, Test and Treat event.  Sadly, it was also her last year with her co-host and mentor, Dr. Herbek.  He died suddenly in 2020 after a brief illness.  Dr. Yuil-Valdes exudes pride when she expresses what an honor it was to have worked side by side with such an inspirational man. “Dr. Herbek had such passion for the program.  He was a big supporter and advocate for providing screenings to the underserved through the See, Test and Treat program.  He put all of his heart into everything he did, and that passion was evident in his work.  He made such an impact on everyone he came in contact with.  He was loved and respected and had such a positive impact on my life.”  

With the help of volunteers like the Nebraska Med cytotechnologists who, every year, assist with the pap smears and screenings, and the pathology faculty and residents who attend to educate the patients, Dr. Yuil-Valdes continues Dr. Herbek’s legacy.  She carries his memory and his passion into the Charles Drew Health Center every year because she knows the impact they’re making in the community is significant.  “We’re helping the underserved obtain life-saving preventative care.  No woman in America should die from undiagnosed cervical or breast cancer. With this program, we are helping women who otherwise, would have little or no access to these screenings.  This is our way of showing them that we care about them.”  And they demonstrate that care and compassion by doing everything in one day; See: talk and educate the patients on why the screenings are important and what role pathologists play in their treatment process, Test: conduct Cervical Cancer Screenings and Mammograms in a culturally appropriate setting, and Treat: interpret patients’ tests and make diagnoses.  By doing everything in one day, barriers are eliminated for patients who want and need the services but struggle to get to the clinic because of family obligations or transportation issues.  (pictured above in blue shirts: Back row: Troy Matthias. UNMC Cytotechnologist Lead; the late Dr. Gene Herbek, Methodist pathologist and Blake Rose, UNMC cytotech. Front row: Dr. Ana Yuil-Valdes, MD, Assistant Professor, Department of Pathology and Microbiology, UNMC and Jody Hubbert, Methodist cytotech. CAPF STT 2019

For Dr. Yuil-Valdes, this program has changed her life both personally and professionally.  She loves being able to give back to her community, to see how happy the patients are as they receive personal attention and care.  That’s why it is critical that the See, Test and Treat program continues.  Last year’s challenges created by COVID-19 had an extensive impact on the health care industry. Specifically, the overall numbers of cervical cancer screenings dropped significantly, according to the CDC.  Dr. Yuil-Valdes adds, “It’s imperative that we increase cervical cancer screenings, and we can’t do it without the backing of the CAP Foundation, whose support allows us to continue this important work.”  (Pictured at right: Dr. Yuil-Valdes, Michele Kalal, Population Health Manager, Charles Drew Center and Denise Kainrath, Operations Manager, CAP Foundation CAPF STT 2019)

This year will be the 10th anniversary of the See, Test and Treat program.  The event will take place on Sept. 18 at the Charles Drew Health Center, in collaboration with Methodist Hospital.  They hope to increase the number of women screened to at least 75.  Dr. Yuil-Valdes also has a goal to bring See, Test and Treat to more underserved locations throughout Nebraska.  She has time to work on that goal, as she has no plans to step down from her position with the program, “I will continue doing this vital work, no limit, every single year if they will let me.  I want to continue Dr. Herbek’s legacy.” 


Congratulations to our 2020-2021 graduating Residents and Fellows!

Department of Pathology and Microbiology Residents 


(Simran Mashiana, MBBS, Annelisse Santiago-Pintado, MD and Alejandro Wolf, DO) 

Department of Pathology and Microbiology Hematopathology Fellows


(Jeffrey "John" Cannatella, MD and Roberto Silva Aguiar, MD)

Department of Pathology and Microbiology
Clinical Microbiology Fellow, Molecular Genetic Pathology Fellow, Gastrointestinal/Liver & Transplant Fellow


(Hannah Creager, PhD, Sahara Cathcart, MD and Dali Huang, MBBS)


Rakesh Singh, PhD awarded Distinguished Graduate Student Mentor Award


(Dr. Rakesh Singh pictured far left with 2019 IPID graduate students.)

The Graduate Student Association’s Distinguished Graduate Student Mentor Award recognizes and rewards faculty whose teaching affects graduate students and who impresses upon the students the need to care deeply about their studies.  The judging criteria include general advising and mentorship, mentoring in research, communication skills, and career preparation. Nominations are submitted by graduate students and scored by a review committee composed of students and postdoctoral fellows.


Dr. Rakesh Singh awarded UNMC Outstanding Faculty Mentor of Graduate Students Award
 SinghRakesh4852 

Rakesh Singh, PhD, Professor, Department of Pathology and Microbiology received the 2021 University of Nebraska Medical Center Outstanding Faculty Mentor of Graduate Students Award.  The Faculty Senate recognizes faculty for exemplary mentoring, teaching and service at its annual meeting.  This year the annual meeting will be held virtually and will be accessible to the UNMC community via Zoom at 3pm on April 15.  Check out Dr. Singh's interview with UNMC Today!


Leah Cook, PhD awarded the DoD CDMRP Prostate Cancer Research Program Idea Development - Investigator Award.

 

Leah Cook, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Pathology and Microbiology has received the Department of Defense (DoD) Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP) Prostate Cancer Research Program (PCRP) Idea Development - New Investigator Award on March 29, 2021.  This award was given to Dr. Cook for her proposal “Therapeutic Targeting of Nox2 to Target Bone Metastatic Prostate Cancer Progression and Immune Evasion”.  The goal of the proposed study findings is to benefit patients diagnosed with lethal prostate cancer and to improve quality of life for men diagnosed with this disease.  In the short term, findings from the proposed studies will give insight into the biology of prostate cancer growth in bone and identify a novel therapeutic target for treating bone metastatic prostate cancer.  Dr. Cook states "This work will lay the foundation to develop and optimize new immunotherapeutic strategies to overcome resistance to treatments for targeting BM-PCa and greatly improve patient outcomes."  Dr. Cook adds about this award "it came from a lot of hard work by Diane Costanzo-Garvey, Cook Laboratory technician and collaborator, Adam Case, who’s now at Texas A&M, and was an idea that is a brand new avenue of research in my lab".

Leah Cook, PhD named 2020 UNMC New Investigator 

cookacsawardfeb20202Leah Cook, PhD has been named a 2020 UNMC New Investigator.  This award goes to outstanding UNMC scientists who in the past two years have secured their first funding from national sources.  Dr. Cook received two funding awards from the American Cancer Society totaling over $820,000.  The first grant is funding research in metastatic prostate cancer, specifically effects on bones and will continue for three more years.  The second award is called the TheoryLab Collaborative Grant.  It is funding a project that will explore the role of CPT1A in Neutrophil-mediated Immune response and BM-PCa.  (Picture at right:  Leah Cook, PhD with American Cancer Society representative.)   

To receive the UNMC New Investigator Award, new investigators also had to demonstrate scholarly activity such as publishing their research and/or presenting their findings at national conventions.  Dr. Cook did both.  She published her findings in Cancer Immunology Immunotherapy entitled "Neutrophils are mediators of metastatic prostate cancer progression in bone” 2020 69:1113.  She presented "Defining the Role of Neutrophils in Bone Metastatic Prostate Cancer" at two separate conferences, the Metastasis Research Society Virtual Town Hall meeting and the Society for Basic Urological Research Annual Meeting.  Dr. Cook states the goal of her research is "to identify novel immunotherapeutic approaches for treating metastatic cancer, specifically bone metastatic prostate cancer and pancreatic cancer, for improving patient survival".     

Dr. Cook will be honored along with other awardees at the February 23 virtual awards ceremony.  Visit UNMCToday for the list of all awardees and a link to the awards ceremony.  To learn more about Dr. Cook's research please visit Cook Lab


Geoffrey A. Talmon, MD receives the UNMC Varner Educator Laureate Award 

The University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) recently announced Dr. Geoffrey Talmon as the 2020-21 recipient of the Varner Educator Laureate Award.  This award recognizes an individual with sustained achievement in education who has significantly improved the UNMC learning environment through the provision of outstanding educational experiences.  (Dr. Talmon was most recently named the associate dean of medical education for the UNMC College of Medicine on January 15, 2021.)
Dr. Steven Hinrichs, Professor and Chair of the Department of Pathology and Microbiology congratulated Dr. Talmon stating "He has been a strong leader in medical education for our department and the college for many years."  Dr. Samuel Cohen, Professor, Department of Pathology and Microbiology also sent his congratulations and had this to say "We knew Geoff was a star even when he was a resident, which is why we recruited him then.  Congratulations Geoff. You truly are an outstanding educator."  Dr. James Wisecarver, Emeritus Faculty, Department of Pathology and Microbiology said "A nice acknowledgement for your many years of effort on behalf of our residents and medical students."  Dr. Talmon said he was humbled by his selection.  He is quoted in UNMC Today! "One of the best parts about this award for me, and again, the most humbling, is that this is something for which you are nominated by your peers." 

Dr. Talmon was honored with four other educators at the 2020-2021 Impact on Education Awards virtual ceremony on March 3, 2021.          


Dr. Geoffery Talmon named associate dean of medical education

Dr. Geoffrey Talmon, Professor, Department of Pathology and Microbiology has been named associate dean for medical education in the UNMC College of Medicine.  Dr. Talmon was previously the assistant dean of education.  Dr. Talmon is quoted in UNMC Today, "As educators, we've been nimble, able to very quickly adapt," he said. "It's worked out well for the students in terms of how quickly we've been able to make decisions and communicate those decisions. As everything related to the pandemic has unfolded, we've been able to continue to be effective educators." Read the complete UNMC Today! article here


COVID-19 pandemic provides unique training opportunities for clinical microbiology fellows


(Hannah Creager, PhD)

Little did Hannah Creager know when she accepted the post-doctoral fellowship position in Microbiology  at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) that she would be thrusted into the limelight of the laboratory response to COVID-19.

Near midnight, on December 30, 2019, ProMED published a post noting an undiagnosed pneumonia in Wuhan, China.  Subsequent reports from China and a GenBank posting of the SARS-CoV-2 genome on January 10th precipitated a series of worldwide public health measures to stop the spread of this new coronavirus. However, as all readers know, as of December 31, 2020, this novel coronavirus has caused over 80 million infections and 1.8 million deaths worldwide. 

Although in January 2020 we knew little as to how this virus would spread, we did know that the development of diagnostics would be a key component to the management of infection and disease.  Furthermore, since UNMC and Nebraska Medicine house the National Quarantine Unit and the nation’s largest clinical biocontainment unit, it was imperative that we develop a diagnostic test to detect SARS-CoV-2 as no commercial assay was available.

Fortunately, UNMC had the infrastructure and the right people to rapidly develop a SARS-CoV-2 test. 

Hannah Creager received her BS in Medical Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Wisconsin and subsequently received her PhD studying avian influenza at Emory University.  Additionally, she received further post-doctoral training at the CDC’s Influenza Division. During her graduate and post-graduate work, she focused on understanding the molecular biology and transmissibility of influenza viruses of zoonotic origin.  Therefore, she had been preparing for pandemics her entire scientific career. 

Dr. Creager came to UNMC in July of 2019 to begin studies as a clinical microbiology fellow in the UNMC-accredited Committee on Postgraduate Educational Programs (CPEP) training.  The role of the clinical microbiology fellow is varied and includes training in all aspects of medical microbiology, answering questions from the staff, laboratory management, teaching, development and verification of tests, and being the conduit between our infectious disease colleagues and the hospital laboratory.     


(Dr. Creager)

Our laboratory-derived SARS-CoV-2 assay was designed by the initial team of Drs. Creager, Luke Handke, Jana Broadhurst, and Paul Fey (all Pathology and Microbiology members).  Due to the rapidly progressing nature of the outbreak in China, the team worked quickly and the assay was first tested on January 30th using a synthetic nucleic acid target.  By February 10th, the assay was approved by a Nebraska Medicine Clinical Laboratory committee consisting of Drs. Scott Koepsell, Alison Cushman-Vokoun, Jesse Cox and Steve Hinrichs.  This was clearly a unique opportunity for Dr. Creager to design, validate, and implement a novel, highly complex molecular assay to enable rapid response to an emerging pathogen.  It took a tremendous amount of time and late nights as daily activities in the clinical microbiology laboratory continued.  The new assay was called NEcov19.

On February 14th, Nebraska Medicine/UNMC received notification from the U.S. Government that 13 Americans –all exposed to the novel coronavirus while on the Diamond Princess Cruise ship off the coast of Japan ­– would be evacuated to the National Quarantine Unit under federal quarantine orders.  Upon arrival, one was symptomatic and was transported to the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit.  The other 12 were quarantined for fourteen days.  The first clinical samples from the quarantined subjects arrived in the laboratory for testing by the NEcov19 assay on February 17th.  Concurrently, due to the federal emergency, the CDC released a similar assay to all state public health laboratories following FDA Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) approval.   Dr. Peter Iwen (Pathology and Microbiology) and colleagues at the Nebraska Public Health Laboratory subsequently validated the CDC 2019 nCoV RT-PCR assay for use in public health COVID-19 testing.  Drs. Broadhurst, Creager and Handke compared their results with the samples tested with the CDC assay which proved to have concordant results.  Drs. Creager and Handke stated, “it (CDC assay) validated our hard work and was a huge relief”. 

The NEcov19 assay was eventually granted an EUA by the FDA on March 3rd and on March 9th, a little under two months since discussions began about development of the assay, testing using both the CDC assay and the NEcov19 assay suggested community spread of SARS-CoV-2 in Omaha.  On March 10th, a physician ordered the first NEcov19 test at Nebraska Medicine which Dr. Creager stated “was a big deal.” Furthermore, the NE­­cov19 assay was instrumental in the launch of the first COVID-19 interventional trial in the U.S.


(Dr. Creager)

Although the market was soon flooded with tests and platforms to detect SARS-CoV-2, the development of the NEcov19 assay has been critical to the success of the COVID-19 testing infrastructure at Nebraska Medicine.  Not only was the assay used to diagnose COVID-19 during the first month of the pandemic, it also was used to verify all subsequent COVID-19 assays at Nebraska Medicine.  The test is still used a year later under the direction of Jill Branson and Drs. Cox and Cushman-Vokoun in the molecular diagnostics section to detect SARS CoV-2 in patients admitted to the Nebraska Medicine COVID-19 units.   

No one could have predicted a global coronavirus pandemic when Dr. Creager began her post-doctoral training July 2019, but the outbreak has provided an entirely unique training environment for Dr. Creager.  This training included the verification of multiple SARS-CoV-2 assays, publication of a manuscript comparing testing platforms, work in a BSL-3 laboratory culturing SARS-CoV-2 from patient samples, management of samples, interpretation of test results and Ct values for clinicians, training of a new clinical microbiology fellow (Dr. Macy Wood who started in July 2020) and infectious disease fellows and pharmacists, and overall go-to person for COVID-19 testing at Nebraska Medicine.  We are very fortunate that Dr. Creager continues to be part of our team during this historic pandemic.  Others with similar spirit who would like to pursue post-doctoral training in clinical microbiology at UNMC can obtain more information from our CPEP website


Drs. Yuil-Valdes and Bobr create new rotation for fourth year medical students.


(Drs. Ana Yuil-Valdes and Oleg Bobr)

Each morning an inpatient clinical team reviews lab values or biopsy results of patients in order to make treatment decisions. Very few clinical team members know limitations of the tests or have an idea what goes into making of the test or biopsy. To fill this knowledge gap Drs. Aleh (Oleg) Bobr, Ana Yuil-Valdes and Geoffrey Talmon have created a new month long elective for fourth year medical students who do not choose a pathology residency.  This rotation is designed to give fourth year medical students practical education in, be better consumers of, and make more effective use of laboratory services, regardless of their chosen specialty. The course covers the information not otherwise covered in medical school curriculum, introducing the fourth year medical students to all areas of Pathology. The course has a very practical focus, an emphasis on the everyday aspects of pathology knowledge, like test development, interferences, limitations of the methods, ordering pitfalls, how to read and understand surgical pathology or autopsy report and many others. The goal of the rotation is to increase understanding of pathology for future clinicians by making them knowledgeable users.

Throughout the rotation, students will be exposed to the basics of how laboratory tests are done, common sources of error, an overview of office laboratory testing, how to evaluate the utility of new laboratory tests, and the critical role that pathologists and other laboratory professionals play in patient care. Instruction will occur through the lens of practical clinical cases via a mixture of didactic lectures, small group activities, and working with pathologists that outline the gamut of services included within anatomic and clinical pathology. Students will be evaluated by their engagement in group activities, performance on an end-of-rotation assessment, a short presentation, and reflective journaling.

The Department of Pathology and Microbiology congratulate our fellows and residents for passing their boards!


(Top row/left to right: Drs. Ibrar, Cathcart and Lancaster-Short.  Bottom row/left to right: Drs. Huang, Silva, Braun and Lawless) 

Warda Ibrara, MD (2019-2020 Hematopathology Fellow) passed her Hematopathology boards.

Sahara Cathcart, MD (current Molecular Genetic Fellow) passed her Neuropathology boards.

Katrina Lancaster-Short (2018-2020 Hematopathology Fellow) passed her Hematopathology boards.

Roberto Silva, MD (current Hematopathology Fellow) passed both the Anatomical Pathology and Clinical Pathology boards.

Dali Huang, MBBS (current Gastrointestinal/Liver & Transplant Fellow) passed both the Anatomic Pathology and Clinical Pathology boards.

Alexander Braun, MD (Pathology and Microbiology Resident, 7/1/2016-6/30/2020) passed both the Anatomic Pathology and Clinical Pathology boards.

Megan Lawless, MD (Pathology and Microbiology Resident, 7/1/2016-6/30/2020) passed both the Anatomic Pathology and Clinical Pathology boards.

Dr. Tammy Kielian's research makes discovery in fight against Staphylococcus aureus.

kielianposterimageDr. Kielian's 3-year study funded by the National Institute of Health/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases suggests the possibility to target the molecules in bacteria to prevent immune suppression, as well as help the immune system to clear an established infection.  According to Dr. Kieliean, this research is the first to show bacterial metabolite is capable of changing the way immune cells respond to S. aureus biofilm. Dr. Kielian and colleagues published their findings in Nature Microbiology, which was highlighted in Nature Microbiology's "News and Views", a segment reserved for papers thought to make a real impact.  Read the publication here.  To learn more about Dr. Kielian's research, visit her blog.   

Dr. Pranav Renavika, has study published in Frontiers in Immunology.

renavikarcroppedDr. Pranav Renavika, Department of Pathology and Micrbiology HO1 recently had his study published in Frontiers in Immunology.  The study demonstrates a crucial role of IL-12 in modulating the immune-suppressive behavior of human CD8 T-cells. Learn more here

 

Several Department of Pathology and Microbiology members honored. 

2020UNeMedinnovacationaward

Several members of the Department of Pathology and Microbiology were honored October 29 at the 2020 UNeMed Innovation Award ceremony (virtual style).   For only the second time in 14 years, UNeMed honored a group of inventors, both UNMC and UNO faculty, students and staff that contributed a new invention related to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.  Of those honored, six are Pathology and Microbiology Faculty: Drs. Ken Bayles, Jana Broadhurst, Jesse Cox, Paul Fey, James Linder and St. Patrick Reid.  Dr. Hannah Creager, microbiology fellow and Dr. Luke Handke, senior scientist were also honored.  Catch the entire virtual ceremony here.  

Dr. Broadhurst heads UNMC team testing saliva samples in new pilot program

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(Dr. M. Jana Broadhurst)

UNMC is partnering with Omaha Public Schools and One World Community Health on a pilot program testing invidiual and environmental testing for COVID-1.  Dr. Jana Broadhurst, Assistant Professor with the Department of Pathology and Microbiology and director of the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit Clinical Laboratory will direct the UNMC team to potentially test 6,000 samples a week.  Dr. Broadhurst stated "This is to screen for infection in individuals without symptoms".  the goal is to catch cases early.  At the same time, UNMC will test the schols' wastewater, indoor air and surfaces.  The pilot program will involve three schools within Omaha Public Schools: Norris Middle School, R.M. Marrs Magnet Center and Bryan High School.  The testing will run from November 9 through December 11.  For full details go to UNMC Today.              

Dr. Ouellette receives new NIH R56 Bridge Grant worth nearly $400,000 

Dr. Scot Ouellette, Associate Professor with the Department of Pathology and Microbiology has recently received a new National Institute of Health (NIH) bridge grant for his project entitled "Role of the Clp Protease Systems in the Growth and Pathogenesis of Chlamydia".  This project has proposed to define the role of conserved and novel elements associated with protein degradation in chlamydiae, which in turn may lead to the design of novel therapeutics that would eliminate the broad effects of standard antimicrobial therapy on normal flora.

Department of Pathology and Microbiology bids farewell to Dr. Kai Fu


(from left: Drs. Catalina Amador, Hina Naushad Qureishi, Kai Fu and Timothy Greiner) 

The Department of Pathology and Microbiology faculty and staff gave a farewell luncheon (social distancing of course!) to Kai Fu, MD, PhD on August 19, 2020. 

Dr. Fu began his journey at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) as a hematopathology fellow in 2002.  In 2004, he received his first faculty position as an assistant professor within our department, by 2014 he was a professor (with tenure).  Dr. Fu taught medical students and fellows in our hematopathology section.  Along with his peers, he provided clinical service responsible for all diagnostic hematopathology.  Dr. Fu conducted research in lymphoma and was co-director of the James O. Armitage Center for Hematological Malignancies Research.  

Dr. Fu’s desire to teach and conduct research paved way for professorships with several universities in China.  Dr. Fu was the bridge between these universities and UNMC for collaborations in research and education for medical students.  We wish him well as Dr. Fu and his family travel to begin their next chapter in Buffalo, New York.

Guangshun (Gus) Wang, PhD publishes two papers in prestigious PNAS 

Dr. Gus Wang, Associate Professor, Department of Pathology and Microbiology recently had two significant papers published in "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" (PNAS).  The first publication just last year, "Low cationicity is important for systemic in vivo efficacy of database-derived peptides against drug-resistant Gram-positive pathogens" was on a groundbreaking study on classifying and designing antimicrobial peptides.  The second paper “Two distinct amphipathic peptide antibiotics with systemic efficacy," proves some of the ideas in the first paper.  This publication describes how these new peptides, horine and verine, increased the survival rate in mice with sepsis.  It also showed organs had cleared of infection throughout the body with just one injection without signs of toxic effects to kidneys of mice or rats after a week of daily injections.  It proves these methods have potential for clinical use, intravenous administration, when before most antimicrobial peptides had only shown promise as a topical salve or lotion applied to infection.  Quoted in UNMC Today, Dr. Wang stated, "Horine and verine, with horizontal and vertical amphipathic structures, are two tiny, packed and amazing molecules.  While horine can eliminate MRSA and similar gram-positive pathogens, verine has broad spectrum activity and can also kill gram-negative pathogens such as the superbug Klebsiella."  According to UNMC Today, the FDA has approved 20 new systemic antibiotics since 2000, a drop from 52 new antibiotics produced in 1980-1999.

Dr. Wang is working with UNeMed and UNeTech to protect, validate and commercialize these discoveries in an effort to make peptides a viable antibacterial treatment.

Dr. Gus Wang awarded half a million grant

Dr. Guangshun (Gus) Wang, Associate Professor, Department of Pathology and Microbiology along with Dr. Jingwei Xie, Associate Professor, Department of Surgery are Multi-PI's on a project which was recently awarded nearly half a million dollars by the National Institute of Health.  The project entitled "Novel Janus-type Antimicrobial Dressings for the Treatment of Biofilms in Chronic Wouds", is described as a strategy to develop a new Janus-type antimicrobial dressing which can deliver molecularly engineered peptides inside and outside biofilms for eradicating biofilms in chronic wounds without surgical debridement and simultaneously enhancing wound healing. 

Dr. Martinez Duarte wins Department's top teacher award

Dr. Ernesto Martinez Duarte, Assistant Professor received the Department of Pathology and Microbiology's top teacher award.  The 2020 Harold M. Maurer, Excellence in Resident Education Award is given to a department faculty member who has contributed the most to resident education in the academic year.  Dr. Martinez Duarte will receive a desk plaque, his name will be added along with past winners to the Excellence in Resident Education plaque hung outside the department's resident offices. Dr. Martinez Duarte also received the traditional old fashioned traveling microscope.

Dr. Thomas McDonald celebrates 40 years with Department of Pathology and Microbiology

We are celebrating Dr. McDonalds’ contribution to the Department of Pathology and Microbiology for the past 40 years.  Tom grew up on a farm in South Dakota, where he gained his work ethic and approach to life. 

Tom obtained his BS at South Dakota State University, and an MS and MPH, both in Bacteriology at Washington State University (WSU) in Pullman, WA, followed by a PhD in Immunology at WSU.  He also undertook a 2-year Postdoctoral Fellowship in Veterinary Microbiology focused on Immunology at WSU.  He joined the Veterinary Microbiology program as an Assistant Professor at WSU in 1974, leaving there in 1979 to join the Department of Pathology and Microbiology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) as an assistant professor.    Here he rose through the ranks, becoming a full Professor in 1993.  Tom is presently recognized for his commitment to and skills in teaching Immunology to both medical students and graduate students.  Perhaps equally well-known are his early epidemiological studies with Coxiella burnetii with an emphasis on containment and clinical manifestation.  In his tenure at UNMC, his early studies focused on circulating immune complexes, and more recently, his research into as well as patenting of studies focused on creatinine and fungal supernatant components as antibacterial agents.  Of note are his studies into bovine and human colostrum components with a focus on serum amyloid A isoforms. 

The impact Dr. McDonald has as a scientist and educator can be measured by the quality of his students. Dr. McDonald mentored Professor Geoff Thiele, in Internal Medicine at UNMC and Professor Richard Reinhart, Co-Director Undergraduate Periodontics, at UNMC/UNL.  He also mentored Professor Mary L. (Nora) Disis who is internationally recognized as a clinician and immunologist at the University of Washington with her emphasis on vaccines for patients with breast and ovarian cancer.  Additionally, he mentored Dr. Sina Bavari, whose career highlights include Chief Scientific Officer and Scientific Director at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID). 

In addition to his expertise in real life skills, Tom is personable and always ready to discuss any topic from fine dining at the Alpine Inn to farm machinery and cream separators.

Dr. McDonald has published over 80 manuscripts and book chapters, and has 34 patents with an emphasis on SAA and creatinine, paralleling his interest in inflammation and antibacterial mediators.  His University service includes a 9 year tenure as President and CEO of UNeMed.  Tom has received many awards over the decades for his teaching and commercialization of his research efforts at UNMC.  In summary Dr. McDonald has been a significant asset to both the Department of Pathology and Microbiology and the University of Nebraska Medical Center. 

Lora Arnold set to retire after 43 years with Department of Pathology and Microbiology


(from left: Dr. Steven Hinrichs, Ms. Arnold, Dr. Samuel Cohen.)

Lora Arnold, Assistant Professor in Pathology and Microbiology, will retire from the University of Nebraska Medical Center on April 30, 2020, after 43 years of outstanding service.  Lora, a native of Cozad, Nebraska, obtained her BA in Biology from Hastings College, and her MS in Pathology and Microbiology from the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) in 2007. She studied Medical Technology at the Lincoln School of Medical Technology, and has certification in Medical Technology from the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP).  In 1977, Lora began her career at the UNMC as a Medical Technologist in the Division of Clinical Chemistry in the Department of Pathology, rising to the level of Technical Coordinator in 1987. In 1993, she began participating in research in Chemical Carcinogenesis and Toxicology, where she has worked until today, initially as an Instructor and from 2007, as an Assistant Professor. In addition to being an outstanding researcher, Lora has mentored and  cared for numerous graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and guests who came to study and work in our department, and they have gone on to prominent positions in academia, government and industry in their respective fields including in the United States, Japan and Brazil.  All who have worked with Lora appreciate her knowledge, skills, and especially her organizational abilities to keep complex programs well coordinated, particularly challenging when multiple institutions and in different countries are involved in the projects.

Lora has attained a prominent national and international reputation in toxicology.  She has more than 90 publications and 5 book chapters, related to a variety of chemicals, especially related to inorganic and organic arsenicals.  She has given numerous presentations at national and international meetings.  She has been active in the Society of Toxicology, especially in leadership roles in the Regional Central States Chapter, serving as Secretary Treasurer from 2004 to 2006, Counselor from 2008 to 2010, and in the Presidential track from 2010 to 2013.  She served as Senior Counselor for the Society of Toxicology Carcinogenesis Specialty Section from 2017 to 2018.

Lora is an outstanding, exceptional individual and she will be sincerely missed by all of us at the Department after she leaves the UNMC campus. We wish her well in her further pursuits.

Dr. Leah M. Cook awarded nearly $800,000 with American Cancer Society research scholar grant  


(Left to right: Andy Link of ACS, Dr. Kenneth Cowan, Director of the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, Dr. Leah Cook, Assistant Professor, Department of Pathology and Microbiology)

Dr. Leah Cook, Assistant Professor, Pathology and Microbiology was recently awarded the American Cancer Society (ACS) research scholar grant totaling $792,000.  Since 2010, the ACS research scholar grant has only been awarded two other times at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.  Dr. Cook received this funding for her project entitled '"Reprogramming the Immune-BME for Improving Outcomes of Bone Metastatic PCa".  Dr. Cook stated “Bone metastatic prostate cancer (BM-PCa) is the deadliest aspect of prostate cancer and is currently incurable.  Current bone-targeting therapies have been unsuccessful in improving patient survival”.      

The new research funded by the American Cancer Society will attempt to improve the killing of prostate cancer by PMNs (active white blood cells), identify the mechanism that PMNs use to accomplish the killing of prostate cancer cells and determine if PNMs can be used to prevent tumor bone remodeling.  Dr. Cook explained "the technical goal of my research is to develop effective treatments for men with metastatic prostate cancer.  Additionally, the proposed research will provide insight into immune regulation of prostate cancer and has the potential to present novel therapeutic targets for improving outcomes of bone metastatic prostate cancer." 

Dr. Cook would like to thank the following for their support:  The Department of Pathology and Microbiology, Dr. Steven Hinrichs, Professor and Chair, Pathology and Microbiology; Dr. Cook’s advisor, Dr. Tammy Kielian, Professor, Pathology and Microbiology; Dr. Paul Fey, Professor and Vice Chair of Research, Pathology and Microbiology; The Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center (F&PBCC); Dr. Kenneth Cowan, Director, Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center; Dr. Chad LaGrange, Division Chief and Professor, Urologic Surgery; Dr. Shawna Boyle, Asst. Professor, Urologic Surgery and Dr. Benjamin Teply, Asst. Professor, Oncology and Hematology. 


Apheresis team receives FACT accreditation

The Nebraska Medicine Apheresis team, led by Dr. Scott Koepsell, Medical Director, Division of Transfusion and Transplantation Support Services and Assoc. Professor, Department of Pathology and Microbiology (pictured above, back row, fourth from left) recently received accreditation from the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy (FACT).  The Apheresis team consists of Nebraska Medicine staff nurses, quality supervisor Amy Hawkins, nurse manager Kim Schmidt-Pokorny and biologics manager Charlie Branson as well as UNMC Pathology and Microbiology faculty Drs. Ana Yuil-Valdes, Asst. Professor, Jesse Cox, Asst. Professor and Aleh (Oleg) Bobr, Medical Director, Blood Bank and Tissue Services and Asst. Professor (pictured above, back row, third from left).  It took an entire year for the team to complete this process, passing the FACT Standards requirements on the first attempt.  According to FACT’s website, “The Standards are the cornerstone of the FACT accreditation program.  Believing that quality care can only be achieved if both clinical and laboratory issues are effectively addressed, the FACT Standards are the only set of requirements that emphasize the clinical use of cellular therapy products collected and processed with rigorous controls”.  Learn more about the FACT Standards.

"FACT is committed to high quality patient care and laboratory practice in cellular therapies, and believes that the Standards, the expertise of our inspectorate, and the depth and breadth of our inspection and accreditation program will help ensure high quality of all units and desirable outcomes for patients" stated 
Dr. Phyllis Warkentin (pictured right), FACT Chief Medical Officer and Pathology and Microbiology Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center.

According to FACT, over 90% of all eligible United States facilities and programs are FACT accredited.  It is the only international standard used by Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States.


We salute Mr. David Varga on his 35 years of service.

Mr. David Varga, Pathology Specialist, Department of Pathology and Microbiology was recently recognized for his 35 years of service to UNMC.  Mr. Varga chose UNMC after receiving high recommendations from family members who either worked or attended school here.  Dave began working in one of the intensive care units (ICU).  After several years, Dave transferred to the Pathology and Microbiology Department.  After a brief time in the corporate world, Dave returned.  His decision to come back, he states, “is credited from witnessing the dedication of the ICU nurses and doctors with their patients.  Regardless of the outcome, family members would return months (even years) later to thank the staff for their work”. 

Dave’s responsibilities are significant to the care of patients he will never meet.  Dr. Audrey Lazenby, Professor, Pathology and Microbiology Department and Director of Anatomic Pathology, Nebraska Medicine had this to say, “About 5 years ago, Dave Varga transitioned from working in Regional Pathology to a newly created job – that of Pathology Specialist. In this new role, Dave has provided invaluable assistance to our pathology faculty, residents, fellows, and clinicians.  The practice of pathology has continued to get more complex – requiring additional stains as well as molecular testing – and resulting in tissue, slides, stains and information moving to and fro between outside clients, outside testing sites, and the various laboratories within Nebraska Medicine. Dave is the master of coordinating and enabling the flow of materials and information between all these sites and getting the results into CoPath from whence it then flows into EPIC. What was once a headache for the pathologists – is now ‘no problem – just go see Dave.’  Dave manages this complicated job because he is smart, pays attention to details, is very organized, and he works hard.  Best of all – he is calm and cheerful – even in the midst of challenging situations. Dave – all of us in Pathology – offer our heart-felt thanks for a job well done. You are awesome! ”    

When Dave is not doing his part in helping pathologists and clinical doctors, you will find Dave bicycle riding, book reading, working in his organic garden and hanging out with his siblings, sharing some laughs.  Congratulations Dave!


Kai Fu, MD, PhD receives $614,000 grant from the U.S. Army's CDMRP

Dr. Kai Fu, Professor, Pathology and Microbiology Department, was recently awarded a $614,000 grant from the U.S. Army's Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP) to investigate therapies for MYC-driven lyphomas using PLK-1, an enzyme believed to mediate the development of MYC lymphomas. 



The 2019 Pathology and Microbiology Department's holiday celebration took place at the Henry Doorly Zoo.

IPID Graduate Students committed to doing their part for UNMC Adopt-A-Family program.


(Top left and clockwise: IPID students during their gift-wrapping rally, Path/Micro clinical offices decked out in holiday cheer.)

Research Graduate Students with the Immunology, Pathology & Infectious Disease (IPID) Program, hosted by the Pathology and Microbiology Department, took time from their busy schedules to collect nearly $900 from research colleagues and faculty to purchase toys for local families in the UNMC Adopt-A-Family program.

Joseph Rohr, MD, PhD receives CAP Foundation Grant.

Dr. Joseph Rohr, Resident, Pathology and Microbiology Department, has received the CAP Translational Diagnostics Advanced Training Grant.  This award is open to pathology residents and fellows in training who are CAP Junior members and have completed their first year of either AP or AP/CP residency.  This four-week hands-on training will focus on the process of translating laboratory tests in the fields of molecular pathology and oncology into clinical use.  Dr. Rohr will be studying at Ventana Medical Systems in Tucson, Arizona in March of 2020. For more information about this grant, please visit CAP Foundation.  To learn more about Dr. Rohr, visit his residency bio page.

Samuel M. Cohen, MD, PhD elected AAAS Fellow.

Dr. Samuel M. Cohen, Professor, Pathology and Microbiology Department, is one of only two faculty at the University of Nebraska Medical Center to receive the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Fellow lifetime distinction.  Dr. James Armitage, received this honor in 1997.     

This tribute is given to individuals who have given invaluable contributions to science and technology.  Fellows are elected each year by their peers on the AAAS Council, only after receiving the nominations from a Steering Committee comprised of an eight member panel in their primary section.  Dr. Cohen will be recognized February 15, 2020 during the AAAS Annual Meeting in Seattle, WA.  Each Fellow will receive a certificate and a gold and blue rosette pin, colors symbolizing science and engineering (photo courtesy of AAAS).  This tradition began in 1874.  Other notable recipients are Thomas Edison and most recently, Nobel laureates James Peebles and John B. Goodenough.  For additional information please visit AAAS.  To learn more about Dr. Cohen, visit his bio page.  


The Advocacy Journal Club, one of a kind.


(From left: Dr. Talmon, Dr. Wolf, Dr. Molani, Ms. Martin, Dr. Wisecarver)

The Advocacy Journal Club is the brainchild of Dr. Geoffrey A. Talmon, Professor and Vice Chair of Medical Education, Department of Pathology and Microbiology.  Beginning back in October of 2016, the Advocacy Journal Club is a conference in which residents, fellows and faculty discuss key and upcoming regulatory items affecting laboratory medicine.  This meeting is attended by UNMC residents, fellows and faculty, as well as community pathologists, many of whom have been active in creating and/or amending the language of the regulations that are discussed.  Those who attend the quarterly Advocacy Journal Club have gained a better understanding of how governmental operations affect laboratory medicine, how regulations are created, and the importance of organized medicine/pathology in advocating for patient safety and quality.  Due to the nature of the attendees, residents and fellows have the added benefit of interacting with potential employers.

In October of 2019, the American Journal of Clinical Pathology (AJCP) accepted The Advocacy Journal Club article for publication.  Authors are Dr. Talmon; Dr. Alejandro Wolf, Resident; Dr. Mariam Molani, Resident; Kimberly Martin, Residency and Fellowship Program Coordinator; Dr. James Wisecarver, Emeritus Professor, as well as Elizabeth Waibel and Jeff Jacobs with the Institute of Science, Technology, and Policy, American Society for Clinical Pathology in Washington, DC.  The article discusses the contribution of the Advocacy Journal Club as evident in increased post-test scores for both faculty and trainees following each presentation and is a valuable method for educating pathologists. A special thank you to Dr. James R. Linder, Emeritus Professor for supporting it.

Dr. James Wisecarver, Pathology and Microbiology Emeritus Faculty (center), presented the Advocacy Journal Club poster at the 2019 ASCP Fellowship Fair.  Standing with Dr. Wisecarver is (left) 2011-12 Path/Micro Heme Fellow Graduate, Dr. Javier Laurini and (right) 2010 UNMC Path/Micro Resident Graduate, Dr. Alireza Torabi.