May 6th through the 12th is the yearly celebration of nurses during Nurse’s Week. The past year has been an extremely trying time for nurses and frontline workers across the country but it’s a perfect time to highlight the education and preparedness the UNMC College of Nursing students receive that prepares them for moments like this. Because of these, we sought to give a few students the opportunity to speak to why this past year has solidified their reasoning to pursue this career path and the responses were nothing more than inspiring.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has reassured me that I have chosen the right career path to serve my community and the public. Nursing is positioned on the front line of patient care and nurses are vital to effect change and improve health care. I never anticipated going through nursing school during a pandemic, but I feel confident that my extensive training at UNMC has prepared me to be successful in my nursing occupation. Ultimately, I aspire to promote patient safety and foster a positive environment in the populations I will be serving with integrity, discipline, and drive.”
“This past year has strengthened my commitment to becoming a nurse because nurses were the ones with boots on the ground as the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world with fear. Nurses were the ones holding patients’ hands as they were alone in the fight of their life, and nurses in all capacities stepped up and adapted how we took care of individual patients to keep everyone safe. Seeing the impact of nursing this year has inspired me as I work towards earning my BSN”
“After continuously seeing the devastation of COVID-19 this past year, my desire to become a nurse has strengthened tenfold. I studied harder than I ever had and made sure there would be nothing standing in the way of me walking the stage to get my BSN. I’d see healthcare workers on the news caring for the sick & knew that I needed to finish strong so I could get out there and help as soon as possible. I am thankful for UNMC College of Nursing – Lincoln for providing me the tools to reach this point.”
“I’ve wanted to be a nurse since I can remember. My biggest fear entering nursing school was that I would come to realize I didn’t like it or wasn’t cut out for the profession. Man could I have not been more wrong! This year has proven to me that nursing is where I belong and what I’m actually good at! I grew so much more confident in myself and my abilities through my clinical experiences and am no longer fearful, but excited to start my last year of school at UNMC.”
“Although everything was shutting down around me because of the COVID-19 pandemic, my passion and desire to become a nurse was only amplified. It definitely strengthened my resilience too. I had the pleasure to care for a couple of COVID patients during my critical care rotation. I have seen full recovery and families experience tremendous loss. It reminded me of how being a part of someone’s life during his or her most vulnerable time is something so special. Given the difficult circumstances with the past year, I would still choose nursing in a heartbeat.”
UNMC alumna shares passion for nursing and giving back
Sharon Holyoke remembers that it was December 1966.
The daughter of public school teachers, Sharon was raised in a small community in America’s heartland, taught at an early age to live below her means. The best kind of teaching, they say, is the kind that sticks. So Sharon took that lesson everywhere she went.
Sharon remembers that she had recently graduated from the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Nursing and that her monthly paycheck was around $600.
Even though her husband, Edward Holyoke Jr. — Ted — was in his first year of medical school at the time, Sharon remembers pulling out her checkbook and sending $100 to the University of Nebraska Foundation, to support the institution that had given her an education. It felt like an awful lot of money.
“Ted and I believed it was important to be good with money,” she said. “But it was just as important to do good with money.”
Sharon hasn’t shaken the feeling more than a half-century later.
“The more we gave,” she recalled, “the more satisfaction we received.”
The Holyoke legacy is a long one that can be traced back to before the Revolutionary War.
In the 18th century, Edward Holyoke served as president for more than three decades of what was then Harvard College, teaching the likes of Samuel Adams, John Hancock and John Adams.
Today, the surname travels far — especially in Nebraska medical circles. Edward Holyoke, M.D., Sharon’s father-in-law, was an instructor at UNMC for more than 50 years. There’s a giving society that carries his name in the College of Medicine. Ted also graduated from the UNMC college.
In terms of potential career paths, Sharon’s opportunities were slim.
“Growing up, there weren’t a lot of options for women,” Sharon said.
But Sharon knew that she wanted to combine nursing and teaching, and with her father’s encouragement, she was steadfast as she pursued both.
Later, Sharon attended graduate school at the University of Colorado, where she earned her master’s degree while her husband was in his residency. The two returned to Nebraska, put down roots in Ogallala and raised two daughters, Mary Virginia and Ann Christin; a third daughter, Megan Lee, died in infancy. They later returned to Omaha, and Sharon taught at UNMC for more than 30 years, guiding more than 2,000 students through the College of Nursing. Ted mentored young physicians in the UNMC rural residency program.
But in August 1993, the Holyoke family was dealt a painful, incalculable blow when Mary Virginia, the Holyokes’ oldest daughter, died due to a heart condition. Ginny was 23 years old and pursuing a law degree. She had recently gotten married and moved to Omaha.
“It hurt. And it made us realize that we aren’t going to live forever,” Sharon said. “But it caused us to take a new look at giving. Ted liked to say that, ‘You don’t see a U-Haul behind a hearse.’”
A scholarship was created in Ginny’s honor at Hastings College, where she had been valedictorian and homecoming queen.
There are multiple scholarships carrying the Holyoke name at UNMC, including two with Sharon’s name: one for nursing students and the other for general scholarships.
“Our education gave us the tools to earn a living,” Sharon said. “We always wanted to give back to the foundation to thank them.”
Ted died in 2015 after a nearly decadelong battle with gastrointestinal cancer.
Sharon meets with the recipients of her scholarships and is quick to encourage them to give back. She’s not shy to inquire if some are dating. One told her that she didn’t have time for dating, which sent Sharon into laughter.
“I love to connect with students — they’re just delightful,” she said. “They’re just so refreshing and so impressive.”
Caitlin Jordan, a recipient of the Sharon Bonham Holyoke Nursing Scholarship, had the opportunity to meet Sharon last year.
“She gave us great words of wisdom regarding life and nursing,” said Caitlin. “She’s a wonderful lady and is extremely passionate about nursing as a profession.”
In her will, Sharon has committed to funding two scholarships — one in her name and one in Ted’s.
When asked what her ultimate philanthropic hope is, Sharon finds the words with ease.
“We love what we did,” she said. “And we just hope we leave the world a better place than we started.”
How UNMC and Nebraska Medicine became the nation’s first responders in the fight against COVID-19.
For 15 years, the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Nebraska Medicine prepared for this moment.
They trained their physicians, nurses and staff to wear personal protective equipment — the heavy hazmat-style layers that protect against dangerous pathogens — perfected medical procedures under the weight of those layers and ran drills on providing care in areas of deadly contamination.
In the wake of 9/11, as the country scrambled to respond to a new, devastating threat, hospitals, universities and state governments were called on to prepare. For what was unclear. The veiled, recondite threat of terrorism meant unknown dangers, including the possibility of biological warfare, thrown into sharp relief by the series of anthrax attacks that followed the World Trade Center’s fall.
Few responded to the call with the diligence of UNMC and Nebraska Medicine. Immediately, their leadership began drawing up plans for a biocontainment unit: a 10-bed facility, the largest of its kind at the time, fitted with negative air flow, a pressurized entrance and decontamination autoclaves, which would provide a safe environment to deal with the world’s worst pathogens.
“We took it seriously,” said Ken Bayles, Ph.D., executive director of basic science research for UNMC’s Global Center for Health Security. “Not only did we stand it up and invest in and build this structure, but we prepared year after year.”
The Nebraska Biocontainment Unit officially opened in 2005. Then it sat empty, as the world waited and attention drifted to other things. But it was never unused. UNMC and Nebraska Medicine continued to prepare — training staff, running drills, learning and getting better.
Then, in 2014, Ebola hit West Africa, and U.S. physicians and a journalist who had been exposed to the deadly virus were flown to the place best equipped to treat them. The “hospital in Omaha” — still without name recognition in the national press — rocketed into the global spotlight.
“Not only were we ready,” said Bayles, “we took on patients, and we did a good job. Then afterwards, we became a leader. We rose to the top pretty clearly. And I think the federal government really took notice of that.”
Two patients were treated and discharged; one, whose disease was advanced by the time he arrived, didn’t make it home. It was a defining experience for the team. It gave them practical knowledge that advanced their understanding of pathogens and how to treat and contain them. It also led to further federal partnerships and the establishment of the National Ebola Training and Education Center (NETEC), which trains health care and public health professionals nationwide to prepare for catastrophic diseases.
It made them even better.
“One thing we learned from taking care of the Ebola patients,” said Cheryl Rand, clinical operations lead of the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit, “is no one got sick. The disease didn’t spread anywhere from here. So we knew we could do that again.”
They continued to prepare. NETEC grew; it has now reached more than 120 hospitals nationwide, and NETEC staff has trained more than 8,000 health care and public health professionals on deadly pathogen preparedness.
“I would say the majority of hospitals in the country in one way or another has benefited from NETEC training,” said James Lawler, M.D., executive director of international programs and innovation at the global center.
Few could have predicted how necessary that training would prove to be — the devastating scale of what was to come. In the months since COVID-19 began spreading throughout the world, it has ravaged communities, touched nearly every country in the world and caused massive shutdowns to curb its spread that have created Great Depression-like economic pain.
But UNMC and Nebraska Medicine’s preparedness and expertise have helped not just Nebraska or even just the U.S. but the whole world battle the pandemic. They treated some of the U.S.’s first COVID-19 patients. They conducted some of the earliest virus tests and clinical treatment trials. Their leadership ran models of the virus’s spread and was critical in informing state and federal policy.
Fifteen years of gathering expertise, running drills over and over and preparing for every scenario put UNMC and Nebraska Medicine in a position to make a substantial difference in one of the world’s most deadly and dramatic crises. They were front and center in the global fight — right here in Nebraska.
Carl Goldman and his wife were sitting at dinner when the captain of the Diamond Princess cruise ship made an announcement. A passenger, who had recently visited Hong Kong, had come down with a new form of coronavirus — the same virus that had led to a lockdown in Wuhan, China, and was slowly drawing the world’s attention. It was Feb. 3. They were docked in Yokohama, Japan, and it was their last night of a trip around Southeast Asia, which Goldman had purchased for his wife as a Christmas present. Goldman, who owns a radio station in Santa Clarita, California, said Japanese officials began working their way through the passengers, taking temperatures and logging their travel histories.
But that was before anyone knew how quickly and easily this virus spread.
By the next day, 10 passengers were reported to have a fever, and everyone was told to go into quarantine in their cabins.
Looking out from his balcony onto the pier at Yokohama, Goldman said it was like a scene out of a movie.
“On the right side were dozens of ambulances and military trucks,” he said. “There were people in hazmat suits. On the left side was media with their cameras and vans … two media helicopters … and a number of media boats circling the ship as well.”
More and more passengers were taken off the ship.
“Each day, the numbers went up,” Goldman said. “So it put us into a definite tense, tense situation.” Goldman kept himself busy blogging his experiences.
By Feb. 11, 135 passengers were infected.
The next day, Lawler, who has a long career working on pandemic preparedness in the administrations of both George W. Bush and Barack Obama and field experience treating Ebola patients in sub-Saharan Africa, was asked to fly immediately to Japan to assist an operation to evacuate every American on board.
“It was a hastily assembled team that went out there to manage a situation that nobody ever had before,” Lawler said.
Lawler’s team, equipped with special helmets and breathing oxygen from portable PAPRs (powered air-purifying respirators) boarded the ship Friday, Feb. 14. They were tasked with locating every American, screening and testing them, and moving them to cargo jets set to arrive two days later.
By 10 p.m. Sunday night, Lawler and the team had tracked down and briefly assessed the more than 400 Americans on board the ship.
They rushed the passengers to the waiting cargo planes. It was a chaotic departure, but Lawler knew if he could just get them to Omaha, they would be safe and UNMC could contain the virus.
Finally on the plane, Goldman, who had fallen asleep after an exhausting few days, woke with a fever of 103. He and the other 12 sick passengers were routed to Omaha, where they landed Feb. 17. A convoy of ambulances and police cars transported them to UNMC.
“We had a motorcade that was longer than President Trump’s or the queen’s,” Goldman said.
Inside the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit, UNMC’s nurses and physicians were ready for the patients to arrive. They waited, encased in full-body suits of impermeable material, three layers of nitrile gloves, knee-length protective boot covers and PAPRs, pulled overhead with clear face shields and tubes pumping in clean air.
“We’ve been training for years and years for all of this,” Rand said. “Our staff was ready.”
Some patients were treated in the BCU; others were taken to the 20-bed National Quarantine Center — the nation’s only federal quarantine facility — which, along with a state-of-the-art simulated biocontainment unit for advanced experiential training, is housed on the ground floor of the Dr. Edwin G. & Dorothy Balbach Davis Global Center.
While the biocontainment unit had been operational since 2005, the quarantine center had opened Jan. 29 — less than three weeks before the first COVID-19 patients arrived.
“We ended up housing people (in the quarantine unit) who needed a relatively significant amount of medical attention,” Lawler said. “The staffing plan had to be reinvented on the fly. And I think it’s a testament to the flexibility and just the quality of our team that our folks are able to do that so quickly.
“It came off as a seamless exercise.”
For the health care workers in the units, the first days were stressful, but the muscle memory ingrained by years of training quickly took over.
“Everybody’s role was important,” said Morgan Shradar, clinical education coordinator for the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit. “It’s been extremely impressive to watch everybody come together and using their knowledge and skill to … counter challenges.”
The staff routinely put in 13-hour shifts or longer, and when they left the hospital, the work never really left them.
“It’s the two o’clock in the morning conversation you’re having with yourself about things that you want to make sure that you get done,” Shradar said.
But they felt privileged to be doing something so important. The challenging days fell away in their memories. Talk to them now, and all they will recall are the high points: the days when patients got to go home and they succeeded in keeping people safe.
“We were here as long as it took,” Shradar said. “I hate to quantify it. It doesn’t matter. We were here.”
Goldman, who spent 10 days in the BCU and 19 more in quarantine, said the nurses and physicians who cared for him were his “angels.”
“They were just unbelievable,” he said. “All of the staff in Nebraska have that Midwest, really wonderful attitude of looking you in the eye and really caring and being sympathetic and compassionate.”
The staff held internal town halls so the patients could talk to each other about their experiences, and they eased their feelings of fear and isolation as much as they could. Goldman spent his 67th birthday in the BCU, and the staff brought him a slice of cake, wrapped in plastic, and a balloon that hung in the corner of the room throughout his stay.
“The whole time I was there, I kept thinking … that if I had to be anywhere in the world, it would be here,” Goldman said. “I ended in the right spot at the right time.”
On March 18, the last passenger of the Diamond Princess left quarantine. But by that time, there were 6,520 known cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. and more than 205,000 worldwide. The focus shifted from containing the virus to “flattening the curve.”
UNMC and Nebraska Medicine prepared the hospital and intensive care units for an influx of patients. For the biocontainment team and global center experts, that meant shifting to a training role, not just for other areas of their own hospital, but for hospitals state- and countrywide.
“Our biocontainment unit leaders and team have become extenders for infection prevention and control practice and safety,” said Shelly Schwedhelm, executive director of emergency management and biopreparedness at Nebraska Medicine. “They’ve now turned into consultants on the front lines.”
That meant taking their training on the road to hospitals and essential workplaces, including long-term care facilities and meatpacking plants that stayed open while schools and many other businesses had closed. It also meant turning their attention to testing, treatment and every other aspect of fighting a global pandemic.
Once again, they led the way. The Nebraska Public Health Laboratory, which is partially housed in the biocontainment unit, was one of the first to run COVID-19 tests. UNMC was the first site of a federally sponsored trial, which ultimately expanded to 68 sites, of remdesivir, a promising COVID-19 treatment, which was fast-tracked for approval by the Food and Drug Administration in late April.
“We were the first site in the world to activate that critically important study,” said Chris Kratochvil, M.D., executive director of clinical research for the global center. “Because patients came here for care early in the outbreak, we were teed up for it.”
Meanwhile, Bayles worked with a team in South Dakota to develop virus antibodies, which could be used therapeutically or to protect health care workers. John-Martin Lowe, Ph.D., executive director of training and education at the global center, developed a system to decontaminate health care workers’ safety respirators using ultraviolet light that was a breakthrough with worldwide implications as hospitals everywhere battled with supply shortages. Lawler developed virus models that guided state and federal policies on social distancing and curbing the virus.
“I think it’s clear that the vision of university leadership has always been to create UNMC as an international leader,” Lawler said. “The prescience of that vision is now playing out.”
As COVID-19 and the vast economic toll it has taken on the world play out, the leadership, physicians, nurses and staff at UNMC and Nebraska Medicine credit teamwork for helping them succeed in this crisis.
“We work together really well,” Bayles said. “I think that’s just sort of innate in our DNA, and that is really paying off in these types of situations.”
“You can’t underestimate the power of a good team,” echoed Kratochvil. “None of what we’ve done could have been done alone.”
Schwedhelm just hopes there is time to take stock of what they’ve learned before the next wave or crisis hits.
“These sorts of scenarios don’t happen in isolation of one another,” she said. “We need to pause, and we need to learn what from what went on, and do that in a big way … to understand what we need to do better next time and try to get things put in place for whatever is the future.”
Because Schwedhelm knows, as everyone does at UNMC and Nebraska Medicine, that whatever comes, they will be there.
On the front lines.
Last updated March 20, 2020
This is information about how the University of Nebraska Foundation is responding to the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health crisis as we continue our commitment to serving each of our valued stakeholders.
Given the challenges our state, country and world face now, the foundation remains more committed than ever to our extremely relevant mission to grow relationships and resources that enable the University of Nebraska to change lives and save lives.
“We are a team, and in times like this, teams rally,” said Brian Hastings, president and CEO. “I have every confidence that we will come through this situation as a stronger organization and with an even greater commitment and appreciation for our mission.”
Our top priority is the health, safety and well-being of our team members, supporters, alumni and friends. While most foundation employees have been directed to work remotely, our offices — located in Kearney, Lincoln and Omaha — remain open. As we continue to receive and acknowledge all gifts made through the mail or online here at nufoundation.org, our commitment to our mission has become more important than ever.
For the safety of all involved, the foundation has suspended all travel by our team members outside Nebraska and has canceled or postponed gatherings and events, including those held in partnership with the University of Nebraska. In addition, meetings and direct interactions with donors, alumni, university personnel or other stakeholders will be held via video or phone or postponed to a later date.
The NU Foundation is monitoring the latest public health advisements and following updates from the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control, local health departments and our own experts at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Nebraska Medicine. We will continue to closely monitor the situation and evaluate additional measures as needs arise.
Each campus — UNL, UNMC, UNO and UNK — has information available for students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends to help navigate this situation as best as possible. We’re especially proud of the important role that the University of Nebraska Medical Center and its clinical partner, Nebraska Medicine, are taking in the battle against the coronavirus.
The University of Nebraska continues to be an information resource for the news media, including Esquire, CNN, Time, The New York Times and others.
A national emergency declaration in response to a pandemic virus is new to all of us, and as a fundraising organization, we want to be sensitive to the unique situation of every single student, every alumnus and every friend of the University of Nebraska.
With economic uncertainty a reality for many, we ask for financial support with extreme hesitation and prudence. At the same time, some in our university family have asked us how they can help. We’ve highlighted some funds on our website that allow you to help our students, patients and communities during this public health crisis.
From all of us at the foundation, our thoughts are with those around the world who are affected by the coronavirus and the challenges it brings. We encourage you to please take precautions to be safe, and, as always, thank you for all that you do for the University of Nebraska.
We remain available to help and serve you. If you need information or assistance, please use any of these ways to reach us:
UNMC graduate overcomes obstacles to embrace opportunities.
His mom made him look at her hands.
They were swollen, again.
She reminded him how much they ached, day after day, from her job packaging meat at a factory in Columbus, Nebraska.
“She told me, ‘This is the reason you have to go to college. You should get an education. It’s going to help you in the future,’” Radiel Cardentey-Uranga, a recent graduate of the University of Nebraska Medical Center, says.
A few weeks before his graduation, Cardentey-Uranga turned 23. He dreams of a career in radiography, using his hands to help people. He sees that career within his reach now — and maybe, down the road, he’ll become an M.D. or Ph.D. or a physician’s assistant — and he sees himself giving back to the community one day. He knows it’s all thanks to his parents and teachers and all the people who extended their hands to him along the way, pulled him up to where he is today.
To who he is today:
A hardworking, recent college graduate, the first in his family to attend college …
A grateful recipient of two UNMC scholarships: the Charles R. O’Malley Scholarship and the Hermene K. Ferris Scholarship, generous gifts from people who don’t even know him …
A proud citizen of the United States, as of last summer …
And a proud narrator of a very unlikely story. One he can hardly believe himself, he says, as he tells it over the phone from his home in Columbus, Nebraska.
His story began in Cuba. It began even before he was born, when his hardworking dad was thrown in jail for two years for speaking out against the government.
“He just wasn’t in favor of the tyranny or the dictatorship they had,” Cardentey-Uranga says. “He was publicly speaking the truth that the government doesn’t want you to tell.”
When his dad got out of jail, he tried to go back to working in construction. He had a good reputation working with his hands, in masonry. But police were always giving him citations, harassing him, ticketing him. Cardentey-Uranga’s family eventually applied to come to the United States as refugees and was accepted.
Cardentey-Uranga was 16 when he came over with his parents and older brother. After some time in Washington state, his parents split up. Cardentey-Uranga and his mom came to Columbus, where his mom, who had used her hands doing hair and nails out of her home back in Cuba, took on that tough factory job.
Cardentey-Uranga could barely speak or understand English, so he wasn’t much of a student at first at Columbus High School. He’d dropped out of school in Cuba in ninth grade because of his family’s fears that if he kept going, he’d get taken away and thrown into military service, which in Cuba is mandatory.
He struggled because of those years of school he missed, especially in math and physics.
“Basically,” he says, “I had to learn it all from scratch.”
He joined the high school soccer team, which helped because some of the players spoke Spanish. He took a weekend job at an animal shelter, and that helped him learn English. He started to fit in.
A few teachers took him under their wings, encouraged him to try for higher education and pointed him in the direction of Central Community College.
But he didn’t think he was college material. He figured he’d just find a factory job, too, when he graduated.
That’s when his mom made him look at her swollen hands.
“She said, ‘This is the reason you have to go through school. I’m making the sacrifice for you. You should take a chance at the opportunity,’” Cardentey-Uranga says.
He did. He started asking questions about the path to higher education. He took the ACT but scored poorly at first. He started at the community college, way behind the other students. He took evening classes, summer classes. He got to know one of the Spanish instructors there, and she suggested he consider a career in radiography. She told him UNMC had a radiography program he could take right there in Columbus.
He researched it, loved what he saw and applied to the program at UNMC, which has a partnership with a hospital in Columbus. As part of the application process, he was required to do a three-day job-shadowing stint to make sure he really wanted to work in that field.
“I liked the job,” Cardentey-Uranga says. “I felt like it really fit me because I’m using my hands constantly, in different ways. You use the computer sometimes; you’re constantly running around and moving. I like to move. And you get to work with people from all different backgrounds and cultures.”
He applied for scholarships. Then he forgot he’d done so, until one day when he opened an email telling him he’d received the O’Malley and Ferris scholarships. The O’Malley Scholarship was created by the largest gift to benefit UNMC’s College of Allied Health Professions students to date. Besides allowing the college to endow funds for a cohort of “O’Malley Scholars,” the gift provides an additional $500,000 if matched by other allied health donors through 2022. The matching arrangement allows benefactors to endow their own named scholarships, with the benefit of doubling their gift.
“When I got it,” he says. “I got an email telling me and when I read it, I was like, OK, this can’t be real. They probably sent it to the wrong person!”
“But I guess someone realized that I was really working hard to achieve good academic performance. And I got the scholarships, and they truly make a difference. The money helps out with school. But what also really impacts me is the fact that it makes me know there are people out there who are actually invested in your future, who really care about you.
“That’s what impacted me the most — that there are people looking out for me, people who care.”
Cardentey-Uranga graduated from UNMC with a bachelor’s degree in medical imaging and therapeutic science this past May. He will go on to receive a post-baccalaureate certificate in cardiovascular interventional technology through UNMC.
He wrote a thank you letter last May to the people behind the Ferris Scholarship:
I am looking forward to achieving my career goal at UNMC and hopefully someday to be in your shoes and give back to the community in the same way you are doing with me.
He also created a video for the trustees of the O’Malley Trust, telling them his unlikely story and thanking them for their big hand in it.
And promising his story will continue.
The Fremont Area Alzheimer’s Collaboration (FAAC) has donated a $60,000 pilot grant to go toward Alzheimer’s disease research at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. The donation marks the sixth grant the FAAC has donated to UNMC since 2014 and brings the group’s total contribution to more than $215,000.
Marv Welstead, a 98-year-old Fremont man who lost his wife, Jean, in 2009 after an eight-year battle with Alzheimer’s, is honorary chairperson of the FAAC. On Feb. 21, the Fremont Area Chamber of Commerce inducted Welstead into its Hall of Fame on his 98th birthday.
“Marv has been the driving force behind the FAAC’s success,” said Dan Murman, M.D., professor and vice chair of clinical and translational research in the UNMC Department of Neurological Sciences. “He’s been tremendously supportive. His commitment to the battle against Alzheimer’s disease is truly inspirational.”
The latest FAAC grant will support UNMC’s Alzheimer’s research in two areas – developing screening biomarkers and exploring novel treatment approaches.
Dr. Murman said the screening biomarkers include cerebrovascular measures, retinal measures, and blood and saliva samples. Each of these screening biomarkers is noninvasive and relatively inexpensive, he said. These novel biomarkers would be compared to more traditional biomarkers such as using an MRI scan to measure brain neurodegeneration or a PET scan to determine the amyloid plaque accumulation in the brain.
The grant will provide additional support for several clinical trials at UNMC, Dr. Murman said, including a study of repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (r-TMS) as a treatment to improve memory in subjects with very mild Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, the FAAC funding will allow UNMC to recruit subjects for several new clinical trials of promising new medications.
“We can’t thank the FAAC enough for its support,” Dr. Murman said. “The ongoing contributions from the FAAC allow us the flexibility to try new things and seek new advances. We are honored to use their funding to look for answers to this incredibly difficult disease.”
A progressive, degenerative disorder, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia among people 65 years and older. It currently affects more than 35,000 Nebraskans and more than 5 million persons nationwide.
The money raised by the FAAC is donated to the University of Nebraska Foundation, which then distributes it to UNMC as well as the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. It is raised through a variety of channels, including a walk, a golf tournament, a bowling tournament, online gifts and memorials, Welstead said. The FAAC is a component fund of the Fremont Area Community Foundation.
“We’ve received tremendous support from the various groups in Fremont,” Welstead said. “It’s unbelievable. We’ve been getting some very generous memorials from families who have been impacted by Alzheimer’s.”
Welstead acknowledged Dan Kauble, a retired executive from Hormel who has been assisting him in raising money for Alzheimer’s disease. He also saluted Riley Faulkner, president of the FAAC, and Cathi Sampson, vice president of the FAAC.
“We love to raise money locally and then keep the money in Nebraska by giving it to UNMC and UNL,” Welstead said. “We know the University of Nebraska is doing some outstanding research with Alzheimer’s disease.”
Welstead noted that the FAAC will generate more funding through a charity golf tournament on June 23 at Fremont Country Club and a pancake feed sometime in September.
Funding from the Fremont Area Alzheimer’s Collaboration (FAAC) has assisted numerous investigators in their research. They include:
Daniel Murman, M.D., neurological sciences
Sachin Kedar, M.B.B.S., neurological sciences
David Warren, Ph.D., neurological sciences
Tony Wilson, Ph.D., director of the Magnetoencephalography Laboratory at UNMC/Nebraska Medicine;
Alex Wiesman, Ph.D. candidate who works with Dr. Wilson
Greg Bashford, Ph.D., biological systems engineering
Mohammed Alwatban, Ph.D. candidate who works with Dr. Bashford