Making the Most of Museum Memberships

Just for working here, employees at UNMC get free admission to the Durham and Joslyn Art Museums.

That’s an F, followed by an R and two Es — everyone’s favorite four-letter word.

Sure, my family has taken advantage of this a few times. Once – being the overeager parents that we are – my husband and I took our 1-year-old daughter to “Family Day” at the Joslyn.

The similarities are uncanny.

And again during Christmastime, because who doesn’t love to go see the big guy at the Durham?

Uh, apparently she doesn’t.

What I’m trying to say is, we are lucky to receive this perk. And we should really capitalize on it more (myself included). We all have excuses for why we don’t.

-I don’t get off work til (insert time here)p.m. (The Durham is open until 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and the Joslyn is open until 8 p.m. on Thursdays.)

-My kids are too loud/destructive to set foot in a museum. (There are places within the Joslyn designed for just that, plus a reflecting pool outside that children of all ages will love. As for the Durham, do the words “full scale train and passenger cars” mean anything to you?)

-I’m hungry (The Joslyn has a full service cafe for lunch, and the Durham has an old-fashioned soda fountain and candy counter.)

Now that we’re out of excuses, both museums have some cool exhibits and events coming up. At the Joslyn:

“THE GREAT WEST ILLUSTRATED: Celebrating 150 Years of the Union Pacific Railroad”
“CONTESTED TERRAIN: Painting the Modern Landscape.”

Photo taken at a preview of the exhibits at the Sorrell Center.

And at the Durham:

The Pacific Railway Act
A Shopper’s Paradise: The Brandeis Department Store
Mindbender Mansion

The good news is UNMC and TNMC employees and their families can check out these exhibits at the Durham on a special Participants Night July 31 from 5 to 8 p.m. And there’s breakfast for dinner. The “Pancake Man,” will be flinging flapjacks at your colleagues –what’s not to love about that? Last but not least, there also will be a live CLUE game going on, so break out the Miss Scarlet lipstick and Col. Mustard mustaches and come on down to the Durham for some good, old-fashioned and FREE fun.

To register for that event, RSVP to unmcevents@unmc.edu by July 30. Don’t forget to bring your employee ID badge if you come.

I’ll see you there. Hopefully there won’t be any tears this time!

A man for all symptoms

JERRY: What’s with the fake sneezing?

KRAMER: Yeah, we’re going down to Mt. Sinai Hospital. See they hire actors to help the students practice diagnosing.

MICKEY: They assign you a specific disease and you act out the symptoms. It’s an easy gig.

JERRY: Do medical schools actually do this?

KRAMER: Well, the better ones. Alright, let’s practice retching.

Standardized patient Gary Javitch gives a masterful performance while being examined by physician assistant student Megan Punt.

Gary Javitch goes over his woes: “I’ve had back ache, leg ache, appendicitis, schizophrenia, alcoholism,” he said.

And none of that was the worst of it.

“My ex-wife perhaps gave me a venereal disease,” he said.

Oh … oh, my.

No small roles …

But don’t worry. These are just roles Gary plays. He is what is known as a standardized patient – he helps UNMC students prepare for careers as health care professionals.

It’s simulation training. Would you call it acting?

“I have no idea if I went on a stage, if I would be a failure. But in a one-to-one situation, I guess it’s believable,” Gary said.

He’s done this for more than 17 years.

He brings humanity

He’ll often get a script at the beginning of the week (he sometimes does up to 20 hours a month of “standardized” work). But Gary and other SPs do more than just act out diseases.

They can teach students how to deliver bad news; how to treat patients as people.

“It isn’t just book facts. It’s poise under pressure. It’s clinical skills and critical thinking,” said Karen Schrader, a UNMC physician assistant in Internal Medicine who trains and prepares standardized patients.

You can’t duplicate that. Except, with people like Gary, sometimes you can.

Method acting

And sometimes it isn’t acting. When he talks about doing a complete history and physical, he means actually getting into a gown …

“Everything but a rectal exam,” he said.

OK!

But, wait, that still means …

“I help them learn how to do a hernia check,” he said.

Talk about an actor who does his own stunts.

Seasoned pro

He is a senior SP. Standardized patients are not volunteers, but trained professionals, part-time on-call employees. UNMC has a core of about 60 people who serve this vital function. And they’re good.

“We’ve had students, when the exam was over, ask the SP, ‘Are you OK?’ ” SP coordinator Dan Brick said.

Not to worry. Gary gets a lot of physicals. “I know exactly what my blood pressure is,” he said. “I get it checked three or four times a month.”

White Coat Capes

It was a simple task, really. Hand out programs to those attending the Distinguished Scientist ceremony in May. “How hard can this be?” I thought to myself. That was before I tried to check my e-mail on my iPhone during a lull, and hold the programs at the same time. All 62 ended up on the floor.

I bent over to pick them up and glanced out the window of the Durham Research Tower. There was Dr. Jonathan Vennerstrom, hustling down the sidewalk across the street. He looked so ordinary in his baseball cap and corduroy pants.

If he was just the guy ahead of you in line at the grocery store, you’d never know he’s working on a cure for malaria. How would you know? Sure, he looks smart, but unless you resemble Einstein, people assume nothing. It reminded me of Clark Kent. How no one knew what he was capable of by just looking at him.

Dr. Vennerstrom walked into the auditorium and removed his hat. I gave him my standard greeting, followed by his name. He paused, gave me a quizzical “how do you know me?” look, and proceeded into the auditorium.

It happened again with Dr. Chris Kratchovil, a guru of sorts in clinical psychology research, and assistant to the Vice Chancellor for Research. It was that, “wait, you know me?” look.

What these researchers fail to realize is that they are our local superheroes. When one of them puts on a white coat, it transforms into a cape. They might not be rescuing a damsel in distress, but their work is just as heroic. Working on a cure for malaria. Testing medicines for ADHD. And like the Scientist Laureate honored that day, Dr. Tony Hollingsworth, devising tests and therapies for the deadliest cancer out there — pancreatic.

These researchers are humble. But so are we — the ones who support them, the ones who order the supplies for their experiments, the ones who make sure the lab is clean and comfortable. But we matter. Without us — the supporting cast and crew — cures don’t happen, drugs don’t get tested and – in my case – the community doesn’t get to know the UNMC story because there’s no one there to tell it. We may not have capes, but we are superheroes in disguise, too. Even if we’re just handing out programs.