Dr. Cornish: "Up your nose with a rubber hose"

Kurtis Cornish, Ph.D., sat at the front of a classroom in Wittson Hall wearing the expression of a man who knows what’s coming.

Still, he insists it is no big deal to have a nasogastric (NG) tube snaked up his nose, down his throat and into his stomach. That – showing how little a deal it really is – was the whole point of this exercise.

“He swallows about 40 NG tubes in three days,” said Patti Carstens, program manager for the Clinical Skills Center in the UNMC College of Medicine.

Dr. Cornish helps Heather Spain prepare to snake a nasogastric tube through the nose of fellow student, Megan Goeser. 


Dr. Cornish, professor of cellular and integrative physiology, has won the Golden Apple, UNMC’s teaching award, so many times they stopped counting. And during June Term, this is what he does.

His session on NG is the highlight, the showstopper, the event everyone seems to talk about, over the three-day skills brush-up sessions for med students heading into their clinical years.

In June Term, students will do an NG intubation and have it done to them. But not before Dr. Cornish demonstrates first.

They used to demonstrate on a student, he said. But the student would gag, flinch, fight, and then, “The whole class was terrified.”

Won’t they still be terrified?

“Yeah, they will,” Dr. Cornish said. “But not as bad.”

“Some of you who have a deviated septum may have an advantage,” he said, before he took the tube.

Afterward, a student said, “That did not look comfortable.” Then, to his partner: “You go first.”

Around the room, tubers and tube-ees took nervous breaths. In chests and stomachs, butterflies danced.

Dr. Cornish

“When you push the tube down, don’t be shy,” Dr. Cornish had said. But easier said than done, at least the first time.

Ever-changing, manic facial expressions (this was made for YouTube) marked the tubes’ progress, or lack thereof.

One woman did “the vapors” flaps like a Southern belle.

But, eventually, they got it down. And then out.

“HOOOOOAAAAAAHHH!” one woman said, as her tube made its escape.

“I’m soooo sorry,” she said. But she needn’t have been. It was just a sound effect.

So now they’d done it. And they basked in the giddiness and confidence that comes with relief.

Except for one tuber. And one tube-ee. Time after time, they kept trying.

At last Dr. Cornish stepped in, and sat down. For the second time in 20 minutes, he was going to show how this was done.

John's Real Stories of UNMC Security

John Ingraham has been a UNMC security officer since 1978. Yes, there’s a lot of routine and repetition involved. But he’s also had his life threatened over parking tickets. He’s seen some pretty crazy things.

And he’s exercised with Richard Simmons (that guy has crazy energy). He snuck Robert Redford in the back door (OK, the man is handsome; but, come on, he’s not THAT handsome). And he visited sick kids with Mr. T (I pity the fool who doesn’t think Mr. T has a heart of gold).

John Ingraham


We see them as friendly faces around campus. But UNMC security does more than make rounds and check locks.

“A lot of people that have gotten experience here have gone on to other police forces,” Ingraham said. “State patrol. Douglas County, Sarpy County. Omaha police. The sheriff. Pottawattamie County. One went into the FBI.”

But others are lifers here. How can you tell a guy is going to stick?

“After 30 years they’re still here!” Ingraham said.

A typical atypical day

And, often, they see, experience and handle more than the rest of us will ever know.

“So far this morning,” Ingraham said one recent day at 10 a.m., “we had a car accident in Lot 1. We had a person down in the intersection of 40th and Emile Street that the rescue squad took to the emergency room.

“We’ve had six or seven (calls) in since 8 o’clock this morning. One was a suicidal-homicidal. One was on an EPC, an emergency protective custody. We had a Code 99 come in, and several other less critical.

“Code 99 is a cardiac arrest,” Ingraham said.

Join us next time

In order to share some of these adventures – from the funny to the harrowing – UNMC Today and A Day in the Life of UNMC are partnering with Ingraham to tell some of the best stories from his 34 years on the job.

Look for periodic installments of Ingraham’s Real Stories of UNMC Security.

My 2.5 hour icebreaker

A couple times a year, the Public Relations department gathers for a “retreat” to evaluate how we’re doing, map out our big ideas for the year, and strategize our communication efforts. Before we get down to the nitty gritty, we typically do a team-building exercise or an icebreaker. For example, in the past we’ve done Minute To Win It games.

and more recently, Mindbender Mansion at the Durham Museum.

The teams are usually arranged so that those who don’t work together as often have a chance to get to know each other better. It’s a fun, effective way create camaraderie amongst our department, which is really one big team.

“Bolting” to London

Last fall, our PR director, the lovely Bill O’Neill, asked me, along with another colleague (who will remain nameless to protect the innocent) to come up with an idea for an icebreaker. Well, we did. OK, I did. And being the non-detail oriented person that I am, I didn’t exactly account for the time it would take. I do have strengths. However, allotting for ample time is not one of them.  Not something I’m proud of by any means, but it’s the cold, hard truth that my husband will bore you with if you just ask.

Anyway, my idea. You’ve heard of bridal showers and baby showers, but what about compliment showers? (Get it? Showered with compliments…) The plan was for each person in our department to come up one-by-one and stand under the compliment umbrella while each of their colleagues said something nice –but non-work related– about them.

The first person up was Lisa Metzger Grotrian. We each went around the room, throwing her compliments like curveballs. As more people went, the compliments turned into stories, favorite memories and sometimes 2 or 3 of each. We laughed and we cried (OK, the crying was mainly me). Everyone said it felt awkward to stand up there, but I think it felt pretty good, too. When it came to be my turn, I walked up underneath the umbrella. Yep, it felt pretty awkward. But then people called me funny. (Take that, husband.) And said they loved the way I write (which is always the way to a neurotic, insecure writer’s heart). Not surprisingly, no one complimented me on my penchant for time. And then my friend, UNMC Today Editor Chuck Brown, told me I was like a sister to him. I’ll never forget that.

I looked at the clock. We were way over the budgeted 15 minutes of time. I looked at Bill. I could tell he wanted to cover the material he’d prepared, but didn’t want to stop what was happening amongst our team . Thankfully, he allowed the newly dubbed “icemelter” to continue.

Two and a half hours after it started, my icebreaker was over. We never got to the nitty gritty that day.

Tom O’Connor said it was one of the best things we’ve ever done as a department. Tom is also the original spin doctor, so he may have said that the next day when someone brought in bagels, I don’t know.

But I do know that team building is important. I’m proud to work somewhere that recognizes that fact. I’d love to know what other departments have done for team building/icebreaker activities? Any other office criers out there? Can anyone break my Guinness World Record for the longest icebreaker ever?