Surprise, you're Radiologic Technologist of the Year!

Tammy Jones, radiation at work 009

Everyone but Tammy Jones, assistant professor in the radiation science technology division in the School of Allied Health Professions, knew that she was going to be named Nebraska Society of Radiologic Technologists 2013 Radiologic Technologist of the Year. Everyone.

Who knew?

“My students,” Jones said. “The faculty.” Everybody.

Meanwhile, she had no idea.

She was there, in Kearney, for the NSRT annual conference. When the build-up to the big award started, she sat there, with no clue. But after a while, the nomination letters describing the winner started to make her wonder. And then there was no wondering – they called her name.

Tammy Jones accepted the award as the Nebraska Society of Radiologic Technologists 2013 Radiologic Technologist of the Year.

Tammy Jones accepted the award as the Nebraska Society of Radiologic Technologists 2013 Radiologic Technologist of the Year.

Then she went up to the podium to accept the award, and they made her say a few words. So she looked out into the audience, and saw, for the first time … her husband and two boys! (Ryan, and Ian and Noah!)

And her parents! (Jim and Lonita Webster!)

(See? Everyone knew!)

How had her family kept this a secret?

“My son’s teacher knew!” Jones said.

Well, at least it was a pleasant surprise.

The big award – SAHP Senior Associate Dean Kyle Meyer called it “A well-deserved recognition for her significant contributions to her profession and to UNMC” – headlined a strong showing for the med center.

Jones works with students Molly Gallagher and Bridgette Root, whom she calls "the future Radiologic Technologists of the Year."

Jones works with students Bridgette Root and Molly Gallagher, whom she calls “the future Radiologic Technologists of the Year.”

UNMC also earned first-place honors at the conference in Student Essay (Sarah Johnson); RT Student Exhibit (Dana Riter); and RT Exhibit (Connie Mitchell, Brandon Holt and Rob Hughes).

But the real winners of the day were the ones able to pull off a surprise like that.

Dr. Vandenberg: Working on his knight moves

vandenberg teaching 006

Ed Vandenberg, M.D., associate professor in the department of internal medicine, division of geriatrics and gerontology, knows the power of knights. Their suits of armor. Their codes of honor. The way lances and swords hold sway over our imagination.

Their very names are magical, mythical: Sir Paul McCartney; Sir Lancelot; Sir Mix-A-Lot.


And so he annually gives a lecture before an auditorium of students while wearing a gleaming helm.

But in the dressing room before striding out, he is apprehensive. When did this get so big? Now there’s a photographer from The World-Herald in the audience, and a guy taking video, too, and longtime Omaha columnist Mike Kelly is writing things down (this is what happens when you mention something to UNMC public relations ace Tom O’Connor). It feels like all of this is getting a little bit out of hand.

“I’m worried the students are going to think this is about showmanship,” he says quietly. “Because it isn’t about that. It didn’t start out like that.”

Dr. Vandenberg donned a rain slicker and wielded an umbrella for a lecture on incontinence.

Dr. Vandenberg donned a rain slicker and wielded an umbrella for a lecture on incontinence.

No. It started because Dr. Vandenberg is a teacher. He just comes at the job differently than most. He’s back in academia now, but before he came to teach at UNMC he’d lived a little. OK, a lot. He practiced medicine in northwest Alaska, near the Arctic Circle, by the Bering Sea. And in northern, rural Wisconsin. Urban areas, too.

He knows how important it is that his students get this.

So he has his own methods. For years, he’s given his students “Geri-Pearl” cards, cards which break down the symptoms and care of most common geriatric medical problems onto a single mini-page. If a student seemed stumped by a particular scenario, Dr. Vandenberg would take that card out of his pocket and place it in the student’s hands. There.

Learn it. Know it. Live it.


A knight is the master of every weapon in his arsenal -- including the kazoo.

A knight is a master of every weapon in his arsenal — including the kazoo.

He bursts into the auditorium wearing a black tunic and waving an 18-inch plastic sword. His “helmet” shines in the lights. He delivers a spirited monologue in a patois that is part Monty Python, part “Richard III.”

“Knights and knightresses!” he roars. (Knightresses?)

“Will you join me on this quest?!”

They will. They are. They already have.

“We sit in school for four, six, eight hours a day,” second-year med student Joseph Rohr would say. “Having something unique is good.”

The laughter and the looks on the faces of the students confirm this: They are with him on this ride.

The knights and knightresses show their approval.

The knights and knightresses show their approval.

“Enough with the bad British accent,” the knight says. Time to talk about geriatric falls. How to diagnose them. How to treat them. How to prevent them.

“The bathroom is the most hazardous room in the house,” Dr. Vandenberg says.

“I don’t know why anybody goes in there.”

How can you tell if a patient had passed out? Ask them the last thing they remember.

For example: “I think I saw Ed in a knight helmet.”

He puts up a case study of an older woman who had fallen, all of her symptoms. He talks about getting additional info from the witness to the fall, her son.

How does he know how traumatic this can be?

“I was the son.”

The two most interesting men in the world cross paths.

The two most interesting men in the world cross paths.

Dr. Vandenberg used to have a “real” knight’s helmet. It was awesome. He misses it, a little.

But the rental store that carried it closed, and now he makes due with a somewhat less protective version, something a kid might wear on Halloween.

Still, it works. Not because of the helmet, but who wears it. He was recently awarded the University of Nebraska’s Outstanding Teaching and Instructional Creativity Award, the university system’s highest honor for doing what he does.

It comes through: He knows how important it is that his students get this. And they know he knows.

But with all of these cameras recording everything, with all this extra hubbub, will the lecture he’s about to give have the same impact?

In the dressing room beforehand, he frets.

“Please,” he says politely. “Keep that door closed.” It would ruin everything, for the students to see him too soon.

This isn’t about showmanship.

When you make the right entrance, you can have them in the palm of your hand.

Hustling for Hunger


By John Keenan, UNMC Today editor

I used to race for fun, back when I was young and (relatively)  fast.

These days, however, I run road races much less frequently, and prefer to race (if you can even call it “racing” anymore”) for a reason.

On April 19, for example, I took part in UNMC’s Hustle for Hunger, a three-mile run/walk designed to collect donations of canned and boxed foods for the Food Bank. I was looking for a short race to run near the end of April, and as a newcomer to UNMC, I figured a nice, noncompetitive race might get me some exercise, help me support a worthy cause, and perhaps allow me to meet other runners who work or go to school at UNMC.

After two days of rain and snow, the early spring crispness of Friday afternoon seemed perfect running weather, not only to me but to the 50 or so people who turned out to run or walk the course. (By the way, it’s not too late to help out by dropping off a donation at one of these locations.)

See event slide show here.

I’m certainly not alone in running  for a cause – and the Food Bank of the Heartland isn’t the only organization that allows you to flex both your fast-twitch and philanthropic muscles. This coming Saturday alone, a fitness junkie could run a 5K for Fertility or a 5K to support autism awareness. A bicyclist could Bike for Sight (in another UNMC-related fitness event). You could knock out a quick mile to “Keep Kids Alive – Drive 25.” Or walk the Nebraska Lymphomathon. And that doesn’t include events on the surrounding weekends, races that support Siena/Francis House or help provide shoes for needy children.

I used to leave races feeling bad about missing an age-group award. When I finish the autism run this weekend, I suspect I’ll leave feeling bad about not making my fund-raising numbers. As a fund-raiser, the best thing you can say about me is I’m a pretty good runner – my “Personal Fundraising Page” for the autism run has netted $40 (including $20 that I kicked in myself). But if I’m going to put up $30 to $40 to run a race, I like the idea that there’s more than a T-shirt as a payoff. And – counting what it cost me to register for this race – I figure at least I’ve given a little money to a good cause.

The Hustle for Hunger didn’t even cost that – the can of peaches I donated for my entry fee ran me a couple of bucks. But the payoff is much bigger than the food donated at one event, according to Brian Barks of the Food Bank of the Heartland.

“Food drives are mini PR campaigns,” Barks said. “While hundreds and hundreds of food drives are done on our behalf, product received from those food drives comprise less than 5 percent of our inventory.  So generating awareness through food drives has become a critical component.”

bananasYou had to think some awareness was generated Friday, with the bright yellow Hustle for Hunger shirts increasing visibility as runners and walkers went from the start near the ice rink out onto Dewey, up 42nd Street to Douglas, turning west then south again to climb the hill near the Munroe-Meyer Institute before circling past The Nebraska Medical Center’s main entrance and back toward the start. (Props to Munroe-Meyer, by the way – the team of walkers and runners from MMI bought boxloads of food items with them.)

My running is not always about philanthropy. I’ll be racing a Half-Ironman triathlon in June for no other purpose than to prove I can do it and feed my enormous ego. Between registration, hotel and various other costs, the amount I’m spending there will dwarf the proceeds for the autism run or the cost of the few food items I donated to Hustle for Hunger.

But going forward, I’d like to look for events – like the Hustle for Hunger – that will have an effect to go with all my effort. I may be older and slower, but I’d like to think that some of the races I run these days will have a bigger impact than simply causing me knee problems and shin splints.