A Day in the Life at UNMC

UNMC: The U.S. Varsity

Maybe it’s just an accidental headline, and nothing more. Maybe this is just the way they talk in India. Still, the words we use mean something, even when we don’t know it. And so, the way The New Indian Express, an English-language newspaper and website, summed things up recently said it all:

“US Varsity comes forward to assist state government in water management.”

It’s fair to guess that in this case they are probably using the word varsity in its original meaning as “university.” That’s fine. Doesn’t matter.

Here in the U.S., the varsity means the big boys (or girls). The No. 1 squad you’ve got. The best. The top line. The first team.

And so in this usage, it’s perfect. Because in this headline when it says “US Varsity comes forward,” it means UNMC.

Think of that phrase: U.S. Varsity comes forward. This is UNMC’s best image of itself summed up in four words.

As in: Not just the best team in the country, but the one, when help is needed, that is already on the way.

Alan Kolok, Ph.D., interim director of the Center for Environmental Health and Toxicology in UNMC's College of Public Health, displays UNMC's sentinel fish.
Alan Kolok, Ph.D., interim director of the Center for Environmental Health and Toxicology in UNMC’s College of Public Health, displays UNMC’s sentinel fish.

The story went on to say that UNMC, which is helping the Asian Institute of Public Health set up India’s first public health university, has offered its expertise in eastern India. UNMC’s College of Public Health could assist with “developing systems for effective water management for agriculture and drinking, flood and draught management as well as cropping patterns and soil toxicology.”

UNMC has developed sentinel fish-based systems – scientific sentinel fish! – which let you know right away whether your water has unwanted levels of toxin, metals and pollution.

Pinaki Panigrahi, M.D., Ph.D., director of UNMC’s Center for Global Health and Development, was quoted: “Water availability is evolving into a major threat for the future that could fuel war,” he said. “The focus across the world, thus, has shifted to proper water management. Strategies are being oriented toward addressing the problems of pollution and contamination of water and making it usable for varied purposes.”

Dr. Panigrahi
Dr. Panigrahi

Water. UNMC is going to make sure that people have water.

That’s public health. That’s health, period. That’s life. Period.

If where you live there is no clean water, and someone helps you get some, that is quite literally a breakthrough.

Dr. Maurer has long talked about becoming world-class.
Dr. Maurer has long set the goal of becoming world-class.

As much as Chancellor Harold M. Maurer, M.D., has talked about the concept of being world-class, it still can be a tough idea to grasp hold of. Many of us find ourselves falling back into seeing things in terms of UNMC’s standing here in Omaha. It’s more comfortable for us. And, here, in Omaha, we’re unquestionably awesome. Of course.

But now, maybe a headline from a newspaper on the other side of the world shows us once and for all what that means. Those words show us who we want to be.

Sure, the Indian editor who wrote it may not ascribe the same meaning to the verbiage that we do – doesn’t matter. Even without knowing it, he or she was right.

If there is a problem of ingenuity somewhere in the world, anywhere in the world, if people need help, who are you going to call on? Who will step forward?

You send in the U.S. Varsity.

That’s us.

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