Another unusual patient at UNMC

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UNMC is not just an academic health science center. It strives to be a vital resource to all Nebraskans. So it makes perfect sense that the radiation science technology education department in the School of Allied Health Professions recently lent its expertise in order to X-ray … a 19th century masterpiece from the Joslyn Art Museum?

The Nebraska State Historical Society’s Gerald Ford Conservation Center and the Joslyn are partnering with UNMC on radiographic imaging to assist with a full technical study, then the conservation of the painting. The process and results will be on display at the museum as part of a special exhibit.

This intersection of medical science and art also has inspired tonight’s Science Café featuring presenters Kenneth Bé and Jim Temme.

Science Cafe tonight

Kenneth Be, head of paintings conservation at the Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center and James Temme, associate professor and director of the radiation science technology division in UNMC’s School of Allied Health Professions, present tonight on “The Pearl of Venice” and the intersection of art and science at an Omaha Science Cafe at 7 p.m.  at the Slowdown, 729 N. 14th St.

On the day of the imaging, Bé, head of paintings conservation at the Ford Center, and the Joslyn’s Kay Johnson carried the painting into the med center’s radiography department and set it down gently. Tim Stack, radiology technologist for The Nebraska Medical Center, Justin Williams, a senior radiography student, and Temme, the Charles R. O’Malley Endowed Chair in Radiation Science Technology Education, started setting up.

Williams, Stack, Jolene Horihan, radiography and mamography technologist at The Nebraska Medical Center, and Temme pose with "The Pearl of Venice."

Williams, Stack, Jolene Horihan, radiography and mammography technologist at The Nebraska Medical Center, and Temme pose with the patient, “The Pearl of Venice,” after a successful radiography. (Photos by Fran Higgins, School of Allied Health Professions)

“The Pearl of Venice,” dated 1899, has long been a favorite of Joslyn visitors. Its painter, Thomas Moran, is best known for his paintings and watercolors of the American West. But this, one of his finest cityscape paintings, shows he also spent time, “as we all should,” Bé said, “in Venice.”

Yes. We all should spend time in Venice! (Moran himself wrote of the city’s “dreamy beauty.”)

And this is the way Bé speaks – elegantly. Maybe it’s being around all of these masterpieces day in and day out.

And it is only with this kind of imaging that one can truly know a painting, Bé said. “The history of this canvas,” he said. “We are looking not only for condition problems but also some clues to the painting’s studio technique, things we could only find in a radiograph. Things I couldn’t see with my naked eye.”

Some large museums have their own in-house radiography set-ups, Bé said, but this partnership works just fine.

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A great look at the X-ray.

“These radiographic images look great,” Temme said, as the team imaged another section of the painting.

Temme beamed proudly. “I think I’d like to have a print of these radiographs in my office,” he said.

The exhibit will run June 7-Sept. 7 at the Joslyn Art Museum, and will include the painting undergoing its cleaning and conservation treatment in the galleries, with Bé working as visitors watch.

The Science Café is set for 7 p.m. tonight at the Slowdown. Please click the link for details.

Be, Johnson and Temme posed with "The Pearl of Venice." Be and Temme will present at a June 3 Science Cafe.

Be, Johnson and Temme posed with “The Pearl of Venice.” Be and Temme will present tonight at the Science Cafe.

The beginning

The practice ice rink looks like the graduation area.

DSC_0312There are rows of chairs for the graduates. There is a podium. There are even seats on one side, though not nearly enough to seat all the friends and family who are expected.

Still, the room looks official enough that one graduate, gown draped over her arm and a cap in one hand, asks “Is this where the ceremony is?”

It’s not.

UNMC’s official commencement ceremony was held May 10 at the Ralston Arena, on the main floor, where the Lancers hockey and UNO basketball games take place. This room, a practice area located just below and behind the arena gift shop, was the staging area, where, a half-hour before the ceremony starts, Barbara Breazeale and Janet McLaughlin are trying to wrangle more than 450 graduates.

“It’s our second year at the Ralston Arena,” Breazeale said. “We’re still trying to tweak things.”

Right from the start, some tweaking is needed. The seats have been sectioned into areas A and B, but the signs have been switched, so the students who have actually taken their seats – by college and in alphabetical order – are all in the wrong place.

“We always have interesting things pop up,” Breazeale said.

As the two consult lists – who is here, and who isn’t coming, and who’s supposed to be coming but hasn’t yet? – the students gather in groups, pose for photos and adjust their caps and gowns. The clear fiberglass that would serve as protection for the audience during hockey practice doubles nicely as a reflective surface, where hair can be checked or makeup fine-tuned.

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Kate Weidemann and William Warner

Nursing graduate Kate Weidemann is adjusting classmate William Warner’s tassel as the two wait in their seats.

“I’m a non-traditional student,” Warner said. “I’m 41-years-old, and this is the completion of my first bachelor’s degree. Getting that degree in my hand means everything.”

Rob Bowen is getting his M.D.

“Graduation is a good opportunity for our family to come and see us,” he said. “It’s the end of something, but it’s the beginning of a lot.”

Ernie Sigler, D.D.S., and John Reinhardt, D.D.S., are lined up in a hallway behind the arena floor, academically garbed and waiting to make the walk into the main arena. The two are smiling as they talk to each other, obviously happy to be part of the Omaha ceremony, as well.

“They work so hard, it’s almost like they can’t believe it’s over,” said Dr. Reinhardt, “It’s great to assure them that they’re ready to face the world, and it’s great because we get to see their parents again – to have them come for a special celebration like this is really nice.”

By 9 a.m., everyone in the practice rink is ready. McLaughlin and other Student Services staff have the students seated in the proper sections and in alphabetical order by school. No-shows have been identified. It’s go time.

At the signal, the graduates rise and, behind two red-garbed marshalls, they troop out of the practice rink.

From the arena floor – from the real graduation area – the music starts.

It’s the beginning.

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Entering the arena for the ceremony.

 

Surgical Boot Camp at UNMC

(To the tune of Piano Man)

It’s 9 o’clock on a Friday morn. The regular crew shuffles in.

They’ve all matched into residencies, but just before they begin:

Chickew…record scratch: BOOT CAMP.

A three and a half-week, elective course for M4s to hone their surgical skills just before graduation.

Did I mention it was optional? And that all 20 UNMC students who matched into surgical specialties opted to do it?

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Here are the overachievers with boot camp organizer Dr. Wendy Grant on the far left. Surgical Resident and Alex Trebek wannabe, Dr. Jeff Carson, is on the far right. On the first day, Dr. Grant buys them camouflage hats and labels them with the students’ last names. They can wear the hats during the month, but Dr. Grant asks for them back just before the end. On the last day of boot camp, she returns the hats back with “Dr.” before their last name.

They could be sleeping in, going out, traveling abroad, goofing off, wandering around, but they’re not.

They’re in the basement of the cadaver lab, tying knots on the incisions of donor bodies. Knot after knot after knot so that when called upon to suture in the operating room, they don’t freeze. Start to shake. Or worst-case scenario: get passed over from someone who does know how.

Surgical boot camp, now in its third year, was designed by Wendy Grant, M.D., from the Department of Surgery. She organized it to give UNMC students a leg up (or would it be a hand?) when they begin their careers as doctors later this year.

“Knot tying is the most basic, fundamental surgical skill,” Dr. Grant said. “If everyone who comes through here can be called on to tie a knot on their first day, whether it’s right-handed or left-handed, they’re ahead of the curve.”

You won’t catch Dr. Grant barking at students to “drop and give her 20” knots, but instead sketching a pancreas on the white board and peeking over the scrub-donned shoulders of her students with pride.

Thanks to those who donate their bodies to science, this course gives students the most accurate representation of what tissue will feel like in the operating room. Ortho students focus on the bones and joints. Obstetricians and gynecologists zero in on the uterus. ENTs and neurosurgeons concentrate on the head and neck.

“It’s the ultimate simulation,” said Ben Grams, who matched into general surgery at UNMC. “Having the cadavers makes it so much easier to learn as opposed to looking in a book.”

Jeremy Hosein, who matched into neurosurgery in Colorado, is practically boy scout status after tying so many knots.

“I’m 1,000 percent better,” he said. “We’ve each now tied a couple thousand knots.”

It’s not all knots. The mixture of advice and teaching comes from faculty and residents in many areas of surgical specialties at UNMC. There’s also the Laparoscopic Skills Olympics and of course, Jeopardy, held in the Medical Services Building.

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With categories like “Things that are Red?” (Solo cup not being an acceptable answer) “The Number After 2,” “It’s Not a Toomah,” “Orders in the OR” and “X-ray,” it’s hard for the students not to have fun. After four years of non-stop studying, they relish the relaxed environment of “boot camp.”

“It’s an opportunity to reconnect with everybody,” said Jennifer Dwyer, a soon-to-be urological surgery resident at UNMC.

Dwyer brought the bagels and coffee for her team on the day of Final Jeopardy. After correctly writing an order to “administer a fluid challenge to a 19kg child who is hypotensive,” she and her teammates were stumped by what foreign body was pictured on an X-ray.

Fishing bobbers, guessed one student? Nope. Another student shouted an answer that can’t be printed in this blog. Nope. The answer was magnets. Giggling ensued.

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Tom Brush holds up his team’s answer to a surgical Jeopardy question.

Their final exam was a double elimination bracket of tying 10 knots with fine suture. For many, having to do so will never be a part of their everyday lives, but it was a skill they thought impossible just three and a half weeks ago.

They opted to be here because they know it’ll make them better.

That, and it’s fun.