Humans of UNMC

Abby Meyer, right, web content and social media specialist, makes a connection with one of UNMC's many humans.

Abby Meyer, right, web content and social media specialist, has embarked on an ambitious new project.

We’re off to see humans.

I’m with Abby Meyer, UNMC’s new web content and social media specialist. We’re going to talk to some humans. Not just any humans. Humans of UNMC. Maybe you’ve seen this new feature on our social media platforms.

It’s a take-off of the popular “Humans of New York” book/blog/Facebook page/phenomenon created by Brandon Stanton. Stanton would walk around New York City and ask interesting people if he could take their photos. Then he stopped to talk to them and ask them questions. The resulting words and images struck a chord. People shared them. They went viral. They stuck with us.

Then, even the president of the U.S. agreed to be a “human,” too.

What is it about these “humans” that affect us so?

A look of longing and a line taken hopelessly out of context. A spate of gibberish and a piercing gaze. A ray of sunshine barely holding off a cloudy day. Maybe even deep thoughts that just seem to pour out of a person, and a look on his or her face that hints at why.

Just a piece of them, but a real piece. Just a moment in time, when we can feel what they feel.

Somehow, between the picture and the words, Stanton captures, well, humanity. It’s an incredibly difficult thing to do.

How will Abby do it? It isn’t easy — in an academic health science setting. There’s a certain way to present oneself. People want to be taken seriously. They put up walls. They choose their words carefully; speaking in journal verbiage. And if they don’t, they often want to re-write it so it sounds like they do.

That’s why we’re starting with the students. Students are so very human. If only Abby can capture them, at this point in their lives. Just a piece of them. Just a moment in time, when things are new, and exciting and a little bit scary, too.

What will you ask them? I ask.

Lots of things, Abby says.

What was your greatest day? Your worst? What lessons have you learned? What advice have you been given, but that you just couldn’t live up to, and how did that make you feel?

Heavy stuff. She’ll ask, and let them talk, looking them in their eyes as their words flow into her iPhone. Later, she’ll listen, and pick out only the very best part. Something that sticks with you for the rest of the day.

Rich Watson, multimedia manager, UNMC’s expert photographer and videographer, will take their photos; hopefully, he’ll capture just a little bit of their souls.

“I didn’t think I would have such spontaneous answers,” a UNMC human subject said after Abby completed her interview.

As we are waiting for one of the humans to show, I decide to ask Abby one of the questions she asks others. It must be a good one, as it seems to have an immediate impact on her.

She stops and stares off into the distance for a very long time.

(The look on her face, in her eyes, would have made a great Humans of UNMC shot.)

At last the words tumble out of her. She is thoughtful. Heartfelt.

She is human.

Hopefully, it’s the kind of stuff we’ll see more and more of, in Humans of UNMC.


  1. Fran Higgins says:

    No fair, Kalani! What did she say? What did she say? (Great story, photo, and idea, BTW.)

  2. Krista R. Moberg Roberts says:

    Great article! I’ve really enjoyed your Humans of UNMC posts.

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