Seven Psychiatry Residents Experience APA

On Monday, May 7, the UNMC contingent gathers at Bocca Restaurant in New York City for dinner.

Seven UNMC and Creighton residents attended the 2018 APA Conference in New York City this month.

Dr. Dana Raml, Dr. Alyssa Hickert, Dr. Melissa O’Dell, Dr. Joe Kent, Dr. Heather Spain, Dr. Siva Koppolu and Dr. Spencer Gallner were awarded travel scholarships after turning in impressive applications. The travel awards were funded by the UNMC Department of Psychiatry and BHECN.

Heather Spain, Joe Kent, Elizabeth “Buzz” Penner and Alyssa Hickert

Dr. Howard Liu, who leads both units, said that initially, BHECN was only going to fund two trips to APA, but was so impressed by the quality of the applications that we decided to fund seven awards.

Dr. Alyssa Hickert said she really enjoyed her first APA Conference.

“I’m excited to attend in the future, and it cast a very positive light on continuing my education throughout my career,” she said. “I am especially grateful for the travel scholarship which relieved the financial burden of attending the conference, and it is incredibly valuable to me that I’m attending a residency which prioritizes these additional educational opportunities.”

The seven residents were joined by other UNMC medical students and UNMC/Creighton residents for dinner on Monday, May 7 at Becco Italian Restaurant in the heart of the theater district in New York. Dr. Melissa O’Dell said a highlight of the conference was meeting professionals with common interests. And when Dr. O’Dell met new people, she always had an icebreaker. She attended most events with her two-month-old baby girl.

Alyssa Hickert, Melissa O’Dell with daughter Temperance, Tyler Curry and Stephanie Sutton

“At the conference, I got to work on my networking skills, which I think of as an area for improvement for me,” Dr. O’Dell said. “I found that having a baby with you is a good way to force yourself to meet people because everyone wants to see the baby and a happy baby is a natural conversation starter.”

Dr. Dana Raml attended APA after previously attending smaller conferences like the Association of Medicine and Psychiatry (AMP) and Association of Directors of Medical Student Education in Psychiatry (ADMSEP). She said APA offered something different, a common thread between all psychiatrists: academic or private, child, geriatric, forensic, outpatient or inpatient.

“As I reflect on my time at APA, I am again overwhelmed with gratitude,” Dr. Raml said. “Everyone has a place at the APA, reminding me that in psychiatry I’m part of something big. I’m so appreciative of the experience, and I’m looking forward to incorporating the pearls I have learned into my practice.”

The APA Conference was held from May 5-8 at the New York Marriott Marquis. The residents were required to attend two EPA conference programs each day.

Leaders Discuss Rising Stress at Wellness Retreat

A 2017 study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Services has raised alarming concerns about increasing levels of psychological distress among Americans.

To combat this trend, leaders at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the University of Nebraska Omaha are working together to reduce student stress and increase student resiliency.

Dr. Daniel Shipp

On May 2, leaders from the UNMC and UNO gathered on the UNMC campus at historic Poynter Hall to discuss student, faculty, and staff wellness.

“UNO and UNMC are collaborating in unprecedented ways and what better time to focus on shared resources and interests regarding student, employee, and faculty wellbeing,” said Cathy Pettid, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs at UNO. “Specifically, we have the opportunity to make UNO and UNMC the healthiest campuses in the nation with efforts focused on sleep, mental health, stress reduction and resiliency.”

During the retreat, the leaders looked at current strengths and opportunities as well as weaknesses and threats.

Some of the weaknesses discussed included getting information to a large number of faculty, students hesitant about asking for help, and a lack of student classes for graduate students. Threats include budget concerns and multiple campuses needing to find time to communicate and to work together.

The good news is that current leadership at both institutions support wellness education and programs and there are wellness electives for students and SMART stress management training for faculty and staff.

“It was an important step to bring key leaders together from both campuses (UNMC and UNO) to begin reviewing what wellness-based educational programs and support services are currently available to students, faculty, and staff. We were also able to dream a little and start thinking about what we need to put in place to ensure that all members of our communities learn to live well and thrive,” said Dr. Shipp, vice chancellor for student success and UNO/UNMC.

At the end of the retreat, attendees decided to create a wellness committee, which will meet quarterly. The next meeting will be in July. Joe Kominski, senior director of wellness and UNO, said he would like to work on the mission of the committee at the summer meeting.

“I believe we have a good working mission statement of ‘At UNO and UNMC, we will learn how to live well and thrive,’” Kominski said. “That statement ties into the Chancellor’s remarks this morning at UNO’s Strategic planning session about preparing individuals to be the best they can be and be lifelong learners.”

Dr. Wengel said training in healthcare could be very stressful, and the anxiety is getting worse.

“We need to be there for our students and prepare them for when they will be practicing medicine,” said Wengel, assistant vice chancellor for wellness at UNMC/UNO.

Wengel said when the group meets in July, he wants the committee to look at two or three specific projects to continue to provide stress management to everyone involved at UNMC and UNO.

Also attending the meeting were Rowen Zetterman, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs; Jonathon Sikorski, director of wellness education at UNMC; Charlene Patterson, director, counseling and psychological services at UNO; Jeanne Surface, associate professor, educational leadership at UNO; and Phil Covington, interim assistant vice chancellor of academic affairs/interim director of student services at UNMC, director of student conduct & community standards at UNO.


Psychiatry Department Gathers for Spring Brunch

Jeremy Cook, Leigh Cook (APRN), Dr. Martin Wetzel, and Dr. Sharon Hammer

On April 28, members of the Psychiatry Department and their family members gathered for brunch and casual conversations about life inside and outside the department.

The event took place at the home of Interim Chair Howard Liu, who said it’s important to offer events where the more than twenty-five faculty members and more than fifty staff members can have a casual dialogue with one another.

“To be a first-class department, we need the best efforts from all team members from our front desk staff to our clinical providers,” Dr. Liu said. “I’m very encouraged by the energy from our trainees, providers, and staff to increase access to mental health and addiction services statewide.”

More than forty people attended the brunch. The gathering will be the first of several events held off campus, including a department leadership retreat on May 24 at the Joslyn Art Museum.

Dr. Ryan Edwards and Dr. Lauren Edwards


Dr. Luke Tsai and Dr. Daniel Gih

Dr. Gih Discusses Advancements in ECT

Omaha World-Herald Columnist Paul Hammel interviewed University of Nebraska Medical Center Associate Professor Dr. Daniel Gih earlier this year on electroconvulsive therapy or ECT.

Dr. Daniel Gih

Last year, Hammel wrote a column on what he called “now discredited” treatments, which included ECT.  In response to the column, Dr. Gih spoke with Hammel, in February, about the benefits of ECT. Dr. Gih has spoken about ECT throughout the United States as well as Canada and India.

Dr. Gih said new, modern use of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) has proven effective for some patients suffering from depression, bipolar disorder, catatonia and Parkinson’s disease.

Nebraska Medicine, as well as other clinics and hospitals in Nebraska, offer the procedure. The patient, which typically struggles with depression, can choose ECT if the medicine is not working. Dr. Gih said anesthesia and muscle relaxers are used, so the “planned seizure” isn’t painful. Electric impulses are sent through the brain to stimulate the seizure, which lasts between twenty seconds and two minutes.

“It’s a very well supervised procedure with a dose of anesthesia and muscle relaxers, which are used in surgeries to remove your appendix or even open heart surgery,” Dr. Gih said. “It’s 70 to 100-percent effective. It allows changes in brain chemistry, effectively duplicating what was given in medication.”

Dr. Gih said students who watch the procedure typically respond, “That’s it?” when it’s over.

Dr. Gih said despite the positive results; availability can still be a problem. ECT is not offered in very many places.

“Unfortunately, ECT still comes with a lot of stigmas, from popular culture, movies like ‘One Flew Over the Cookoo’s Nest, and Scientology. A lot of people still believe it’s a punitive, unethical treatment.”

To see healthy results, patients will need a course of treatments. A course typically includes 10 to 12 “planned seizures.” A patient may receive ECT up to three times a week.

“A patient will usually find relief after six to eight treatments,” Dr. Gih said. “We almost always notice some changes by the end, and some of the changes can be drastic. A patient may come in and not be able to speak, and by the end be having real conversations.”

Typically, patients will work their way back to medication. But too often, the medicine won’t provide the same relief as ECT and patient will continue their treatments.

UNMC Trio Attends Prestigious Eating Disorder Conference

UNMC Associate Professor Dr. Daniel Gih joined second-year medical student Jessica Thai and third-year resident Elizabeth Penner at the prestigious International Conference for Eating Disorders in Chicago.

Third-year medical student Jessica Thai and Associate Professor Daniel Gih

Dr. Penner and Thai presented two posters at the international conference, which was held from April 19-21. Thai presented a poster titled, “Characterization of Resident Treatment Center for Eating Disorders in the United States: Analysis of Program Web Sites.” Dr. Penner’s poster was titled, “Indications for Hospital Admission for Patients with Eating Disorders: A Review of International Treatment Guidelines.”

Dr. Gih said thought leaders from all over the globe attended the conference.

“(Dr. Penner and Thai) had some excellent discussions,” Dr. Gih said.

“It was neat for them because for them this was a premier meeting for an area of medicine.”

Dr. Elizabeth Penner, a third-year resident, and Gih

Dr. Gih said it’s essential that future providers learn about the treatment of eating disorders because currently eating disorders are a common set of disorders with a high number of unspecialized providers. A lot of care of this care is usually done by for-profit companies, who may have different motives than a place like UNMC.


Spotlight: Sarah Kepple


Sarah Kepple joined the UNMC Department of Psychiatry on March 5, 2018 as Undergraduate Program Coordinator. She has been with UNMC for more than 12 years and has previously worked in anesthesiology and neurology.

What are a couple of your main duties as Undergraduate Program Coordinator?

I schedule the third-year medical students who rotate through Psychiatry as part of their required curriculum. They spend time at various inpatient sites, in our outpatient COPE clinic, and learn from our faculty and residents through weekly lectures. I also schedule non-UNMC students who are potentially interested in Psychiatry and would like to shadow a physician in our department.

Why did you join the Department of Psychiatry?

Due to many years of assisting learners on campus, I’ve wanted to stay in the field of education. I desired a department that fostered an environment of encouragement, support, growth, and vision. To my absolute great fortune, I found this position in an awesome department!

What are some projects you are currently working on?

Our shortened M3 rotations start in July, so I’m preparing everything for our upcoming 9-month year.

Also, the Department of Psychiatry Annual Teaching Awards Luncheon is fast approaching. The luncheon takes place on May 22nd as an opportunity for the Psychiatry Department to recognize both faculty and non-faculty members who have made a significant impact on medical student education during the past year.
Here are some of the awards we will hand out on May 22nd.

The Menolascino Award is given to an M4 student who demonstrated outstanding clinical skills during their Psychiatry clerkship, and who has evidenced scholarly mastery in the field of Psychiatry. The student must demonstrate peer leadership among student colleagues that directly relates to the field of Psychiatry. The student should also express an interest in a career in Psychiatry.

The Ember Award in UNMC Medical Student Education Excellence: Recognizes two Psychiatry Resident physicians whose glowing teaching quality, burning passion, and service ignites a fire in UNMC medical students.

The Flint Award in Educational Excellence: Recognizes a Faculty member whose teaching quality and passion create a spark in the department.

The Steel Award in Educational Engagement: Recognizes a Faculty member whose daily teaching service illuminates the department.

Volunteer Faculty Teacher of the Year Award: Recognizes a volunteer Faculty member whose volunteer teaching has had a positive impact on medical student education.

Teacher of the Year Award: Recognizes a non-Faculty member in the department whose teaching has had a positive impact on medical student education.

What do you like to do in your free time?

Yardwork, garden, read, bake, spend time laughing with my friends and my parents, go to movies, and binge-watch Netflix (SO excited for Harlan Coben’s “Safe” to start!)