Five match into psychiatry

UNMC Medical Students Andrew Reuss (Creighton University), Claire Svec (University of Arizona) and Jake Franklin (University of Michigan) celebrate Match Day on March 15.

Match Day was March 15th, and five UNMC graduates matched into psychiatry residencies.

Jake Franklin (University of Michigan), Ian Parsley (Barnes-Jewish Hospital, St. Louis), Claire Svec (University of Arizona) will head out of Omaha while Alexandra Burt and Andrew Reuss will stay in Omaha and train at Creighton University Affiliated Hospitals.

Svec trained with UNMC geriatric psychiatrist Dr. Thomas Magnuson during rotations and decided to pursue a residency in psychiatry.

“Dr. Magnuson played a big role in my decision to pursue psychiatry,” Svec said. “I really like the patients and the pathology and the time you get to spend forming relationships with patients in very vulnerable states.”

Reuss also has interest in geriatric psychiatry.

“When a patient comes to see a psychiatrist they are at a very vulnerable point in their life when they’re looking for someone to extend that hand and give them a little help, a little push,” Reuss said. “I think you will consistently find yourself able to make a huge difference in someone’s life down the road.”

Franklin will head up to Michigan with an interest in consultation-liaison psychiatry.

“Honestly, I choose psychiatry because you get to work with people in that intimate way,” Baldwin said. “To be there for them, it’s everything. I think the brain is the most fascinating organ in the body. But to also be there for people and guide them through their journey is exciting.”

Match Day 2020 will take place on March 20, 2020, and on that day, the newly accredited UNMC Department of Psychiatry Residency Program will welcome its first four residents.

Dr. Hwang updates busy research division

Last June, Dr. Soonjo Hwang was named as the interim research director of the Department of Psychiatry. In the past year, Dr. Hwang has been able to build a significant level of research activities in the department while still looking toward the future.

When Dr. Hwang, an assistant professor, and child and adolescent psychiatrist, accepted the position he had some significant goals.

“My short term goal is to expand collaboration with the other departments, institutions, and national agencies of research (such as NIH), and also promote and motivate current colleagues and attendings as well as trainees and other personnel in the department for doing more research and studies,” Dr. Hwang said last April.

Soonjo Hwang, M.D.

In the subsequent year, several faculty members have worked with Dr. Hwang on research projects. Dr. Steven Wengel and Dr. Jonathon Sikorski have worked with Dr. Hwang on collecting data on occupational wellness and resiliency. Dr. Hwang has also worked with Dr. Lauren Edwards on collecting data on her anxiety disorder clinic, and Dr. Stephen Salzbrenner on a software program to simplify the prior authorization process.

“There are a lot of people building up their research core, and that’s very exciting,” Dr. Hwang said.

As more and more colleagues have shown interested in research, the division has needed to grow. Along with promoting Brigette Vaughan to the lead research coordinator, the Department of Psychiatry has hired two research assistants, Arica Lerdahl and Fred Garvey – and got approval to hire a post-doc to help research conduction including collecting and publishing data and findings.

“We have really grown as a department, but we are still looking for more researchers working for the department,” Dr. Hwang said. “We need to hire a serious researcher for the adult division as a short term to intermediate-term goal. This may take time. It is not always easy to find good, promising researchers.”We have made significant progress in the clinical research projects. Oxytocin project has recruited and completed about 45 children and adolescents in the clinical trial. We plan to complete the recruitment by next year, and will start data analysis soon. This will provide a very significant advances in the clinical trial and understanding of pediatric psychopathologies, especially irritability, aggressive behavior, and empathetic failure.

Dr. Hwang said UNMC has been recruited as a site of very important NICHD-funded national study of children and adolescents who take antipsychotic medications. This natural follow-up study will provide important clinical information on the safety and other pertaining medical issues of children and adolescents on antipsychotic medications for various reasons. The recruitment will start in early 2020. Also, the department plans to launch two major projects in collaboration with Boys Town, for children and adolescents who are treated by Sertraline for mood and anxiety disorders, and children and adolescents with a history of trauma exposure.

Dr. Hwang said his team has made a strong presence in multiple national conferences of science and psychiatry, including Congress on Pediatric Irritability and Dysregulation, Society of Biological Psychiatry, Society of the Scientific Study of Psychopathy, and American College of Neuropsychopharmacology. Many of our trainees and employees (Garvey, Lerdahl and medical students) made their presentations with welcomed and warm responses.

Dr. Hwang and his team have published a few important results in peer-reviewed highly esteemed journals, including Neuroimage: Clinical and Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience. Many other manuscripts are either under revision or review. Additionally, Dr. Hwang has published numerous papers on his previous and current research projects, including the protocol of “Investigating the impacts of Oxytocin on irritability in children and adolescents with disruptive behavior and mood disorders.” In May, he will present his findings at the national conferences, including the Society of Scientific Study of Psychopathy Conference in Nevada, and the Society of Biological Psychiatry Conference in Illinois.

Along with his work, Dr. Hwang said Vaughan will conclude her work in Columbus and will be fully working at UNMC for her clinical and research responsibilities.

Since arriving at UNMC in 2015, Dr. Hwang has collaborated with Boys Town in Omaha on his research and used an MRI machine at Boys Town. In January, the Department of Neurological Sciences at UNMC purchased a brand-new, research-dedicated MRI machine. The new device allows Dr. Hwang to do brain scanning at UNMC in addition to the on-going project at Boys Town. Dr. Hwang and his staff have worked with the Department of Neurological Sciences for this, and Dr. Hwang suggests other psychiatry researchers should consider using this great opportunity as well.

“If anyone wants to do research on neuroimaging we can now provide support for that since we now have a research-dedicated MRI machine, and we should have some seed money to collect preliminary data as well,” he said.

Dr. Hwang said he’s willing to give a tour and a consultation on using the new machine.

“There’s a lot of great things going on right now in the research department,” Dr. Hwang said.

Dr. Steven Ayers will start on July 31 in the Department of Psychiatry

Dr. Steven Ayers has accepted an instructor faculty position at UNMC with an eye on expanding psychiatric emergency services.

As a clinician, Dr. Ayers will work in the emergency room. He will also lead efforts to create a psychiatric emergency service division separate from the current general emergency room. Dr. Ayers traveled with a team of UNMC Department of Psychiatry leaders to tour the Medical Psychiatric Unit at the University of Michigan. Next year when the Department of Psychiatry welcomes four new residents, Dr. Ayers will be the residency site supervisor for emergency psychiatry at UNMC.

Dr. Ayers will start on July 31, 2019. He is one of five members of the PG-IV class at Creighton to sign on with UNMC. Dr. Ayers said he’s excited to join Dr. Andrew Baumgartner, Dr. Melissa O’Dell, Dr. Dana Raml and Dr. Mark Thomsen in the department.

“It’s huge. Between this and a place I was looking at in Idaho that was one of the staple reasons keeping me here,” Dr. Ayers said. “We have a really strong residency class. We all really care for each other. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”

From 2001-04, Dr. Ayers served as a member of the medical laboratory team as an Active Duty Enlisted Airman, in charge of urinalysis and all outsourced testing, while serving at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Mountain Home, Idaho. He graduated from Weber State University in Odgen, Utah in 2010. Growing up out west, Dr. Ayers considered returning to Idaho after he finished his residency before signing a contract to remain in Omaha.

“I really liked the people at UNMC,” Dr. Ayers said. “My residency class has been great, so I decided to stake it out here.”

Dr. Ayers has volunteered at the Magis Free Psychiatry Clinic, where he oversaw medical and pharmacy students in a clinic psychiatry setting, as well as treated patients at the local free clinic in Omaha. In 2010, he was named Mountian Home Air Force Base Civilian of the Year. In 2011, he received the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine Scholarship.

UNMC faculty members offer advice to flood victims

Dr. Marley Doyle and Dr. Jesse Bell answer questions during media availability on March 18 at UNMC.

Several members of the UNMC Department of Psychiatry spoke with reporters to help people dealing with the stress and anxiety of recent flooding.

Marley Doyle, M.D., Adult Outpatient Division Director, answered questions from reporters on March 18, with Jesse Bell, Ph.D., on the impacts of the flooding in the Omaha Metro.

While speaking with the media, Dr. Doyle encouraged those who’ve been caught up in storms and floods to take care of their mental health by relying on their community and social supports, especially if they are still evacuated from their homes.

“Evacuations from flooding can be very stressful because you’re away from your home and you don’t know how damaged your home and your possessions are from the flooding. You have to wait and hope,” Dr. Doyle said.

As Dr. Doyle spoke with local media, Jonathon Sikorski, Ph.D., did an interview with RFD-TV, a 24-national national network focused on agri-business and rural living.

Dr. Sikorski said it’s important for flood victims to accept help from others.

“I know in Nebraska we have the mentality to pull ourselves up from our bootstraps and have perseverance, but this is an instance when reaching out to others is very important,” Dr. Sikorski said. “If you notice you or a friend or family member has gone two weeks or more with a lack of interest in things or lack of motivations, or they’re isolating. You see those depressive symptoms and they linger, it’s important to help them reach out for help.”

Lauren Edwards, M.D., Assistant Professor and Medical Director, Anxiety and Subspecialty Treatment at the UNMC, told reporters with Focus Omaha Magazine that during difficult times it’s important to connect with community and family members.

“It’s important to remember you’re not alone,” Dr. Edwards said. “Deep breathing, meditation and other practices can also help with the reduction of ongoing stress and anxiety while also helping to manage the ongoing stresses related to the rebuilding process.”


Dr. Jonathon Sikorski prepares for an interview on with RFD-TV on March 21.