Volunteer month kicks off

Department of Psychiatry staff volunteered at the Heart Ministry Center on May 2. Department employees will also volunteer at Grief’s Journey and participate in Keep Omaha Beautiful later in May

This month, members of the Department of Psychiatry will volunteer at three non-profit organizations as a way of giving back the community.

On Thursday, May 2, thirteen members of the Department of Psychiatry worked at the Heart Ministry Center, a North Omaha non-profit started forty years ago to provide food, clothing, shelter, and financial assistance to people of need. Volunteers worked in the food pantry – handing out food and loading groceries into vehicles.

“We’re proud to say that the Department of Psychiatry will be making history with these service projects,” said Department of Psychiatry Chair Dr. Howard Liu. “We’re the first department at UNMC and Nebraska Medicine to ask and receive permission to spend part of a work day helping agencies in need.”

Maggie Milner, Psychiatry Clinic Manager, said Thursday’s service project was a lot of fun, especially since she was able to work outside on a sunny spring day.

“I thought everyone worked very well together. Heart Ministry Center was very welcoming, and the people who came were very grateful,” Milner said. “The weather was gorgeous, beautiful. The sun was shining, which makes everyone smile more. It was a blast.”

Mark Dahir, Director of Operations at the Heart Ministry Center, not only welcomed Psychiatry volunteers to his organization but also shared the center’s success stories, which includes its Fresh Start program. The program helps find work for people struggling to get and maintain a job.

“The bloodline of the Heart Ministry Center is our Fresh Start Job Placement Program participants and volunteers,” Dahir said. “Without them, we could not operate in the way that we do. UNMC and Nebraska Medicine volunteered (on May 2). We are all spokes on the heart-shaped wheel that is our mission. UNMC, Nebraska Medicine did great work.”

The final two service projects will take place on May 15 and May 29. On May 15, staff members will volunteer at Grief’s Journey. Two weeks later, members of the department will help Keep Omaha Beautiful by cleaning a park at 20th and Wirt Street.

Dr. Liu said he hopes Volunteer Month will continue every year.

Brotzel helps with public policy

Nick Brotzel has been hired by the UNMC Department of Psychiatry to handle the numerous public policy issues dealing with the department.

Brotzel will be spending one day a week with psychiatry and will join the department’s leadership team as its community engagement director. Along with his new role in psychiatry, Brotzel is also a government and community relations specialist at BHECN. He worked with former BHECN head Dr. Howard Liu, who is now the chair of the psychiatry department.

Before joining BHECN, he served as Deputy Communications Director in the Office of former Omaha Mayor, Jim Suttle. Brotzel, who said his love of “electoral politics” started in high school, has also worked as a legislative aide in the Washington, D.C. office of former U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD).

Brotzel currently serves on the board of Justice for Our Neighbors, Nebraska (JFON-NE) and is a founding board member of the New Leaders Council (NLC) – Omaha.

“I plan to manage the external relationships with our key partners in psychiatry. I will handle public policy by working with elected officials at local, state, and federal levels as well as not-for-profit community organizations.”

Brotzel is already working with the Douglas County Board of Commissioners on funding for a pilot project to help teens and pre-teens at the Douglas County Youth Center. As the Psychiatry Department adds fellowships to its new residency program, Brotzel will work with state representatives to acquire funding.

“Nick is an expert in legislative and regulatory processes at the state and national level and is well integrated into the community,” Dr. Liu said. “We’re thrilled that he has agreed to join us, along with the great work he does for BHECN.”

Brotzel holds an M.A. in Middle East Studies from the University of Exeter (U.K.) and a B.A. in History from Creighton University. He is currently pursuing an MPA in Health Care Administration at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Brotzel is married to Nebraska State Representative Machaela Cavanaugh (District 6).

Dr. Thomsen signs with UNMC

Dr. David Cates, Dr. Mark Thomsen, Dr. Howard Liu and Jeanne Lincoln gather for a picture after Dr. Thomsen agreed to join the UNMC Department of Psychiatry faculty.

Dr. Mark Thomsen will join the UNMC Department of Psychiatry faculty on July 31. While he could have left Omaha after his residency, he said it was an easy decision to stay in Nebraska.

“Omaha is home,” Dr. Thomsen said. “My wife and I have family here and we want to raise our children here. I honestly never considered looking elsewhere.”

Dr. Thomsen will be splitting his time with UNMC/Nebraska Medicine and Lasting Hope — a 64-bed adult psychiatric facility in Omaha. At UNMC, Dr. Thomsen said he hopes to be a part of a specialty outpatient clinic to help care for patients with severe and persistent mental illnesses, including Bipolar disorder and primary psychotic disorders. Dr. Thomsen said it was essential to him to continue working at both places after his residency.

“I had amazing shadowing experiences with Dr. Qadri at Lasting Hope and Dr. Wengel at UNMC before medical school and then working with Dr. Liu and the Psychiatry Interest Group during medical school. While other things played into it, these and other mentors were the most crucial,” he said.

Dr. Thomsen will officially start in July, along with fellow Creighton residents Dr. Steven Ayers, Dr. Andrew Baumgartner, Dr. Melissa O’Dell, and Dr. Dana Raml. Dr. Thomsen said it’s great to be starting at UNMC with longtime friends.

“This means a great deal to me,” Dr. Thomsen said. “These are some incredible people, many of whom I’ve known since medical school and even before that. They’re the kind of friends and colleagues that anyone would dream of, and it’s very cool that we have diverse interests and strengths, too. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the five of us work together in Omaha for a very long time!”

Dr. Thomsen graduated from the University of Northern Iowa in 2005 and from the UNMC College of Medicine in 2015 after a career in the medical device industry. He and his wife, Lisa, have three young girls — a five-year-old and three-year-old twins.

“We enjoy traveling and wine, and I’m an avid hunter, especially bowhunting. My oldest daughter is starting to hunt with me now, which has been amazing.”

Spotlight: Fred Garvey

Research Assistant, Dept. of Psychiatry

Fred Garvey graduated from Creighton Prep and studied psychology at Nebraska Wesleyan University. In May, he attended the Society for the Scientific Study of Psychopathy Conference at Westgate Las Vegas Resort and Hotel and presented a poster titled, “Pharmacological Interventions for Aggression, Irritability, and Disruptive Behavior in Pediatric Populations – Clinical and Research Implications of Stimulant Medications and Oxytocin.”

What is your role at UNMC?
My daily tasks are scheduling participants for research studies as well as meeting with participants to explain research and procedures. Most of the time, parents are excited about participating in the study. They let the child know that the research will help future children, and then the child will also consent. They will say to their child, if you participate, you will help future children who have the same problems as you. Then after meeting with participants, I will enter the data from the research.

Why did you choose to work in psychiatry?
I’ve always been interested in mental health. I love getting to see people receive help for their mental health problems. To view it firsthand is amazing. I am involved in research that furthers our knowledge of mental health issues and that finds ways to treat them.

Talk about your experience presenting a poster at the Society for the Scientific Study of Psychopathy Conference
It was a pretty good experience. People would walk by and sometimes they would glance and smile and sometimes they would stop and read a little bit. Other times, I would interact with them and listen to their comments on the study. It really re-engaged my excitement in our research.

What are some of your hobbies?
I enjoy playing the drums and listening to a wide range of music. I’m also a big fan of Game of Thrones and Harry Potter, and I have been watching Bob’s Burgers regularly for the past month or two.