SPOTLIGHT: Debbie Randolph

Debbie Randolph is a medical receptionist who works on the third floor (child and adolescent) at Poynter Hall. This month, she was spotlighted for helping nurses and providers with CMM (covermymeds) forms. Clinic Manager Maggie Milner said Debbie accepted a task outside her job duties, and she volunteered to help out while we are short staffed. This is not a onetime thing. Debbie is always willing to step up and assist her team.

Why did you apply to work in the Department of Psychiatry?
My previous employer closed the business. I always found psychiatry interesting and liked the department when I interviewed. I had interviewed for a couple of other departments but Psychiatry always felt like a good fit.

What are the favorite parts of your job?
My favorite parts have to be the patient interactions, and getting to see all the kids come in. Also, I love my team of co-workers. Everyone brings something different to the table; all combined we are great!

What do you like about working in psychiatry?
I didn’t have a lot of psychiatry knowledge coming into the department, so having a better understanding of all the varied diagnosis and treatment
options has been very rewarding.

What are some of your hobbies?
Anyone who knows me or visits the front desk knows I’m a Lancer Hockey fan. My family has been season ticketholders for 15 seasons. I’m also president of the Lancer Booster Club, an organization that does lots of community service projects on behalf of the team. I also love to cook and bake, go to movies, attend concerts and spend time with my 3-year-old great nephew.

Lindeman attends research conference to promote UNMC study

First-year medical student Christopher Lindeman attended the Society of Biographical Psychiatry Conference last month as a member of Dr. Soonjo Hwang’s research team.

First-year medical student Christopher Lindeman attended the Society of Biographical Psychiatry Conference last month as a member of Dr. Soonjo Hwang’s research team.

“Our poster presentation at the conference SOBP (society of biological psychiatry) went very well, and our M1 medical student Chris has been essential in preparing the poster,” said Dr. Hwang, UNMC Department of Psychiatry Research Director. “Chris has a genuine interest in psychiatry, and he will work with me on a few projects in the near future as well.”

Lindeman said he plans on becoming a psychiatrist and would like to work in research.

He said he’s thrilled to work with Dr. Hwang because it allows him to study psychiatry throughout the school year.

“Working on this project has been an awesome opportunity,” Lindeman said. “We only get about two weeks of psychiatry in the first year, so this gives me something that helps me see how I’m contributing to the advancement of medicine.”

At the conference, Dr. Hwang presented a poster titled, “Interaction of Irritability and Anxiety on Emotional Responding and Emotional Regulation – A Functional MRI Study.” Lindeman attended on May 17-18.

Lindeman said the study looks at irritability and anxiety in children and trying to see if there is an interaction between them as far as the parts of the brain are active when a child experiences irritability and anxiety. What parts of the brain are active during stressful times?

Lindeman said he also did research during undergrad at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

“I think research is important because it gives you context on what you’re doing,” Lindeman said. “It gives us a chance to study the bigger picture of why we’re here and why we’re learning what we’re learning. It’s a good reminder that what we’re doing is contributing to society and contributing to the advancement of medicine and treatment.”

Dr. Burke provides oral history

Dr. William Burke, who worked at UNMC from 1987-2014, was the first former faculty member to be interviewed. Dr. Carl Greiner, who worked with Dr. Burke for more than two decades, did the interview on May 28. in May. (Photo by Tony Bonacci)

UNMC Department of Psychiatry Chair Dr. Howard Liu has a strong interest in capturing the history of the department. To catalog the past century of behavioral health at UNMC, the department and the McGoogan Library of Medicine will film current and former members of the psychiatry department sharing oral histories of their time at UNMC.

The initial focus is to capture oral histories and in 2019 the committee interviewed Drs. William Burke, Mark Fleisher, Don Swanson, and Reba Benschoter.

Dr. William Burke, who worked at UNMC from 1987-2014, was the first former faculty member to be interviewed. Dr. Carl Greiner, who worked with Dr. Burke for more than two decades, did the interview on May 28. The interview in its entirety will be available later this summer.

During the interview, Dr. Burke, who specializes in geriatric psychiatry and the study of Alzheimer’s Disease research, talked about how geriatric psychiatry was a new concept in 1987.

“When I came back to UNMC (in 1987), it was an interesting time. There really weren’t any geriatric psychiatrists in Omaha,” Dr. Burke said.

During his time in geriatric psychiatry, Dr. Burke has worked with Dr. Susan Scholar, Dr. William Roccaforte as well as current geriatric psychiatrists Dr. Steven Wengel and Dr. Thomas Magnuson.

Along with conducting an oral history, Dr. Burke also presented a grand rounds presentation on “Can Alzheimer’s Disease Be Prevented?” Dr. Burke is the director of the Stead Family Memory Center and Banner Alzheimer’s Institute at the University of Arizona College of Medicine.

When asked if there have been any significant breakthroughs in Alzheimer’s Disease research, Dr. Burke admitted there hadn’t been many “breakthroughs in the past three decades.” Despite that, he remains optimistic, and he has no regrets about his career in geriatric psychiatry.

“I think it is a privilege to work with older patients in general and people who have memory problems in their family. Alzheimer’s is such a difficult illness, and it’s so important for them to talk to someone who understands the illness. To be able to talk to someone who can help manage the illness is incredibly therapeutic to the patient and family. We can’t cure the illness but we can manage it, and that brings a lot of hope to families and helps keep them going.”


Pittock discusses new role, future of social work in the department

When Debi Pittock joined the Department of Psychiatry in 2015, she was the only full-time therapist. Four years later, the division has grown to 12 therapists, and she has been named Social Work Lead.

In her new role, she will organize the growing division as well as attend leadership meetings to keep fellow therapists informed of critical decisions within the department.

Debi Pittock was named Social Work Lead on March 18.

“In the past, we felt heard, but we didn’t feel connected,” Pittock said. “I can now relay things which are being discussed at meetings. In the past, things would be said at meetings, but it wouldn’t get back to us right away. Now, everyone feels connected because they have someone there to bring back the information.”

Pittock’s team will add three new social workers this summer to increase the number of therapists to a dozen. While the division has grown from two full-time and one part-time social workers in 2016 to twelve this year, Pittock said the division still isn’t large enough.

“We’ve been growing steadily, but we still constantly have a waitlist. I have no doubt when these new hires start; their schedules will fill up in a hot second.”

Pittock says there’s a need for social workers because their patients need consistent treatment and need to be seen on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.

“We deal with a lot of chronic problems which need lots of therapy, intense redirection, coping, and processing skills. We treat people with therapy modalities, and the clients we see come to us for specific types of treatment.”

To see more people, several therapists, including Pittock, have started therapy groups. Since April 2016, department therapists have added trauma group therapy, DBT group therapy, psychodynamic group therapy, and others.

“The goal for next year is to increase individual and group therapy,” Pittock said. We also need to look at our roles in developing sub-specialty clinics. When a doctor starts a new sub-specialty clinic, it’s vital that those clinics have assigned therapists,” Pittock said.

Psychiatry Department receives monthly honor for volunteer work

On May 29, twelve Psychiatry Department members helped Keep Omaha Beautiful on May 29 at the corner of 20th and Wirt.

On May 29, 2019, twelve members of the Department of Psychiatry weeded, mulched and picked up garbage at a park in North Omaha as part of Keep Omaha Beautiful.

For all of their hard work, representatives from Keep Omaha Beautiful named the Department of Psychiatry its Volunteers of the Month. The non-profit organization will feature the psychiatry department in its newsletter later this month.

“In recognition of May being Mental Health Awareness Month, twelve members of the Psychiatry team from Nebraska Medicine joined us at our Sustainable Spaces property to tackle weeding and mulching around the property,” said Elizabeth Chalen, volunteer and programs coordinator for Keep Omaha Beautiful. “Their enthusiasm and hard work were just what the space needed this spring!”

The hard work done at the sustainable space at the intersection of 20th and Wirt was the final service project the Department of Psychiatry did in May.

On May 15, fourteen members of the department went to Grief’s Journey and helped assemble packets, fold shirts, make remembrance buttons and signs for its 21st Remembrance Walk & 5K.

On 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.

“I’m thrilled to see our UNMC Psychiatry team members coming out to support the community at these three events in May,” said Dr. Howard Liu, Chair of the UNMC Department of Psychiatry. “It brought us all closer together during Mental Health Awareness Month.”

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


On May 15, fourteen Psychiatry Department members helped Grief’s Journey prepare for its 21st Remembrance Walk and 5k.


On May 2, Psychiatry Department members volunteered at the Heart Ministry Center. Volunteers worked in the food pantry – handing out food and loading groceries into vehicles.
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