First Reba Benschoter Inspirational Leadership awards handed out

Dr. Daniel Gih, Celeste Akers, Debi Pittock and Dr. Ken Zoucha, along with Phoebe Gearhart, received the first annual Reba Benschoter Inspirational Leadership awards.

On Saturday, Jan. 25, the UNMC Dept. of Psychiatry handed out its first Reba Benschoter Inspirational Leadership awards to five members of the department’s leadership team, who went above and beyond their duties in 2019.

Dr. Daniel Gih, Dr. Ken Zoucha, Celeste Akers, Phoebe Gearhart, and Debi Pittock were the first recipients of the award named after the longtime employee of the Department of Psychiatry and one of the early leaders in telehealth.

Benschoter started in the department in 1957 as an audiovisual specialist at the Nebraska Psychiatric Institute. She would go on to hold roles as an associate professor, director of biomedical communications, Associate Dean of the College of Medicine, Dean of the School of Allied Health Professions, and Professor Emeritus in 2000.

“I’m both honored and grateful to be recognized by the establishment and naming of this Inspirational Leadership Award in the Department of Psychiatry – my home department,” said Dr. Benschoter. “In 1957, Dr. Cecil Wittson opened the door for me to lead in bringing audiovisual media/educational technology to psychiatry and ultimately to the entire medical center and beyond.  Our success was due to the commitment of many–administration, biomedical communications staff and creative faculty.  In memory of their efforts, I humbly say ‘thank you’ for this recognition and offer my congratulations to the first winners of the award.”

Celeste Akers, Lead Community Services Technician, BHC
“She made an immediate impact in many ways and is known as the ‘ray of sunshine’ on our team, and her knowledge level regarding our community resources is surpassed by none,” said Dr. Liu.

Dr. Daniel Gih, Child Psychologist, Director of Education, Psychiatry
“Dr. Gih is many things, but he has shined as an educational leader – first in medical student education, then in graduate medical education where he was the visionary for the ACGME accreditation of our new psychiatry residency program,” Dr. Liu said.

Dr. Ken Zoucha, Pediatrician, Director of Addictions Division and Addiction Medicine Fellowship
“We recognize Ken for his singular leadership in two areas: Addiction Medicine Fellowship & Executive Fellowship – increasing the workforce by 27 executive fellows,” said Dr. Liu. “He has provided coordinated care with Justice-Involved Youth at DCYC and really cares about his patients. He also seems to be entirely fueled by coffee and candy.”

Debi Pittock, Lead Social Worker
“Debi has done so much for so many areas of our department from residency to DBT clinical work to social work,” said Dr. Liu.
“Debi has the rare ability to think like a clinician and an administrator,” said Maggie Milner, Department of Psychiatry Clinic Manager.

Phoebe Gearhart, Lead Nurse
“Phoebe is the calm in the storm and an anchor for our clinic,” Milner said.

The Reba Benschoter Award will be handed out yearly to members of the Department Leadership Team.

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