Residency Coordinator earns Silver ‘U’ Award

Portrait taken in the Michael F. Sorrell Center for Health Science Education on the UNMC campus in Omaha on Thursday, August 22, 2019.

Department of Psychiatry Residency Coordinator Ellie Rashid was honored with the April Silver ‘U’ award for her work in getting the department’s new residency program off to a great start.

The Silver U award is given to an employee who provides consistent performance that exceeds expectations or for other special achievements. Rashid will receive a Silver ‘U’ pin, a fleece jacket, and will be invited to lunch with the chancellor.

Rashid takes care of numerous activities inside the Department of Psychiatry’s residency program.

“We have appreciated Ellie’s willingness to learn and tackle challenges,” said Psychiatry Residency Director Dr. Daniel Gih. “She has been adaptable with learning new systems, lingo, and the accreditation processes.”

Rashid said she was surprised to win the award after joining the Department of Psychiatry in 2019, but Dr. Gih put her to work right away in recruiting the first four members of the residency. The first four residents will begin this July. Now, Rashid is working on the resident class of 2021.

“We are working on setting up and confirming their rotations and didactics for the first year,” Rashid said. “I ensure that all of their needs are met while they are with us. Starting later this summer, we will begin sifting through applications again to interview for our second class.”

As the residency team looks ahead to next year’s class, Rashid knows recruiting the next 4-5 residents will be different than finding the first four due to COVID-19. The coronavirus has already led to the cancellation of traditional Match Day festivities.

“The fall interviews may have to be done virtually, but we are still holding out hope that we might be able to host in-person interviews,” Rashid said.

Whether the interviews are done in person or virtually, one of the first faces applicants will see is Rashid’s. Dr. Gih said Rashid’s hard work played a significant role in the success of the initial matches.

“Our matched interns came from the top half of our rank list, which reflects a lot of her efforts,” Dr. Gih said. “I’m sure with Ellie’s help, next year will be equally as impressive.”

Addiction staff makes changes to help patients attend meeting

The coronavirus pandemic has added stress to the lives of people across the world. With the added stress, the people battling substance use disorders will need help more than ever.

Doctors, social workers, and staff members with the Department of Psychiatry’s Addiction Division have been doing everything they can to make sure patients can still attend meetings and counseling sessions. In-person and group sessions have been moved to telehealth. Dr. Ken Zoucha, Addiction Division Director, said he’s seeing all his patients via telehealth and so far, it’s going very well.

“People are now aligning their lunch breaks with their appointments,” Dr. Zoucha said. “They head to their cars on their lunch breaks. The good news is that what would have taken four hours can now be done in one. They don’t have to take time off to drive to the clinic, get checked in a little early, and drive back to work. I think a lot of people are grateful for that.”

It’s not only the one-on-one treatment sessions that are continuing, group therapy is also thriving during COVID-19.

“Our numbers have actually increased with the number of people we are treating,” said Erin Bagwell, LICSW, LIMHP. “We’re definitely seeing a need in the community. A lot of people with substance use and mental health issues are struggling with the stress and isolation. I’m very grateful that we can provide these services at this difficult time. All meetings are full.”

Dr. Zoucha said isolation and social distancing mixed with health concerns and economic stress can lead to relapse.

“Stress is a gigantic trigger or que that initiates, expands, and worsens substance use. People are losing their normal coping skills,” said Dr. Zoucha. “People don’t know when they can go back to normal life or when they can go back to meetings or back to work. No one knows when it going to end, and that can lead to relapse.”

The good news, Dr. Zoucha said, is that people are reaching out for help.

“The recovery community has responded in the heroic way it always responds,” said Dr. Zoucha.

While telehealth has a future in addiction treatment, there is still a need for in-person visits. Patients deserve a private space and in some cases patients aren’t comfortable speaking about their addictions with family members nearby. Some patients also don’t have access to needed technology. They may not have high-speed internet or data available on their phone. Dr. Zoucha said the addiction division will do whatever is possible to assist people asking for help.

Spotlight: Shawn Bovill-Hebert

Shawn Bovill-Hebert

Scheduling Associate

Shawn was born and raised in Omaha with a brief one year stint in Florida at age 2, which fostered her love of alligators. Prior to her time with the Department of Psychiatry, she worked as an administrate assistant for ten years at Nebraska Medicine in Physical and Occupational Therapy, now Rehab Services. Before that, Shawn worked in the North Tower as the Medical Records Supervisor with Internal Medicine Associates for ten years. She’s currently attending classes at Metro Community College working towards her degree in Human Services and Healthcare Management.

1. What are your job duties in the Department of Psychiatry?

Is it too much or a little overboard to say everything? My primary responsibility is answering the never ending incoming clinic phone calls. The call consists of everything from scheduling new intakes and follow ups to triaging medication refills, patient questions, and patients in distress. Also, I’m involved with coordinating referrals/managing referral lists, assisting with front desk coverage, managing in basket messages, acting as a temporary sounding board and resource for patients, and everything in between.

2. When did you join the Department of Psychiatry?

I joined the psychiatry team about five years ago when the previous department I was with for 10 years did some reorganization and eliminated some of their positions, mine as the administrative assistant being one of them. That was a bit of an anxious time for me, but when I interviewed with Maggie Milner I instantly felt a sense of calm and admiration for the way she spoke of this department and her team. It ended up being a wonderful transition and one of the best things to happen to me. “Change is life giving. It helps us grow into someone greater than we already are.” I am very proud and honored to work with such an amazing group of people that truly care for their patients and coworkers. There has been so much innovation and growth in these past few years I can truly say this department strives for the “Serious Medicine, Extraordinary Care” motto.

3. How has your job changed since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak?

Let’s start with, “Hello, we can now work from home!” This definitely has its pros and cons.

I can say I now feel like one of my job titles should be tech support. With the massive and quick transition to telehealth we provide a lot of tech support to our patients in assisting them with everything from setting up their One Chart accounts, setting up Zoom, learning to navigate these new apps and video calls, troubleshooting when they are having difficulty to advising how to disable their pop-up blockers.

I am one of the very few people still coming into the office due to training our new phone staff. This has been a much different environment to say the least; it is like walking into a ghost town. It is also an odd concept to train someone while attempting to “social distance” and wearing masks has become our new normal. Under normal circumstances our new hires would be meeting everyone and doing training with multiple staff but with 97 percent of our staff now working from home, they get the benefit of my expertise and mine only, for now. Normally, we share the training responsibility to allow each person a different view and to allow us to stay on top of our day-to-day workings while sharing the responsibility of in-depth training. I am very grateful to our PCTs, BHC team, front desk staff, and everyone else for jumping in to help out during this time so our workload is maintained.

4. What has been the response from patients on switching in-person appointments to telehealth?

For the most part our patients have been really receptive and appreciative that we are offering telehealth appointments during this current climate. There have been just a few that are more resistant due to lack of availability or understating of technology like some of more challenging patients that benefit from in person treatment. Overall, it has been a pretty seamless transition that will offer all kinds of benefits and options moving forward.

5. What are some of your hobbies?

I best describe myself as a quiet person with a loud streak. Some of my hobbies and interests include photography, reading, writing, traveling, animals, family and friends. I thoroughly enjoy taking pictures and dabble in photography. I love reading, There is nothing quite like settling in and getting lost in a good book. I enjoy journaling and write poetry and song lyrics mostly for my own eyes. I absolutely love to travel and explore new places even if it’s just here in our good ole U.S.A., roads trips are a family favorite. I’ve been to Germany and Ireland and my next dream vacation is Greece. Most of all I enjoy time spent with my animals (and all animals really) and my family and friends. Family gatherings, fire pits and lazy days on the river are by far the things that fill my cup the most. Oh, and thunderstorms. I absolutely love thunderstorms!

Students volunteer with phone calls during stressful time.

Medical students have signed up to make patient support calls during these stressful times.

Annie Ballén, George Blankenau, Alexandra Fiedler, Tyler Kirkland, Chris Lindeman, Max Lydiatt, Abi Paudel, Johnathan Sayaloune, and Jared VanLandingham have volunteered to make patient support calls during the pandemic.

“We have received a lot of positive feedback from our patients,” said Bonnie Dollen, RN. “I’m sad to see it end. I think it provided that missing piece to our patient care.”

The volunteer should call the patient one time per week for a to up to 15-minute phone call depending on the patient’s responsiveness.  If the patient does not answer, the volunteer will leave a supportive message and try again later in the day. 

The goal of phone calls is to provide emotional support to vulnerable psychiatric patients but not to provide a clinical evaluation or service. Additionally, volunteers should express concern but remain calm and confident, listen actively, and encourage the patients to talk about how they are reacting to this time of social isolation and change.

If patient does not want to talk, a volunteer can offer to call him or her later. And most importantly, volunteers shouldn’t make promises to the patients that they cannot keep. The main goal is to serve as a liaison to the patient’s provider. 

With in-person visits impossible during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Psychiatry clinic staff has had to reschedule hundreds of appointments – postpone some and move most to telehealth visits. To help with this massive undertaking, numerous medical students have also offered much-needed help with phone calls.

Blankenau, Scott Irvin, Tori McKinney, Emily Royer, and Lydiatt have made dozens of phone calls.

Lydiatt started volunteering on the phones, moving to in-person visits to telehealth. Lydiatt started at Poynter Hall, but when employees began working from home, he started calling with his cell phone.

“I was surprised by the large number of people who said they were okay with (telehealth) and willing to do their part,” Lydiatt said. “I was expecting people to be mad.”

As a future doctor, he sees a lot of benefits in both in-person visits and telehealth.

“There are benefits with in-person visits. It’s good for people to get out of their house, and there are many positives with meeting in-person, but telehealth has a place, too. It’s a way to work with people who don’t have transportation.”

Due to the hard work of staff and volunteers, the Department of Psychiatry

Department of Psychiatry hands out Teacher Awards

Frank J. Menolascino Outstanding Student in Psychiatry Award

This award is given each year to a graduating medical student based on interest in the field of Psychiatry. Students must show excellent clinical skills demonstrated during the Psychiatry Clerkship, commitment to caring for those with mental illness and demonstration leadership among their peers. This award, which is recognized at the Honors Convocation. was established to honor Frank J. Menolascino, M.D., an authority on mental health among persons with intellectual development disorders and developmental disabilities. He was the chairman of Department of Psychiatry for both the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Creighton University.

Recipient: Jessica Thai, M.D.

Ember Award in UNMC Medical Student Education Excellence
The Department of Psychiatry is “recognizing a resident physician whose glowing teaching quality, burning passion and service ignites a fire in UNMC medical students.”

Siva Sundeep Koppolu, M.B.B.S.
Geoffrey (Geoff) Allison, M.D.

Nathan E. Bruce, D.O. Volunteer Teacher of the Year (volunteer faculty)
This award recognizes Dr. Nathan Bruce, an outstanding volunteer teacher, who made a lasting impact on medical education. The awardee models conscientious patient care, meritorious teaching and mentorship of students in the spirit of Dr. Bruce.

Recipient: Marin Broucek, M.D.

Lantern Award in Graduate Medical Education
This award acknowledges the significant contributions to the education of residents and fellows.” The recipient lights the way in leading by example.

Recipient: Ryan Edwards, M.D.

Flint Award in Educational Excellence (Faculty)
“This award recognizes an individual whose teaching quality and passion creates a spark in the department.” You exemplify this spirit with your innovative teaching of medical students, residents, staff or faculty.

Recipient: Alena Balasanova, M.D.

Steel Award in Educational Engagement (Faculty)
This award recognizes [an] individual whose daily teaching services illuminates the department.” The faculty member provides outstanding and sustaining contributions to the education mission of UNMC.

Recipient: Thomas Magnuson, M.D.

Teacher of the Year (non-physician)
This award recognizes an individual whose outstanding teaching has had a positive and significant impact on medical education. We wish to recognize your contribution to interprofessional education to the department.

Recipient: Mark Aksamit, PA-C