Dr. Ranum set to join UNMC faculty

Erin Ranum, MD, will join the UNMC faculty as an instructor this summer in the growing geriatric division.

“We’re very happy to be joined by Dr. Erin Ranum (on August 17)! She has a longstanding relationship with the geriatric psychiatry division and will bring her enthusiasm and great patient care skills to our group,” said Dr. Steven Wengel, Geriatric Division Director for the Department of Psychiatry.

Dr. Ranum graduated from UNMC and has spent the previous four years as a resident with the UNMC/Creighton Psychiatry Residency program.

“I’ve always felt at home (at UNMC), more than any other university I attended or did my training,” Dr. Ranum said. “When I started thinking about where I wanted to work after residency, it was an easy decision to stay here.”

Dr. Ranum also holds an undergraduate degree in nursing and worked as a nurse at a nursing home and an aide at an assisted living center.

“I loved working at the assisted living center, and the geriatric population has always been my favorite to work with,” she said. “They tend to be more complex medically. Also, they have different psychosocial stressors than younger adults, such as declining independence with increasing disability and losing social supports as they age due to the death of loved ones. This combination is interesting and challenging to me and makes my work feel meaningful.”

Dr. Ranum said she decided to specialize in psychiatry after her rural family medicine rotation.

“I realized on that rotation that I would rather sit and talk with someone about their depression than any physical complaint. Those patient encounters seemed more meaningful to me.”

 Along with working with the geriatric population, Dr. Ranum will work with future doctors as a member of the UNMC faculty. She said she wants to give students and residents meaningful experiences in the field of psychiatry.

Dr. Ranum said she’s excited to remain in Nebraska after her residency ended in July.

“I moved to Omaha for medical school and stayed here for residency, so I’ve been here for eight years. In that time, I got married, had a couple of kids, and bought a house with a yard so I could get a dog. Omaha has become home, so it played a role in my deciding to stay here,” she said.

Dr. Sheehan named new Clinical Chair of Ethics Committee

Psychiatrist Meghan Sheehan, MD, said she’s honored to have been named Clinical Chair of the Ethics Committee at Nebraska Medicine.

“Medical ethics is a longstanding passion of mine. I enjoy the collaboration of a diverse group of colleagues, including ethicists, lawyers, administrators, patient advocates, and healthcare professionals in this important and challenging work,”

Dr. Sheehan arrived at UNMC last summer after working and training at UNC Health Care. While as a psychiatry resident and consult/liaison fellow at UNC, Dr. Sheehan worked within the Ethics Committee and the Complex Care Committee.

“I was inspired early on by two of my mentors at UNC, Gary Gala, MD, a trauma surgeon turned C/L psychiatrist and ethicist, who is now the Vice-Chair of Psychiatry and Co-Chair of the Ethics Committee at UNC. As well as, Arlene Davis, JD, BS, an attorney and the director of the Clinical Ethics Services at UNC,” Dr. Sheehan said.

Dr. Sheehan will work with Jacob Dahlke, the current Chair of the Ethics Committee. Dr. Sheehan calls Dahlke, “UNMC’s talented clinical ethicist.” Dr. Sheehan will be serving as Co-Chair with Carlie Leslie, RN. Leslie will act as Administrative Chair of the Ethics Committee.

“We will continue to work closely together with Jacob and the committee members to serve the needs of UNMC and Nebraska Medicine on every level, from direct patient care to the development of institution-wide policy,” Dr. Sheehan said.

As an assistant professor and C/L psychiatrist, Dr. Sheehan has become well-acquainted with complex ethical challenges.

“This is a natural role for a C/L psychiatrist, and I am glad that Meghan will be representing our department in this important position,” said Dr. Howard Liu, Chair of the Department of Psychiatry.

Additionally, Dr. Sheehan will be working with outpatients in reproductive psychiatry and psycho-oncology.

Joining the ethics committee during the COVID-19 pandemic adds additional ethic challenges.

“We will continue to try to meet those challenges as leaders of healthcare ethics at UNMC and Nebraska Medicine,” said Dr. Sheehan. “While this crisis is the predominant priority of the healthcare system and Ethics Committee, the imperative to meet the needs of UNMC and Nebraska Medicine as a clinical, educational, organizational, research, and business entity remains. In addition to these services, one of my personal goals as the Clinical Chair is to bolster the committee’s educational service and further develop the Ethics Grand Rounds and the Schwartz Rounds.”

Dr. Claudia Moore begins addiction medicine fellowship

Claudia Moore, MD, has worked in emergency medicine for twenty years, and it was two decades in the ER that pushed her to apply for the UNMC addiction medicine fellowship.

In July, Dr. Moore became the second addiction medicine fellow. From 2006-2020, she worked at Nebraska Medicine in emergency medicine. From 2013-2019, she was the Program Director for the Emergency Medicine Residency Program.

“I’ve had a lot of experience seeing people with substance use disorders in the ER. When I learned that the fellowship was being developed, I became immediately interested,” said Dr. Moore. “It seemed a natural pivot for my career – using everything I’ve learned through my emergency medicine and medical toxicology training to care for patients in a new way.” 

Before arriving in Omaha in 2006, Dr. Moore worked in hospitals and clinics in Atlanta, New Orleans, and Memphis.

“No matter what city, substance use was a factor in a tremendous number of cases. I’ve seen what happens in acute intoxication or withdrawal, and now I can see what happens after the emergency is over,” said Dr. Moore.

The addiction medicine fellowship lasts one year. Knowing 12 months can fly by quickly, Dr. Moore has tried to hit the ground running.

“I know I only have 12 short months to learn a new specialty, so I’m trying to cram as much learning into every experience as possible. My previous roles have included a lot of medical students and resident education; I now get to use all the lessons I’ve learned about what allows a learner to be successful and apply it to my own education,” she said.

Dr. Moore graduated from Emory University in 1996 with a degree in Art History and Biology. She attended the University of Tennessee College of Medicine in Memphis in 2000 and finished her residency at LSU Health Science Center in New Orleans in 2004. She completed a fellowship in Medical Toxicology at Emory/CDC/George Poison Center in 2006.

Gearhart accepts new role as Ambulatory Supervisor in Department of Psychiatry

Phoebe Gearhart, RN, has been named Ambulatory Supervisor for the Department of Psychiatry. In Gearhart’s new role, she will provide direct supervision to the nursing staff, primary care technicians (PCT), medical schedulers, and Behavioral Health Connection staff. 

“This position excited me as it is an opportunity to work with our team to help people grow in the department,” Gearhart said. “It allows me to help our teams strengthen and grow and allow me to understand our clinical staff’s strengths and skills.”

Gearhart started as a registered nurse at Nebraska Medicine in December 2015. She was promoted to Nurse Lead within the Department of Psychiatry outpatient clinic in August 2018.  That same year, Gearhart was named a 40 Under 40 Nursing Leader.

“This promotion is testament to Phoebe’s outstanding leadership and her creative approach to problem-solving,” said Dr. Howard Liu, Chair of the Department of Psychiatry.

In 2020, as the psychiatry department has grown, there have been many hires to the clinical staff. In Gearhart’s new role as a supervisor, she has tried to meet with the new team – not an easy task during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“It is exciting how much our department has expanded, and I look forward to learning about our new staff’s skills that they are bringing to our team. Everyone has been through many new challenges and changes since COVID-19 has emerged, and everyone has accepted this new change in roles with much outreach of support. I believe the transition itself has been relatively smooth, but I attribute this to the wonderful staff and leadership,” Gearhart said.

Gearhart sits on several department committees that deal with clinical, education, and service priorities at UNMC.

“Phoebe’s promotion is much deserved, and I know she will do a fabulous job,” said Maggie Milner, BSN, MSW, Clinic Manager for the Department of Psychiatry.

Psychiatry staff helps local charities

In May 2019, the Department of Psychiatry volunteered at three local non-profits as part of Mental Health Awareness Month. This year, the COVID-19 pandemic made on-site volunteering difficult, so staff members found other ways to help out.

Here is a list of some of the donations of time and money from psychiatry faculty and staff:

  • The clinic at the Department of Psychiatry donated $250 of snack items to the nurses at Douglas County Long-Term Care units who were working long, hard hours due to the spike in the pandemic, particularly in poor and elderly patient populations.

  • The adult and child and adolescent division nurses donated the money that would have purchased their Nurse’s Week appreciation flowers ($300) to purchase hygiene products for our clinic’s on-going hygiene item donation drive. Celeste Akers, Community Service Tech Lead, and Bonnie Dollen, LPN, helped with the deliveries.
  • The geriatric division nurses donated their flowers to be delivered to the nurses who work at the Douglas County Long-Term Care units, since they were dealing with a ton of stress/workplace hazards from COVID-19.
  • The Department of Psychiatry raised $585 to buy hygiene products to donate to Heart Ministries Center’s pantry. 
  • The Department of Psychiatry raised $530 and a box of fruit to donate to the YES House (Youth Emergency Services) shelter and food pantry.  Research Assistant Arica Lerdahl, IOP Social Worker Christine Hoffman and Akers ordered deli meals and food items from Hy-Vee to be delivered to YES homeless youth clients to supply three days of meals. “We’re very grateful for your support,” said YES Executive Director Mary Fraser Meints. “You helped us feed many youths and their households.”

  • Members of the Department of Psychiatry participated in NAMI’s Annual NAMI Walks virtual event fundraiser.  The NE Med team, led by PES Manager Jennifer Sparrock, LICSW, raised more than $1,000 for NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness). 

  • The Department of Psychiatry raised $570 to donate to Charles Drew Health Center to show support for the work they do with helping underserved residents of North Omaha get health care, mental health care, and social services.

Spotlight: Bonnie Dollen, LPN

Bonnie Dollen graduated from nursing school at Iowa Western. She has worked in cardiac care, vascular, surgery, family medicine and now psychiatry. She has been married for 28 years and has four kids, including triplets.  

What are your job duties?

I listen and support patients in need. I do whatever I can to help them and keep them safe. I also provide education to our patients and staff. I am the facilitator for Reproductive Psychiatry.

 Why did you choose psychiatry?

I think psychiatry chose me. I have been providing mental health support my entire nursing career. When I was in nursing school I was the Unit Secretary on Psychiatry at Jennie Edmundson. I believe I have come full circle as I plan to end my nursing career here in psychiatry when I am old enough to retire.

What do you enjoy about working at Neb Med/UNMC?

We are truly a family not just co-workers. If one of us needs anything there are always people to help. I have made some amazing friendships that have lasted thirty years!

 You do a lot of volunteer work. Why do you find time to volunteer?

I feel I am very blessed and I feel I should give back to those who may not be. There can never be too much love and compassion in the world! I also feel that I get back much more than I give when I volunteer. I am a volunteer Pastor for the Intellectually Impaired and my own congregation when needed. I volunteer for NAMI and Fragile X (our 3 boys have this). I volunteer with Christmas drives. I volunteer for Ducks Unlimited to preserve the environment and habitat.

What are some of your hobbies?

Reading, listening to music, deer hunting, hiking, crafts, cooking, and just being me!

Dr. Stacey Herbster joins UNMC faculty and PES staff

Dr. Stacey Herbster has moved back to Nebraska to help UNMC/Nebraska Medicine set up the new Adult Psychiatric Emergency Services (PES), scheduled to open on August 28.

Dr. Herbster, who was hired as Assistant Medical Director of the PES, was born and raised in Nebraska before heading to South Dakota for medical school. She worked in a similar PES at Michigan Medicine at the University of Michigan before coming to UNMC.

She said she’s excited to come back home.

“It was important to me to move back home and be with my family, especially my mom and my dad,” Dr. Herbster said.

When UNMC looked for psychiatrists to work in an emergency room setting, Dr. Herbster applied. She said she likes the variety and challenges of working in an ER.

“I like to be able to see the patients and try and make a difference, instantly,” she said. “It’s about seeing patients, who most of the time are in crisis, and being able to come up with a disposition that’s helpful to the patient in a short amount of time. That’s often a major challenge.”  

Dr. Herbster also said she’s excited to help start a new PES.

“It’s a huge need in the country, and I’m sure it’s a huge need here,” she said. “To have a separate dedicated PES is going to be very beneficial to the community here. It’s nice to have a separate dedicated space for psychiatry patients.”

Dr. Mark Fleisher retires from the Department of Psychiatry

Dr. Mark Fleisher has retired from the UNMC Department of Psychiatry, but the adult psychiatrist isn’t disappearing from Poynter Hall.

On July 1, 2020, Dr. Fleisher was named Professor Emeritus at UNMC. While Dr. Fleisher will no longer be a full-time faculty member and clinician, he will be busy.

“Within UNMC I continue to be a member of the Institutional Review Board (IRB) that oversees human research for UNMC and UNO,” Dr. Fleisher said. “I’ve had different positions within the IRBs for more than two decades. Within the department, I’m chairing the history of the department project committee and am a scientific internal reviewer for protocols our faculty submit to the IRB.”

Dr. Fleisher will be available for discussions with other providers who are continuing his clinical work with patients with developmental disabilities (IDD), oncology, and solid organ transplantation. Additionally, he will be involved with the peer support program during the COVID 19 crisis and will continue to perform peer reviews for journals and other projects.

Nationally, Dr. Fleisher will still be involved to varying degrees with the APA, the NADD (a professional organization for IDD), and AOA.

“I’m still trying to sort through nearly thirty years of memories, papers, and other items, all of which seem to be very, very important although there is no uniform agreement on that thus it is a major undertaking,” Dr. Fleisher said. “I might consider writing again and small woodcraft projects.”

Dr. Fleisher graduated from UNMC in 1987 and joined the faculty in 1991. Early on, he credits the Department of Psychiatry chair Dr. Frank Menolascino for mentoring him as a student and new faculty member. Unfortunately, Dr. Menolascino died in 1992.

As someone who has been treating patients for 33 years, retirement wasn’t an easy decision.

“I felt relieved at having made the decision however, I was naturally concerned about my patients and in some cases their families, some of whom I had been treating for more than two decades,” he said.

Dr. Howard Liu, Chair of the UNMC Department of Psychiatry, calls Dr. Fleisher a true champion for individuals with intellectual developmental disorders and developmental disabilities.

“We can’t thank Dr. Fleisher enough for his remarkable legacy of service to our department,” Dr. Liu said.

Psychiatry residents and addiction fellow settle in at UNMC

There are some new faces in the Department of Psychiatry. On June 30, four residents and one addiction fellow started their training at UNMC.

This month, UNMC welcomed new residents Dr. Michaelyn Everhart, Dr. Matthew Kelly, Dr. Andi Ngo and Dr. Emily Royer. Dr. Ngo, who is also a trained pharmacist, attended the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine while Dr. Everhart attended the University of Kansas School of Medicine. Both Dr. Kelly and Dr. Royer are graduates of UNMC. Dr. Claudia Moore has started a one-year addiction fellowship after working as an emergency medicine physician for the last 14 years at Nebraska Medicine.  

Dr. Royer said the first couple of weeks have gone well.

“We have a great team with supportive co-residents, eager M3 students, and a great attending,” Dr. Royer said. “While I fully expect this to be a challenging month, I’m excited to start my residency journey and be back seeing patients!”

Dr. Ngo said the Department of Psychiatry has done an excellent job with orientation.

“It has also been a joy to get to know my co-interns better, both on and off work. I’ve been so excited to be back in Omaha, and despite being from Hawaii, I’m looking forward to the return of winter in a few months.  In addition to seeing snow once more, I can hardly wait to begin practicing psychiatry as soon as I complete my off-service rotations in December!”

Dr. Ngo said he may specialize in addiction psychiatry.

Dr. Kelly said his first few weeks as a resident have been nothing but positive.

“As with any major life transition, starting residency has been accompanied by a certain degree of anxiety, but I continue to be pleasantly surprised by how supportive all of the faculty and senior residents are. So far, UNMC has proven to be a terrific place to train,” he said.

Dr. Kelly, who graduated from UNMC, said he went into psychiatry because he enjoys connecting with patients and hearing their stories.

“I think it’s the best part of being a physician. Psychiatric illnesses typically impact so many aspects of a person’s life, and I find a great deal of fulfillment in working with patients and other members in the care team to create a treatment plan that is multifaceted and addresses both the psychosocial and biological contributors to illness,” Dr. Kelly said. “I also think psychiatrists are in a privileged position to care for some of the most vulnerable members of our society. It is profoundly meaningful work.”