Psychiatry

“UNMC Psychiatry thanks our veterans, active-duty military, and their family on Veterans Day! Thanks for your courage and sacrifice.”

On Veterans Day, the Department of Psychiatry is proud to highlight many current and former US military members who are making a difference. 

“The UNMC Department of Psychiatry thanks its veterans, active-duty military and their families on Veterans Day,” said Department of Psychiatry Chair Dr. Howard Liu. “Thank you for your courage and sacrifice.”

When you speak to the veterans in the department, they talk about how their time in the armed services has helped them as medical assistants, nurses, and doctors. Medical Receptionist Caroline Davenport said her time in the U.S. Army developed her tenacious spirit.

“I’m grateful and blessed for my time and experience in the U.S. Army. Having the ability to have been able to serve in a multitude of different environments to the largest military base in the United States; Ft. Bragg, N.C. During my time in the Army, I had the pleasure of working with many people who came from all different backgrounds and places, but at the end of the day, we were all brothers and sisters looking out for one another. The 82nd Airborne is a fast-paced, strong, and professional team that allowed me to feel confident, prepared, and ready to tackle anything that may have come my way!”

Randy Vest, RN, served in the U.S. Navy from 1976-80. Vest said the teamwork, discipline, and service he learned forty years ago still play a role in his strong work ethic.

“I spent 59 straight days in the Indian Ocean during the Iranian hostage crisis. It was my honor and privilege to serve this great country,” Vest said.

Dr. Stephen Salzbrenner also served in the U.S. Navy. Much like Vest, Dr. Salzbrenner said the U.S. Navy helped develop a sense of teamwork, mission-orientation, and loyalty.

“I’m grateful for my time in the Navy. Having served in a diverse set of environments, including combat, brig psychiatry, inpatient, outpatient and consult liaison, and serving in leadership roles, helped me to feel confident and prepared to deal with any situation,” said Dr. Salzbrenner.

Inclusion Program Associate Jhoanna Olmos said her time in the Nebraska National Guard taught her many practical skills that have helped with her new position in the Office of Inclusion.

“What I have valued the most during my time in the National Guard are the relationships that I’ve developed,” she said. “It is an absolute blessing to get to make friends with people who think, learn, and experience the world differently than myself. It has allowed me the opportunity to broaden my understanding of humanity and enriched my understanding of friendship.”

For decades, residents in the UNMC/Creighton program have trained at the Omaha Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center. In 2019, UNMC started its own residency program, and the first-year residents will begin training at the Omaha VA in January. Resident Matthew Kelly, MD, served in the U.S. Navy. 

“We are so grateful for the support of Dr. Renee Woehrer, Associate Chief of Staff for Education, Dr. David Williams, Chief of Staff, and Dr. Dario Pulido, Chief of the Mental Health Service Line, for their support for UNMC psychiatry residents to train at the VA,” said Dr. Daniel Gih, Adult Psychiatry Residency program director at UNMC. The Omaha VA recently announced a commitment to increase the number of UNMC psychiatry residents rotating at the VA.

Dr. Stacey Herbster, who joined the department in 2020 as associate medical director of the Adult Psychiatric Emergency Services, served in the Army National Guard and Army Reserves from 1995-2006.

Along with staff members in the armed services, the department also has staff members with spouses in the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force. Master Sergeant William Lundy is the husband of Laura Schutte-Lundy, LIMHP, LADC, in child and adolescent psychiatry. Master Sergeant Lundy has served in the Air Force for 14 years.

Lieutenant Commander Anthony Finigan is the husband of Amber Finigan, PA. He has served since October of 2018 and is currently serving on the USS Alaska Blue.

The Department of Psychiatry is grateful and proud of our military colleagues and families on Veterans Day!

Dr. Daniel Gih named Distinguished Fellow

UNMC Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Daniel Gih, MD, was named a Distinguished Fellow by the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) this month during the organization’s virtual annual meeting.

This honor is given to psychiatrists in recognition for their high level of commitment, experience, and dedication. The Distinguished Fellow designation (DFAACAP) is the highest honor AACAP bestows upon its members.

“It’s a great honor as it reflects my long-standing membership in AACAP and contributions to the field of child and adolescent psychiatry. Being a distinguished fellow also means that my peers acknowledge my work with child and adolescent patients, and medical education,” Dr. Gih said.

A special acknowledgement will be made during the AACAP Annual Meeting, in AACAP News, and online at www.aacap.org.

Dr. Gih is Associate Professor and Director of Education in the UNMC Department of Psychiatry. He currently serves on the UNMC College of Medicine Curriculum Committee, and is the founding program director of the UNMC psychiatry residency program. His clinical interests include psychiatric education, severe mood disorders in adolescents, electroconvulsive therapy, and eating disorders.

Dr. Gih joins a number of UNMC Department of Psychiatry faculty members who have been named Distinguished Fellows by their specialties in 2020. Fellow faculty members Dr. Sheritta Strong, Dr. Steven Wengel and adjunct faculty member Dr. Martin Wetzel were named Distinguished Fellows by the American Psychiatric Association in March. 

Spotlight: Kira Hannon

Kira Hannon joined the department last winter as a medical assistant. For all of her hard work in changing some workflow processes and streamlining techniques for the care staff, Kira received the Extraordinary Medical Assistant Award.

1. Why did you apply to be a medical assistant at Nebraska Medicine?

I applied to be a medical assistant at Nebraska Medicine because this company provides many opportunities for growth and learning. I had heard nothing but great things from friends and family who have worked here. Years ago, I completed summer research internships on campus, and I loved the atmosphere. Everyone was always so friendly, welcoming, and willing to help. I was excited to be back on campus and experience a different aspect: patient care.

2. Why did you decide to work in the Department of Psychiatry?
I minored in psychology and absolutely love it! I’m passionate about the science behind psychiatry, as well as the patients themselves. When I completed my student externship here at the Department of Psychiatry, everyone was incredibly welcoming and encouraged me to explore and expand my knowledge. They were supportive in helping me learn about more than just what my job is, but also about every aspect of the clinic and services we offer.

3. What is it like to be a medical assistant during the COVID-19 pandemic? 
It is vastly different than what I imagined back when I was a student. I was hired right as the pandemic hit and everything was becoming virtual. Medical assistants typically take patients’ vitals and start their care for their visit, but when everything was through a computer, that became impossible. Our department was innovative and found ways for us to still perform our job duties, even though most of our patient interactions became over the phone rather than face-to-face. Many patients are struggling due to the pandemic and are so unsure about the whole telehealth process. To be able to assist them and reassure them is rewarding.

4. What are your long-term goals in psychiatry?
My long-term goal is to become a child/adolescent psychiatrist. 

5. What are your hobbies?
My hobbies include dance, color guard, working out, eating sushi, and playing with my dog.

Dr. Salzbrenner honored for software to help with prior authorization

UNMC Adult Psychiatrist Stephen Salzbrenner, M.D., was honored at this year’s UNeMed Innovation Awards as the Startup of the Year for his software Breezmed.

The Innovation Awards recognize faculty, students, and staff within the University of Nebraska system that invented a new technology, licensed an invention or secured intellectual property rights during the previous fiscal year. Along with Startup of the Year, UNeMed also presents Emerging Inventor, Lifetime Achievement, and Innovator of the Year awards as circumstances dictate.

“I was shocked to get this award,” said Dr. Salzbrenner. “Breezmed started with an idea and just kept gaining steam. In many ways, I feel like I’m still fumbling around and tripping over my own feet as I navigate all of the intricacies of starting a company. This award serves as recognition that I’m moving forward and that the future of Breezmed is bright. I want to thank all of my mentors for being there over the last few years.”

UNeTech nominated Breezmed. UneTech is the University of Nebraska’s startup incubator and accelerator in Omaha, nurturing early-stage companies with ties to the University.  Breezmed was nominated for “its outstanding achievement to translate innovation into vital new products.”

An assistant professor in the UNMC Department of Psychiatry, Dr. Salzbrenner, with help from health software company H4 Technology, created Breezmed, a program which solves many of the problems patients deal with when it comes to prior authorizations.

For those who aren’t familiar with prior authorizations, it is a process insurance companies use to make sure doctors and other providers practice safe prescribing habits. The downside is that the current process is time-consuming and burdensome for nurses and prescribers, such as doctors, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners. The goal of Breezmed is to speed up the process of getting insurance providers to approve prescriptions.

“It’s called Breezmed because I want it to be a breeze,” Dr. Salzbrenner said. “I want doctors to enjoy their job, kick up their feet, sip some coffee, and know there’s a solution out there.”

Dr. Howard Liu, Chair of the Department of Psychiatry, said he was glad to see Dr. Salzbrenner’s hard work recognized.