New committee on diversity and inclusion appoints co-chairs

This fall, the Department of Psychiatry asked its members to join a committee tasked with enhancing diversity, equity and inclusion in the department.  It is open to all department members including faculty, staff, and trainees.  More than 35 members have participated in the meetings and the majority of the leadership team is in attendance.

One of the first tasks of the group was to come up with a mission for the committee.

Mission:  The mission of the UNMC Psychiatry Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee is to ask questions, to listen, to reflect, and to engage team members and community partners to create a culture where everyone belongs and where we continually act in concrete ways to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion. The impact of this committee must ripple across education, research, service, and clinical care. It must cross hierarchies and cultural barriers. And everyone must approach the work with a fundamental sense of humility.

 “We can always do more to speak up and advocate for our patients, our trainees, our colleagues, and our community,” said Department of Psychiatry Chair Howard Liu, MD, MBA.

On Dec. 1, Ali DeLizza, PhD, and Laura Schutte-Lundy, LIMHP, LADC, were selected as co-chairs of the group based on their vision for the DEI Committee. Schutte-Lundy said when the discussion on potential leaders started, she nominated others. Then, she was asked if she would accept the position of co-chair.  

 “This made me realize that I had never thought of myself as a leader. I was just being me by speaking up and voicing my concerns and opinions and encouraging others to do the same. I then realized that this is exactly what makes a leader,” Schutte-Lundy said. “So I decided it was time to step up into the role formally.  I’m very thankful to the committee for seeing leadership qualities within me and giving me this opportunity to grow and make positive changes. Creating inclusion and diversity is an important part of who I am and why I do the work that I do.”

Along with her role as co-chair of the DEI Committee, Dr. DeLizza is also Director of Wellness Programming for UNMC.

”I was very grateful to be nominated to apply for a co-chair position, and am thrilled to be working with Laura,” said Dr. DeLizza. “I believe that there is so much we can accomplish to bring more equity and inclusion not only to the Department of Psychiatry, but to UNMC and Omaha. I am excited by the energy and willingness displayed by members of our department to learn, have difficult conversations, and make tangible change.”

Dr. Liu said he believes the new co-chairs will provide invaluable leadership to the department’s culture.

“We’re lucky in psychiatry to have the vision of our UNMC Director of Inclusion, Dr. Sheritta Strong, in our department and on this committee.  As the new co-chairs, I have every confidence that Dr. Delizza and Ms. Schutte-Lundy will work as an inspiring team.  In their first meeting, they listened to and engaged the committee members to recognize that each of us is in a different growth stage. I’m committed to ensuring that the DEI Committee has the resources it needs to help our department grow in its ability to welcome all members and partners going ahead.”    

The committee meets on the first Tuesday of every month at noon.

Dr. Sheehan acquires grant for Beyond the Blowback program

Meghan Sheehan, MD, received a $3,000 grant from the Nebraska Medicine Guild to develop her Beyond the Blowback program.

The program will support victims of gang violence who have persistent psychiatric and medical needs.

“I have a longstanding interest in this population, and have seen repeatedly that when we move past dismissing these points as difficult and antisocial, we can really help them psychiatrically, which in turn helps lead to better results with their other medical issues as well,” said Dr. Sheehan.

Dr. Sheehan, who completed residency and fellowship in CL Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, will work with Charity Evans, MD, a UNMC trauma surgeon.

“Dr. Evans shares my passion for helping this neglected population. She and the trauma team will help to identify patients in this demographic for initial outreach efforts,” said Dr. Sheehan. “One of my CL mentors at UNC is a trauma surgeon turned CL psychiatrist and ethicist. His influence and his mentorship is part of why I am so passionate about ICU psychiatry and ethics. This program is a great area for collaboration for a CL psychiatrist and trauma surgeon.”

Dr. Ashish Sharma, Inpatient Medical Director for the Department of Psychiatry, said the grant is amazing news.

“Dr. Sheehan always works hard and looks out for what’s good for our patients,” Dr. Sharma said.

The funds will be available until June 30, 2021. Dr. Sheehan sees the program continuing past next spring.

“I expect that this program will continue to evolve, especially with the ever-changing demands of the pandemic, and the receipt of this grant will help me to meet the needs of our community better,” she said.