Volunteer Committee finds ways for department staff to give back to community

Cindy Schreiber, Celeste Akers and Arica Lerdahl loads bags of clothes into a car to give to Foster Love, a local non-profit who donates clothing and household items to foster children.

Last month, the Department of Psychiatry’s Volunteer Committee collected more than a dozen bags of clothes for area foster children, one of many projects the committee organizes each year.

Since 2019, the committee and department staff have helped several local charities and non-profits by raising money, collecting food, pulling weeds, stuffing backpacks and other activities.

The most recent project was collecting clothing and money for Foster Love, a local clothing store. Its website says it’s a boutique where children in foster care and their families could shop the latest trends in a welcoming, unique, boutique-like setting where merchandise would be new and quality like-new clothing, The clothing is free and available once a month for every child while in care.

Celeste Akers, volunteer committee chairperson, said the department ended up raising $280 in donation funds, thirteen bags of clothes and two large boxes of diapers.

“It was a huge success,” Akers said.

Other yearly projects include raising more than $2,000 to sponsor more than a dozen families as part of the Holiday Adopt-A-Family donation drive, and participating in fundraising walks for NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and AFSP (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention).

Each May, during Mental Health Awareness Month, department faculty and staff will take time out of their workday to volunteer at local non-profits, as Heart Ministries food pantry, Grief’s Journey, YES (Youth Emergency Shelter), and Keep Omaha Beautiful.

Last fall, department faculty and staff donated 28 new backpacks and raised $495 for Girls Inc., as part of the “Stuff the Backpacks” donation drive. In November, the department collected food, raised $210, and packed 20 Thanksgiving meal bags for Kountze Memorial Lutheran Church Pantry.

“It’s wonderful to see the level of caring in this department,” said Howard Liu, MD, MBA, Chair of the Department of Psychiatry.

Residency Program adds six trainees

Last month, five first-year residents joined the Department of Psychiatry, along with one second-year transfer as the department’s residency program continues to grow.

Thomas Bainter, Logan Ford and Max Lydiatt will stay in Omaha after matching at UNMC while finishing their final year in the UNMC College of Medicine. Bryndis Grissom comes to UNMC after studying at the University of North Texas Health Center, and Tianqi (Nina) Luo will head west this summer after graduating from Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine of Midwestern University.

In 2020, the Department of Psychiatry started its new residency program with four trainees. They matched into the program a few months after visiting UNMC, meeting with faculty members and touring Omaha. This year’s matches did their interview via Zoom, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, Luo said she’s never been to Omaha.

“Finding out that I matched at a program in a state that I have never been to is both a scary and exciting prospect. Since matching, so many people from the program have been reaching out to offer support. I feel very welcome and can’t wait to call Nebraska home,” she said.

Grissom also did her interviews online, but she’s thrilled to be moving to Omaha after her fiancé had matched with UNMC in pediatrics.

“We both could feel the friendly and supportive culture of UNMC – even virtually! I am looking forward to exploring the unique training opportunities that UNMC has to offer, especially the ACT team, and I cannot wait to begin,” she said.

Lydiatt said staying in Omaha was very important.

“I’ve had great experiences within the psychiatry department and have been fortunate to have had great mentorship from faculty here. I’m looking forward to continuing to develop those relationships as I grow into a more experienced clinician,” he said.

Bainter said he was also thrilled to stay in Omaha and was happy to see Max and Logan on the Match list.

“I think sharing our familiarity with the program and the area will help us learn together and hit the ground running in July,” he said.

Zachary Rupp, MD, will join this department this summer as a second-year resident after spending his first year at the University of Kentucky. He will be switching from family medicine to psychiatry. He brings the total number of residents to 10.

To learn more about this year’s class, click here.

Spotlight: Ali Krause, RN, BSN

Ali Krause, RN, BSN, joined the Department of Psychiatry in May 2020 after working at Nebraska Medicine in Bellevue for seven years in the Emergency Department and Medical Surgical Floor. This year, she was nominated for Nebraska Medicine’s Spirit of Nursing Award, which goes to one nurse each year, who has been a leader in promoting and improving the quality of care, contributing to a positive work environment and fostering a learning environment for students and peers.

What made you apply at UNMC/Nebraska Med?  
I graduated from nursing school in 2013 from a small town/community and dreamed of working for an organization that would allow me to learn and test my knowledge. My options were pretty limited in Beemer, Nebraska. My dream was to be a trauma flight nurse until I saw the small space of the helicopter and realized how motion sick I get on planes. I toured the Nebraska Medicine main campus, and I was overwhelmed by how big it was. I come from a village, which has about 700 people with no stoplights, so one floor on the main campus was bigger than our village. I had a friend recommend the Bellevue Campus as it was smaller, more homey, but still had opportunity to learn and see many different aspects of nursing.  I started on the Medical Surgical floor for about three years and then transferred to the ER and worked there until I took this position in May 2020. 

What made you want to work in psychiatry and behavioral health?  
I had a beautiful baby boy in February 2019 and life was wonderful until I spiraled into postpartum depression. I was embarrassed, but I thought I could handle it myself and honestly didn’t know the resources available for help. I thought ‘If I feel this way, how do those who are not medically educated feel?’  This inspired me to check in on all of the mamas I could, educate them and let them know they’re not alone and how common PPD is. When I finally discussed this with my family I learned that we have a family history of untreated depression/anxiety/mental health issues. When this position opened, I felt called to learn more, help more, and do as much as I could to advocate for those with mental illness. 

What were your thoughts when you saw you were nominated for the Spirit of Nursing Award?  
My first thought was ‘Oh my goodness, how sweet of someone to nominate me.’ Then I read through the description of the award and I teared up. As nurses, we want to help, and do as much as we can to make sure our patients and co-workers are taken care of.  I don’t do this job to get awards or to be recognized, but when I got nominated it made me feel a sense of accomplishment. I must be doing something right.  
Note: The winner of the Spirit of Nursing Award will be handed out on May 12.

What do you enjoy about working in the Department of Psychiatry?  
There is a mile-long list of things I enjoy about working in the Psychiatry Department. First and foremost, would be the teamwork and communication that happens daily in our clinic. We are very good about helping each other through tough cases, covering when someone is gone, calling and messaging to check in after a rough phone call, and recognizing each other for the great work we do.  

This is the first place I have worked where everyone looks you in the eye, says hello and good morning with a smile – even under a mask. I have worked for a couple different departments that are busy, like ours, but they do not take the time to stop and say hello or ask ‘how are you?’ or ‘how are the kids?’  This department truly cares about each of their staff members and it shows by how happy everyone is. I also love how much this department cares for everyone in the community with fundraisers, volunteering, giving back and making awareness of mental illness!  

What are some of your hobbies?
I love to be outdoors.  Boating, swimming, the zoo, hiking with our son and dogs and playing co-ed volleyball and softball. My husband and I are foodies, so we enjoy trying new restaurants and food, when we get the chance. We have naturally turned into home bodies, due to COVID, but that has helped us tackle some house projects. We love the Lord, we cheer loud for the HUSKERS. we’re a fun-filled and blessed family!