Five leaders receive award named after the late Reba Benschoter

Five Department of Psychiatry employees were honored with the Reba Benschoter Inspirational Leadership Award on January 27, 2023.

The award, which was first handed out in 2020, is presented to faculty, staff, or trainees who exemplify a spirit of leadership, innovation, and integrity that inspires others. Meagan Kankovsky, LICSW; Riley Machal, MD; Maggie Milner, BSN, MSW; Dana Raml, MD; and Varun Sharma, MD, were honored for their leadership.

“To me, leadership is largely about helping others be successful, and it’s an honor to work towards that goal in the Department of Psychiatry,” said Dr. Cates, Vice-Chair for Clinical Services in the Department of Psychiatry.

On March 7, 2022, Dr. Sharma was named APP Collaboration Director in the Department of Psychiatry. Then, On July 1, 2022, Dr. Sharma replaced Rebecca Wysoske, MD, as Senior Ambulatory Medical Director.

“Dr. Varun Sharma works tirelessly in his new role as medical director to ensure clinic policy and procedure are up to standards and meeting the needs of both patients and providers,” said fellow recipient Dr. Raml. “He’s a great collaborator, and his insights on issues make him a natural leader.”
Along with her work as an adult psychiatrist and assistant professor, Dr. Machal holds leadership roles in education and the ASPIRE clinic.

Riley Machal, MD

“Dr. Machal is an inspirational leader,” said Michaelyn Everhart, MD. “She exemplifies integrity when it comes to both patient care and trainee education. She teaches me something new every day I work with her, and she is always available to talk about a tough case or our future careers.”
In July 2022, Dr. Raml was promoted to Adult Outpatient Division Director.
“Dr. Raml has provided inspiring leadership in the adult outpatient division and highly impactful national leadership at ADMSEP’s Membership Committee,” said Psychiatry Department Chair Howard Liu, MD, MBA.
Kankovsky has also taken on the leadership role of the chair of the Psychotherapy Training Program.

“Meagan is always looking to seek out innovative ways to help the team and patients. She coaches and inspires others to be innovative and welcomes innovation,” said Debi Pittock, LICSW, who received the Reba Benschoter Inspirational Leadership Award in 2019. “She leads the Clinical Therapist team through her ideas and uses her Excel and EPIC skills to find easier ways to do daunting tasks. She arranges training, so she helps us implement them because reading an email is not enough sometimes. She trains supervisors, organizes, and leads didactics, and leads the team to take on several disciplines for therapy trainees. She has also helped with finding and obtaining resources to help the training program and the clinical therapists.”

Milner is the Outpatient Clinic Manager for the department. Mark Aksamit, PA-C, MPAS, a 2020 recipient, said Milner is the silent force in the Psychiatry Clinic.

“Maggie often must do the necessary ‘dirty work’ to keep our clinic functioning but does so often to no fanfare or praise,” Aksamit said. “She embodies what we should strive for as leaders, managers, and employees. She is always willing to lend a listening ear for our patients and staff alike and is able to help us see the bigger picture so we can align our goals with that of the clinic.”

Benschoter started in the department in 1957 as an audiovisual specialist at the Nebraska Psychiatric Institute. She would hold roles as an associate professor, director of biomedical communications, Associate Dean of the College of Medicine, Dean of the School of Allied Health Professions, and Professor Emeritus in 2000. She passed away at age 92 on January 1, 2023.

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  1. Mary Lorraine miller says:

    We are so proud that these five recipients have been awarded leadership recognition named in our mother’s honor.Especially that there are strong female leaders being recognized as our mother was a ground breaker for women in leadership roles.

  2. Brooke A Benschoter says:

    My mother would be so pleased by the caliber of these honorees. Congratulations.

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