UNMC Will Be Home to 'A National Resource'

By Karen Burbach

(Released 4 November 2016) 

UNMC is poised to help with America's health security. 

That was the message Thursday as UNMC and Nebraska Medicine leaders, as well as members of Nebraska's Congressional delegation, gathered to celebrate the recent $19.8 million award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to develop the National Center for Health Security and Biopreparedness. 

The center, to be housed within the planned iEXCEL facility at 42nd and Emile streets, will teach federal health care personnel procedures in treating highly infectious diseases and create a place to monitor persons who have been exposed to a highly infectious disease, such as Ebola. 

"It was never a question of whether UNMC could take on this role," said Rep. Brad Ashford, who helped lead the push for funding in Congress and whose 2nd District includes the medical center. "There never was a doubt -- that says so much about how incredible this institution is." 

During Thursday's press conference, Ashford recalled a Skype call in which Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf asked the Nebraska congressman to thank his constituents for the role they played in saving lives in Liberia during the Ebola crisis. 

In its proposal, UNMC expressed its intention to leverage its expertise, experience and institutional commitment -- in partnership with the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response to create the National Center for Health Security and Biopreparedness. 

The center will be "a national resource," said Chris Kratochvil, M.D., associate vice chancellor for clinical research and one of the principal investigators on the project along with John Lowe, Ph.D., director of research for the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit, and Shelly Schwedhelm, executive director of emergency preparedness and infection prevention for Nebraska Medicine. 

"UNMC is extraordinarily well positioned to help with America's health security," said U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, who gave credit to the UNMC/Nebraska Medicine team. "When anyone does great things like UNMC is doing it's because of three factors: team, leadership and continuity in that command." 

University of Nebraska President Hank Bounds, Ph.D., also acknowledged the teamwork necessary to make the project a reality. "Nebraskans are too modest. We don't brag enough. We need to be bragging about this one." 

The National Center for Health Security and Biopreparedness will include a unique U.S. quarantine facility -- one area with 11 beds, another with nine beds - for individuals who may have been exposed to an infectious disease, but are not symptomatic. The center will allow for monitoring and transport to the nearby Nebraska Biocontainment Unit, if needed. 

The national center also will fulfill a critical training need for U.S. government health care workers. 

Also attending Thursday's event was Nebraska Sen. Robert Hilkemann, who university leaders thanked for helping obtain legislative support to fully fund the operating budget for the iEXCEL facility, which will be completed in fall 2018. 

"The hard work lies ahead," UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D., said. "I don't just mean the planning and construction of this facility but the genuine work of planning health security for our nation."

Released by University of Nebraska Medical Center. Click here for source.