Quarterly News from the Office of Community Engagement
Keeler's Korner
A message from the OCE Director.....
As we are already well into the academic year, I would like to take a moment to remark on some important (and fun!) activities and a few of the initiatives we have participated in or are actively working on. The Office of Community Engagement (OCE), in collaboration with Office of Inclusion & Equity, Student Life Inclusion and Diversity Office (SLIDO), Douglas County Health Department and our community (via the South Omaha Community Care Council), hosted a panel discussion on September 23rd, ‘Perceptions of Healthcare in the Hispanic Community”. This event was held in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month and provided an opportunity for UNMC faculty, staff, and students to hear firsthand from community members of their experiences in the healthcare setting and the values they hold close.  You can read more about this event in the article below. The OCE also assisted in the planning of Afro Fest Omaha along with UNMC Office of Inclusion & Equity, I AM HOME, AABA (African American Black Alliance) and Nebraska Medicine. It was a successful event showcasing live music, performances of both traditional and modern dances and a wonderful opportunity to learn about different subsets of African art, history, culture, and games, not to mention all the delicious authentic African cuisine. We are already looking forward to planning festivities for next year’s event! 

One project our office has been busy working on has beautifully come to fruition, the OCE Community Report 2021. For the past six months, we have collaborated with the Office of Strategic Communications, UNMC community engaged faculty and staff and community partners to feature some of the partnerships established with our North and South Omaha communities. You will see how the work aligns with the priorities outlined in the latest Nebraska Medicine Community Health Needs Assessment. We will continue to build upon the work that has been done and further strengthen our community partnerships to create meaningful impact that transforms lives. I invite you to view the report HERE.

Another exciting project our office is working on is establishing a formalized training and curriculum for community engagement activities for our students and faculty advisors. This curriculum will provide the tools, interpersonal and technical skills our students / faculty need to develop community organizations and create leaders to effectively guide the continued transformation of our community. Our office has met with internal and external stakeholders to include The Ohio State University and Medical College of Wisconsin to determine how to harness our existing expertise across our colleges, departments, institutes, to take the best path to achieving this goal. We look forward to offering this curriculum and trainings to further enrich UNMC’s community engagement infrastructure.
Lastly, we have been examining infrastructure needed to facilitate community engagement in research, education, advocacy, and service. We are working on tools and resources to help you to connect with partners more easily and like projects. We invite your ideas and feedback on this effort.

Thank you for all that you do for our wonderful UNMC. Please reach out if you have any ideas that can spark new relationships or sustain existing ones. We love hearing from you!
Until then, stay engaged!
Heidi J. Keeler, PhD, RN
Perceptions of Healthcare in Hispanic Community
September 23, 2021
A UNMC/UNO team comprised of the OCE, Office of Inclusion & Equity, SLIDO, and the Gender & Sexuality Resource Center planned a series of events throughout the months of September and October in recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month. The OCE worked with the South Omaha Community Care Council and Douglas County Health Department to identify a subset of the community, Promotores de salud, also known as promotoras, to share their experiences in healthcare on film. Promotoras are members of the target population and share many of the same social, cultural, and economic characteristics, serving as trusted members of the community, and providing culturally appropriate services. We had the privilege of interviewing two community health promoters, both of whom work for Douglas County Health Department. The OCE quickly realized we also wanted to feature Hispanic community members to provide a forum for them to discuss their definitions of health and to discuss their values, culture and what they wish their healthcare providers knew about them and their community. UNMC plays a significant role in workforce development in Nebraska so it was our intention to develop content to contribute to the cultural awareness for our students and faculty and provide a front seat to the challenges the Hispanic community is facing. After all, we are educating the clinicians and the health practitioners of the future and so we want to make certain that our students not only have the book knowledge but also the knowledge and experiences of the people that they will be caring for.

Major themes from the film include a focus on family, strong work ethic and challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The film also highlighted a need to focus on health literacy and overcome communication barriers so that the community can obtain the information it needs to stay happy and healthy. It was powerful to hear their stories, and it is our hope that our providers and future providers take these stories of impact along with them both on their personal and professional journeys. We want to thank all those involved in this special project. This was the first film in a series of films the OCE intends to develop and share featuring various communities. KETV recently ran a news story on the film and panel discussion. We invite you to view it by selecting HERE .

First photo (left to right): Armando De Alba, MD, MPH, Ben Salazar, Heidi Keeler, PhD, Sheritta Strong, MD, Yesenia Valenzuela and Sara Bares, MD.
Second photo (left to right): Armando De Alba, MD, MPH, Ben Salazar, Yesenia Valenzuela and Sara Bares, MD.
EMPOWER is a student-led, inter-professional initiative founded in 2008 as a University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) Service Learning Legacy project based in the College of Public Health. We have greatly expanded from our original foundations in the College of Public Health, as we now have board members from many of the colleges on campus. EMPOWER has a twofold mission focused on awareness and education of interpersonal violence. We achieve this through on-campus activities and community outreach events. EMPOWER seeks to provide students, health care providers, and community members opportunities to become involved in efforts to minimize domestic and sexual violence in our community and beyond. We hold seminars monthly that are dedicated to a certain topic surrounding interpersonal violence (i.e., sexual violence, domestic violence, and sex trafficking). All seminars are open to all UNMC students, faculty and staff. If you are interested in becoming a member, check them out on ENGAGE or INSTAGRAM.  

Upcoming events:

  • October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Be on the lookout for important statistics around campus!
  • October 27th EMPOWER will be hosting an event for students to pledge to help stop interpersonal violence. See below for details on this!
Voices from the Community
Yesenia Valenzuela
"I have been a champion for children and families for over 15 years, working in various capacities in the non-profit sector. I am passionate and dedicated to improving the lives of the most vulnerable, and shifting the perspectives of the community. Through a solution based approach, myself along with community members, run the South Omaha Community Care Council. This is an organization that provides a space to collaborate, connect and communicate on topics that matter. When it comes to overcoming barriers of language and culture, OneWorld is at the forefront tackling those issue head on. During my time at OneWorld, I was able to see firsthand what culturally respectful health care looks like. Everyone deserves access to the best health care possible, regardless of background, economic or insurance status. Family Inc, another agency where status did not predict the services received. I worked alongside medical providers to utilize resources to families to advocate for themselves when their children’s health was at stake. Access to early intervention services and programs can make a world of a difference when delivered in a way that makes sense for families. Entities such as those provide our community hope finding unique ways to engage and inform and as a results we have communities that thrive." 

Yesenia Valenzuela
Community Relations Coordinator at City of Omaha
Treasurer & Member - South Omaha Community Care Council
Indigenous Peoples Day
October 11, 2021
“For the first time, Nebraska celebrated Indigenous People’s Day on October 11, 2021. Activities at the Nebraska State Capitol included posting of Tribal flags by military veterans, a pow-wow in the Capitol rotunda, and installation of a Benjamin Victor statue of Dr. Susan La Flesche, unveiled by her descendants, a fitting tribute to the first Native physician in the US. The statue has special meaning to the inaugural holder of the Dr. Susan and Suzette La Flesche Professor of American Indian Health at the UNMC College of Public Health, Dr. Siobhan Wescott.”

Siobhan Wescott, MD, MPH
Dr. Susan and Suzette La Flesche Professor of American Indian Health
Associate Professor, Department of Health Promotion
Director, American Indian Health Program
At the University of Nebraska Medical Center, College of Public Health
Domestic Violence Awareness Month
October 2021
We are asking for your help to promote awareness of domestic violence!
Please help EMPOWER recognize Domestic Violence Awareness Month! As part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, EMPOWER is placing quilt squares with national statistics around the Michael F. Sorrell Center for Health Science Education and UNMC Center for Drug Discovery and Lozier Center for Pharmacy Sciences and Education buildings. In addition, EMPOWER is asking departments to sign quilt squares pledging their commitment to being a part of reducing violence on our campus and the wider community. Departments that express interest will receive a quilt square and a metallic sharpie from EMPOWER. We ask that your department decorate the square however you see fit, as well as obtain signatures from those within the department. The deadline to send in your department’s signed quilt squares is October 29th. Please return the squares to Brooke Fitzpatrick, OCE Coordinator, via inter-office mail at Williams Science Hall, Suite, 2.0.106. At the end of the month, EMPOWER will be sewing the squares together into a quilt displaying our campus commitment to ending interpersonal violence.

If your department would like to participate in this important initiative, please e-mail Brooke at bfitzpatrick@unmc.edu
The OCE said YES
to a new campus address!
UNMC Office of Community Engagement has moved to our new home sweet home:

Williams Science Hall
Suite 2.0.106.

Please stop by and say hello!
Have a comment or an idea to share with us? We'd love to hear it. Please select the link to the OCE website above and the 'Tell Us!' button. Thank you for ENGAGING with us!
Office of Community Engagement
987110 Nebraska Medical Center
Omaha, NE 68198-7110