SUBMITTED BY RYAN TELLER for Neighborhood Extra
Union College presented the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department with the Community Partnership Award on Tuesday, February 8 at the Ninth Annual Community Appreciation Breakfast at Union College.
Union College presents the award to recognize the unwavering dedication of a local business, foundation, or organization to help the college accomplish its mission – to create a personal, student-centered community that empowers students to live a of learning, service and leadership.
The mission of the Department of Health is to protect and promote public health in Lincoln and Lancaster counties through community health services, dental and nutritional services, animal control, environmental public health, health promotion and awareness; and public health informatics and planning.
While the ongoing pandemic has drawn a lot of attention to the department’s role in infectious disease management, Union College nursing professor Kristine Follett nominated the health department for this award long before that COVID-19 does not become a household buzzword.
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As Follett shared with event attendees, the health department has been helping Union College educate students for more than 40 years.
“I have taught our Population Health and Disaster Nursing courses and have had the privilege of working closely with many of my friends from the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department to facilitate meaningful learning experiences for our students while serving the community together,” she said.
Here are some highlights as told by Follett:
• As early as the 1980s, Union College nursing students partnered with health department nurses to conduct screening and education clinics, car seat safety training and more .
• Senior public health nurses talk to students about health department services and facilitate home visit experiences for nursing students.
• Health Service staff members provide a medical screening booth as part of the Union College Foot Care Clinic at Project Connect.
• The Department of Health creates shadowing opportunities for students at the Department’s Sexual Health Clinic as well as the Animal Control Clinic and the Women Infants and Children (WIC) Clinic.
• Thurman Hoskins, disease researcher, and Kathy King, environmental health specialist, have been guest lecturers at Union College for many years.
• Health Department interpreters partner with Union College students for family home visits at no cost to the school.
• Emergency preparedness personnel gave guest lectures and partnered with Union College’s International Lifesaving and Relief Nursing Programs for community training events.
• Tim Timmons, a communicable disease expert, has consulted for Union College in developing campus emergency response plans — most recently in response to COVID.
“We’ve had a long and successful partnership, and while the students gain great experiences working with the health department, I have to say the health department also benefits from the students’ experience,” said Pat. Lopez, director of the health department, as she accepted the award.
“My staff say they find the student nurses at Union College have a heart for public health,” Lopez continued. “They are encouraged to recognize the importance of meeting people where they are. These students represent the field of nursing well, and I must give great credit to their instructors. I also believe that the students reflect the mission of the college that empowers students to live a life of learning, service, and leadership.”
For Union College’s nursing program, the partnership remains as strong today as ever.
“This morning, a population health and disaster nursing clinical group is at the health department facilitating visits to provide health assessment and education to the most vulnerable in our community, and more later in the day, some of our students will go through the sexual health clinic,” says Follet. “We are so fortunate and grateful for all that the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department does and for how it includes our students in its extraordinary work to promote and protect the health of everyone in our community.”
Union College also honored two other community supporters at the event. Dr. David Hage, a researcher in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, received the Valued Partner Award from Union College Chemistry Professor Carrie Wolfe for providing summer research opportunities to Union College students in his lab.
Mick Ray, owner of Empire Electric, also received the Valued Partner Award for his and his team’s volunteerism during a recent renovation of the rooms in the women’s residence.
The Community Appreciation Breakfast was hosted by Union College Supporters Bud Synhorst, President of the Lincoln Independent Business Association (LIBA), and J. Hoffman, Director of Community and Supplier Relations for the Nebraska Heart Institute and Heart Hospital.
Previous recipients of the Community Appreciation Award include Lincoln Public Schools, Bryan Health, Capital and Eastern Nebraska Chapter of the American Red Cross, People’s City Mission and Union Bank & Trust.
To learn more about Union College and the school’s history of partnership and support with the Lincoln community, visit ucollege.edu.