Oral History Collection

Oral histories from faculty and administrators at UNMC.

Rena E. Boyle Interview and Transcript
Rena Boyle was born in Chicago, Illinois on September 9, 1914. In 1938, Boyle graduated from the Methodist Hospital School of Nursing in Peoria, Illinois before receiving her bachelor’s degree in nursing education in 1941, a master’s degree in educational psychology in 1946, and a doctorate degree in clinical psychology in 1953, all from the University of Minnesota. In January of 1967, Dr. Boyle joined the University of Nebraska Medical Center as the Associate Dean of Nursing before being named the first Dean of the School of Nursing in 1968. As Dean of the School of Nursing, Dr. Boyle led the push to expand the nursing programs to include associate and master’s degrees and initiated the nation’s first “Career Ladder” concept for nursing degrees, all of which helped alleviate the critical nurse shortage in Nebraska. Dr. Boyle also led the move from the School of Nursing under the College of Medicine to the autonomous College of Nursing in 1972 and was instrumental in establishing the Lincoln Division of Nursing in 1972 before her retirement in 1979.

The interview discusses the School of Nursing at the University of Nebraska in the mid-twentieth century.
A.L. Bennett Interview and Transcript
Arthur Lawrence Bennett was born June 25, 1905, in Oconto, Wisconsin. Bennett earned a doctorate in physiology from the University of Chicago in 1933, and a medical degree from Rush Medical School in Chicago in 1937. In 1934, he came to the University of Nebraska College of Medicine in Omaha, where he served on the faculty for thirty-eight years until his retirement in 1972, when he was appointed Professor Emeritus, Department of Physiology and Biophysics. His various appointments during his career included positions in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology and the School of Nursing. In October 1995, the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) honored Dr. Bennett's long career by naming the South Laboratory Building (or South Hall), where he spent the majority of his career at UNMC, in his honor.

The interview discusses Pharmacology and Physiology at the University of Nebraska College of Medicine in the early twentieth century.
James R. Anderson Interview and Transcript
Dr. James R. Anderson is recognized internationally for his work in cooperative clinical cancer research. Anderson received his PhD in biostatistics from the University of Washington in 1979, and had been at UNMC since 1989, as well as a member of the UNMC Institutional Review Board for more than 23 years. On December 1st, 2004, Anderson accepted an appointment as group statistician and director of the Children’s Oncology Group (COG) Statistics and Data Center, and was appointed chairman of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Initial Review Group Subcommittee on Clinical Groups in November of 2006. Dr. Anderson resigned from UNMC on March 1st, 2014 to become the director of the Madison, Wisconsin office of Frontier Science and Technology Research Foundation, Inc.

Anderson starts his interview describing his upbringing in New York and how it influenced his interest in math and science. He describes his early career at the University of South Carolina and Harvard University working in oncology. He talks about the importance of statistics in clinical research. He remembers getting the invitation to grow quantitative sciences at UNMC (1988) where he later became the chair of the Department of Preventive and Societal Medicine. Anderson describes the importance of growing the department, eventually creating the Masters of Public Health program in partnership with UNO. Anderson continues by giving an overview of how biostatistics grew at UNMC. He covers areas of his career that he’s most proud: getting a grant for the Statistical Center for the Intergroup Rhabdomyosarcoma Study Group, working with the lymphoma group and his time on the Institutional Review Board (IRB). He talks about his passion in the field of statistics giving examples of his success on a childhood non-Hodgkin's lymphoma study and a rhabdomyosarcoma study. He details the investment of UNMC in the growth of quantitative sciences to support clinical advancement through the Department of Preventive Societal Medicine’s evolution into the College of Public Health. Anderson ends his interview talking about the establishment of the Integrated Clinical Experience (ICE) and his time as a small group facilitator in the program.
Reba Benschoter Interviews and Transcripts
Reba Benschoter Ph.D. directed the UNMC Biomechanical Communications department from 1970-2000 and was an associate dean of the School of Allied Health Professions from 1985 to 1995. Benschoter helped innovate a two way closed circuit T.V project, which would keep a patient in twenty four hour contact with their medical official from the safety of their own home. In 1973, Benschoter helped design and teach the biomedical communications internship program, offering 12 months’ worth of courses to produce professional personal with the skills required to organize, plan, establish, and administer programs of biomedical communications within schools of health professionals, teaching hospitals, national organizations of health interest, and government agencies at all levels.

Reba Benschoter’s interview focuses on the establishment of distance education with two-way closed-circuit television and films at Nebraska Psychiatric Institute during the 1960s. She details how Cecil Wittson first got interested in audio-visual technology while serving in the Navy. She discusses the estimated forty films produced for the project. She also discusses a six year grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to explore distance teaching and patient treatment at Norfolk State Hospital (1964-1970).
Robert Grissom Interview and Transcript
Robert Leslie Grissom was born in 1917. He earned his medical degree from the University of Illinois (1941) and was a flight surgeon in the U.S. Army Medical Corps during WWII before being recruited to be one of the first four full-time clinical faculty members at UNMC (1953). From 1956-1970, he was the first full-time chairman of the department of internal medicine. Following the chairmanship, he worked in the cardiology section, serving as acting head of the section from 1970-1972, until his retirement in 1987. He continued to teach until 2006 and routinely volunteered his time to teach first and second year medical students as a facilitator of a problem-based learning group. In 1997, Grissom became only the second physician in Nebraska to achieve mastership status in the American College of Physicians. In 1999, he received the Dean's Award for Distinguished Service to the College of Medicine.

Grissom begins his interview details how he was recruited to UNMC from the University of Illinois (1953), faculty that were also recruited at that time, his salary, budget constraints of the University and being chairman of internal medicine (1956-1970). He describes notable aspects of change while he was chairman including the ward system, cooperation with private hospitals, the growth of the campus and the close community among faculty. Grissom concludes his interview discussing the key things he believes has changed over time at UNMC: building projects caused by Nebraska sales tax and federal funding, cooperation with private hospitals, the creation of graduate programs and a focus on research.
Mary C. Haven Interview and Transcript
Mary Clare Haven, M.S., was born in 1939 in Stuart, Nebraska, and grew up on a farm near Atkinson, Nebraska. She taught in the Department of Pathology & Microbiology from 1968-1996. Haven taught courses in health care management, research methodologies in allied health, and the healthcare environment. She conducted chemistry research on a number of different topics and was involved in many grant-funded research projects. In 1995, she was appointed Associate Dean, School of Allied Health Professions, University of Nebraska Medical Center, a position she held until her retirement in 2006. During her tenure as associate dean, she helped establish the distance learning programs for medical technology, radiation therapy, physician assistant, cytotechnology, clinical perfusion and radiography. A new degree completion option in the physician assistant program through distance education was established.

Haven begins the interview talking about the start of her career at UNMC as a chemist. She discusses how the need for her position was a result of new national standardization of research methods and early projects she was involved in such as atomic absorption and radioimmunoassays. She covers being promoted to assistant professor without having a terminal degree and how the liver transplant program and resultant clinical trials helped her career. Haven discusses her time as associate dean of the School of Allied Health where she developed the first internet courses and distant learning program for rural areas and degree completion. She talks about her work with diabetes education on Native American reservations. She also covers the structure of the School of Allied Health under the College of Medicine, gives brief overviews of previous associate deans of the School and mentions specific mentors throughout her career. Haven ends her interview detailing her committee work with minority student recruitment and the Friend of the Library at UNMC and how grant funding grew the physician assistant program after the Vietnam War.
Mary Jo Henn Interview and Transcript
Born in Fargo, North Dakota, on January 4, 1919, Mary Jo Henn received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln in 1940 and a Masters of Science in microbiology from the University of Minnesota in 1944 before graduated from the University of Nebraska College of Medicine with honors in 1950. Dr. Henn became an Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Nebraska College of Medicine in 1954, which she remained until her promotion to Associate Professor in 1963. She became Assistant Dean of Student Affairs in 1963 and a full Professor in 1969. Dr. Henn retired in 1979. Oral history interview with Mary Jo Henn and transcript.

The interview discusses medical education at the University of Nebraska College of Medicine in the mid-twentieth century and Internal Medicine.
Bernice Hetzner Interview and Transcript
Bernice Martin Hetzner was born on April 15, 1909 in Omaha, Nebraska, graduating from Creighton University in 1933 with a degree in social sciences and French before receiving a degree in library science from the University of Denver in 1934 and a Masters in Education from Colorado State University in 1935. In 1947, Hetzner became Assistant Librarian for Cataloging at the University of Nebraska College of Medicine Library one year before being named Librarian (later Library Director), a position she held until her retirement in 1973. Through the Medical Library Assistance Act of 1965, she secured the funds to construct a new Medical Library at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, which opened in July 1970 and was named the Leon S. McGoogan Library of Medicine in 1978. Among a wide variety of professional accomplishments, in 1971 she was appointed to the National Library of Medicine Board of Regents, the first librarian to serve in that role, and in 1974 she was the first woman and one of the few non-physicians to receive UNMC’s Distinguished Service to Medicine Award. In 1990, the Medical Library Association named her a Distinguished Member of the Academy of Health Information Professionals, its highest honor.

Oral history interview and transcript with Bernice M. Hetzner. The interview discusses the history of the medical library at the University of Nebraska College of Medicine in the mid-twentieth century.
F. William Karrer Interview and Transcript
Dr. F. William (Bill) Karrer attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln from 1948 to 1952, before receiving his degree from the University of Nebraska Medicine in 1956. He would then work as a surgeon for the Methodist hospital starting in 1964, but would also head back to UNMC to work as a Clinical Professor of Surgery from 1988 to 1997. He would eventually take the position of Medical Director at the Methodist Estabrook Cancer Center before retiring.

Karrer begins his interview talking about growing up during the Great Depression in a family with several travelling doctors. He talks about how he chose between agriculture and medicine as an educational path. He details getting accepted to medical school during the Korean War, his internship in Denver, Colorado, and coming back to UNMC for his surgical residency. Karrer continues his interview discussing his father as inspiration for his surgical career. He gives his opinion on the changing face of medicine and medical technology. He describes what led him to focus on ENT oncology during his career and juggling being a medical director, volunteer faculty and surgeon. He talks about how the state-wide tumor registry grew from one he helped start at Methodist Hospital because they wanted to track tumors and agricultural practices. He details being a volunteer faculty at both UNMC and Methodist Hospital. Karrer also focuses on his relationship with his students and patients throughout his career. He mentions receiving the All-University Celebration Salute to Alumni Achievement (2009) and how he feels current medicine is forgetting to connect with people. Karrer concludes his interview discussing memorable professors he had in medical school. He tells a story of being accused of cheating on his state board exam because his pen ran out of ink. He gives details about his father and grandfather practicing medicine and making house calls in Nebraska. He compares the segregation in medicine that he witnessed while practicing in Houston, Texas, to that of Omaha hospitals.
John Latta Interview and Transcript
Oral history interview and transcript with John S. Latta. The interview discusses medical education, specifically anatomy, at the University of Nebraska College of Medicine in the early twentieth century.
Leon McGoogan Interview and Transcript
Oral history interview and transcript with Leon S. McGoogan. The interview discusses medical education and the medical library at the University of Nebraska College of Medicine in the mid-twentieth century.
Charles McLaughlin Interview and Transcript
Oral history interview and transcript with Charles W. McLaughlin. The interview discusses medical education, specifically surgery, at the University of Nebraska College of Medicine in the early twentieth century.
Tom O'Connor Interview and Transcript
Tom O’Connor discusses treating the media as an ally throughout his 30+ year career doing public relations at UNMC. He begins with an overview of his upbringing and the start of his career in media at the Omaha World-Herald and Mutual of Omaha. Main stories covered during his career include the SkyMed helicopter crash (1988), the Clarkson merger, the motto “Serious Medicine, Extraordinary Care” (1997), his radio show “Community Health Line” and the liver transplants of Robert Redford’s son and country music artist Chris LeDoux (early 1990s). He notes a shift to national media attention with fetal stem cell research (1999), Ebola patients (2016), and the opening of the Buffett Cancer Center (2017). O’Connor covers his relationship with numerous chancellors since 1987 as well as personal accomplishments such as being a 40-year member of the Omaha Press Club. His interview concludes with a humorous story about losing his golf clubs.
Magda G. Peck Inteview and Transcript
Dr. Magda G. Peck is a national public health leader dedicated to bridging academe and practice to improve the health and well-being of women and children, fathers and families. On March 1, 2012, she became founding Dean of the Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She is Senior Advisor, Founder, and former CEO of City-MatCH, and served as Associate Dean for Community Engagement and Public Health Practice at the University of Nebraska’s first College of Public Health. She holds master’s and doctoral degrees from the Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. Peck has worked closely with local, state and federal organizations in the public and private sectors to increase the capacity of individuals and organizations to improve maternal and child health in urban communities. Her areas of expertise include applied epidemiology, public health planning and needs assessment, building data capacity for public health, and child health research.

Peck begins her interview describing how her upbringing and formidable early experiences outside of Philadelphia shaped her “not looking for permission” attitude toward life. She describes what led her to attend one of the first physician assistant programs in the country at Hahnemann University Hospital and later a residency at Yale and how they inspired her interest in public health. She defines what public health means to her and how she ended up completing her doctorate in public health at Harvard. Peck details how the origins of the College of Public Health at UNMC grew from the Child Health Policy section of pediatrics, into the masters of public health program and ultimately into an independent college. She chronicles her role in the creation of the national public health organization, CityMatCH, and related conferences. She also notes her involvement with the creation of unified colligate cooperation in the establishment of public health education in Nebraska through NEAPHI. Peck ends the interview discussing how she feels about receiving attention and awards for her work, notably the Martha May Elliott Award and the McQueen Award (2009).
J. Perry Tollman Interview and Transcript
Oral history interview and transcript with J. Perry Tollman. The interview discusses medical education, specifically bacteriology and pathology, and the administration of the University of Nebraska College of Medicine in the early twentieth century.
Cecil Wittson Interview and Transcript
Oral history interview and transcript with Cecil L. Wittson. The interview discusses the administration of the University of Nebraska College of Medicine in the mid-twentieth century.