Both the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) and the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) will establish an Office of Health Security to promote and protect the health and safety of students, faculty and staff on issues related to COVID-19 and other public health topics of concern.
The UNO office will be led by interim executive directors for health security - Jane Meza, Ph.D., at UNO and Ted Cieslak, M.D., at UNMC – who will work collaboratively across the UNO/UNMC campuses and with the UNMC Global Center for Health Security to provide timely information and manage access to key public health resources.
Meza serves as associate vice chancellor for global engagement at UNMC and UNO, and she will continue to serve in this role while serving as interim executive director for health security.
“The Office of Health Security will be a centralized and coordinating hub devoted to the public health and safety of all our students, faculty and staff,” said UNMC and UNO Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D. “With the appointments of Drs. Meza and Cieslak, each campus also will have dedicated leadership as we prepare for in-person learning, teaching and working this fall amid the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The goal of the Office of Health Security is to:
- Ensure institutional knowledge and compliance with local, state and national laws, policies, recommendations and/or guidelines for public health and COVID-19.
- Serve as the coordinating hub for developing and implementing campus policies and procedures that help to ensure the wellness and safety of faculty, staff, students, and visitors with regard to public health and COVID-19.
- Ensure accessibility of all resources devoted to public health and safety for individuals from traditionally underserved communities and individuals with disabilities.
- Communicate public health messaging and policies, in collaboration with university communications.
- Serve as a practicum site for public health students.
- Coordinate and support campus public health and wellness strategy development.
In the short term, the interim directors will help each campus’s pandemic recovery teams plan for in-person teaching, learning and working by enacting items identified in UNMC’s Higher Education Pandemic Mitigation and Response Guide. The resource, which has been shared nationally, was developed to provide best practices and recommendations to minimize the risk of COVID-19.
“The pandemic has highlighted areas of strength and opportunity for the UNMC and UNO campuses,” said Dan Shipp, Ed.D., vice chancellor for student success at UNMC and UNO. “An office focused on health security – now and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic – will further ensure that we are doing all we can to ensure the wellness and safety of our community.”
The Office of Health Security will work closely with the Office of Academic Affairs to ensure continuation of academic programs in a safe and effective manner, as well as local public health agencies to ensure the campuses are compliant with the laws, policies, recommendations and/or guidelines for public health. The new office also will provide practical experiences for students and collaborate with the Nebraska Medicine-UNMC Health Center and the UNO School of Health and Kinesiology, which houses the public health undergraduate program.
“As we look to returning to campus this fall, we are committed to the safety and well-being of faculty, staff, and students, and at the same time continuing the excellence of our academic programs, research and creative activities, service and experiential learning, and community engagement,” said Sacha Kopp, Ph.D., senior vice chancellor for academic affairs at UNO. “The new office under Dr. Meza’s leadership will be a valuable partner in this mission.”
Meza said she looks forward to serving as interim executive director.
“I’m looking forward to collaborating with our UNO community to bring simple, best practice solutions to our pandemic recovery plan. I already have met with several groups on campus and am inspired by their thoughts and approaches to the well-being of our community and their absolute commitment to an exceptional student experience.”
About the University of Nebraska at Omaha
Located in one of America’s best cities to live, work and learn, the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) is Nebraska’s premier metropolitan university. With more than 15,000 students enrolled in 200-plus programs of study, UNO is recognized nationally for its online education, graduate education, military friendliness and community engagement efforts. Founded in 1908, UNO has served learners of all backgrounds for more than 100 years and is dedicated to another century of excellence both in the classroom and in the community.