UNMC Alumni Associations honor four with awards

Kearney, Omaha residents among recipients

University of Nebraska Medical Center Alumni Associations will present awards to four individuals for contributions to their respective professions during the UNMC Alumni Reunion in Omaha Oct. 11 and 12. The awards will be presented Oct. 12 at an awards banquet at the Embassy Suites downtown.

The honorees and their awards are:

  • College of Medicine Alumni Association Distinguished Alumnus Award -- Richard Hranac, M.D., private practice physician in Kearney;
  • College of Medicine Alumni Association Early Career Achievement Award -- Sheila Sternberg Ellis, M.D., vice chair of clinical affairs at the UNMC Department of Anesthesiology in Omaha;
  • College of Nursing Alumni Association Distinguished Alumnus Award --  Cynthia Dougherty, Ph.D., vice chair for research at the University of Washington School of Nursing in Seattle; and
  • College of Pharmacy Alumni Association Early Career Achievement Award -- Elizabeth Hermsen, Pharm.D., a clinical outcomes research director at Cubist Pharmaceuticals, Inc., in Omaha.

Richard Hranac, M.D.

Kearney resident and Cozad native, Dr. Hranac graduated from the UNMC College of Medicine in 1973 and completed his residency at UNMC as associate chief resident in internal medicine in 1976.

In 1976 he began practicing internal medicine and nephrology as a member of the Platte Valley Medical Group in Kearney until May this year when he began practicing at the Good Samaritan Medical Group in Kearney. He is a clinical assistant professor in the department of internal medicine at UNMC and has served as a preceptor to countless nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and family practice residents.

Dr. Hranac was inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society in 1973 and made a fellow of the American College of Physicians in 1996. In 2000, he was awarded the Physician Laureate Award by the American College of Physicians, American Society of Internal Medicine Nebraska Chapter. The award honors those who have demonstrated an abiding commitment to excellence in medical care, education, research, and service to their community and their chapter.

He served a four-year term as governor of the Nebraska Chapter of the American College of Physicians and as president of the Good Samaritan medical staff. He is an active member of the board of directors of Good Samaritan Hospital in Kearney. He has participated in several clinical studies which have contributed to advances in medicine and lectured on topics including hypertension treatment and diabetes management.

Sheila Sternberg Ellis, M.D.

Omahan Dr. Ellis graduated from the UNMC College of Medicine in 1992 with high distinction. She completed her internship and residency at UNMC in the anesthesiology department, where she served as chief resident.

In 1996 after residency training, Dr. Ellis joined the UNMC anesthesiology faculty. She held various positions, including director of geriatric anesthesia and clinical director of anesthesiology service. In 2007, she was named vice chair of the department. From 2008 to 2010, she served as  interim chair.

She currently is vice chair of clinical affairs, director of the pre-anesthesia screening clinic, and director of liver transplant anesthesia. She also serves as chair of the credentials committee for The Nebraska Medical Center.

She was a member of the prestigious Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine program at Drexel University in Philadelphia from 2011-2012. The program of 100 emerging female medical leaders is dedicated to advancing women in medicine. Dr. Ellis also became part of a four-person leadership planning team at UNMC that developed and executed a year-long faculty development program.

She has served as president of the Nebraska Society of Anesthesiologists; participated as an oral board examiner for the American Board of Anesthesiology since 2004; and held a seat on the board of directors of the American Society of Anesthesiologists.

Cynthia M. Dougherty, Ph.D.

Dr. Dougherty, a resident of Seattle, began her nursing education at UNMC when she earned her associate’s degree in 1977 and a bachelor’s degree in 1979. She earned a master’s degree in 1985 at the University of Iowa.

Dr. Dougherty currently serves as professor and vice chair for research, Biobehavioral Nursing & Health Systems at the University of Washington School of Nursing and as an adjunct professor in the Department of Cardiology, School of Medicine at the University of Washington. As a  nurse practitioner she works in cardiology and is an investigator at the Veterans Administration Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle.

For more than 20 years, Dr. Dougherty has been engaged in a program of research, scholarly and professional activities that has focused on gaining a better understanding and administering interventions for patients who have suffered sudden cardiac arrest. She has received more than  $10 million in research funding, had articles published in more than 40 publications, and written nine text book chapters.

Dr. Dougherty’s memberships include: Leadership Council of the Cardiovascular Nursing Council of the American Heart Association; Sigma Theta Tau; American Nurses Association; American College of Nurse Practitioners; the Heart Rhythm Society; and the American College of Sports Medicine. She is a fellow in the American Academy of Nursing and the American Heart Association.

Elizabeth D. Hermsen, Pharm.D.

A clinical outcomes research director at Cubist Pharmaceuticals, Inc., in Omaha, Dr. Hermsen also is an adjunct associate professor at the UNMC College of Pharmacy. She received her doctor of pharmacy degree from UNMC in 2001.

After graduation, she pursued post-doctoral training, including a pharmacy practice residency at The Nebraska Medical Center, a fellowship in infectious diseases research at the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy, and a masters in business administration from the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management. 

Following her fellowship, Dr. Hermsen developed and co-directed the antimicrobial stewardship program at The Nebraska Medical Center before joining Cubist.

Board certified in pharmacotherapy, she has contributed to the profession with numerous publications in peer-reviewed journals, book contributions, and by serving as a reviewer for several professional journals.

She is past president of the Society for Infectious Disease Pharmacists and holds memberships in the American College of Clinical Pharmacy, the Infectious Disease Society of America, the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, the American Society of Microbiology, and the Industry Pharmacists Organization.

She is a past president of the UNMC College of Pharmacy Alumni Association, where she was instrumental in creating alumni-sponsored activities for current pharmacy students to help facilitate the transition from student to alumni.


Through world-class research and patient care, UNMC generates breakthroughs that make life better for people throughout Nebraska and beyond. Its education programs train more health professionals than any other institution in the state. Learn more at unmc.edu.

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Vicky Cerino
UNMC Public Relations
(402) 559-5190