Great Plains Public Health Leadership Institute graduates 7th class

A class of 19 scholars has graduated from the Great Plains Public Health Leadership Institute, a professional development program of the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health.

The year-long program is designed to build and enhance leadership skills for established and emerging leaders in the region’s public health systems. This marks the seventh consecutive year the institute has been held.

The graduates came from public and private organizations that work to improve the health and well-being of people and communities in Nebraska and Iowa. Since 2005, the institute has trained 135 people, who serve the states of Nebraska, Iowa or South Dakota.

The graduates were recognized for their achievement at a luncheon attended by more than 80 regional leaders, family members, alumni and supporters.

Nebraska graduates of the class of 2011-2012 and their hometowns are:


  • Columbus  –  Sachin Bagade and Ruth Mueller, East Central District Health Department;
  • Lincoln – Brian Coyle, Tina Goodwin, Sara Morgan and Jenifer Roberts-Johnson, Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services; and Tina Spreng and Larry Voegele, Ponca Tribe of Nebraska Health Services Department; Kimberly Norman,  UNMC College of Pharmacy;
  • McCook – Heidi Wheeler, Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department;
  • Omaha – Vicki Bangert, Stephanie Gould and Sara Howard, One World Community Health Centers, Inc.; Sarah Brandon, Alegent Health; Shawn Gibbs and Melissa Tibbits, UNMC College of Public Health; Shavonna Lausterer, Douglas County Health Department; Bill Minier, M.D., BlueCross BlueShield of Nebraska;
  • Wisner – Laura Holtz, Elkhorn Logan Valley Public Health Department. 

Following graduation, a new class of 20 scholars was welcomed and attended their first learning session. Leadership scholars in the new class of 2012-2013 from Nebraska are:


  • Columbus – Penelope Abegglen, East Central District Health Department, Good Neighbor Community Health Center;
  • Fremont – Brandi Tumbleson, Three Rivers Public Health Department;
  • Grand Island  - Amy Wieczorek, Central District Health Department;
  • Lincoln – Tracey Bonneau and Clarissa Christensen, Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Women's and Men's Health; Becky Davis, Bryan LGH College of Health Sciences;
  • McCook – Jamey Keen, Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department;
  • North Platte – Cindy Glos, West Central District Health Department;
  • Omaha – Susan Beaton, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska; Kelly Bouxsein , Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services and Live Well Omaha Kids;  Taina Brooks , One World Community Health Centers; Joseph Costello IV, Midwest Minor Medical; Karen Hadley, Health Center Association of Nebraska; Sonja Russell and Nizar Wehbi, UNMC College of Public Health; Sarah Schram, Douglas County Health Department;
  • Wisner –  Brian Porn, Elkhorn Logan Valley Public Health Department.

Scholars from Iowa are:

  • Cedar Rapids – Barbara Chadwick, Linn County Public Health;
  • Des Moines – Mindy Uhle, Iowa Department of Public Health;
  • Ireton – Deb VanderPlas, Community Health Partners of Sioux County.

The Leadership Institute is supported by funds from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration Bureau of Health Professions, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, the Upper Midwest Preparedness and Emergency Response Learning Center at the University of Iowa, and the UNMC College of Public Health.

For more information, contact Kathleen Brandert at (402) 552-7256, or kbrandert@unmc.edu.

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.

What this year’s graduates said about the institute:

“The institute enhances and improves leadership skills. Making time for introspection is not always a priority, so having that time built in throughout the year is hugely beneficial. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience, and would highly recommend it to anyone.”

Sara Morgan, manager of the Indoor Air Quality Program, Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Environmental Health Hazards and Indoor Air

“I recommend the experience to other public health professionals. By participating, each scholar gets a golden ticket to take a step out of their daily grind and begin to understand themselves as leaders within the big picture of what they are being called to do in various public health arenas. That view is often limited for budding professionals and is so important.”

Sarah Brandon Sjolie, Alegent Creighton Health Systems

“The institute provided me an invaluable experience. I built relationships with professionals in similar fields who I wouldn’t have the opportunity to work with otherwise. I took away more knowledge about myself and the way that I share leadership, along with a network of friends and colleagues who will continue to support me throughout my professional career.”

Sara Howard, OneWorld Omaha


Liz Kumru
UNMC Public Relations
(402) 559-4691

Tom O'Connor
UNMC Public Relations
(402) 559-4690 (office)
(402) 650-7063 (cell)