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Pediatrician, former patient reunite to help at-risk youth

Image with caption: From left, Kenneth Zoucha, M.D., and Laura Schutte-Lundy

From left, Kenneth Zoucha, M.D., and Laura Schutte-Lundy

When Laura Schutte-Lundy joined the Nebraska Medicine's psychiatry staff as a therapist in June, she found a familiar face among her new colleagues: Kenneth Zoucha, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry at UNMC -- and Schutte-Lundy's old pediatrician from Hastings, Neb.

Dr. Zoucha, who joined the medical center in 2018, was Schutte-Lundy's pediatrician from kindergarten until she turned 18.

"I saw him forever," she said. "I remember being sad when I was told I couldn't see him anymore.

"I always thought he was kind, caring and genuinely interested in what I was saying and never felt rushed, even if my siblings where in the room or he had other patients ," she said. "I always felt I had his undivided attention."

Dr. Zoucha remembered Schutte-Lundy, as well.

"One of the things I remember about Laura is that she has my grandmother's name, and there were not many Lauras that age," he said.

Now reunited, they both serve on the same treatment team helping at-risk youth who are dealing with addiction.

For Dr. Zoucha, the focus was a logical outgrowth of his pediatric efforts.

"Our pediatric practice had a heavy slant on doing behavioral health," he said. "We worked really hard to gain the knowledge and the skills to be able to do that."

Dr. Zoucha then worked with the Hastings Juvenile Chemical Dependency Program, a program for teen boys with substance use disorders and co-occurring behavioral and mental health issues, as well as the Youth Rehabilitation Treatment Centers in Kearney and Geneva at that time.

"I really enjoyed helping youth that had substance use and mental health issues, just to experience the resiliency that they had and hear their stories," he said. "I was always amazed at the strength these kids had."

Working on her master's degree, Schutte-Lundy would hear about Dr. Zoucha's work in the outstate community, but she never ran into him until arriving at UNMC.

She calls working with Dr. Zoucha now an amazing experience.

"To have someone you looked up to as a child, and felt they had all of these great qualities, to now be working with them as a colleague and getting to learn from them on a whole new level is pretty awesome."

Dr. Zoucha said he was grateful when Schutte-Lundy arrived.

"I think we're going to expand and do better things for the kids as time goes on. So I'm excited about her being here.

"One of the things I liked about pediatrics was watching the kids grow up," he said. "I used to imagine what things were going to be like for them as they moved into adulthood. To see Laura in adulthood now, to see her so happy and doing work that she loves, is wonderful."

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