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Remembering: Ricki Otten

Image with caption: Ricki Otten, center, with students Hannah Tandon, left, and Alex Kolomaya at her retirement tea in December 2019.

Ricki Otten, center, with students Hannah Tandon, left, and Alex Kolomaya at her retirement tea in December 2019.

Ricki Otten, a longtime faculty member in the College of Allied Health Professions, and a dedicated, driving force behind the UNMC SHARING Clinic died Nov. 1. She was 67.

"Ricki was with the UNMC/Nebraska Medicine family for 38 years," said Karen Honeycutt, PhD, Gilg Professor for Teaching Excellence and Innovation and director of the Medical Laboratory Science program.

Otten's awards

  • 1999 MLS Clinical Instructor of the Year
  • 1999 and 2008 School of Allied Health Teacher of the Year
  • 2014 Award of Excellence American Society of Clinical Lab Science NE chapter -- recognizes an individual that has made a significant contribution to their profession

Otten was known for her energy and humor.

"Her smile and laughter could light up a room," said Kevin McGuire, assistant professor of medical laboratory science and a former student of Otten's. He was privileged to later call her "co-worker, mentor and friend."

In addition to her regular duties, she would regularly spend evenings at the Student Health Alliance Reaching Indigent Needy Groups (or SHARING) Clinic, where "everyone knew her and she made sure that each night ran smoothly," McGuire said.

"Her work with the UNMC SHARING clinic not only enhanced its success but helped promote the development of other student-run clinics across the country," said Kyle Meyer, PhD, dean of the College of Allied Health Professions.

Mary Haven, emeritus associate dean of allied health, said that Otten's personality and professionalism shone like a beacon, even when she was a "very young" phlebotomist, working in UNMC's pathology laboratory.

"It was immediately evident that she had an understanding of the importance of patient care and a curiosity about the science that far exceeded that of her contemporaries," Haven recalled.

"With the encouragement of those who noticed her exceptionalism," Haven said, Otten enrolled in college, earning a bachelor's degree in medical technology, and would eventually become a UNMC faculty member herself.

"Thousands of patients and their families are grateful for the ideals she taught to so many UNMC health professionals," Haven said.

She officially worked as chemistry coordinator in medical laboratory science, but she also impacted students in physician assistant studies, clinical perfusion, medicine and nurse practitioners.

"Ricki's positive attitude and gregarious nature filled every room she entered and that translated to her learner-centered teaching," Dr. Honeycutt said.

She made them laugh. But the lessons sunk in, McGuire said.

"She was meticulous," Haven said, "because every patient was important."

"She was so much fun to work with," said Karen Stiles, state training coordinator at the Nebraska Public Health Laboratory.

"Ricki was the consummate professional, teacher, and mentor," Dr. Honeycutt said.

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