It means a lot to know that somebody has invested in your future

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Med student Clayton Damme has never met his donors. But if he ever did, he says, he’d thank them for helping him become a doctor.

Some hands are here to heal.

They belong to people with a passion and a path that have led them into the health care world — people like Clayton Damme, who’s in his final year of med school at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and soon will start his anesthesiology residency there, too.

“In anesthesiology, most of our work is done with our hands,” Clayton says. “We mix and dilute our own medications and we administer them. We start lines and give blood transfusions to patients who need them. We intubate and breathe for patients when they cannot do so for themselves. We begin a case by shaking the hand of a patient and the family, and end the case by holding his or her hand while emerging from anesthesia.

“For me, the fact that the anesthesiologist’s role is so directly involved in patient care translates to a high amount of job satisfaction.”

He’s used to working hard with his hands.

Growing up on a farm near Talmage, Nebraska, he’d move irrigation pipes every summer under the July sun. The pipes, about 10 feet long and made of metal, would get hot enough to burn skin. He’d help lift the pipes from the storage piles, load them onto a long trailer and then haul them behind an open cab tractor the several miles to their destination. Once those pipes were in the field, he’d help unload them one by one and piece them together into long stretches of pipe.

He smiles.

“I’d compare the experience to football two-a-days: hot, humid, and with unending sweat that never actually helped you to cool off. But a day or so after I always felt like I had really accomplished something.”

Clayton’s hands are good with a camera, too. He’s won two photo contests at UNMC. Some of his favorite photos are the ones he took of the beautiful people he met while on the two spring break mission trips he took to Nicaragua with other students through a UNMC organization called the Student Alliance for Global Health.

Their main job was to walk around rural areas for about eight hours a day and vaccinate as many children and people as they could. The experience showed him, he says, how sheltered and fortunate he and other Nebraskans are when it comes to healthcare.

“We actually were going into people’s homes,” Clayton says. “Many of them didn’t have floors, and many didn’t have electricity. It was pretty amazing that we were able to reach children in such remote areas and vaccinate them and give them fluoride treatments for their teeth and Vitamin A treatments, so they actually have a much better chance of surviving to adulthood and actually having a normal life.

“I would say of all the experiences that I’ve had in medical school, those trips were some of the most dramatic moments for me.”

Clayton knows he would not have had the great experiences, and the great medical moments, if not for the people who created the scholarships that helped him throughout his four years at UNMC. Those scholarships eased the financial burden on him and his wife, he says, and helped make it possible for them to stay in Nebraska in the first place.

The scholarships and financial package that UNMC offered him, he says, was a “huge” recruitment factor in choosing UNMC over a med school in Chicago, which would have been three times the cost.

He’s never met those donors. But if they were standing here in front of him right now, he says, he’d love to shake their hand.

And thank them for pulling him up in this world.

“If I had a donor here, I would say, ‘Thank you very much for this support. It means a lot to know that somebody has invested in your future. Knowing you have the support of somebody you don’t even know behind you is huge, and that has really given me a lot of confidence over the past four years.

“And the individuals who invested in me with scholarships actually invested in a practitioner who will be here, in Nebraska, for the rest of my life.”

The need for quality health care in our state is constantly growing. At UNMC, we’ve begun a new era of engagement, in which all alumni are welcomed to reconnect with us and help our students succeed. Whether you are a longtime supporter or a new graduate, you can impact students immediately through the UNMC Fund.

Every dollar you invest in the UNMC Innovation Funds provides opportunities to students, supports the people and programs of your Alumni Association, upgrades technology, funds White Coat and professionalism ceremonies, enhances innovative programs and more.

If you would like to assist today’s students bring cutting-edge health care to Nebraska and beyond, please make your gift to the UNMC Innovation Funds today.

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