Scotts’ latest donation takes aim at inflammatory bowel disease

ABOUT THIS PHOTO: Ruth and Bill Scott have named the gift in honor of their friend, the late Dr. Frederick F. Paustian, the first specialty-trained gastroenterologist in Nebraska who helped make gastroenterology one of the university’s top centers of excellence.

A major philanthropic donation from longtime supporters, Ruth and Bill Scott, will allow the University of Nebraska Medical Center and its clinical partner, Nebraska Medicine, to become one of the top centers in the country for treatment and research of inflammatory bowel disease.

“We are deeply grateful to the Scotts,” said UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D, about the gift announced on Nov. 12, 2015. “Their past generosity has already transformed our campus, and now with this gift, we will be able to enhance a world-class center for IBD.

“Although IBD is seldom talked about, it is a serious problem that is increasing as society ages. Successful, long-term treatments are lacking.”

Dr. Gold said the Scotts’ gift will create the Ruth and Bill Scott Presidential Chair of Internal Medicine. “We need to find answers,” he said. “The gift will enable us to recruit some more of the leading experts in the field to our campus.”

IBD involves chronic inflammation of all or part of the digestive tract and primarily includes ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. IBD falls in the class of autoimmune diseases in which the body’s own immune system attacks elements of the digestive system. It’s estimated that 1.6 million Americans suffer from IBD.

The Scotts’ substantial gift will not go toward a new building, Dr. Gold said, but rather will be used to enhance the building of a leading clinical and research program benefiting all Nebraskans.

It’s anticipated that the funding will enable UNMC/Nebraska Medicine to recruit 5-7 professional staff, including two physicians specializing in inflammatory bowel disease, a Ph.D. researcher, a physician assistant and a nurse. In addition, as the program becomes fully implemented, the plan is to add a colorectal surgeon who will join with the medical center’s two existing colorectal surgeons.

“Our gastroenterology program has always provided extraordinary care to our patients,” said Rosanna Morris, interim CEO of Nebraska Medicine. “However, with this generous gift from the Scotts, we will be able to improve upon our already high standards and raise the bar even further for the people of Omaha and the entire region.”

A legendary figure at UNMC, Michael Sorrell, M.D., will head the initial recruitment efforts to find a world-class physician to direct the new center.

“Dr. Sorrell has done so much for the medical center,” Dr. Gold said. “He was instrumental in building our organ transplant and bone marrow/stem cell transplant programs, and now he’ll be able to work with his colleagues to do the same thing with inflammatory bowel disease.”

Research activity for the new center – the Frederick F. Paustian Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center – will be based on the seventh floor of the Durham Research Center II on the west end of the UNMC/Nebraska Medicine campus. IBD patients will be seen in the Durham Outpatient Center. Creation of the new center is pending approval of the University of Nebraska Board of Regents.

It will be named in honor of Frederick F. Paustian, M.D., the first specialty-trained gastroenterologist in Nebraska who was instrumental in making gastroenterology one of UNMC’s top centers of excellence. Dr. Paustian died in 2014.

Dr. Paustian and his first wife, Mary Ann “Maisie,” who died in 2007, were close personal friends of the Scotts. Previous gifts from the Scotts recognized the Paustians by naming the two primary amphitheaters in the Michael F. Sorrell Center for Health Science Education after them and establishing the Frederick F. Paustian, M.D., Gastroenterology Research Laboratories, also on the seventh floor of the Durham Research Center II.

“The med center’s goal is to make Nebraska the healthiest state in the country,” Ruth Scott said. “Bill and I are honored that we are able to contribute toward this goal. It gives us great joy to see our money helping the whole state. If I had to use one word to describe the feeling, it would be supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

“I wish Fred was still alive to know this was happening. He was such a great physician and leader. I know it would have meant a lot to him.”

The Paustians’ oldest daughter, Cheryl Robinson of Omaha, said she was “flabbergasted” when she was notified that the Scotts were creating the new center in her father’s honor.

“I had tears running down my face,” she said. “It’s phenomenal. The Scotts are the most unassuming, generous people I’ve ever known.”

Dr. Sorrell said the center will combine the existing institutional excellence in medical and surgical care, including intestinal rehabilitation and nutrition, into a single integrated unit.

“It will provide patient opportunities to benefit from and participate in basic and translational research,” he said. “It also will feature a multidisciplinary approach to patient care that will – by example – educate patients, physicians and other health care providers in the importance of team-based care.”

Deb Romberger, M.D., professor and chairwoman of the UNMC Department of Internal Medicine, was thrilled with the potential of the new center. She said, “We are grateful and excited that our gastroenterologists will have the opportunity to recruit talented IBD physicians and scientists to join our group and offer even more novel therapies to patients with these difficult diseases.”

IBD Facts:

These chronic diseases tend to run in families.
They affect males and females equally.
While IBD can affect anyone, Caucasians are more likely than other ethnic groups to have IBD.
The diseases are especially prevalent in Jews of European descent (Ashkenazi Jews).
African Americans and Hispanics in the United States are increasingly affected.

Photo: Bill and Ruth Scott

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