Friday Faculty Focus: Ann Berger


May 19th, 2017

Dr. Ann Berger poses for a photo. (Photo by Brandon McDermott)

This week on Friday Faculty Focus, KVNO’s reporter Brandon McDermott interviews Associate Dean for Research of the College of Nursing at the University of Nebraska Medical Center – Dr. Ann Berger.

Brandon McDermott: Dr. Ann Berger, thanks for joining me.

Dr. Ann Berger: Good to be here.

Brandon: With more than a decade working in coronary care and over three decades in oncology nursing care, how have you seen these areas change over the years?

Dr. Berger: I often tell students that during my career really modern medicine as we know it today has transpired. I started right when the very first critical care units began and most of those were in coronary care. It was very exciting, there were a lot of new discoveries and improvements it’s in patient care. Then since 1970 and the war on cancer and all of the increases that have gone on – our ability to screen and diagnose and treat cancer care – it too has been transformed. (This) to the point where surgery in both areas is so much more effective than it was previously, the additional treatments that might be given – whether it be in the coronary care or through radiation therapy or chemotherapy or now immunotherapy – there’s really discoveries all the time.

One of the most dramatic differences as a nurse is that when I started my career patients who were hospitalized for 21 days after a heart attack now they might be lucky to have three and all chemotherapy was delivered in-patient and now 99 percent of it is delivered out-patients.

Brandon: Talk about the new Buffet Cancer Research Center and what that can mean to Omaha and potentially the world?

Dr. Berger: Well I’m absolutely thrilled to be part of the Fred and Pamela Buffett Cancer Center. What it’s going to mean for the Medical Center campus is already begun as far is recruiting more physicians that have specialties in the most commonly occurring as well as the as some of the more rare types of cancer – who also are research scientists and are helping us maintain our National Cancer Institute rating as a clinical cancer center.

Brandon: When it comes to your work as a professor – what do you tell your students who are interested in cancer research?

Dr. Berger: Well I love being a faculty member in the College of Nursing and instructing students in regard to how to be a scientist. Most people in the community think of a nurse as the caregiver and the wonderful care they receive, but it didn’t take very long in my early coronary care experience to say “well, why are we having these people lay in bed for a week after the heart attack?” The same thing could be said about cancer care, “why are we allowing people to become so nauseated and vomiting that they never want to come back for the second treatment?” So what I tell my students is we can discover many ways to help treatments that clinical – the basic scientist – have developed and the clinical scientists, the physician scientists have now managed help bring to market. What nursing does is help the patient have the best supportive care, have the treatments in line with the patient’s wishes in regard to quality of life and the way they want to spend their life.
Brandon: Generally speaking what do you find so interesting about research – within the medical field?

Dr. Berger: That’s a really good question, because many people that are in the research field came through high school programs or undergraduate programs that were very intensive in regard to science. People, for example, that graduate in the sciences or in psychology are part of research studies probably their freshman year of college. They might have been a subject in a study, whereas our nursing education, at the undergraduate level, has very little research integrated into it. They may read about the study or have a clinical instructor that talks about studies but we try to fit so much into such a short amount of time in that undergraduate nursing education. So, I really wasn’t turned on to research until my master’s program.

At the time – and I graduated here at UNMC – every master’s in nursing student was a part of the research team, so you got a real flavor for it. We ended up spending at least 18 months collecting data from the patients. At the time my master’s was on lifestyle factors after a heart attack diagnosis. Of course, that’s what I had spent my first 10 years on and now interesting the transition a lot of my work is on lifestyle factors with patients with cancer during treatment and survivors and how they impact those side effects of fatigue and sleep-wake disturbances.

Brandon: Dr. Ann Berger, thanks for coming on the show.

Dr. Berger: Thank you very much, I appreciate the opportunity.

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