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Graduate Studies


Featured Alumni


Have an alum to feature? Email us at history@unmc.edu with a short biographical description to add them to this page.

Edward Holyoke, MD, PhD

Professor, Department of Anatomy, College of Medicine, 1932-1995

Born in Madrid, Nebraska, in 1908, Edward A. Holyoke, MD, PhD, came to Omaha and enrolled as a student at the University of Nebraska College of Medicine in 1928. He began teaching anatomy while he was still in medical school, graduating in 1934. In 1938, he gained the distinction of earning the first PhD in Anatomy and Pathology that was given by the College of Medicine. A legend in his own time, Dr. Holyoke taught anatomy until 1995. He died August 20, 2001, at the age of 93.

Discover more about Dr. Holyoke's impact on campus via his profile in the Early Anatomists Exhibit.




Christine Cutucache, PhD

Associate Profession and Haddix Community Chair of Science, Department of Biology, College of Arts and Sciences, University of Nebraska Omaha

Christine Cutucache, PhD, has research interests that stem from passion for translational research coupled with her enthusiasm for teaching. From the wet-bench side, Dr. Cutucache’s interests include:

  • Deciphering key components of the immune response that are elevated or depleted following a variety of physiological changes, including: cancer, infection, and pre- and post-transplantation,
  • Identifying genetic modifiers of disease phenotypes and validating these as potential gene therapy candidates for treatment of genetic disease, and
  • Developing improved diagnostic methods to use bedside to decrease healthcare costs and expedite diagnosis.

Outside the laboratory, she is interested in educational scholarship/research and is presently serving on the national Council on Undergraduate Research. The Council’s goal is to design nascent teaching methods and classroom technology to improve understanding and learning retention.




Geoffrey Thiele, PhD

Umbach Professor of Rheumatology, Division of Rheumatology and Immunology, Department of Internal Medicine, UNMC

Geoffrey Thiele, PhD, received his PhD in 1985 from the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Department of Pathology and Microbiology. Throughout his career, his research has primarily centered on the alteration of self-proteins resulting in the development and/or progression of autoimmunity. He is actively involved in basic and translational research activities through the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Veterans Affairs (VA), U.S. Department of Defense (USDD), American Heart Association (AHA, and the Rheumatology Research Foundation (RRF). More recently, he has become involved in the formation of multiple databases, biobanks, and registries for use in the studies performed by the Experimental Immunology Laboratories, VA Rheumatoid Arthritis (VARA) group (in conjunction with Dr. Ted Mikuls), UNMC Cardiovascular registry (in conjunction with Dr. Dan Anderson), Rheumatoid Arthritis Interactive Network (RAIN) registry, and many others.

Dr. Thiele serves on multiple national study sections of the NIH, VA, and AHA. Additionally, he is a member of 11 national and international organizations. He is the author of more than 200 manuscripts, 300 abstracts, and 16 book chapters, and holds nine patents for various studies associated with his research interests.

Dr. Thiele has been recognized for his excellence in teaching by the Education Committee in the Department of Internal Medicine for excellence in teaching every year since 1995. In addition, he has won various awards for teaching including: three “Golden Apple” awards from the 2nd Year Medical School class, the Hirschmann Basic Science Teaching Award (2010 and 2015), the College of Medicine Class of 1962 Basic Science Outstanding Teacher Award (2010).




Kathryn (Kate) M. Cooper, PhD

Associate Professor and Undergraduate Program Chair, BIOI, CYBR, and ITIN, School of Interdisciplinary Informatics, College of Information Science & Technology, University of Nebraska at Omaha

Kathryn (Kate) M. Cooper, PhD, joined the School of Interdisciplinary Informatics at UNO in 2015 and has been a member of the UNO Bioinformatics Research group since September 2005. Her research has focused on application of network science to biomedical data, including how network modeling of gene expression data can be functionally interpreted to further understand cellular systems. She has also worked on developing structural filters in high performance computing environments for analysis of large biological networks; this work explores the relationship between known graph theoretic properties and potential function in protein-protein interaction networks as well as correlation networks. She has also collaborated on projects exploring how graphs can be effective tools for modeling systems in broader areas of biomedical and health informatics, such as the spread of infectious disease and modeling of co-occurrence of terms in food products labels. Her current research interests are exploring the impact of diet on the microbiome for prevention of disease using consumer health informatics.




Allison M. Cushman-Vokoun, MD, PhD

Professor, Department of Pathology and Microbiology, College of Medicine

Medical Director, Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory

Medical Director, Warren G. Sanger Human Genetics Laboratory

Allison M. Cushman-Vokoun, MD, PhD, grew up in Omaha, Nebraska and attended Washington University in St. Louis as an undergraduate, where she did basic work-study tasks for laboratories mapping the X chromosome for the Human Genome Project. Although the tasks were basic, the experience assisted in her selection for two summers of undergraduate research at UNMC. It was through these experiences that Dr. Cushman-Vokoun became interested in molecular genetics and eventually matriculated into the UNMC MD/PhD Scholars program, earning her PhD in molecular cellular research. She chose to pursue pathology as her career path, and completed the AP/CP pathology residency at UNMC, and an ACGME Molecular Genetic Pathology Fellowship at Vanderbilt University.

Dr. Cushman-Vokoun returned to UNMC in 2009 to grow the specialty of molecular pathology, especially in the area of solid tumors. She was named medical director of the CLIA-certified Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory in 2012. Since then, the capability and capacity for high-throughput sequencing in tumors has grown to deliver the highest level of Precision Medicine to patients at UNMC and in the region.




Kay Mereish, PhD

Professor, Department of Pathology and Microbiology, College of Medicine

Kay Mereish, PhD, earned her doctorate at UNMC in 1984. Two years later she was hired at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), in “medical intelligence.” In the 1990s, she was twice a United Nations inspector looking for chemical and biological weapons in Iraq, following the first Gulf War. She was later chief inspector for biological weapons for the United Nations Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), which looked for these weapons in 2002-03, before the second Gulf War.

Dr. Mereish later joined the newly established Department of Homeland Security and developed protections against emerging infectious diseases. She also led the effort to create the DHS-led Homeland Health Intelligence unit within the National Center for Medical Intelligence.

In 2020, Dr. Mereish was honored with the Department of Homeland Security Distinguished Service Medal, the highest award granted by the Secretary of Homeland Security.




Thomas Gross, MD, PhD

Professor, Pediatrics-Hematology/Oncology & Bone Marrow Transplantation, School of Medicine, University of Colorado

Deputy Director of Science, Center for Global Health, U.S. National Cancer Institute

Thomas Gross, MD, PhD, is a UNMC alum and believed to be the first in medical center history to achieve MD and PhD degrees on the same track, finishing in 1988.




Colin Weekes, MD, PhD

Associate Professor, Division of Hematology/Oncology, College of Medicine, Harvard Medical School

Director, Medical Pancreas Cancer Research, Division of Hematology/Oncology, Massachusetts General Hospital

In the 1990s, Colin Weekes, MD, PhD, began a research track after his first year of medical school, in the lab of his now-longtime mentor, Graham Sharp, PhD. Weekes returned to medical school two years later and graduated with his doctoral degree from UNMC in 1998 and his medical degree in 2000.




Krupa Savalia, MD, PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of Neurological Surgery and Neurology, College of Medicine, University of California Davis Health

Krupa Savalia, MD, PhD, is a neurologist with subspecialty expertise in neurocritical care. As a neurointensivist, Dr. Savalia takes care of patients with acute, life-threatening neurological and neurosurgical conditions such as traumatic brain injury, acute ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke, spinal cord injury, intra/extra-axial hemorrhage, status epilepticus, neuromuscular emergencies and post-cardiac arrest neurologic care. She has additional expertise in the utilization of multimodal neuromonitoring which includes monitoring intracranial pressure, brain tissue oxygenation, and cerebral microdialysis.

Dr. Savalia is actively involved in developing a research program that focuses on the development of nanotherapeutics for combating traumatic brain injury. She is specifically interested in the time-dependent changes in blood-brain-barrier disruption and harnessing that knowledge to develop and deliver novel therapies to the brain. Dr. Savalia is also actively involved in educating and training medical students, residents, and fellows when they rotate with the neurocritical care service.




Regina Idoate, PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of Health Promotion, College of Public Health

A 2014 UNMC graduate of Preventive & Societal Medicine, Regina Idoate, PhD, also serves as a faculty member supervising current students in Graduate Studies. Her research interests include:

  • Practicing community-based and Indigenous research methods to address health disparities of mind, body, and spirit.
  • Applying culturally relevant ecological approaches in multi-level interventions.
  • Working in collaboration with interdisciplinary colleagues and community to explore the following: 
    • Indigenous health sovereignty 
    • Indigenous knowledge translation 
    • Community health improvement 
    • Workforce development 
    • Medical humanities 
    • Spiritual wellness 




Gary C. Sieck, PhD

Vernon F. and Earline D. Dale Professor, College of Medicine and Science, Mayo Clinic

Gary C. Sieck, PhD, studies the cell signaling mechanisms that underlie muscle performance. In particular, he focuses on regenerative processes that can be enhanced to mitigate a variety of acute and chronic disease conditions. Dr. Sieck has developed an extensive array of state-of-the-art physiological, molecular, and biomedical engineering techniques to explore cell signaling pathways. Dr. Sieck's research has been continuously funded by multiple grants from the National Institutes of Health for more than 38 years.




Jennifer L. Pluznick, PhD

Associate Professor of Physiology, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

Dr. Jennifer Pluznick, PhD, researches the role of sensory receptors in regulating renal and cardiovascular function and identifying renal/cardiovascular olfactory receptor ligands and relating them to whole-animal physiology.

She received her undergraduate degree in biology from Truman State University and earned her PhD in Renal Physiology from the University of Nebraska Medical Center. She trained as a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University, where she studied both renal physiology and sensory biology systems (in particular, olfaction). Dr. Pluznick joined the Johns Hopkins faculty in 2010.

Dr. Pluznick discovered that odor-sensing proteins found in the noses of mice are also in their kidneys and blood vessels, a finding that can help scientists understand how the kidney helps maintain homeostasis in humans. Her lab has identified a number of olfactory receptors in the kidney and has made headway in identifying novel ligands and is currently working to understand how renal and cardiovascular olfactory receptors influence whole-animal physiology.