Tag Archives: Ph.D

Healing By Design

December 20, 2016 by
Photography by Contributed

“She’s an inspiration for women everywhere because she has always wanted to do something to better the world.”

– N. Brito Mutanayagam, Ph.D.

Is it possible for design, function, color, texture, light, artwork, botanicals, and aroma—things that form an indoor environment—to heal a person? Aneetha (pronounced “Anita”) McLellan believes they can, and do. She strives to use her gifts as an interior architect to advance the premise; in the process, McLellan has helped revolutionize the way people “see” health care.

The award-winning, highly sought-after interior innovator heads the health care division of DLR Group, the architectural and engineering firm she joined in early 2016. She guides a team of architects, landscape designers, civil engineers, and electrical engineers in designing medical facilities, from sprawling hospitals to smaller clinics and rehab centers.

“I’m an interior designer, but I impact the exterior architecture in every way,” McLellan explains. “The experience a person has walking from the parking lot to the front door and then into the building is a big deal to me.”

As the model of health care moves away from the intimidating sterile corridors of huge hospitals to the more intimate spaces of outpatient wellness clinics, McLellan’s signature interiors share a basic template. They offer wide open spaces, clean lines, minimal clutter, peaceful outdoor views, and lots of natural light.

Her work spans the globe, but examples of her unique vision punctuate the landscape in Omaha, her home base.

“I cut my teeth on Children’s Hospital. It was my first big project,” says McLellan, who began her career with Omaha’s HDR. “It won Hospital of the Year in 2000,” she says, still amazed at the buzz created by the window-rich building at 84th and Dodge streets.

She incorporated the same open, airy, and stunning effect of glass into Methodist Women’s Hospital off 192nd Street. During her 19 years at HDR, the accolades accumulated.

More recently, with DLR Group, McLellan proudly attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital’s new state-of-the-art facility near Village Pointe, which features a more traditional brick-and-mortar look. She worked closely with Madonna to create a decidedly warm, homey feel with large resident rooms and a meticulously landscaped therapy garden, an “oasis of healing.”

Light seems to surround McLellan, a light generated by the passion this tiny dynamo displays for her profession, family, and heritage. The only child of an Indian father and a mother from Sri Lanka, McLellan grew up in Lincoln. She graduated from Pius X High School and earned an architecture degree in 1997 from the University of Nebraska, where her father taught community and regional planning for many years.

“She was a go-getter from the time she was a little girl, and I knew she was destined for greatness,” says N. Brito Mutunayagam, Ph.D., clearly proud of his daughter. “She’s an inspiration for women everywhere because she has always wanted to do something to better the world.”

At home in Omaha, McLellan’s world revolves around her 9-year-old daughter and her husband, Jim McLellan, an electrical engineer she met on an early HDR project. The two now work together at DLR. “I don’t know what it’s like not to work with him,” she laughs, clearly grateful for his unwavering support of her career, which has her traveling at least once a week. “He’s always there for our daughter,” she says. “He was meant to be a father.”

And, it could be argued, she was meant to heal through design.

Visit dlrgroup.com for more information.


Camp Time

April 10, 2015 by

Originally published in April 2015 HerFamily.

The benefits of summer camps extend well beyond keeping children busy during summer vacation. Social interaction with a new group of people, focused exploration in a particular area of interest, introduction to fun new activities, and learning to be more independent and self-reliant can greatly enhance a child’s confidence.

But summer camp also means immersion into an unfamiliar environment, adjustment to a new group of peers and adults in authority, and time away from family that some children aren’t ready for.

Holly J. Roberts, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist and associate professor of pediatrics with the Munroe-Meyer Institute at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, says readiness varies from child to child, but there are some indicators that can help guide parents in determining when and if their child would enjoy a day camp or overnight camp experience.

“Children younger than 4 are likely to not really be ready for this level of transition from a predictable routine,” she says.

However, children between 4 and 7 may be ready for day camp if they’re able to separate from parents fairly easily, and especially if they’re enthusiastic about the camp theme or activities. For this age group, Roberts says, school-based or childcare center-based summer programs provide a great opportunity to sample the day camp experience in a familiar environment. Children over 7 who are accustomed to spending the day in school usually handle traditional day camps just fine.

However, overnight camp readiness may take a few more years. “Generally, kids are usually ready for overnight camp around 11, and they begin to be comfortable being away from their parents around that age. Typically, children younger than 7 are not ready for an overnight camp,” Roberts says.

“This is not a hard-and-set rule, either, it’s based on development and the child,” she emphasizes. “Can the child manage their own hygiene, like showering? Do they have full control over toileting? Is the child able to ask for help or state their needs if they need something? One of the best indicators of readiness for a summer sleepover camp is that a child can successfully spend a night or two with a friend or a relative.”

Even the most eager child can experience pangs of homesickness, and it won’t surprise a good camp staff, Roberts says. Parents should be familiar with the process the camp has in place to address homesickness, but in the care of experienced and compassionate staffers, children usually don’t pine away for home sweet home very long.

“Homesickness is a common thing, and there’s probably going to be a wave of that even in kids that are ready,” Roberts says. Packing some comfort items and a few prepared letters from home (with a positive tone rather than a lament of how much the parent misses the child) can help alleviate pangs.

Sometimes it’s the parent who’s not ready to separate, and that can lead to what Roberts calls, somewhat tongue in cheek, “kidsickness.” Finding a quality camp with managers who welcome questions and offer tours, that conducts background checks when hiring staff, and that has strong safety policies in place can help alleviate parental fears.

“I think a parent really needs to be ready for this before a child is ready,” Roberts says. “A lot of kids receive their cues from their parents.”


Boys Town’s Learning Academy

November 5, 2014 by

At this point in the year, after students have returned from summer break and have readjusted to the routine of school, some students may continue to struggle to keep up academically with their peers. Despite extra practice at home and individualized attention at school, some students require more time and attention before their abilities catch up with their potential.
The Boys Town Learning Academy, run by Boys Town’s Center for Behavioral Health,
uses research-supported strategies to help students catch up and realize their full potential.

The Learning Academy has two components: academic skills training (AST) and content area tutoring (CAT). Skills training is for students who need to improve foundational skills such as reading and math facts, and tutoring focuses on helping students in more advanced and specific subject areas.

Academic Skills Training

AST can help students develop skills in:

  • Reading: knowing letter sounds, recognizing letters, reading with few errors, and understanding what is read.
  • Writing: getting ideas on paper and using proper capitalization, punctuation, and grammar.
  • Math: identifying numbers, counting, and understanding math facts.
  • Spelling: spelling common words and memorizing word lists for tests.

Often when students struggle with basic skills, the curriculum keeps moving while they fall further behind, causing confusion and frustration for families. To catch students up, clients who visit the Learning Academy are assigned a trained interventionist who is supervised by a licensed psychologist with a doctorate in School Psychology.

Licensed psychologists develop an individualized plan that is monitored to promote student progress. In addition, the skills training program includes:

  • One-hour, individual sessions (frequency of sessions is determined based on the student’s needs).
  • Frequent parent meetings to share progress.
  • Training of parents, tutors, and teachers to carry out treatment and maintain progress over time.

Content Area Tutoring

The second component of the Learning Academy, tutoring, focuses on older students with subject-specific challenges in English, math, science, and social studies.

Before students begin attending tutoring sessions, they meet with a licensed psychologist who evaluates their strengths and needs to develop an individualized plan. Then each student is assigned a high school or college student who tutors them for one hour twice a week.

Sending your child to tutoring at the Learning Academy isn’t just going to improve grades for one class. Students will also receive training in specific skills to improve organization, note-taking, and prioritizing work and assignments for long-term projects. Learning Academy psychologists and tutors want students to walk away with an increased understanding of the subject they once struggled with, and the skills needed to be successful with challenging courses in the future.

Is the Learning Academy for You?

One of the unique things about the Learning Academy is that it is developed and supervised by licensed psychologists. As psychologists, they apply their training in research-supported academic and behavioral interventions to improve specific skills and to teach parents effective ways to support student learning and motivation. Both the Academic Skills Training and the Content Area Tutoring programs are goal-oriented, meaning Boys Town’s psychologists supervise and evaluate student progress on a regular basis. The Learning Academy provides an avenue for licensed psychologist to share some of the strategies that they know about with families in-need.

The Learning Academy is a service open to all students in Omaha and the surrounding areas. If you think your student would benefit from individualized academic attention, check out the
Learning Academy page on the Boys Town Pediatrics website, under the Counseling Services tab.


Kristin E. Bieber, Ph.D.


Marketing Ethics

April 17, 2014 by

When Jim moved his business in the fall of 2010 from Lincoln to Omaha, he encountered a pricing problem. The cost of his services in Lincoln didn’t suit the Omaha market.

At least that was one explanation for why Jim wasn’t getting the accounts he had planned. How could Jim determine the market price for his services before he lost too many sales and crippled his business?

A colleague of Jim’s recommended a strategy: Have two or three friends who work in Omaha businesses call Jim’s competitors. Ask them to submit proposals for their services. Once the friends acquire the proposals, they tell the competitors “thank you” and inform them that they didn’t get the bid.  In this way, the friends, who didn’t want the services anyway, are in the clear, and can give the proposals to Jim to study for pricing information.

“Everyone does this,” the colleague said. “It’s an easy way to determine market price for products or services.”

Would a marketing professional recommend such a strategy? While “easy” and “efficient” are appropriate decision rules in business, they are not synonymous with ethics.

Many marketing professionals subscribe to the American Marketing Association’s Code of Ethics. The Code was created to help them remember that reputation and trust can be destroyed when they only focus on the easy way and forget to consider honesty and harm.

Codes of ethics can help business people overcome obstacles to ethical decision making. One of the obstacles is not identifying all relevant stakeholders and the impact of our actions on them (Werhane, et. al., 2013).

In the previous case, we often forget the competitors. However, think of the Golden Rule. Putting ourselves in their shoes, we realize that none of us likes wasting our time. They are harmed because they go through the work of preparing bids that have absolutely no chance of being accepted….time and expertise that they can use to really get business.

In addition, we might not recognize the impact on our friends. We are asking them to use their businesses in dishonest ways.  None of us would like to have our businesses or reputations treated in this way.

Bounded awareness is one reason we don’t identify all relevant stakeholders and the impact on them. Bounded awareness is a pattern of thinking that prevents us from noticing relevant data (Gino, Moore, and Bazerman, 2009). It can be a good psychological mechanism because it can help us survive. But bounded awareness also has ethical implications when relevant or useful data is missed and poor choices are made based on incomplete information.

Is there a remedy for the kind of bounded thinking that leads to bad marketing strategies?

Yes, and the remedy is practice.

We need to practice exercising our moral imaginations. When making a marketing decision, take the time to systematically identify all stakeholders and imagine the consequences for them when one alternative is played out, then another, and another. Start the practice by listing options and stakeholders on paper until the mental process becomes second nature. In this way, we strengthen our moral muscle and do a better job balancing the easy and efficient actions with the honest and less harmful ones.


Beverly Kracher, Ph.D.

Daugherty Chair in Business Ethics & Society

Executive Director, Business Ethics Alliance

College of Business

Creighton University


Keeping Mind and Body Active

April 5, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Mike Egger, 66, has always enjoyed tinkering around the garage, maintaining his cars and lawn equipment and doing just about anything mechanical. Since he developed Parkinson’s disease some 20 years ago, these are some of the things he still enjoys most in life, but they also serve another purpose. They help keep his body and mind active—essentials in helping control the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that advances slowly and affects movement, muscle control, and balance. It is the second most common nervous system disorder after Alzheimer’s disease.

It is estimated that as many as 3 to 4 percent of the population will develop Parkinson’s symptoms during their lifetime and the risk is even higher in Nebraska. “While we don’t have a cure for Parkinson’s, we continue to make progress in diagnosis and treatment,” says John Bertoni, M.D., Ph.D., neurologist and director of the Parkinson’s Clinic at The Nebraska Medical Center. “We are continually learning more about the disease and there are many new treatments coming down
the pipeline.”

People may have Parkinson’s for many years before it becomes apparent, notes Dr. Bertoni. Some of the more subtle early-stage symptoms include: loss of sense of smell, thrashing in sleep, depression, loss of facial expression, excessive sleepiness during the day, constipation, shortening of one’s steps, and a diminishing arm swing when walking. Other symptoms include slowness, rigidity, and tremors at rest.

Mike and his wife, Mary, believe that Mike probably had Parkinson’s disease for about 10 years before he was actually diagnosed.  “I had noticed a change in his gait, one of his arms wasn’t swinging much anymore, and he had developed a slight tremor in one of his hands,” she says. The signs were so slight, however, that she attributed them to an old injury caused by falling off a horse.

As the symptoms became more pronounced, Mike saw a doctor and was diagnosed at age 50 with Parkinson’s. “The disease progressed so slowly at first that I barely noticed it, or maybe I was in denial,” he says.

Initially, Mike took medications to help control his symptoms. Most people with Parkinson’s can get significant control of their symptoms with medications and a combination of other therapies including occupational therapy, speech therapy, nutrition counseling, support groups, and
regular exercise.

Medications can help alleviate problems with walking, movement, and tremors by increasing the brain’s supply of dopamine. In Parkinson’s disease, certain nerve cells (neurons) in the brain gradually become sick. These neurons are responsible for producing the chemical messenger dopamine. A reduction of dopamine levels causes abnormal brain activity, which can lead to the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

“Recent studies have revealed that people who are not over-treated with medications do the best in the long run,” says Dr. Bertoni. “We have also found that those who take an active role in their own care, who exercise regularly, stay engaged, and participate in support groups, do the best in managing the disease and living a relatively healthy, active, and quality life.”

Mary, who is the president of the Nebraska chapter of the American Parkinson’s Disease Association (APDA), says that the organization offers more than 20 support groups throughout the state for both Parkinson’s patients and their caregivers.

As Mike’s disease continued to progress, he eventually had to quit work. The medications also became less effective, and the side effects of the drugs grew to become worse than the symptoms themselves, a common problem among people who have been taking medications for many years.

When Parkinson’s disease patients stop responding to medications, a surgical procedure called deep brain stimulation may be considered. Deep brain stimulation involves implanting an insulated wire into a target area of the brain. The lead is connected to a small pulse generator implanted beneath the skin, which generates mild electric pulses to the brain to reduce Parkinson’s symptoms, including tremors.

Mike had the procedure performed nearly two years ago and says it has essentially eliminated his tremors. His biggest challenges include trying to walk steadily and maintaining his balance. Aside from that, Mark says, “I still do everything now that I’ve always done, but I don’t do them quite as well and not as fast.”

While a definitive cause for Parkinson’s has not been found, a combination of factors may play a role, notes Dr. Bertoni. These include aging, having an inherited gene, and exposure to environmental triggers. Some speculate that the relatively higher incidence of the disease in Nebraska may be due to exposure to farm chemicals.

Despite some of the daily challenges of dealing with Parkinson’s disease, Mike continues to maintain a positive attitude. “I figure there are many people who have worse things than me,” he says. “I just try to roll with it and stay positive.”

The APDA assists people throughout the state. Visit parkinsonsne.org or call 402-393-2732 for additional information.