Omaha’ s community vitality rests on the energy and vision of its residents and institutions. One of our city’s most dynamic institutions, the University of Nebraska Medical Center, is honoring the passing of an important, energetic leader, former UNMC Chancellor Charles Andrews, M.D., who has died at age 94.
During Andrews’ chancellorship from 1983 to 1991, UNMC took major steps that established it as a leader in solid organ and bone marrow transplantation. UNMC teams have transplanted 268 organs through the end of October this year. Such efforts received crucial support from Andrews in the 1980s, when he successfully pushed to begin UNMC’s liver transplantation program.
Those operations have brought immense benefits to patients and their families over the decades.
Under Andrews’ leadership, the med center also undertook major advances in cancer, rural health, geriatrics and biotechnology as areas of excellence.
Nebraska has benefited greatly from Andrews’ vision in helping create UNMC programs to boost the availability of health professionals for Nebraska’s rural counties. Andrews was a central figure in establishing efforts that have blossomed into major health workforce training initiatives: the Rural Health Education Network (RHEN) and Rural Health Opportunities Program (RHOP), involving all state colleges as well as the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
UNMC strengthened its work in care for the elderly with the opening of its University Geriatric Center in 1988. Through that facility, students in allied health, dentistry, pharmacy and nursing receive training in geriatric care.
Andrews, said Byers W. Shaw Jr., a UNMC professor of surgery, “was the best kind of leader: someone who could recruit good people, give them the support they need, then stay out of their way as long as they were doing what was needed — what they were hired to do. He never wanted credit for anyone’s success, but he accepted fully the risks of any endeavor and made himself accountable for failures. Those qualities are increasingly rare.” Shaw was one of the physicians recruited by Andrews to start UNMC’s liver transplantation program.
“Charlie was a courageous leader, willing to make disruptive change in challenging times,” said Bob Bartee, vice chancellor for external affairs at UNMC and the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
Andrews, an Oklahoma native, held medical faculty positions at various universities before joining UNMC as chancellor in 1983. He served in the Army during World War II and was a flight surgeon in the Air Force, serving from 1951 to 1953.
Andrews deserves credit for “the beginnings of making UNMC a great institution,” said former U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey, who was Nebraska’s governor during Andrews’ time as UNMC’s leader. “I think Charlie laid the foundation for what we have today.”
That impressive foundation has enabled far-ranging progress that has enriched the lives of patients and our community as a whole.