UNMC Leadership

Disciplined, strategic and visionary. UNMC leaders are committed to advancing the quality of life in Nebraska and beyond.

This diverse group, which represents all corners of the United States and the world, ensures that UNMC’s research, education and patient care rank among the best. Through collaboration and strategic goals, challenges are faced and conquered.


Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D.


GoldJeffrey P. Gold, MD, is a board certified thoracic surgeon specializing in adult and pediatric cardiac surgery who currently holds the position of chancellor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. He is a nationally recognized leader and tireless advocate for transforming academic medical education.

Dr. Gold graduated from the Cornell University College of Engineering, where he majored in theoretical and applied mechanics. He earned his M.D. from the Weill Cornell College of Medicine then completed his general surgery residency at the New York Hospital and Memorial Hospital where he served as the administrative chief resident. His cardiothoracic residency training took place at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Boston Children’s Hospital of Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Gold became chancellor of UNMC in February, 2014, and as UNMC’s chief executive officer, he is responsible for all aspects of campus administration including its annual operating budget of more than $640 million, its staff of about 5,000 and its 3,600 students. Dr. Gold currently serves on over 50 professional committees and over 100 national organizations, volunteer boards, and government/public health councils.

Prior to joining UNMC, Dr. Gold served as Chancellor of the University of Toledo’s health science campus. Dr. Gold also served at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the Weill Cornell Medical College before his position at the University of Toledo.

Don Leuenberger

Vice Chancellor for Business & Finance

leuenberger_webLeuenberger is the vice chancellor for business and finance, a position he’s held since 1988.

In his role, he oversees the facilities, finance, information technology and human resources of UNMC, while leading the development and implementation of new infrastructure.

Leuenberger also serves as the chancellor’s office representative to the UNMC Physicians board of directors and chairs UNMC’s technology transfer arm, UNeMed. He and his UNMC Business and Finance team are forging new paths in green technology, facility upgrading, information technology and infrastructure development.

Throughout the past 30 years, Leuenberger has held various leadership positions in Nebraska state government including state budget director and state tax commissioner. He was assistant vice president and director of computing for the University of Nebraska Central Administration from 1983 to 1987.

In 1995, Leuenberger was asked to direct the Department of Social Services and to lead the restructuring of the state’s five health and human services agencies. He returned to his post at UNMC in late 1997.

James Armitage, M.D.

Professor, Internal Medicine – Division of Hematology & Oncology

armitageJames Armitage, MD, is a globally recognized leading expert on non-Hodgkin lymphoma and played a critical role in advancing bone marrow transplantation. He is currently a professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Department of Internal Medicine as the Joe Shapiro Distinguished Chair of Oncology.

Dr. Armitage developed and directed the bone marrow transplant programs at the University of Iowa and later at UNMC. The program at UNMC was one of the first to focus on autologous transplantation: a process that involves storing a patient’s bone marrow stem cells so that the cells can be reintroduced after chemotherapy. This helps patients tolerate higher doses of chemotherapy while reducing rates of complications after a patient receives donor bone marrow.

Dr. Armitage graduated from and completed his internship and residency at UNMC in 1973. He has also served as vice chair of internal medicine, chief of the section of oncology and hematology, chair of the Department of Internal Medicine, and dean of the College of Medicine at UNMC. He currently serves on several national and international committees and has held many leadership roles for hematology and oncology associations including president of ASBMT and president of ASCO.

Dr. Jialin Zhang

Professor – Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Neuroscience

ZhengJialin Zheng, MD, received his medical degree from Xuzhou Medical College in China and is a professor of pharmacology and experimental neuroscience at the University of Nebraska Medical Center as well as the director of UNMC’s Asia-Pacific Rim Development Program (APRDP).

Dr. Zheng and his team have helped UNMC forge more than 10 partnerships with Chinese institutions which has allowed for the formation of the first joint U.S./Chinese MD/PhD program, research collaborations in lymphoma and other diseases, as well as other advancements in global medicine. In 2004, he was able to serve Nebraska Governor Mike Johanns on a trade mission to China as an interpreter and contact.

Along with his professorship and position in the APRDP program, Dr. Zheng serves UNMC as a graduate faculty and fellow in the Department of Pathology and Microbiology, as chief of neurotoxicology and biochemistry at the Center for Neurovirology and Neurodegenerative Disorders, and as a faculty advisor for the Chinese student and scholar association. Dr. Zheng currently is a member of numerous councils and societies including the American Society for Microbiology, the American Society for Neuroscience, and the International Society for NeuroVirology.

Kai Fu, M.D., Ph.D.

Professor – Director of Hematopathology Fellowship

fuKaiKai Fu, MD, PhD, is an associate professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in the Department of Pathology and Microbiology.

His education and research has focused on hematopathology and lymphoma. In 2009, Dr. Fu received the Clinical Investigator Career Development Award to support his mantle cell lymphoma research with hopes of identifying potential therapeutic targets.

Dr. Fu graduated Pre-Med from Nan Kai University in Tianjin, China and received his medical degree at Tianjin Medical University in 1990.

Dr. Fu continued his education in the US and earned a PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of Kansas School of Medicine in 1997 which he followed with a pathology residency at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He then completed the Surgical Pathology Fellowship in 2002 at the University of Alabama at Birmingham followed by the Hematopathology Fellowship from 2002-2004 at UNMC. Dr. Fu is now the director of UNMC’s Hematopathology Fellowship.

Deb Thomas

Associate Vice Chancellor for Finance and Business Services

deb-thomasDeborah Thomas joined the University of Nebraska Medical Center in 2006 and serves as Senior Associate Vice Chancellor for Business and Finance. She is an active supporter of UNMC’s China programs and activities. She is the legal representative of UNeMed China.

In her position, she oversees the finance and business infrastructure for the campus including: general accounting, sponsored programs accounting, purchasing and materiel services; recycling; student housing; mail services; printing, risk management; real estate rental and acquisition; and the campus bookstore. She serves as the shareholder representative of UNeMed, chairs the Cancer Center Development Corporation Finance Committee and is a member of the Medical Center Development Corporation.

Before joining UNMC, Thomas spent seven years as the Assistant Vice President for Administration for the University of Nebraska, Central Administration. Her career also includes over 20 years in state government including serving as Policy Secretary for the Nebraska Health and Human Services System, Director of the Department of Administrative Services and Director of several individual agencies within the Health and Human Services System, including Medicaid. She also served as Committee Counsel for the Nebraska Legislature as well as lobbying for the City of Lincoln.

Thomas graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from Illinois State University and earned a Master of Public Administration from the University of Nebraska.

Dr. Michael Dixon

President and CEO of the UNeMed Corporation

dixonMichael Dixon, PhD, is president and CEO of UNeMed Corporation, a for-profit company that fosters partnerships between the researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) and the industry’s entrepreneurs and investors to simplify the commercial development of new technologies that have the potential to improve public health.

After earning Bachelor of Science degrees in chemistry and biology from Northern State University, Dr. Dixon joined UNMC’s Eppley Institute for Research in Cancer and Allied Diseases in 1998 researching molecular biology, genetics, and biochemistry. In 2003, he transitioned from the bench side of science to the business side by becoming the faculty liaison/technology transfer associate in the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). Three years later, Dr. Dixon became IPO director.

In 2007, Dr. Dixon helped facilitate the merger of the IPO and UNeMed, creating a single technology development and commercialization entity of which he was Vice President and Chief Operating Officer until 2009. Dr. Dixon has since served as president and CEO of UNeMed setting the company’s strategic path and directing its efforts to protect, market, and license new technology. Dr. Dixon continues to be an active member of the community serving on several boards including the Board of Directors for Bio Nebraska and Invest Nebraska. He is also a member of the Association of University Technology Mangers (AUTM), the Licensing Executives Society (LES), and the Association for Corporate Growth (ACG).

DJ Thayer

Director of International & Domestic Affairs for UNeMed & UNMC

dj-thayerD.J. Thayer joined the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) in June, 2014. D.J. serves as the Director of International and Domestic Business Affairs for Business and Finance Department of UNMC.

In D.J.’s position, he oversees the business operations and business infrastructure for UNMC’s office in Shanghai, China, as well as domestic business affairs in Nebraska. Dr. Bo Han handles day-to-day operations of the office in China, with D.J. responsible for the overall strategic direction of the China office. D.J. is an active supporter of UNMC’s China program and activities, and he serves on the committee for international telemedicine within UNMC.

Before joining UNMC, D.J. served as president of infoUSA (NASDAQ:IUSA) for more than a decade, where he was also responsible for international business sales operations. Prior to that, he served as senior vice president and general manager of infoUSA’s health and vertical markets. D.J. served as a manager with US West, Inc., (NYSE: USW) after receiving his MBA from Auburn University. D.J. also worked from Congresswoman Virginia Smith in the United States House of Representatives handling Agriculture, the 1990 Farm Bill, and Foreign Trade.

Thayer graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and he earned a Master’s of Business Administration from Auburn University.



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