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Biomedical Communications Records

Identifier: UNMC-027

Scope and Contents

The collection documents the history, research, and operations of Biomedical Communications, including approximately 4.19 linear feet of material from around 1956-2000. Significant topics represented in the collection are the progression of medical education and outreach efforts of the University of Nebraska Medical Center during later twentieth century, closed-circuit television, telecommunication in medical education, and rural health education initiatives. Found within the collection are administrative records, publications, project files, and photographic materials. Select images have restricted access due to the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability) Privacy Rule.

Administrative records consist of materials related to Biomedical Communications operations, such as correspondence, a calendar, and proposals. This series is mostly comprised of written histories of the development of telecommunication systems within the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the University of Nebraska system. This series is arranged alphabetically.

Publications consists of clippings, conference presentations, film catalogs, journal articles, marketing materials, media scripts, newsletters, and publications. Most publications are written by Biomedical Communications staff, but a few external sources are included. This series is arranged by alphabetically by record type and then chronologically within each category.

Project files contain materials related to specific projects undertaken by Biomedical Communications staff. Projects include 8-millimeter film, College of Nursing, an internship program, “Nebraska’s Interactive Video Networks,” “Professor in Absentia,” remote radiographic communications, rural health education initiatives, self-teaching devices in medicine, and collaboration with VA (Veterans Administration) hospitals. Individual project files could include progress reports, final reports, publications, and educational materials related to the development of a project. This series is arranged alphabetically by project and then chronologically within each project.

Photographic materials consist of prints, photographs, glass slides, negatives with accompanying proofs, and a set of overhead project transparencies. These photographic materials capture division activities including staff, facilities, and work samples, as well as images used in presentations. Some lecture and presentations scripts are included with relevant accompanying slides. This series is arranged by format and then chronologically within each format.


  • Majority of material found within 1950-2000

Conditions Governing Access

Some material in this collection is subject to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) restrictions on the life of the patient plus 50 years. Such material is noted on the container list. 

Conditions Governing Use

This collection contains copyrighted published material.

Biographical / Historical

Biomedical Communications (BMC) at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) originated in the Nebraska Psychiatric Institute (NPI). The first full-time employee in communications, Van Lear Johnson, a television engineer, was hired in 1956, just a year after NPI opened. NPI then began a series of pioneering projects that demonstrated television's effectiveness in various aspects of psychiatry. Telephone conferences were used to share two-way discussions with Nebraska's three state mental hospitals in an early effort.

In 1957, an Audiovisual Aids Section was created at NPI. Services offered in the new section were photography, 16mm film production, live television, and audiovisual equipment distribution. From 1957 through 1960, the section produced 16mm films. An RF television distribution system was installed in 1959, making possible two-way video and audio links between NPI, the North Building (now Poynter Hall), and the Medical Amphitheater in University Hospital.

By the late 1960s and early 1970s, UNMC looked outward to the state and region beyond the campus and upward with significant construction and renovation programs. Two-way television offered one method of outreach. The Nebraska Veterans Administration Television (NEVA-TA) network was established in 1968 through a medical information agreement between UNMC and the Veterans Administration (VA). Funded by the VA, the network initially linked the VA hospitals in Omaha, Lincoln, and Grand Island. Creighton University Health Sciences and the University of Nebraska College of Dentistry was active on the NEVA-TV network.

With extensive construction on campus, new opportunities opened for the use of communications media. Since renamed Wittson Hall, the Basic Science Building opened in 1969 with an internal TV distribution system, making two-way television communications possible from laboratories and teaching spaces there. As construction and renovation progressed, other buildings were added to the two-way campus system. In addition to two-way television, faculty and staff recorded lectures on videotape, allowing students to watch pre-recorded lectures on fundamental instructional topics.

During this period of communications growth on campus, in 1967, the Board of Regents approved establishing a consortium arrangement to grant a Master of Medical Science in Biomedical Communication (MMS) degree. Members of the consortium included the University of Nebraska College of Medicine, several universities around the United States, and the National Library of Medicine.

In 1970, the University of Nebraska Board of Regents created the Biomedical Communications Center to expand services throughout the Medical Center campus. Dr. Reba A. Benschoter, who began her career with NPI as an audiovisual specialist, became the director of the Biomedical Communications Division. The division began moving from NPI to a new Biomedical Communications Center in University Hospital. The 2,400 square foot center housed a 30 by 30-foot control room for television production, a smaller, single-person recording studio, and the facilities to produce instructional material, photographic material, and artwork. The NPI Communications Division remained as a satellite service. It was later joined by BMC satellites in the College of Nursing Learning Resources Center, the Meyer Rehabilitation Institute, the University Geriatric Center, and the School of Allied Health Professions of the College of Medicine. A second BMC center also opened in Swanson Hall.

BMC received a two-year Health Professions Special Project grant from the National Institutes of Health in 1972, which permitted broadening of the division's activities in support of UNMC teaching programs. The grant provided staff and facilities to establish media resource files, expand production capabilities, produce programs, and promote the services.

Like UNMC's education programs, BMC services extended beyond the campus. When the College of Nursing established a division in Lincoln in 1976, a two-way television system coordinated by BMC permitted the two divisions to share classes, meetings, and other activities. That system was superseded in 1990 by the NEB*SAT network. NEB*SAT was a state-owned satellite television system that used a dedicated satellite transponder and fiber optics to transmit many forms of instruction to colleges and universities across Nebraska. BMC supported additional communication projects. The Nebraska Video Conference Network (NVCN) provided communication services to community rooms across Nebraska through two-way compressed video communication. Similarly, to benefit the UNMC-Creighton pediatrics department, a microwave system connected UNMC with the Children's Memorial Hospital and Creighton University. The use of these facilities for health science applications was coordinated by the Biomedical Communications Center at UNMC.

In 1992, UNMC expanded communications education. In addition to the degree of Master of Medical Science in Biomedical Communication (MMS), students could enroll in a Biomedical Communications Specialist training program. The 12-month program, offered in conjunction with the University of Nebraska at Omaha, was supported by a National Library of Medicine grant. In 1996, the University of Nebraska Board of Trustees dissolved the MMS degree and the training program.

Due to increasing costs and more user-friendly technology, in 2003, Information Technology Services (ITS) announced a reorganization and elimination of some services in Biomedical Communications (BMC). BMC graphic artists were merged with the printing and duplicating staff, and professional photography services were eliminated. Video services and classroom technology support were absorbed into a new department called ITS Video Services.

Taken in part from "Beginnings and Growth" grant application summary 1990, probably written by Reba Benschoter and Two-Way Television: Helping the Medical Center Reach Out by Cecil L. Wittson, MD and Reba Benschoter, MS for American Journal of Psychiatry 129:5, November 1972, American Psychiatric Association.


4.188 Linear Feet (3 - Banker's Box [15d, 10h, 12w inches] extent measured by width; 1 - OS Box (Flip-Top) [15.75d, 13h, 5.25w] extent measured by width, 0.438 linear feet  )

Language of Materials



Originally part of the Nebraska Psychiatric Institute (NPI), Biomedical Communications (BMC) provided audio and visual services to colleges at the University of Nebraska Medical School (UNMC) from 1956 through 2003. In 1970, Biomedical Communications became a center under the direction of Dr. Reba A. Benschoter. BMC staff established two-way television communication across the state, initially through closed-circuit television, then later through satellite transmission. Center staff also supported teaching programs by producing instructional material, photographic material, artwork, and video services. Through the Biomedical Communications Center, students could earn a Master of Medical Science in Biomedical Communication (MMS) or enroll in a 12-month Biomedical Communications Specialist training program.


The Biomedical Communication (BMC) records Document the progression of medical education and outreach efforts of the University of Nebraska Medical Center during the second half of the twentieth century. BMC was a leader in closed-circuit television (CCTV), telecommunication in medical education and services, rural health initiatives. The Biomedical Communications Center provided the campus with audio/visual materials for teaching and recording lectures, graphic design, and photographic and video services. The technology and services BMC staff offered and often pioneered are represented through project files, visual materials, and administrative records technology.


We do not anticipate accruals for this collection.

Related Materials

Cecil L. Wittson Papers (MS-079) Nebraska Psychiatric Institute Records (UNMC-024) Reba A. Benschoter Papers (MS-110) School (College) of Allied Health Professions Records (UNMC-006) Two-Way Television: Helping the Medical Center Reach Out. Volume 129, Issue 5. November 1972, pages 624-627. Cecil L. Wittson and Reba Benschoter. 

Guide to the Biomedical Communications Records
Biomedical Communications Records
DiAnna Hemsath and Maria Shellman
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Edition statement
First edition of this finding aid

Repository Details

Part of the University of Nebraska Medical Center Robert S. Wigton Department of Special Collections and Archives Repository

Robert S. Wigton Department of Special Collections and Archives
986705 Nebraska Medical Center
Omaha NE 68198-6705 USA