DHHS News Release: Governor Pete Ricketts Presents Medicaid Awards

News Release

October 13, 2022

Barb Tyler, Office of Communications, (531) 530-7484, barb.tyler@nebraska.gov


Governor Pete Ricketts Presents Medicaid Awards

LINCOLN – Governor Pete Ricketts, Dannette R. Smith, CEO of the Department of Health and Human Services, and Kevin Bagley, Director of the Division of Medicaid and Long-Term Care, honored this year’s Nebraska Medicaid Provider Awards on Thursday, October 13. The awards recognized four outstanding providers for Heritage Health, the Nebraska Medicaid program.

“The winners of the Medicaid Provider Awards have distinguished themselves by providing outstanding service to Nebraskans,” said Gov. Ricketts. “Each of these healthcare professionals has also been a good steward of taxpayer dollars, helping to control the costs of medical care. Congratulations to today’s honorees, and thank you for advancing our mission to create opportunity for Nebraskans through more effective, more efficient, and customer-focused state government.”

Gov. Ricketts introduced the winners from the managed care organizations (MCOs) networks and the dental plan. The MCOs are UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Nebraska, Nebraska Total Care, Healthy Blue of Nebraska, and MCNA Dental. Awards were given to those selected that have demonstrated exceptional and measurable contributions to their clinical practice in the Medicaid population. The winners were nominated from within each of their organizations.

“We are extremely grateful to our Medicaid providers who help their fellow Nebraskans live better lives”, said Director Bagley. “Our providers are vital to our mission in helping people live better lives; these providers went above and beyond in serving our Medicaid members. These awards recognize their contributions to the Medicaid program and their commitment to improving the health of their community.”

The honorees of the 2022 Nebraska Medicaid Provider Awards are:

Dr. Narayana Koduri: Nominated by Healthy Blue of Nebraska, Dr. Koduri has served as the Chief Medical Officer at Great Plains Health in North Platte since 2012. Dr. Koduri’s commitment to caring for Nebraskans spans over a decade. Dr. Koduri oversees the comprehensive outpatient clinic, and 19 bed inpatient units for adolescents and adults and is a board-certified psychiatrist and neurologist, licensed in NE.

Dr. Koduri’s impact goes beyond his work at Great Plains Health. He is a key mentor for clinicians across the state. His work as an assistant professor and site director for the residency program at UNMC has helped to place residents in rural communities in Nebraska. Dr. Koduri’s commitment to being the lead preceptor for pharmacy, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners has provided a wide range of experience for residents over the last 10 years. Through Dr. Koduri’s advocacy for psychiatric care in rural Nebraska, Great Plains Health has one of the most sought-after site rotations for residents. 

Dr. Koduri’s holistic approach to person-centered care has been instrumental in how psychiatry care is delivered in the state of Nebraska. His commitment to our members with this multidisciplinary approach to patient care integrates physical and mental health needs of patients. 

Dr. Koduri’s dedication to serving Nebraskans has not gone unnoticed. In 2022 he was awarded the Outstanding Partnership Award from the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the Richard’s Rural Psychiatry Award in 2020. His advocacy and participation in the American Psychiatric Association, Nebraska Psychiatric Association, and a Member of the Indian Medical Council allows Dr. Koduri to stay current on evidence-based practices. Since 2012, he also serves as Assistant Professor at Creighton University Med Center as well as UNMC.

Dr. Heidi Barker: Nebraska Total Care (NTC) is proud to identify Dr. Heidi Barker as this year’s nominee for exceptional care. Originally from Fargo, North Dakota, Dr. Barker attended UNL for undergraduate school followed by medical school at the University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Des Moines. After graduation, she enlisted and served in the United States Navy for five years as a flight surgeon. 

During her time in the Navy, Dr. Barker learned tropical medicine in Brazil and learned to fly to make sure she knew all the effects the rigors of flight have on the body. She studied and flew alongside the navy aviators learning to pilot both fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft in Pensacola, Florida. Part of Dr. Barker’s service involved rigorous training in Maine and the California desert in preparation for a deployment to Iraq. Heidi states that her time in military service remains one of her greatest honors and experiences.

During her military time, she met her husband, Bruce, who was a Marine AH-1W Cobra attack helicopter pilot. He is now retired from the military as well and flies fixed-wing jets for a private aviation company. After completion of her service, Dr. Barker completed her pediatric residency at the University of Nebraska Medical Center/Children’s Hospital in Omaha and relocated here permanently. The Midwest, and especially Lincoln, was very appealing as it offered a unique opportunity to practice medicine in an ever-dwindling independent private practice setting. She joined the Pediatrics, P.C. team in October 2018, where NTC became aware of her dedication to her patients and the high standards of quality patient care she brings to the Lincoln community. NTC reviews data from the providers throughout the state that provide care to their members and Dr. Barker has stood out at the top of the list.

Dr. Barker and her husband have three children; she currently is the coach of her 8-year-old son's soccer team and keeps busy as well with her daughter who is 5 and her one-year old son. When she is not taking care of the children in her practice, her family loves to spend time together outdoors. 

Mark Darby: Mark’s professional service to the citizens of North Omaha and his dedication to the education and teaching of nursing students through UNMC embodies this award, which UnitedHealthcare Community Plan is pleased for him to receive.

Mark is a Family and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner and director at the North Omaha Area Health Clinic since 2017, which is a nurse-run clinic that he co-founded; NOAH provides free care to three of the poorest areas in Douglas County. The goal is to break down all barriers between primary care and the patient, creating trust with patients and the medical community, and empowering the patient to improve their healthcare. NOAH works with uninsured and underinsured individuals to secure access to needed services and provides chronic disease care and community programs for both weight loss and depression. They were also a vital location in North Omaha for COVID-19 vaccinations, with 64 vaccine clinics completed in 2021. 

Mark has served as a provider since 2012 and completed certification as a medication-assisted treatment prescriber and has been awarded an executive fellowship in addictive medicine. Mark leads his team at NOAH in serving this underserved area, with the clinic serving over 2,000 patients this year alone. He recently received a diversity grant through UNMC for his work in novel communication techniques to treat underserved populations. 

Mark has been awarded the Positive Image in Nursing Award by the Nebraska Nurses Association and has published four articles in the past five years which focused on not only his extensive experience with working with and improving outcomes in underserved populations but also on the importance of storytelling in impacting health services education. His methodology on using storytelling as a communication improvement tool was featured in the June 2022 American Journal of Nursing. This year, Mark was also recognized with the Ada M. Lindsey Professional Service Award, for support of clinical practice and professional service at UNMC, and the Kathryn Sandahl Philp Creativity and Innovation Award, which acknowledges and supports faculty creativity and innovation in teaching, research, or practice/service at UNMC.

Mark’s most recent work focuses on the effectiveness of RNs dealing with high cost and high need patients. He has collaborated with UnitedHealthcare to support the case management and intensive monitoring within a chronic disease population in the poorest zip codes in Douglas County. In doing so, he has helped patients not only achieve their health care goals for blood pressure and weight loss but has also helped them access additional supports to treat them as a whole person.

Dr. David J. Millea, DDS, has been nominated with pleasure by MCNA, and has been in practice in the Benson community in Omaha since 1977 after graduating from Creighton University with his DDS. He has been an outstanding Nebraska Medicaid provider for 30 years, joining the MCNA network in 2017 as a high-quality provider devoting much of his practice to the care of special needs patients and providing dental care and services to the most underserved. 

Dr. Millea is considered a pillar of his community, having provided high-quality dental care to as many as three generations of families while still maintaining his commitment of service to others. Dr. Millea volunteers at One World Community Health Centers night clinic providing his services at no charge, as well as volunteering his time in the Dominican Republic to provide dental services and support to the many local organizations. He is a long-standing professional that takes the time, patience, and care for ensuring the oral health of deserving Nebraskans.

He is a member of the Apolonia Society, Omicron Kappa Upsilon (National Dental Honor Society), a member and past President of the Creighton Dental Alumni, and serves as an instructor at Creighton Dental School.

Dr. Millea is married and has four adult children, three of whom followed in his footsteps as dentists, with the fourth working in the nursing field. Dr. Millea is an exceptional clinician and an invaluable member of his community, but his capacity for understanding and kindness and his willingness to serve others less fortunate truly set him apart. He has demonstrated care for the health and well-being of children and families across his home state and the world without exception. A dentist with these qualities surely deserves recognition.