Get to Know: Lou Halamek, Holy Cross Catholic Class of 1973

Periodically, we feature the accomplishments of alumni who graduated from Consortium schools. Enjoy the below Q&A with Lou Halamek, from the Holy Cross Class of 1973.  Though he has lived in California for the past 30 years, Lou still values his Omaha Catholic school education. (He’s also in the beginning stages of planning a class reunion!)

After nine years at Holy Cross Catholic School, Lou Halamek went on to graduate from Creighton Prep, Creighton University and Creighton’s School of Medicine followed by residency and chief residency in Pediatrics at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.  He then completed a fellowship in neonatology at Stanford University where he has cared for critically ill newborns in the neonatal intensive care unit at Packard Children’s Hospital since 1990.  He is also a Professor in the Division of Neonatal and Developmental Medicine in the Department of Pediatrics, where he trains physicians and conducts research.

His current investigations focus on the development of hospital operations centers linked with sophisticated simulation capabilities, optimization of human performance during high-risk activities such as neonatal resuscitation, and analysis of human and system error.  He collaborates with colleagues working in other high-risk fields, including those at NASA Johnson Space Center, NASA Ames Research Center, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Aviation at St. Louis University, in an effort to translate what has been learned about safety in those industries to healthcare.

Lou currently lives in Palo Alto with his wife Katie.  They have two adult children, Kelly and Michael.

Q: What do you remember about the teachers at Holy Cross?

A: I am very thankful for the dedicated, talented teachers who gave so much to us, their students.  This is by no means a complete list, and I’ve probably misspelled some names, but here are a few examples:

Mrs. Meschede (4th grade):  I learned multiplication using her unique system of placing a number in the center of a clock face.  I use this skill every day in the hospital.

Sr. Catherine Mary (6th grade):  She taught us how to diagram sentences.  Even in this day of texts, tweets and emojis, knowing how to write in complete sentences and communicate effectively through the written word is incredibly important, especially in professions such as mine.

Mr. (Mike) Bonilla (7th grade):  I very much enjoyed his laid-back style in the classroom and the manner in which he treated us as young adults.  I will also remain forever thankful that he thought I could be a baseball pitcher, as that sport provided me with great experiences in high school and college.

Ms. (Mary Anne) Greene (8th grade):  She was a wonderful teacher and a very compassionate, loving human being.  She was like a mother to all of us.

Q: What do you remember the most about your time at Holy Cross?

A: I remember my classmates.  In the 60’s and 70’s families were not as mobile as they are today, so many of us were classmates for nine years.  Over that period of time you get to know your fellow students pretty well, and that includes their siblings and sometimes even their parents.  Despite living in California for the past 30 years, I still remain in contact with some members of our class.  Our class is coming up on our 50th anniversary, and there has been some talk about trying to get everyone together in Omaha again to celebrate before we’re all too old to remember each other.

Q: How did Holy Cross prepare me for what I’m doing now?

A: Holy Cross provided me with a solid academic foundation in the basics:  reading, writing and mathematics.  As I moved on through high school, college and medical school, I grew to appreciate how tremendously important this foundation is.  Holy Cross taught me about the importance of caring for others.  This was complemented by the Jesuit mantra “Be a man for others” during my later education at Prep and Creighton.  Finally, although I think about God much differently now than I did as a young child, my spiritual journey and the way in which my faith influences my life and my work began at Holy Cross.

Q: What advice do you have for a student or family considering a Catholic education?

A: For parents, my advice is to remember that grade school is a particularly formative time for children and what they experience during those years will have a big influence on the type of adult that they will become.   Catholic schools provide tremendous environments in which to learn how to live a life dedicated to helping your fellow human being.  For students, I recommend embracing all of the opportunities (academic, athletic, social, spiritual) that a Catholic education presents, working hard knowing that you will reap the benefits throughout your life – and, of course, make friends (some of which you will have for the rest of your life) and have fun along the way.

Q: What’s the most exciting thing about my job as a neonatologist?

A: Without a doubt, the most exciting and rewarding aspect of my work involves resuscitating newborns who are dying of their diseases and seeing them not just survive but thrive, sometimes after months of intensive care, and go home with their parents.  I have the privilege of caring for the sickest of the sick and the challenge of knowing when to apply powerful therapies such as heart-lung bypass to enhance life and when to focus on comfort to avoid prolonging dying.