By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – One word comes to mind when Brad Bohn thinks about the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
“UNK is a family,” he says. “I love the people here and I love how the institution keeps us connected.”
The 2006 graduate talked about this family and its impact on his life during last month’s spring commencement ceremony.
An assistant professor of family medicine and practicing family physician at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, Bohn was invited back to his alma mater to deliver the keynote address at the May 19 event.
“Family is at the heart of what I do on a day-to-day basis as a family physician. Family is what means the most in the world to me,” said Bohn, who encouraged attendees to “Find your family. Develop your family. And sustain your family.”
In the traditional sense, Bohn has numerous family members with ties to UNK. His four brothers all attended the university and so did his wife Sarah, who earned a bachelor’s degree in communication disorders in 2007 and a master’s degree in speech-language pathology in 2009. Her father, Peter Longo, is a longtime political science professor on campus and the current associate vice chancellor for academic and student affairs.
But, as Bohn noted during his speech, not all family members are related by blood or marriage. His definition is much broader: “A group of people, related or not, who work together for a common cause and who love each other.”
These people are members of his Loper family, too.
A Ravenna native, Bohn arrived at UNK in summer 2001 as a recipient of the prestigious Board of Regents Scholarship and a member of the Loper football team.
He recalls “nervously reporting” to then-head coach Darrell Morris, “back when there was grass on Foster Field and before it was Cope Stadium.”
“That was my first embrace with the UNK family,” he said. “I instantly had over 100 players and coaches who were in many ways my family.”
After redshirting as a freshman, Bohn played three seasons for the Lopers, starting at defensive tackle before shifting to the offensive line. UNK earned a share of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference title in 2002 and reached the NCAA Division II Playoffs for the first time in program history.
Following back-to-back five-win seasons and multiple injuries, Bohn decided to forgo his final year of eligibility to pursue other opportunities on campus.
“It was such an exciting time for me because there was always something else to do and something new to move on to,” the academic all-conference honoree said. “I loved all the opportunities to do different things here.”
As a senior, Bohn served as student body president and student regent, which he called a “life-changing experience.” He sat on committees that designed Antelope and Nester halls and co-founded UNK’s version of The Big Event, the university’s largest single-day service project.
Bohn received the Mary Jane and William R. Nester Student Leadership Award and UNK Alumni Association Outstanding Senior Award before graduating summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in exercise science.
He also met Sarah when they were both undergraduate students at UNK, although they didn’t start dating until he was in medical school.
“My wife and I have a fun time reminiscing about how things used to be,” Bohn said. “It’s just impressive how many changes there are.”
One thing that hasn’t changed is the university’s emphasis on high-quality education.
Bohn gained hands-on medical experience in many of his classes and the gross anatomy lab on campus allowed him to dissect and study cadavers as an undergraduate.
“I didn’t have a lot of colleagues in medical school who had those experiences, so I felt like I was a step ahead when I got to medical school,” he said.
Bohn was accepted into the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, where he became the first person to serve as student regent at two different University of Nebraska campuses. He was president of the UNMC College of Medicine Class of 2010 and completed U.S. Air Force Commissioned Officer Training as a distinguished graduate. After graduating from UNMC, Bohn went to Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for his family medicine residency.
“The family medicine training clinic was in a town of about 5,000 outside Rochester, so I got the small-town feel and small-town patients to take care of but then I also had the world-class hospital experience from the downtown Mayo location,” said Bohn, who finished his residency in June 2013.
He began his career as a family physician at Kearney Clinic and also served as an adjunct faculty member for UNMC and director of the hospitalist program at Kearney Regional Medical Center.
In 2017, Bohn and his family moved back to Rochester, Minnesota, when he accepted a position at Mayo Clinic. He spends about half his time teaching and the other half is dedicated to caring for patients.
A 2013 recipient of the UNK Alumni Association’s Young Alumnus Award, Bohn has served in the Air National Guard for 16 years, including a 2018 deployment to Afghanistan with the Lincoln-based 155th Air Refueling Wing. Currently, he’s a flight surgeon and lieutenant colonel with the 133rd Airlift Wing, an air transportation unit based in Minneapolis-Saint Paul.
Even though it means spending time away from his wife and four young children, military service is something Bohn feels “called to do.”
“For me personally, I think it’s setting a good example for my kids,” he said. “I’m hoping they’ll see you’re serving something bigger than yourself – that it’s not just about you, it’s about doing something for others.”
Unfortunately, because of a swim meet in Iowa City, his wife and children weren’t able to see him speak at last month’s commencement ceremony. He took a “family photo” anyway, posing at the podium with hundreds of fellow UNK graduates in the background.
“This has been a special homecoming for me to return to my UNK family,” Bohn said.