For more than 30 years, employees at the University of Kentucky and UK HealthCare have worked to fulfill wishes during the holiday season. Each year, the Circle of Love program has expanded and reached more children in and around Fayette County.

Here’s your chance to make a child’s holiday wishes come true

For more than 30 years, employees at the University of Kentucky and UK HealthCare have worked to fulfill wishes during the holiday season. Each year, the Circle of Love program has expanded and reached more children in and around Fayette County.

More magical every year

Planning begins in July and a committee made up of UK employees works to ensure each year is more magical than the last. Shawna Baker, Barbara Bush and Betty Newsom are three of the members of the committee that ensure children across the Bluegrass will receive holiday gifts. With a combined 49 years of experience volunteering with this project, they have distributing wish lists, collecting presents, wrapping and transporting gifts down to a science.

Baker said this opportunity as a volunteer has helped her “get involved and get to learn about the surrounding community.” Each year, committee members are provided a county, and they are responsible for getting in touch with guidance counselors at the various schools and getting a list of names and wish lists from students.

Gifts from big to small

While some participants go big with their wish list, many students’ requests are simple. “Their wants are things so many people take for granted,” Newsom said. Wish lists often include winter coats, hats and gloves. Children participating in this program range from elementary students to high schoolers, but gift requests can include items for infants and toddlers, as some students use this opportunity to request gifts for younger family members.

Everyone is encouraged to get involved. With more than 800 children participating in this year’s event, there are plenty of chances for individuals and departments to adopt a child or children and do some shopping. Thanks to the committee members, volunteers and the generosity of the UK HealthCare community, these holiday wishes can be fulfilled.

How you can help

Students and staff will have the opportunity to select a wish list at several locations on the medical campus during the following days:

  • Wednesday, Nov. 16 to Friday, Nov. 18
  • Monday, Nov. 21 to Wednesday, Nov. 23
  • Monday, Nov. 28 to Friday, Dec. 2

At these locations:

  • Gift of Life Wall in UK Albert B. Chandler Hospital Pavillion A from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Third floor of the Kentucky Clinic from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Good Samaritan Hospital from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Wrapped gifts with wish list cards can be returned Monday, Dec. 5, or Tuesday, Dec. 6, at the following locations:

  • Chandler Hospital Pavillion A Atrium, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Good Samaritan Hospital Administration office, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

On Friday, Dec. 9, buses and vans will arrive in front of UK Chandler Hospital to be loaded with gifts.

Next steps:

  • UK HealthCare off-site and shift employees interested in picking up a wish list outside of the listed hours can email Volunteer Services Manager Katie Tibbitts at
  • Learn more about our programs for kids by visiting Kentucky Children’s Hospital.
Making the Rounds with Dr. Timothy Mullett

Meet Dr. Timothy Mullett, cancer surgeon – and cancer survivor

Making the RoundsGet to know Dr. Timothy Mullett, a cardiothoracic surgeon at the UK Markey Cancer Center, in our latest installment of Making the Rounds, a blog series where you’ll meet the providers at UK HealthCare.

Dr. Mullett specializes in surgical treatment for patients with lung cancer. He’s also the medical director of Markey’s Research and Affiliate networks. In addition to treating patients with cancer, Dr. Mullett is a cancer survivor himself. In 2014, he was diagnosed with liver cancer and was successfully treated at Markey.

When did you know you wanted to be a doctor?

It was one of those decisions I had made early on. I got sick when I was around 14 and I got used to being around doctors. I ended up getting better, but that left me with something that said, ‘This looks like a pretty cool place to spend some time.’

Who’s your favorite musical artist?

I’m a fan of country music. I’ve been listening to that for a long time. I’m a fan of modern country music: Tim McGraw, Faith Hill and now into Chris Stapleton.

My favorite part about music is that I put together this playlist. We have some friends that gather at the lake and I started to put together a playlist for when we’re on our boat. We’ve got my kids, some others folks and several families that are our age. Everyone contributes to this playlist that has now grown to about 780 songs. Everything from Meghan Trainor back to Eric Clapton. I love to put it on shuffle and let it go.

Describe your ideal weekend. Would it involve being on the lake?

Yeah, something on the water. Any time that I can gather with family and friends on a lake and get some water skiing in in the morning and some conversation and relaxation in in the evening. And I enjoy grilling something on the house boat.

What excites you most about working at UK HealthCare?

It’s the people we work with. The friends and contacts I’ve made here at UK are like a family, and we’re taking care of other people. We come together as a team and work together to say, ‘This is how we want to attack this problem.’ It’s great.

Check out our video interview with Dr. Mullett below. He tells us more about his work at Markey and how his own cancer diagnosis has impacted the way he cares for his patients.

Next steps:

The Molecular Tumor Board is codirected by Dr. Rachel Miller and Jill Kolesar, PharmD.

Molecular Tumor Board gives Markey patients expanded access to precision medicine

The UK Markey Cancer Center recently launched its own Molecular Tumor Board, an approach to cancer care that uses genetic analysis to help oncologists choose cancer therapies tailored to each patient’s individual needs. The Molecular Tumor Board is the latest precision medicine initiative to come online at Markey.

“Oncology is now more genetic-based, instead of being based upon tumor types,” said Dr. Mark Evers, director of the Markey Cancer Center. “By better understanding the genetic makeup of our patients and their tumors, we can help direct their therapy.”

The Molecular Tumor Board is co-directed by clinical pharmacologist Jill Kolesar, Pharm.D., who recently joined Markey and the UK College of Pharmacy after starting a similar initiative at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Markey gynecologic oncologist Dr. Rachel Miller.

How the tumor board works

Currently, clinical trials often target tumors with certain molecular or genetic characteristics, then search for patients with tumors that matched those criteria ­– like looking for a needle in a haystack. The information gleaned by the Molecular Tumor Board will instead allow researchers to develop clinical trials targeted to the needs of the patients Markey treats; in other words, it means starting with the needle, rather than the haystack.

Here’s how the tumor board process will work at Markey: when a patient undergoes a biopsy, the physician may choose to request a Molecular Tumor Board review of that case. The patient’s tissue will then be sent to UK’s in-house pathology lab for genetic type testing. Using technology known as next-generation sequencing, pathologists will run tests to compare the patient’s genes against a panel of 198 gene mutations that are associated with all types of cancer – 94 are for blood cancers and an additional 104 are added for solid tumors.

Once the sequencing is complete, the final report ­– containing the findings of any possible gene mutations – is sent to Molecular Tumor Board members. The report will be evaluated for three types of potential care: FDA-approved therapies for that patient’s cancer type, FDA-approved therapies in another tumor type (also known as “off-label use”) and potential clinical trials.

For example: a lung cancer patient who undergoes genetic type testing may receive pathology results showing they have three gene mutations of the 198-gene panel that are associated with cancer. It is possible that any one of these mutations may have caused the cancer and there may be either FDA-approved drugs or clinical trials targeting each of these mutations.

It’s the job of the Molecular Tumor Board itself to evaluate all of these potential therapies to ultimately determine which of the therapies will yield the best possible outcome for the patient.

‘The essence of precision medicine’

The tumor board comprises a vast array of experts across both the UK medical and academic campuses, including oncologists, hematologists, surgeons, pharmacists, pathologists, biostatisticians, basic scientists and epidemiologists, who meet on a regular basis to discuss each individual case in person. Each member brings their own expertise to discuss the available options and ultimately make a recommendation for the best course of care for that patient.

“It’s the essence of precision medicine,” Miller said. “The Molecular Tumor Board provides not only an opportunity for our patients, but also an opportunity for a physician to gain a better understanding of these molecular characteristics while providing the latest in optimal care for our patients.”

Improving cancer care across Kentucky

By analyzing the molecular characteristics of cancer tumors on a case-by-case basis, the Molecular Tumor Board will also create a cache of information to direct the development of new therapies that target the types of cancers found at Markey and throughout Kentucky.

“The Molecular Tumor Board will bring a fuller understanding of the cancers faced by Kentuckians,” Kolesar said. “Going forward, this will guide us in developing clinical trials and novel therapies best matched to our patients in the Commonwealth.”

Across the country, only a few medical centers currently have a Molecular Tumor Board to help direct cancer care. This type of precision medicine was one of the key opportunities highlighted earlier in the year with the Cancer Moonshot initiative. Established by President Barack Obama during the 2016 State of the Union address and led by Vice President Joe Biden, the goal of the Cancer Moonshot is to double the rate of progress in cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care over the next five years and to ultimately end cancer.

“As the state that leads the nation in cancer incidence and mortality, nowhere in the country is it more important for patients to have access to this type of personalized medicine,” Evers said. “This is an opportunity for us to make a direct impact on the dire cancer statistics here in Kentucky.”

Next steps:

  • Check out our infographic to see how a patient with lung cancer would benefit from the Molecular Tumor Board.
  • Clinical trials can give cancer patients access to the latest treatments and breakthroughs. Learn more about the clinical trials open right now at Markey.
The Makenna Foundation is partnering with Barnes & Noble in Hamburg for a book fair and drive to benefit KCH's Child Life Program.

Book fair and drive to benefit Kentucky Children’s Hospital

The Makenna Foundation, a non-profit organization that helps support Kentucky Children’s Hospital, is partnering with Barnes & Noble in Hamburg for a book fair and drive to benefit KCH’s Child Life Program.

The KCH Child Life Program is a service that provides patients and families with play opportunities. Through playing, KCH patients are given the opportunity to experience normal childhood growth and to reduce the stress of being in a hospital.

Some activities the Child Life Program offers are:

  • Individualized play in the child’s own room.
  • A large playroom with toys, games and more.
  • Encouraging reading.

The Child Life Program also includes a Multi-Media Room, complete with computers for patients to use.

The book fair will be held Nov. 26 at the Hamburg Barnes & Noble, with all proceeds going to the Makenna Foundation. Customers will have the option of donating 10 to 20 percent of their purchases.

And, from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31, you can also donate books you purchased at the Hamburg Barnes & Noble to KCH as part of the book drive.

Next steps:

Handwashing and the flu

The 20-second flu fighter

Flu season is in full swing, but there a few simple ways to keep the virus at bay.

The best way is to get your flu shot and make sure those around you have gotten theirs, too. Check out our recent blog about what’s new with this year’s flu vaccine.

In addition to getting vaccinated, an easy and effective way to prevent the spread of the flu is to wash your hands.

When you wash your hands regularly and correctly, you reduce your risk of getting sick and prevent the spread of germs to other people around you.

Washing your hands the right way means more than running them under the faucet for a few seconds. Here’s how to do it:

  • Wet your hands with clean water (warm or cold), turn off the faucet and apply soap.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” from beginning to end or recite the ABCs in your head.
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them, and use a paper towel to turn off the faucet and then throw it away.

Make sure to wash your hands:

  • Before you eat. Also wash them before, during and after preparing food.
  • After using the bathroom.
  • After coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose or caring for someone who is ill.
  • After taking out the trash.
  • After petting animals.
  • When visiting someone who is sick.
  • Whenever your hands look or feel dirty.

Next steps:

Genetic counseling and family history

How your family history can help determine your risk for cancer

Written by Justine Cooper, a board-certified genetic counselor at the UK Markey Cancer Center.

Knowing your family history is a key part in understanding your risk factors for certain diseases. While you’re gathering with family this Thanksgiving, get to know more about your family’s health history and how it could impact your personal health.

Genetic counseling involves interpreting your family history and providing education about inheritance, testing options, management, prevention, resources and research. A genetic counselor can help you determine whether genetic testing may be appropriate for you or your family.

Genetic testing is available for many types of diseases, including cancer. Only 5 to 10 percent of cancers are hereditary. However, people with hereditary cancers have a much higher chance to develop cancer during their lifetime.

Typically, patients may be referred for genetic counseling if they have cancer diagnosed at a young age or if they have multiple family members who have had cancer, especially if the family members were diagnosed before 50 years of age. If you have a strong family history of disease, talk to your doctor about whether a referral to a genetic counselor might be appropriate.

The most well-known hereditary cancer test is testing of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which cause hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC). Angelina Jolie made headlines in 2013 when she announced that she had a BRCA mutation, prompting her to have a double mastectomy (removal of both breasts) and raising awareness of genetic testing for these genes.

We can also test for many other hereditary cancer syndromes. For example, Lynch syndrome increases a person’s chance to develop several types of cancers, including colon, endometrial (uterine), ovarian and pancreatic cancer. It’s estimated that the prevalence of HBOC and the prevalence of Lynch syndrome are equal and affect approximately 1 in 400 people.

There are many testing options, and a genetic counselor can help determine which test may be the best for you based on your personal and family history.

The cost of genetic testing can vary, based on whether we are testing just a few genes or a few dozen genes. The cost of a test can range from a couple hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. In the majority of cases, insurance does cover testing if you meet certain criteria set by your insurance company.

If a genetic counselor determines that genetic testing would be indicated, insurance is likely to cover the testing. Some insurance companies are now requiring genetic counseling prior to genetic testing.

If results show you have a higher chance to develop cancer, your health care team may recommend additional screenings or surgeries to find cancer as early as possible or prevent it from developing at all.

While knowing that you have a higher chance to develop cancer can cause worry and anxiety, it can also allow you to take charge of your health and take the steps needed to reduce the potential impact of this disease.

Next steps:

Dr. Larry Cunningham

Rare complication requires expert care from UK Dentistry

When a patient has their wisdom teeth extracted, surgeons provide information about what to expect after the operation, as well as potential complications that may occur from the surgery.

For most patients, following the guidelines for proper care keeps these issues from arising. Unfortunately, that’s not true for all patients. It certainly wasn’t for Davina Leedy.

Concerns after surgery

Leedy had a wisdom tooth that wouldn’t grow through the gums and caused several infections. Ultimately, she decided to have the tooth removed.

A local oral surgeon performed her initial surgery, but shortly after, Leedy realized something was amiss with her recovery. When Leedy went back to the doctor a week later, her lower jaw was still numb. The numbness in her face eventually went away, but it was replaced by excruciating pain in her lower chin and lip.

“It hurt when the wind would blow or even when my hair would touch it [my face],” Leedy said.

There was only one physician in the state of Kentucky who had the training to provide the treatment Leedy needed: Dr. Larry Cunningham, chief of the Division of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at the UK College of Dentistry.

Expert care, close to home

As Leedy eventually learned, the root of her wisdom tooth had been positioned so close to the nerve in her jaw that removing the tooth had disrupted the nerve, causing the numbness and then  pain. Initially the issue was treated with medications to try and relieve her pain, but these medications were only marginally helpful.

In January 2016, Leedy opted for a more permanent and extensive fix: neuroplasty and a graft of her inferior alveolar nerve. Although Leedy worried about the complex procedure, she was thankful she was able to receive the care she needed with Dr. Cunningham at UK HealthCare, just a short drive from her home.

“As a mom of three boys, it was much better to just drive an hour and a half than to have to travel out of state,” she said.

Leedy’s four-hour surgery was extensive and complicated. Her injured nerve traveled within the lower jaw bone. That meant her lower jaw bone needed to be cut in order for Cunningham to see the nerve and repair it. Once the injured portion of the nerve was removed, the nerve graft was placed in the defect. After the procedure, it can take several months before feeling comes back to the affected area.

Looking back on her operation, Leedy said she’s grateful there was a doctor at UK who could help her.

“I’m amazed there’s someone that has the knowledge to do something like this,” Leedy said.

‘The pain is gone’

As Leedy’s original physician pointed out to her, the issue she experienced is not very common. The doctor told her that in his 30 years practicing, her case was only the third time he’d seen this complication.

Cunningham agreed and said nerve injuries after dental work occur in less than 1 percent of wisdom tooth extractions. That explains why Leedy had “no idea this complication could happen.”

Since her procedure, Leedy has been pain free and has regained much of the feeling in her jaw. She’ll continue to have follow-up visits to monitor her improvement, but so far, so good.

“The pain is gone, I can feel pressure in the area but it’s way better than what it was,” Leedy said.

Next steps:

  • UK Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery provides comprehensive surgical treatment for oral and maxillofacial issues, including teeth removal and treatment of infections and injuries. Learn more about our services.
  • Read about the dean of the UK College of Dentistry’s mission to use research to improve patient care.

This one test could save your life

It’s a sad fact that Kentucky leads the U.S. in lung cancer incidence and mortality. If you smoke, live with a smoker or have smoked in the past, consider getting screened. Early detection is your strongest weapon against the disease.

What is lung cancer screening?

At the UK Markey Cancer Center, we use a low-dose CT scan to take many images of your chest and lungs. This allows a radiologist to look inside your lungs and identify suspicious spots that may be potential cancers.

Only low-dose CT scans – not chest X-rays – are recommended for lung cancer screening.

A suspicious or positive result means that the CT scan shows something that is abnormal. Additional tests will be done to determine whether this is cancer.

A negative result means that there were no abnormal findings at the time of the CT scan. It does not mean that you will never get lung cancer.

Who is qualified for lung cancer screening?

Lung cancer screening is recommended for patients who are at high risk for lung cancer, including those who:

  • Are ages 55-80, and
  • Currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years, and
  • Have a 30 pack-year smoking history, which means smoking one pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years, and
  • Have no current symptoms of lung cancer.

A lung cancer screening does not prevent lung cancer, but it can detect cancer at an early stage, before you develop symptoms of the disease.

Lung cancer screening has been shown to decrease the risk of lung cancer death in patients who are high risk for developing cancer. When lung cancer is found early, many treatment options are available, which greatly improves the likelihood of survival.

Next steps:

  • To make an appointment with the UK Lung Cancer Screening Program, call us at 844-SCN-LUNG (844-726-5864). You must have a primary care physician to participate in a lung cancer screening.
  • If you’re a smoker, you probably already know it’s not a healthy habit. Check out our “Take action to stop smoking” blog post with tips to help you quit.
UK Sanders-Brown had its annual Markesbery Symposium on Aging and Dementia last week. Speakers discussed healthy brain aging and self-care for caregivers.

Healthy brain aging the focus of Sanders-Brown symposium

UK Sanders-Brown Center on Aging (SBCoA) hosted its sixth annual Markesbery Symposium on Aging and Dementia last week with speakers focused on healthy brain aging and self-care for caregivers. The two-day program offered sessions for both scientific and community audiences.

On Friday, Nov. 4, the scientific session in the UK Chandler Hospital Pavilion A auditorium featured speakers Dr. Gary Small of UCLA and Dr. Julie Schneider of Rush University, who presented their latest findings and answered questions from the audience.

The science behind healthy brain aging

Schneider provided an overview of her observations that, there are brain changes in addition to the well-characterized plaques and tangles that may also cause cognitive dysfunction and dementia.

Small gave the audience an overview of the scientific underpinnings for the hypothesis that lifestyle changes – including diet and exercise — can be protective against Alzheimer’s disease, particularly when combined with pharmacological therapies.

Afterward, Sanders-Brown Center on Aging faculty members Joe Abisambra, PhD; Harry LeVine, PhD; Peter Nelson, MD, PhD; and Linda Van Eldik, PhD, presented findings from their latest research.

Caring for the caregivers

On Saturday, Nov. 5, the Bluegrass Ballroom at the Lexington Convention Center was filled with close to 300 members of the community who came to hear Dr. Small and Mary Austrom, PhD, of Indiana University.

Small has authored or co-authored several books on memory and memory loss, including “The Alzheimer’s Prevention Program,” “2 Weeks to a Younger Brain,” and the international best-seller “The Memory Bible.” Dr. Small shared with the audience his recommended techniques for healthy brain aging.

Austrom is an expert on late-life transitions and adjustment to retirement. She is also interested in non-pharmacological interventions for dementia patients and their caregivers, and the stress and grief associated with caring for someone with dementia.

Austrom spoke on the burden of caregiving and the importance of ensuring adequate respite for caregivers.

SBCoA leads the way in Alzheimer’s research

Following the formal presentations Austrom, along with Sanders-Brown’s own Dr. Gregory Jicha and Marie Smart, answered questions from the audience ranging from the challenges of caring for someone with dementia to end-of-life decision-making to the need for early and accurate diagnosis, and what is on the horizon with respect to research and clinical trials.

“It’s always invigorating to have clinicians and researchers from UK and other institutions come together to share current findings and trends on dementia and aging,” said Van Eldik, director of the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging. “We consider it part of our responsibility as a world leader in Alzheimer’s research to foster collaboration among institutions and share our insights with members of our community.”

The Markesbery Symposium is named in honor of the late Dr. William R. Markesbery, the founder and long-time director of the UK Sanders-Brown Center on Aging and an internationally renowned expert on aging and dementia.

Next steps:

Dr. Rachel Saunders, an OB-GYN who sees patients at the UK Polk-Dalton Clinic, sat down with us for the latest installment of Making the Rounds.

Meet Dr. Rachel Saunders, OB-GYN and pizza aficionado

Making the RoundsDr. Rachel Saunders, an OB-GYN who sees patients at the UK Polk-Dalton Clinic, sat down with us for the latest installment of Making the Rounds. Saunders describes her care philosophy as preventive and helping to treat medical issues before they get worse.

What’s your favorite food?

Pizza. I like anything that’s not sausage or bacon – I love vegetables. Interestingly, I’ve tried a pizza with potatoes on it, and you’d think that sounds disgusting, but I thought it was life-changing. It’s so good.

What was the last movie you watched?

“Suicide Squad.” I don’t know a lot about the Marvel universe or comic book characters, so as the casual observer I thought it was really cool. And I thought it was well done. But again, I didn’t know a whole lot about it.

If you could go on vacation right now, where would you go?

Anywhere that has a beach – I love water. It’s very calming for me.

What’s your favorite form of exercise?

I’m really into running. I started running seriously about 2 1/2 ago, and I’m currently training for the Iron Horse Half Marathon.

Do you have a favorite sport?

I really like equestrian events. Recently I’ve been watching funny videos where it’s like a horse will get to a barrier it has to jump and say, “No, I don’t want to do it.” It’s funny to me because horses are such jerks, but they’re so pretty.  There aren’t that many other events where animals are involved. It’s really their event, and we’re just kind of there for the ride.

What was your first day of medical school like?

I remember being in this classroom with so many new faces, and I wasn’t a UK grad in terms of undergrad, so I felt like an outsider looking in. I felt like a lot of people knew each other and they were already friends. So I just remember thinking, “I hope I make some friends. Everyone looks really nice, though.” And yes, I did make friends!

How would your friends describe you?

Positive and happy. Those are the words they use the most.

Check out our video interview below with Dr. Saunders, where she discusses her care philosophy and the importance of preventive medicine.

Next steps: