Geri McDowell's battle with cancer nearly took her life. But thanks to a Markey clinical trial, she has been able to reclaim it.

Our 2016 Year in Review

From inspiring patient stories to groundbreaking achievements and recognition, 2016 was a year to remember for all of us here at UK HealthCare.

Here are a few highlights.


UK HealthCare named the No. 1 hospital in Kentucky

Kentucky's best hospitalIn August, UK added another first-place finish to our resume as UK HealthCare’s Albert B. Chandler Hospital was named Kentucky’s Best Hospital in the 2016 U.S. News and World Report Best Hospital Rankings. We are also the only hospital in the state rated as High Performing in Cancer, and we ranked No. 45 nationally in Geriatrics. Other High Performing specialty areas include: Diabetes & Endocrinology, Nephrology, Neurology & Neurosurgery, Orthopedics, and Pulmonology.

Learn more about our No. 1 ranking and what it means for our patients.


Patient with rare neuroendocrine cancer finds help through clinical trial

Geri McDowell's battle with cancer nearly took her life. But thanks to a Markey clinical trial, she has been able to reclaim it.Diagnosed with rare neuroendocrine cancer, Geri McDowell was running out of options for treatment.

That’s when her doctor from the UK Markey Cancer Center recommended a clinical trial that might offer hope for recovery.

Read Geri’s story.


$19.8 million award puts UK in elite company

In October, the UK Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS) was awarded a four-year, $19.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. The grant will allow CCTS to continue its mission of translating scientific discoveries into tangible applications for individual and community health.

Learn more about this prestigious award and what it means for people across Kentucky and Appalachia.


New Chandler Dining opens to the public

Chandler DiningChandler Dining, UK HealthCare’s new state-of-the-art dining experience, opened in August and it’s unlike any hospital cafeteria you’ve seen before. From pizza and pasta to salad and sushi, Chandler Dining has something for everyone, and it’s open to the public.

Learn more about visiting Chandler Dining.


Lexington couple welcomes quintuplets

Mom Katie Schaftlein bonds with baby Sadie for the first time.On Nov. 11, Lexington couple Lucas and Katie Schaftlein welcomed quintuplets Sadie, Savannah, Scarlett, Sofia and Lucas into the world. It just so happened to be Katie’s birthday, too, giving Mom a special birthday wish. With the help of an interdisciplinary team of experts from UK HealthCare, all five little ones arrived in good health.

Read more about our special delivery.


Markey joins Cancer Moonshot conversation

World-class experts, cancer survivors and advocates joined forces in June at the UK Markey Cancer Center to contribute to Vice President Joe Biden’s Cancer Moonshot Summit. The Cancer Moonshot aims to double the rate of progress in cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care over the next five years.

Check out highlights from the inspired conversations.


13-year-old boy enjoys being ‘normal kid’ after epilepsy surgery

EpilepsyJoey Maggard was missing out on his childhood because of frequent epileptic seizures. No sports. No sleepovers with friends. He had to miss the second half of his sixth-grade year. But after a delicate surgical procedure at the Kentucky Neuroscience Institute earlier this year, Joey has been seizure-free.

Read Joey’s story.


UK celebrates 25 years of heart transplants

In April, patients gathered with staff and doctors from the UK Gill Heart Institute and the UK Transplant Center to celebrate 25 years of heart transplants at UK HealthCare. A lot has changed since our first heart transplant in 1991 — we’re now doing more than 40 heart transplant operations each year and in 2015 we set a single-year record for the most heart transplants at one hospital in Kentucky.

Read more about our quarter-century celebration.



Next steps:

Though there’s no cure for dementia, there is some good news. By knowing the signs and symptoms, there are ways to limit the toll it takes.

Understanding the signs and symptoms of dementia

An Alzheimer’s disease or dementia diagnosis is devastating for everyone involved. Although there’s no cure for Alzheimer’s, there is some good news. By knowing the signs and symptoms of the disease and recognizing it in its earliest stages, there are ways to limit the toll it takes.

Warning signs

Alzheimer’s and dementia usually affects people who are 65 or older, so if there’s a senior in your life, be aware of these signs and symptoms.

  • Forgetting important information.
  • Lack of problem-solving skills.
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks.
  • Using incorrect words.
  • Poor hygiene.
  • Personality changes.

How Sanders-Brown can help

If you notice any of the symptoms above, consider making a memory evaluation appointment with the UK Sanders-Brown Center on Aging. We’re a worldwide leader in Alzheimer’s and dementia research and patient care. In fact, we’re one of only 30 designated Alzheimer’s Disease Centers in the U.S. and have been funded by the National Institutes of Health for more than 30 years.

Our experts are on the leading-edge of memory loss research, tapping into data from more than 800 volunteers – both healthy and cognitively impaired – to better understand how healthy brain aging occurs and why some people develop Alzheimer’s.

That research directly impacts patient care, allowing us to identify the disease earlier and provide therapies to our patients that can delay or prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Our comprehensive efforts to tackle this disease don’t end with the patient. We actively work with a patient’s family members and caregivers to help them understand how they can help their loved one.

“We often say Alzheimer’s is a family disease,” said Linda Van Eldik, PhD, director of Sanders-Brown. “That’s why we’re here to provide outreach, education and support to help patients and their families get the help they need to lead active and engaged lives.”


Next steps:

Making the Rounds with Dr. Lowell Anthony

Markey oncologist Lowell Anthony says it takes a village to treat cancer

Making the RoundsDr. Lowell Anthony, an oncologist at the UK Markey Cancer Center, sat down with us for the latest installment of Making the Rounds, a blog series where you’ll get to know the providers at UK HealthCare. Dr. Anthony specializes in treating neuroendocrine cancer, a rare form of the disease that begins in the hormone-producing cells of the body.

Tell us about the types of patients you see at Markey.

I’ve spent the last 30 years seeing patients with a wide variety of different types of neuroendocrine cancer. My focus is on tumors that are called carcinoids. These tumors can arise in the gastrointestinal tract, they can arise in the pancreas, they can arise in the lung. These cells are dispersed all through the body but there are certain areas where they’re concentrated.

What do you find most rewarding about working at Markey?

It’s the multidisciplinary approach we take with our patients and the collegiality of the people I work with. When a patient comes to Markey, we develop a care plan across specialties because it takes a village, really, to treat cancer. And we develop that care plan quickly so that the patient doesn’t have to make a lot of trips back and forth. I think that’s the real value for our patients.

What’s your biggest fear?

Not finding a parking space.

What’s your favorite food?

Sushi. I like eel a lot, so the caterpillar roll is my favorite. That’s got a lot of eel in it.

What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?

The worst job I’ve ever had was in a chicken house putting chickens in their crates for travel. It was challenging, but I could probably still do it today, if I had to.

What’s the best part about working and living in Lexington?

It’s a relatively small community but it has big community opportunities. I look at it as an undiscovered environment – it’s sort of the best kept secret. The climate is great, we have excellent restaurants, there’s plenty to do and having the undergraduate campus around us just makes Lexington feel alive and vibrant.


Watch a video interview with Dr. Anthony, where he tells us about the most exciting things happening in cancer research and treatment today.


Next steps:

  • The carcinoid and neuroendocrine cancer team at Markey takes a multidisciplinary approach to treatment that involves chemotherapy, radiation therapy and interventional therapy. Learn more about our team.
  • Geri McDowell was diagnosed with neuroendocrine cancer and was running out of options for treatment. That’s when Dr. Anthony recommended a clinical trial that offered her hope for recovery. Read Geri’s story.
It’s been six years since the UK football team played in a college bowl game, and this year's team doctors also are excited about the trip.

UK’s team doctors ready to bring their expertise to bowl game sideline

It’s been six years since the UK football team played in a college bowl game, and this year’s team doctors from UK Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine also are excited about the trip.

After a 7-5 season, including four wins against SEC teams and a win over in-state rival University of Louisville, the Cats are making a trip down south. UK will play Georgia Tech in the Tax Slayer Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 31. The team doctors responsible for keeping the team in tip-top shape and ready for another win include:

Dr. Darren Johnson, chair of UK Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports Medicine​, who for 20 years has worked as the head team orthopaedic surgeon with UK Football. The upcoming bowl game will be the eighth one he has had the chance to attend. Johnson has appreciated the way fans have rallied around the team; he thinks it helps the team feel encouraged and motivated. He’s especially looking forward to the game because he thinks it will be a chance for everyone to really see how much work goes into a winning season. “No one knows how many hours these people put in to make this all happen,” Johnson said. (Learn more about Dr. Johnson here.)

Dr. Robert Hosey, professor of UK Family & Community Medicine, has been with UK since 1998. He has worked as a team doctor since joining the department and began working with UK Football in 2002. While transporting what Hosey described as “essentially a traveling sports medical clinic” can be difficult, he says the athletic training staff does a great job making sure they have everything they need to ensure the team is in great shape. Hosey is looking forward to traveling to Florida. This is the first time he’s had the chance to attend a bowl game since he began working with the football team.

Dr. M. Kyle Smoot, UK Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports Medicine and Family Medicine, is in just his second year at UK.  However, this isn’t the first team he’s worked with or the first time he’s attended the Tax Slayer Bowl as a team doctor. The last bowl trip he made was with the University of Iowa when they played in the same bowl in 2014.


Next steps:

A new study, done in part at the UK Markey Cancer Center, shed light on why lung cancer cells can resist therapeutic cancer treatment.

Markey’s Dr. Timothy Mullet appointed to Commission on Cancer

Dr. Timothy Mullet

UK Markey Cancer Center’s Dr. Timothy Mullett has been appointed to the Commission on Cancer (CoC), a consortium of professional organizations dedicated to improving survival and quality of life for cancer patients across the country. Mullett is one of eight surgeons from across the country elected to represent the fellowship for a three-year term.

Established by the American College of Surgeons (ACoS) in 1922, the multidisciplinary CoC establishes standards to ensure high-quality, multidisciplinary and comprehensive cancer care delivery in healthcare settings; conducts surveys in healthcare settings to assess compliance with those standards; collects standardized data from CoC-accredited healthcare settings to measure cancer care quality; uses data to monitor treatment patterns and outcomes and enhance cancer control and clinical surveillance activities; and develops effective educational interventions to improve cancer prevention, early detection, cancer care delivery and outcomes in healthcare settings.

Mullett began his career at UK in 1996 as a thoracic surgeon treating heart issues, but quickly changed his focus to one of Kentucky’s biggest problems: lung cancer. In addition to co-leading one of the major components of the Kentucky LEADS Collaborative to improve lung cancer survival, he also serves as medical director for both the UK Markey Cancer Center Affiliate and Research Networks.


Next steps:

In our latest edition of Making the Round, we spoke with Dr. James Liau, a cosmetic surgeon who specializes in pediatric plastic and reconstructive surgery.

Pediatric plastic surgeon James Liau focuses on ‘the other side’ of surgery

Making the RoundsDr. James Liau practices the complete spectrum of plastic and reconstructive surgery. He also specializes in pediatric plastic and reconstructive surgery and craniofacial surgery, focusing on comprehensive treatment of children with cleft lips and palates, congenital craniofacial deformities, as well as other more unique congenital problems requiring pediatric plastic surgery.

What attracted you to plastic surgery?

I think what really attracted me to plastic surgery was being “on the other side” of surgery. What I mean by that is, for example, in a lot of general surgery or cancer surgery they take out the disease, they take out the cancer. However, patients then have a defect. And I think a lot of times they feel like they are lacking. As a plastic surgeon you’re on the recovery side, so you’re trying to restore.

Describe your care philosophy.

When I take care of a patient, my philosophy is more about the patient. Yes they have a disease process or they may have some issues, whether it be trauma, reconstruction or cosmetic, but it’s more about the patient and what they want. What is it that bothers them, and what are they looking for to help them move on with their lives?

Can you recall your first day of medical school?

I’m originally from California, and I did my undergrad out in California at UC Berkeley. So the first day of med school at UK, I just happened to sit next to a person I had gone to school with in Pasadena. It was very ironic considering that, of all the people that I’m sitting down next to in the state of Kentucky, it was someone from California.

Is there a place you would like to go for a vacation?

Well, we’ve been doing it every year–it’s a surf trip with my wife. I usually go to Costa Rica. I’ve been to Mexico, too, and I’m actually looking at some places in El Salvador.

What’s your favorite movie?

“Maroux.” It’s a movie about these guys trying to climb Maroux, which is a peak that’s never been climbed before. They are three professional climbers, and it’s a pretty interesting saga because the first time they did it they failed. It’s a really good movie. Pretty inspiring.

Is there a type of food you like best?

Anything with noodles in it!


Check out our full interview with Dr. Liau, where he talks about what drew him to pediatric plastic surgery.


Next steps:

UK chaplain returns to work with renewed spirit following cycling accident

Exactly five months ago today, Laura Babbage had a devastating accident while biking through the French Alps with her 22-year-old son Brian.

Babbage, a chaplain at UK HealthCare, suffered a traumatic brain injury during the accident, which required months of treatment and rehabilitation. With the help of her care team at UK HealthCare and the prayers of friends and family, Babbage has returned to her work more than six months ahead of doctors’ estimates.

Babbage’s accident happened in France, she was airlifted back to Lexington and was treated at UK HealthCare. She completed her inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation at Cardinal Hill Hospital.

Babbage knows that many of her UK HealthCare family know her story, because she has heard of the many staff who prayed outside the door of her ICU bed and has delighted at the numerous people who’ve stopped her in the halls with a “welcome back!” smile or a hug.

“I’m overwhelmed by how much people rooted for me,” Babbage said. “There was an ocean of prayer entire churches I’d never heard of were praying for me. And I believe prayer, in all its forms, does matter.”

Read Babbage’s open letter of thanks to the UK doctors, nurses and staff who cared for her.

Using her experience for others

Since her return to chaplaincy about two weeks ago, Babbage has gone about her work with the grace and empathy that all who know her recognize: She is a patient and willing listener, she is trained to develop a relationship of trust without judgment and to add dimension to the skilled care provided by physicians and staff.

While Babbage acknowledges that, at least in the beginning, this ordeal was easiest on her – “I don’t remember a thing, but my family was sorely tested,” she said – she knows that this experience will help her do her job better.

“I am always aware of and sensitive to the desire for a visit from a chaplain as well as for prayer,” she said. “Chaplains are a listening presence for patients and families to help them begin to make sense of their situation. We are available for prayer if requested. Often we simply meet someone in the midst of their pain and suffering, aware of this special privilege.

“But now I have a deeper appreciation for families and their experience with their ill or injured family member since I’ve returned to work,” she explained. “Chaplains listen far more than we talk, allowing time and space for families to grasp the gravity of the moment. I have a heightened tenderness for family members now that I recognize what my own family experienced during my hospital stay. Like other chaplains, I will continue to learn.”

Returning to the patient’s bedside

Babbage and Joe Alverson, UK HealthCare’s director of pastoral care, were very careful to make sure she was prepared to meet and address patient and family needs.

“We wondered what would happen if I was needed to minister to a patient or family who’d experienced a trauma similar to mine,” Babbage said. “But we’ve been trained to eject ourselves from any situation if necessary – sometimes you’re not the right person for that patient, and sometimes they don’t want you there at all.  I felt I’d still be able to do that.”

Alverson remembers the shock and disbelief he felt when he learned that “one of our own” was in serious trouble.

“My first thought was for her – and my second thought immediately after that was for her family,” he said.  “As chaplains we see the sickest of the sick, and her condition was a huge worry for us.”

The pace of Babbage’s recovery was “beyond belief,” Alverson said.

“The first time I saw her was after she’d completed inpatient rehab at Cardinal Hill in September, and the first words out of her mouth were ‘When can I come back?'” he said. “I was excited for her, for me and for the hospital as well.”

Alverson knows that Babbage will make good use of her experience as she continues to care for others.

“We work in the midst of trauma and chaos every day, but to actually live that makes it more real,” he said. “I really look forward to seeing how her experience changes the trajectory of her work, but regardless of the exact path, I know it will be a good one.”

“We’re just thrilled to have her back.”

Media inquiries: Laura Dawahare, University of Kentucky Public Relations and Marketing, laura.dawahare.uky.edu


Next steps:

  • Learn more about Pastoral Care at UK HealthCare, where our chaplains are available to help patients, families and staff deal with spiritual and emotional challenges associated with medical events and crises.
  • The world-renowned doctors at UK Neurosurgery provides diagnosis and management of a wide range of conditions involving the brain, spine and nervous system. Learn more about the care we provide.
UK football coach Mark Stoops and players paid a visit to the Kentucky Children's Hospital.

Pediatric patients get a holiday visit from Coach Stoops, UK football players

UK football coach Mark Stoops and players from the team spread holiday cheer to kids at Kentucky Children’s Hospital on Tuesday.

Check it out!

UK expert says long-acting reversible contraceptives are both safe and effective

Joanne E. Brown, DNP, APRN

Written by Joanne Brown, DNP, APRN, in the UK College of Nursing and Women’s Health at University Health Service.

Long-acting reversible contraceptives are the most effective form of reversible birth control but not the most commonly used. Misconceptions and outdated misinformation prevent many people from realizing the benefits of intrauterine devices (IUDs), contraceptive implants and the birth control shot. While use of these contraceptives has increased over time, they are still much underutilized.

Types of LARCs

IUDs are small devices that are placed inside the uterus. There are several varieties of IUDs, some containing hormones and some without. These various devices can prevent pregnancy for different amounts of time, typically between three and 12 years. The contraceptive implant is a small rod placed under the skin in the upper arm and can prevent pregnancy for up to three years. The Depo Provera contraceptive shot is effective for three months before another shot needs to be administered.

Debunking the misconceptions

One common misconception about LARCs is that they are unsafe. However, not only are LARCs effective, they are also very safe. There are few women for whom using LARCs would not be an option. Additionally, LARCs are safe for use in adolescents, young women and women who have not had children. Of course, it’s important to speak with your healthcare provider about personal and sexual health history and to ask about symptoms that could be cause for concern.

Another misconception surrounding LARCs is that they have a detrimental effect on future fertility. Research has shown about 71 percent of women who wanted to become pregnant conceived within 12 months of removing IUDs. (This is comparable to the general population). It is important to talk to your provider about personal goals regarding future pregnancy; this will impact the type of contraception that is best for you.

The most effective form of reversible contraception

Finally, LARCs are the most effective form of reversible contraception on the market; less than one percent of users will become pregnant. Pregnancy occurs in up to 18 percent of women who use condoms as their primary method of birth control and in about 9 percent of women using oral contraception. This often occurs because of inconsistent or incorrect use. Because LARCs don’t require women to remember anything on a daily, weekly or monthly basis and require a visit to a health care provider for removal, they prevent user error, which often occurs with other forms of contraception.

About 50 percent of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended. It is important that we provide information and access to the safest and most effective forms of birth control. LARCs can provide safety and security for most women, and should be considered along with other forms of contraception.


 Next steps:

Being proactive about teen pregnancy prevention, education

Jennifer Coffaro

Jennifer Coffaro

Written by Jennifer Coffaro, PA-C, advanced practice provider at UK Adolescent Medicine and the Young Parents Program. This post is part of a series written by Dr. Hatim Omar and his team in Adolescent Medicine related to the unique health concerns faced by teens and young adults.

Teen pregnancy rates have dropped to historic lows in the United States, but compared to other developed countries, our rates remain high. Regardless of why this is, teen pregnancy continues to be a public health concern.

Concerning trends

Teen pregnancy rates are higher in minorities, particularly African-American and Hispanic populations. Low education levels and low household incomes are associated with increased risk of teenage pregnancies.

Young people born to teen parents are more likely to become teen parents themselves, and current teen mothers are at greater risk for repeat teen births. Young women in foster care are twice as likely to be a pregnant teen.

In Kentucky, nearly half of all high school students are sexually active. However, only about 40 percent of these students use hormonal birth control and only 40 percent use condoms.

Starting a conversation

Sexuality and sexual desire are normal parts of human development. Teens need to be provided with an environment where they are comfortable discussing their sexuality. Ideally, these conversations should happen before teens become sexually active.

It is important for parents and guardians to be willing to discuss abstinence and safe sexual practices with teens. Too often, teenagers look to their peers or the internet for advice, which can be inaccurate. Medical providers are also great resources for teens and parents who may be uncomfortable discussing sex.

How we can help

UK Adolescent Medicine provides contraceptive education and care for teenagers and their families. Our counselors are experts at communicating with adolescents and will work with you and your family to address any concerns you might have related to pregnancy or contraception.

We offer additional resources and information about numerous contraceptive methods that are safe and effective in reducing the risk of pregnancy.

We respect the privacy of teens and their families. You can be sure that all discussions and care are absolutely confidential.


Next steps:

  • The Young Parents Program at UK was created to address the unique health concerns of young parents and their children. Learn more about our program.
  • Read Omar’s post about how UK Adolescent Medicine is helping improve health and well-being for teens and young adults across Kentucky.