The new $1.6 million DanceBlue Kentucky Children's Hospital (KCH) Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic transports families to a beachside getaway.

DanceBlue celebrates opening of new pediatric cancer clinic

With a sailboat full of toys, murals of blue skies over the sea and a lighthouse illuminated with all colors of the rainbow, the new $1.6 million DanceBlue Kentucky Children’s Hospital (KCH) Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic transports families to a beachside getaway.

The expanded beach-themed clinic, supported by funds raised through the UK DanceBlue organization and dance marathon event, is designed to enhance resources, privacy and care for pediatric patients and families battling cancer. The student-run organization raised more than $1.3 million to upgrade the clinic, with additional support from donors inspired by the DanceBlue movement.

‘The transformational power of we’

On Monday, UK President Eli Capilouto, DanceBlue student-volunteers, KCH staff, and patients and their families celebrated the grand opening of the clinic during a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Capilouto commended the efforts of DanceBlue students, donors and organizers who pledged to upgrade the facility for Kentucky’s youngest cancer patients.

“With the dedication of the DanceBlue Kentucky Children’s Hospital Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic we acknowledge the transformational power of ‘we’ and the enduring dedication of UK students to build a better world,” Capilouto said. “The new clinic better positions the faculty, staff and clinicians responsible for caring for the strongest among us  the kids for whom nearly 1,000 UK students will stand and dance in a couple weeks. Our students provide the constant reminder that, together, we will fight ‘For the Kids’ until the battle is won.”

Equipped with state-of-the-art technology

Relocated to Kentucky Children’s Hospital, the new clinic boasts more than 6,000 square feet, doubling the space of the former outpatient clinic located at the Kentucky Clinic. The waiting room features an interactive lighthouse, with a touchpad that allows children to choose the color of the light, as well as a 300-gallon fish aquarium. The clinic is furnished with spacious exam rooms, four private infusion rooms for chemotherapy and three semi-private infusion rooms designated for specific age groups.

The clinic’s beach theme complements the Ocean Pod, where DanceBlue patients stay during inpatient treatment. Consistent with the theme, DanceBlue volunteers and clinic staff can leave encouraging messages for patients in a wall compartment resembling a “message in a bottle.” The waiting room also includes three computer stations where patients can check-in for appointments. The new clinic houses a separate phlebotomy and port access station, as well as an exclusive pharmacy and child life coordinator.

“Our new DanceBlue Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic has been transformational for cancer care at Kentucky Children’s Hospital,” said Dr. Lars Wagner, chief of pediatric hematology and oncology. “Our patients and their families now have a warm and spacious clinic with private and semi-private infusion rooms. My staff and I are so grateful to DanceBlue.”

People make the place

Nine-year-old patient Ryan Cremeens has received cancer treatment at the DanceBlue Clinic since June 2016. The Cremeens family recently transitioned from the old clinic to the new facility. While they appreciate the new clinic features, Eric Cremeens, Ryan’s dad, believes it’s the people at the clinic the doctors, nurses and staff who make his son’s experience meaningful.

“It obviously takes a special person to do the jobs they do at the clinic,” Eric Cremeens said. “We are more than blessed to have Dr. Wagner during our visits. He has been a calming, steady voice throughout the entire treatment process. The nurses and staff are also incredible. By the second visit everyone knew Ryan’s name and recognized his face, and it has made the whole process much better.”

Wagner has not only impacted Eric Cremeens, but Ryan has also taken favor to him, referring to him as the “Wag-man.”

“Ryan feels comfortable going there and he loves Dr. Wagner,” Cremeens said. “Dr. Wagner is more than a top-notch physician  he’s just a great person.”

Ryan Cremeens also benefits from the DanceBlue student-volunteers who serve in the clinic during his visits. He enjoys seeing DanceBlue student-volunteer Bryan Adams, who also served as his Indian Summer Camp counselor.

“Every time I see Ryan and his family, it makes my day,” Adams said. “He is filled with so much joy and he makes everyone who is around him smile and laugh.”

The largest philanthropic event at UK

DanceBlue, the largest student-run philanthropy organization at the University of Kentucky, has made a profound impact on the children treated in the DanceBlue Clinic since its inception in 2006. The annual DanceBlue Marathon benefits the Golden Matrix Fund and, in turn, the DanceBlue Clinic. DanceBlue has raised more than $9.8 million for children and pledged more than $1 million to support the new clinic in 2013.

“It is truly special with all the new and exciting things happening at UK, for our students to be able to say they built a new facility too,” said Richie Simpson, the overall chair of DanceBlue. “It is a testament to the hard work of students throughout the past 12 years, and a commitment to continue fighting for the kids in our clinic.”

Ryan is expected to complete chemotherapy on March 30. The DanceBlue 2017 Marathon will take place the weekend of Feb. 25 and 26 from 8 p.m. Saturday through 8 p.m. Sunday in Memorial Coliseum. The marathon is open to the public from start to finish. For more information about DanceBlue, registration information or to support its efforts, visit

Watch our video for a tour inside the new DanceBlue Clinic.

Next steps:

  • Learn more about the pediatric cancer care provided at the DanceBlue Clinic.
  • Interested in donating to the Kentucky Children’s Hospital? Visit Give to KCH to learn more about ways you can support our mission.
A floater is a dark spot or squiggly line that enters your vision when the eye moves. They can be bothersome, but how can you tell if they're serious?

Eye floaters are common with age but may signal a more serious problem

Dr. Claire Fraser

Written by Dr. Claire Fraser, an ophthalmologist at UK Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences.

Have you ever noticed the sudden appearance of a black dot in your field of vision that moves around when you move your eyes? It could also look like a cob web. You try blinking, but it just won’t go away. It’s called a floater, and it can be quite bothersome especially if you’re trying to read or do other close work. But what exactly are floaters?

A floater may appear as a dark gray or black spot, circle, or squiggly line that drifts in the vision as the eye moves. Floaters are most noticeable in bright sunlight or when looking at a white background. What we see as a floater is actually a shadow cast by a small condensation of something inside the eye called vitreous gel.

Does everyone have floaters?

No, but they are very common and are more likely to occur with age. Vitreous gel liquefies with age, causing spots of condensation within the gel. Those become the floaters that we see. Eventually the vitreous gel separates from the retina, forming a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD).

This happens to most people at some point during their lives. A new central floater often appears when the PVD occurs and intermittent light flashes may be present. The risk of a retinal tear is highest during the month after a PVD occurs because gel that is stuck to the retinal surface may cause a tear as it separates.

When should I be concerned?

You should seek immediate evaluation by an ophthalmologist if you see new floaters, the floaters are accompanied by flashing lights or part of your vision becomes dark. Floaters that appear red could indicate bleeding inside the eye, which is another indication for urgent evaluation.

Symptoms like flashing lights, multiple new floaters, decreased vision or bleeding inside the eye can be the first sign of a retinal tear or retinal detachment, which can lead to permanent vision loss. Early treatment offers the best chance for preservation and recovery of vision. A retinal tear can often be treated with an in-office laser procedure to prevent retinal detachment and loss of vision.

Other important causes of floaters include diabetes, injury to the eye, inflammation (uveitis) and infection.

Will my floaters go away?

Over time, the brain learns to ignore floaters in the eyes. This process usually takes months. The floaters themselves may also settle to the bottom of the eye and move out of center vision.

Occasionally floaters can impair vision enough that a surgical procedure called a vitrectomy is needed to remove the vitreous gel. Most people find that floaters become much less noticeable over time and surgery is not needed.

Laser treatment of floaters to break them up into small particles has significant risk and has not yet gained wide acceptance. Eye drops and diet modification have not been shown to decrease floaters.

Most patients find that time is the best medicine.

UK Ophthalmology, now known as UK Advanced Eye Care, is moving! Beginning March 20, all appointments will be located in leased space within the new Shriners Medical Center for Children building, just across South Limestone from UK Albert B. Chandler Hospital.  This new space is not only beautiful, it’s state-of-the-art and will allow us to better serve our patients. We hope you’re as excited as we are.

Next steps:

UK HealthCare’s Gill Heart Institute is at the forefront of regenerative medicine, putting us on the verge of a potentially world-changing breakthrough that doesn’t just treat damage, but actually heals the heart itself.

The story behind our new Power of Advanced Medicine TV spot

What happens when a world-class surgeon and a renowned researcher have an idea for a revolutionary new way to heal the heart? Our exciting new TV spot tells how the Power of Advanced Medicine could change life after heart attack. Watch the video at the end of this post!

A revolutionary treatment to heal the heart

Using a patient’s own bone marrow cells, we can now regenerate healthy heart muscle after a heart attack. It’s as complicated as it sounds, and it’s equally profound in the realm of regenerative medicine.

Explore how the UK Gill Heart & Vascular Institute is at the forefront of regenerative medicine, putting us on the verge of a potentially world-changing breakthrough that doesn’t just treat damage, but actually heals the heart itself.

It all started in a hallway

The genesis of this project was nothing short of fortuitous. Because UK HealthCare is one of the few institutions where clinical, research and other expertise are housed under the same roof, a chance encounter becomes more likely. Dr. Ahmed Abdel-Latif, a cardiologist at Gill and regenerative medicine researcher, ran into cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Michael Sekela, and the idea took off from there.

“You cannot do this type of research as a single person. It’s a huge deal and a huge commitment, from the leadership in the university and in the hospital and the medical school. Everyone works well together, everyone is supportive this makes it an ideal place for someone like me and for this type of therapy. It’s not just one physician or one scientist. It’s a whole system,” Abdel-Latif said.

What is the problem we’re solving?

There’s more to a heart attack than the event itself. When you have a heart attack, the heart suffers irreparable damage—the symptoms of which will reveal themselves for years after. These symptoms, commonly known as heart failure, are what we’re aiming to solve.

Instead of managing treatment for the remainder of a patient’s life, we’re using precision, regenerative medicine to heal the damaged tissue. This not only improves the functional capacity of a patient’s most vital organ, it significantly improves one’s quality of life. It’s here we believe this treatment will have its most profound and far reaching effects.

What is regenerative medicine?

The field of regenerative medicine is exciting, but not new. The first successful regenerative therapies such as bone marrow and organ transplants took place in the seventies. But new technologies and information have opened doors for treatments that seemed novel only months ago.

In short, regenerative medicine has the potential to fully heal damaged tissues and organs, offering solutions and hope for people who have conditions previously determined as beyond repair.

“What’s good about UK is that we are able to offer this therapy to our patients early, before it becomes a standard of care,” Abdel-Latif said. “So patients at UK will have access to this therapy through clinical trials. They will have access to this therapy before anyone else.”

How does this procedure work?

“What we’re trying to do is focusing a specific area of regrowing blood vessels to heart muscle that doesn’t have enough blood flow,” Sekela said. “And theoretically, what we’re doing is taking something that should turn into scar tissue, and let that be muscle. And if we can do that, it’ll explode this field in cardiovascular surgery and in cardiovascular medicine.”

Who is this procedure for?

Eventually, everyone. Because we’re still in the early days of this therapy, only certain, qualifying patients will have access to it. But the prevailing theory is that all patients suffering from severe heart failure will qualify for this procedure within a few years. And down the road, those suffering from more mild cases could have their symptoms addressed as well.

What is the potential impact?

This procedure could easily help millions of people. In the U.S. alone, there are billions of dollars being spent on care for heart failure patients. These types of therapies will not only improve lifestyle and life expectancy for patients with severe heart disease, but will have a profound economic impact as well.

If this procedure is successfully implemented, it could do more than change cardiovascular treatment it could shift a cornerstone in medicine itself.

How long before this is standard procedure?

Experts estimate it that regenerative therapies like this one will be the standard of care within five to 10 years. There is a litany of factors that could play into this, such as governmental influence, the pace of clinical trials, and funding. Nevertheless, regenerative medicine is undoubtedly seeing advancements by the day and UK HealthCare is at the forefront.

Next steps:

During a recent trip to Taiwan, Dr. Mark V. Williams had the opportunity to share his expertise as a hospitalist and researcher with colleagues in Taiwan.

UK physician shares expertise at international conference in Taiwan

During a recent trip to Taiwan, Dr. Mark V. Williams, director of the UK Center for Health Services Research (CHSR), had the opportunity to share his expertise as a hospitalist and researcher with colleagues in Taiwan.

Williams was invited by Dr. Ming-Chin Yang, National Taiwan University’s associate dean of the College of Public Health, and Dr. Nin-Chieh Hsu, a practicing hospitalist in Taiwan, to speak at the Jan. 7 forum of hospital medicine at the first International Conference of Hospital Medicine.

With the overall goal of inspiring the planning of hospital medicine in Taiwan, this conference focused on the challenges, opportunities and future of the field. The field of hospital medicine focuses on improving healthcare delivery and efficiency for inpatients with complex medical problems.

Williams’ presentation highlighted the evolution of hospital medicine and the roles hospitalists play now and the role they will play in the future.

“I appreciated the warm reception and eagerness to learn from UK’s internationally recognized experience in the specialty of hospital medicine, which includes over 50,000 physicians in the United States,” Williams said.

Williams has been the director of the Center for Health Services Research since 2014. CHSR is focused on creating, testing and scaling next-generation solutions to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of health care delivery and the overall health of people within Kentucky and beyond. He also serves as chief of the Division of Hospital Medicine at UK HealthCare. More than 50 hospitalists in the division care for more than 200 hospitalized patients per day at UK HealthCare.

“This invitation to the first-ever International Conference of Hospital Medicine in Taiwan exemplified an opportunity to share UK’s expertise with physicians and policy makers from countries across southeast Asia,” Williams said.

Next steps:

What African-Americans should know about their hearts

What African-Americans should know about their hearts

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for all Americans, but the threat of heart-related complications is most severe for African-Americans.

Dr. Ted Wright

Dr. Ted Wright

Data from the American Heart Association shows that African-Americans are at a higher risk for heart disease than white Americans and the prevalence of high blood pressure in black Americans is among the highest in the world. Because African-Americans are disproportionately affected by heart disease, it’s important to understand why that’s the case and what can be done to promote a healthy heart.

To celebrate Black History Month and American Heart Month, we spoke with Dr. Ted Wright, a heart surgeon at the UK Gill Heart & Vascular Institute who specializes in heart rhythm disorders, to find out more about how heart disease impacts African-American adults and what you can do to improve your heart health.

Why are African-Americans more susceptible to heart disease than other groups?

Wright: The primary reason is that hypertension, or high blood pressure, is much higher in the African-American community. About two out of every five African-American adults have high blood pressure, and fewer than half have it under control.

What other factors contribute to higher rates of heart disease in the African-American community?

Wright: Other factors include obesity and diabetes. The prevalence of obesity and inactivity tend to be a bit higher in the African-American community, and there’s some research indicating that African-Americans metabolize salt in a way that may contribute to high blood pressure.

What are preventive measures a person can take to improve their heart health?

Wright: Lifestyle changes can have a huge impact on getting your risk factors under control. Here’s what I recommend: Eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, don’t smoke or quit smoking right away, limit your alcohol consumption, and know your family history. If others in your family have had heart disease, you might be more at risk for it yourself.

What else should people be doing to manage their risk factors?

Wright: In addition to lifestyle changes, be informed and know your numbers: blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and weight. Work with your health care provider to manage these numbers through lifestyle changes and medications.

Dr. Wright is a heart surgeon at the UK Gill Heart & Vascular Institute. He is UK’s leading expert in AFib treatment and is the only doctor in the region performing the Mini-MAZE procedure.

Next steps:

  • Want to improve your heart health? Understanding just a few numbers, like your blood pressure and cholesterol, can tell you a whole lot about your overall health.
  • Twin brothers Jon Wes and Gardner Adams were diagnosed with a rare heart rhythm disorder called Brugada syndrome. After being treated successfully at Gill, the brothers are helping researchers at UK understand inherited heart disorders.
Dr. Doug Lowy, interim director of the National Cancer Institute, recently visited the Markey Cancer Center, continuing a dialogue on cancer in Kentucky.

NCI director meets Markey researchers, faculty on special visit

Dr. Doug Lowy, interim director of the National Cancer Institute, recently visited the UK Markey Cancer Center, continuing a dialogue on cancer in Kentucky following his visit to Hazard, Ky. last fall.

Kentucky is home to the highest cancer incidence and mortality rates in the country, a major health problem that Markey is dedicated to changing. In July 2013, Markey received a prestigious NCI designation, which allows the center access to more research funding, trials and treatments.

Much of Lowy’s visit focused on research. Nine UK faculty members gave presentations on major research initiatives and programs at Markey, ranging from efforts in cancer prevention and control to drug development and discovery. Major topics of discussion centered around the cancer types that affect Kentuckians the most: lung cancer, colon cancer, cervical cancer/HPV and the hepatitis C virus, which is linked to liver cancer.

After meeting with a group of Markey junior faculty members, Lowy learned more about the UK HealthCare enterprise and its support of Markey from Dr. Michael Karpf, executive vice president for health affairs at UK. Lowy finished the day with a tour of clinical space in UK Albert B. Chandler Hospital’s Pavilion A – future home to Markey’s Hematology and Blood & Marrow Transplantation inpatient floor – and a dedicated cancer research lab in the UK College of Pharmacy.

“We were honored to have Dr. Doug Lowy visit us today at the UK Markey Cancer Center to learn more about our patients and the research we do here,” said Dr. Mark Evers, director of Markey. “It was a wonderful opportunity to engage with the NCI and with Dr. Lowy, so that they better understand some of the difficulties we have in delivering care to our patient population.”

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Next steps:

  • Markey is Kentucky’s only NCI-designated cancer center, providing world-class cancer care right here in the Commonwealth. Learn more about why patients choose Markey for their cancer treatment.
  • Learn more about Markey’s NCI designation and what it means for our patients and their families.

Heart health 101: Know your numbers

February is American Heart Month and the perfect time to check on your ticker. When it comes to a heart health, a few numbers can tell you a whole lot. Get to know your numbers for blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol and body weight. If these are too high, you are more likely to have heart disease and other health problems. Getting your numbers checked regularly and knowing what they mean is a great first step toward better health.

Here are the basics:

Blood sugar – aim for less than 100

  • What it is: Your blood sugar measures exactly that  how much sugar is in your blood. Elevated blood sugar can lead to diabetes, and an increased risk for heart attack and stroke.
  • What should your number be? Before eating, your blood sugar should be less than 100, and two hours after eating it should be less than 140.
  • Take action: Avoid foods high in carbohydrates (such as bread, pasta and desserts), which can elevate your blood sugar, and work to incorporate more raw, cooked or roasted veggies into your daily diet.

Blood pressure – aim for 120/80 or lower

  • What it is: Blood pressure measures the force of blood against the arteries when your beats (top number) and rests (bottom number). High blood pressure, or hypertension, can damage your heart, arteries and kidneys if left untreated.
  • What should your number be?
    • 120/80 is considered normal.
    • 140/90 or higher is considered high.
  • Take action: Incorporate regular exercise, which can help maintain a healthy blood pressure, into your daily routine. Limiting sodium intake to about 1 teaspoon of salt (2,300 milligrams) each day and reducing your alcohol intake can also help.

Blood cholesterol – aim for less than 200

  • What it is: Cholesterol is a waxy substance produced by the liver. If you have too much in your arteries, it can make it hard for your blood to circulate. Sustained high cholesterol can increase your risk for heart disease and heart attacks.
  • What should your number be?
    • A total cholesterol reading of 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) is good.
    • 200-239 mg/dL is borderline high, indicating some risk for heart disease.
    • A reading of 240 mg/dL or above is considered high.
  • Take action: Cholesterol is impacted in part by your diet, so reducing your intake of unhealthy foods like fried dishes and rich desserts can help improve your number.

Body mass index – aim for 18.6-24.9

  • What it is: Your ideal body weight takes into account your gender, age, height and frame. Your body mass index, or BMI, uses your height as well as your weight to give you a better idea of how much of your body is composed of fat.
  • What should your number be? The higher your BMI, the greater your risk of heart disease, hypertension and diabetes.
    • A healthy BMI is between 18.6 and 24.9.
    • A BMI between 25-29.9 is considered overweight.
    • Anything above 30 is considered obese.
  • Take action: Eat a healthy diet with lots of vegetables and increase your weekly activity and exercise. Burning 500 extra calories a day can help you lose up to one pound a week.

Next step: