This year's CCTS conference acknowledges the significant challenges of translating knowledge into new interventions for individual and community health.

UK conference highlights impact of research on community health

The UK Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS) this week hosted its 12th Annual Spring Conference highlighting the impact that collaborative team science can have in bringing translational medical research to communities across Appalachia.

The conference brought more than 800 researchers, clinicians, students and partners to Lexington to discuss this year’s theme of “Clinical Trial Networks and Team Science: Moving Discoveries to Interventions.” The CCTS, funded by a Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Institutes of Health, hosts the conference each year to share science and enhance research collaborations.

The CCTS doesn’t focus on any one type of disease, but instead provides pilot funding, a spectrum of research support services, and training and education to accelerate discoveries related to health issues affecting Kentucky and Central Appalachia.

This year’s conference theme acknowledges the significant challenges of translating knowledge into useful interventions for individual and community health, a process that often takes years or decades. Multidisciplinary research teams and networks of clinical trials, however, can quicken the process by combining expertise and leveraging existing research systems.

“In the not-so-distance past, ‘medical research’ conjured the image of a single investigator, alone in their lab with a microscope,” said Dr. Philip A. Kern, director of the CCTS. “But as research methods have become more specialized and health problems more complex, multidisciplinary collaboration is critical to gaining new knowledge and turning discoveries into new interventions. Combining the expertise of multiple specialties and bridging our work across the clinic, the lab and communities is essential to making real advancements to improve health.”

Reflecting the importance of a multidisciplinary approach, the conference was held in conjunction with the UK College of Dentistry Research Day, the UK College of Engineering Biomedical Research Day, the UK College of Health Sciences Research Day​, the UK College of Nursing Scholarship Showcase, the UK College of Public Health Research Day and the UK MD/PhD Program Research Day.

Representatives from Marshall University, a partner of the CCTS in the Appalachian Translational Research Network, were also in attendance, as were colleagues from the UK Center for Excellence in Rural Health.

A special ‘thank you’ to Dr. Lowe

A special recognition award was presented to Jane S. Lowe, PhD, administrative director of the CCTS, who is retiring after more than 25 years of academic and research administration.

“Dr. Lowe has been at the heart and soul of the CCTS since its inception, and will be forever linked with our center,” Kern said. “Over the years, as members of the leadership of the center and of the university have come and gone; as faculty, staff and students have traversed its waters; as local and national policies and priorities have changed  the one true constant of the UK CCTS has been Jane Lowe. She has faithfully served as an intrepid founder, an exacting archivist, an unrelenting challenger and our most ardent supporter. Without reservation I can say that Dr. Lowe’s leadership has been at the core of every success of the CCTS.”


Next steps:

  • Learn how a $19.8 million grant from the NIH has put CCTS in elite company among research institutions across the country.
  • Researchers are working hard to identify new treatments and strategies to improve health, but they need healthy participants and those with medical conditions to participate in clinical studies. Find out how you can participate in clinical research at UK HealthCare.
Dr. van Nagell has worked with countless patients, faculty and students, but his legacy will likely be Markey's Ovarian Cancer Screening Program.

Listen: Dr. van Nagell talks about his life-saving work at Markey

In 1987, Dr. John van Nagell started the UK Markey Cancer Center’s Ovarian Cancer Screening Program, an ongoing research endeavor that provides free ovarian cancer screenings by transvaginal ultrasound to women across Kentucky.

Now in its 30th year, the program has provided free screenings to more than 46,000 women and found 775 ovarian tumors and 103 malignancies. Screenings are provided to women over the age of 50 and to those over the age of 25 who have a family history of ovarian cancer.

Van Nagell was recently honored for his years of clinical, research and educational work on a national level, earning the Society of Gynecologic Oncology’s Distinguished Service Award for 2017.

We sat down with Dr. van Nagell to discuss his reaction to the award and what keeps him motivated in his fight against ovarian cancer in Kentucky. Listen to the conversation below.


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spring exercise

It’s spring! Get out and get moving

With more daylight and warmer temperatures beckoning, many people are ready to say goodbye to the winter doldrums and get active. If you’ve been holed up since Thanksgiving, however, lacing up your running shoes and heading out for a two-mile run may not be the best way to ease into a new exercise routine.

Spring is a great time to get moving, and our five-step guide can help you create a successful  and enjoyable  fitness plan.

Step 1: Talk with your doctor

Before you start working up a sweat, schedule a visit to your doctor to gauge on your overall health. Discuss any aches, pains or limitations that might impact your plans to get active. Talk about how to build a cardiovascular foundation that will lend itself to further activity.

Step 2: Make a plan

Exercise should be planned for a time in the day when you feel rested and have the most energy. If you are planning to exercise outside, avoid extreme temperatures (warmer than 85° F or colder than 32° F). Remember to dress appropriately for the weather and wear comfortable, supportive footwear. An indoor contingency plan for exercise can help you stay active even during spring showers.

Step 3: Warm up and cool down

Aerobic exercise, such as walking or biking, is recommended for those getting started with a new routine. Your exercise session should start with a warm-up period of slow walking or low-resistance bicycling and end with a cool-down segment at similar intensity. At the end of exercise, stretch the major muscle groups used by holding each stretch for 20-30 seconds. This can minimize injury and fatigue and increase flexibility.

Step 4: Make it manageable

Begin your exercise routine with an amount of time that is manageable, something as short as a five-minute walk around the neighborhood. Once you’re comfortable exercising for that long, slowly increase the duration of your sessions. Don’t push yourself too hard, either. You should be able to maintain a conversation at all times of exercise without experiencing breathlessness.

Step 5: Stay active

Exercise shouldn’t be a slog, so make sure you’re doing something that you enjoy and makes you feel good. A successful start of a new routine will keep you motivated to continue and progress. Fitness trackers and fitness apps are additional options to stay engaged and monitor progress. Enlisting a companion for exercise will add an element of support and keep the activity enjoyable.


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While spring brings sunny days and warm weather, it also means the return of irritating spring allergies. Here's what you can do about them.

Tired of spring allergies? Here’s what you can do

While spring does bring sunny days and warm weather, the seasonal change also means the return of irritating spring allergies.

Dr. Beth Miller

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies each year. Seasonal allergies cause symptoms like sneezing, coughing and itching, and your reaction can range from bothersome to truly harmful. It’s important that you understand your allergies so you can feel your best.

We spoke with Dr. Beth Miller, director of the UK Asthma, Allergy & Sinus Clinic, to find out what habits will help prevent spring allergies.

What causes spring allergies?

Miller: Spring allergies can be caused by tree pollen and mold spores.

What medications do you recommend?

Miller: The best treatment depends upon your symptoms. Over-the-counter nasal sprays, like Flonase and Nasacort, can be very helpful for both runny and stuffy noses. Over-the-counter antihistamines, such as Zyrtec, Allegra and Claritin, are helpful for preventing other allergy symptoms like itchy, watery eyes and sneezing.

What other solutions are there for limiting spring allergies?

Miller: There are things you can do in your home to make a difference. You can start by keeping your windows closed and leaving your air conditioning on. This will help keep pollens and mold spores from entering your home.

Can environmental allergies be outgrown over time?

Miller: Unfortunately, no. The only known solution for environmental allergies is getting allergy shots. However, these shots are more likely to improve your symptoms than completely cure your allergies.

What are the differences in symptoms between allergies and a cold?

Miller: A cold will typically last 7-10 days, and allergies will last longer with exposure. Colds can include a fever, chills, body aches and a yellow/green nasal discharge. On the other hand, allergies typically won’t cause these symptoms, and the nasal discharge for allergies is usually clear.

What are the risks of not treating seasonal allergies?

Miller: If uncontrolled, seasonal allergies can cause a decrease in your quality of life, leading to symptoms like irritability, poor concentration and disturbed sleep. Also, if uncontrolled seasonal allergies linger for too long, they can lead to more serious problems like sinus and ear infections, as well an increased risk of developing asthma.

When is it necessary to see a doctor about allergies?

Miller: Consider seeing an allergist when your symptoms aren’t easily controlled, if you develop uneasy chest symptoms or sinus/ear infections, or if your quality of life is being compromised. An allergist will help you identify your specific allergens and suggest the best treatment.


Next Steps:

The American Diabetes Association of the Bluegrass is asking companies around Lexington to check their risk for Type 2 diabetes by participate in Alert Day.

It only takes 60 seconds to assess your risk for diabetes

Diabetes affects nearly 600,000 Kentuckians  that’s one in every eight people living in the state. And many in Kentucky who have the disease don’t even know it.

Over time, diabetes damages nerves and blood vessels, which can lead to complications such as heart disease and stroke, kidney disease, blindness, nerve problems, gum infections and amputation. The good news is that recognizing possible diabetes symptoms early on can lead to successful diagnosis and treatment. Common early symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Excessive thirst and increased urination.
  • Weight loss and constant hunger.
  • Vision changes.
  • Fatigue.
  • Tingling hands and feet.
  • Red, swollen, tender gums.
  • Slow-healing sores or frequent infections.

Alert Day

Today is the American Diabetes Association’s Alert Day and a great opportunity to assess your risk for diabetes. Take the ADA’s Diabetes Risk Test to find out if you’re one of the nine in 10 Americans at risk for the disease. The test takes only 60 seconds to complete, and knowing your results is the first step toward a healthier lifestyle.


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Prevent medication poisoning in your home with these simple steps

To children, medication around the house might look like candy waiting to be consumed. That’s part of the reason why medicine is the leading cause of child poisoning in the U.S.

Every year, nearly 60,000 children are seen in the emergency room for medicine poisoning. Here are a few simple steps you can take to prevent medicine-related poisoning in your home.

Top tips for medication safety

  1. Put all medicine up, away and out of sight. In 86 percent of emergency department visits for medicine poisoning, children took medicine belonging to a parent or grandparent.
  2. Consider unlikely places where medicine is kept. Children can get access to medication in many places, some of which you might not consider, such as purses and nightstands. Place purses and bags in high locations and avoid leaving medicine on a nightstand or dresser.
  3. Consider products you might not think about as medicine. Health products such as vitamins, diaper rash creams, eye drops and hand sanitizer can be harmful if kids ingest them. Store these items up, away and out of sight, just as you would traditional medicine.
  4. Only use the dosing device that comes with the medicine. Kitchen spoons aren’t all the same, and a teaspoon or tablespoon used for cooking won’t measure the same amount of medicine as a dosing device.
  5. Write clear instructions for caregivers. When other caregivers are giving your child medicine, they need to know what medicine to give, how much to give and when to give it. Be clear and detailed in your instructions for caregivers.
  6. Save the Poison Help line in your phone: 800-222-1222. Put the toll-free number for the Poison Control Center into your home and cellphone. You should also put the number on your refrigerator or another place in your home where babysitters and caregivers can see it. Call the help line with any questions or concerns about medication. The Poison Help line is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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Despite being largely preventable, colorectal cancer is the third most common in the U.S., and Kentucky ranks first in the nation for incidence.

Most colorectal cancer is preventable; here’s what you need to know

Dr. Jitesh Patel

Written by Dr. Jitesh Patel, colorectal surgeon at the UK Markey Cancer Center.

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the U.S. In Kentucky, the disease is particularly bad: Our state ranks first in the nation for colorectal cancer incidence and seventh in deaths. More than 2,500 new cases of the disease are diagnosed each year in Kentucky, and colorectal cancer takes the lives of more than 800 Kentuckians annually. The good news is colorectal cancer is a largely preventable disease.

Cause of colorectal cancer

The disease originates when healthy cells from the innermost layer of the colon or rectum change and grow uncontrollably, forming abnormal tissue growths called polyps. These growths are usually benign, but they can eventually become cancerous if they aren’t removed in time.

Risk factors and symptoms

Age, genetics and lifestyle are all possible risk factors for colorectal cancer. The disease typically affects men and women age 50 and older, and people are more likely to have the disease if others in their family have had it. Additional risk factors include obesity, lack of exercise, smoking, high alcohol use, and a diet high in red or processed meat and low in calcium, fruits and vegetables.

Colorectal cancer signs are often ignored because the disease may start with few or no noticeable symptoms. Some observable symptoms include:

  • Change in bowel habits.
  • Recurrent abdominal pain or discomfort.
  • Rectal bleeding.
  • Weakness or fatigue.
  • Unintentional weight loss.

How it can be prevented

Regular screening tests, including colonoscopies, are recommended for everyone starting at the age of 50 as well as for people at a younger age who are at high risk of developing the disease. African-Americans should be screened starting at age 45. Colonoscopies can actually prevent colorectal cancer by finding the precancerous lesions/polyps, allowing your doctor to remove them before they become malignant and cause serious harm.

In addition to screenings, changing some of your lifestyle habits can help you lower your risk of colorectal cancer. Proactive lifestyle changes include exercising regularly, opting for a diet rich in vitamins and calcium, quitting smoking, and lowering alcohol consumption.

Treating colorectal cancer

Treatment depends on the stage of the cancer. Surgery to remove the cancer is usually the first and only required treatment in early stages. However, in more advanced stages, when the disease has spread into nearby tissue and organs, chemotherapy before and/or after the surgery and targeted therapy drugs may also be necessary.

Colorectal cancer is about 90-percent treatable when discovered in its earliest stages. While a colonoscopy may not be a fun experience, it could very well save your life.


Next steps:

  • Learn more about Markey’s gastrointestinal cancer team, which provides comprehensive, personalized care for cancers including colorectal cancer.
  • With other life events keeping her busy, Claudia Hall almost skipped a routine screening for colorectal cancer. She decided to keep the appointment, and it’s a decision that saved her life. Read Claudia’s story.
In 1987, Dr. John van Nagell began the Ovarian Cancer Screening Program. Now in its 30th year, the program is as successful and strong as ever.

Markey’s Dr. John van Nagell celebrates 30 years leading the Ovarian Cancer Screening Program

As a native Kentuckian, Dr. John van Nagell has always appreciated the impact UK has in the Commonwealth.

Van Nagell earned his undergraduate degree at Harvard University and his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania, but his goal was to return to Kentucky to practice medicine.

“I always wanted to come home,” van Nagell said. “And when it came time for me to decide where I wanted to undergo further training, the University of Kentucky had just opened an outstanding new medical center.”

Specializing in gynecologic oncology – the diagnosis, research and treatment of women’s cancers – van Nagell joined UK HealthCare as a resident in 1967, about 16 years before the creation of the UK Markey Cancer Center. He’s spent his career at UK treating patients and mentoring young doctors, but his lasting legacy will likely be his research.

In 1987, van Nagell started Markey’s Ovarian Cancer Screening Program, an ongoing research endeavor that provides free ovarian cancer screenings by transvaginal ultrasound to women across Kentucky.

‘Committed as ever’

Now in its 30th year, the program has provided free screenings to more than 46,000 women and found 775 ovarian tumors and 103 malignancies. Screenings are provided to women over the age of 50 and to those over the age of 25 who have a family history of ovarian cancer.

“We’ve been able to detect ovarian cancer at an earlier stage in many women, rather than just waiting for symptoms to occur,” van Nagell said. “The survival rate of women in our program who have ovarian cancer is roughly double that of women who didn’t get screened.”

Although the use of transvaginal ultrasound as a screening method has been controversial – with critics suggesting it may lead to unnecessary surgeries – van Nagell emphasizes that newer technologies such as molecular genetic testing will help doctors identify at-risk women who could most benefit from screening. The research program has also taught physicians more about finding malignancies, van Nagell said.

“We now know, because of this screening program, that certain ovarian cysts are always benign,” he said. “What we’re saying is more research needs to be done, and we’re doing it. And if we can provide free screening along the way to an at-risk population, that’s beneficial.”

With 50 years of experience at UK under his belt, van Nagell says he remains “as committed as ever,” still dedicated to perfecting the work he began three decades ago for his patients.

“All you have to do is go back into the clinic and see one case after another of ladies coming in with advanced ovarian cancers who had no early symptoms, and by the time their symptoms developed, their disease was incurable,” he said. “And the most fulfilling part is just seeing women who didn’t realize something was wrong but had a potentially fatal disease, which we were able to detect through screening, successfully treat, and now they’re fine.”

Dr. van Nagell honored by his peers

Regularly cited as one of the “Best Doctors in America,” van Nagell recently received another major accolade from his peers. Earlier this month, he attended the 2017 Annual Meeting on Women’s Cancer in Baltimore, where he was presented with the Society of Gynecologic Oncology’s Distinguished Service Award. This award recognizes individuals who, over an extended period of time, display a continuous outstanding meritorious service in the field of gynecologic oncology.

“To be honored by your peers is very special,” van Nagell said. “And I believe that – at least in some small way – this validates what we have tried to do here, and that is to improve the early detection of a very serious disease. To me, it’s all about the lives of people who have been changed for the better by the screening program.”


Next steps:

Todd Svoboda

Former Wildcat teams up with Markey experts to beat rare bone cancer

Although he rarely played, Todd Svoboda was a universally adored member of the 1993 UK men’s basketball team that made it to the Final Four, and will forever be linked to the Big Blue Nation.

Years after he hung up his basketball sneakers, Todd’s bond with UK became even stronger when he was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer. With the same toughness and perseverance that helped him on the hardwood, and with the help of an expert team at the UK Markey Cancer Center, Todd faced his disease head on.

Read Todd’s story and watch our video to find out how Todd is doing today.


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UK Advanced Eye Care clinic now open.

UK Advanced Eye Care clinic opens in Shriners building

UK Advanced Eye Care opened the doors of its new clinic this week, ushering in a new era of expert ophthalmic care in Kentucky.

UK Advanced Eye Care, formerly located at the Kentucky Clinic, now occupies the fourth and fifth floors of the new Shriners Hospital for Children Medical Center  Lexington building. The Shriners building is located at 110 Conn Terrace, across the street from the UK Albert B. Chandler Hospital. The new state-of-the-art clinic will be the flagship location for advanced ophthalmic care, research and education in Kentucky.

Designing a patient-friendly space

The patient-centered clinic is designed for ease of navigation and convenience. Patients can park in the UK HealthCare parking garage on Transcript Avenue and reach Shriners directly via a pedway located at Level C of the parking garage. Once inside the Shriners building, patients will take the elevator to the fourth or fifth floor, depending on where their appointment is.

Both clinic floors offer spacious reception areas for patient registration. The fifth floor, where pediatric specialists see patients, includes a playroom and resources for children and families.

The space is designed to move patients through testing and procedures efficiently in a pleasing and private environment. The new clinic has nearly double the number of exam rooms as the previous clinic, allowing our providers to care for more patients each day and offer shorter wait times.

UK HealthCare Optical is located near the fifth-floor lobby for patients who wish to purchase their eyewear on location. It offers a special section of pediatric eyewear for UK’s youngest patients. The fifth floor accommodates the administrative offices for faculty and staff. It also includes dedicated teaching space for residents and medical students, including a surgical skills lab and a medical library.

Dr. Julia Stevens, a provider at UK Advanced Eye Care, works with a pediatric patient.

Improving care with advanced medicine

UK Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences has long offered patients access to the most current and leading-edge technology for enhanced treatment. The clinic recruits elite physicians, researchers and scientists to support its clinical services, education and research program.

“UK has a long-standing commitment to world-class biomedical research, contributing to several major scientific discoveries and medical advances in the past few decades,” said Dr. Mark Kleinman, an ophthalmologist at UK Advanced Eye Care. “Our laboratories developed the first intraocular drug implants to treat vision-threatening eye infections and inflammation, engineered the first RNA-targeted therapeutics for the treatment of advanced dry macular degeneration, and identified several new biomarkers for age-related retinal diseases. We continue to build on these important and exciting research programs to improve our abilities to cure blindness and provide the most leading-edge eye care to our patients.”

UK’s research efforts related to pediatric eye care were recently given a boost with the addition of advanced pediatric electroretinogram, or ERG, equipment thanks to a gift from the Susan Bradley-Cox Tri For Sight program. This important equipment will allow full evaluation without sedation of children with unexplained vision loss, providing better understanding of genetic eye diseases for both research and clinical care.

Where people want to go

UK Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences sees about 60,000 patients each year for everything from preventive eye care to treatment for the most challenging ocular diseases.

“The new clinic will gives us the infrastructure we’ve needed to meet the high-quality care that we already provide,” said Dr. Andrew Pearson, chair of UK Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences. “We want to be the place that people of the state and region want to go to for complex eye care.”

UK has the largest multispecialty eye care group based solely in Kentucky. In addition to the clinic on the main medical campus in Lexington, UK has multiple outreach clinics throughout the state and works with community providers to offer the most comprehensive eye care available. Outreach clinic locations include Campbellsville, Corbin, Harlan, Lexington, London, Maysville, Nicholasville, Morehead, Paris, Richmond and Somerset.


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