Markey first to perform unique procedure for ovarian cancer

Physicians at the UK Markey Cancer Center are the first to perform a unique procedure to treat a rare and persistent type of ovarian cancer.

Dr. Lauren Baldwin

Dr. Lauren Baldwin

Surgical oncologist Dr. Lauren Baldwin and radiation oncologist Dr. Jonathan Feddock collaborated on the procedure, which involved resecting a patient’s tumor and installing a special internal radiation device known as a CivaSheet.

The CivaSheet has been used for some gynecological, colorectal, head and neck, and pancreatic cancers as well as soft tissue sarcomas, but this is the first known instance of using it for ovarian cancer.

Dr. Jonathan Feddock

Dr. Jonathan Feddock

The patient who underwent the procedure has been living with a rare type of slow-growing ovarian cancer for nearly three decades. Multiple rounds of chemotherapy and radiation failed to stop the disease.

Prior to this procedure, she had undergone four previous surgeries at both a local community hospital and at Markey to remove as much of the tumor as possible every few years as it grew back. Because of the location of the cancer, surgeons have only been able to safely resect about 90 percent of the tumor.

“This cancer is tricky to treat, because it is prone to recur but grows slowly,” Baldwin said. “That makes it relatively resistant to chemotherapy, which attacks fast-growing cells. Surgery is usually the best option, but each additional surgery becomes riskier for the patient.”

Markey experts brainstorm an innovative idea

Before deciding to offer yet another tumor resection as an option to the patient, Baldwin sought help from Markey’s weekly multidisciplinary tumor conference to see if oncology experts in other fields had any ideas. Feddock, who specializes in brachytherapy – a form of radiation that involves using internal implants to disseminate radiation – suggested they try combining the surgery with an implantation of the CivaSheet.

The CivaSheet is a highly flexible membrane embedded with radioactive palladium. After Baldwin resected the tumor, Feddock sewed the CivaSheet directly to the remaining cancerous area. The radiation seeds are capped with gold on one side, so they provide direct, localized radiation to the area where the tumor has been growing back while sparing the other surrounding tissue from damage.

Potential to help patients with difficult cancer

While the procedure may not cure the patient of her cancer, the hope is that the CivaSheet will inhibit the cancer’s growth, allowing many more symptom-free years to pass before the patient may need further treatment.

Because of the tumor’s slow-growing nature, Baldwin says it will take some time before they know how effective the procedure is, but she is hopeful about the outcome.

“This treatment has potential to offer control of this cancer for patients who don’t have any other options,” Baldwin said. “We’re hoping to add both quantity and quality of life for a patient in a difficult scenario.”


Next steps:

Kip Guy

Video: College of Pharmacy dean explains his research philosophy

He’s well-known now for his scientific discoveries in the lab, but UK College of Pharmacy Dean Kip Guy says he’s actually been performing experiments his entire life.

“As long as I could remember, I was always the kid out there poking the bug with a stick or playing with the pond, trying to understand what was happening and why,” he said.

As a professional chemist, Guy’s work focuses on drug discovery and development for neglected diseases, particularly those that affect pediatric patients. Coming to UK from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Guy has focused on fighting malaria, a major killer of children, as well as pediatric cancers including ependymoma, leukemias and medulloblastoma.

Although it was initially the “neat solutions” that attracted him to the field, Guy quickly learned that not even science provided easy black-and-white answers and that the work is never as simple as one might expect it to be. While researchers may have expectations of how an experiment may play out, they often learn more from the failures than if it had unfolded as planned.

“You’ve put in all this time and effort because your model told you ‘X’ was going to happen, and then you run the experiment and what you wind up with is something completely different,” he said. “These are the moments in science that are the most fun. … It’s when you break your own model and learn something fundamentally new.”

Coming to UK

As his research projects grew larger and more intensive over the years, Guy says he was looking specifically for a place where he could take a larger administrative role and begin mentoring the next generation in scientific discovery.

“I realized that one of the really big impacts we have is teaching,” he said. “So I wanted to be in a place where I could help combine the way we think about research – that interdisciplinary, interprofessional approach – with the way we teach not only research, but also clinical practice.”

As a scientist who focuses on drug development, the area of pharmacy seemed the most natural fit for Guy. He began searching for a dean position at a school that supported research collaboration with a focus on bringing new treatments to the community. He says he found “a perfect storm” at UK – a place known nationwide for its research excellence, its top-ranked College of Pharmacy and a local population in need of therapeutic intervention for a variety of serious health disparities.

“The first thing I’d say is, ‘Why wouldn’t you come here?'” Guy said. “It’s an incredible place, with amazing faculty and a long, rich and successful history of positively affecting clinical practice and the research world. … It’s about being in a place where I can work the way I want to work, with the kind of people who are here, and focusing on problems that are really serving unmet needs.”

Working for Kentucky

One example of Guy’s work having a potentially significant impact in the Commonwealth is a recently published study on research that could lead to new solutions to treat lung cancer by preventing cells from metastasizing. Kentucky ranks first in the nation in both lung cancer incidence and death, with the disease disproportionately affecting the Appalachian area of the state.

Lung cancer is one of the toughest cancers to treat – according to the National Cancer Institute, one out of every two patients diagnosed won’t survive past 12 months. Because this cancer is a disease characterized by metastatic growth, Guy says controlling that metastasis could be key to longer-term survival for lung and other cancers.

“For a lot of cancers, it’s not the primary tumor that kills you, it’s often the metastatic disease,” he said. “Being able to block that, if we can do it in a way that’s really effective and safe, could be a game changer.”

Guy has three major goals for the UK College of Pharmacy as he leads it into a new era – continue its tradition of innovation in both teaching pharmacy practice and pharmaceutical science and research; engage in even more interdisciplinary research across many different viewpoints; and emphasize the importance of a broadly inclusive and service-oriented culture at UK.

“We’re not just about working in the lab or the clinic,” Guy said. “We’re also about living in this community and doing well by it.”


Watch the video below to hear why Kip Guy came to UK and about his new findings on a compound that could block lung cancer.


Next steps:

Clark Regional Medical Center

Markey extends cancer network to Winchester

Clark Regional Medical Center in Winchester has announced a new affiliation with the UK Markey Cancer Center, the state’s only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center.

By becoming a Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network member, Clark Regional Medical Center will be able to offer more patients in Central and Eastern Kentucky access to specialty and subspecialty cancer care, including clinical trials and advanced technology, while allowing them to stay closer to home for most treatments.

“Clark Regional Medical Center is proud to join the Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network,” said Robert Parker, president of LifePoint’s Central Kentucky East market and CEO of Clark Regional Medical Center. “Our mission is ‘Making Communities Healthier,’ and this affiliation is further evidence of our commitment to providing high-quality care for our patients close to home.”

Clark Regional is a 79-bed community hospital that has served the residents of East Central Kentucky since 1917. A Commission on Cancer-accredited facility, Clark Regional takes a multidisciplinary approach to treating cancer as a complex group of diseases that requires consultation among surgeons, medical oncologists, pathologists and other cancer specialists. This multidisciplinary approach to cancer care results in improved care for patients.

The Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network was created to provide high-quality cancer care closer to home for patients across the region and to minimize the effects of cancer through prevention and education programs, exceptional clinical care, and access to research. The affiliate network is especially important in Eastern Kentucky, where cancer rates are disproportionately high.

“We see 50 percent of our patients coming from Eastern Kentucky, which has some of the highest rates of cancer in the country, particularly lung and colon cancers,” said Dr. Mark Evers, director of the Markey Cancer Center. “The Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network allows us to collaborate with community hospitals to provide top-notch cancer care for these patients much closer to home – saving both travel expenses and time for the patients, in addition to keeping them close to their personal support system.”

Markey is one of only 69 medical centers in the country to earn an NCI cancer center designation. Because of the designation, Markey patients have access to new drugs, treatment options and clinical trials offered only at NCI centers.

Moving forward, Markey is working toward the next tier of designation – an NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. Currently, 45 of the 69 NCI-designated cancer centers in the country hold a comprehensive cancer center status. The Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network will play a significant role in bringing that next level of cancer funding to Kentucky.

“Kentucky is home to some of the worst cancer rates in the country,” said Dr. Tim Mullett, medical director of the Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network. “Collaborating with our affiliate hospitals across the state will enable us to make a positive impact on the dire cancer rates here in the Commonwealth.”


Next steps:

  • Learn more about the UK Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network, which gives people across Kentucky access to high-quality cancer services and programs through collaboration with community hospitals.
  • 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.
Dr. Sandra Beck

Dr. Sandra Beck’s patient-care mantra: ‘I treat you like family’

Making the RoundsFor our latest Making the Rounds interview, we sat down with colon and rectal surgeon Dr. Sandra Beck. Dr. Beck is the head of colon and rectal surgery section at UK and the program director for the general surgery residency. 

How did you become interested in medicine?

I actually started out in business in undergrad, and I realized I was helping all my friends in the sciences with their homework. I figured out pretty quickly I was in the wrong business. I explored just doing research, but realized that I actually really liked working with people. So, after doing a few years in research, I ended up going to medical school and then ended up as a surgeon.

What conditions do you treat?

We mainly treat diseases of the small bowel, colon, rectum and anus. That includes inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. And we deal with all the complications of those diseases.

We take care of patients with colon and rectal cancer, and we also take care of patients with diverticulitis or other benign diseases of the colon. And we also do things like hemorrhoids and infections around the anus.

What do you tell patients who are nervous or embarrassed about their condition?

We look at things in a very clinical sense, and it’s something we are trying to fix. So, don’t be afraid to come in and talk to us about things.

Also, colorectal surgeons have great senses of humor. We tend to be a lot of fun and we’re pretty nice people. But if you don’t want us to joke about things, we won’t. We’re sensitive, too.

What’s your favorite part of mentoring residents?

We have them for five years, and so it’s really neat to see them mature and to see what I call “the lights to go on.”

When you’re working with them in the OR at first, you can tell they’re not really seeing what you’re seeing. But then by the end of it all, they’ve matured into these great surgeons who I know can go out into their communities and be a real asset. It’s really very gratifying to see them mature in that way and to be able to be part of that.

What is your patient-care philosophy?

I try to approach it as if you are one of my family members. I try to be your quarterback, and if we need to coordinate care, I try to do that for you. But I also try to be the person you can come to to ask questions.

I think being a physician means being an educator, and I feel like we – me and the patient – need to be a good team. I need to educate you about your disease so that you know what you can do better. I’ll tell you what my role is, and then we work through the process together.

I think that’s one of the reasons my patients like me – I treat them like family. I try to make it feel like we’re all part of the same team. And then once we get you through treatment, you’re always part of the family.


Check out our video interview with Dr. Beck, where she talks more about the patient-first approach at UK HealthCare.


Next steps:

lung nodule

Your doctor says you have a lung nodule. Now what?

Dr. Jonathan Kiev

Dr. Jonathan Kiev

Written by Dr. Jonathan Kiev, a cardiothoracic surgeon at UK HealthCare.

Your doctor tells you that a chest X-ray shows a spot on your lung. It might sound scary at first, but these spots, or lung nodules, are not an uncommon occurrence.

What are lung nodules and what causes them?

Lung nodules are small masses of tissue in the lung that can be cancerous, although the majority are non-cancerous.

Dust and chemical exposure, infection or other tumors can all cause a lung nodule to form. Most people have no symptoms at all and lung nodules are accidentally discovered during the evaluation of something else.

Conversely, people who smoke or who have smoked in the past may also have nodules, which sometimes progress to an invasive cancer. That’s why it’s so important for a specialist to look at your X-rays for further evaluation.

Do lung nodules cause pain?

Pain is rare, especially if the nodule is very small. A CT scan will reveal even the tiniest of nodules, and your doctor can then correlate it with your symptoms. Rarely, if the nodule is near a rib, there could be associated pain.

Why does my doctor want me to get my old records?

An X-ray or CT scan is a snapshot in time; it shows what is happening now.

For comparison, a doctor may ask you to get old hospital records or X-rays to see if your nodule was there in the past, if it’s grown or if it’s stayed the same size. Benign nodules usually don’t change in size, while nodules that are associated with cancer can grow or spread.

If I have a family history of lung cancer, should I be concerned?

Secondhand smoke increases the risk of lung cancer, so most physicians will screen family members of lung cancer patients more frequently. Cancerous nodules that are discovered earlier are more easily treated.

Unfortunately, that the vast majority of lung cancer patients have no symptoms at all, which is why only 15 percent of people who have lung cancer are diagnosed early.

My radiology report said that my nodule was suspicious. What does this mean?

Nodules that are deemed suspicious have certain characteristics, and your care team may want to do additional testing to find out whether your nodule is cancerous.

If your nodule is large enough, your doctor can do a needle biopsy, which involves placing a small needle in the nodule to remove some of the tissue for further testing. In some cases, a surgeon will need to do a surgical biopsy, which involves making a tiny incision to remove the questionable tissue for testing.

Why was I referred to a pulmonologist?

Pulmonologists specialize in lung disease. Through a procedure called a bronchoscopy, they are able to access different areas of the lung and perform biopsies of abnormal areas.

Additionally, they can assess your breathing function and make useful recommendations for inhalers and other medicines as well. They work in close collaboration with thoracic surgeons to form a multidisciplinary lung care team.

Should I consider lung cancer screening?

Lung cancer screening was developed several years ago to detect lung cancer in people who are at a higher risk of developing the disease.

Lung cancer screening is recommended for patients who are at high risk for lung cancer. Low-dose CT screenings are recommended for patients who:

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

The low-dose CT scan takes about 30 seconds to perform, and there is very little radiation exposure to be concerned about. Most insurances will pay for the scan, and many hospitals have programs to help offset the cost as well.


Next steps:

Diagnosing eye cancer early preserves girl’s sight

When Kenley Overton’s parents took their infant daughter in for her four-month wellness checkup, they didn’t know much about retinoblastoma, the rare form of eye cancer that most commonly affects children. But that quickly changed.

Kenley was born Aug. 24, 2010, to Jason and Kendra Overton. When Kenley was a few weeks old, her parents noticed that her right eye would cross frequently. They brought it up to their local pediatrician during a wellness checkup and were told that it wasn’t abnormal for newborns.

However, when the Overtons brought Kenley in for her four-month wellness checkup, her right eye was still crossing. The pediatrician suggested Kenley see an eye doctor as it was likely she would need glasses to fix the issue.

In a whirlwind of appointments, Kenley first saw an optometrist who believed she had a detached retina. She was then referred to Dr. Peter J. Blackburn at UK Advanced Eye Care. After some testing, Blackburn diagnosed Kenley with retinoblastoma – a form of eye cancer that begins in the retina. Thirteen days after her wellness check, Kenley was scheduled for surgery with Blackburn to evaluate the situation and decide on a plan moving forward.

The best-case scenario

Retinoblastoma is a rare disease; only 200 to 300 children are diagnosed with it each year in the U.S. About three out of four children with retinoblastoma have a tumor in only one eye. Overall, more than 90 percent of children with retinoblastoma are cured, but the outlook is not nearly as good if the cancer has spread outside the eye.

Blackburn says that although there are no known avoidable risk factors for retinoblastoma, some gene changes that put a child at high risk for the condition can be passed on from a parent. Children born to a parent with a history of retinoblastoma should be screened for this cancer starting shortly after birth because early detection greatly improves the chance for successful treatment.

When Blackburn came out of surgery, he told the Overton family that Kenley’s cancer was only in her right eye – the best-case scenario.

He was pleasantly surprised because at Kenley’s young age, he had suspected the cancer might have been in both of her eyes. The decision was made to remove Kenley’s right eye that day.

In the years following her surgery, Kenley was regularly monitored to make sure the cancer hadn’t spread to her left eye. As Kenley continued to grow and show no signs of the retinoblastoma in her left eye, Blackburn became more confident that the cancer was limited to Kenley’s right eye.

Compassionate care at UK

Kendra Overton looks back on this difficult time in Kenley’s life and remembers how tough it was on her family. While taking care of Kenley, she and Jason also had to care for their older daughter, Jaylen, who was 4 years old at the time. But through the stress, she remembers Blackburn and the care he provided for Kenley.

“Dr. Blackburn was a very confident in the information he delivered about Kenley and her treatment plan, and he had a wonderful bedside manner,” she said.

She said Blackburn even took the time to pray with her family before Kenley’s surgery.

“At a time when we were falling apart, we really needed that and you don’t normally hear of doctors doing that,” she said.

Kenley is now a thriving 6-year-old. Kendra describes her daughter as naturally funny and someone who never meets a stranger. She just has a love for people, her mother says.

“Everyone who comes in contact with her says she is just so amazing,” Kendra said.


Next steps:

  • Learn more about UK Advanced Eye Care, which provides comprehensive care for patients of all ages  from routine eye exams to treatment for the most complex ophthalmic issues.
  • Earlier this year, UK Advanced Eye Care moved into a new state-of-the-art clinic that will allow us to provide even better care for our patients. Find out more about our new location.
Erika Carter

With cancer behind her, it’s back to school again for this teacher

Don’t miss the video at the end of this blog to see Erika talk about her treatment journey at the Markey Cancer Center.

Dealing with a classroom full of rowdy second-graders can be taxing on even the most patient, energetic individual.

But for 42-year-old Versailles schoolteacher Erika Carter, her real challenges have happened outside the classroom. In the summer of 2015, she visited her doctor for her yearly checkup and bloodwork, which yielded some bad news: an anomaly in her white blood cell count.

Months of monitoring and referrals followed, including a bone marrow biopsy. Her white blood cell count continued to drop, and on Sept. 24, 2015, she received a call telling her to immediately come to the emergency room at the UK Albert B. Chandler Hospital. She would not go back to teaching for the rest of the year.

“I was numb,” Carter said. “I just kind of didn’t have any feelings at that point. I just couldn’t believe that my world was completely rocked.”

Carter was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), a subtype of acute myeloid leukemia. Dr. Gerhard Hildebrandt, a UK Markey Cancer Center blood and marrow transplantation hematologist and Carter’s physician, says the good news is that this type of cancer is usually curable with fast intervention. And in Carter’s case, the cancer was discovered very early, which boded well for her treatment.

“It’s characterized by a certain genetic change, which fortunately allows this disease to have a higher cure rate than other leukemias,” Hildebrandt said.

Getting through treatment

Over the next nine months, Carter underwent 128 chemotherapy treatments, including a 19-day stint as an inpatient at Markey. Throughout her journey, she built a good relationship with the nursing team that took care of her.

“They are always upbeat and friendly,” she said. “All across the board, the nurses were fabulous. I’ve gone back several times to see them. I really had a good experience.”

Hildebrandt agreed and said the communication between patients and his team is one of the strengths of the program at Markey.

“The team is not too big, so everybody knows the patients quite well,” Hildebrandt said. “Communication is very easy both between the patient and the care team and between the care team itself. I think it gives a level of personalized care.”

Erika and Dr. Hildebrandt

Erika Carter and Dr. Gerhard Hildebrandt.

Carter was lucky that she had minimal side effects after chemotherapy, so she tried her best to keep on with much of daily life. She took advantage of some of Markey’s integrative medicine options, including Jin Shin Jyutsu and art therapy, but says the hardest thing for her during the treatment was not being able to go outside.

“I’d look out the window and see everyone going to the UK game,” she said. “I love going to the UK games, so just watching them, I felt like this prisoner. … Luckily, I had a huge support system with my friends, family and church.”

Back to school

This time last August, Carter was just getting back to work after nearly a year off. Coming from a family of educators, she carries a love for teaching in her blood and was eager to get back to the Southside Elementary classroom she’s been teaching in for six years. She says she’s inspired by her students who motivate her to carry a positive attitude throughout the day.

“I’ll tell you what – with teaching, you just really can’t have a bad day,” Carter said. “I love the children, they make me laugh. I could have a rough day, but I’ve got to check that at the door and I’ve got to walk in and put that smile on my face for these kiddos. … I want it to be just a fun experience for them, to love learning and love education.”

Although her students are young, Carter says that many of them had some understanding of what she had gone through. She has a picture that says “We love Ms. Carter” and a banner signed by the entire school that she hung at the hospital.

“They were great, so great, in welcoming me back,” she said. “I’m just glad I had a story where I was able to come back, and [the students] are like, ‘Okay, people can have cancer, but they also survive it, too.'”

The importance of preventive care

In fact, at the end of the 2017 school year, Carter invited Hildebrandt to come visit her class and give her students a quick lesson on what cancer is and what doctors do to treat it.

“It’s a fantastic honor to be here,” Hildebrandt said. “When you have a patient who does remarkably well and then goes back to daily life, like Erika with her kids in this classroom, it’s the reward for the entire team.”

Carter describes the circumstances around her diagnosis as a “blessing,” noting that her case could have turned out very differently if she’d neglected to get her physician-recommended preventive care.

“It is very important to get preventive care,” Carter said. “Sometimes when you need to get bloodwork, it’s very easy to push that aside. But thank the Lord I did go – because had I not, I would’ve ended up in a really bad state. It would’ve been possibly too late or it would’ve been a whole other road of struggle.”

Erika Carter and her students at Southside Elementary in Versailles.

Erika Carter and her students at Southside Elementary in Versailles.



Next steps:

No. 1 hospital in Kentucky

We’re the No. 1 hospital in Ky., again

UK HealthCare Albert B. Chandler Hospital remains the No. 1 hospital in Kentucky and the Bluegrass Region, according to the U.S. News & World Report’s Best Hospitals Rankings released today.

In addition, four major areas have achieved Top 50 national rankings, three of them for the first time. UK HealthCare rankings included: No. 37 in Diabetes and Endocrinology, No. 43 in Geriatrics, No. 44 in Neurology and Neurosurgery, and No. 50 in Cancer.

Along with the Top 50 rankings, UK HealthCare is ranked as high-performing in five other adult specialties – Gastroenterology and GI Surgery; Nephrology; Orthopaedics; Pulmonology; and Urology. Additionally, UK HealthCare was designated high-performing in eight common adult procedures and conditions: Aortic Valve Surgery, Heart Bypass Surgery, Heart Failure, Colon Cancer Surgery, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Hip Replacement, Knee Replacement, and Lung Cancer Surgery.

These recognitions cement UK HealthCare’s role as the major healthcare system best equipped to deal with our state’s unique health needs, said Dr. Michael Karpf, UK executive vice president for health affairs.

“We are committed to providing the best programs and best care available in Kentucky so that no one has to travel far from home for world-class advanced specialty care,” Karpf said. “These rankings speak to the hard work and dedication of our physicians, our nurses and our entire healthcare team.”

‘We’re ready no matter the situation’

This year’s U.S. News & World Report rankings cover nearly every hospital in every community nationwide. The rankings are grounded in objective data and offer patients a rich resource on their hospital choices. More than 70 percent of the rankings are based on objective data, with U.S. News analyzing more than 2,600 metrics across 21 data-driven specialties and procedures and conditions. The result is thousands of data points on hospitals that excel at treating the most challenging cases, those that do best in more routine procedures and those that provide top local care.

“UK HealthCare is a place where you feel safe because you know we’re ready no matter the situation or illness,” said Colleen Swartz, UK HealthCare’s chief administrative officer.

“If you have someone you love who lives in Kentucky, you will need UK HealthCare at some point in time. Whether it’s someone with a newly diagnosed cancer, or a premature baby, or a critically ill or injured child, or brother or mother or sister, you want to know that a place like this is ready to go when you need us.”

Diabetes & Endocrinology

This year’s rankings included a major leap for UK’s diabetes and endocrinology program. The specialty at UK HealthCare, previously unranked, is now No. 37 in the country, a testament to both the clinical care and research at the UK Barnstable-Brown Diabetes Center.

“We are one of the few places in Kentucky where all these services are provided either under one roof or where we can engage people to help you in all these different arenas,” said Dr. John Fowlkes, director of the Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center.

This collaboration and patient-centered care offered at the Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center provide patients with outstanding clinical care throughout their lifespan and for all aspects of their health, said Dr. Lisa Tannock, chief of the Division of Endocrinology and Molecular Medicine.

“Our physicians, advanced practice providers, endocrinology fellows and staff, including expert-certified diabetes educators, continually seek opportunities to teach advanced patient care based on our ongoing research into the best ways to prevent and treat diabetes and endocrine diseases,” she said.

Geriatrics

UK HealthCare was ranked No. 43 in Geriatrics. The U.S. News Geriatrics rankings represent how well hospitals treat older patients across a wide range of medical issues and conditions.

Dr. Shawn Caudill, professor and chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine and Women’s Health, sees increasingly more geriatric patients in UK HealthCare’s outpatient clinics. He said the rankings are an indication of the high-quality care that UK HealthCare provides to a population that is living longer than before.

“We’ve had lot of success in overcoming the things that used to kill people – heart attacks, strokes, lung disease – and we’ve done interventions to help keep people going longer,” Caudill said. “And now it is important for us to continue to help take care of them.”

Neurology & Neurosurgery

For the first time, UK HealthCare is nationally ranked for its neurological care, coming in at No. 44 in Neurology and Neurosurgery.

“This is something we’ve been working on for the past two years,” said Dr. Larry B. Goldstein, the Ruth L. Works Professor and chair of the UK Department of Neurology, and co-director of the Kentucky Neuroscience Institute (KNI). “It’s wonderful to be able to have our faculty and staff receive this recognition for all the great things they’re doing.”

Fellow KNI Co-Director Linda Van Eldik, who also is director of the UK Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, was pleased with national rankings in Neurology and Neurosurgery as well as Geriatrics.

“This is really a culmination of the work we’ve been doing for many years in the areas of brain,” Van Eldik said. “It’s recognition from the outside of what we already knew – that we were doing leading-edge work and we are continuing to enhance our excellence.”

Cancer care

Cancer care was included in the Top 50 for the first time – although it has consistently been designated as high performing for many years. Still, the move up is indicative of the Markey Cancer Center’s continued emphasis on providing exemplary care as the state’s only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated center.

“We see 50 percent of our patients coming from Eastern Kentucky, which has some of the highest rates of cancer in the country – particularly lung cancer and colon cancer. So the Markey Cancer Center is vitally important to our region,” said Dr. Mark Evers, director of the Markey Cancer Center.

The people behind the scenes

In acknowledging all of UK HealthCare’s national rankings and achievements, one factor is always first to be attributed to success – the people who work here.

“I’ve been here almost a year and a half, and to see what the University of Kentucky and UK HealthCare has achieved, really in a short time, is remarkable,” said UK College of Medicine Dean Dr. Robert DiPaola. “And to see the passion of the people here behind the scenes doing the things that make a difference for our patients – it is absolutely amazing. I know that going forward we will continue this trajectory.”


Hear more about this awesome recognition, including comments from some of UK HealthCare’s leaders, in the video below.


Next steps:

Owensboro Health Markey

Owensboro Health joins Markey Cancer Center Research Network

Owensboro Health has joined the UK Markey Cancer Center Research Network (MCCRN), giving patients in Western Kentucky and Southern Indiana increased access to innovative clinical research studies.

Areas of research will include epidemiology, prevention and early detection of cancer. Markey is a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center, which means Owensboro Health will have access to NCI-led trials in addition to MCCRN trials.

“Owensboro Health is proud to join the Markey Cancer Center Research Network, which is a distinguished and recognized name in cancer care and clinical research,” Owensboro Health President and CEO Greg Strahan said. “Owensboro Health exists to heal the sick and to improve the health of the communities we serve, and this partnership is a demonstration of our commitment to both parts of that mission.”

Owensboro Health was invited to participate in the Markey Research Network based on performance and achievements. Owensboro Health’s Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center serves the health system’s coverage area, a population of nearly 400,000 people across 14 counties in Western Kentucky and Southern Indiana. More than 1,000 patients are treated at the center annually.

“By becoming a member of the Markey Research Network, Owensboro Health is showing a commitment to helping us conquer cancer in the Commonwealth,” Markey Director Dr. Mark Evers said. “Clinical trials represent the latest, best treatment options for most patients, and being able to participate in major national and regional clinical trials right here in Owensboro means that patients are able to stay close to their own support systems at home and under the direct care of their doctors here.”

Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center also holds multiple accreditations and recognitions. These include accreditation from the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer and the CoC’s gold award, the highest recognition that body offers. Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center is also accredited by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers and the American College of Radiology and is an ACR-designated lung cancer screening center.

The importance of clinical trials

Clinical trials are key to developing new methods to prevent, detect and treat cancer, and most treatments used today are the results of previous clinical studies. These may include studies in which patients who need cancer treatment receive their therapy under the observation of specially trained cancer doctors and staff. Patients who volunteer for cancer treatment studies will either receive standard therapy or a new treatment that represents the researchers’ best new ideas for how to improve cancer care.

“Cancer care is constantly improving, due in part to the groundbreaking work being done in clinical research,” said Dr. Tim Mullett, medical director of the MCCRN. “Our state has some of the worst cancer incidence and survival rates in the entire country, and we at Markey have an obligation to address this devastating disease. By increasing access to many of our current clinical trials through the Markey Research Network, we have an opportunity to make real progress in improving cancer statistics in Kentucky.”

Markey’s clinical trials focus on the prevention, early detection and treatment of cancers with the highest incidence and mortality in Kentucky. These include lung, colorectal and cervical cancers. Owensboro Health is now one of six research sites in the MCCRN, and the first site in Western Kentucky. The MCCRN includes the following sites:

  • Hardin Memorial Hospital, Elizabethtown
  • King’s Daughters Medical Center, Ashland
  • Owensboro Health
  • St. Claire Regional Medical Center, Morehead
  • St. Mary’s Regional Cancer Center, Huntington, West Virginia
  • Tri-State Regional Cancer Center, Ashland

Watch the video below to find out how the Markey Research Network is bringing the future of cancer treatment to patients all across Kentucky.


Next steps:

Dr. Patrick O'Donnell

Oncologist Patrick O’Donnell on why he has the world’s best job

Making the RoundsWe sat down with Dr. Patrick O’Donnell, an orthopaedic oncologist at the UK Markey Cancer Center, for our latest installment of Making the Rounds, a blog series that introduces you to the providers at UK HealthCare. Dr. O’Donnell specializes in treating bone cancer and also does reconstructive orthopaedic surgeries. 

How did you become interested in orthopaedic oncology?

I actually went into medicine with an interest in doing oncology, and I always knew I wanted to be a doctor. I had some interaction with cancer patients when I was a really young kid, and I just found it fascinating that your body could attack itself.

It got me interested in medicine, so I went to medical school saying, “I’m going to be an oncologist.” But then I did a surgical rotation and I loved it. I loved having a problem and then a surgery and then a solution. And then I ended up really liking the reconstruction, the big surgeries of orthopaedic oncology. I’ve got the best job in the world.

What kinds of conditions do you treat?

I specialize in orthopaedic oncology and reconstructive orthopaedics. I treat a lot of different types of cancers. I treat soft tissue sarcomas, bone sarcomas, bone tumors that are not cancerous tumors, and then I treat a lot of metastatic disease to bone – the so-called “bone cancer.”

Bone cancers that start in the bone are called sarcomas, and sarcomas are the rarest type of human cancer. They’re also one of the most aggressive types of human cancer. I treat both types of bone tumors – those that have started outside the bone and tumors that have spread inside the bone.

Tell us about your interest in rock climbing.

I’ve always really liked rock climbing, and Kentucky is like the world mecca of rock climbing. An hour away is the Red River Gorge, and there are over 3,000 documented climbing routes. Recently in Lexington, we’ve gotten a new climbing gym, which has been great.

I got reinvigorated with rock climbing when my daughter had a birthday party at the gym. I went and just got completely excited, and my kids got into it. And now it’s the way that I blow off steam when I’m not at the hospital. I’ve got a great group of friends that I climb with.

What’s your favorite food?

I really like Indian food mostly because I don’t get it very often, so when I do get it, it’s a big treat. My wife, she can’t do curry, she can’t do Indian food, so the only time I get Indian food is when I’m by myself.

What does your ideal weekend look like?

A weekend when I’m not working, I get to spend a lot of time with my family. My son and I will play baseball. My daughter is a really good swimmer, so we’ll get to go to a swim meet. And then we really like going out to dinner and trying all the different places in Lexington.

So, an ideal weekend would be a little bit of baseball, a little bit of swimming and going out to dinner at a new restaurant.


Watch our interview with Dr. O’Donnell, where he discusses how his experience treating patients with bone cancers has expanded treatment options for other patients with orthopaedic problems.


Next steps:

  • July is Sarcoma Awareness Month. Learn more about Markey’s Musculoskeletal Oncology team, which is nationally recognized for expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of bone tumors, soft tissue sarcomas and metastatic diseases of bone.
  • One of Dr. O’Donnell’s patients is a well-known member of the Big Blue Nation – former UK basketball player Todd Svoboda. When Todd was diagnosed with bone cancer, he turned to Markey and Dr. O’Donnell for help. Read Todd’s story.