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:

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.
Dr. Rasesh Desai

Inspired by his sister, Rasesh Desai decided to become a doctor

Making the RoundsIn our latest Making the Rounds interview, we sat down with Dr. Rasesh Desai, an orthopaedic surgeon with UK Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports Medicine who works at The Medical Center at Bowling Green. Dr. Desai sees patients of all ages and specializes in joint replacement surgery, spine surgery and pediatric orthopaedic surgery. 

What kinds of patients do you see?

I see patients from all age groups – from newborns to adults. I’m in a unique position because of my variety of fellowship training. I’m fellowship-trained in spine surgery and joint replacement surgery, and it gives me an opportunity to see the patient as a whole person.

Sometimes a patient comes to your office with leg pain, hip pain or knee pain, and then you find out their actual problem is coming from the spine. Or sometimes it might be vice versa, where patients come in with back problems. But we find out the back problem is mainly the result of hip or knee arthritis.

Tell us about UK’s partnership with The Medical Center at Bowling Green

The UK orthopadic department has an agreement with The Medical Center at Bowling Green to provide orthopaedic service in this community. The main purpose of this affiliation is to provide the same level of care that you would get at a bigger hospital, right here in a smaller community.

What inspired you to get into medicine?

I saw my elder sister go into the medicine field, and it always inspired me to see her, how she treated her patients. You know, when you are a kid, when you are growing up, you go to the doctor when you are sick and they get you better and back to your life, and that always fascinated me.

During medical school, I worked with an orthopaedic surgeon. I saw the patients coming to the hospital with broken bones and severe pain, with arthritis, or not able to walk. And then getting them back on their feet was immensely satisfying, and that inspired me to become an orthopaedic surgeon.

What does your ideal weekend look like?

My ideal weekend is to be able to spend some time with my family and my 3-year-old son. Get him out to the park and play with him, because I don’t get much time to do that during the week. I also like to spend some time with friends and their families. Go out, watch a movie and maybe watch some sports on TV.

What’s your favorite movie?

I like all of the X-Men movies!


Check out our video interview with Dr. Desai, where he tells us more about working in Bowling Green and why teamwork makes a world of difference in patients’ recovery.


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In the latest edition of Making the Rounds, Dr. Scott Mair discusses always wanting to be a doctor, his hobbies and why he enjoys living in Lexington.

A passion for sports led Dr. Scott Mair to orthopaedic surgery

Making the RoundsWe sat down with Dr. Scott Mair, an orthopaedic surgeon at UK Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports Medicine, for our latest installment of Making the Rounds, a blog series that introduces you to some of our providers at UK HealthCare. Dr. Mair specializes in shoulder and knee arthroscopy and shoulder reconstruction.

How did you first become interested in medicine?

I grew up in Rochester, Minn., and everybody there is a doctor, basically. My dad was a pediatrician. I didn’t know there was anything else to do. I’m kind of kidding, but there are an unbelievable number of doctors there, per capita, just because the Mayo Clinic’s there and it’s a small town. So obviously I knew a lot of doctors, and they seemed to like what they did.

Why did you decide to specialize in orthopaedics?

It had more to do with my love of sports. I wasn’t a spectacular athlete, but I played a lot of sports, and I enjoyed being around sports. So when I would hear about team doctors, it seemed like a good fit. I get to work with several of the UK teams, which is a lot of fun.

What types of injuries do you treat?

Mostly what I see is shoulder problems. Probably about 80 percent of my practice is shoulder things. A lot of young athletes with stability problems, and then older people who have rotator cuff problems. But I see all kinds of other, different shoulder abnormalities, too.

What should patients know about rehab after surgery?

People think rehab is something where they have to push through the pain and do everything they’re supposed to do – which, in certain surgeries or certain rehabs, is important. But a lot of times, it’s almost the opposite, where once people start feeling well, we’ve got to slow them down because some things take months to heal.

For a lot of my younger patients especially, after a couple of months when we’ve stabilized their shoulder, they feel like they’re good as new, and they start doing things they’re not supposed to do before they’re healed. So half my time I spend trying to slow people down while they’re healing up after surgery instead of pushing them along, like you do in some surgeries.

What do you do in your spare time?

I have four daughters, so most of the time I’m doing things with them. I used to play a lot of golf, but they’re not much into that, so I spend a lot of time chasing them around for their sports and things. They range from age 12 to 20 now.

Describe your ideal weekend. 

I’d be at a UK basketball game and hanging out with my family after that, doing something with our friends. Maybe go fishing.

What do you like most about living in Lexington?

I’ve been here about 18 years and I think it’s a fun place. There’s a lot to do, it’s easy to get to big cities, but it’s not such a big place that you can’t get around where you need to go. And it’s got friendly people.

What’s your favorite movie?

I like some of the old-school movies like Caddyshack and Fletch. Those are probably still my favorites.


Check out our video interview with Dr. Scott Mair below, where he talks about why working with the student-athletes at UK is so rewarding.


Next steps:

  • Learn more about UK Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports Medicine, which provides leading-edge treatment for a variety of injuries and conditions.
  • When Patty Lane was diagnosed with arthritis in her hip, she was told her time as a competitive triathlete was over. That’s when she turned to UK Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports Medicine for a second opinion. Read Patty’s story.

Even as a child, Rachel Miller knew she wanted to be a doctor

Making the RoundsWe’re joined by Dr. Rachel Miller for our latest edition of Making the Rounds. Dr. Miller is a gynecologic oncologist at the UK Markey Cancer Center who specializes in ovarian cancer screening and treatment. She’s also the co-director of Markey’s new Molecular Tumor Board, a powerful tool in the fight against cancer.

When did you know you wanted to be a doctor?

I think I knew in elementary school. I was very interested in doctoring from an early age. My mom actually saved my Fisher-Price doctor kit and cleaned it up and gave it to my son. So it is well-worn. I did a lot of physical exams when I was between the ages of 4 and 6, I think.

I was a chemistry major, and I thought I might spend some time in the lab. And I was interested in pharmacy, too. So it’s been a long-standing desire. [The challenge] was just trying to figure out what aspect of healthcare and medicine and interaction with people would work best.

What’s your favorite food?

Spaghetti and meatballs. It’s comfort food, and actually, it’s one of the first dishes that my husband made for me when we were dating. It was a birthday dish.

How would your friends describe you?

I think they’d describe me as energetic, active. Kind of crazy in that I may have a little higher work-to-off-time ratio than most of my friends, but we make the most of our time together.

Describe your ideal weekend.

I’d get out of work at a reasonable time on Friday and probably have some Mexican or Indian food or sushi for dinner – some sort of special treat for Friday night. And then on Saturday, I’d wake up – I have a 3 1/2-year-old – so I’d wake up with him in a really good mood and we’d play and have a nice, quiet breakfast. I’d go out for a run, and then we’d have an afternoon of maybe swimming in the summertime or the YMCA in the wintertime. We’d get a babysitter at 6 p.m., and I’d have an evening with my husband. Really, it’d be a quiet weekend at home. I feel like more and more we treasure the downtime and the routine family time at home.

What’s your favorite part about being a mom?

There are so many great parts about it. I think it’s just that my son challenges me in ways that I didn’t realize a 3 1/2-year-old could challenge me. I thought I had a hard job until I became a mom, and I realized that is so much more difficult at times. I just enjoy watching him grow and seeing how every day is just loaded with new experiences for him and how he approaches those experiences, watching him learn language, hearing him laugh – just the day-to-day interactions.


Watch our video interview with Dr. Miller below, where she describes the types of patients she sees at Markey and talks about why she enjoys practicing medicine in Kentucky.


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Meet Dr. Susan Smyth, director of the UK Gill Heart & Vascular Institute

Making the RoundsOur latest Making the Rounds interview features Dr. Susan Smyth, medical director of the UK Gill Heart & Vascular Institute. Dr. Smyth is a researcher and physician focused on treating patients with bleeding and clotting disorders.

What do you enjoy most about being a heart doctor?

The field of cardiology is just extraordinary. It’s incredibly rewarding to be part of a field that has done so much for our society and to every day be thinking about, “How can we do this better? How can we keep people out of the hospital? How can we make them live longer? How can we make them feel better? How can we get rid of their suffering?” To be able to translate something that we observe in a clinical study to a patient and make their lives better is incredibly rewarding.

Why is research such an important part of your job?

The thing that drives me is to think about how we apply the scientific method to alleviating pain and suffering, extending life, and promoting health. How can we apply the knowledge that we have today so that we can improve tomorrow what we’re doing for folks across the United States?

What do you want patients to know about the care team at Gill?

We have a phenomenal care team at the University of Kentucky. We have staff whose entire job is to be there for the patient, for the family member and for the loved one and to support them throughout their journey.

Know that when you come here, you will be surrounded by a team that is dedicated to taking care of you.

Tell us about your interest in women’s heart health.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women, and a lot of people don’t realize that. As a female cardiologist, it’s something that’s very close to my heart and a lot of my patients’ hearts, and we do have a very large focus on women’s heart health at Gill.

Another thing that I’m passionate about is trying to get more women in medicine and science in general. We do not have enough female cardiologists. Less than 15 percent of the cardiologists in the United States are female. That’s a number that needs to change. And so while we think about how we can improve heart health in women, I also want to encourage women to consider this as a career because I can’t think of a more rewarding specialty to go into.

You were born in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Do you root for the Wildcats or the Tar Heels?

I am a native North Carolinian but I changed colors of blue when I moved to Kentucky. I continue to bleed blue, but it’s a little bit darker now than when I was younger. I have been in Kentucky for a little over 10 years and I cheer for the Wildcats, much to my mom’s chagrin!


Watch our video interview with Dr. Smyth, where she talks more about the types of conditions she treats and what patients can expect when they come to Gill.


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Lacey Buckler, assistant Chief Nursing Executive at UK HealthCare, spoke about how graduating from UK directly impacted her career.

Kentucky native Lacey Buckler pursues nursing excellence at UK

Making the RoundsLacey Buckler, who earned three degrees from the UK College of Nursing, currently serves as an assistant chief nursing executive at UK HealthCare. She has a special interest in working with heart transplant patients at the UK Transplant Center.

How did you go from being a UK graduate to your current position?

I started out as a critical care nurse in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (ICU) here at UK, spent a couple years working there and then moved into a case management position where I did discharge planning for cardiovascular services. I graduated with a nurse practitioner degree here at UK. Then I worked again with cardiology at that point as an acute nurse practitioner and continued my trajectory to earn my doctoral degree. I moved into the director role for advance practice and also cardiovascular nursing and over the past couple years, moved into a chief assistant nurse role.

What is a typical day like in your position?

There is definitely never a dull moment! UK HealthCare is a very busy academic medical center, and we consistently have a large volume of patients moving through our system. Ensuring my teams have what they need to care for the patients while balancing planning and preparing for what’s coming next is how I spend many of my days.

I also enjoying mentoring emerging leaders within the team and supporting students as they rotate through my areas.

Why did you choose a career in nursing?

I think it’s a passion for taking care of others and seeing the happiness on a patient’s face when they get to leave and they’ve been well taken care of – just being a part of that and being part of their family.

What is the most challenging aspect of your work?

I think healthcare is ever-changing. So right now with the political climate that we’re in, it’s hard to be in healthcare because you don’t know what’s coming down the road from bundled payments and changes in how we take care of patients. So I think just not knowing what the next steps will be makes health care challenging in general.

What is the most fulfilling part of your job?

The most fulfilling part of my job is seeing patients get better. I’m involved with the UK Transplant Program here for heart transplantation, so that’s a huge, neat part of UK HealthCare – seeing those patients get better and going on with their lives with a new chance on life is really an awesome experience.

Do you have a favorite UK memory? 

I have a lot of favorite UK memories. I’m a big basketball fan, so I had the pleasure of being an undergraduate student when Tayshaun Prince shot all the 3’s at the North Carolina game. We had really good seats right behind the bench that my friend and I got in the lottery at Memorial Coliseum.


Originally from Morganfield, Ky., Buckler discusses why helping people throughout the state is so important to her.


Next steps:

This Making the Rounds features Dr. Gerhard Hildebrandt, division chief of hematology and blood and marrow transplantation at the UK Markey Cancer Center.

Meet Dr. Gerhard Hildebrandt, hematologist: ‘We’re here to help’

Making the RoundsIn this week’s edition of Making the Rounds, we’re joined by Dr. Gerhard Hildebrandt, division chief of hematology and blood and marrow transplantation at the UK Markey Cancer Center. Dr. Hildebrandt moved to the United States in 2009 after earning his medical degree in Germany.

What kinds of cancer do you treat?

We treat cancers of the blood and lymph system. We treat leukemia, we treat lymphoma, we treat multiple myeoma. We do treat benign disorders of the blood, like clotting disorders and bleeding disorders, but my special focus is in malignant hematology, which is really cancer of the blood and lymph system, and also bone marrow transplantation.

What do you most enjoy about your specialty?

I think that the chance to offer something, which, in a horrific moment in a patient’s life, can bring light – it’s just very satisfying. The other thing is, I do not fix and disconnect with the patients. I think in our field there are long-lasting relationships with the patients, and this is a thing which makes it unique and very exciting for me.

What do you want potential patients to know about you?

What I want them to know is that not only me, but our entire team really, really cares for them. And that we really spend the time they need. There’s no rush. My favorite slogan is always, “There’s no rushing medicine.” See, we do not rush patients in and out – that’s not what we’re here for. We’re here to help.

How would your friends and family describe you?

Ambitious, hardworking – maybe overly hardworking. But on the other side I’m very childish. You know, fun-loving.

Describe your ideal weekend.

I’d spend it with my kids. I usually take my son for swimming, and we usually have a movie night on one of those days where we watch a movie with the kids and try to spend some time with them.

Where is your favorite place you’ve traveled?

I think it’s Botswana. I did two trips to Botswana. I went on a cruise, and then I slept in the wild with no cellphone, no guns, no weapons. It was very interesting to sleep there and hear the animals close by with no fences.

What do you enjoy about living in Lexington?

It’s a very livable town. Very nice, very friendly. I like downtown. I think there are quite a few good restaurants and places to get a drink once and a while. It’s very green. Where I live I can bike through the backstreets, so that’s good.


Take a look at our video interview with Dr. Hildebrandt below. He speaks about what makes working Markey so unique.


Next steps:

This week’s featured physician is Dr. Brian Rinker, plastic surgeon and director of the Plastic Surgery Residency Program at UK HealthCare.

Plastic surgeon Dr. Brian Rinker talks about the art of ‘restoring lives’

Making the RoundsThis week’s featured physician in our Making the Rounds blog series is Dr. Brian Rinker, plastic surgeon and director of the Plastic Surgery Residency Program at UK HealthCare. His specialties include aesthetic surgery, breast reconstruction, microsurgery and correction of congenital hand anomalies.

How did you become interested in plastic surgery?

Like most people, I didn’t have any idea what plastic surgery was when I started medical school. I thought of it as, you know, “Doc Hollywood,” cosmetic surgery – that sort of thing. I had no idea what plastic surgeons actually did. And then when I found out as a medical student, it just fit so well with my personality and the things I enjoy doing.

It’s just such a creative specialty, and so varied. We get to treat so many kinds of patients with so many different kinds of problems, and it’s always exciting and always interesting, so I fell in love with it immediately.

How is plastic surgery different from other types of surgery?

I think the average person doesn’t know what plastic surgery truly is. They see the cosmetic side of plastic surgery – which is important – but it only makes up about 10 percent of the actual specialty. You know, most of what we spend our time doing is restoring and reconstructing defects from trauma, from cancer surgery or from congenital defects.

My job is a little different than some other surgeons because, in general, I’m not saving lives. In general, what I’m doing is restoring lives. I’m restoring people back to the way they were, restoring their function, their appearance, their body image after an injury or after a loss due to cancer surgery. And it’s very inspiring to see the type of impact you can have in people’s lives – they can get back to their work or the things they love to do and get back to feeling whole again.

How would your family describe you?

I got a card from my daughter, who’s 8, the other day, that says, “I like my daddy because he’s big and huggable.” So I guess that’s how my daughter would describe me.

Describe your ideal weekend.

Well, I like to go out into the countryside where it’s peaceful. I like to bring my kids and just do something simple and fun like go for a hike or fish or camp out.

What fictional character would you like to hang out with?

I’d like to hang out with Sherlock Holmes. I think that he would be a great guy to hang out with, have a conversation with. Very knowledgeable. And he is also based on a physician, so I think we’d have a lot to talk about.


Watch our video interview with Dr. Rinker below, where he discusses how plastic surgery treats more than just physical issues.


Next steps:

Making the Rounds with Dr. Susanne Arnold

Meet oncologist Susanne Arnold, second-generation doctor and proud Kentuckian

Making the RoundsOur featured provider in this week’s Making the Rounds is Dr. Susanne Arnold, an oncologist at the UK Markey Cancer Center who treats patients with lung cancer and head and neck cancer.

Dr. Arnold is particularly interested in early therapies for cancer and leads several clinical trials at Markey.

How did you become interested in medicine?

My first memories of my life were going with my dad to the hospital because he was a doctor. And that’s how I first became interested in medicine. He was the director of the Center on Aging here for over 25 years and so I have great pride in being a second-generation doctor here at the University of Kentucky.

And even deeper than that is my love of Kentucky, because I’m an eighth-generation Kentuckian and my children are ninth-generation Kentuckians. So serving Kentucky in the little area that I can make a difference – which is in cancer care, where we have some of the biggest health disparities and highest mortality rates – is a real calling to me.

What is your patient care philosophy?

Cancer is really scary, and when you think about how you care for someone with cancer, you have to think about what their goals are first and foremost. I try to put the patient in the center and say, ‘What are your goals? How are we going to help you live your life with cancer and hopefully past the time that you have cancer?’

What characteristic do you most admire in other people?

In my patients, I admire courage because they have to face so many things and they face it so much more courageously than I feel like I would. In others, I admire those who are genuine and care about people.

If you could meet any person from history, who would it be?

I always have wanted to go back in time and see what the heck Stonehenge is really about. That seems really weird, but it’s such a wild thing. I’d love to know why it’s there. What the heck were they doing? I don’t know that I’d want to meet the Stonehenge caveman, but I would love to see that.

And I would love to meet J.R.R. Tolkien because I love his books.

How would your friends describe you?

Nerdy and that I work too hard. I hope people think of me as a kind person and that I’m generous.


Watch our video interview with Dr. Arnold, where she discusses what types of patients she sees at Markey.


Next steps:

  • Learn more about clinical trials at Markey, where our experts are advancing cancer care and giving patients access to the latest treatment options.
  • If you’ve been diagnosed with any form of head and neck cancer or lung cancer, our specialized treatment teams are here to help. Learn more about the leading-edge, personalized care we provide.