How a 30-minute doctor’s visit inspired this surgeon’s career

Making the RoundsWe caught up with Dr. Chaitu Malempati, an orthopaedic surgeon with UK Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports Medicine who works at The Medical Center at Bowling Green, for our latest Making the Rounds interview.

Dr. Malempati is also the medical director and team physician for Western Kentucky University Athletics, a role that allows him to treat athletes from a variety of different sports.

What types of injuries do you treat?

In my clinic, I see most frequently shoulder and knee injuries. These can be acute injuries that are sports-related or work-related or they can be general chronic injuries caused by arthritis.

At Western Kentucky, I take care of all the sports teams and I travel with the football and men’s basketball teams. I do training room a couple times a week, seeing various athletes in all kinds of sports.

When is surgery recommended for an injury?

Although I’m a surgeon and I love surgery – that’s why I went into the field – I want people to have surgery only when the benefits outweigh the risks. I will do everything in my power to treat people non-surgically first. I really only like to do surgery when I know I can help someone with minimal risks.

What inspires you to go to work each day?

Helping people. Getting people back to the lifestyle or the function they were at before pain or decreased function took over. Getting people back to where they can do the things that make them happy and live the lifestyle that they want to live. That’s really what drives me and encourages me to come to work every day. Whether it be surgical or non-surgical treatment, just helping them get back to where they want to be.

There’s really nothing better than hearing a patient say that they’re doing better or that I helped them get back to playing sports or doing what they love. That’s what inspires me.

When did you decide to pursue medicine as a career?

To be honest, I didn’t know I wanted to do medicine at all when I was an undergrad at the University of Iowa. I played tennis there on scholarship and I hurt my shoulder between my junior and senior years. I went to see an orthopaedic surgeon at the University of Iowa, who I thought was great. He explained to me what the shoulder was, what the labrum was and why my injury was causing pain. And after that 30-minute visit, I realized that’s what I wanted to do.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

I recently traveled to Italy, which was on my bucket list and was great. But if I could travel anywhere else, it would probably be Australia because there’s a lot of interesting stuff there – there’s the Outback, there’s the Great Barrier Reef and the people there seem very happy.

What’s your favorite food?

Pizza and pasta. Anything Italian.

How would your friends and family describe you?

Energetic, goofy. Someone who likes to enjoy life, who likes to have fun with anything I’m doing, whether it be related to work or not. I try to enjoy everything I do.


Watch our video interview with Dr. Malempati below, where he talks more about the integrative approach his practice offers patients to help treat a variety of orthopaedic injuries.


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Cancer is her fight, precision medicine is her weapon

Making the RoundsIn our latest Making the Rounds conversation, we had a chance to chat with Jill Kolesar, PharmD, a professor in the UK College of Pharmacy, co-director of the UK Markey Cancer Center Molecular Tumor Board and director of Markey’s Precision Medicine Clinic.

Dr. Kolesar came to UK HealthCare last year from the University of Wisconsin. Her research is focused on precision medicine, the field of finding new drugs to treat specific cancer mutations. 

Tell us about your precision medicine research.

Precision medicine is a type of treatment that targets a specific genetic mutation in a tumor. Clinical trials have shown that, if you have one of these mutations, not only will the precision medicine work better, but you’ll have fewer side effects. There’s no question that they’re better. Unfortunately, not everyone has a mutation that we have a drug for, but that’s really what we’re working on with our research.

My research is focused on finding new drugs. We look at particular mutations and then use different drugs to target those mutations to determine what the most effective therapy is.

What is the Molecular Tumor Board?

The Molecular Tumor Board brings these precision medicine options to patients and their doctors. The board is made up of doctors, pharmacists and scientists who are experts in genetic sequencing and the treatment of cancer. These people come together to look at each patient’s genetic report and make a treatment recommendation specific to that person.

It’s a real benefit to the patients of Kentucky and their physicians. The treating physician usually knows the patient much better, but the Molecular Tumor Board usually knows the genetics and the new treatments much better. It’s really a partnership between the physician, the patient and the Molecular Tumor Board.

What types of patients benefit most from the Molecular Tumor Board?

The types of patients that are candidates for the Molecular Tumor Board are patients with rare tumors, as well as patients who haven’t responded to standard therapies. And actually, patients with lung cancer can be seen by the tumor board after their initial diagnosis.

Why did you decide to pursue research?

When I was a junior in college, I saw a TV program on PBS about tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (white blood cells) and how they could be taken out of a patient and activated and then given back to make a positive impact.

And so that was the day I decided I was going into cancer research. I’ve never looked back and I’ve always been happy with that decision.

What do you do in spare time?

I like to garden, I like to travel, I like to cook – and I enjoy good food.


Check out our video interview with Dr. Kolesar, where she talks more about the benefits of the Molecular Tumor Board.


Next steps:

  • Watch our TV spot that features the work of our Molecular Tumor Board.
  • 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.
Making the Rounds with Dr. Vish Talwalkar

Ortho surgeon Vish Talwalkar on why he loves caring for kids

Making the RoundsWe sat down with Dr. Vishwas Talkwalkar, a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon at Kentucky Children’s Hospital and Shriners Hospitals for Children Medical Center – Lexington, for our latest Making the Rounds interview. Dr. Talwalkar is a native Kentuckian and grew up right here in Lexington. Today, he specializes in treating a variety of orthopaedic concerns in kids of all ages.

When did you know you wanted to be a doctor?

I became interested in medicine at a pretty young age. Based on some of the things that my parents tell me, they thought I was going to be a doctor starting when I was in fourth or fifth grade.

My initial long-term plan was to play professional football and then come back and go into medicine. But that didn’t work out, so I ended up going straight into medicine.

What conditions do you treat?

I like to say that the patients I take care of come in all sizes and in all shapes. We see infants within the first few hours of life all the way up to patients who are 21 and older who have orthopaedic conditions that require our care as adults.

We take care of problems like hip dysplasia and spinal deformities of all different kinds. We also see children with cerebral palsy and other neuromuscular conditions, children with developmental diseases like Legg-Calve-Perthes disease or Blount’s disease, and children with bow legs and knock knees.

That’s part of the beauty of pediatric orthopaedics: We get to take care of such a broad variety of patients.

Why do you enjoy treating kids?

I like to take care of children because they’re so resilient and they’re so much fun. Every day, they seem to have a different funny story, and every day when I come to work, it’s always a little bit different, which makes it fun.

Orthopaedics is great because it allows you to impact patients in ways that you can see the results of what you’ve done. And with kids, you can see the results as they continue to grow up, which is very gratifying.

What does your ideal weekend look like?

My ideal weekend would be in the fall, doing what I call the Kentucky Triple Crown: You get up in the morning and play golf, and then go to Keeneland in the afternoon, and then go to a Kentucky football game at night.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a doctor?

If I wasn’t a physician, I’d probably be a high school biology teacher and football coach.

How would your friends and family describe you?

Probably as pretty easy-going and interested in a lot of things. Pretty passionate about the things I do. And as somebody who’s a good listener.


Watch our video profile with Dr. Talwalkar, where he explains the special connection between UK HealthCare and Shriners and what it means for our patients.


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Making the Rounds with Dr. Emily Marcinkowski

Growing up around the operating room inspired this cancer surgeon

Making the RoundsOctober is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and we caught up with Dr. Emily Marcinkowski, a surgical oncologist who specializes in breast cancer, for our latest Making the Rounds interview.

Dr. Marcinkowski joined the Comprehensive Breast Care Center at the UK Markey Cancer Center after completing a fellowship at the City of Hope National Medical Center in California. 

Why did you decide to become a surgeon?

My mother was a scrub nurse, so I kind of grew up going to the operating room and spent a lot of time around the hospital. Whenever she was on call, I was on call.

I really liked surgery because you can really help people and help fix a problem. And I like the relationships that surgeons have with patients. People are very vulnerable when they come in, and you get to develop a relationship with them and truly have a pretty tight patient-doctor relationship.

How do you develop those relationships with your patients?

I really like to listen to them, listen to what their goals are. Women have very different opinions about their breasts. After being diagnosed with breast cancer, some women really want to keep their breasts, some women want to have their breasts removed and some women want to come in, get their therapy and get on with their lives.

It’s very different for each patient, and I think just sitting back and listening to their stories is important. Some patients have a very strong family history of cancer and because of that, their diagnosis frightens them very much. Just hearing that, it helps me individualize their care plan.

What does a typical day away from the office look like?

My husband and I usually go eat someplace new and fun for lunch, and then I usually work out in my garden. We bought a house with about an acre on it, which is more land than I’ve ever had. We have planter boxes all over, and the tomatoes have taken over the world.

And anything on Netflix, we’ll watch.

What’s your favorite food?

Mexican food. Or anything that involves cheese. There are few things that cheese won’t cure.


Check out our video interview with Dr. Marcinkowski, where she talks about the personalized, individualized care that Markey offers patients with breast cancer.


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Making the Rounds with Dr. Shubham Gupta

Dr. Shubham Gupta on what drew him to a career in surgical urology

Making the RoundsFor our latest Making the Rounds interview, we had a chance to talk with urologist Dr. Shubham Gupta. Dr. Gupta is one of the region’s leading reconstructive urologists and also helps genitourinary cancer patients recover from complications stemming from treatment.

Why did you decide to pursue medicine as a career?

My father is a physician, and when I was growing up, I always looked up to him. That was really the first thing that inspired me to investigate medicine as a career choice.

And over the course of my education, that choice was just solidified and consolidated into what I think has been a pretty great career thus far.

What conditions do you treat?

My practice focuses on reconstructive urology and cancer survivorship. The cancer survivorship part of it is for patients who have had cancer removed or radiated, but now they have complications from that treatment itself. Women with cervical cancer will have issues with their bladder after treatment, while men with prostate cancer will have leakage of urine after prostate removal. We are able to perform the entire breadth and spectrum of survivorship care to these patients.

The other aspect of my practice is reconstructive urology, which, to put it in very simplistic terms, is like plumbing. If your plumbing is blocked, you can remove the bad stuff and put good things back together, which is really what I do. Within urology, it’s a very small niche, and we are the only center in the entire state that provides these services.

How did you land on surgical urology as a specialty?

When I initially started med school, I thought I was going to do internal medicine, which is what my father practices. And then I rotated on internal medicine and I didn’t really like it a whole lot.

Surgical specialties, on the other hand, allow one to make a diagnosis, have a deductive reasoning and then act on it, and then maybe provide a faster way of helping the patient. During my rotations, urologists were always the most fun people to work with. They were always laid back and just loved what they did. Urology involves a little bit of medicine as well as a lot of surgery, so it’s a perfect balance.

Describe your patient-care philosophy.

The patient needs a resolution of the problem that they have, which is not just a physical manifestation of the disease, it’s everything else that goes along with it – societal aspects as well as domestic aspects.

For instance, I commonly see patients who have had prostate cancer and now have leakage of urine. You can say, ‘There’s leakage of urine, there’s the problem. How can we mitigate that?’ But the larger view is that that problem prevents that patient from going to church, from hanging out with his buddies and playing golf, and from engaging in sexual intercourse. We have to integrate all of these concerns before we decide what treatment to offer that patient.

What are your hobbies outside of medicine?

I like to read a lot – I’m a leisure reader. I like to bike; I enjoy hitting up the Legacy Trail in Lexington.

And I’m trying to pick up golf, but I am not very good at it. One of my colleagues, Dr. Ali Ziada, who is a pediatric urologist at UK HealthCare, he is as awful as I am. We go together and hit some balls and pretend that we did something fruitful with our day.

What do you enjoy most about living in Lexington?

It’s a small, fun city. It’s got things to do for young professionals, and it’s surrounded by lots of beautiful country.

And it’s got lots of bourbon, too, which is great.


Check out our video interview with Dr. Gupta, where he tells us more about the types of conditions he treats and the specialized procedures he performs.


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Making the Rounds with Dr. Ryan Muchow

Dr. Ryan Muchow on the ‘amazing’ field of pediatric orthopaedics

Making the RoundsWe caught up with pediatric orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Ryan Muchow for our latest Making the Rounds conversation. Dr. Muchow works at Kentucky Children’s Hospital and Shriners Hospitals for Children Medical Center – Lexington, where he specializes in hip surgery and hip preservation treatments. 

What conditions do you treat?

We treat the entirety of pediatric orthopaedics, from birth to the young adult years. We take care of all kinds of musculoskeletal injury and conditions.

We see kids at both the Shriners Hospital as well as the Kentucky Children’s Hospital. Most of the kiddos that we work with at KCH are kids that come in in an urgent or emergent basis with an acute injury. We’re able to take care of them at a time of great need as they’ve broken bones or have been involved in a serious accident.

Most of those kids at Shriners were either born with a condition or have developed a condition. They’ve been living with it for some time, and it’s not necessarily an acute or urgent setting. But we get to meet them and help them through their journey with whatever condition they have.

What makes pediatric orthopaedics so enjoyable?

It’s this amazing field where we have the opportunity to restore activity to kids. One of the top motivations for a child is to be able to play, to be able to run around and do things carefree. And we have the ability and opportunity to come in at a special time of their life and provide that service or need to get them to a point where they can do that activity.

Why did you decide to pursue medicine as a career?

Medicine in some ways chose me. I was thinking about other interests in high school, and someone recommended to me that I look at medicine. I got involved in a program that led me into medical school. After that, it was kind of affirmation after affirmation of, “Hey, being with people is awesome, getting to do the sciences is awesome.” And so it all kind of came together in medicine.

Describe your ideal weekend.

I’d come home Friday night after work and make pizza with my wife and kids. We’d put the kids to bed and then watch a movie.

Saturday morning, I’d get up and go for a run with the family, pushing the kids and running with my wife. We’d go get donuts, and then we love to do things outside – hiking, running around and doing crazy kid stuff.

What’s your favorite food?

If I can have two favorite foods, I’d say I like pizza a lot and I also like steak a lot. Those are two completely different foods, but those are where I’d go.

Steak if I could have a nice meal out and pizza if I could do something every day of the week.


Check out our video interview with Dr. Muchow, where he tells us more about the comprehensive orthopaedic care provided by Shriners and KCH.


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Making the Rounds with Dr. Amit Patel

Dr. Amit Patel explains how he went from sculpture to surgery

Making the RoundsIn this week’s Making the Rounds conversation, we caught up with Dr. Amit Patel, a surgeon who specializes in reconstructive and cosmetic treatment of the head and neck. Dr. Patel sees a wide variety of patients, including those who have had cancer or traumatic injuries of the face, as well as individuals interested in cosmetic enhancements and rejuvenations of the nose, face and neck.

How did you become interested in medicine?

It’s been a little bit of an interesting path. I actually wanted to be an artist – a sculptor – when I was growing up. Then the summer between high school and college, I happened to work at a doctor’s office and really fell in love with it. Those two worlds pretty much collided, and the rest has been history.

How is being a surgeon similar to being an artist?

My patients become my artistic medium, if you will, and I approach them from an artistic standpoint. How can I best and most creatively solve the problem at hand? How can I put these patients back together and get them into the real world and have them not feel insecure, have them not feel like they’re different? That’s a very big part of my patient-care philosophy.

What experiences have most shaped your career?

One of the unique experiences that has shaped my career was when I became a patient myself. I had a skiing accident and spent a fair amount of time away from what I normally do, which is a lot of reconstructive surgery.

I frequently have to tell my patients to be patient with the process and to let a tincture of time take effect. Having to swallow that pill myself as a patient changed the way I approach things and the way I approach my patient care.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your work?

It’s the trust that develops between me and my patients. When they come to me – especially my reconstructive patients – they’re often in a place where they’ve kind of lost their sense of identity. The trust that they hand to me, I take to heart and I take a lot of pride in that. It’s something I really, really enjoy.


Check out our video interview with Dr. Patel, where he tells us more about the conditions he treats and how he gets to know his patients.


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Dr. Eric Moghadamian

Broken bones of his own inspired this surgeon’s lifelong passion

Making the RoundsFor our latest Making the Rounds interview, we chatted with Dr. Eric Moghadamian, an orthopaedic trauma surgeon at UK HealthCare. Dr. Moghadamian is originally from Elizabethtown, Ky., and attended medical school at the University of Kentucky. 

What kinds of patients do you see?

I tend to see patients on their worst day, after they fall off a roof or they’re involved in a motor vehicle collision, motorcycle accident or even a sporting activity where they just break a simple bone.

My job is to put those folks back together and to restore them back to their normal function that they had prior to their accident.

How did you become interested in medicine?

During the course of my own sporting activities as a kid, I wound up breaking quite a few bones. And through my visits in and out of the doctor, I ended up having an affinity for orthopaedics. That’s kind of what set me on the path that I ended up following.

Are you a sports fan?

Oh yeah. I grew up playing soccer and baseball. I played sports in high school and some in college, and I still watch sports on a regular basis. I watch a lot of Premier League soccer and, of course, UK basketball and UK football.

What’s something that most people don’t know about you?

Most folks, in general, are surprised that I’m from Kentucky. They see my name, they see my picture and they tend to ask, “Where are you from?” And I’m like, “I grew up down the road.”

You have young kids – what’s your favorite part about being a dad?

It’s all good! The hugs are the best, I guess.


Check out our video interview with Dr. Moghadamian, where he explains how his team works to provide the best care possible for people with traumatic injuries.


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Making the Rounds with Dr. Andrew Leventhal

Cardiologist Dr. Andrew Leventhal helps a unique group of patients

Making the RoundsIn this week’s Making the Rounds interview, we caught up with Dr. Andrew Leventhal, director of the Kentucky Adult Congenital Heart Program at the UK Gill Heart & Vascular Institute. Dr. Leventhal is one of the nation’s few adult congenital heart disease specialists, helping a unique set of patients who are born with heart defects and who require specialized care as they become adults.

Why is adult congenital heart disease a challenging specialty?

Patients born with heart defects face unique challenges as they get older. They outgrow their pediatric cardiologists, but their heart problems can be very different from cardiac conditions that begin during adulthood.

One of the problems with this specialty is, because they have had good care in the past, many of my patients feel well and don’t necessarily think they need follow-up care. That’s why we make such a great effort to go out into the community and make sure these patients understand that they do need to see doctors for the rest of their lives.

What can a patient expect during their first appointment with you?

Many of my patients had surgery when they were children, so we talk a lot about their past. Even though they may be young, they actually have a fairly extensive medical history.

We really start at the beginning and go through their lives to make sure we have a very accurate perception of what they’ve had done in the past and where they are now.

What inspires you?

When I get up in the morning and I see my patients and see what they’re going through, that’s very inspiring. And the work ethic of my colleagues here at UK is quite inspiring, too.

If you weren’t a doctor, what would you be doing?

I’d be coaching baseball somewhere.

What do you enjoy most about living in Lexington?

I like that fact that it’s a city, but it has a small-town feel. I think it’s the most beautiful place in the world.

My wife and I very commonly will go out on the weekends into farm country just to drive around and really wonder at how nice of a place it is here.


Check out our video interview with Dr. Leventhal, where he explains how exciting new treatment options are helping patients feel better faster.


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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.


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