Gift of Life Celebration honors organ donors

In November 2015, Frankfort-native Brian Chenault went to the doctor for what appeared to be a bout of pneumonia.

After more than a year of struggling with the illness, Chenault received some much more distressing news: A viral infection had damaged his heart beyond repair. This past January, the 39-year-old was referred to UK HealthCare for a heart transplant.

“I was scared to death,” he said. “I prayed about it, and then somehow I was OK with it and in a good place mentally.”

UK heart transplant patient Brian Chenault speaks at the UK Gift of Life Celebration.

UK heart transplant patient Brian Chenault speaks at the UK Gift of Life Celebration.

On March 25, Chenault was successfully transplanted and says his life has completely turned around.

“I feel great,” he said. “I feel the way I did before anything ever happened to me.”

This past Saturday, Chenault showed his gratitude for his organ donor by speaking at the Gift of Life Celebration, an annual ceremony held by UK HealthCare and Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates (KODA) to honor those who chose to give the gift of life.

The importance of organ donation

This year, more than 175 donor family members and friends attended the celebration, while the names of 26 donors were read aloud and unveiled on the Gift of Life wall, located inside Pavilion A adjacent to the UK Gill Heart & Vascular Institute.

Each year, the wall is updated to honor both new donors and those who have donated in years past. Since the wall was first unveiled in 2012, more than 400 donors have been memorialized.

For patients struggling with organ failure, a transplant may be their only option for survival. Every year, an estimated 6,000 people die while waiting for an organ transplant. More than 117,000 Americans are currently waiting for donated organs, including more than 1,000 people in Kentucky.

Their names are on the United Network for Organ Sharing waiting list. The level of necessity, blood type, and size are among several criteria that determine who can receive a donated organ. One individual donor can provide organs and tissue for nearly 50 people in need.

Honoring those who donated

Knowing that their loved one was responsible for saving others offers some small solace for the donor families. Lisa and Tom Blevins lost their 22-year-old son, Keenan, in early 2016.

“We were on our way to the hospital, just trying to think of one good thing that could come of this,” Tom said. “When KODA approached us, we had our answer.”

Keenan ultimately saved six lives, and his name was added to the memorial this year.

“It’s just a great way to honor him,” Lisa said.

For Chenault, hearing that he’d been matched with a donor came with a bevy of mixed feelings.

“I was excited, nervous and a little scared all at the same time,” he said. “But it was also bittersweet because I knew that meant a family had lost a loved one.”

During the ceremony, the crowd listened in rapt silence as Chenault spoke, halting his words periodically to compose himself. He noted that organ donation doesn’t just make a difference in a single individual’s life – it also impacts everyone in that person’s circle.

“Not only did I need this heart, but my daughter, my wife, my family and my friends all needed this heart,” he said. “Thank you.”


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:

Alton Boyd

Meet Alton Boyd, UK HealthCare’s friendly first face

Alton Boyd never meets a stranger.

“I’m the type of guy that doesn’t have a frown on his face,” Boyd said. “I like to be a friendly person. I want to know people and what they do.”

His smiling face is the first that many people see when they come to UK HealthCare for an appointment or to visit a sick family member. For six years, Boyd, 86, has worked as an ambassador in the parking garage across from Chandler Hospital. He hands people their tickets at the front gate, provides directions and answers questions. More than that, however, he can, and often does, brighten everyone’s day.

Boyd discovered his people skills in 1967, when he began selling cars for Rudolph Chevrolet in El Paso, Texas.

“I enjoyed every minute,” Boyd said. “I didn’t care whether people bought a car or not. I wanted to make a friend out of every customer so they would remember my name the rest of their lives, and they did. And boy did it pay off for me! They’d bring their kids in there, their aunts and uncles, and I’d sell them a car.”

The story behind the friendly face

Perhaps Boyd’s congenial personality derives in some part from meeting many different people over a life filled with varied careers. He worked in the post office as a young adult when his family lived in Carlsbad, N. M., where his dad had a job in the potash mines.

After retiring from the Marine Corps at age 22, Boyd and his wife at the time returned to Carlsbad. He went back to work at the post office during the day and then fixed cars from 6 p.m. until midnight in order to save enough money to buy a house.

“I did that for about five years and got enough money to pay cash for a house,” Boyd said. “I bought a brand-new three-bedroom house for $11,000, which you can’t do anymore!”

When Boyd moved to El Paso, Texas, to sell cars for Chevrolet, he knew no more about cars, or selling them, than the fact that he liked them. After the first year, Boyd grew frustrated with his lack of sales and lost interest in the job, but his boss must have seen something special in him.

“My boss, Jimmy Godwin, truck manager at that time, said, ‘Alton Boyd, you’re going to live with me for three months. I don’t want you to sell nothing; I’ll just pay you. Every time I move, you stay with me.’ And, you know, the second year I sold 30 cars a month. I couldn’t believe it. I made several $6,000 bonuses.”

During that time, Boyd and his wife purchased more than 30 acres of ranch land, where he planted alfalfa fields, built a house and put up a barn for Quarter Horses, dabbling in breeding and training them for racing.

Boyd sold the ranch and retired from selling cars in 1991, when he and his wife moved to Georgetown, Ky., to be closer to family. However, Boyd loves having something to do every day, so he found a job with Tower Automotive in Bardstown, Ky., for several years before coming to UK.

Loving life and work

Alton Boyd, 86, serves as an ambassador who greets patients and visitors entering the UK HealthCare parking garage. He enjoys helping people and putting a smile on everyone’s face.

Boyd has enjoyed every bit of his interesting life. At an age when many people enjoy retirement, he plans to continue as an ambassador in the UK HealthCare parking garage for as long as he is able, where he can enjoy two of his favorite hobbies: cars and talking to people.

“I love talking to people,” Boyd said. “I want them to smile when they talk to me. I kid them, and they smile and say, ‘Oh, Alton, you know everything about this place.’ I have a lot of people call me by my name. I like to help them with where they’re going, and they appreciate it because they’re lost when they pull in here. That’s what it’s all about. I just like to be friendly. I enjoy doing what I do.”

When Boyd isn’t making friends during work hours, he’s most likely making friends while playing golf or on his occasional visits to the racetrack. Should the opportunity arise someday, he can see himself returning to his favorite place: Rio Dosa, Texas.

However, for now, he’s content making people smile and easing their troubles, if only for a moment, as the first face they see when they enter the UK HealthCare parking garage.


Next steps:

UK College of Medicine-Bowling Green

Video: New campus will help shape future of healthcare in Ky.

This time next year, the inaugural class of medical students at the new UK College of Medicine-Bowling Green campus will be attending their first course, kicking off an exciting new opportunity for future Kentucky clinicians.

In June, officials broke ground on a new facility at The Medical Center in Bowling Green, which will be home to the satellite campus. This four-year, regional campus medical school is the first of its kind in Kentucky and is a partnership between UK, The Medical Center at Bowling Green and Western Kentucky University.

The UK College of Medicine-Bowling Green will be a fully functioning campus, using the same curriculum and assessments as UK’s Lexington campus. The on-site faculty will have UK College of Medicine appointments and teach in small groups, and they will provide simulation/standardized patient experiences with lectures delivered from Lexington using educational technology.

For students, the program in Bowling Green offers many benefits: scholarships; smaller class sizes; and the opportunity to live, work and learn in an up-and-coming Kentucky community.

“I think the regional medical campus in Bowling Green offers a really exciting opportunity for a batch of young students to come in and essentially lay the groundwork for everything that campus does going forward,” said Austin Webb, a WKU graduate currently in his third year of medical school at UK. “They are also going to be directly shaping the healthcare in that region for years to come.”

Check out the video below to see how the new campus in Bowling Green will foster a new generation of Kentucky physicians and improve healthcare across the Commonwealth.


Next steps:

Get Fit and Quit

UK partnership helps women in recovery replace cigarettes with sweat

While managing her sobriety, returning to the workforce and enduring a grueling legal process to reunite with her children, Missy couldn’t imagine a day without cigarettes.

After finishing a six-year prison sentence in January, she was determined to get her life back in order. In the spring, she completed a substance abuse rehabilitation program at the Chrysalis House, a residential recovery center for women in Lexington. She got a job and started working through the legal process necessary to regain custody of her children. Smoking – a habit she picked up after prison – helped her cope with her emotions and the stress of court dates and legal battles.

“Quitting wasn’t a top priority because I was so stressed out with stuff going on with my kids,” Missy said. “I would push it to the back of my mind, like, ‘I am not even going to think about quitting smoking, this is calming me down.’”

Then she learned she was pregnant, and she set a quit date.

“It kind of seemed like it was impossible because there is so much going on,” she said. “But me finding out I was pregnant –that pushed me over the edge.”

During her stay at the Chrysalis House earlier this year, Missy signed up for the Get Fit and Quit Program (GFAQ), a community-based research partnership organized by health advocates at the UK College of Nursing, the Chrysalis House and the YMCA of Central Kentucky.

The program, which started in March, includes group tobacco treatment and physical activity sessions. About 14 Chrysalis House clients have enrolled and consistently participated. Through the program, women in recovery at the Chrysalis House are eligible to receive a free family YMCA membership, a free fitness-tracking device and other family health benefits.

Exposing women to physical activity

Enrolled Chrysalis House clients participate in 10 hour-and-a-half Get Fit and Quit sessions with 45 minutes of each session dedicated to group tobacco cessation content followed by 45 minutes of physical activity at the Northside YMCA. UK nurse interventionists Janine Barnett and Tisha Ducas facilitate the sessions.

The program exposes women and families to a range of physical activity, from cardiovascular group workouts like Zumba, to cycling, to yoga, to weight lifting as well as a day to choose a fitness activity on their own. Barnett said many women are learning to replace tobacco use with healthier activities for managing stress.

“The majority of our session content focuses on identifying smoking triggers and stress and discovering new ways to manage them,” Barnett said. “We hope that through exercise, the women will feel the benefits of endorphin release, they will begin to feel physically and mentally better, and then they will begin to naturally incorporate this healthy behavior into their everyday routine.”

Fighting back against stress

Stress is a well-known predictor of smoking. Beginning in 2015, Amanda Fallin-Bennett, a tobacco control researcher in the UK College of Nursing and a primary investigator on the GFAQ program, partnered with the Chrysalis House to conduct pilot research on the barriers to tobacco treatment and cessation specifically for women in addiction rehabilitation programs.

Based on results of individual interviews and focus groups with Chrysalis House residents and staff, GFAQ was designed for a group of women reporting high levels of stress. The program takes an integrative approach that includes a supportive peer network, organized group exercise classes, and access to tobacco treatment specialists and counseling.

The researchers then formed partnerships with staff at the Chrysalis House, as well as officials from the YMCA of Central Kentucky and the Kentucky Quit Line, which provides free nicotine replacement for women enrolled in GFAQ.

Tonya Jernigan, clinical director of the Chrysalis House, said the collaboration complements her organization’s holistic approach to recovery that addresses the physical, spiritual and mental state of addiction. The clients are provided with multiple tools and resources to succeed on their path to health and substance-free living. They also model healthy behaviors by seeing other families in the community enjoying the benefits of a YMCA membership.

“It’s planting a seed,” Jernigan said. “Part of that recovery process is being able to build a natural support system and being able to see what healthy families look like.”

Swapping smoking for sweat

Susan Sanders, a clinical nurse at the Chrysalis House, said the program provides a safe, non-judgmental and family-friendly outlet for clients to participate in physical activity. Importantly, Chrysalis House clients participating in the program are engaged in the community, which helps to normalize exercise and decrease access barriers to healthy activities.

“Just to feel like there’s folks at UK and folks at the Y who are willing to reach out to them — who care about them enough to put this program together— that’s inspiring to them as individuals,” Sanders said.

The clients, most importantly, are learning to swap out smoking for physical activity as a response to stress. In addition, their families are getting plugged into their local community and experiencing the joy of exercise.

“And I am in the best shape of my life thanks to this program,” said one participant, whose identity is protected. “I have been getting compliments almost daily, and the YMCA has been my and the kids’ second home. I feel this program will change lives and its changed mine for the better.”

Missy admits she’s never been enthusiastic about working out in the past, but she’s learned to appreciate exercise and enjoys swimming. She remains committed to the program because she needs encouragement and accountability to make her quit goal. When she missed her quit date about a month ago, participating in the class and receiving encouragement from the instructors motivated her to try again.

“I really started enjoying the program when I had a breakdown when I didn’t make my quit date,” she said. “Janine and the nurses have been very supportive and caring, and they try to understand. They are swift in their thinking – they know what to say.”

*Missy’s name was changed to ensure client confidentiality.


Next steps:

Kentucky Consortium for Accountable Health Communities

UK receives $4.5M award to study social issues that impact health

Researchers at the UK Center for Health Services Research (CHSR) will use a $4.5 million award to address the health-related social needs of vulnerable patients across the Commonwealth.

The award comes from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and establishes the Kentucky Consortium for Accountable Health Communities (KC-AHC).

Over the next five years, principal investigator and director of the CHSR Dr. Mark V. Williams, along with co-principal investigator Dr. Jing Li, is partnering with the Kentucky Primary Care Association, Appalachian Regional Health, Norton Healthcare and Kentucky HomePlace.

This collaboration will work across 27 counties in Appalachia and the Louisville Metro area to collect information from Medicare and Medicaid patients about unmet social needs that impact their health.

The partnership between Kentucky Primary Care Association and CHSR came from “a shared understanding of what is involved in maintaining the health of the patients we serve, which are beyond medical, dental and mental health services,” said Joseph Smith, chief executive officer of the association.

Identifying gaps in care

The KC-AHC will implement patient screening for health-related social needs in various healthcare delivery sites, provide community service referrals and offer patient navigation for identified needs.

The goal of this research is to reduce the use of healthcare services for issues that can be addressed by existing social programs.

Changing the approach to care in this way would more easily enable patients in Appalachia and Jefferson County to access the information and assistance they need in their own communities. This is a vitally important goal of UK and UK HealthCare.

“At UK HealthCare, we believe Kentuckians should be able to receive the best in care without ever leaving the state,” said Dr. Michael Karpf, UK executive vice president for health affairs. “With this award from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, our researchers will have the opportunity to identify where gaps exist in the care that residents of Appalachia may be experiencing.”

Addressing social needs that impact health

There are many factors that can contribute to poor health, but many are best addressed using existing community-based services.

These social factors include housing instability, food insecurity, interpersonal violence and lack of transportation, which are focus areas for the KC-AHC and CMS.

Unfortunately, patients experience many barriers in accessing existing programs to address these hardships, including lack of awareness and resources to locate appropriate services, low health literacy, and even geographic and distance barriers in the Appalachian region of Kentucky.

“This award – and the research being done with it – will allow physicians to better address the health and social needs of the patients they serve,” said Mark D. Birdwhistell, vice president for administration and external affairs for UK HealthCare. “Addressing those needs on the front lines of care will be critical for reducing the burden of health disparities, especially confronted by patients in Eastern Kentucky and Appalachia.”

One important aspect of the project is ensuring these communities can continue to identify social needs and link patients to appropriate services after the funding has ended. Williams and Li will engage communities to identify leaders who can help connect local social resources to patients identified as high utilizers of healthcare, or those who seek treatment in the emergency room three or more times per year.

“This isn’t money being spent solely on a research project,” Williams said. “We want to integrate these efforts into the healthcare of the community and ensure sustainability.”

Communitywide cooperation

CHSR has been approved as a Track 3 participant, the highest level of participation in the Accountable Health Communities model developed by CMS. This track emphasizes community participation, including assistance from community members in identifying social services available in the region and training navigators who can assist patients in accessing services.

This award will not only help meet the research goals of CHSR, but the goals of the Kentucky Department for Public Health.

“A major goal of the Department for Public Health is better cooperation among medical and health professionals and their organizations,” said Dr. Hiram Polk, commissioner of the department. “This seems like a step in the correct direction.”


Next steps:

Mark Newman

Ky. native Dr. Mark Newman selected to lead UK HealthCare

UK President Eli Capilouto on Friday announced that the Dr. Mark F. Newman, the leader of one of the country’s largest and most renowned academic physician practice plans, will be UK’s new executive vice president for health affairs (EVPHA). He will begin his post at UK in October.

Dr. Mark F. Newman

Dr. Mark F. Newman

Dr. Newman is a native of Kentucky and is an anesthesiologist currently serving as president of Private Diagnostic Clinic, the physician practice plan for Duke University’s Medical Center, a position he has held since 2014.

Born and raised in Owensboro and a veteran of the Air Force, Newman has been at Duke since 1992 and has held a variety of increasingly senior positions, including professor of medicine and chair of anesthesiology.

As the new EVPHA, he will succeed Dr. Michael Karpf, who has led UK HealthCare for nearly 15 years through a remarkable transformation, growing to a $1.5 billion enterprise with nearly 40,000 inpatient discharges and 1.5 million clinic and outpatient hospital visits annually.

“We are grateful for the members of our search committee and the many faculty and staff who took part and provided input during this thorough process to identify a new EVPHA,” Capilouto said. “Dr. Newman’s background as a clinician-scientist, a chairman, a hospital leader and president of a large multispecialty physician group, as well as his love for the Commonwealth and its people, give him unique insight and experience to lead our academic medical campus.”

Newman grew up in Kentucky as part of a farm family with a strong focus on education. He stayed close to home to attend Western Kentucky University to help his family while his father was ill and began running the family farm after his father passed away. He received the Air Force Health Professions Scholarship to attend medical school at the University of Louisville.

He then completed a residency in the Air Force and a fellowship in cardiothoracic anesthesiology and transesophageal echocardiography at Duke University Medical Center before returning to active duty at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Medical Center, a U.S. Air Force facility. He was deployed for Operation “Just Cause” and then for “Desert Shield” and “Desert Storm.”

“As executive vice president for health affairs at the University of Kentucky, I will be helping lead one of the nation’s renowned institutions of higher learning, research and clinical care as well as returning to my home state,” Newman said. “The last decade has seen UK HealthCare evolve into a system with the focus and the flexibility to grow and build on its reputation while advancing the health and patient care opportunities for people throughout the Commonwealth, and I look forward to being part of its continued success.”

President Capilouto convened a search committee in December 2016 to review and interview candidates co-chaired by Eric N. Monday, executive vice president for finance and administration, and Dr. Wendy Hansen, chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The committee was composed of physicians, administrators, deans and staff.


Next steps:

UK partners with faith organization to address memory loss in African-American communities

Phyllis Wilson knows all too well the devastating impact Alzheimer’s disease can have on an individual and the family.

Growing up, Wilson watched Alzheimer’s disease take her mother’s life. Her painful memories of watching her suffer from the symptoms of the disease remain with her to this day. When she first started noticing signs of the disease in herself, she enrolled in a clinical trial at the UK Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, not just for herself, but for her children and grandchildren.

“I worry about what that did to my family. It’s hard to watch; I can’t describe it. I know I don’t want to be in that predicament,” Wilson said. “I read about a clinical trial at the Sanders-Brown Center at UK and I wanted to get involved. It won’t help me, but it might help my kids and grandkids.”

Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually the ability to carry out simple tasks. More than 5 million people in the U.S. are currently living with the disease, and that number could rise as high as 16 million by 2050.

African-Americans like Wilson are two times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than Caucasians and are less likely to have an early diagnosis of their condition, which means less time for treatment and planning.

In an effort to the limit the toll Alzheimer’s takes in the African-American community, Sanders-Brown recently teamed up with The Balm in Gilead to raise awareness about memory-related disorders. The Balm in Gilead is a faith-based organization that addresses prevalent public health issues among African-Americans.

As an aspect of the partnership, Sanders-Brown developed educational materials to be distributed in churches and other faith-based organizations during The Balm in Gilead’s Memory Weekend event. Memory Weekend launched in Lexington on June 11 and was celebrated in 25 churches across Kentucky.

Awareness can lead to early diagnosis

There are no known genetic factors to explain why African-Americans are at an increased risk for Alzheimer’s. However, the known risk factors for the disease, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, are more common in African-Americans.

The Alzheimer’s Association reports that African-Americans are less likely than Caucasians to have a formal diagnosis of their condition because they are less likely to report symptoms of memory loss to their doctors. That’s why spreading awareness about Alzheimer’s disease among African-Americans in non-medical settings is crucial to early diagnosis.

Markeda Yarbrough, a clinical research assistant at Sanders-Brown, says the church is the single most important influence in bringing the African-American community together.

“It’s about building trust in a community where there is a great deal of mistrust of the medical community,” Yarbrough said. “Church members will often go to other church members with health concerns. It’s a place where members can go to other members who are knowledgeable and caring.”

Yarbrough said that African-American women tend to be screened for Alzheimer’s four to five times more than African-American men, who are more reluctant. If not diagnosed in the early stages, the disease may progress so far that treatments aren’t as effective.

Wilson says although she’s not comfortable approaching people to initiate a conversation about Alzheimer’s disease, she has no problem talking about it if someone were to ask her.

“I don’t want other people to have to deal with this disease,” she said. “When I think about what it did to my family, it kills my soul.”


Next steps:

UK Sports Medicine Research Institute

New UK Sports Medicine Research Institute focuses on injury prevention, athlete performance

UK celebrated on Tuesday the opening of the new UK Sports Medicine Research Institute (SMRI), spearheaded by the UK College of Health Sciences and supported in part by a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense.

The 10,000-square-foot facility, part of the UK Nutter Training Facility on campus, will conduct research into injury prevention and performance optimization for professional and collegiate athletes, the tactical athletes of the U.S. military, and physically active people of all ages in Kentucky and beyond.

“Our research and scholarly endeavors offer the brightest hope for transformation and change for our Commonwealth and the broader world we serve,” UK President Dr. Eli Capilouto said. “This sentiment fuels the work of this university, and it fuels the work of the Sports Medicine Research Institute.”

Capilouto held the institute up as an example of the university’s efforts to collaborate across disciplines in addressing the challenges and disparities that face the Commonwealth, noting that seven UK colleges are involved in the work of the SMRI, in addition to personnel from UK HealthCare.

There is no similar facility within 400 miles of Lexington.

State-of-the-art technology

The SMRI is outfitted with sophisticated equipment to assess biomechanical, physiological, musculoskeletal and neurocognitive health. It’s supported by a team of eight core faculty, staff, and research assistants and 40 affiliate faculty. In addition to its Lexington location, SMRI operates a facility in Camp Lejeune, N.C., where its team works directly with MARSOC – the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command.

A biomechanics laboratory conducts motion analysis studies using 14 cameras and a dual-force plate system in the floor, similar to the technology used to make video games and animated movies. Equipment shaped like a horse simulates realistic movement for jockeys and other equestrians.

There is also a neurocognitive lab that uses virtual reality to assess visual acuity, reaction times and balance, which are critical measurements for concussion recovery.

Other equipment is designed to measure oxygen consumption, workload and metabolic costs, physiological stress, and the influence of sleep deprivation/fatigue, all of which are important contributors to musculoskeletal strength, endurance, operational performance and injury risk.

Dr. Scott Lephart, dean of the UK College of Health Sciences and founder of the SMRI, leads the $4.2 million Department of Defense grant that helped launch the institute. He said that the military can adapt from lessons learned in athletics and vice-versa.

“The elite warriors of the U.S. military are expected to be at peak performance in extremely dangerous and unpredictable situations, and there’s no room – either financially or personally – for them to sustain a preventable injury,” said Lephart, who is also UK Endowed Chair of Orthopaedic Research. “Our research with athletes both military and civilian is mutually beneficial, and it will result in strategies for injury prevention and performance for every walk of life.”

Impacts in education, health

University of Kentucky Provost Tim Tracy emphasized that the SMRI serves an educational need, in addition to its missions in research and clinical care, noting that the program provides educational experiences for both undergraduate and graduate students across the university.

“With this emphasis on collaboration, the different branches of UK’s mission – education, research, service and care – converge in the work of the SMRI,” he said.

Dr. Michael Karpf, UK executive vice president for health affairs, predicts that SMRI’s impact will extend far beyond the realms of tactical warriors and professional athletes.

“SMRI is a powerful merger of research, outreach and collaboration, enhancing UK HealthCare’s efforts to address chronic disease and poor health in Kentucky,” Karpf said.

UK Director of Athletics Mitch Barnhart noted that the SMRI was not just a valuable resource for UK athletes, but for professional and youth athletes across Kentucky and nationally.

“This is yet another example of the power of partnership on our campus,” Barnhart said. “By working together, we are creating cutting-edge resources for athletes both here at UK and beyond. The efforts of the SMRI will help minimize injury and maximize athletic performance in sports ranging from football to NASCAR and from basketball to horse racing.”

UK Sports Medicine Research Institute

Leaders from UK, UK HealthCare and UK Athletics came together to celebrate the opening of the SMRI.


Next steps:

Markey extends cancer network to Prestonsburg

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

By becoming a UK Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network member, Highlands Regional Medical Center will now be able to offer more patients in Eastern Kentucky access to additional specialty and subspecialty care, including clinical trials and advanced technology, while allowing them to stay in their region for most treatments.

The UK Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network supports UK HealthCare’s overall mission of ensuring no Kentuckian will have to leave the state to get access to top-of-the-line healthcare.

“UK HealthCare doesn’t just serve Lexington and Central Kentucky – our mission is to provide all Kentuckians with the best possible care right here in the state,” said Dr. Michael Karpf, UK executive vice president for health affairs. “The Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network allows us to collaborate with community hospitals to provide top-notch cancer care much closer to home – saving both travel expenses and time for the patients, in addition to keeping them close to their personal support system.”

Highlands Regional Medical Center is a not-for-profit, community-owned and operated hospital established to serve Floyd, Johnson, Martin and Magoffin counties by providing high-quality health services and other community resources that will develop a healthier community.

“Affiliating with the UK Markey Cancer Center opens the door to numerous resources for our hospital and community,” said Harold C. Warman Jr., president and chief executive officer at Highlands Regional Medical Center. “Our staff will benefit from continued education opportunities, our community will benefit from health promotion and access to the most recent community-based cancer care, and our doctors will have access to the latest in cancer care professional education. Markey is a national leader in cancer research and care, and we are grateful for our association.”

The UK 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.

“Navigating cancer treatment can be challenging for patients and their families,” said Dr. Swaty Arora, medical oncologist/hematologist at Highlands Regional Medical Center. “At Highlands, our goal is to provide standard-of-care treatment in a timely and cost-effective manner. This affiliation validates our intention to provide quality care and affords access to resources to optimize patient care.”

The UK Markey Cancer Center 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, the UK Markey Cancer Center 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 UK Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network will play a large 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. Timothy Mullett, medical director of the UK 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.”

The UK Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network began in 2006 and comprises 17 hospitals across the state of Kentucky. Learn more.

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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.