New installation showcases artwork of UK alumna

For 25 years, Ellen Skidmore has found solace in art. As a stutterer, Skidmore discovered the non-verbal communication experienced in painting to be liberating and grounding. During her time as a student at a small liberal arts college in Kentucky, she began painting seriously. It was then she began to realize how this visual communication would allow her to interact more openly with herself and those around her.

While working on a children’s book to teach the alphabet, Skidmore began to share her story of living with a stutter and ultimately the book evolved and became, “Ellen the Little Girl Who Found her Voice.” This story serves as somewhat of an autobiography to illustrate how, like many children, Ellen was able to adapt and overcome. Skidmore hopes viewers will respond to the overall message that it’s okay to be different and we don’t need to try to be perfect.

After writing the story, Skidmore, who received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Kentucky College of Fine Arts, created the illustrations that would accompany the words. These larger pieces were put on display and, last summer, Skidmore celebrated the works completion with an art exhibit and book launch at Forre & Co. Art Gallery in Aspen, Colorado.

Skidmore feels a clinical setting is perfect for this piece; she hopes patients, staff and visitors will see her work. “Find your passion; if you find something in your life that is grounding you should stick to it no matter what,” she said.

The exhibit is currently on display in the North Gallery, located on the third floor of the Kentucky Clinic, in the hallway leading to the Limestone pedestrian bridge connecting the clinic to the Biomedical Biological Sciences Research Building. It is brought to you by the UK Arts in HealthCare program.


Studies show that integrating the arts into health care settings cultivates a healing environment; supports the physical, mental and emotional recovery of patients; and communicates health and recovery information. It also helps reduce stress and improves workplace satisfaction for caregivers. The mission of the UK Arts in HealthCare Program is to create a healing environment of care and to focus on the spiritual and emotional well-being of our patients, families, caregivers and staff.

The UK Arts in HealthCare Program, supported by the generosity of private donors, brings together visual and performing arts, incorporating the unique aspects of Kentucky landscape, art and music. The program highlights local, national and international artists, art in multiple forms, and various initiatives to enhance the healing environment. You will find art throughout our facilities, and the public is always welcome to visit and view exhibits.


 

Appalachian Research Day shows community-based health care efforts

For many UK researchers who study health in Appalachia, the Center of Excellence in Rural Health (CERH) is an indispensable partner in conducting community-based research. The Center, located in Hazard, connects researchers with the local community and provides necessary infrastructure, from conference rooms to a team of community health workers, called Kentucky Homeplace, who engage participants and gather data.

This week, researchers shared the findings from these community-based studies at the second annual Appalachian Research Day.

“Today is an opportunity for people who do research with the Center to report back about their findings, and see what we can come up with together to better our lives here in Appalachia,” said Fran Feltner, director of the CERH.

Addressing Appalachian health issues

Rural Appalachian communities in Eastern Kentucky experience some of the nation’s most concerning health disparities, including elevated rates of obesity, diabetes, stroke, heart disease, depression, and cancer incidence and death. Residents of Appalachia might also face challenges in accessing health care, such as distance from providers, lack of insurance, or socioeconomic barriers.

Community-based research is essential in addressing disproportionate rates of poor health by collaboratively identifying problems and developing shared solutions that are a good fit for communities. For this type of research to succeed, it must begin at the local level, built upon the foundation of relationships with individuals, neighborhoods and groups who have common questions and concerns. In Eastern Kentucky, the CERH has enabled community-based studies since 1990, when it was founded to improve health through education, service, and research.

In 2015, the CERH launched Appalachian Research Day as an opportunity to share and discuss research findings with the communities that were involved in the studies. Feltner describes the day as an invitation for everyone involved in community health research to “come sit on the porch” of the Center and talk about their work and ongoing needs. More than 100 researchers, coordinators, community health workers, community advisory board members, students, and staff participated this year, with four podium presentations and 13 poster presentations.

“These research findings drive new and exciting health initiatives that are transforming lives across our rural Appalachian region,” Feltner said.

Researching change

The presen­tations focused on community research related to healthy lifestyles, depression, lung cancer screening, drug use and risk behaviors in Appalachia.

Mark Dignan, professor in the UK College of Medicine and director of the UK Prevention Research Center, discussed his work with faith-based communities to study energy balance, obesity and cancer in Appalachia.  According to the CDC, the national obesity rate in adults is about 29 percent, while in Appalachian states the rate is 31-35 percent. Dignan was particularly interested in how to help people re-engineer their lives to include more physical activity.

“When you do research in the community, hopefully you’ll make change that will be lasting,” he said.

Rates of depression are also higher in Appalachia than the rest of the country. For Appalachian women, the rate of depression is four times higher than the national rate. They are also less likely to receive adequate treatment, according to Claire Snell-Rood, PhD, who shared her research on adapting treatment options for rural settings where the traditional mental health system is both inappropriate and inadequate.

“This research focuses on how to adapt evidence-based programs to address not only limited treatment options in rural areas, but the substantial social and health challenges that impede Appalachian women from obtaining the care they need,” she said.

Snell-Rood worked with Kentucky Homeplace community health workers to conduct interviews with women, and she is currently adopting a collaborative, peer-based practice to support rural individuals in developing their own processes for wellbeing.

Roberto Cardarelli, DO, MPH, professor and chief of community medicine in the UK College of Medicine, also presented his research project, the Terminate Lung Cancer study, which aims to understand the knowledge and attitudes of lung cancer screening among high-risk rural populations. Kentucky’s lung cancer mortality rate dramatically exceeds the national lung cancer mortality rate, with 73.2 deaths per 100,000 in Kentucky versus 49.5 nationally. Cardarelli and his team conducted focus groups in order to develop an effective campaign to promote lung cancer screening in the region.

“We like to focus on research that’s important to communities, and we couldn’t find a more important topic than tobacco cessation and lung cancer screening,” he said.

The final presentation of the day addressed drug use and prescription opioid use in Eastern Kentucky. Michele Staton-Tindall, PhD, associate professor in the UK College of Social Work, conducted research in jails to learn about drug use and health-related risk behaviors among rural women in Appalachia. She said that rates of drug use are “alarmingly high” in this area of Appalachia, with many users injecting.

“Injection is the preferred route of administration, which is coupled with increased public health risks including HCV and HIV,” she said.

Solving problems together

The event was supported in part by the UK Center for Clinical and Translational Science, which aims to accelerate discoveries that improve human health, with particular focus on the Appalachian region.

For Feltner, a nurse who has worked in rural health for 35 years, Appalachian Research Day represents the best qualities of the place she calls home.

“What I love most about Appalachia is the fellowship we have together, as neighbors and friends, working together to solve problems.”

Colon cancer screening

Should you be screened for colon cancer?

“Challenge accepted” is a series highlighting the work the UK Markey Cancer Center is doing to fight cancer in Kentucky and Appalachia. To learn more about how we’re helping Kentuckians live longer, fuller and healthier lives, read the latest Markey Cancer Center Annual Report. In this entry, we sit down with Melissa Hounshell, Markey community outreach director, to discuss the importance of colorectal cancer screening.

Who should be screened for colorectal cancer?

Melissa Hounshell

Melissa Hounshell

Hounshell: In general, colon cancer screenings begin at age 50 and continue until age 75. If there is a family history, doctors recommend you start earlier. If there are any questions, you should always ask your family physician. There are several different types of screenings available, including fecal occult blood testing, sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy.

Screening can catch cancer early, when it’s at its most treatable, and it can also prevent the disease by identifying abnormal growths called polyps, which can turn into cancer later on.

What is a FIT and what are its benefits?

Hounshell: FIT (fecal immunochemical test) is a high-sensitivity stool test that you can do at home. It’s used to test the stool for blood that cannot be seen with the naked eye (called occult blood). Once completed, the FIT is then mailed to a lab, where you will get a positive or negative result. If it’s positive, a follow-up colonoscopy will be recommended.

A FIT is often used to detect bleeding in the digestive tract when there are no other signs or symptoms of a digestive problem. Blood in the stool can be caused by a number of conditions, including colon cancer. It is important to remember that a FIT should be repeated each year.

How can people sign up for a screening or learn more about FIT tests?

Hounshell: Most primary care doctors should offer FIT testing. I always recommend starting with your personal physician. They know your health and your family history. Markey also has FITs available at several of our screening events throughout the year. For more information, please call 859-323-2034.

Why is screening for colorectal cancer so important, especially in Kentucky?

Hounshell: Colon cancer is largely a preventable disease. Kentucky has historically ranked very high in incidence rates. However, through the efforts of many organizations and advocates all across Kentucky in the past 15 years, we have seen a dramatic decrease in incidence rates and deaths.

These screenings work! We just have to continue our efforts to educate folks on the importance of getting screened.

How does colorectal cancer screening fit into Markey’s outreach mission?

Hounshell:  I talk about colon cancer screening every place I go. Much of my time is spent traveling the state and talking with people about the importance of cancer screenings, education, and general health and wellness. It is extremely important to open the dialogue with folks and to make sure they understand what types of screenings are available to them. I consider it an honor to meet so many good people and help them better understand screenings.


Next steps:

 

Challenge accepted: Markey strives to improve access to colorectal cancer screening across Kentucky

“Challenge accepted” is a series highlighting the work the Markey Cancer Center is doing to fight cancer in Kentucky and Appalachia. To learn more about how we’re helping Kentuckians live longer, fuller and healthier lives, read the latest Markey Cancer Center Annual Report. In this entry, we celebrate Colon Cancer Awareness Month by looking at Markey’s outreach efforts to combat this disease.

Thanks to screening tests like colonoscopies, colorectal cancer can be identified at its earliest stages when it’s most treatable. Unfortunately, many Kentuckians don’t take advantage of this opportunity.

In fact, in 2001, Kentucky had the highest rate of colorectal cancer in the United States, and was ranked 49 of the 50 states for colorectal cancer screening, said Tom Tucker, PhD, MPH, associate director for cancer prevention and control at the UK Markey Cancer Center.

This startling statistic spurred several major cancer groups in Kentucky into action, leading to the launch of a program encouraging primary care physicians to recommend and schedule colorectal screening. In rural areas of the state where primary care physician care is less common, individuals from the community were recruited for screening and asked to encourage their age-eligible friends to also be screened.

By 2008, the results of these efforts were clear.

“In seven years, we went from just over one-third of the population age 50 and older ever having had a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy to nearly two-thirds,” Tucker said, noting that the state also went from No. 49 in colorectal screening to No. 25, while colorectal cancer incidence rates dropped by 25 percent and mortality rates dropped by 30 percent.

But in spite of the progress, there is still much to do: A third of age-eligible Kentuckians are still not screened for colorectal cancer.

This year, Melissa Hounshell, the community outreach director for Markey, will focus her efforts on distributing FIT kits in the population centers where individuals are least likely to pursue screening. FIT kits are at-home tests that are then mailed to a lab, that screen for blood in the stool, a potential marker of colorectal cancer.

“Markey is committed more than ever to leading a comprehensive cancer screening education and prevention program,” Hounshell said. “It’s about reaching some of those people who have been unreachable and really embedding ourselves in the community.”


Next steps:

Circle of Love benefits more than 800 Kentucky kids.

Circle of Love benefits Kentucky children in need

Thanks to the generosity of UK employees, volunteers and students, hundreds of Kentucky children in need will have their holiday wish lists fulfilled this year.

The Circle of Love gift drive, coordinated by the UK HealthCare Volunteer Services Office, will benefit more than 800 kids in nine Kentucky counties this holiday season.

Following the month-long gift drive, Santa Claus and volunteers from UK HealthCare joined forces last Friday to help load school buses and vans with wrapped gifts for local children and families.

Volunteer Services Manager Katie Tibbitts said this year’s drive was a success.

“The gifts here today may be the only gifts these kids receive for the holidays,” she said. “It is absolutely wonderful what our UK HealthCare employees have done for these children.”

Check out photos from Friday’s event!

5 tips from the Falls Fair

5 tips from UK HealthCare’s Falls Fair

Last week, UK HealthCare hosted the Falls Fair, an event that provided educational resources to older members of our community and their caregivers and highlighted the risks and dangers of falling.

We had a great turnout from the community as well as support from local businesses and groups. Organizations like the YMCA of Central Kentucky, Kentucky Arthritis Foundation, Lexington’s chapter of the Taoist Tai Chi Society and more were on hand to share the importance of physical activity to help improve balance and coordination, build strength, and reduce the likelihood and severity of falls.

Other organizations like Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital, gave out information about its Skilled Rehabilitation Program, and Safe Kids Fayette County offered tips about how grandparents can keep children safe while in their care.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 2.5 million older people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries each year.

Amanda Rist, RN, BSN, is a registered nurse and is the Injury Prevention Coordinator for the Trauma Program Office here at UK HealthCare. Rist organized the Falls Fair event and said older adults who have fallen or are afraid of falling should speak with their doctor.

“If you have fallen and you have not told anyone, then you need to talk to your doctor,” she said. “There are things we can do to help you gain independence back.”

Here are our five top tips to help prevent falls:

  • Know your limitations and risk. Talk to your doctor.
  • If you are on multiple medications, make sure to manage them well and talk to your doctor and pharmacist.
  • Stay active. Get into an exercise program. Exercise improves strength, balance and coordination.
  • Get your eyes checked regularly
  • Make sure your house and stairways are clutter-free and well lit.

Next steps: To schedule an appointment with a UK HealthCare doctor, visit our Appointment website.

We look forward to seeing you at the next Falls Fair!