UK College of Health Sciences celebrates its 50th anniversary

UK College of Health Sciences celebrates its 50th anniversary

The UK College of Health Sciences celebrated its 50th anniversary and honored two individuals, including UK HealthCare’s Dr. Michael Karpf, who have made a difference in the college’s growth in both size and reputation.

In 1966, Congress passed The Allied Health Professions Personnel Training Act to foster the development of “dynamic educational programs … that will attract able students and prepare them for satisfying careers” in the wide array of health care professions beyond medicine, dentistry and nursing.

The UK College of Health Sciences, originally called the College of Allied Health Professions, was one of the first 13 colleges formed as a result of that legislation, with the late Joseph Hamburg serving as its first dean.

The college currently enrolls more than 1,100 students in nine different disciplines such as athletic training, communication sciences and disorders, physical therapy and physician assistant studies.

“For 50 years, the UK College of Health Sciences has educated nearly 8,000 health care professionals who provide outstanding service. Our faculty and alumni are recognized by their peers as top-notch clinicians, educators, researchers and leaders. Our students make us proud with their service, research and academic success. And our staff and supporters provide the essential framework to make these successes possible,” said Dr. Scott M. Lephart, dean of the UK College of Health Sciences. “We’re proud of these achievements, and this was an appropriate opportunity to honor them.”

Two honorees

The college also acknowledged two men whose contributions helped grow the college in both size and stature.

Karpf, the UK executive vice president for health affairs, was the first honoree, receiving the Dean’s Distinguished Service Award in recognition of his leadership in collaborations with the college and others for the benefit of all Kentuckians.

Lephart said Karpf’s leadership in establishing the Kentucky Health Collaborative was a huge factor in his selection for the award. The KHC was launched earlier this year by 10 major health care systems in Kentucky to combat the state’s poor health outcomes by sharing best practices and reducing the costs of care.

Also recognized was Michael P. Thornton, JD, who, along with his family, was given the Philanthropic Appreciation Award for creating the Paul A. Thornton Distinguished Professorship and Fellowship in honor of his father. Dr. Paul A. Thornton was the first director of the Clinical Nutrition program at UK, which became a part of the College of Health Sciences in 1968.

His teaching had a profound effect on many of his students, including Dr. Geza Bruckner, clinical nutrition director and professor and the first Dr. Paul A. Thornton Distinguished Professor recipient.

“It’s a great honor to be awarded this professorship,” Bruckner said. “His influence on his students – including me – was exemplary. Dr. Thornton was truly an educator of the first class, and I’m thrilled to carry on the message he instilled in me as a young student.”

Continuing legacy

Fifty years after its creation, the UK College of Health Sciences continues to innovate in key areas of education, research and service.

The college was one of the first at UK to offer a complete distance learning degree program, educating physical therapy students at the Center of Excellence in Rural Health in Hazard in 1992 and physician assistant students in Morehead in 1996. More recently, the Medical Laboratory Science Program was re-established to educate students at the Center of Excellence in Rural Health in Hazard.

Research is also a fundamental part of the educational experience at the college, as students have the opportunity to be involved in ongoing research projects. The college also maintains a thriving undergraduate research program, which nurtures student curiosity by offering opportunities for mentored, self-directed work.

“The common thread among our programs and our people is our mission,” Lephart said. “We are driven by the desire to help people attain the highest level of health possible. The key is to help unlock the potential for optimal health in each individual we affect, indirectly or directly, through providing patient care, educating future health sciences professionals, and engaging in research aimed at the prevention of injury and disability.”


Next steps:

  • The UK College of Health Sciences promotes research, education and service across nine health care degree programs. Learn more about what we’re doing to improve the health and well-being of people across Kentucky.
  • After more than 13 years of leadership at UK HealthCare, Dr. Michael Karpf announced in September his decision to retire in 2017. Read more about his announcement and highlights from his career at UK.
A recent study by UK researchers shows a new way tobacco smoke may cause lung cancer: stopping a DNA repair process called nucleotide excision repair (NER).

UK researchers find a new way tobacco smoke can cause cancer

A recent study led by UK researchers illuminates a new way that tobacco smoke may promote the development of lung cancer: inhibiting a DNA repair process called nucleotide excision repair (NER). The results of the study were published in the journal PLoS ONE.

Tobacco smoke damages our DNA

Many components of tobacco smoke are carcinogens that can damage DNA. This damage must be removed by DNA repair processes to prevent the development of genetic mutations. In this way, DNA repair processes such as NER are crucial for blocking the accumulation of the DNA mutations that ultimately drive lung cancer development.

“It is well established that the carcinogens in tobacco smoke can produce mutations,” said Isabel Mellon, an associate professor in the Department of Toxicology and Cancer Biology at UK and the principal investigator of the study. “But relatively few researchers have investigated the effects of tobacco smoke on DNA repair pathways.”

Smoking also stops DNA from fixing itself

Mellon and her research team examined the effects of cigarette smoke condensate (CSC) – a commonly-used surrogate for tobacco smoke – on the function of the NER process in cultured human lung cells. They found that exposure of these cells to CSC significantly reduces NER efficiency. Additionally, the researchers showed that CSC exposure stimulates the destruction of a key NER protein known as XPC. The reduced abundance of XPC that follows might explain how CSC suppresses NER.

The study’s results point to a twofold effect of tobacco smoke on DNA integrity: it not only damages DNA, but it also suppresses a key process that repairs DNA damage.

“Inhibition of NER would likely increase the production of mutations and cancer incidence, particularly in cases of chronic DNA damage induction, as occurs in the lung issue of smokers,” Mellon explained.

Research that points toward the future

If this is the case, then the capacity of cells within the lung of a given person to repair damaged DNA could be used to predict that person’s risk of developing lung cancer as a result of tobacco smoke exposure.

“In the future, we hope to determine how the efficiency of the NER pathway differs among different people,” said Mellon. “We are also continuing to evaluate how the efficiency of DNA repair in people is negatively impacted by exposure to environmental agents. Whether due to genetic or environmental factors, reduced DNA repair could increase a person’s risk for developing cancer.”


Next Steps

UK teams up with Mayo to study multiple chronic conditions.

UK teams up with Mayo Clinic to study chronic conditions

When a person has multiple health concerns that last a year or longer and require consistent medical attention, health care can quickly become a burden. Patients sacrifice their time, emotion and attention on their treatment, which takes away from their ability to complete and enjoy other tasks in life.

This scenario, known as multiple chronic conditions, or MCC, affects one in four Americans overall and about three in four Americans age 65 and older. To treat patients with MCC, a shift in health care is required: one that focuses on each patient’s health situation and on the limited capacity patients have to devote to their health, while still pursuing joyful lives. Using a new tool developed at Mayo Clinic, researchers at UK are assessing how to better treat patients with MCC.

The ICAN Discussion Aid, developed by the research team at Mayo Clinic’s Knowledge and Evaluation Research Unit, is an intervention to support a new practice for patients with MCC. ICAN helps health care providers better understand the relationship between the patient’s life circumstances, health care goals, the work patients are asked to do and their capacity to enact it. Informed with evidence about the patient’s life, health care teams are better able to co-create treatment plans that are considerate of each patient.

The UK Center for Health Services Research strives for interdisciplinary collaborations locally and nationally and has established relationships with institutes such as Mayo Clinic and Kentucky Primary Care Association (KPCA). In collaboration with KPCA, UK is one of four sites in the nation that will assess the ways in which ICAN-supported primary care is feasible and successful. Researchers will look at patient and health care teams’ experience of care and communication and whether or not patients’ burden of treatment is reduced.

This innovative intervention is an application of Minimally Disruptive Medicine, declared by the British Medical Journal as one of the most important new ideas in medicine in the last 20 years. The My Life, My Healthcare study is funded by the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation, and will use a mixed methods, cluster-randomized trial design to test ICAN’s feasibility and efficacy on a much larger scale.


Next steps:

UK College of Medicine Professor Stefan Stamm has identified how alternative splicing in RNA may point to new ways to treat obesity and cancer.

UK research could yield treatment for cancer, obesity

UK College of Medicine Professor Stefan Stamm has identified a previously-unknown function of small nucleolar RNAs (snoRNAs): regulating a fundamental cellular process called alternative splicing. His findings point to new ways to treat obesity and cancer.

“Alternative splicing allows cells to make multiple proteins out of a single gene,” Stamm explains.

What is alternative splicing?

In alternative splicing, the molecule being spliced – a form of RNA known as precursor messenger RNA (pre-mRNA) – is an intermediate species between the DNA template that contains the instructions to make a protein and the protein product that is ultimately generated by following those instructions. During this process, the cell’s splicing machinery cuts out segments of the pre-mRNA. It then splices the remaining pieces together to create the mature mRNA that will be used to make a protein. Many pre-mRNAs can be spliced in different ways, and the disparate mRNAs that result are used to produce unique variants of the corresponding proteins.

But most RNAs are not used to make proteins. Among these so-called non-coding RNAs are small nucleolar RNAs (snoRNAs), which guide certain RNA-modifying proteins to their job sites. Curiously, the absence of some snoRNAs is tied to diseases, including certain cancers and Prader-Willi syndrome, a genetic form of obesity. These links indicate that snoRNAs do more than direct RNA modification.

Collaboration leads to new insights

In collaboration with Professor Ruth Sperling of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Stamm’s laboratory found that some snoRNAs engage with newfound cellular partners to regulate alternative splicing. Since alternative splicing can regulate protein function, the researchers suspect that this role of snoRNAs might explain why the absence of certain snoRNAs is associated with disease.

If missing snoRNAs are a cause of some diseases, Stamm hypothesized, then replacing the missing snoRNAs with synthetic surrogates should be effective in treating those diseases. To test this hypothesis, Stamm collaborated with Professor Ronald Emeson of Vanderbilt University.

Stamm’s previous work had revealed that SNORD115, a snoRNA that is not produced in people with Prader-Willi syndrome, regulates the alternative splicing of serotonin 2C receptor’s pre-mRNA. Since this receptor is involved in controlling appetite and food consumption, Stamm’s observations suggested that alternative splicing-induced changes in its function may contribute to the drive of people with Prader-Willi syndrome to overeat. He collaborated with Emeson to determine whether a synthetic replacement for SNORD115 might be successful in treating this condition.

Alternative splicing shows promise for treatment

“In order to stop these patients from overeating, we looked for a way to substitute this snoRNA,” said Stamm. “We identified an oligonucleotide – a short strand of RNA – that could mimic the effect of the naturally-occurring snoRNA.”

When the researchers tested the oligonucleotide in animal models, they found that the group who received the oligonucleotide ate less food than did the control groups.

“This shows that food consumption is regulated at the level of alternative splicing,” said Stamm, “and that we can interfere with this system using an RNA oligonucleotide.”

While the missing snoRNA in Prader-Willi syndrome may have inspired the design of this new treatment strategy, the implications extend beyond the rare genetic disorder.

“What’s fascinating is that, because Prader-Willi syndrome is a genetic disease, it’s basically an exaggeration of normal obesity,” said Stamm. “From this, we can learn new ways to treat obesity in the general population.”


To see Stamm discuss his new findings,check out this video.


Next Steps

For National Dental Hygiene Month, UK Dentistry is giving out dental supplies every Tuesday this month. UK knows the importance of oral health.

UK Dentistry celebrates National Dental Hygiene Month

In celebration of National Dental Hygiene Month, UK Dentistry is reminding everyone that good oral health goes a long way in supporting overall well-being. To assist in ensuring people are using the best tools to achieve a healthy smile, on Tuesdays during the month of October, UK Dentistry will be offering free dental goodies, such as toothbrushes and floss. Additional details are available on their website.

Many Americans are skipping dental care

Surveys in the U.S. have revealed not all adults are brushing and flossing daily, and many are skipping regular visits to the dentist. Instead of brushing twice a day for two minutes each time, a survey by Delta Dental reported 23 percent of Americans went two or more days without brushing during a one-year period. Only four out of 10 reported flossing daily, as recommended, while 20 percent reported never flossing.

Taking care of your teeth leads to overall health

“Although awareness is growing, many people still don’t realize just how important their oral health is in relation to their overall health,” said Dr. Kenneth Nusbacher, director of UK Dentistry General Faculty Practice Clinic. “Daily good dental hygiene helps keep the bacteria, which is naturally present in the mouth, from reaching dangerous levels and potentially triggering heath concerns beyond the mouth. Good dental hygiene is not just about avoiding a cavity.”

UK Dentistry encourages the adoption of a healthy dental hygiene routine. Cleaning your teeth, gums and tongue daily, paired with visiting a dental provider regularly, can greatly reduce your risk of issues such as tooth decay and gum disease.


Next Steps

Drs. Darren Johnson and Christian Lattermann have been ranked as two of the best knee surgeons in North America by Orthopedics This Week.

Two UK knee surgeons ranked among 16 best in North America

Dr. Darren Johnson

Dr. Darren Johnson

Dr. Christian Latterman

Dr. Christian Latterman

Drs. Darren Johnson, chairman of UK Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports Medicine, and Christian Lattermann, director of cartilage repair and restoration, have been ranked as two of the “16 Standout North American Sports Knee Surgeons” by the publication Orthopedics This Week, the most widely read publication in the Orthopedics industry.

“I am truly honored and humbled to be recognized at this level. I have always strived to provide the best care to the patients I serve,” said Johnson, who has been working at UK since 1993 and serves as chair of the department. “This could not be accomplished without those that I work with in my department including colleagues and partners, residents and fellows, athletic training staff as well as our overall staff support in the clinic and operating room.”

Lattermann was also included in the ranking and serves as director of cartilage repair and restoration. “This honor is the result of hard work towards the orthopaedic mission at the University of Kentucky,” he said. “As a physician scientist I am particularly happy to be included in this list of outstanding sports medicine physicians.”


Next Steps

Health care for LGBTQ community

UK coalition aims to improve health care for LGBTQ community

Concerns about privacy, safety, stigmatization and quality of care often deter members of the LGBTQ community from accessing health care services and resources. Disengagement from the health care system has contributed to many health disparities affecting the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer population.

A new coalition at the University of Kentucky is working to increase LGBTQ health care engagement and provide safe clinical environments for LGBTQ individuals seeking treatment.

Transform Health is a health care home serving LGBTQ patients in the Lexington and UK community. The university-wide initiative comprises UK faculty members and health care providers, including doctors, nurses and counselors, as well community members.

The initiative aims to improve patient care, conduct evidence-based research, market and promote LGBTQ-specific health services, and educate health care providers about customizing care to the distinctive needs of these patients.

“Our objective is to promote health services centered on the unique needs of LGBTQ patients,” said Dr. Keisa Fallin-Bennett, a UK Family & Community Medicine physician and Transform Health task force member.

“Creating inclusive health care settings is not just about providing services. We are building a movement through patient care, provider training and research that aims to improve the climate of health care for LGBTQ individuals in the local community. We want patients to be able to identify a safe and welcoming space for care and be a resource for students and providers.”

Transform Health providers, who are located at multiple UK clinic locations, offer medical treatment and services for the specific medical and psychological needs of LGBTQ patients. These nurses, doctors, counselors, and educators foster inclusive environments while providing medical treatment and services such as preventive care, hormone therapy, counseling and tobacco cessation therapies.


Next steps:

  • Transform Health clinics are located at the UK Family & Community Medicine clinic at Turfland. Appointments are available this fall. To make an appointment or refer a patient, call 859-323-6371 and ask for a Transform Health Clinic appointment.
  • Students who use University Health Service and are seeking a specific hormone therapy through a Transform Health provider should ask for the specific need when making their appointment. To reach UHS, call 859-323-2778.
  • Learn more about Transform Health and the UK Office of LGBTQ Resources.

Doctor from Ethiopia visits UK to observe breast cancer research

From the mountains and waterfalls of Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, to the rolling hills and equine landscapes of Lexington, Kentucky, Dr. Getachew Hailu endured an exhausting 17-hour trip this summer to begin his sabbatical year at the University of Kentucky.

During this year, Hailu said he hopes to observe other doctors and learn more about cancer, his main field of interest, while working at UK’s College of Medicine.

“I was already considering a sabbatical, and in January of this year, (a representative from) the UK College of Medicine made a trip to Bahir Dar and eventually convinced me to come to Kentucky,” Hailu said.

Hailu is no stranger to Kentucky. He visited in 2014 and enjoyed a tour of UK’s campus. He said he was amazed by the “kindness and receptiveness” of the people. This time around, his trip is not for tourism, but to learn more about his field of pathology and observe the medical practices in the United States.

Hailu defines pathology as the “medical discipline focusing on diseases” with his personal focus being cancer diagnosis. His interest was sparked after seeing how so many women in his home country of Ethiopia were diagnosed with breast cancer at a stage too late due to inadequate technologies. Moved by the pain his community experienced, he has devoted a significant part of his career to breast cancer research, and it is something he has managed to observe in great detail during his first months in Lexington.

Though he has loved his time in Kentucky so far, he said he misses his family back in Ethiopia and is hoping his wife and three children can visit soon. Aside from the southern hospitality, Hailu said he loves the food in the Bluegrass and his favorite dish is grilled chicken and French fries.

When asked how he found his passion in pathology and cancer research, Hailu said it was as simple as wanting to help his home country with a problem that was taking many lives – breast cancer. As an expert in his field, Hailu offered a piece of advice to students who are interested in scientific research, “Look around and find the problem. The problem is something experienced largely by your community. Base your research on the problem and find the solution to help and empower your community.”


Next Steps

Dr. Carmel Wallace

UK Pediatrics chief honored by Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Bluegrass

The Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Bluegrass (RMHC) recently honored Dr. Carmel Wallace, chair of the UK Department of Pediatrics and physician-in-chief of Kentucky Children’s Hospital, with the 2016 Elizabeth Carey Nahra Legacy of Love Award.

The award recognizes an organization or individual whose exceptional contributions or projects have enabled the Ronald McDonald House of the Bluegrass to assist families of children hospitalized at Kentucky Children’s Hospital. Wallace founded the Helping Hands Fund, which supplements family donations to cover the charity’s operational costs through scholarships. The fund contributes $20,000 annually to the RMHC.

“Many of our Kentucky Children’s Hospital families reside in Eastern Kentucky and travel long distances to receive the best care possible for their child,” Wallace said. “The Ronald McDonald House Charities have provided support so parents can stay close to their children and have a place to lay their head at night. Covering the operational cost to stay at RMHC was an opportunity for us to make life a bit easier for these families.”

A native of Eastern Kentucky, Wallace has worked to ensure Eastern Kentucky families receive access to advanced pediatric care available at Kentucky Children’s Hospital. Through Wallace’s leadership, Kentucky Children’s Hospital has extended its presence in Eastern Kentucky by providing specialists and clinical services in rural communities.

Wallace accepted the award during the charity’s annual McDazzle Gala on Sept. 10. Recipients of the award are selected by the family of Elizabeth Carey Nahra, an advocate and former director of the Ronald McDonald House who passed away in 2015. Past recipients include Kentucky Children’s Hospital, Children’s Charity Fund of the Bluegrass and UK neonatologist Dr. Nirmala Desai.


Next steps:

  • When your child is sick or hurt, you want the best care possible, close to home. That’s exactly what you get at Kentucky Children’s Hospital. Learn more about our services.
  • KCH patients and their families share their stories. Read them here.
Dr. Kyrkanides, second from left, and his research team.

UK Dentistry dean aims for excellence through research

Twenty-five years ago, Dr. Stephanos Kyrkanides began a research project during his orthodontic residency studying children born with cleft lip and palate. It was this project that sparked the realization for him that research is crucial and has been a driving force throughout his career.

“It was through the cleft lip/palate project and others that I came to the realization that research is the main engine in producing new, original knowledge so we can advance our science, both in medicine and dentistry, in order to improve patient care,” Kyrkanides said.

Watch a video featuring Dr. Kyrkanides below.

Dean of the UK College of Dentistry, Kyrkanides is both a dentist and neuroscientist. He came to UK last year from Stony Brook University in New York, one of the leading public research institutions in the country.

Kyrkanides has many accomplishments including inventing Natural Enamel, a new biomaterial for use in restorative dentistry. He also collaborated with researchers from across the country, including Dr. Sabine M. Brouxhon from the UK College of Medicine Department of  Surgery, to develop a novel cancer drug while at the State University of New York that is licensed by COI Pharmaceuticals Inc., an Avalon Ventures/GlaxoSmithKline consortium.

Currently, Kyrkanides and his team are dedicated to researching regenerative dentistry and are working to prove that dental enamel and fillings can be made out of patients’ cells. This would eliminate having to use plastic, metal or glass for dental reconstruction.

Kyrkanides said being a researcher at UK has been a rewarding experience.

“Having joined UK from the east coast, I have realized that UK, as a campus, is the place to be as a researcher,” he said. “It offers many collaborative opportunities through its many centers, such as the Markey Cancer Center, an NCI designated center … the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, the Center for Oral Health and many others. There’s probably no other place where all this activity happens on one campus.”

Kyrkanides has excelled during his career and continues to accomplish more goals at UK. He believes that he is in a great atmosphere for research and has big plans to further transform the school of dentistry.

“As dean of the college, I’m committed in leading UK Dentistry into its full potential,” he said. “What I realized from the beginning, is that we have a group of faculty, staff and students that are very talented, very motivated and willing to work hard to join me into making UK Dentistry the No. 1 dental school in the country, maybe in the globe.”


Next steps:

  • Learn more about UK Dentistry, which offers expert comprehensive dental treatment for the entire family, including general, orthodontic and oral surgery services.
  • Visit UK Dentistry on Facebook to stay up to date on community events, programs, treatments, research, new physicians and more.