Dr. Doug Lowy, interim director of the National Cancer Institute, recently visited the Markey Cancer Center, continuing a dialogue on cancer in Kentucky.

NCI director meets Markey researchers, faculty on special visit

Dr. Doug Lowy, interim director of the National Cancer Institute, recently visited the UK Markey Cancer Center, continuing a dialogue on cancer in Kentucky following his visit to Hazard, Ky. last fall.

Kentucky is home to the highest cancer incidence and mortality rates in the country, a major health problem that Markey is dedicated to changing. In July 2013, Markey received a prestigious NCI designation, which allows the center access to more research funding, trials and treatments.

Much of Lowy’s visit focused on research. Nine UK faculty members gave presentations on major research initiatives and programs at Markey, ranging from efforts in cancer prevention and control to drug development and discovery. Major topics of discussion centered around the cancer types that affect Kentuckians the most: lung cancer, colon cancer, cervical cancer/HPV and the hepatitis C virus, which is linked to liver cancer.

After meeting with a group of Markey junior faculty members, Lowy learned more about the UK HealthCare enterprise and its support of Markey from Dr. Michael Karpf, executive vice president for health affairs at UK. Lowy finished the day with a tour of clinical space in UK Albert B. Chandler Hospital’s Pavilion A – future home to Markey’s Hematology and Blood & Marrow Transplantation inpatient floor – and a dedicated cancer research lab in the UK College of Pharmacy.

“We were honored to have Dr. Doug Lowy visit us today at the UK Markey Cancer Center to learn more about our patients and the research we do here,” said Dr. Mark Evers, director of Markey. “It was a wonderful opportunity to engage with the NCI and with Dr. Lowy, so that they better understand some of the difficulties we have in delivering care to our patient population.”

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Next steps:

  • 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.
  • Learn more about Markey’s NCI designation and what it means for our patients and their families.
Pictured: UK Pastoral Care interns. The UK Pastoral Care internship program began in 1967, and to this day, helps present and future chaplains understand how to care for patients.

UK Pastoral Care interns practice providing compassion for all

When Mark Dunn arrives at UK Albert B. Chandler Hospital for his shift as a hospital chaplain, he heads to the Emergency Department to check on the trauma cases from the night before. He may offer support to a family in the midst of the chaos that often accompanies trauma, making sure the right information gets to the right staff member. The sense of calm he brings to the situation frees up the medical staff to focus solely on saving lives.

Once Dunn feels comfortable leaving the ED, he walks to the 10th floor and starts making his way down, floor by floor, unit by unit, repeating the process of being a presence for people in need of a sounding board, helping them to make sense of a devastating diagnosis, or provide a prayer, if requested.

Although quiet and unassuming, Dunn thrives on the connections he makes with people. He has a soothing voice and gentle demeanor, but perhaps his strongest skill is that he is a good listener, all traits he didn’t realize he possessed until he joined UK’s Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE) internship program.

ACPE helps develop pastoral growth

ACPE was established in 1967 and is among the founding accredited Clinical Pastoral Education centers. Rev. Joe Alverson is currently the director of UK Pastoral Care and helped grow its educational program.

In 2013, Rev. Dr. Cam Holzer was hired as ACPE supervisor and clinical pastoral educator, and she worked to revive the program so new CPE students could learn and serve within a larger, more seasoned chaplaincy team. Holzer says the internship program is designed to facilitate personal, pastoral and professional growth.

The internship is 400 hours of training: 100 hours of class time and 300 hours of direct service. Each intern is mentored by staff chaplains and is assigned to specific floors or clinical areas of UK HealthCare, serving as the primary chaplain for their areas. Once an intern is equipped to carry an on-call pager, they may be called to a variety of urgent pastoral situations.

“They learn the skill of showing up and making themselves available,” Holzer said. “There is no way to know what it is they are getting called to; they have to listen, care, trust their intuition and grow in more effective communication to learn what that person needs and how to help provide it. It could be a prayer, to mostly listen or the person may need to have someone there with them and talk very little or not at all.”

Teaching chaplains the power of listening

For some students, the clinical internship is a requirement of their Masters of Divinity degree and for others, it is an elective. Seasoned clergy and lay persons also take CPE to deepen their pastoral care capacity. The program is open to persons of all faiths and backgrounds, and ages range from 25 to 75.

“When I interviewed for the internship, I was nervous because I don’t like talking about myself,” Dunn said. “I had no experience and didn’t even understand the chaplain’s role in a hospital. Over the course of the internship, I learned I was a people person and enjoy talking with others. I learned how to listen, to meet people where they are, one on one, in depth, to be the presence they need at that moment in their life”

After completing the internship in 2014, Dunn served for a while as a PRN (relief staff) chaplain at UK HealthCare. He then completed a one-year chaplain residency at Norton Hospital in Louisville, and soon afterward Dunn made his way back to UK HealthCare, hired full-time in 2016.

Students who complete CPE internships usually go on to be PRN chaplains, full-time hospital chaplains or pastor churches. Sometimes they work in nursing homes and social care settings. Students will have developed a capacity to more deeply hear and help others in different settings for the rest of their lives.

“Interns learn more about the art of spiritual assessment, the ability to open their heart and listen, paying close attention to learn what is uniquely going on with the person before them, whether it be the patient, a family member, or UK staff. They learn from their own emotions and experiences how to honor and respect others in their feelings,” Holzer said.

“The hope would be that they develop their own way of being more fully in the world, and more attentive, compassionate and effective in their ministry.”

Next steps:

  • UK Pastoral Care provides 24/7 support to patients, families and staff at UK HealthCare who are dealing with spiritual and emotional challenges.
  • Read the story of one UK chaplain who was in a severe bicycling accident but used her experience to enhance her role as a chaplain when she returned to work.

Help the Markey Cancer Center #TurnUpRupp this Saturday!

It’s time for the Big Blue Nation to get excited! The UK Markey Cancer Center is sponsoring the Wildcats’ basketball game against Kansas this Saturday and we want you to #TurnUpRupp to help us break the Guinness World Record for indoor crowd noise.

We know BBN has the loudest fans. Now let’s prove it!

A new video-conferencing technology at UK allowed a record number of Kentucky high schools to participate in the broadcast of a live surgery last November.

UK program gives high-schoolers chance to watch live surgery

Because of a new video-conferencing technology at UK, a record number of Kentucky high schools participated in the annual broadcast of a live surgery last November.

That broadcast went to 20 high schools from all eight AHEC regions across Kentucky, with around 400 juniors and seniors, said Michael Witt, health careers program coordinator for the UK Area Health Education Cooperative (AHEC).

For this broadcast, Dr. Joseph Iocono, chief of the division of pediatric surgery at UK, arranged for students to view a laparoscopic appendectomy. Dr. John Draus, associate professor of pediatric surgery, performed the operation while Dr. Iocono narrated.

By setting up a system where one surgeon performs the operation and another provides commentary, the patient’s safety is maximized while students receive an immersive experience. Video technology gives the students a surgeon’s perspective, and audio transmission allows them to hear the surgical team interact. It’s as if they are in the operating room themselves, Witt said.

Great care is also taken to protect and secure patient privacy. Patients and their families are fully informed and must give permission.

UK hitches to a cloud to improve outreach

UK’s live surgery broadcasts began in 2009. They are part of a collaboration with UK AHEC, Kentucky Tele-Health and the UK College of Medicine. It is a key component in AHEC’s efforts to build and maintain a health careers pipeline in Kentucky. Support from the Department of Surgery and its chair, Dr. Jay Zwischenberger, has allowed the live broadcast flourish.

“In the past seven years, the technology has advanced at an incredible rate,” said Rob Sprang, director of Kentucky Tele-Health at UK.

And the number of interested students has grown with the technology. In 2009, only a few dozen students participated. Seven years later, the broadcast reached several hundred students.

Cost reduction is another change from almost two decades ago. Neither UK nor any public school system is now required to purchase hardware for video conference services, but it wasn’t long ago that both UK and participating schools needed equipment that was extremely expensive.

In 2016, UK invested in ZOOM, a company specializing in cloud-based video conference technology. The surgery broadcast was a perfect opportunity to use this technology. UK simply has to give participating schools access to a live stream of the surgery in ZOOM’s “cloud,” which can be shared through any smart classroom or device. The broadcast is high definition, the sound is clear and the cost is a fraction of the price UK and Kentucky schools used to pay.

Meeting increased demand through AHEC summer camps

“It’s important that the program be interactive. We pushed its limits with 400 students. If we increase the audience, we lose that valuable communication between students and Dr. Iocono,” Witt said. “But the demand is out there, and we are considering possible solutions to meet that demand.”

Knowing technology can help meet the growing demand is a “good problem” for AHEC to have, but the surgery broadcast is just one part AHEC’s strategy to connect teens with UK’s clinical and research staff. Another avenue is for high school juniors and seniors to attend AHEC’s Summer Enrichment Program or the Health Researchers Youth Academy.

These camps give students a look at clinical care and laboratory settings during the summer. There is no cost to attend, but admission is very competitive. The 2017 deadline for both camps in is March 6.

Those interested can apply at https://medicine.mc.uky.edu/ukaheccamp/.

Next steps:

Promising results in UK clinical trial get opioid therapy closer to market

A clinical trial at the UK Center on Drug and Alcohol Research (CDAR) revealed a promising therapy for moderate-to-severe opioid use disorders.

The randomized, double-blind clinical trial compared weekly and monthly dosage of CAM2038, a buprenorphine therapy developed by Braeburn Pharmaceuticals and Camurus, with the current standard of care: a daily dose of buprenorphine/naloxone.

Reaching a milestone for FDA approval

Led by Dr. Michelle Lofwall in UK’s CDAR, the trial established the drug’s non-inferiority to the current treatment, a critical milestone in the application for FDA approval. While results indicated CAM2038 met non-inferiority, a key secondary outcome also demonstrated that CAM2038 was superior to current standard treatment, based on a pre-defined distribution of illicit opioid use.

Opioid overdoses cause more than 30,000 deaths every year, and 2.6 million Americans suffer from an opioid use disorder. More than 12 million people misused a prescription opioid pain reliever and 800,000 used heroin in 2015. The National Institutes on Drug Abuse has called for safe, proven solutions to initiate treatment and stabilize patients through an extended opioid recovery program. The Surgeon General’s Report called for more access to evidence-based effective treatments, like buprenorphine, for opioid use disorders.

The study’s positive results provided the necessary evidence for entering the FDA-approval submission process. Evidence suggests people with a moderate-to-severe opioid use disorder might benefit from receiving an injectable therapy administered on a weekly or monthly basis. The weekly injection is appropriate for induction and initial stabilization, and the monthly injection is better for stabilized patients. Together, both weekly and monthly medications allow for individualized dosing, which is critical for optimal patient outcomes and recovery from a deadly disease.

Eliminating stigmas

Lofwall, a psychiatrist and associate professor in the UK College of Medicine, served as principal investigator on the study, along with Sharon Walsh, director of the CDAR. Lofwall, who sees patients’ personal struggles with opioid use disorder in clinical practice, stresses the need for progressive and practical therapies to treat opioid addiction. An injectable therapy administered in a clinician’s office eliminates the risk of diverting traditional forms of buprenorphine and decreases the risk of relapse and overdose. The discreet nature of the therapy also eliminates any stigma and shame felt by patients taking oral opioid maintenance medications in daily life.

“If approved, the CAM2038 weekly and monthly injectable buprenorphine medications can improve how we treat opioid addiction and decrease the stigma associated with the medication that is in large part due to concerns about non-adherence and diversion,” Lofwall said. “Together with the six-month buprenorphine implant, these new long-acting medication delivery systems would allow us to administer a proven medication to the patients directly, leading to improved medication efficacy as demonstrated in this trial as well as avoiding the potential for missed or stolen doses, diversion or accidental pediatric exposure, which are significant public health concerns.”

Braeburn Pharmaceuticals, an Apple Tree Partners company, is a commercial-stage pharmaceutical company delivering individualized medicine in neuroscience. Long-acting therapeutic treatment options can be essential to improving patient outcomes and facilitating recovery in neurological and psychiatric disorders, which are often complicated by stigma and present significant public health challenges.

Next steps:

Gill’s Moliterno named editor of prestigious cardiovascular journal

David Moliterno, MD, FACC

The American College of Cardiology has named Gill Heart Institute’s Dr. David J. Moliterno, the new editor-in-chief of JACC: Cardiovascular Interventions.

Moliterno is the Jack M. Gill Chair and professor of the Department of Internal Medicine at UK. He is also a member of the interventional cardiology faculty at the UK Gill Heart Institute. He has been involved with numerous investigational studies in cardiovascular medicine over the last two decades, with a primary research interest in acute coronary syndromes.

“Interventional cardiology is an ever-growing and exciting subspecialty in cardiovascular medicine that is essential to treating our sickest patients,” said Moliterno. “I am honored to be the next editor of  JACC: Cardiovascular Interventions at a time when so many important advancements are occurring in the field.”

JACC: Cardiovascular Interventions covers interventional cardiovascular medicine and is ranked among the top ten cardiovascular journals for its scientific impact.

Moliterno has been an active member of the ACC, including as a member of the Board of Governors, Strategic Education Committee, and the Interventional Section Leadership Council.

Moliterno’s term will begin in March.

Next steps:

In Berlin this past fall, a multidisciplinary team of UK scientists presented research on traumatic brain injuries in equine sports.

UK presents protocol on traumatic brain injuries in equine sports

Equestrian sports contribute to the highest percentage of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) in sports, based on findings in the National Trauma Databank. Multiple concussions and head trauma can have long-term consequences, including acute injuries and neurodegenerative diseases.

First-ever international protocol

Health providers, researchers and other professionals from UK who work in the area of traumatic brain injury developed and presented the Saddle Up Safely Concussion Assessment Tool and Return to Riding Protocol for Concussions in Equine Sports at the 5th International Consensus Conference on Concussion in Sports in Berlin, Germany, this past fall.

The conference was hosted and organized by Fédération Internationale de Football Association, International Ice Hockey Federation, International Olympic Committee, World Rugby, and Fédération Equestre Internationale and has evolved into the world’s most influential process for policy makers on concussions in sport.

UK’s multidisciplinary team

Representing UK at the conference were Dan Han, chief of UK Neuropsychology Service and director of Neurobehavioral Studies Division; Bill Gombeski, senior adviser at UK HealthCare;  Fernanda Camargo, associate extension professor at the UK College of Agriculture; and Carl Mattacola, professor in the Athletic Training Program at the UK College of Health Sciences. Also playing a major role in the development of the concussion tool but unable to attend the conference were Dr. Erika Erlandson, assistant professor of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation at the UK College of Medicine, and Jill Stowe, director of Equine Programs at the UK College of Agriculture.

The multidisciplinary effort represented Saddle Up Safety, the Kentucky Neuroscience Institute, the Sports Medicine Research Institute, the Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Center, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, the Equine Program, and UK HealthCare.

The UK team identified key questions that needed to be addressed in advance, identified and reviewed relevant articles, and developed early recommendations which they presented to conference attendees.

A world leader in equestrian sports concussion protocol

“It was clear that in the area of equestrian sports concussion and return to riding protocol, that UK is one of the world leaders,” Gombeski said. “Individuals attending the conference from around the world discussed the work that the UK group shared and to learn more about using the concussion assessment tool and return to riding guidelines that members of the Saddle Up Safely program created.”

The Return to Riding Protocol for Equine Sport is the first of its kind for equine specific head injury. Presentations (5 in total) by the UK team members will be published in the May 2017 issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine. The conference recommendations created this year will come out online in February.

Next steps:

Geri McDowell's battle with cancer nearly took her life. But thanks to a Markey clinical trial, she has been able to reclaim it.

Our 2016 Year in Review

From inspiring patient stories to groundbreaking achievements and recognition, 2016 was a year to remember for all of us here at UK HealthCare.

Here are a few highlights.

UK HealthCare named the No. 1 hospital in Kentucky

Kentucky's best hospitalIn August, UK added another first-place finish to our resume as UK HealthCare’s Albert B. Chandler Hospital was named Kentucky’s Best Hospital in the 2016 U.S. News and World Report Best Hospital Rankings. We are also the only hospital in the state rated as High Performing in Cancer, and we ranked No. 45 nationally in Geriatrics. Other High Performing specialty areas include: Diabetes & Endocrinology, Nephrology, Neurology & Neurosurgery, Orthopedics, and Pulmonology.

Learn more about our No. 1 ranking and what it means for our patients.

Patient with rare neuroendocrine cancer finds help through clinical trial

Geri McDowell's battle with cancer nearly took her life. But thanks to a Markey clinical trial, she has been able to reclaim it.Diagnosed with rare neuroendocrine cancer, Geri McDowell was running out of options for treatment.

That’s when her doctor from the UK Markey Cancer Center recommended a clinical trial that might offer hope for recovery.

Read Geri’s story.

$19.8 million award puts UK in elite company

In October, the UK Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS) was awarded a four-year, $19.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. The grant will allow CCTS to continue its mission of translating scientific discoveries into tangible applications for individual and community health.

Learn more about this prestigious award and what it means for people across Kentucky and Appalachia.

New Chandler Dining opens to the public

Chandler DiningChandler Dining, UK HealthCare’s new state-of-the-art dining experience, opened in August and it’s unlike any hospital cafeteria you’ve seen before. From pizza and pasta to salad and sushi, Chandler Dining has something for everyone, and it’s open to the public.

Learn more about visiting Chandler Dining.

Lexington couple welcomes quintuplets

Mom Katie Schaftlein bonds with baby Sadie for the first time.On Nov. 11, Lexington couple Lucas and Katie Schaftlein welcomed quintuplets Sadie, Savannah, Scarlett, Sofia and Lucas into the world. It just so happened to be Katie’s birthday, too, giving Mom a special birthday wish. With the help of an interdisciplinary team of experts from UK HealthCare, all five little ones arrived in good health.

Read more about our special delivery.

Markey joins Cancer Moonshot conversation

World-class experts, cancer survivors and advocates joined forces in June at the UK Markey Cancer Center to contribute to Vice President Joe Biden’s Cancer Moonshot Summit. The Cancer Moonshot aims to double the rate of progress in cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care over the next five years.

Check out highlights from the inspired conversations.

13-year-old boy enjoys being ‘normal kid’ after epilepsy surgery

EpilepsyJoey Maggard was missing out on his childhood because of frequent epileptic seizures. No sports. No sleepovers with friends. He had to miss the second half of his sixth-grade year. But after a delicate surgical procedure at the Kentucky Neuroscience Institute earlier this year, Joey has been seizure-free.

Read Joey’s story.

UK celebrates 25 years of heart transplants

In April, patients gathered with staff and doctors from the UK Gill Heart Institute and the UK Transplant Center to celebrate 25 years of heart transplants at UK HealthCare. A lot has changed since our first heart transplant in 1991 — we’re now doing more than 40 heart transplant operations each year and in 2015 we set a single-year record for the most heart transplants at one hospital in Kentucky.

Read more about our quarter-century celebration.

Next steps:

A new study, done in part at the UK Markey Cancer Center, shed light on why lung cancer cells can resist therapeutic cancer treatment.

Markey’s Dr. Timothy Mullet appointed to Commission on Cancer

Dr. Timothy Mullet

UK Markey Cancer Center’s Dr. Timothy Mullett has been appointed to the Commission on Cancer (CoC), a consortium of professional organizations dedicated to improving survival and quality of life for cancer patients across the country. Mullett is one of eight surgeons from across the country elected to represent the fellowship for a three-year term.

Established by the American College of Surgeons (ACoS) in 1922, the multidisciplinary CoC establishes standards to ensure high-quality, multidisciplinary and comprehensive cancer care delivery in healthcare settings; conducts surveys in healthcare settings to assess compliance with those standards; collects standardized data from CoC-accredited healthcare settings to measure cancer care quality; uses data to monitor treatment patterns and outcomes and enhance cancer control and clinical surveillance activities; and develops effective educational interventions to improve cancer prevention, early detection, cancer care delivery and outcomes in healthcare settings.

Mullett began his career at UK in 1996 as a thoracic surgeon treating heart issues, but quickly changed his focus to one of Kentucky’s biggest problems: lung cancer. In addition to co-leading one of the major components of the Kentucky LEADS Collaborative to improve lung cancer survival, he also serves as medical director for both the UK Markey Cancer Center Affiliate and Research Networks.

Next steps:

UK chaplain returns to work with renewed spirit following cycling accident

Exactly five months ago today, Laura Babbage had a devastating accident while biking through the French Alps with her 22-year-old son Brian.

Babbage, a chaplain at UK HealthCare, suffered a traumatic brain injury during the accident, which required months of treatment and rehabilitation. With the help of her care team at UK HealthCare and the prayers of friends and family, Babbage has returned to her work more than six months ahead of doctors’ estimates.

Babbage’s accident happened in France, she was airlifted back to Lexington and was treated at UK HealthCare. She completed her inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation at Cardinal Hill Hospital.

Babbage knows that many of her UK HealthCare family know her story, because she has heard of the many staff who prayed outside the door of her ICU bed and has delighted at the numerous people who’ve stopped her in the halls with a “welcome back!” smile or a hug.

“I’m overwhelmed by how much people rooted for me,” Babbage said. “There was an ocean of prayer entire churches I’d never heard of were praying for me. And I believe prayer, in all its forms, does matter.”

Read Babbage’s open letter of thanks to the UK doctors, nurses and staff who cared for her.

Using her experience for others

Since her return to chaplaincy about two weeks ago, Babbage has gone about her work with the grace and empathy that all who know her recognize: She is a patient and willing listener, she is trained to develop a relationship of trust without judgment and to add dimension to the skilled care provided by physicians and staff.

While Babbage acknowledges that, at least in the beginning, this ordeal was easiest on her – “I don’t remember a thing, but my family was sorely tested,” she said – she knows that this experience will help her do her job better.

“I am always aware of and sensitive to the desire for a visit from a chaplain as well as for prayer,” she said. “Chaplains are a listening presence for patients and families to help them begin to make sense of their situation. We are available for prayer if requested. Often we simply meet someone in the midst of their pain and suffering, aware of this special privilege.

“But now I have a deeper appreciation for families and their experience with their ill or injured family member since I’ve returned to work,” she explained. “Chaplains listen far more than we talk, allowing time and space for families to grasp the gravity of the moment. I have a heightened tenderness for family members now that I recognize what my own family experienced during my hospital stay. Like other chaplains, I will continue to learn.”

Returning to the patient’s bedside

Babbage and Joe Alverson, UK HealthCare’s director of pastoral care, were very careful to make sure she was prepared to meet and address patient and family needs.

“We wondered what would happen if I was needed to minister to a patient or family who’d experienced a trauma similar to mine,” Babbage said. “But we’ve been trained to eject ourselves from any situation if necessary – sometimes you’re not the right person for that patient, and sometimes they don’t want you there at all.  I felt I’d still be able to do that.”

Alverson remembers the shock and disbelief he felt when he learned that “one of our own” was in serious trouble.

“My first thought was for her – and my second thought immediately after that was for her family,” he said.  “As chaplains we see the sickest of the sick, and her condition was a huge worry for us.”

The pace of Babbage’s recovery was “beyond belief,” Alverson said.

“The first time I saw her was after she’d completed inpatient rehab at Cardinal Hill in September, and the first words out of her mouth were ‘When can I come back?'” he said. “I was excited for her, for me and for the hospital as well.”

Alverson knows that Babbage will make good use of her experience as she continues to care for others.

“We work in the midst of trauma and chaos every day, but to actually live that makes it more real,” he said. “I really look forward to seeing how her experience changes the trajectory of her work, but regardless of the exact path, I know it will be a good one.”

“We’re just thrilled to have her back.”

Media inquiries: Laura Dawahare, University of Kentucky Public Relations and Marketing, laura.dawahare.uky.edu

Next steps:

  • Learn more about Pastoral Care at UK HealthCare, where our chaplains are available to help patients, families and staff deal with spiritual and emotional challenges associated with medical events and crises.
  • The world-renowned doctors at UK Neurosurgery provides diagnosis and management of a wide range of conditions involving the brain, spine and nervous system. Learn more about the care we provide.