Kip Guy malaria research

Listen: College of Pharmacy dean discusses fighting Kentucky health disparities with practical research

UK College of Pharmacy Dean Kip Guy’s research focuses on drug discovery and development for neglected diseases, particularly those that affect pediatric patients. Coming to UK from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, much of his work has focused on fighting malaria, a major killer of children, as well as pediatric cancers including ependymoma, leukemia and medulloblastoma.

Though it was initially the “neat solutions” that attracted him to the field, he quickly learned that not even science provides easy black-and-white answers. While researchers may have expectations of how an experiment may play out, they often learn more from the failures than if it had unfolded as planned.

“You’ve put in all this time and effort because your model told you ‘X’ was going to happen, and then you run the experiment and what you wind up with is something completely different,” he said. “These are the moments in science that are the most fun. It’s when you break your own model and learn something fundamentally new.”

As his research projects grew larger and more intensive over the years, Guy was looking specifically for a place where he could take a larger administrative role and begin mentoring the next generation of scientists. Guy says he found “a perfect storm” in the University of Kentucky, a place known nationally for its research excellence, top-ranked College of Pharmacy and local population in need of therapeutic intervention for a variety of serious health disparities.

“It’s an incredible place, with amazing faculty and a long, rich and successful history of positively affecting clinical practice and the research world. It’s about being in a place where I can work the way I want to work, with the kind of people who are here, and focusing on problems that are really serving unmet needs.”

“We’re not just about working in the lab or the clinic,” Guy said. “We’re also about living in this community and doing well by it.”

In this podcast, Guy shares his own research, his major goals for the College of Pharmacy, and how pharmacy researchers are addressing the opioid epidemic.


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UK collaboration working to provide more effective treatment for lung cancer

Newly published findings from UK faculty reveal a novel cell signaling interaction that may prevent a key step in lung cancer progression.

Kentucky continues to lead the nation in incidence and death rates from lung cancer, and the UK College of Pharmacy is committed to reducing these numbers.

Lung cancers are often diagnosed in later stages, with very few treatment options available. Patients often develop a resistance to a targeted therapy, resulting in a need for a variety of therapies that can be administered in stages or coupled together.

A collaboration between the UK College of Pharmacy and the Department of Statistics in the UK College of Arts and Sciences is working to address this problem. The project is the work of Madeline Krentz Gober, a recent graduate of the UK College of Pharmacy’s graduate program in the lab of pharmacy faculty member Penni Black. Staff scientist James Collard and UK College of Arts and Sciences faculty member Katherine Thompson also contributed to the findings.

Previous work from the group established that a collection of microRNAs – small RNA that plays a role in regulating biological process like growth and proliferation – could predict sensitivity of non-small cell lung cancer cells to erlotinib, a drug that is effective in treating lung cancer in certain patients.

Further investigation into this collection of microRNA genes revealed a previously unknown relationship between the role of transforming growth factor TGFβ in initiating metastasis and epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) signaling non-small cell lung cancers.

Essentially, microRNA molecules that alter TGFβ activity may prevent a key step in metastasis for cancer progression known as epithelial-mesenchymal transition, and this interaction may also require the activity of EGFR, perhaps unappreciated in the initiation of metastasis.

“Getting the right drugs in the right patients is critical to improving cancer outcomes,” said Jill Kolesar, co-director of the Molecular Tumor Board at the UK Markey Cancer Center. “Dr. Black’s work is an important step in predicting which patients benefit most from erlotinib treatment.”

Ongoing work in Professor Black’s lab seeks to uncover biomarkers of response and toxicity to new immunotherapeutic agents used in the fight against lung cancer.


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Eat more plants for a healthier heart, says UK’s Dr. Gretchen Wells

Dr. Gretchen Wells

Written by Dr. Gretchen Wells, director UK Gill Heart & Vascular Institute’s Women’s Heart Health Program

Most people don’t realize that the power to prevent many diseases is in their own hands.

By exercising – even a little – and quitting smoking, you greatly reduce your risk for diabetes, heart disease and even dementia. But perhaps the easiest way to tip the odds in your favor is to change your diet. If you’re looking for a way to eat healthier, consider a plant-based diet.

A plant-based diet is based on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. It excludes or minimizes meat, eggs and dairy products, as well as highly processed foods like bleached flour, refined sugar and some oils.

Numerous studies have linked a plant-based diet to lower risks of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease – as much as 30 percent, according to one Harvard study.

Don’t know where to begin? Here are some guidelines:

  • Veggies: Any vegetable, especially leafy green or yellow vegetables with high water content.
  • Fruits: No limits here, but deeply colored berries are a plus.
  • Starches: This includes starchy vegetables like potatoes as well as whole grains like oats, rice or quinoa.
  • Beans and legumes: These are starchy, but generally have a higher protein content. Consider beans, lentils and dried peas.
  • Nuts and seeds: Use sparingly to avoid weight gain.

You can adjust slowly to a plant-based diet. Adopt the popular “Meatless Mondays” trend in your home and add Tuesday, Wednesday, etc. as you go. Or experiment by adjusting your favorite recipes to be plant-based: make your chili all beans, or prepare a stir-fry with tofu or edamame instead of chicken.

Heart-healthy cooking demo at UK HealthCare

If you want some ideas, come to UK HealthCare on Saturday, Nov. 18, for “Feeding Your Heart and Soul” featuring best-selling cookbook author Jane Esselstyn. Esselstyn, who has spent most of her life advocating for a plant-based, meatless, whole-food diet, will demonstrate recipes from The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook, which she co-authored with her mother, Ann. You’ll also get the opportunity to taste some of her dishes and see for yourself that a plant-based diet can be healthy and delicious.

The morning will begin at 8 a.m. with an optional free yoga session. Esselstyn will take the stage for a brief lecture at 9 a.m., followed by a cooking demonstration at 10 a.m. and tastings at 11 a.m.

The registration fee for “Feeding Your Heart and Soul” is $15 and includes a free copy of The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook and tastings.

For more information or to register, call 859-218-0121.


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UK researchers awarded NIH grant to fight drug abuse in rural Kentucky counties

The National Institutes of Health recently awarded the UK Center for Health Services Research (CHSR) funding to study the adoption of syringe exchange programs in rural communities in the Appalachian region of Kentucky.

Rates of opioid use disorder and injection drug use have risen significantly in Kentucky, especially in rural communities. The serious health consequences of injection drug use include the spread of both hepatitis C and HIV. Kentucky is home to eight of the 10 counties in the nation that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified as most vulnerable to an outbreak of HIV.

CHSR’s focus on community efforts to end health disparities in underserved areas aligned closely with the NIH funding opportunity to examine drug use interventions.

The two-year National Institute on Drug Abuse-funded study is designed to reach vulnerable injection-drug users in Clark, Knox and Pike counties. The goal is to understand the many barriers that drug users face in accessing syringe exchange programs and to identify priority intervention targets.

The project’s principal investigator, Hilary Surratt, associate professor in the UK College of Medicine, is working closely with the Clark, Knox and Pike county health departments to gather data from drug users, health department staff, treatment providers and law enforcement.

This data will inform changes to policies and practices of syringe exchange programs and develop prevention strategies to enhance access and utilization of these programs in rural areas.


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UK researcher receives $3.1 million grant to fight health disparities in Appalachia

An initiative from the UK Colleges of Medicine and Public Health to educate people in Eastern Kentucky about cancer prevention has been awarded an additional $3.1 million grant to address the diabetes epidemic.

Since 2004, Nancy Schoenberg, the Marion Pearsall Professor of Behavioral Science at the UK College of Medicine, has been principal investigator of a series of projects in Eastern Kentucky collectively called “Faith Moves Mountains.” The project works to build community support for cervical cancer prevention and a wellness and cancer prevention program and to reduce Appalachian health disparities.

Earlier this fall, Schoenberg and her team of community and university researchers from the UK College of Medicine and the UK College of Public Health were awarded a new five-year, $3.1 million grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases to continue the Faith Moves Mountains initiative and implement a project called “Clinic to Community Navigation to Improve Diabetes Outcomes” in Appalachian communities where diabetes is considered an epidemic.

Faith-based community partnerships

Like the previous projects, researchers aim to target specific health behaviors through faith-based interventions by building relationships with churches in Appalachian communities.

“We have worked over the years with about 60 or 70 churches, faith organizations in general, as well as senior centers, community centers, [and] other environments, to really promote the most scientifically rigorous projects,” Schoenberg said.

“All of my research really focuses on bringing in people from the communities melding their community knowledge and our team’s scientific knowledge to figure out the best interventions and programs to promote health and to decrease health disparities.”

For this project, Schoenberg will continue to draw on existing faith organizations and other partnerships. “We’ll reach out to new churches in new counties and new environments to promote the message of diabetes control,” she said.

Education and self-management

Appalachian Kentucky has rates of diabetes about 46 percent higher than the national average. Even more challenging is that about one-third of those who have diabetes are undiagnosed.

During the project, researchers intend to reduce adverse outcomes by educating people with Type 2 diabetes about self-management and training community-based facilitators to help coordinate healthcare services. To determine the most effective intervention components, researchers will assign participants to one of three groups: a diabetes self-management group, a patient navigation group, or a combined self-management and patient navigation group.

The self-management groups will meet in churches or other community-based venues. In addition, patient navigators will assist with educating and facilitating healthcare appointments at community-based health clinics and check-in with patients to make sure they attend medical appointments and receive adequate follow-up care.

“We want to draw on what we know works to help community members get the diabetes self-management that they need,” Schoenberg said. “Our hope is that at the end of the day, they’re able to take control of their health.”


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UK collaboration provides improved stroke care in Eastern Kentucky

Kentucky has one of the highest rates of stroke in the nation, and in Eastern Kentucky, the burden of cardiovascular disease is especially severe. An innovative program is improving patient outcomes and saving money in the region by providing intensive, personalized support for stroke survivors and their families.

The Kentucky Care Coordination for Community Transitions program − a partnership between the UK Center of Excellence in Rural Health (CERH) in Hazard, Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH), and the UK College of Health Sciences − integrates a CERH community health worker with the ARH rehabilitation team to help stroke survivors transition back to their homes and to facilitate a network of community support.

Established in 2014 with pilot funding from the UK Center for Clinical and Translational Science and ARH, the project evolved into a permanent program in 2015. Just past its two-year anniversary, the program has supported nearly 150 individuals, helping them adjust to the new realities of life after a stroke, learn about chronic disease self-management, navigate complex health care and insurance systems, monitor their rehabilitation, and connect with other survivors and caregivers.

Improving health and saving money

The program has markedly improved health and well-being for participating stroke survivors, among whom there have been zero 30-day hospital readmissions and only one emergency department visit (which wasn’t stroke related). This is compared to 19 percent and 8 percent, respectively, of the matched control group of stroke survivors who chose not to join the program. The result is not only better health and quality of life for survivors and caregivers, but also a cost savings of more than $1.4 million over two years to the local healthcare system.

“We’re keeping people healthier and saving a phenomenal amount of money for the health care system,” said Patrick Kitzman, PhD, founding director of the program and professor of physical therapy in the UK College of Health Sciences. “But we also concentrate very much on the caregiver and family − we always look at the whole unit with our follow-up education and support.”

In 2016 alone, the program supported 70 individuals, including 512 encounters between the community health worker and participants and more than 1,000 provided services. Half of participants needed assistance obtaining durable medical equipment, 71 percent needed assistance obtaining essential medications, and 35 percent needed assistance obtaining health insurance.

Personal care

A critical element of the program’s success is the integration of the community health worker, Keisha Hudson, with the stroke rehabilitation team at ARH. Hudson, who is from the local community, participates in the discharge planning for participating stroke patients so that she can establish a relationship with them and their families while they’re still in the hospital and get a head start on arranging for anything they might need when they get home − shower chairs, wheelchair ramps, medical equipment, etc.

Hudson then visits patients at their home within a week of discharge and provides weekly face-to-face meetings or phone follow-up calls which tapers to bi-weekly or monthly check-ins as patients improve. Some patients, however, have stayed with the program since its beginning.

As she works with patients and families, Hudson provides health education and tracks compliance with medical visits and medication; when she notices that a patient has missed an appointment or medication, she figures out why. Sometimes the problem can be as simple as the patient lacking transportation, in which case Hudson can help them make arrangements to get to the clinic or pharmacy.

Such attention and regular communication allows Hudson to develop a personal relationship with patients and their families to the extent that she can often sense when something is “off” and intervene before a serious problem develops. While none of the patients in the transition program have been readmitted to the hospital for stroke complications within 30 days of discharge, Hudson’s attentive care has led to life-saving interventions related to patients’ other health issues; nearly 60 percent of participants have five or more co-morbid health conditions. Once, while speaking with a patient over the phone, Hudson recognized that the woman’s breathing sounded especially labored, and she told the patient to go to the hospital immediately. It turned out the woman had a dangerous level of fluid on her lungs and needed urgent treatment. While making a routine visit to check on a different patient, Hudson arrived to find them in a diabetic coma. With yet another patient, she caught an infected surgical site that required immediate attention.

Connecting with the community

Hudson also hosts a monthly stroke survivor and caregiver support group. It meets at the hospital, which allows currently hospitalized stroke survivors or their caregivers to come downstairs from the care unit and connect with the group before they go home.

“The program has evolved in the community because we’ve built trust as people hear about us through word of mouth. Some patients and caregivers have become really big advocates for us. One of the patients we’ve worked with for a while has had people in his community who’ve had strokes and he himself has referred them to us. We’ve proven to our community that we’re here to help and we’re here to stay and when we say we’re going to do something, we do it − that’s helped a lot,” Hudson said.


Next steps:

  • When it comes to preventing a stroke, simple lifestyle changes can make all the difference. Here are six things you can do to help reduce your risk of a stroke.
  • At the UK Comprehensive Stroke Center, we offer treatment, prevention and rehabilitation services for stroke patients.

First steps to take if your baby has Down syndrome

If you’re expecting a baby who has been diagnosed with Down syndrome, you may have many questions and concerns.

While this diagnosis may seem overwhelming, there is no need for panic – or despair. Although having Down syndrome means your baby will face challenges, many people with Down syndrome live full, productive, happy lives.

The most important thing you can do is educate yourself about the resources and support available to you and your family so that you can become your baby’s best advocate. Traci Brewer, executive director of the Down Syndrome Association of Central Kentucky (DSACK), offers these tips:

Your baby’s health. Children born with Down syndrome have a higher rate of heart abnormalities and other medical concerns than the general population. Your first step is to ensure that medical professionals are following the healthcare guidelines recommended by the National Down Syndrome Society. Your obstetrician and later your pediatrician may not have a great deal of experience with children with Down, so it is up to you to advocate for screenings at birth to rule out potential health risks. If you need help making a case for these screenings, enlist the aid of a genetic counselor.

Early intervention. Federal law mandates that states must provide early intervention for children with certain conditions, and Down syndrome qualifies. In Kentucky, this program is called First Steps. First Steps provides therapists such as speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists and physical therapists that will come to your home for therapy sessions. Make sure your hospital or pediatrician makes a referral to First Steps before you leave the hospital.

Fear. It’s normal to feel scared, but know that you are not alone. Try to relax, get to know your baby and enjoy your time together. Realize that many of your struggles are the same as those faced by any new parent. Statistics have shown that married couples with children who have Down syndrome have a lower rate of divorce than the general population, and siblings are often more compassionate and well-adjusted because of their relationship with their brother or sister with Down syndrome.

Get connected. The best resource for new parents will always be other parents. Many organizations offer free resources and lists of local parent groups. Locally, the Down Syndrome Association of Central Kentucky hosts new parent dinners, coffee chats, special events and much more to help parents connect with other parents of children with Down syndrome. DSACK can be found on the web at www.dsack.org.

Take it one day at a time. Stay informed, get connected and remember that you are doing your best. You don’t have to be a superhero, and just like other parents, you will make the best decisions you can. Love your children and try to keep everything in balance. Know that the positives far outweigh the negatives. People with Down syndrome go to school, have meaningful jobs and make significant contributions to society.


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Auditorium is renamed in honor of Dr. Michael Karpf and his wife, Ellen

On Oct. 18, during a celebration of former Executive Vice President for Health Affairs Dr. Michael Karpf and his wife, Ellen, UK President Eli Capilouto announced that the UK Albert B. Chandler Pavilion A auditorium will now be known as the Karpf Auditorium in the couple’s honor.

Karpf retired in September after helping create a smooth transition with his successor, Dr. Mark F. Newman.

Karpf came to UK from UCLA in 2003 with the firm belief that art can make a difference in patient care. This principle guided Karpf to build a healthcare facility that would “make every visitor, patient and staff member feel comfortable and at home” and “complement and enhance the healing environment.”

The auditorium is just a part of that building, Pavilion A, and even inside the auditorium the details reinforce Karpf’s vision. The seats are upholstered in a specially commissioned fabric reminiscent of a field of flowers, a design inspired by Ellen Karpf’s admiration of a similar interior at Disney Hall in Los Angeles.

Since Pavilion A opened in May 2011, the 305-seat auditorium has served as a high-tech education center where physicians and staff can take part in grand rounds and other learning opportunities.

In the past six years, the auditorium has hosted international scientific symposia, policy summits, movies, variety shows, employee training and recognition programs, masters and doctoral thesis programs, major hospital announcements, and theater and musical performances from opera to bluegrass.

The auditorium is also an integral part of the UK Arts in HealthCare program, which features a large and internationally recognized visual arts collection and an endowed performing arts program.

When the auditorium was constructed and designed with a grant from the Sarah Scaife Foundation, Scaife Foundation Chair Richard Scaife, a longtime friend of the Karpfs, asked that the auditorium be named in honor of the couple at the appropriate time in the future.

“Mike and Ellen Karpf will never know the names of all the families and patients they’ve touched with their vision, even though I know that the Karpfs make an effort to try to meet them and uplift them in their times of need. But that is the highest form of giving — the type that serves many who may never know their names — and which echoes through generations,” Capilouto said.

See more photos of the Karpf Auditorium below.


Next steps:

  • Read about the award-winning UK Arts in HealthCare program, which brings the work of local, national and international artists into our hospitals and clinics.
  • Earlier this year, Dr. Karpf received the Kentucky Hospital Association’s highest honor for his career of exceptional service to UK HealthCare, the community and the state. Learn more about Dr. Karpf’s recognition.
Dr. Mark Newman

Listen: Dr. Mark Newman talks about coming home to Kentucky

In September, UK HealthCare welcomed Dr. Mark F. Newman as its new executive vice president for health affairs. An Owensboro, Ky., native, Newman comes to UK from Duke University Medical Center, where he had a distinguished career in medicine, working in anesthesiology and healthcare management.

In his new role, Newman will be responsible for UK HealthCare, the clinical enterprise of the University of Kentucky, and will also work with the provost to guide the UK College of Medicine.

Newman sat down with us to discuss his approach to taking on this new role, how his Kentucky roots helped guide him in life, his thoughts on what UK HealthCare means to the Commonwealth and more.

Listen to the podcast below!


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Author of heart-healthy cookbook to speak at UK on Nov. 18

Popular cookbook author Jane Esselstyn is coming to UK HealthCare on Nov. 18 for a lecture and cooking demonstration about the benefits of a plant-based diet for heart disease prevention.

Esselstyn, a former health educator, has spent most of her life advocating for a plant-based, whole-food diet. A collection of her recipes is featured in The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook, which she co-authored with her mother, Ann.

The event is part of the UK Gill Heart & Vascular Institute Women’s Heart Health Program’s “Feeding Your Heart and Soul” initiative. Dr. Gretchen Wells, the program director, is an enthusiastic voice in the campaign to reduce the incidence of heart disease in Kentucky.

Numerous studies have linked a plant-based diet to lower risks of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease – as much as 30 percent, according to one Harvard study, Wells said. Plant-based doesn’t mean vegetarian, however: Smaller amounts of lean meats such as chicken or fish are OK.

“One of our missions at the Gill is to educate Kentuckians about lifestyle and encourage them to make changes that reduce their risk for heart disease,” Wells said. “Jane can provide them the tools to live healthier lives, so bringing her to Lexington was a logical fit.”

The event takes place in the UK Albert B. Chandler Hospital Pavilion A Auditorium and will kick off at 8 a.m. with an optional free yoga session. Esselstyn will take the stage for a brief lecture at 9 a.m., followed by a cooking demonstration at 10 a.m. and tastings at 11 a.m.

Some of the recipes Esselstyn will be demonstrating include: kale bruschetta, corn muffins with jalapenos and salsa, chocolate-raspberry mango parfait, smoky little devils (a healthy take on deviled eggs), and several salad dressings. Samples of most recipes will be available for tasting following the demonstration.

The $15 registration fee includes the tastings and a copy of her Esselstyn’s cookbook.

Registration ends Nov. 10 and is limited to the first 125 people. Free parking is available in the UK HealthCare parking garage at 110 Transcript Ave., directly across South Limestone from Chandler Hospital.

To register, contact Karen Michul at Karen.Michul@uky.edu or call 859-218-0121.


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