Even as a child, Rachel Miller knew she wanted to be a doctor

Making the RoundsWe’re joined by Dr. Rachel Miller for our latest edition of Making the Rounds. Dr. Miller is a gynecologic oncologist at the UK Markey Cancer Center who specializes in ovarian cancer screening and treatment. She’s also the co-director of Markey’s new Molecular Tumor Board, a powerful tool in the fight against cancer.

When did you know you wanted to be a doctor?

I think I knew in elementary school. I was very interested in doctoring from an early age. My mom actually saved my Fisher-Price doctor kit and cleaned it up and gave it to my son. So it is well-worn. I did a lot of physical exams when I was between the ages of 4 and 6, I think.

I was a chemistry major, and I thought I might spend some time in the lab. And I was interested in pharmacy, too. So it’s been a long-standing desire. [The challenge] was just trying to figure out what aspect of healthcare and medicine and interaction with people would work best.

What’s your favorite food?

Spaghetti and meatballs. It’s comfort food, and actually, it’s one of the first dishes that my husband made for me when we were dating. It was a birthday dish.

How would your friends describe you?

I think they’d describe me as energetic, active. Kind of crazy in that I may have a little higher work-to-off-time ratio than most of my friends, but we make the most of our time together.

Describe your ideal weekend.

I’d get out of work at a reasonable time on Friday and probably have some Mexican or Indian food or sushi for dinner – some sort of special treat for Friday night. And then on Saturday, I’d wake up – I have a 3 1/2-year-old – so I’d wake up with him in a really good mood and we’d play and have a nice, quiet breakfast. I’d go out for a run, and then we’d have an afternoon of maybe swimming in the summertime or the YMCA in the wintertime. We’d get a babysitter at 6 p.m., and I’d have an evening with my husband. Really, it’d be a quiet weekend at home. I feel like more and more we treasure the downtime and the routine family time at home.

What’s your favorite part about being a mom?

There are so many great parts about it. I think it’s just that my son challenges me in ways that I didn’t realize a 3 1/2-year-old could challenge me. I thought I had a hard job until I became a mom, and I realized that is so much more difficult at times. I just enjoy watching him grow and seeing how every day is just loaded with new experiences for him and how he approaches those experiences, watching him learn language, hearing him laugh – just the day-to-day interactions.


Watch our video interview with Dr. Miller below, where she describes the types of patients she sees at Markey and talks about why she enjoys practicing medicine in Kentucky.


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Dr. Gretchen Wells writes a lot of prescriptions and orders a lot of tests. But she says the most rewarding thing she dispenses is hope.

Video: Dr. Gretchen Wells talks hearts and her passion for women’s health

Dr. Gretchen Wells writes a lot of prescriptions and orders a lot of tests. But the most rewarding thing she dispenses is hope, she says. As director of the Women’s Heart Heath Program at the UK Gilll Heart & Vascular Institute, she helps Kentucky women enjoy longer, fuller lives with healthy hearts.

In Kentucky, the mortality rate from heart disease is among the nation’s highest, and Wells understands that in the fight against women’s heart issues, prevention is especially important. There are other issues to tackle as well, she says, including:

  • The biology of heart disease is different in men than in women, so new ways of detection and treatment need to be explored to address those differences.
  • More women are surviving breast cancer only to develop heart problems relatedto chemotherapy.
  • Young women with pregnancy complications such as pre-eclampsia are at higher risk for heart disease later in life.

All of these and more are what bring Wells to the office every day. She spends her time collaborating across campus to establish testing, identify biomarkers and explore treatments tailored specifically to the needs of women with heart disease.

But Wells says the best part of her job is developing relationships with her patients. “They teach me about family, they teach me about forgiveness and they teach me about love,” she says.

Watch the video below to see why Wells says “the best is yet to come for the women of Kentucky.”


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10 things to know about women's heart health

Top 10 things to know about women’s heart health

By Dr. Gretchen Wells, director of the UK Gill Heart & Vascular Institute’s Women’s Heart Health Program.

Dr. Gretchen Wells

Dr. Gretchen Wells

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, but it often goes unnoticed until it’s too late. Part of that comes from the fact that women’s hearts are different from men’s in certain ways, which can affect the way women develop heart disease and experience heart attack symptoms.

People assume all heart attacks feel like a crushing in the chest, but often, and for women in particular, the symptoms of a heart attack can be quite different. That’s why it’s so important to teach women what to look for and how to take the best care of their hearts.

Check out my top 10 list of things women should know about their hearts, and be sure to listen to an interview I did recently about heart health below!

1. Know your symptoms

  • Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
  • As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.
  • If you’re having symptoms, call 911!

2. Quit smoking. Just do it. You know you should. UK HealthCare has resources to help you quit. Check them out.

3. “Waist it.” Watch what you eat! Women have an increased risk of heart attack if their waist circumference is big.

4. Move it! The Nurses’ Health Study demonstrated that women who exercise (brisk walking) 30 minutes five out of seven days a week reduce their risk of a heart attack by 50 percent.

5. Know your numbers! Know your blood glucose (sugar), cholesterol, blood pressure, etc. If these are abnormal, talk to your healthcare provider about ways to improve them.

6. Don’t be sweet! If you’re diabetic, get treatment. This is a far greater risk factor in women than in men.

7. And while we’re at it – treat your blood pressure, too.

8. Talk to your doctor about whether or not you should be taking an aspirin (or any other medications for that matter). Women over the age of 65 should take a daily aspirin for prevention. The recommendations vary in other groups.

9. Don’t worry, be happy! The type-A personality has been strongly associated with heart attacks in men, and we’re learning more about optimism and positivity in women.

10. Call your mother (that’s my mother’s suggestion). Find out from her about your family history. Heart disease runs in families. Find out exactly what type of heart disease your family has and discuss it with your doctor.


Dr. Wells was recently interviewed on Behind the Blue, the University of Kentucky’s podcast. She was joined by Gail Cohen, a patient who experienced firsthand the dangers of undetected heart disease. Listen below to hear Gail’s story as well as tips from Dr. Wells about how you can improve your heart health.


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The celebration of women's heart health in Albert B. Chandler hospital featured giveaways, prizes and simple tips to make your diet more heart-healthy.

‘Gill Goes Red’ shares treats and tips in celebration of Heart Month

Kate Breeden closed her eyes as she took a bite, trying to concentrate on the flavors of the food she was sampling.

“Well, it’s definitely a brownie,” she said, “but I have no idea what the mystery ingredient is. Maybe carob instead of chocolate. Or dates? But I’m not 100 percent sure to be honest.”

Breeden was among dozens of women – and a few men – gathered on Feb. 3 to launch American Heart Month at UK with “Gill Goes Red.”

The celebration of women’s heart health in the Pavilion A atrium of Albert B. Chandler hospital featured giveaways, prizes, and simple tips and substitutions to make your diet more heart-healthy. But the most popular attraction? Free samples of tasty treats with a “secret ingredient” that made each treat more heart-friendly.

Taking baby steps to better heart health

“Every New Year, thousands of people resolve to eat healthier and lose weight, but lose their momentum within a few weeks and return to their old habits,” said Dr. Gretchen Wells, director of the Women’s Heart Health Program at the UK Gill Heart Institute, and one of the day’s speakers. “We encourage people to take baby steps to improve their diet as a long-term path to healthier eating and better heart health.”

Vanessa Oliver, a dietitian with the UK’s Health and Wellness program, shared with the audience her tips for making foods more nutrient-rich as a way to take those baby steps.

“Women’s risk of heart attack has been directly related to waist circumference,” Oliver said. “Making an effort to enhance the quality of the choices you make can be an effective way to reduce waist circumference without a sense of self-denial.”

Oliver suggested a few simple changes that can help achieve that goal, including eating brightly colored foods (usually fruits or vegetables) instead of “white” or “beige” foods, increasing dietary fiber by choosing whole grains over processed ones, and reducing sugar intake, particularly from sodas and fancy coffee drinks, which contain large amounts of “hidden” sugars.

“One of the best ways to start making those changes is to keep a food journal, either by writing it down, using an app or even taking a picture,” Oliver said. “Doing so can help you be aware of what you’re eating and identify places where you can make changes.”

The secret ingredients

At the end of the program, the secret ingredient for each treat was announced to a chorus of laughter and exclamations of surprise.

Jennifer Vissing, the nurse coordinator for the Gill’s Structural Heart Program, correctly guessed that the brownie’s secret ingredient was black beans.

“Black beans provide extra fiber and complex carbohydrates, which can improve blood cholesterol levels ” Oliver said. “The brownies are made with applesauce and blueberries as well, reducing the amount of refined sugar and adding a dash of antioxidants.”

The prize for correctly guessing that the chocolate chip “cookie dough” was actually a form of hummus went to Maria Kraemer, a postdoc in the Saha Cardiovascular Research Center.

“Chickpeas are a more complex carbohydrate than the white flour in traditional cookie dough, which makes you feel fuller longer,” Oliver said. “On top of that, the recipe is much lower in fat than the real thing, since it contains no butter or eggs.”

The granola was the true mystery treat, and no one was able to guess its secret ingredient.

“Most granolas are made with a lot of oil, which greatly increases fat content,” Oliver explained. “This granola is made with made with egg whites instead of oil.”

‘One of many ways’ to improve nutrition

Oliver reminded attendees that portion size is also important.

“You should be able to indulge every once in a while, and these are wonderful options, but even black bean brownies aren’t healthy if you eat half a pan,” she said. “Think of these as one of many ways you can improve nutrition for you and your family.”

Vissing, like many of the participants, voiced her enthusiasm for the day’s events.

“I really enjoyed learning more about how to make anything healthier, and it was fun,” she said.

Wells was pleased that attendees came away from the day with some real information to help them live healthier lives.

“We wanted to have fun, we wanted to celebrate women and we wanted to empower women to make changes in their lifestyle,” Wells said. “I think Gill Goes Red 2017 achieved all three.”

If you want to make these treats at home, the brownie recipe comes from Forks Over Knives, the granola recipe comes from Epicurious and the “Cookie Faux” hummus recipe comes from The Wannabe Chef.


Check out video footage and pictures from the event.

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Video, Part 2: Dr. Miller on what you need to know about Pap smears

Pap smears, annual exams and the HPV vaccine are important tools for all women in the fight against cervical cancer. Unfortunately, not enough women in Kentucky take these preventative actions, says UK Markey Cancer Center gynecologic oncologist Dr. Rachel Miller. We sat down with Dr. Miller to discuss how regular check-ups and Pap smears can help prevent advanced cervical cancer.

Watch our interview with Dr. Miller to learn more about cervical cancer prevention, including a breakdown of the latest Pap smear recommendations.


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Whether planning for a baby or entering menopause, every woman deserves a healthcare provider who respects her values, preferences and personal goals.

Certified nurse midwives partner with women for better health

JoAnne Burris, APRN, CNM

Written by JoAnne Burris, advanced practice certified nurse and certified nurse midwife at UK HealthCare.

Whether planning for a baby or entering the stages of menopause, every woman deserves a healthcare provider who respects her values, preferences and personal goals.

The certified nurse midwife offers a range of medical services and expertise to support women throughout the female reproductive lifespan, not just through pregnancy and birth. Firmly grounded in evidence-based science, the certified nurse midwife is trained to put the patient at the center of her healthcare decision-making.

Some pregnant women believe choosing a nurse midwife for prenatal and postnatal care means forgoing the comforts of modern medicine. Nurse midwives are frequently associated with home birth, but according to the American College of Nurse Midwives, 94 percent of nurse midwives in the U.S. attend births in hospitals. Nurse midwives support birth according to the preferences of the mother, whether she desires an epidural or unmedicated birth.

What makes nurse midwifery unique

From supporting a woman during delivery to providing primary care, nurse midwives can be found throughout the spectrum of women’s healthcare. There are a few distinguishing features of midwifery that every prospective patient should consider.

  • Emphasis on education. Nurse midwives counsel patients on a variety of health topics, from contraception to nutrition to breastfeeding. Rather than giving advice, the nurse midwife offers reliable information and encourages women to make individualized decisions. Consistent with this philosophy, patients acquire knowledge so they can make informed decisions and feel confident about their care.
  • Partnership. Nurse midwifery services are provided in partnership with women and their families in order to empower women to determine their individualized journeys to motherhood. In addition to working in partnership with women, they work in close collaboration with obstetricians, anesthesiologists and neonatologists as a part of an integrated healthcare team.
  • Birth is normal. For healthy, low-risk women, interventions during birth are usually unnecessary. A hallmark of nurse midwifery care is non-intervention in the absence of complications. While nurse midwives are experts in normal birth, they are highly trained to detect complications and will collaborate with physicians when necessary.
  • Founded on evidence-based science. Certified nurse midwives are registered nurses who have earned a master’s of science in nursing with an additional certification in midwifery. They are licensed professionals capable of attending births, writing prescriptions, conducting annual exams and providing birth control counseling as a part of their wide spectrum of healthcare services.

Nurse midwives empower women to take control of their health and birth experience. This sense of control can be a positive influence on the entire family unit. Midwifery is a beautiful healthcare partnership designed to help women realize their potential to be a force for optimal health and wellness.

If you are interested in nurse midwife services, talk to your OB-GYN.


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Cervical cancer is a leading cancers in Kentucky, but it is easily preventable. Through vaccines and screenings, you can take steps to reduce your risk.

Take action to prevent cervical cancer

Dr. Rachel Miller

Written by Dr. Rachel Miller, a gynecologic oncologist at the UK Markey Cancer Center.

At the beginning of the year, many women (and men) set resolutions around health and fitness, often focusing on weight loss. But one of the most important habits women can form revolves around regular health checks, particularly for preventable cancers.

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. Unfortunately, Kentucky ranks in the top 10 in the country for cervical cancer incidence and death rates – a dire statistic considering cervical cancer is largely preventable through vaccination and screening.

Risk-factors for cervical cancer

The human papillomavirus (HPV) causes virtually all cases of cervical cancers. The majority of sexually active women will be exposed to HPV at some point in their lifetime; fortunately, only 5 to 15 percent will develop cervical precancer. An even smaller percentage will develop cancer. Other risk factors include multiple pregnancies, a long duration of birth control pill use, a history of other sexually transmitted diseases and tobacco use.

The importance of the HPV vaccine

Nowadays, you can take an extra step toward protecting your children against cervical and other types of HPV-related cancers through the HPV vaccine. This vaccination used to be a three-dose process, the CDC now recommends that all 11 to 12 year-old children – girls and boys – get just two doses, with the second being given six to 12 months after the first.

Young women can get the vaccine through age 26, while young men can get vaccinated through age 21. Every year, more than 17,000 women and more than 9,000 men get cancer caused by an HPV infection.

Don’t overlook getting a Pap smear

Cervical cancer screening – the Pap smear – is a regular appointment that is often overlooked. This test looks for cancerous cells on the cervix and can even find precancerous changes that have not yet developed into cancer.

I can’t recommend this test enough – at Markey, about 95 percent of cervical cancer patients we treat have not gotten their recommended schedule of cervical cancer screenings. Screenings usually begin at age 21 or three years after first sexual intercourse. Talk to your doctor about a timeline for regular screenings.

Cervical cancer symptoms

One reason the vaccine and screenings are so important is because cervical cancer often doesn’t cause obvious symptoms until its more advanced stages. Some of the most common symptoms reported include abnormal bleeding or bleeding after sexual intercourse, and an abnormal discharge. Many of these symptoms can be mistaken for less serious issues, such as a yeast infection or urinary tract infection.

As the cancer advances further, it can cause urinary blockage, back pain, leg swelling or neuropathic pain, such as a “pins and needles” sensation in the skin.

As you work through your resolutions for the New Year, make taking care of yourself a priority – and that includes scheduling a few regular trips to your doctor.


Next steps:

  • If you or someone you love is interested in receiving the HPV vaccine, schedule an appointment with the Markey Cancer Center online or at 859-323-5553.
  • Markey also offers a comprehensive cancer screening and prevention program, including tests for cervical cancer. Learn more about our program.
Michele Staton-Tindall focuses on substance abuse intervention to help women to make better choices transitioning back to the community.

UK researcher strives to empower at-risk women in Appalachia

Michele Staton-Tindall grew up in rural Appalachia during a time when people felt so safe they didn’t even lock their doors at night. The ensuing drug epidemic that now ravages her former home has dramatically impacted the lives of the Appalachian people and broken that sense of security.

Staton-Tindall, an associate professor in the Department of Behavioral Science at the UK College of Medicine, and a faculty associate at the Center on Drug and Alcohol Research, has made it her mission to make a positive difference in the Appalachian area, particularly for women in the criminal justice population who have fallen prey to substance abuse and high-risk behaviors. Her research focuses on intervention before release from jail to empower women to make healthier and safer choices during the transition back to the community.

As a social worker, Staton-Tindall loves the stories the women tell of their life experiences: real people, real problems and tough choices. Their stories not only inform her research but also fuel the passion for her work as well. At the Center on Drug and Alcohol Research, Staton-Tindall works with professionals across campus who take a multi-disciplinary approach to widespread problems of substance abuse.

Watch the video as Staton-Tindall discusses her research and why it is so close to her heart.


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UK expert says long-acting reversible contraceptives are both safe and effective

Joanne E. Brown, DNP, APRN

Written by Joanne Brown, DNP, APRN, in the UK College of Nursing and Women’s Health at University Health Service.

Long-acting reversible contraceptives are the most effective form of reversible birth control but not the most commonly used. Misconceptions and outdated misinformation prevent many people from realizing the benefits of intrauterine devices (IUDs), contraceptive implants and the birth control shot. While use of these contraceptives has increased over time, they are still much underutilized.

Types of LARCs

IUDs are small devices that are placed inside the uterus. There are several varieties of IUDs, some containing hormones and some without. These various devices can prevent pregnancy for different amounts of time, typically between three and 12 years. The contraceptive implant is a small rod placed under the skin in the upper arm and can prevent pregnancy for up to three years. The Depo Provera contraceptive shot is effective for three months before another shot needs to be administered.

Debunking the misconceptions

One common misconception about LARCs is that they are unsafe. However, not only are LARCs effective, they are also very safe. There are few women for whom using LARCs would not be an option. Additionally, LARCs are safe for use in adolescents, young women and women who have not had children. Of course, it’s important to speak with your healthcare provider about personal and sexual health history and to ask about symptoms that could be cause for concern.

Another misconception surrounding LARCs is that they have a detrimental effect on future fertility. Research has shown about 71 percent of women who wanted to become pregnant conceived within 12 months of removing IUDs. (This is comparable to the general population). It is important to talk to your provider about personal goals regarding future pregnancy; this will impact the type of contraception that is best for you.

The most effective form of reversible contraception

Finally, LARCs are the most effective form of reversible contraception on the market; less than one percent of users will become pregnant. Pregnancy occurs in up to 18 percent of women who use condoms as their primary method of birth control and in about 9 percent of women using oral contraception. This often occurs because of inconsistent or incorrect use. Because LARCs don’t require women to remember anything on a daily, weekly or monthly basis and require a visit to a health care provider for removal, they prevent user error, which often occurs with other forms of contraception.

About 50 percent of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended. It is important that we provide information and access to the safest and most effective forms of birth control. LARCs can provide safety and security for most women, and should be considered along with other forms of contraception.


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5 ways to prevent preterm birth

5 ways to prevent preterm birth

Written by Diana Frankenburger, the childbirth education coordinator for UK HealthCare.

Prematurity and its complications are the leading cause of death in children younger than 5 in the world today. Infants born before 37 weeks gestation have more complications than full-term babies, including problems with feeding and digestion, vision and hearing, and breathing.

Premature report card

Each November, the March of Dimes publishes a Premature Birth Report Card, which grades the U.S. and each state on prematurity rates for the previous year. The goal is to be at 8.1 percent, an objective set by the Healthy People 2020 initiative, a science-based, 10-year program to improve the health of all Americans.

This year, the U.S. has a rate of 9.6 percent, earning a C letter grade. Kentucky’s rate is 10.8 percent, which unfortunately gives our state a D.

Tips to prevent preterm birth

While some risks for premature birth cannot be avoided, there are things you can do to help prevent a preterm birth. Here are a few tips:

  1. Stop smoking, or cut down to less than a half-pack per day. Smoking contributes to preterm birth, and a baby who lives in a house with smokers is also 3.5 times more likely to die of sudden infant death syndrome than a baby who doesn’t.
  2. Avoid alcohol and drugs.
  3. Get prenatal care. Learn more about prenatal care at UK Women’s Health OB-GYN.
  4. Practice oral hygiene and see your dentist. Oral infections can lead to infections that can cause preterm labor.
  5. Practice stress reduction. Be aware of how you are handling stress and get sufficient exercise and rest to help get you ready for your new family member.

Delivering at full term will help your baby be healthier, stronger and avoid the complications that come with preterm birth.


Next steps:

  • Learn more about the UK Birthing Center, the leading facility in Central Kentucky specializing in high-risk pregnancies and deliveries.
  • The Birthing Center also offers a Childbirth Preparation Program, which will help prepare you for the changes that happen during pregnancy, labor, birth and postpartum. Find out more about our class offerings.