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Markey receives NCI grant to expand tobacco cessation treatment

The UK Markey Cancer Center is one of 22 cancer centers nationwide to receive funding to build and implement tobacco cessation treatment programs via the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Center Cessation Initiative.

In 2017, NCI launched the Cancer Center Cessation Initiative as part of the NCI Cancer Moonshot℠ program. Through this initiative, Markey will receive $253,000 over the next year to help enhance the delivery of tobacco cessation treatments through four major efforts:

  • Refining electronic medical records and clinical workflows to ensure the systematic identification and documentation of smokers and the routine delivery of evidence-based tobacco cessation treatment services.
  • Overcoming patient, clinician, clinic and health system barriers to providing tobacco cessation treatment services.
  • Achieving institutional buy-in that treating tobacco use is a component of organizational “Standard of Care.”
  • Creating mechanisms to sustain tobacco cessation treatment services so that they continue beyond the funding period of the initiative.

Kentucky has more cases of lung cancer than any other state, and its mortality rate is 50 percent higher than the national average. Though other environmental factors play a part in the development of lung cancer, smoking and other uses of tobacco are the root cause of the disease.

“This grant award provides the means for Markey to embark on a clinically important, two-pronged approach to tobacco treatment, one that includes both provider education and patient care,” said Jessica Burris, assistant professor of psychology in the UK College of Arts & Sciences and member of the Markey Cancer Prevention and Control program.

“The goal is to quickly and reliably assess the tobacco use status of each and every patient, and to deliver evidence-based cessation treatment to all tobacco users. With this initiative, the promise of a marked, positive impact on the lives of Markey patients is clear because tobacco treatment is cancer treatment.”


Next steps:

Dr. Jonathan Kiev answers questions about lung cancer.

Got questions about lung cancer? Dr. Jonathan Kiev has answers.

Dr. Jonathan Kiev

Dr. Jonathan Kiev

Written by Dr. Jonathan Kiev, a cardiothoracic surgeon at UK HealthCare.

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, so now’s a great time for me to answer some common questions about the disease.

Lung cancer is a major problem in Kentucky. Unfortunately, our state leads the nation in both lung cancer incidence and deaths.

The good news is people who are at high risk for lung cancer – specifically, those who have a history of smoking – are eligible to undergo low-dose CT screening for the disease. This diagnostic test allows us to find lung cancer at a much earlier stage, giving us more time to potentially provide life-saving treatments. Even better news? The UK Markey Cancer Center has a Lung Cancer Screen Program for patients at high risk.

So, who’s at risk for lung cancer and what causes the disease?

First and foremost, if you smoke, seek help to quit.

Smoking is by far the No. 1 cause of lung cancer, and it causes head and neck cancers, too. It’s responsible for a variety of health problems not seen in non-smokers. In addition, hypertension and peripheral vascular disease are directly related to smoking, which is why getting on a nicotine cessation program is the first step.

(Related: Check out our tips for conquering a smoking addiction.)

Your doctor will take into account your current health and health history to decide if you are at risk for lung cancer. They will then order the appropriate blood tests and imaging (chest X-ray and CT scan) to see if you have developed early signs of the disease.

Can working in a coal mine or around asbestos cause lung cancer?

Any inhaled substance or chemical can cause lung cancer over repeated exposure, so the short answer is yes.

More importantly, exposure to these types of substances in high-risk professions can lead to other chronic lung illnesses as well. Patients in these professions need to be followed by specialists who understand their occupational risks and hazards.

What is lung cancer staging?

Staging is a way for your physician to determine the type of lung cancer that you have, and whether it has spread to your lymph nodes or to other organs.

Lung cancer can spread to the brain, bones and the adrenal gland. These are all treatable areas, but we like to catch the tumor as early as possible. Staging allows physicians to determine which therapy is best for you: surgery, radiation, chemotherapy or a combination of those. Additionally, your prognosis and risk of recurrence are linked to cancer stage.

How is lung cancer treated?

There are different options to treat lung cancer, so it’s important for you and your family to seek second opinions and find a physician who understands your priorities.

Surgery is best used for early-stage tumors that are smaller, but we can also perform successful operations for larger tumors that have spread to the chest wall. Radiation is available to patients that are not interested in or are not healthy enough to recover from a major chest surgery.

How is lung cancer surgery performed?

Thoracic surgeons specialize in the latest oncology techniques to successfully perform lung cancer surgery.

Typically, surgeons use small incisions and a camera to remove the diseased segments of the lung and its surrounding lymph nodes. Occasionally, a larger incision between the ribs is necessary (this is called a thoracotomy) if the tumor is large or centrally located.

Is robotic surgery available for lung cancer?

Yes, robotic surgery has been available for about 10 years, and it allows your surgeon to remove the affected lung or areas of the lung.

Robotic surgery provides a three-dimensional view, allowing surgeons to better see the areas they’re operating on.


Next steps:

How a Markey lab is helping stroke patients

When George Quintero first heard about a new clinical trial that could improve motor function in stroke patients, he knew he had to find a way to bring it to UK HealthCare.

Quintero, a research analyst for the UK Department of Neuroscience, first obtained a list of criteria to apply. The phase II trial required a physician with experience in frame-based surgery, which was easy for UK to fulfill: Dr. Craig van Horne, a neurosurgeon for the Kentucky Neuroscience Institute, has been performing this style of surgery on neurology patients for more than 20 years.

The second required element was a bit trickier. To be a treatment site for this innovative trial, the stroke team needed resources and buy-in from a stem cell lab with specific cell processing skills near the hospital.

“Originally, we thought we just needed a cell lab,” Quintero said. “We realized we didn’t have any experience in the sort of cell delivery we needed. My background is basic sciences and I have a plain cell lab, so it wouldn’t be sufficient.”

Finding the right lab

Quintero hunted for an appropriate lab across the city, beginning with UK’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS). He combed through the work of individual investigators, and then tried to identify facilities around town that would have the means and experience to carry out the specific stem cell work needed for the trial.

After running into several dead ends, he stumbled upon the idea of bone marrow transplants, which use stem cells collected from bone marrow to repopulate the blood after aggressive treatment for blood cancers. Quintero finally had a lead: Just across the street from KNI, the UK Markey Cancer Center’s Blood and Marrow Transplantation (BMT) Program performs upward of 100 bone marrow transplants for patients each year.

Quintero reached out to Dr. Gerhard Hildebrandt, division chief of Hematology and Blood and Marrow Transplantation at UK. Although the work required was unrelated to the usual duties of the stem cell lab, Quintero says Hildebrandt was on board with the project.

“He was very excited,” Quintero said. “He thought that sort of stem cell delivery for neurological diseases would be a really advantageous thing for UK to have. So he was an early supporter of us moving forward, and he got me in touch with the group at the cell lab.”

Working together to improve patient care

Tucked away on the second floor of Albert B. Chandler Hospital, the three staff members of UK’s stem cell lab – lab manager Rita Hill and medical technologists Martha Pat Kinney and Giovi Hidalgo – quietly and efficiently go about their work of preparing stem cells for bone marrow transplant patients at the UK Markey Cancer Center.

Overseen by Dr. Roger Herzig, medical director of Markey’s Blood and Marrow Transplant Program, the lab processes stem cells for both autologous transplants – those using the patient’s own stem cells – and allogenic transplants, in which stem cells harvested from related or unrelated donors are used.

When presented the opportunity to help KNI participate in this trial, Herzig was immediately interested, having previously collaborated on other projects at UK HealthCare. Hill says the team wanted to help but had some initial reservations because of their already busy workload – to do the study, the Markey stem cell team would have to take on additional work outside of their usual service area.

“I first met Dr. Quintero and he gave us a protocol to look at, and wanted to know if we were interested,” Hill said. “We thought, ‘Yes.’ But there is a time constraint and with the BMT program rolling, we weren’t sure if we could really support it.”

For the trial to work, the stem cell team would have to work closely with Quintero and van Horne to ensure seamless patient care. The lab would receive genetically modified stem cells from the pharmaceutical company, process the cells for implantation per trial protocol, and deliver them to Quintero. Once he signed off, van Horne would initiate the procedure by drilling a small hole into the patient’s skull and injecting the stem cells into the brain. Because most of the patients in the trial would be traveling long distances just for this procedure, it was essential to have the process streamlined and efficient from start to finish.

“An idea is pretty easy to have and say, ‘Let’s do this!'” van Horne said. “But when you realize all the work that has to go into these things, it’s phenomenal.”

First, scheduling was key. Hill says Quintero and van Horne were willing to be flexible on the timing of when they could bring in patients, and they worked out a schedule that wouldn’t conflict with their normal duties for Markey.

Secondly, Hill and her team looked closely at the protocol, and noted some small elements of the process that could be improved. After several conversations, the company sponsoring the trial even adopted Hill’s suggestions and implemented them at other trial sites nationwide.

“One of the advantages of having Rita is that she has a lot of expertise in managing cell labs and the requirements of cell processing,” Quintero said. “She sort of gave some direction that the study needed, and the study welcomed that because they wanted the input from individuals to make the project better.”

Culture of collaboration

This recent trial is yet another example of what van Horne describes as “the proliferation of collaborative culture to solve human problems” across UK’s academic and healthcare campuses.

“One of the things that I think is unique about UK is there’s really a culture of collaboration,” van Horne said. “I’ve previously been in other institutions where that culture doesn’t exist… It’s not, ‘This is too much, we just can’t do this,’ but ‘Oh, that’s a great idea, let’s figure out a way to make that work.’ And everybody stepped up and pitched in and made it happen.”

“This kind of collaboration is what keeps making the research and the medicine new,” Herzig said. “And that’s what keeps me coming back to work.”

It’s not the first time the stem cell lab has stepped up to help other across the medical campus. They’ve previously assisted with stem cell research in nephrology and cardiology. Participating in these outside projects has helped the team learn more about what properties stem cells possess aside from the ability to reconstitute blood, which may prove useful in future endeavors.

“Part of the academic mission is collaboration; that allows us to tackle problems that individually we can’t do,” Herzig said. “You never know what technique you have today that you’ll be able to transfer to a different situation tomorrow. The things that we’re learning from this are probably going to be helpful in other future projects.”

Hill and her team spend most of their working time in the lab, but they do personally deliver stem cells to the bone marrow transplant patients who are preparing to undergo their infusions, giving them a brief encounter with the person who will be benefiting from their work. In addition to simply “enjoying the science” of this new project, Hill says the idea of helping even more patients provides some extra personal motivation.

“Who knows, you could have a family member or loved one later on who suffers from a stroke, and this trial could benefit them in the future,” she said. “Why wouldn’t you want to help?”


Next steps:

  • Researchers are working hard to identify new treatments and strategies to improve health, but they need healthy participants and those with medical conditions to participate in clinical studies. Find out how you can participate in clinical research at UK HealthCare.
  • At the UK Comprehensive Stroke Center, we offer treatment, prevention and rehabilitation services for stroke patients. Learn more about our program.
lung cancer

5 things you should know about lung cancer even if you don’t smoke

Lung cancer is the deadliest type of cancer, taking more lives every year than breast, colon and prostate cancers combined.

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month and the perfect time to learn more about the disease. Here are five things that everyone should know:

1. You don’t have to smoke to get lung cancer.

Although smoking is far and away the leading cause of lung cancer, non-smokers get the disease, too.

In fact, close to 20 percent of people who die from the disease didn’t smoke or use tobacco. Other factors, including radon exposure, exposure to secondhand smoke and genetic mutations, can all cause non-smokers to get lung cancer.

2. Lung cancer often has no symptoms …

Part of what makes lung cancer so deadly is its lack of symptoms. In many cases, symptoms don’t appear until the disease has advanced, often to an incurable stage.

Unfortunately, many common symptoms of lung cancer – such as a persistent cough, hoarseness, shortness of breath and chest pain – can be mistaken for other health problems, which further delays diagnosis.

3. … Which is why screening is so important.

When early-stage lung cancer is detected, a patient’s chance of survival can be as high as 70 percent.

That’s why the UK Markey Cancer Center created the Lung Cancer Screening Program, which offers low-dose CT screenings for patients who are at a high risk of developing lung cancer. Screenings are recommended for patients who:

  • Are ages 55-80.
  • Currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years.
  • Have a 30 pack-year smoking history, meaning the patient smokes one pack of cigarettes per day for 30 years, or two packs per day for 15 years.
  • Have no current symptoms of lung cancer.

A lung cancer screening CT scan can detect cancer before symptoms are noticeable and at an early stage. When we find cancer at an early stage, many treatment options are available, which greatly improves the likelihood of survival.

Lung cancer screening does carry risks, including low-dose exposure to radiation and the possibility of more invasive follow-up tests. For that reason, only patients at a high risk for the disease who meet the criteria above should be screened.

4. Lung cancer hits hardest in Kentucky.

It’s a No. 1 ranking we’re not proud of in Kentucky: Our state leads the nation in lung cancer incidence and mortality.

Unsurprisingly, Kentucky also has the highest percentage of smokers in the country, with more than a quarter of residents age 18 or older reporting a smoking habit.

If you’re a smoker, you probably already know it’s a good idea to quit. Here are some tips for finally conquering your addiction.

5. Lung cancer treatment is getting better

One of the most promising recent developments in lung cancer treatment is the use of precision medicine to treat the disease. Precision medicine targets specific mutations in a person’s tumor, which leads to more effective treatment with fewer side effects.

Precision medicine treatments are available at the nation’s top cancer centers, where teams of cancer experts can come together to assess individuals’ genetic attributes and make treatment recommendations tailored to each person.

The UK Markey Cancer Center recently launched its own Molecular Tumor Board, which brings these precision medicine options to patients across Kentucky. Even better for patients with lung cancer is that they can be seen by the tumor board right after their initial diagnosis.


Next steps:

  • Learn more about Markey’s Multidisciplinary Lung Cancer Program, which provides expert care for conditions including small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer, mesothelioma, and other cancers of the chest and lungs.
  • Markey is Kentucky’s only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center, providing world-class cancer care right here in the Commonwealth. Learn more about why patients choose Markey for their cancer treatment.

National network gives Markey patients greater access to personalized care

The UK Markey Cancer Center has joined the Oncology Research Information Exchange Network (ORIEN), a unique research partnership among North America’s top cancer centers that recognize collaboration and access to data are the keys to cancer discovery. Membership will allow Markey’s physicians and researchers to improve patient access to personalized medicine – cancer treatments targeted to the patient’s particular cancer mutation. Markey is the latest addition to this 17-member research partnership.

“It takes teamwork to make great progress in cancer treatments,” said Dr. Mark Evers, director of the UK Markey Cancer Center.

“Markey has always subscribed to this idea, utilizing the resources from a variety of experts across UK’s clinical and academic campuses to treat our patients. This new partnership with ORIEN will allow us to collaborate with some of the best cancer centers across the country, exchanging vital information back and forth that will ultimately lead to new, improved treatments becoming available for Kentuckians.”

Personalized cancer treatment

As cancer care becomes more based on genetics versus tumor types, researchers are discovering specific, often-rare mutations that lead to the disease. To develop personalized clinical trials that can target these mutations, ORIEN members pool their resources and contribute to a shared databank.

Much of their work will focus on patients with advanced primary or metastatic disease, those with limited treatment options, and patients who are likely to develop progressive disease.

ORIEN members follow the Total Cancer Care Protocol, a well-organized, collaborative approach to studying patients throughout their lifetime. Total Cancer Care provides a standard system for tracking patient data and follows the patient throughout his or her lifetime.

This gives clinicians and researchers access to a searchable, growing database of medical information from respected peers that can help them match patients to targeted treatments. This database represents one of the world’s largest clinically annotated cancer tissue repositories, comprising data from more than 200,000 participating patients.

“ORIEN will benefit Kentucky patients with cancer by matching them to clinical trials with drugs targeted to the individual molecular profile of their tumor,” said Jill Kolesar, PharmD, director of the Precision Medicine Clinic at the UK Markey Cancer Center.

“Combined with our National Cancer Institute-sponsored clinical trials, patients at Markey will have access to a large menu of precision medicine clinical trials.”


Next steps:

Cancer is her fight, precision medicine is her weapon

Making the RoundsIn our latest Making the Rounds conversation, we had a chance to chat with Jill Kolesar, PharmD, a professor in the UK College of Pharmacy, co-director of the UK Markey Cancer Center Molecular Tumor Board and director of Markey’s Precision Medicine Clinic.

Dr. Kolesar came to UK HealthCare last year from the University of Wisconsin. Her research is focused on precision medicine, the field of finding new drugs to treat specific cancer mutations. 

Tell us about your precision medicine research.

Precision medicine is a type of treatment that targets a specific genetic mutation in a tumor. Clinical trials have shown that, if you have one of these mutations, not only will the precision medicine work better, but you’ll have fewer side effects. There’s no question that they’re better. Unfortunately, not everyone has a mutation that we have a drug for, but that’s really what we’re working on with our research.

My research is focused on finding new drugs. We look at particular mutations and then use different drugs to target those mutations to determine what the most effective therapy is.

What is the Molecular Tumor Board?

The Molecular Tumor Board brings these precision medicine options to patients and their doctors. The board is made up of doctors, pharmacists and scientists who are experts in genetic sequencing and the treatment of cancer. These people come together to look at each patient’s genetic report and make a treatment recommendation specific to that person.

It’s a real benefit to the patients of Kentucky and their physicians. The treating physician usually knows the patient much better, but the Molecular Tumor Board usually knows the genetics and the new treatments much better. It’s really a partnership between the physician, the patient and the Molecular Tumor Board.

What types of patients benefit most from the Molecular Tumor Board?

The types of patients that are candidates for the Molecular Tumor Board are patients with rare tumors, as well as patients who haven’t responded to standard therapies. And actually, patients with lung cancer can be seen by the tumor board after their initial diagnosis.

Why did you decide to pursue research?

When I was a junior in college, I saw a TV program on PBS about tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (white blood cells) and how they could be taken out of a patient and activated and then given back to make a positive impact.

And so that was the day I decided I was going into cancer research. I’ve never looked back and I’ve always been happy with that decision.

What do you do in spare time?

I like to garden, I like to travel, I like to cook – and I enjoy good food.


Check out our video interview with Dr. Kolesar, where she talks more about the benefits of the Molecular Tumor Board.


Next steps:

  • Watch our TV spot that features the work of our Molecular Tumor Board.
  • 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.
Making the Rounds with Dr. Shubham Gupta

Dr. Shubham Gupta on what drew him to a career in surgical urology

Making the RoundsFor our latest Making the Rounds interview, we had a chance to talk with urologist Dr. Shubham Gupta. Dr. Gupta is one of the region’s leading reconstructive urologists and also helps genitourinary cancer patients recover from complications stemming from treatment.

Why did you decide to pursue medicine as a career?

My father is a physician, and when I was growing up, I always looked up to him. That was really the first thing that inspired me to investigate medicine as a career choice.

And over the course of my education, that choice was just solidified and consolidated into what I think has been a pretty great career thus far.

What conditions do you treat?

My practice focuses on reconstructive urology and cancer survivorship. The cancer survivorship part of it is for patients who have had cancer removed or radiated, but now they have complications from that treatment itself. Women with cervical cancer will have issues with their bladder after treatment, while men with prostate cancer will have leakage of urine after prostate removal. We are able to perform the entire breadth and spectrum of survivorship care to these patients.

The other aspect of my practice is reconstructive urology, which, to put it in very simplistic terms, is like plumbing. If your plumbing is blocked, you can remove the bad stuff and put good things back together, which is really what I do. Within urology, it’s a very small niche, and we are the only center in the entire state that provides these services.

How did you land on surgical urology as a specialty?

When I initially started med school, I thought I was going to do internal medicine, which is what my father practices. And then I rotated on internal medicine and I didn’t really like it a whole lot.

Surgical specialties, on the other hand, allow one to make a diagnosis, have a deductive reasoning and then act on it, and then maybe provide a faster way of helping the patient. During my rotations, urologists were always the most fun people to work with. They were always laid back and just loved what they did. Urology involves a little bit of medicine as well as a lot of surgery, so it’s a perfect balance.

Describe your patient-care philosophy.

The patient needs a resolution of the problem that they have, which is not just a physical manifestation of the disease, it’s everything else that goes along with it – societal aspects as well as domestic aspects.

For instance, I commonly see patients who have had prostate cancer and now have leakage of urine. You can say, ‘There’s leakage of urine, there’s the problem. How can we mitigate that?’ But the larger view is that that problem prevents that patient from going to church, from hanging out with his buddies and playing golf, and from engaging in sexual intercourse. We have to integrate all of these concerns before we decide what treatment to offer that patient.

What are your hobbies outside of medicine?

I like to read a lot – I’m a leisure reader. I like to bike; I enjoy hitting up the Legacy Trail in Lexington.

And I’m trying to pick up golf, but I am not very good at it. One of my colleagues, Dr. Ali Ziada, who is a pediatric urologist at UK HealthCare, he is as awful as I am. We go together and hit some balls and pretend that we did something fruitful with our day.

What do you enjoy most about living in Lexington?

It’s a small, fun city. It’s got things to do for young professionals, and it’s surrounded by lots of beautiful country.

And it’s got lots of bourbon, too, which is great.


Check out our video interview with Dr. Gupta, where he tells us more about the types of conditions he treats and the specialized procedures he performs.


Next steps:

Markey first to perform unique procedure for ovarian cancer

Physicians at the UK Markey Cancer Center are the first to perform a unique procedure to treat a rare and persistent type of ovarian cancer.

Dr. Lauren Baldwin

Dr. Lauren Baldwin

Surgical oncologist Dr. Lauren Baldwin and radiation oncologist Dr. Jonathan Feddock collaborated on the procedure, which involved resecting a patient’s tumor and installing a special internal radiation device known as a CivaSheet.

The CivaSheet has been used for some gynecological, colorectal, head and neck, and pancreatic cancers as well as soft tissue sarcomas, but this is the first known instance of using it for ovarian cancer.

Dr. Jonathan Feddock

Dr. Jonathan Feddock

The patient who underwent the procedure has been living with a rare type of slow-growing ovarian cancer for nearly three decades. Multiple rounds of chemotherapy and radiation failed to stop the disease.

Prior to this procedure, she had undergone four previous surgeries at both a local community hospital and at Markey to remove as much of the tumor as possible every few years as it grew back. Because of the location of the cancer, surgeons have only been able to safely resect about 90 percent of the tumor.

“This cancer is tricky to treat, because it is prone to recur but grows slowly,” Baldwin said. “That makes it relatively resistant to chemotherapy, which attacks fast-growing cells. Surgery is usually the best option, but each additional surgery becomes riskier for the patient.”

Markey experts brainstorm an innovative idea

Before deciding to offer yet another tumor resection as an option to the patient, Baldwin sought help from Markey’s weekly multidisciplinary tumor conference to see if oncology experts in other fields had any ideas. Feddock, who specializes in brachytherapy – a form of radiation that involves using internal implants to disseminate radiation – suggested they try combining the surgery with an implantation of the CivaSheet.

The CivaSheet is a highly flexible membrane embedded with radioactive palladium. After Baldwin resected the tumor, Feddock sewed the CivaSheet directly to the remaining cancerous area. The radiation seeds are capped with gold on one side, so they provide direct, localized radiation to the area where the tumor has been growing back while sparing the other surrounding tissue from damage.

Potential to help patients with difficult cancer

While the procedure may not cure the patient of her cancer, the hope is that the CivaSheet will inhibit the cancer’s growth, allowing many more symptom-free years to pass before the patient may need further treatment.

Because of the tumor’s slow-growing nature, Baldwin says it will take some time before they know how effective the procedure is, but she is hopeful about the outcome.

“This treatment has potential to offer control of this cancer for patients who don’t have any other options,” Baldwin said. “We’re hoping to add both quantity and quality of life for a patient in a difficult scenario.”


Next steps:

No. 1 hospital in Kentucky

We’re the No. 1 hospital in Ky., again

UK HealthCare Albert B. Chandler Hospital remains the No. 1 hospital in Kentucky and the Bluegrass Region, according to the U.S. News & World Report’s Best Hospitals Rankings released today.

In addition, four major areas have achieved Top 50 national rankings, three of them for the first time. UK HealthCare rankings included: No. 37 in Diabetes and Endocrinology, No. 43 in Geriatrics, No. 44 in Neurology and Neurosurgery, and No. 50 in Cancer.

Along with the Top 50 rankings, UK HealthCare is ranked as high-performing in five other adult specialties – Gastroenterology and GI Surgery; Nephrology; Orthopaedics; Pulmonology; and Urology. Additionally, UK HealthCare was designated high-performing in eight common adult procedures and conditions: Aortic Valve Surgery, Heart Bypass Surgery, Heart Failure, Colon Cancer Surgery, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Hip Replacement, Knee Replacement, and Lung Cancer Surgery.

These recognitions cement UK HealthCare’s role as the major healthcare system best equipped to deal with our state’s unique health needs, said Dr. Michael Karpf, UK executive vice president for health affairs.

“We are committed to providing the best programs and best care available in Kentucky so that no one has to travel far from home for world-class advanced specialty care,” Karpf said. “These rankings speak to the hard work and dedication of our physicians, our nurses and our entire healthcare team.”

‘We’re ready no matter the situation’

This year’s U.S. News & World Report rankings cover nearly every hospital in every community nationwide. The rankings are grounded in objective data and offer patients a rich resource on their hospital choices. More than 70 percent of the rankings are based on objective data, with U.S. News analyzing more than 2,600 metrics across 21 data-driven specialties and procedures and conditions. The result is thousands of data points on hospitals that excel at treating the most challenging cases, those that do best in more routine procedures and those that provide top local care.

“UK HealthCare is a place where you feel safe because you know we’re ready no matter the situation or illness,” said Colleen Swartz, UK HealthCare’s chief administrative officer.

“If you have someone you love who lives in Kentucky, you will need UK HealthCare at some point in time. Whether it’s someone with a newly diagnosed cancer, or a premature baby, or a critically ill or injured child, or brother or mother or sister, you want to know that a place like this is ready to go when you need us.”

Diabetes & Endocrinology

This year’s rankings included a major leap for UK’s diabetes and endocrinology program. The specialty at UK HealthCare, previously unranked, is now No. 37 in the country, a testament to both the clinical care and research at the UK Barnstable-Brown Diabetes Center.

“We are one of the few places in Kentucky where all these services are provided either under one roof or where we can engage people to help you in all these different arenas,” said Dr. John Fowlkes, director of the Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center.

This collaboration and patient-centered care offered at the Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center provide patients with outstanding clinical care throughout their lifespan and for all aspects of their health, said Dr. Lisa Tannock, chief of the Division of Endocrinology and Molecular Medicine.

“Our physicians, advanced practice providers, endocrinology fellows and staff, including expert-certified diabetes educators, continually seek opportunities to teach advanced patient care based on our ongoing research into the best ways to prevent and treat diabetes and endocrine diseases,” she said.

Geriatrics

UK HealthCare was ranked No. 43 in Geriatrics. The U.S. News Geriatrics rankings represent how well hospitals treat older patients across a wide range of medical issues and conditions.

Dr. Shawn Caudill, professor and chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine and Women’s Health, sees increasingly more geriatric patients in UK HealthCare’s outpatient clinics. He said the rankings are an indication of the high-quality care that UK HealthCare provides to a population that is living longer than before.

“We’ve had lot of success in overcoming the things that used to kill people – heart attacks, strokes, lung disease – and we’ve done interventions to help keep people going longer,” Caudill said. “And now it is important for us to continue to help take care of them.”

Neurology & Neurosurgery

For the first time, UK HealthCare is nationally ranked for its neurological care, coming in at No. 44 in Neurology and Neurosurgery.

“This is something we’ve been working on for the past two years,” said Dr. Larry B. Goldstein, the Ruth L. Works Professor and chair of the UK Department of Neurology, and co-director of the Kentucky Neuroscience Institute (KNI). “It’s wonderful to be able to have our faculty and staff receive this recognition for all the great things they’re doing.”

Fellow KNI Co-Director Linda Van Eldik, who also is director of the UK Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, was pleased with national rankings in Neurology and Neurosurgery as well as Geriatrics.

“This is really a culmination of the work we’ve been doing for many years in the areas of brain,” Van Eldik said. “It’s recognition from the outside of what we already knew – that we were doing leading-edge work and we are continuing to enhance our excellence.”

Cancer care

Cancer care was included in the Top 50 for the first time – although it has consistently been designated as high performing for many years. Still, the move up is indicative of the Markey Cancer Center’s continued emphasis on providing exemplary care as the state’s only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated center.

“We see 50 percent of our patients coming from Eastern Kentucky, which has some of the highest rates of cancer in the country – particularly lung cancer and colon cancer. So the Markey Cancer Center is vitally important to our region,” said Dr. Mark Evers, director of the Markey Cancer Center.

The people behind the scenes

In acknowledging all of UK HealthCare’s national rankings and achievements, one factor is always first to be attributed to success – the people who work here.

“I’ve been here almost a year and a half, and to see what the University of Kentucky and UK HealthCare has achieved, really in a short time, is remarkable,” said UK College of Medicine Dean Dr. Robert DiPaola. “And to see the passion of the people here behind the scenes doing the things that make a difference for our patients – it is absolutely amazing. I know that going forward we will continue this trajectory.”


Hear more about this awesome recognition, including comments from some of UK HealthCare’s leaders, in the video below.


Next steps:

Owensboro Health Markey

Owensboro Health joins Markey Cancer Center Research Network

Owensboro Health has joined the UK Markey Cancer Center Research Network (MCCRN), giving patients in Western Kentucky and Southern Indiana increased access to innovative clinical research studies.

Areas of research will include epidemiology, prevention and early detection of cancer. Markey is a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center, which means Owensboro Health will have access to NCI-led trials in addition to MCCRN trials.

“Owensboro Health is proud to join the Markey Cancer Center Research Network, which is a distinguished and recognized name in cancer care and clinical research,” Owensboro Health President and CEO Greg Strahan said. “Owensboro Health exists to heal the sick and to improve the health of the communities we serve, and this partnership is a demonstration of our commitment to both parts of that mission.”

Owensboro Health was invited to participate in the Markey Research Network based on performance and achievements. Owensboro Health’s Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center serves the health system’s coverage area, a population of nearly 400,000 people across 14 counties in Western Kentucky and Southern Indiana. More than 1,000 patients are treated at the center annually.

“By becoming a member of the Markey Research Network, Owensboro Health is showing a commitment to helping us conquer cancer in the Commonwealth,” Markey Director Dr. Mark Evers said. “Clinical trials represent the latest, best treatment options for most patients, and being able to participate in major national and regional clinical trials right here in Owensboro means that patients are able to stay close to their own support systems at home and under the direct care of their doctors here.”

Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center also holds multiple accreditations and recognitions. These include accreditation from the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer and the CoC’s gold award, the highest recognition that body offers. Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center is also accredited by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers and the American College of Radiology and is an ACR-designated lung cancer screening center.

The importance of clinical trials

Clinical trials are key to developing new methods to prevent, detect and treat cancer, and most treatments used today are the results of previous clinical studies. These may include studies in which patients who need cancer treatment receive their therapy under the observation of specially trained cancer doctors and staff. Patients who volunteer for cancer treatment studies will either receive standard therapy or a new treatment that represents the researchers’ best new ideas for how to improve cancer care.

“Cancer care is constantly improving, due in part to the groundbreaking work being done in clinical research,” said Dr. Tim Mullett, medical director of the MCCRN. “Our state has some of the worst cancer incidence and survival rates in the entire country, and we at Markey have an obligation to address this devastating disease. By increasing access to many of our current clinical trials through the Markey Research Network, we have an opportunity to make real progress in improving cancer statistics in Kentucky.”

Markey’s clinical trials focus on the prevention, early detection and treatment of cancers with the highest incidence and mortality in Kentucky. These include lung, colorectal and cervical cancers. Owensboro Health is now one of six research sites in the MCCRN, and the first site in Western Kentucky. The MCCRN includes the following sites:

  • Hardin Memorial Hospital, Elizabethtown
  • King’s Daughters Medical Center, Ashland
  • Owensboro Health
  • St. Claire Regional Medical Center, Morehead
  • St. Mary’s Regional Cancer Center, Huntington, West Virginia
  • Tri-State Regional Cancer Center, Ashland

Watch the video below to find out how the Markey Research Network is bringing the future of cancer treatment to patients all across Kentucky.


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