Community Engagement

Addressing the needs and interests of our diverse communities locally, statewide, nationally and internationally.


UofL meeting behavioral health needs in rural Kentucky


Rural areas in the United States face a shortage of behavioral health practitioners. As CNN recently reported, a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that 47 percent of non-metropolitan counties don’t have access to a psychologist. The shortage extends to psychiatrists, nurse practitioners and a cadre of behavioral health resources including shelters, hospitals and community support groups.

The Institute for Sustainable Health & Optimal Aging at the University of Louisville is working to meet this need in rural Kentucky. This fall, the institute will place 38 students specializing in behavioral health into a dozen rural health care sites across 10 rural and underserved communities.

“Older adults are particularly affected by the lack of behavioral health practitioners,” said Anna Faul, PhD, the institute’s executive director. “Isolation and depression are common issues for older adults, with 20 percent of rural older adults diagnosed with depression. Not having access to behavioral health care can severely worsen conditions and lead to physical decline. Furthermore, mobility limitations can make it difficult for older adults to drive long distances to get the care they need.”

Locations where the students will be placed include:

  • Kentucky River Medical Practice (Henry County)
  • Kentucky One Health Primary Care Associates (Shelby County)
  • J. Sampson Family Medicine Center (covering Barren, Hart, and Metcalfe Counties)
  • Exceptional Senior Living (Oldham County)
  • Multi-purpose Community Action Agency (Bullitt and Shelby Counties)
  • Tri-County Community Action Agency (Oldham and Trimble Counties)

Several practices, while in Jefferson County, serve older adults in rural areas:

  • Family Community Clinic (Jefferson County)
  • University of Louisville AIM Clinic (Jefferson County)
  • University of Louisville Family & Geriatric Practice (Jefferson County)
  • University of Louisville PNES Clinic (Jefferson County)
  • Park DuValle Community Health Center (Jefferson County)
  • Presbyterian Homes and Services of Kentucky (Jefferson County)

A primary goal of this program is to increase the geriatrics behavioral health workforce in rural communities. Both undergraduate and graduate students across multiple disciplines are involved. Many of the masters and doctoral-level students are participating in the institute’s Flourish Behavioral Health Graduate Internship. The internship, funded by a four-year federal grant, is part of the institute’s Flourish Network, a program focused on team-based care coordination for older adults.

UofL Cardinals embrace community service

 By UofL Athletics
July 3, 2018
Louisville, which has ranked in the top five in service for four-consecutive years, accrued approximately 9,000 hours of community service for the 2017-18 school year.
Louisville, which has ranked in the top five in service for four-consecutive years, accrued approximately 9,000 hours of community service for the 2017-18 school year.


Earlier this week, a handful of student-athletes from women’s basketball, women’s soccer, volleyball and men’s swimming and diving spent the afternoon with about 100 children with cancer and other illnesses. Their community service was part of Spirit Day at Camp Quality Kentuckiana, an organization that serves children with cancer and their families by providing year-round programming, experiences and companionship.

This type of service is nothing new for the Cardinals. This year, UofL’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee continued its partnership with the West End School by starting a pen pal program. The West End School provides at-risk boys from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade with an environment to excel in academics and build character. UofL student-athletes were paired up with students in the third and fifth grade classes and sent letters back and forth throughout the school year. The pen pals met each other in April during an activity-filled day at the Speed Art Museum.

Basketball player Ryan McMahon said the best part about the program was “having some fun with them, seeing the different activities, seeing them at that age and giving them any advice that I can from when I was that age.

“It [the partnership] brings everybody together and puts perspective into the student-athlete’s life, and just taking a little time out of your day you make another kid’s day.”
Earlier this year, 45 student-athletes from nine UofL teams volunteered to put on a three-day event with the Project Life and Be the Match organizations. The event worked to increase the bone marrow donor registry to help those with blood cancers and blood diseases. Throughout the three days, there were six drives that added 130 potential donors to the bone marrow registry.  

These efforts are just part of the reason the University of Louisville athletics department finished third in April in the 2018 NCAA Division I Team Works Helper Helper Community Service Competition for its community outreach efforts.

Louisville, which has ranked in the top five in service for four-consecutive years, accrued approximately 9,000 hours of community service for the 2017-18 school year. The Cardinals had a 97-percent participation rate, with 656 student-athletes, including spirit group members, volunteering throughout the community.

NCAA Team Works, which coordinates community service efforts at NCAA championships, and Helper Helper, a volunteer management and tracking platform, launched the community service competition to recognize student-athletes who give back to their communities. The three-month competition ran from January through March with the winning schools’ victories being decided based on the number of service hours completed and participation of student-athletes.

During the competition’s three-month period, Louisville accumulated 3,350 service hours.

Louisville’s athletics teams partnered with 193 nonprofit organizations over the course of the year, including hosting events with Girl Scouts, Girls on the Run, American Red Cross, American Heart Association, and Metro Parks Adaptive and Inclusive Recreation.

UofL Med students providing medical care in remote areas of the globe

Forty four University of Louisville medical school students are traveling this summer, providing medical care to hundreds of people in remote areas of the globe.

The second year medical students travel with and learn from UofL faculty as part of the Global Education Program which is directed by Bethany Hodge.

Hodge says students and faculty are setting up “pop up primary care centers” in a rain forest in Ecuador, along the Amazon River in Brazil and in a rural part of Tanzania. People sometimes wait for hours in the hot sun to see the doctors and students from UofL.

“We’re teaching them tropical medicine. We’re teaching them social determinants of health and we’re cultivating their compassionate heart for people who have less than they do” Hodge says.

The future doctors also need an adventurous streak. “There’s a lot of peeing in holes in the ground and eating bugs” Hodges says. “Those things really happen.”

About 30 percent of the students in every UofL School of Medicine class go on a global health experience which is a little higher than most other medical schools according to Hodge.

Listen to the entire interview with Hodge on “UofL Today with Mark Hebert”:


Bethany Hodge, assistant professor of pediatrics -
Dr. Bethany Hodge – Director of Global Education in School of Medicine


Major gift establishes institute incorporating community engagement in study of health

LOUISVILLE, Ky. –  The University of Louisville today announced the first multimillion dollar gift of President Neeli Bendapudi’s tenure to establish the Envirome Institute at the School of Medicine. The gift, $5 million, from the Owsley Brown II Family Foundation, supports the first institute dedicated to the study of the human envirome. Taking a holistic approach to researching how the human-environment interrelationship impacts peoples’ lives, the institute will build on the pioneering work of Aruni Bhatnagar, Ph.D., the institute’s director, in the field of environmental cardiology. The institute will incorporate community engagement and citizen science to introduce a singular, new approach to the study of health.

Twenty-five years ago, the Human Genome Project completed the first map of our genetic code, revealing how our genes relate to our health, and potentially our susceptibility to disease. Built on a new vision of health, the Envirome Institute pioneers actionable knowledge about all forms of health and how they are affected by the environment beyond genomics. This gift from Brown catalyzes existing resources and adds new capabilities toward the ambitious, long-term mission of studying the human envirome with the same precision and rigor applied to decoding the human genome.

“All of us at the University of Louisville are grateful to Christina Lee Brown for the trust she has put in us to tackle such a large and complex idea as how our broad environment impacts our lives,” Bendapudi said. “Her generosity will enable our group of researchers, staff and students to explore new concepts associated with exploring the elements of a single person’s overall environment and determine how that affects their lives. The impact this will have will be felt well beyond Louisville.”

“This isn’t just the University of Louisville’s Human Envirome Institute. It is Louisville’s Human Envirome Institute,” Brown said, “Each of us, individually, must put health, broadly understood, in the center of all of our public and private efforts. And we are encouraged by the will and determination of the new president, Neeli Bendapudi, to immediately step in and support the Institute’s efforts and importance to both the city of Louisville and the university.”

“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity — the University of Louisville serves as the perfect home for this new unique, holistic, interdisciplinary, educational model. It is truly a world-class organization,” Bhatnagar said.

The institute will open a door to a healthier future in Louisville and across the globe. The research of Bhatnagar and colleagues has pioneered the field of environmental cardiology and begun to uncover the important influence of the environment on heart disease. The institute, by studying the relationship of our health to the natural and the social world around us, will amplify the potential of this broad and promising territory.

Humans live in complex, variable and diverse environments that are fashioned by their unique mix of history, culture and social organization. Until recently, we lacked the material and conceptual tools required for studying the health effects of the natural, social, cultural and economic dimensions of the human environment as a whole. As in the graphic Circle of Harmony and Health (below), health should be understood holistically as psychological, intellectual, spiritual, cultural, nutritional, economic and environmental health.

This institute serves as a unifying capstone organization over several existing centers including the Diabetes and Obesity Center, the Superfund Research Center and the Tobacco Regulation and Addiction Center. Together these centers have successfully attracted more than $100 million in extramural funds over the past decade. This new interdisciplinary, connected institute creates new potential to expand those resources significantly. Additionally, a Center for Healthy Air, Water and Soil will be established within the Envirome Institute to advance the work that the Louisville community began five years ago.

The Envirome Institute also introduces a more public science and opens a welcoming door for the residents of Louisville. Enviromics can involve the participation of whole communities in the process of data collection as well as in the benefits from health initiatives that may be free or subsidized. As part of a medical institution, the institute is committed to healing and helping turn discovery into actionable change, with Louisville as a living, urban laboratory.


Aruni Bhatnagar, Ph.D.
Aruni Bhatnagar, Ph.D.


More about Aruni Bhatnagar, Ph.D.

The newly appointed director of the Envirome Institute, Bhatnagar is the Smith and Lucille Gibson Chair in Medicine. He also is director of two University of Louisville centers, which now fall under his leadership within the Envirome Institute – the Diabetes and Obesity Center and the American Heart Association Tobacco Research and Addiction Center.

Bhatnagar’s work has led to the creation of the new field of environmental cardiology. His studies show how pollution affects the heart and blood vessels and how exposure to polluted air affects the risk of obesity and diabetes. His research, supported by several grants from the National Institutes of Health, has led to the publication of more than 250 research papers and 20 book chapters. He has mentored 55 students, fellows and trainees.


Christy Brown
Christy Brown


More about Christina Lee Brown, Activist & Philanthropist

Christy Brown is a global leader in creating new ways to empower “citizen scientists” to lead healthier lives by advocating for a culture of health using nature as the standard and encouraging all decisions to be made through the lens of health. She believes passionately in the potential of urban and rural communities to effect positive change by working together, at the same time celebrating their commonalities and differences.

Having a strong passion for community led Christy to become a co-founding board member of the Berry Center. Its mission is to accept no permanent damage to the ecosphere, taking the human health of local communities into consideration.

Understanding that healthy air, water and soil are the keys to the health of all life, Christy founded the Institute for Healthy Air, Water & Soil in 2014. As the institute began to lean into its work, a bigger mission began to occur all around, attracting both local and national ambassadors. The work of the Institute for Healthy Air, Water & Soil will transition into the newly founded Center for Healthy Air, Water & Soil. 

Mayor, UofL medicine dean to open Medical Mile walking path on HSC campus

by Jill Scoggins


Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and University of Louisville School of Medicine Dean Toni Ganzel, MD, will join with students, faculty, staff, patients and visitors to the UofL Health Sciences Center to launch the new Medical Mile walking path at the UofL Health Sciences Center.

The ribbon-cutting will take place at 12:15 p.m., Tuesday, May 22, at the Medical Mile starting point on the sidewalk next to the Health Sciences Center Plaza near Kornhauser Library, 500 S. Preston St.

The Medical Mile follows a 1-mile path from the HSC Plaza north to East Muhammad Ali Boulevard, east to South Hancock Street, south to East Chestnut Street, west to South Floyd Street, north to East Muhammad Ali again, and finishing up by going south on South Preston back to the starting point. A map of the path can be found hereThe mile is marked along the way with the Medical Mile graphic image and with one-fourth, one-half and three-quarter mile markers as well.

The creation of the Medical Mile was part of the School of Medicine’s SMART Wellness Task Force and the Being Well Initiative, said School of Medicine Chief of Staff Karan Chavis, and is the product of the work of the committee under the leadership of former co-chair Miranda Sloan and current co-chair Tamara Iacono.

“We know that walking is great physical activity that virtually anyone can do, and with the sidewalks we have surrounding our buildings, we have a ready-made way to create a dedicated walking space for people,” Chavis said. “Through the spring and summer, we are encouraging people to create ‘walking trains,’ picking up people along the way and walking together.”

UofL officially welcomes President Bendapudi

UofL officially welcomes President Bendapudi

Not long after Tuesday’s sunrise, UofL employees and students started gathering on the steps of Grawemeyer Hall in anticipation of Neeli Bendapudi’s first day on the job as the institution’s 18th president. By the time she pulled into her parking spot shortly before 8 a.m., about 200 people in total were present.

“I don’t normally get to work this early. Not even close. But this is just too exciting to miss,” said one employee.

Escorted by Louie, Bendapudi made her way through the crowd, stopping to shake as many people’s hands as possible while an abundance of local TV crews followed.

“Please, call me Neeli,” she said to each employee.

 By the time she arrived at the microphone at the top of Grawemeyer Hall, Bendapudi seemed genuinely surprised by the turnout.

“It gives me goosebumps,” she said.

Bendapudi offered a few remarks before making her way to her new office:

“There’s no other place I’d rather be than here today. Let’s not forget why we’re here: We’re here for the students – to make sure we create the best place for them to learn and thrive and go on and solve problems that we can’t even imagine today.

“I commit to you, to all of the faculty and staff – whether you’re in the classroom, taking care of the grounds, whether you’re making sure the heating and cooling works – I commit to you we’ll try our best to make it a great place to work for you.

“And for all of you from the community: the fact that we have so much media presence here today speaks to the interest – the love – that the community has for the university and how much they want the town-gown partnership to be strong, to be sustainable, and to be something that lifts everybody. So, to all of you in the community, I give you my word that we will all work together to make sure you see us as a great place to invest your trust, your support, your guidance.

“In order to do those three things – a great place to learn, work, invest – we need to be a place that says ‘you’re a partner, you are here, you belong as much as anybody else does.’ We have to be a place that celebrates diversity, fosters equity and achieves inclusion for everybody.

“We have work to do … Our best days are ahead.” 

Lemonade Day highlights UofL’s Elevate Portland Initiative

Eleven-year-old Layla Goodwin stood proudly in her bright yellow t-shirt that declared her a “Future Entrepreneur.” The Portland Elementary School fifth-grader, who someday wants to design her own clothing line, was soaking in the sunshine and the lessons in mid-April as she and her classmates ran lemonade stands on Belknap Campus to learn the basics of business.

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UofL Upward Bound Program helps students attain more than $1 million in scholarships

Asha Clark and 30 other seniors from Jefferson County Public high schools stood proudly at the annual Upward Bound Academic Banquet as their names were called and their scholarship awards were recognized. Collectively, the group received more than $1.7 million dollars in scholarships and other aid from various colleges and universities. Clark was one of seven students who received more than $100,000.

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Brandeis Law Student Mashayla Hays continues path of public service with year long fellowship

After she graduates from the Brandeis School of Law next month, Mashayla Hays will head to Pittsburgh, where she will begin a year-long fellowship with reproductive rights organization If/When/How.

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Athletics Ranks Top 5 Nationally in Community Service

The University of Louisville athletics department finished third in the 2018 NCAA Division I Team Works Helper Helper Community Service Competition for its community outreach efforts.

The Cardinals totaled approximately 9,000 hours of community service during 2017-18.

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UofL joins nationwide initiative to grow community partnerships

The University of Louisville is one of 31 colleges and universities in the U.S. to join as an inaugural member of the Higher Education Anchor Mission Initiative.

The Higher Education Anchor Mission Initiative is a joint project of the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities (CUMU), a national organization dedicated to connecting urban universities and their partners, and The Democracy Collaborative, a national research institute developing strategies for a more democratic economy and supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

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Passport building showcases UofL’s Signature Partnership initiative

The University of Louisville is a member of Passport Health Plan, which broke ground on its new headquarters building on March 14. Five UofL schools will lease space in Passport’s new building, which is on the site of the former Philip Morris cigarette plant at the intersection of West Broadway and 18th Street downtown. 

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UofL hosts middle schoolers for a Day of Science

Louisville middle school students recently enjoyed a day of science. But instead of sitting in a typical classroom, they spent the day on UofL’s campus. 

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Cardinal family encouraged to give back April 13-14

UofL employees, students and alumni are invited to participate in the UofL Alumni/Cardinal Day of Service April 13-14.

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UofL employees, alumni kick off Homecoming 2017 with community service

The UofL Alumni Association and UofL Office of Community Engagement co-hosted the 2017 Louisville Alumni/Cardinal Day of Service Oct. 6 -7. Faculty, and staff, as well as alumni councils and chapters across the nation, co-hosted service events as a way to kick off Homecoming 2017. 

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UofL Signature Partnership marks 10 years of community impact

The Signature Partnership Initiative at the University of Louisville began in 2007 with one major overarching goal – increase education attainment for those living in Louisville’s west end neighborhoods. It became a comprehensive effort, addressing hurdles that can prevent educational attainment including access to quality health care, employment opportunities, social and human services and K-12 educational partnerships.

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UofL pitches in to help with Hurricane Harvey aftermath

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, a number of UofL representatives have stepped up to help those affected the most. 

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Nonprofit fair connects students with service opportunities

This was the second year for the Nonprofit Fair, hosted by the Honors Student Council's service committee.

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Human Rights Advocacy Program

UofL's Human Rights Advocacy Program has been recognized as an outstanding model of community engagement. The program, established in 2014 by the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law, works to advance the rights of immigrants, refugees and noncitizens through scholarship and engagement.  

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UofL's first African American VP retiring after 31 years on campus

Dan Hall, UofL’s vice president for the Office of Community Engagement, joined the university in the fall of 1985 after spending seven years in Washington, DC, working on Capitol Hill with Louisville Congressman Ron Mazzoli.  Read more

Community Engagement

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