Community Engagement

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


UofL medical residents donate 870 Christmas presents to Louisville kids

The UofL House Staff Council collected 870 gifts during its Toys for Tots campaign this month. Resident physicians pictured are (from left) Jamie Morris, M.D., Jared Winston, M.D., and Taro Muso, M.D.
The UofL House Staff Council collected 870 gifts during its Toys for Tots campaign this month. Resident physicians pictured are (from left) Jamie Morris, M.D., Jared Winston, M.D., and Taro Muso, M.D.

Medical residents and fellows at the University of Louisville have donated 870 new toys to local children for Christmas.

For the fourth consecutive year, the UofL School of Medicine House Staff Council, the representative body for resident and fellow physicians, led a weeklong collection for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program. Donations were received from individual residents and fellows and School of Medicine faculty, staff and students.

The Toys for Tots Program collects new, unwrapped toys and distributes them as Christmas presents to economically disadvantaged children in the community in which a campaign is conducted.

“This is our community,” said Jared Winston, MD, a UofL internal medicine resident from St. Louis. “Louisville is hosting a lot of residents who aren’t from this area. It’s a way to say ‘thank you’ to our community.”

There was some healthy competition among School of Medicine departments over donating the most toys. Stock Yards Bank & Trust is providing a luncheon and plaque to the three residency programs that donated the most toys.

The winning program for the fourth straight year, the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, collected 370 toys. The Department of Radiology donated the second-most number of toys with 139, and the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health finished third by contributing 102 gifts.

“The residents love helping out with the toy drive,” said Jamie Morris, MD, a UofL radiology resident. “The House Staff Council is very big into community outreach and this is such a fun way to do it. We have multiple people in our department who love going shopping for Toys for Tots.”

Campus community focused on giving this holiday season

UofL gets into the holiday spirit through a variety of philanthropy efforts.

You know, Santa Claus wears Cardinal Red for a reason. Every year during the holidays, UofL employees and students essentially take on the role of Santa’s elves, spreading philanthropy throughout the community to those in need.

This year, the UofL community has facilitated toy drives, winter clothing drives, food drives and more. Here’s a glance at our campus community’s benevolence, with some opportunities remaining to get involved.

The UofL School of Dentistry has a “Giving Tree” located in the lecture room hallway on the first floor that serves as a collection site for items needed by local homeless children. The school is collecting scarves, mittens, hats, coats, etc., of all sizes for all ages through Dec. 14.

For many years, ULSD staff member Gene Esterle has coordinated the collection and delivery of these items to local family homeless shelters. Esterle will check the Giving Tree on a regular basis and deliver donated items throughout the holiday season.

Additionally, last weekend dental students led the “Shop with a Dentist” program, partnering with 20 underserved students from Wheatley Elementary School to take part in holiday festivities, buy gifts and engage in learning. Last weekend, each child was paired with a dental student and given $100 to shop for holiday gifts.

Dental student and local Student National Dental Association member Darius Sanford says the Shop with a Dentist event gives kids a fun experience, along with information about budgeting and proper oral hygiene.

“Community engagement is an important mission of our school and we are proud to be a part of reaching out to these children,” Sanford said.  

The Office of Student Involvement works with Family Scholar House each year to buy gifts for kids that live there. 

The PEACC Center hosted a holiday donation drive for a local non-profit, collecting dry beans, white rice, diapers, baby wipes, hats, gloves, scarves, gift cards and more.

Through November, the Latin American and Latino Studies Club collected books and winter clothing for Doors to Hope, a local organization that engages with and advocates for women and immigrant families. 

The Women’s Center Student Parent Association sponsored an Angel Tree initiative.

The School of Public Health and Information Sciences delivered toys, clothing and other necessities to the Home of the Innocents earlier this week. The building SPHIS occupies at 485 E. Gray St. used to be the Home of the Innocents’ primary facility. Since 1880, the home has been helping Louisville’s most at-risk and vulnerable citizens — poor families, distressed mothers, their children and medically-fragile children.

The Student National Medical Association at UofL’s School of Medicine has been accepting coats, gloves and blankets to help the homeless in our community. Project Warm runs through Dec. 7 with a drop-off box in the lobby of the Instructional “B” Building.

According to Sharon Gordon, student success coordinator of Medical Student Affairs, the SNMA chose to focus on the homeless population this holiday season because students walk past many homeless citizens on their way to the HSC campus. 

“They wanted to help those that they see struggling in a way that could have immediate results, and so Project Warm was born,” she said

This year, the Research Resources Center is collecting donations for the Home of the Innocents to help homeless families and displaced children. Items needed include deodorant, feminine hygiene products, socks, laundry baskets, clothes of all sizes, underwear (all sizes), plastic totes with lids, toys, etc. Donations will be accepted through December 13 at MDR 012 (basement) or by contacting Sarah Tinsley (852-3675) about arranging a possible pick up.

The RRC hosts a holiday charity drive each year, coordinated by a team within the department. Typically, donations are collected for children’s hospitals. This year’s host team wanted to help families and people in need of all ages and the department is very excited about this opportunity to give back to the community, said Tegan Tulloch, IACUC coordinator.

UofL Athletics hosted a winter clothing drive during UofL Men’s and Women’s Basketball games earlier this month. Donations were delivered to Kentuckiana homeless shelters.  

UofL senior shares his passion for service

By Brad Knoop

UofL senior John Rhodes

John Rhodes is a senior Public Health major from Lexington. Involvement has been a big part of his life during his time at UofL.

In his own words, “I can see that people here really have a passion for service.”  Here’s his story:

UofL partners on $5 million initiative for trauma-resilient community

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and University of Louisville and Centerstone Kentucky officials announced Nov. 12 that the city has been awarded a $5 million, five-year federal grant to launch an initiative to promote resilience and equity for Louisville families and young people most affected by trauma, inequity and violence.

The Mayor’s Office for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods will manage the Trauma Resilient Community Initiative, funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in partnership with UofL’s Kent School of Social Work and Centerstone Kentucky.

“We’re thrilled to work on this project because it so closely parallels our mission to create a just and better world,” Kent Dean David Jenkins said. “Our role in the Trauma Resilient Community Initiative is evidence of our unwavering commitment to ensure that every community member has equitable access to services that work, services that help people recover and services that help communities heal.”

The initiative will use a community-based approach to build a “trauma-informed” system of care and services to children and families exposed to violence. The effort is meant to increase the knowledge and skills of people who respond to, make referrals for and provide services to youth and families.

“Louisville is a compassionate city, and compassion requires that we work to remove barriers and create opportunities so that every citizen has the ability to reach their full human potential,” Fischer said. “This initiative is another tool we can use to dismantle the very real barriers of violence, trauma and racial inequity.”

The partners aim to provide trauma treatment to 400 children and their families in west and south Louisville, where data show that youth and families are disproportionately affected by trauma, violence and inequities. The initiative also involves training 200 clinicians in trauma interventions and 200 first responders, volunteers and community service providers in a special youth mental health first-aid model.

Another 40 service providers, public school officials and leaders will be trained in a trauma-resilient approach through the initiative, which will also share the trauma-care information with 50 community agencies serving youth and families and develop a leadership advisory board to increase awareness of trauma and its effects. The initiative includes evaluation of its consumer impact.

“To help people traumatized by violence, it’s so important to use an approach that fully takes into account their circumstances,” said Jennifer Middleton, associate professor of social work. “The Kent School of Social Work’s researchers are pleased to be partners in this federally funded effort to aid people in ways that are sensitive to their needs and based on proven methods – and to help train members of our community to continue that care.”

Middleton, Crystal Collins-Camargo and Bibhuti Sar are the Kent faculty working on the implementation, while Shantel Crosby and Heather Storer are on the research and evaluation team. Kent students also will be involved in ways that include conducting community needs assessments and providing trauma-focused therapy interventions. The Kent group will be looking at specific measures of functioning and well-being for the children and families, Crosby said.

“Our city has made significant gains towards deepening our understanding and ability to make progress against complex challenges like violence and racial inequity. This opportunity allows us to elevate a system that does not just focus on the individual, but organizations, systems and community as part of the healing process,” said Rashaad Abdur-Rahman, director of the Office for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods.

“At Centerstone Kentucky, we are proud to partner with SAMHSA, the Mayor’s Office for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods and the UofL Kent School of Social Work to provide evidence-based trauma-informed care, creating stronger neighborhoods across our community,” said Anthony Zipple, president and CEO, Centerstone Kentucky.

Besides the local ones, initiative partners include the Center for Trauma Resilient Communities, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the Treatment and Services Adaptation Center for Resilience.

Highlights from Monday’s press release are below. 

Students take over Breeders’ Cup social media

by Alicia Kelso

Louisville’s Churchill Downs is used to being in the spotlight on the first Saturday of each May. This year, the iconic racetrack will be in the spotlight on the first Saturday of November as well.

The 35th running of the Breeders’ Cup Championships return to Churchill Downs Nov. 2 and 3 – the event’s first time back in Louisville since 2011. It will mark the ninth time the race has been held in the Derby City.

The Breeders’ Cup started in Hollywood Park, California, in 1984. What was originally a one-day, seven-race event has grown into a two-day, $30 million experience attracting the best horses, trainers and owners from around the world. It has also become the unofficial end of the thoroughbred-racing season.

A handful of University of Louisville students has had front row access throughout all of the planning and promotions for the event. Sixteen students in Karen Freberg’s COMM 510 (PR and crisis) class are working with the Breeders’ Cup team to develop social media strategy and marketing for the event.

The students have been working on collaborative communications since before the fall semester even began. The students have studied and analyzed literature related to strategic development, content creation, influencer marketing, public relations and social media management and communication. They have also been able to implement their learnings to develop a public relations and social media strategy promoting the Breeders’ Cup event.

“To have the opportunity to work with Breeders’ Cup is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity to help bridge the gap between education and the industry,” said Dr. Freberg, associate professor in strategic communications. “Our students are expected to have hands-on experience and applied skills as they graduate and enter the workplace, and in a span of four months, our students will be able to work on one of the biggest global horse racing events in the industry.”

Freberg said this is the biggest client she has worked with for a class project. The opportunity to do so came together from her friendship with Joey Wagner, of J Wagner Group. The two have collaborated before on other projects.

“He has always been super supportive of the work we are doing at UofL. He was the one who introduced me to the Breeders’ Cup and the idea of collaborating together for this class came about,” Freberg said.

The project actually began in late 2017 and Freberg communicated the opportunity to her students – both graduate and undergrad – once they were enrolled in the class.

One of those students is Katie Wells. She is a graduate student who serves as a group leader with Berry Craig IV. Wells said the group has done both primary and secondary research on both the Breeders’ Cup and Breeders’ Cup Festival to see what type of content is likely to create the most engagement.

“We noticed in the past, there was little engagement from the Breeders’ Cup accounts and we are hoping to change that this year,” Wells said.

The students have access to the Breeders’ Cup social media accounts and have been monitoring their posts closely. They have also created appropriate responses as needed for Facebook and Twitter.

“By increasing engagement, we are hoping to allow those following on social to have a great experience, too,” Wells said.

In addition to researching, creating content, executing and monitoring, Freberg’s students have also undergone training as part of the class. All students will complete their HubSpot Academy in social media certification by the end of the semester. They also have the option to obtain Hootsuite’s Social Media Marketing certification.

For Wells, her favorite part has been developing content and creating measurable objectives for the campaign.

“Most classes, particularly in graduate school, are theoretically-based. However, ours is very much an applied course. Having the chance to receive hands-on experience is an outstanding opportunity,” she said. I like knowing that my work isn’t just being proposed – it’s being implemented, too. Being able to see our work being utilized by such a high-end client is absolutely incredible.”

Freberg said that enthusiasm has yielded “impressive” results so far.

“We are in the final stretch in preparing, which is exciting,” she said. “They have been doing some of the best work I have seen during my time here at UofL. I am very proud of them.

Smoketown Neighborhood Plan moves forward with the help of MUP students

by Kelly L. Kinahan, Ph.D., AICP

On Wednesday, October 31, Mayor Fischer announced a Request for Proposals, through the Office of Advanced Planning, for the creation of a neighborhood plan for Smoketown. The specifications in the Request for Proposals makes direct reference to the work of the fall 2017 PLAN 652: Neighborhood Planning Studio course, which created “A Document to Inform the Smoketown Neighborhood Plan,” noting that the new plan "should continue and supplement the process that was initiated by [A Document to Inform the Smoketown Neighborhood Plan]. Much of the background data, community input, visioning and draft recommendations may be incorporated into the new plan document and/or serve as the foundation on which to build upon in creating a new Smoketown Neighborhood Plan.” At last week’s press conference, Mayor Fischer specifically thank the MUP students for their role in creating this important foundational document. This marks the first instance of a student plan moving forward as a component of the official neighborhood planning process for Louisville Metro. Congratulations to all of the students that were part of the 2017 Neighborhood Planning Studio course: Jamie Crawford, Hannah Crepps, Willow Dietsch, Kendra Harruff, Grant List, Eric Matravers, Wyatt Kunzman, and Brian Wortinger.

Law magnet at Central H.S. producing top students

University of Louisville senior Lazaro Donis-Munoz is a vice president in student government and is aiming to become a lawyer. He says the University of Louisville began preparing him for a successful career long before he set foot on the Belknap Campus. Donis-Munoz took advantage of classes taught by UofL Brandeis School of Law faculty and students while he attended Central High School in Louisville. 

“The things you learn from those classes at Central directly translate to the university,” Donis-Munoz said. “I’m currently studying constitutional law and political science and a lot of the things we’re doing are the same things we learned about at Central.”

Donis-Munoz and 36 other Central students, most of whom are minorities, came up through the law magnet program and are currently attending UofL. It’s part of UofL’s Signature Partnership which is designed to improve education and economic opportunities for west Louisville residents. Joe Gutmann is a UofL graduate, former prosecutor and current UofL law school faculty member who teaches at Central and leads the law magnet program.

“If people knew the commitment of this university towards our kids as much as they know the athletic department, they’d be really proud of the university,” Gutmann said. “UofL is doing amazing things to help people.”

Gutmann, Donis-Munoz and fellow UofL student and Central High School graduate Elliott Kelly Jr. talked about their experiences and the success of the UofL/Central H.S. partnership on UofL Today with Mark Hebert.

UofL joins prestigious group advising United Nations on sustainability solutions

by Gary Mans

What does the University of Louisville have in common with the Columbia University, Princeton University and Oxford University? All are members of the United National Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

UofL has joined 684 universities and research centers throughout the world to advise the United Nations on sustainable development. The announcement was made today at the Louisville Sustainability Summit, which UofL is hosting for the first time. 

“Inclusion in this international effort recognizes our efforts over the decades to impact our world in a meaningful way when it comes to sustainability,” said UofL President Neeli Bendapudi. “From the Conn Center looking for renewable energy sources and our university-wide efforts to reduce our carbon footprint to our recent creation of the Envirome Institute that focuses on health sustainability, we have a long history of trying to leave a better planet.”

Additionally, UofL will be a founding member of the U.S. Solutions Network later this year.

 “The UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network is honored to welcome the University of Louisville to the global network,” said Columbia University Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs, advisor to the Secretary General of the UN and director of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network. “The SDSN looks forward to working closely with the Envirome Institute and city and community leaders to advance the Sustainable Development Goals. Our efforts together will help to advance well being in Louisville and around the world.”

The national and regional networks support the localization of the 17 goals set out by the UN and agreed to by 193 nations in 2015. Local networks will promote long-term pathways for sustainable development, promote high-quality education and research collaboration for sustainable development, and support governments in understanding and addressing the challenges of sustainable development.

Through these efforts, the networks are working to create a future in which poverty has been eradicated, the planet is protected and people are ensured the ability to enjoy peace and prosperity.

“We feel a tremendous sense of responsibility to be a founding member of this nation’s grassroots effort,” Bendapudi said. “All of us at the university in collaboration with our community partners look forward to spearheading efforts to better understand how our environment, in the broadest sense of the word, impacts us as individuals.”

Led by Aruni Bhatnagar, Ph.D., the Smith and Lucille Gibson Chair in Medicine, the UofL Envirome Institute takes a holistic approach to researching how the human-environment interrelationship impacts peoples’ lives. In addition to building on Bhatnagar’s pioneering work establishing the field of environmental cardiology, UofL will incorporate community engagement and citizen science to introduce a singular, new approach to the study of health.

“Our researchers, staff and students will explore new concepts associated with examining 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,” Bendapudi said.

UofL grows its west Louisville presence with studio space in Portland

Story by Morgan Watkins from the Courier Journal... read here

Trager Family, Republic Bank Foundation gift to enhance optimal aging institute at UofL

by John Drees

The Republic Bank Foundation and the Trager family have pledged substantial funding to enhance a world-class institute to promote research and innovation in the field of optimal aging at the University of Louisville.

UofL President Neeli Bendapudi announced the gift at her inauguration as the university’s 18th president on the steps of Grawemeyer Hall. The donation will enhance UofL’s Institute for Sustainable Health and Optimal Aging, which connects providers in the aging services community to resources for older adults, caregivers, businesses, service providers and researchers. The institute will be renamed the Trager Family Institute for Optimal Aging. Additionally, the gift will create the Republic Bank Foundation Optimal Aging Clinic, which will apply the research conducted and offer hands-on services to its clients.

“The Trager Institute for Optimal Aging will bolster our current efforts and launch new initiatives in research, treatment and programming that will improve the quality of life for our older citizens,” Bendapudi said. “Louisville is a hub for aging care businesses, insurance companies and health care organizations. Our goal is to create partnerships that will leverage this expertise to improve the lives of people in the Commonwealth and throughout the world.”

The Trager Family Foundation and Republic Bank Foundation will contribute equally to the Trager Institute for Optimal Aging. Bendapudi called the contributions “generous and significant.”

“As both a family and organization, our roots with the University of Louisville run deep.  So, at the beginning of this new chapter for the university, with much optimism for the city, the university, and President Bendapudi, we felt that it was important to show our support,” said Steve Trager, chairman and CEO of Republic Bank. “Considering the importance of the eldercare industry to Louisville’s economic development, we are proud to partner with the University of Louisville to introduce the Trager Family Institute for Optimal Aging.  It is our hope that this gift will help develop a world-class conduit that eldercare companies can partner with in research, innovation, and career development.  Additionally, local citizens will become beneficiaries of the Institute’s efforts through the newly established Republic Bank Foundation Clinic.”

“On behalf of the entire Trager Family and the Republic Bank Foundation, we are excited to be able to support one of President Bendapudi’s and the University of Louisville’s core focuses, aging and eldercare,” Trager said.

UofL, Red Bird Clinic provide access to health care in Appalachia

Accessed by winding roads, tucked away in the mountains of southeastern Kentucky is the Red Bird Dental Clinic, a beacon of hope for many residents of Clay, Bell and Leslie counties.

Geographic and economic conditions create limited access to oral health care — the next closest dentist is a 45- to- 90-minute drive.

“Without Red Bird, most people here would simply have no dental care. It’s extremely important to this community,” said Revelle Berry, a long-time patient of the clinic.

More than a year ago, the University of Louisville School of Dentistry began a collaboration with the Red Bird Dental Clinic, offering a new clinical site rotation for students, while expanding Red Bird’s ability to serve more people.

“Generations of poverty have greatly exacerbated health conditions that need extensive, late-stage treatment, follow-up and support,” said Kari Collins, executive director of the Red Bird Clinic Inc., and Red Bird Mission Inc. “Our vision is of one of a stronger, sustainable community and UofL is an important partner in carrying out this vision.”

The Red Bird Clinic Inc., includes both dental and medical components. It grew out of the Red Bird Mission Inc., which started in 1921 with a private school, and expanded to include job training, clothes closet, food pantry, adult education and senior citizen services.

“The services offered through Red Bird are so important for the people of this region, and we are pleased to have UofL reach across the state to engage with us as we strive to become a healthier community,” said Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers.

“The clinical experience at Red Bird enhances the education of our students with enriching cultural and clinical practice experiences that will make them compassionate, exceptional dental health care providers,” said the dean of the UofL School of Dentistry, Gerry Bradley, BDS, MS, Dr.Med.Dent.

Fourth-year dental student Sarah Jestel spent much of July at the Red Bird Dental Clinic for an Area Health Education Centers program requirement.

“The patients were so appreciative of the work we completed, especially those individuals requiring extractions,” she said. “Many came in with elevated blood pressure and had been in pain a long time.”



Dr. Bill Collins with patient
Dr. Bill Collins with patient



The students learn under the supervision of Bill Collins, DMD, dental director for the Red Bird Dental Clinic. Two other UofL alumni, Susan King, DMD, and Bob McGuinn, DMD, along with former dean of the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry, Sharon Turner, DDS, JD, also serve on rotation as gratis faculty to oversee the UofL students.

“Students encounter varying levels of difficulty, including emergency situations and medically compromised patients. They work out of their comfort zones and increase their confidence levels and speed. They also learn practice management skills,” Collins said.

Since the collaboration started, dental students have helped provide care for almost 600 patients, and completed nearly 700 procedures for many who are uninsured or under-insured.

Individual donors like McGuinn, along with the Good Samaritan Foundation and Delta Dental of Kentucky, help make it possible.

“We fully support the Red Bird Dental Clinic mission and look forward to the continued oral health benefits it will bring southeastern Kentucky,” said Delta Dental of Kentucky’s CEO Jude Thompson. “Without the University of Louisville, access to care would be extremely difficult, and we’re proud Louisville is represented by such an esteemed group of students.”

The use of a mobile dental unit funded by Avēsis increases the clinic’s ability to serve those without access to care. This includes a new outreach to individuals who are actively engaged in substance use treatment. Adding oral health care helps support their efforts to achieve and maintain recovery. 

“As a Kentucky Medicaid dental benefits administrator serving approximately 1.1 million children and adults, Avēsis endeavors to support new and innovative opportunities that increase access to quality dental health care across the state,” said Jerry Caudill, DMD, State Dental Director for Avēsis.

“It takes many partners and donors to help us address the numerous challenges facing the underserved here in Appalachia, and we are thankful to all those who give and serve here,” Collins said.

UofL named nation’s best for serving African American students

UofL is the nation’s top university for serving the needs of African American students, according to a national study released Tuesday.

A report card from the University of Southern California’s Race and Equity Center named UofL as one of three universities tied with the highest score, a 3.5 on a 4-point scale. The other schools were the University of California-San Diego and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

Scores were based on the following factors:

  • An institution’s percentage of black undergraduates and how that compares to the overall black population, ages 18 to 24, in that university’s home state
  • Equity between the percentage of black men and women as it compares to the percentage of men and women across all racial and ethnic groups nationwide — about 56 percent women and 44 percent men
  • The six-year graduation rate for black students as it compares to an institution’s overall graduation rate
  • The ratio of black students to black full-time professors

UofL President Neeli Bendapudi said she is proud of the ranking. But she noted that the university is not standing still in its efforts to improve in all areas of diversity.

“Those kinds of recognitions tell students that if they come here they will be very, very welcome,” she said. “I also think it’s attractive to all students who want to come and be educated in a diverse environment that prepares them for the world of work.”

Passport grants help UofL programs improve health for thousands of Kentuckians


UofL affiliates have created several health programs aimed at improving the lives of many Kentuckians, thanks to the grants provided by Passport Health Plan.  

Passport Health Plan is a community-based, nonprofit care organization that has been administering Medicaid benefits in Kentucky for over 20 years. Through their IHOP, or Improved Health Outcomes Program, Passport provides grants to other community advocates striving to build health-related programs for Kentuckians. One of their IHOP partners includes UofL. 

At UofL’s School of Nursing, the grant money is helping mothers and caregivers of special needs children fight against depression.

And, at the Institute for Sustainable Health and Optimal Aging, they brought a free health clinic and healthy-eating classes to over 500 Hispanic residents in Shelby County. Anna Faul, at the Institute for Sustainable Health, said that none of this would be possible without the grant from Passport. 

“They’re reaching people who are very hard to reach. This is a very big success story for them,” said Faul.  

High School students examine mental health stigma in KY teens


Parents who refuse to drive their children to therapy because they don’t believe in mental health treatment. School counselors who have told students to stop crying because they’re “fine.” Teens further ashamed of mental illness because of negative portrayals in the media. These are some of the experiences that a high school student group, mentored by a University of Louisville clinical psychologist, has gathered from peers across Kentucky during yearlong research into factors that contribute to mental health stigma in teens.

Allison Tu, a senior at duPont Manual High School who led the student group, and Stephen O’Connor, PhD, associate director of the UofL Depression Center who guided the students in research, will present findings during the Kentuckiana Health Collaborative Community Forum on Tuesday, Sept. 11, from 8 to 10 a.m. at the UofL Clinical and Translational Research Building, 505 S. Hancock St. After the forum, a Question. Persuade. Refer. (QPR) Suicide Prevention Training by the Louisville Health Advisory Board will take place.




Stephen O'Connor, Ph.D.
Stephen O’Connor




The student group, comprised of teens across the state, is called the Student Alliance for Mental Health Innovation and Action (StAMINA) and is supported by the Kentuckiana Health Collaborative, a nonprofit organization that aims to improve health and the health care delivery system in greater Louisville and Kentucky.

StAMINA conducted a needs assessment of the state and held focus groups in urban and rural areas with high school students and parents to uncover what interferes with students acknowledging they have mental health issues and receiving treatment. The group also interviewed mental health professionals and pediatricians.

Factors that contributed to mental health stigma among high school students included negative representation of mental health in media and stigma from peers and parents who do not have a positive attitude about mental health, Tu said. The group found differences between rural and urban residents.

“Because there is more racial and ethnic diversity in urban settings, one of the big drivers of mental health stigma is ethnic heritage,” Tu said. “African-American and Asian-American students talked a lot about how culturally, mental health was often ignored. With rural students, generally there was more stigma resulting from religious factors. Some students said they would talk to their parents about mental health issues, and their parents would respond, ‘you’re not praying enough.’”

Messages that parents express about mental health impact a child’s views, said O’Connor, who guided the research design, and taught the students how to lead focus groups and conduct qualitative data analysis.

“The gatekeeper for getting children to treatment is often going to be a parent, so parental views on mental health are likely going to impact whether a child is taken to treatment,” O’Connor said. “The parent also is helping the child understand what they’re experiencing, so if the parent doesn’t have a good idea about what symptoms of mental illness represent, then the child is probably not going to understand either.”

Solutions to mental health stigma among teens may include a new mental health education requirement for high school freshmen or a social media campaign to amplify the visibility of resources, said Tu, who also stressed the need for parents to be educated on mental health issues and resources available for their children.

UofL recognized as top LGBT-friendly university by three national groups


The University of Louisville recently hit the trifecta, receiving three national top rankings for its support of the LGBTQ community. 

The rankings include:

“These awards are a direct result of UofL’s commitment to building an inclusive and LGBTQ-friendly environment on campus and in our community,” said UofL President Neeli Bendapudi. “I am so proud of our efforts and look forward to seeing how we continue to grow in the future.”

Brian Buford, executive director of The LGBT Center, says these accolades are well-deserved, but the university’s work is not finished.

“There is still a lot to do to remove barriers for LGBTQ students and make sure they have all the resources they need. But I do think that honors like these tell us we are heading in the right direction and that the hard work and investment has made a difference,” Buford said. “Especially in a southern state, being recognized for LGBTQ inclusion is a big deal and also during a time when we are seeing protections rolled back at the national level.”

Buford said the university’s widespread dedication to inclusiveness and recently-implemented initiatives contributed to this year’s awards. For example, the Human Resources Department implemented changes that allow employees to change their gender-marker, the Housing and Residence Life staff opened a new residence area that caters to LGBTQ students, the Speed School of Engineering created trans-friendly restrooms and the university is adding new courses to the LGBT Studies minor each year.

“All these advances really add up to create a welcoming space,” Buford said.

Owensboro Health, UofL partner on new family medicine residency program


Owensboro Health and the University of Louisville School of Medicine are partnering to create the first family medicine residency program in Owensboro. The program will be located at Owensboro Health’s Parrish Medical Building and is scheduled to open on July 1, 2020.

“By establishing a family residency program in Owensboro, we hope to improve the health of our region for years to come,” said Greg Strahan, president and CEO of Owensboro Health. “This program gives Owensboro Health a pivotal role in educating the next generation of physicians and will help meet an important need for more primary care in our area.”

The three-year program is expected to open with a class of six resident physicians and admit an additional six physicians each year. Residents will undertake a robust curriculum of classroom studies and clinical rotations, working alongside expert instructors and practicing physicians from a variety of specialties. They also will provide primary care at Owensboro Health’s family medicine location on Parrish Avenue, which means expanded health care access for area patients.

“Part of our vision for this program is that some physicians will want to continue practicing in Western Kentucky after they have completed their residency,” said Steve Johnson, vice president of government and community affairs for Owensboro Health. “For our system to be working toward that vision, with a valuable partner like UofL, is an exciting development for this region.”

The agreement between the two health care systems establishes UofL School of Medicine as the program’s academic sponsor, a key step toward obtaining approval and accreditation by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. Under the affiliation agreement, UofL will provide a program director and faculty and also lend its expertise to help the program achieve and maintain accreditation.

“UofL has achieved success with its family medicine residency program in Glasgow, Ky., in terms of building relationships in the community and improving primary care,” said Brent Wright, MD, UofL School of Medicine associate dean for rural health innovation, and vice chair for rural health and professor in the Department of Family and Geriatric Medicine at UofL. “We plan to achieve the same success in Owensboro.”

Rural-based graduate medical education programs are important to physician distribution since physicians tend to practice within a 100-mile radius of where they did their residency training, Wright said.

Law student spent summer providing legal aid in rural KY

Caitlin Kidd, a 2L at the Brandeis School of Law, spent the summer of 2018 in Covington, Kentucky. She was there as a student fellow with the Rural Summer Legal Corps, a national organization that connects law students with civil legal aid organizations to address pressing legal issues facing rural communities. 

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More than 400 UofL students pitch in for annual community service event

More than 400 first-year students at the University of Louisville pitched in for SOUL — Student Outreach Uniting Louisville — UofL’s annual day of service. It’s the largest service event at UofL. 

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UofL student and alum secure local nonprofit’s largest donation ever

A semi-truck delivered $20,000 worth of free hygiene products to La Casita Center, a Louisville nonprofit that serves the local Latino community. The donation — from Essity, an international hygiene and health products company — is the largest La Casita has ever received.

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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.

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