News

Faculty Position in Tumor Immunology Announced

Department of Microbiology & Immunology and J.G. Brown Cancer Center announce a new tenure-track Assistant Professor position. Click here to apply.

Long-time UofL staff and faculty member joins School of Medicine as Chief of Staff

Long-time UofL staff and faculty member joins School of Medicine as Chief of Staff

Glenn Gittings, Ph.D.

The University of Louisville School of Medicine has named Glenn Gittings, PhD., as its new Chief of Staff.

In this position, Gittings will provide support with planning, monitoring and implementing the strategic agenda for the school, serving in the capacity of advisor to Dean Toni Ganzel in interactions with colleagues across the schools and institution to ensure institutional alignment with strategic initiatives. He will collaborate with senior leaders and executives, external affiliate leadership, and other external partners on projects that support the missions and strategic priorities, including enterprise alignment, strategic planning, security and other compliance initiatives. Gittings will also lead the School of Medicine Advancement, Retention and Training (SMART) Staff Development Program designed to engage staff in professional and personal development efforts through a number of new initiatives such as mentoring, professional development, community outreach and engagement, recognition and reward, wellness, and a staff retreat.

“I am thrilled to welcome Dr. Gittings to our administrative team. He brings a great deal of experience in the areas of strategic planning, staff development and stakeholder relations, which will provide tremendous support to the School of Medicine priorities of supporting our faculty, residents, staff and students,” said Toni Ganzel, M.D., M.B.A., dean of the School of Medicine.

A long-time staffer and faculty member, Gittings has spent the last 19 years in progressive higher education and the nonprofit sector with experiences at multiple institutions and organizations. He previously served as the Director of the Student Activities Center & Special Programs on the Belknap campus at the University of Louisville where he fulfilled the role of student union management, First Year Initiative programming, Parent & Family Relations, and External Relations for the division of Student Affairs. Gittings has previous higher education experience in Advancement/Development, Alumni Relations, Assessment, Diversity & Inclusion, Educational Nonprofits, Enrollment Management, External Relations, Event Planning, HR, International Service Learning Program Faculty (Philippines, Trinidad & Tobago), Parent & Family Relations, SACS Accreditation, Sponsorships, Staff Senate, Strategic Planning, Student Union Mgmt., VPSA Special Projects, and Welcome Week/First Year Experience. He also served as a UofL Staff Senator including a role on the Staff Senate Executive Committee.

Gittings is very active in regional and national professional organizations through research opportunities, publications, committee membership, conference presentation, and conference attendance. He served nationally as chair of the NASPA Student Affairs Fundraising and External Relations Knowledge Committee, publishing books, articles, online short courses, and conference presentations on the topic of higher education fundraising. For more than 10 years, he has been a long-standing graduate Adjunct Faculty member for UofL’s College of Education in both the Higher Education Administration program and the College Student Personnel program.   

Gittings earned both his bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. from University of Louisville and master’s degree from Western Kentucky University and his dissertation research highlighted key student and institutional factors affecting doctoral student persistence.  He and his spouse, Jennifer, have two daughters ages 10 and 7.

Gittings began his new role August 2.

Superfund Program announces KC Donnelly Externship Award Winner and Posts Information Film

    

The Superfund Research Program congratulates Breandon Taylor on receipt of a K.C. Donnelly Externship Award.  Breandon is enrolled in the pharmacology and toxicology PhD program working in the laboratory of Professor Sanjay Srivastava.  With funds awarded through the externship, he will travel to Louisiana State University to continue his studies into the role of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) on cardiovascular disease.  Specifically he will assess the toxicity of 1,3-butadiene using a state of the art air-liquid cell interface exposure system.

The UofL Superfund's focus on VOCs is unique among the national Superfund Research Centers.  It includes biomedical, environmental, detection, and remediation research as well as extensive community engagement, translation, and predoctoral and postdoctoral training.  A superb video describing the UofL Superfund Research Program is available on its website at https://louisville.edu/enviromeinstitute/superfund

NIEHS T32 and T35 training grants in environmental health sciences receive 5 year funding renewals

UofL T32 and T35 training grants in environmental health sciences were both recently awarded funding by the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) for an additional five years. 

The T32 training grant which began in 2004 funds six pre-doctoral and three post-doctoral fellowships as well as their tuition and travel support.   The multi-PI's for the program are Professors David Hein and John Wise Sr. in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology.  Further information is available here

The T35 training grant which began in 2006 provides stipends for six medical students to pursue research projects during the summer following their first year of medical school.  The PI for the program is Professor J. Christopher States in the Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology.

Dinesh Kalra set to lead UofL cardiology division

Renowned expert on cardiovascular imaging tabbed as new chief of the UofL Division of Cardiovascular Medicine
Dinesh Kalra set to lead UofL cardiology division

Dinish Kalra, M.D.

Dinesh Kalra, M.D., FACC, FSCCT, FSCMR, FNLA, on September 1 joined the faculty of the University of Louisville Department of Medicine as the new Chief of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine. He will also serve as Professor of Medicine and Endowed Chair of Cardiovascular Innovations.

Dr. Kalra comes to UofL from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, where he was Director of Advanced Cardiac Imaging, Director of the Infiltrative Cardiac Disease Program, and Director of the Lipid Clinic.

He is internationally renowned for his work in advancing the understanding of cardiac CT and MRI and lipidology, especially as it relates to finding new ways to prevent atherosclerosis.

"I am proud to be part of an exceptional institution like UofL with a rich history and tradition of excellence, innovation, and research," Kalra said of accepting his new role at UofL. "Their consistent goal to deliver the best care for our patients and the strong emphasis on academics are inspirational. This Division is poised to be a nationally recognized cardiovascular program and top-tier division in all areas and will be supported with the funds necessary to meet a high standard of excellence in clinical care, research, and education.

"It is my mission to transform cardiovascular care and improve heart health for Kentuckians and the greater Louisville community. We have the talent, resources, and institutional commitment to become national leaders in this area again. All the elements of a successful transition are here including our academic, clinical, industry, and technology partners and we will bring to bear all these resources to propel the science and practice of cardiovascular medicine to the top-most tier.

"The program has a very strong reputation for clinical training and outstanding patient care. The resident and fellow teaching and the service to the community are outstanding. With my clinical operations, leadership, and education background, the opportunity to lead such an outstanding Division was appealing, and I have no doubt it will achieve national excellence in multiple areas over the next few years."

Prior his arrival at UofL, Dr. Kalra served at many top-tier institutions, including the Baylor College of Medicine, Lahey Clinic, and his recent stint at Rush University Medical Center. His unique and multimodal expertise is expected to play an instrumental role in supporting the UofL cardiology faculty and staff as well as growing and leading the Cardiovascular Medicine Service Line across the entire UofL Health system.

Dr. Kalra's recruitment was made possible through the trust and dedication of UofL senior leadership and colleagues in other departments and programs.

"With Dr. Kalra at the helm of the UofL Cardiology team, I am confident that we will deliver on building upon our successful history of cardiovascular care and scale new heights of innovative and accessible care for our patients," Dr. Kristine Krueger, Professor and Interim Chair of the Department of Medicine who spearheaded the search committee said. "He is an experienced physician with a demonstrated history of building successful programs in academic cardiology. Skilled in patient-care delivery, change leadership, and lean management processes, his arrival at UofL will catalyze our progress forward in transitioning cardiology to meet our future needs.

"He has the ability to set a vision, effectively inspire, manage and mentor. He is passionate about building collaborative research programs of excellence, mentoring outstanding junior faculty, and continuing to advance cardiovascular medicine on the national and international stage."

Dr. Jason Smith, Chief Medical Officer of UofL Health, noted Dr. Kalra's vision and vigor will infuse new energy and talent into the varied ranks within Cardiology and related disciplines at UofL health.

"He is uniquely well suited to lead UofL Cardiology academic group during this unprecedented time," Smith said. “His clinical and leadership experience will be invaluable in optimizing interdisciplinary care along the continuum, as consumers and clinicians navigate new paradigms in healthcare stemming from the recent COVID-19 pandemic and new models of cardiovascular care delivery. The new Chief will shape the growth of cardiovascular services and, in collaboration with community cardiology leaders, will be intimately involved in developing and executing a strategic plan for integrated cardiovascular care across the UofL System."

Dr. Kalra is a graduate of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences where he completed his MD with honors. He then completed his residency in Internal Medicine in the MERIT pathway at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, and stayed on to do his fellowship in Cardiology at Baylor graduating with advanced training in cardiac imaging (echocardiography and nuclear cardiology). He is board-certified in cardiology, cardiovascular CT and MRI, echocardiography, nuclear cardiology, and lipidology.

The Division of Cardiovascular Medicine is one of 10 divisions of the Department of Medicine and comprises its most extensive service line. The core mission of the Cardiovascular Medicine Division is to provide the highest standard of cardiovascular clinical care to the community, while also promoting scientific discovery and training for the next generation of leaders in Cardiovascular Medicine.

UofL researchers find more health benefits of living in a greener environment

UofL Green Heart Project needs new participants from South Louisville neighborhoods for study on how greenness affects health
UofL researchers find more health benefits of living in a greener environment

Trees are planted in South Louisville for the UofL Green Heart Project, an ongoing assessment of the effects of neighborhood greenness on individual health.

Evidence is growing that living in areas of high greenness, surrounded by trees, shrubs and other vegetation, has beneficial effects on human health. Researchers at the University of Louisville’s Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute and other colleagues recently published two studies showing positive effects of greenness: one on cancer survival and the other on depressive symptoms.

In the first study, UofL researchers Aruni Bhatnagar, professor of medicine and director of the Envirome Institute, Ray Yeager and Daniel Riggs, with Carver Coleman and Arden Pope of Brigham Young University and others, analyzed retrospective data from more than 5.5 million cancer patients and survivors from 2003 to 2016. They found that cancer patients in greener counties lived longer than those in counties with less greenness. The protective effects of greenness against cancer mortality were seen with both males and females and individuals of all ages, but were more pronounced at urban locations. Individuals with cancers that were highly survivable – such as breast, prostate and skin cancer – benefitted more from greenness than those with cancers with low survival rates such as brain, esophageal, liver, lung and pancreatic cancer.   

The study, “Greenness, air pollution, and mortality risk: A U.S. cohort study of cancer patients and survivors,” published in the journal Environment International, evaluated associations between greenness and fine particulate matter in the air on causes of death in a large group of cancer patients and survivors in the United States.

“This is the largest study of the relationship between greenness and cancer mortality, and it provides clear evidence that living in green areas is beneficial to cancer patients,” said Bhatnagar “However, we do not yet understand why greenness protects against cancer mortality. Much more remains to be done to see whether greenness benefits cancer patients by lowering mental stress and anxiety or by reducing the levels of air pollutants or whether some other mechanisms are at play.”

The study also found that cardiopulmonary disease, but not cancer, was associated with higher levels of fine particulate air pollution. Mortality from cardiopulmonary causes – stroke, heart attack or COPD – was not affected by county greenness, except in rural locations.  

Greenness and depression

A second study, led by Kandi Walker and Joy Hart, professors in the UofL Department of Communication, Bhatnagar and other researchers in the Envirome Institute, found that people’s satisfaction with levels of greenness in their neighborhood was associated with lower levels of self-reported depressive symptoms.  

The researchers surveyed participants about their perceptions of greenness in their neighborhoods and their mental health symptoms and found that those who were more satisfied with the greenness surrounding their homes also reported lower depression symptoms on a health survey, the Patient Health Questionnaire-9.

The 44.5% of survey participants who reported they were satisfied with the level of greenness in their neighborhood collectively scored better on the health questionnaire for depression.

“Given the pervasiveness of depression in the U.S. population, any changes that can reduce depression are essential, particularly those that can affect a large number of people,” Hart said. “The findings of this study suggest that greening interventions that focus on greenness satisfaction may be a strategy to reduce depression in urban populations.”

The study, “The importance of urban planning: Views of greenness and open space is reversely associated with self-reported views and depressive symptoms,” was published in July in the journal Population Medicine.

South Louisville study participants needed

Participants in the greening satisfaction study were part of the Health, Environment and Action in Louisville (HEAL) study of the Great Heart Project, which is an ongoing assessment of the effects of neighborhood greenness on individual health. Additional participants are needed for the HEAL Study by the end of September. More information is available on the HEAL Study website.

“Together, these studies add weight to the importance of trees, shrubs and other vegetation in urban areas in benefitting and nurturing human health. Accumulation of such evidence strengthens the case that increasing greenness in urban locations can decrease the high rates of non-communicable diseases in cities,” Bhatnagar said. “And since greenness improves health in general, it may also be effective against infectious disease.”

University of Louisville cardiac surgery team second in U.S. to implant new artificial heart

Device is a new-generation bridge to transplant for patients with disease on both sides of the heart
University of Louisville cardiac surgery team second in U.S. to implant new artificial heart

Mark Slaughter, M.D.

A University of Louisville cardiac surgery team at UofL Health - Jewish Hospital is the second in the United States to implant a new experimental advanced total artificial heart within the framework of an early feasibility study.

The team, led by Mark Slaughter, M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery in the UofL School of Medicine and lead cardiothoracic surgeon at UofL Health – Jewish Hospital, performed the implant of the investigational device on Aug. 20.

The artificial heart, Aeson®, developed by French medical device company CARMAT, serves as a bridge to transplant for patients with end-stage biventricular heart failure – heart disease affecting both left and right sides of the heart – allowing more time for the patient to receive a permanent heart organ transplant. More than 3,400 individuals in the U.S. currently are awaiting a heart transplant and there are few other treatment options for patients with biventricular heart disease.

“We are excited to bring this new technology to patients in Kentucky and the surrounding region and be one of the first U.S. centers to implant this new total artificial heart,” Slaughter said. “This device has the potential to save the lives of critically ill patients suffering from biventricular heart failure who currently have very limited treatment options.”

The new total artificial heart was implanted into a middle-aged man from Southern Indiana with severe biventricular heart failure during a seven-and-a-half-hour surgery. The recipient, whose identity is being withheld upon request, was referred to the advanced heart failure program at Jewish Hospital. The patient currently is doing well in the cardiac surgery ICU.

The new device is designed to solve limitations of left-ventricular assist devices (LVAD), which pump blood in just one chamber, by pumping blood in both heart chambers. Aeson also contains biosensors that detect the patient’s blood pressure and position and automatically adapts cardiac output according to the sensor information. It is fully implanted as a heart replacement and powered by a portable external power supply.

“We are honored that our device is implanted at UofL Health - Jewish Hospital, which is recognized throughout the United States for its quality of care and cardiovascular research” said Stéphane Piat, chief executive officer of CARMAT. “I would like to congratulate the teams at the Jewish Hospital, the University of Louisville, as well as our technical and medical staff, on this exceptional milestone for both patients and our company.”

The device is medically approved in Europe, where approximately 20 have been implanted. The first Aeson artificial heart in North America was implanted in July at Duke University.

This is not the first time University of Louisville physicians and Jewish Hospital have made artificial heart history. Just over 20 years ago, on July 2, 2001, UofL cardiothoracic surgeon Laman Gray led the surgical team that implanted the first self-contained artificial heart in the United States at Jewish Hospital. The AbioCor artificial heart was implanted into Robert Tools, who lived five months on the device. The UofL surgical team also performed the first heart transplant in Kentucky at Jewish Hospital in 1984.

Renowned cardiac imaging and atherosclerosis prevention researcher joins UofL School of Medicine as chief of cardiology

Renowned cardiac imaging and atherosclerosis prevention researcher joins UofL School of Medicine as chief of cardiology

Dinesh Kalra, M.D., chief, University of Louisville Division of Cardiovascular Medicine

Dinesh Kalra, M.D., will join the faculty of the University of Louisville Department of Medicine as chief of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine on Sept. 1. He also will serve as professor of medicine and Endowed Chair of Cardiovascular Innovations.

Kalra comes to UofL from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, where he was director of advanced cardiac imaging, director of the infiltrative cardiac disease program and director of the lipid clinic. He is internationally renowned for his work in advancing the understanding of cardiac computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and lipidology, especially as it relates to finding new ways to prevent atherosclerosis.

“I am proud to be part of an exceptional institution like UofL with a rich history and tradition of excellence, innovation and research,” Kalra said of his new role at UofL. “The program has a very strong reputation for clinical training and outstanding patient care. The resident and fellow teaching and the service to the community are outstanding. The opportunity to lead such an outstanding division was appealing, and I have no doubt it will achieve national excellence in multiple areas over the next few years.”

Kalra will use his clinical operations, leadership and education experience to support the UofL cardiology faculty and staff as well as grow and lead the cardiovascular medicine service line across the UofL Health System. 

“With Dr. Kalra at the helm of the UofL cardiology team, I am confident that we will deliver on building upon our successful history of cardiovascular care and scale new heights of innovative and accessible care for our patients,” said Kristine Krueger, professor and interim chair of the UofL Department of Medicine. “He is an experienced physician with a demonstrated history of building successful programs in academic cardiology, skilled in patient-care delivery, change leadership and lean management processes. His arrival at UofL will catalyze our progress forward in transitioning cardiology to meet our future needs.”

Jason Smith, chief medical officer of UofL Health, said Kalra will infuse new energy and talent into the cardiology units and related disciplines at UofL health.

“He is uniquely well suited to lead UofL cardiology academic group during this unprecedented time,” Smith said. “His clinical and leadership experience will be invaluable in optimizing interdisciplinary care along the continuum, as consumers and clinicians navigate new paradigms in health care stemming from the recent COVID-19 pandemic and new models of cardiovascular care delivery. The new chief will shape the growth of cardiovascular services and, in collaboration with community cardiology leaders, will be intimately involved in developing and executing a strategic plan for integrated cardiovascular care across the UofL Health system.”

Kalra is a graduate of All India Institute of Medical Sciences where he completed his MD with honors. He then completed his residency in internal medicine in the MERIT pathway at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. He stayed on for his fellowship in cardiology at Baylor, graduating with advanced training in cardiac imaging (echocardiography and nuclear cardiology). Prior to his arrival UofL and term at Rush, Kalra served at Baylor College of Medicine and Lahey Clinic. He is board-certified in cardiology, cardiovascular CT and MRI, echocardiography, nuclear cardiology and lipidology.

PhTx graduate students sweep presentation awards at annual meeting of the Genetic Toxicology Association

Pharmacology and Toxicology graduate students swept the three graduate student best poster awards at the annual meeting of the Genetic Toxicology Association.  All three students are working in the laboratory of Professor John Wise Sr.  The three award winners:

    Idoia Meaza Isusi

   Jennifer Toyoda

   Aggie Williams

UofL School of Medicine residency program fuels physician supply for smaller communities, while offering career options to new doctors

UofL School of Medicine residency program fuels physician supply for smaller communities, while offering career options to new doctors

Glasgow Family Medicine Residency program 2021 graduates, left to right, Dillon Pender, Lauren Hansen, Laura Inabnitt and Emily Marsh.

While Elizabethtown, Kentucky, native Dillon Pender was a medical student at the University of Louisville, he realized that life and medical practice in an urban setting were not a good fit for him.

So, he chose a family medicine residency program that was close to his hometown and offered the environment of a community-based hospital.

“The Glasgow Family Medicine Residency is the best of both worlds,” Pender said. “As part of UofL, it offers the privileges and resources of a major institution, and as a community hospital, it provides the autonomy you can only have outside a large health care system.”

And now that Pender has completed his residency, he plans to stay in Glasgow, serving as a hospitalist at T. J. Samson Community Hospital and caring for the community’s population. That is a win both for the community of Glasgow and the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

A shortage of physicians has threatened the health of residents in rural communities in Kentucky for more than three decades. Approximately 40% of Kentuckians live in rural areas, yet only 17% of primary care physicians practice there, and Kentucky ranks 43rd nationally in its supply of primary care physicians relative to its population.

Primary care physicians – those in family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics or other general health disciplines – ensure access to cost-effective management of illness and disability. Since more than half of physicians practice within 100 miles of where they do their residency training, it is important for physicians to train in the smaller communities where they are needed.

The UofL School of Medicine leads two family medicine residency programs in smaller communities in the state so that small and rural communities in Kentucky and beyond have access to primary care physicians.

The Glasgow Family Medicine Residency Program trains resident physicians in the south-central Kentucky community of approximately 14,000, preparing them to practice in a similar small or rural community. Glasgow’s T.J. Samson Community Hospital is the primary clinical training site for the residency program and was named one of  the Top 100 Rural & Community Hospitals for 2021 by the Chartis Center for Rural Health.

R. Brent Wright, associate dean for rural health innovation at UofL, was director of the Glasgow Family Medicine Residency Program from 2002 to 2013.

“In terms of a residency program, if you have a community that embraces graduate medical education, like Glasgow has done, they are taking a long-term approach for serving their stakeholders, ” Wright said.  “They are making a commitment to those they treat for decades to come. They know that by training physicians in a close-knit and caring community, they will most likely stay within that community, close by or in a similar setting.”

The program’s 24-year track record bears out its mission. Approximately 70% of the more than 80 physicians who have completed training in the program still practice within a 90-minute drive of Glasgow, including Wright, Pender, a 2021 graduate, and Kara Gilkey, who now leads the hospital’s emergency department.

Building on the success of the Glasgow program, Wright assisted with the creation of the University of Louisville Owensboro Family Medicine Residency Program, launched in 2020. As the academic sponsor for the program, UofL provides not only experience, but residency director Jon Sivoravong and other faculty. The three-year program currently has 13 residents and is approved for up to 18, graduating an average of six family medicine physicians per year.

UofL medical students also can become familiar with rural medicine during their medical school years. Through the School of Medicine’s Trover Rural Track, UofL medical students can complete their final two years of medical school in Madisonville, a community of about 20,000 in southwestern Kentucky. Currently, 51% of Trover students who have completed their training initially chose a rural practice, and 48% of students from rural Kentucky are now in a rural Kentucky practice.

“To get physicians to practice in a small town, you have to admit students who are from a small town and train them in a small town,” said William Crump, associate dean of Trover Campus for the UofL School of Medicine.

Crump and his colleagues at UofL and Baptist Health Madisonville also prepare students from rural Kentucky communities for careers in health care through the High School Rural Scholars and College Rural Scholars programs. Of the 290 students who have participated in High School Rural Scholars, 75% have completed some type of health career training program. Of 97 students who have completed the College Rural Scholars program, 50 are either enrolled or have graduated from medical school.

For Pender, living and practicing in Glasgow is the right choice. He said many physicians who practice in urban areas are missing out on great opportunities in smaller communities, citing less traffic, a lower cost of living and friendlier people, as well as a wider scope of practice for primary care physicians since access to sub-specialty care is not as readily available. 

“For most of the physicians in an urban environment, the countryside is not on their radar. They think there is nothing here,” Pender said. “But there is a lot of opportunity here and you can make a good life.”

PhTx graduate students receive top presentation awards at summer meeting of the Ohio Valley Society of Toxicology

Two PhTx graduate students received top presentation awards at the 2021 summer meeting of the Ohio Valley Society of Toxicology.

Idoia Meaza Isusi received first place award for her three minute thesis presentation.  Idoia is completing her thesis and dissertation research in the laboratory of Dr. James Wise Sr.

Kennedy M. Walls received first place award for her PhD student platform presentation.  Kennedy is completing her dissertation research in the laboratory of Drs. David Hein and Kyung Hong.

Three PhTx graduate students receive foundation awards from Society of Toxicology

Environmental Carcinogenesis Research Fellowship Fund

 

Recipient: Idoia Meaza
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Louisville

When Ms. Meaza received the award, she felt really honored to be recognized by such an excellent specialty section as the Carcinogenesis Specialty Section. She is earnestly grateful for this recognition. She sees this award as an opportunity to evolve as a young scientist and it motivates her to continue pursuing a career as a toxicologist. 

The awarded project is a collaborative work with her lab coworkers Rachel M. Speer and Jennifer H. Toyoda. This project focuses on how hexavalent chromium [Cr(VI)] causes cancer. Cr(VI) is a known human lung carcinogen that alters gene expression. Epigenetic modifications may explain how Cr(VI) alters gene expression. Thus, the team decided to consider whether Cr(VI) could alter microRNAs (miRNA) molecules known to affect gene expression. They performed a genome-wide miRNA expression study in human lung cells after exposure to particulate Cr(VI), the most potent form of Cr(VI). In this project, they showed particulate Cr(VI) does indeed alter miRNAs involved in Cr(VI) carcinogenesis pathways. Future work will investigating the role of individual miRNAs in Cr(VI) carcinogenesis pathways and their effects on target protein expression levels. Additionally, Ms. Meaza is particularly interested in studying the mechanism by which Cr(VI) might be remodeling chromatin topology, often observed in cancers. 


 

Metals Specialty Section Student Research Award Fund

 

Recipient: Jennifer Toyoda
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: MS
Institution/Affiliation: University of Louisville

Ms. Toyoda was delighted to receive this Metals Specialty Section award. Not only does it recognize her project and the work of many preceding her, she is excited to bring attention to novel research in molecular mechanisms of hexavalent chromium carcinogenesis. Her lab hopes to fill critical knowledge gaps in the field and eventually enable better risk assessment and improved health outcomes in the fight against lung cancer.

Ms. Toyoda's goal is to help elucidate how hexavalent chromium [Cr(VI)] causes cancer. Specifically, this project shows Cr(VI) disrupts key proteins that regulate centrosome numbers in the cell and thus may drive numerical chromosome instability. Data show Cr(VI) targets the inhibitor protein, securin, by decreasing gene expression, leading to loss of its critical function in controlling centrosome duplication. These results are being explored in cell culture, in animal inhalation studies, and in human lung tumors. 


 

Metals Specialty Section Student Research Award Fund

 

Recipient: Jamie Young
Award Year: 2021
Current Degrees: MS, PhD
Institution/Affiliation: University of Louisville

Dr. Young's reaction upon receiving this award was that of surprise and gratitude. During such an unprecedented year it a great feeling to have her hard work and dedication recognized by her peers and colleagues. Winning this award will help her to continue to network with professionals in an inter- and transdisciplinary manner that will aid in her goal of becoming a successful independent research scientist in the field of metals toxicology. 

The research for which Dr. Young won this award focuses on the interactions between cadmium and high-fat diet in the development of liver disease and the use of dietary zinc to stop disease initiation and progression. This project takes into consideration that environmental exposures are typically multigenerational and lifelong, and that factors, such as diet and exposure to toxicants, are involved in the development of disease. Her team proposes whole life, low dose cadmium exposure will enhance metabolic syndrome associated with consumption of a high-fat diet, resulting in liver disease and that zinc plays a key role in determining this outcome. Dr. Young's future goal is to become a successful independent research scientist in academia. She has a particular interest in the sexual dimorphism of diseases associated with metal toxicity and the creation of sex-specific therapies to address such diseases. 

NCI Cancer Education Program Participants Present Research Posters on July 30

The 24 undergraduate participants in the NCI Cancer Education Program from the University of Louisville and other colleges and universities from across the country will present their research posters at the undergraduate research poster session scheduled for Friday July 30 from noon to 3 pm in the lobby of the Kosair Charities Clinical and Translational Research Building.  The 10 medical student participants in the NCI Cancer Education Program will present their research posters at Research!Louisville in October.

The undergraduate research posters can be viewed online.  

Undergraduate students from several other UofL programs also will present their research posters.

 

M&I Faculty Receives NIH R01 Grant

Matthew LawrenzM&I Associate Professor, Dr. Matthew Lawrenz, was awarded a National Institutes of Health R01 Grant titled " Iron independent role for yersiniabactin in Yersinia pestis." The grant, funded by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is budgeted until 2026 for a total amount of 2.6 million dollars.

UofL researchers lead call to increase genetic diversity in immunogenomics

UofL researchers lead call to increase genetic diversity in immunogenomics

Corey Watson, Ph.D., Melissa Smith, Ph.D., and Oscar Rodriguez, Ph.D.

Historically, most large-scale immunogenomic studies – those exploring the association between genes and disease – were conducted with a bias toward individuals of European ancestry. Corey T. Watson, Ph.D., assistant professor in the University of Louisville Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, is leading a call to actively diversify the genetic resources he and fellow immunogenomics researchers use in their work to advance genomic medicine more equitably.

Watson, along with UofL post-doctoral fellow Oscar Rodriguez, Ph.D., and visiting fellow Yana Safonova, Ph.D., are part of an international group of researchers who say the narrow studies limit their ability to identify variation in human adaptive immune responses across populations.

“We need to better understand how genetics influences immune system function by studying population cohorts that better represent the diversity observed across the globe if we are to fully understand disease susceptibility, as well as design more tailored treatments and preventative measures,” Watson said.

In an article published in Nature Methods, Diversity in immunogenomics: the value and the challenge, the group advocates for resources used in immunogenomics research to actively include and specifically identify additional populations and minority groups. They say such diversity will make their research more relevant and help in understanding population and ancestry-specific gene-associated disease, leading to improvements in patient care.

"As scientists, we have a say in which populations are investigated. Therefore, it is critical for us to be actively inclusive of individuals representative of the world we live in. This is especially critical for genes that are as diverse and clinically relevant as those that encode antibodies and T cell receptors," Rodriguez said.

Watson’s research focuses on immune function and molecular genetics. His team is studying a specific area of the genetic code that controls antibody function to better understand how differences in an individual’s genes determine their susceptibility to certain diseases or immune responses to vaccines.

In collaboration with Melissa Smith, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, the team is conducting the largest sequencing efforts of the antibody gene regions in humans and in animal models, Watson said.

“Specifically in humans, we are working to build catalogs of genetic variation in samples from multiple ethnic backgrounds and are engaged in projects that seek to understand how this genetic variation influences the immune response in infection, vaccination and other disease contexts,” he said.

Watson is involved in efforts to improve the resources and data standards for antibody and T cell receptor genes for immunogenomics researchers around the world.

The article in Nature Methods was co-authored by researchers from the United States, Canada, Norway, France, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Israel, South Africa, Nigeria, Chile, Peru, China, Japan, Taiwan and French Polynesia with expertise in biomedical and translational research, population and public health genetics, health disparities and computational biology as well as immunogenomics.

UofL, UK and Kentucky Department for Public Health receive CDC grant to improve stroke care, outcomes in Kentucky

UofL, UK and Kentucky Department for Public Health receive CDC grant to improve stroke care, outcomes in Kentucky

Kerri Remmel, MD, PhD

The University of Louisville, UK HealthCare, the Kentucky Department for Public Health’s Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program (KHDSP) and other state partners have been awarded the prestigious Paul Coverdell National Acute Stroke Program Grant by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This $1.8 million grant aims to optimize both stroke prevention among those at high risk as well as improve the care and outcomes for stroke patients throughout Kentucky.

The three-year grant will allow the coordination and expansion of existing efforts to improve stroke-related health outcomes. Kentucky health care systems and community providers will work together to implement comprehensive stroke systems for those at high risk for stroke and those who have had a stroke. 

“This program will allow expansion of our statewide efforts to serve rural and underserved citizens of the Commonwealth, to reduce disparities and monitor our progress,” said Kerri S. Remmel, chair of the UofL Department of Neurology, director of the UofL Hospital Stroke Center and co-chair of the KHDSP Task Force. “The program will facilitate continuous quality improvement in the full continuum of care from the moment a patient has a stroke through their emergency services, hospitalization and rehabilitation to their outpatient preventive care. We are extremely enthusiastic about collaborating with our partners in the Coverdell Program to improve stroke systems of care in Kentucky.”

“This award validates the voluntary efforts of stroke center personnel, EMS representatives, community partners, KHDSP staff and colleagues in public health, as well as all other stakeholders who have worked tirelessly across geopolitical boundaries in a collaborative effort to advance stroke systems of care in our state,” said Kari Moore, chair of the Stroke Encounter Quality Improvement Project (SEQIP) and project co-investigator. “We are excited to continue to build upon these efforts supported by the Coverdell award.”

KHDSP and SEQIP have made significant strides over the last 10 years improving stroke systems of care in the Commonwealth and growing access to stroke care by increasing the number of certified stroke centers in the state, increasing delivery of acute stroke treatments that can reverse or minimize stroke deficits and sharing best practices to help facilitate care delivery during hospitalization and after discharge.

This grant will coordinate and expand existing efforts in Kentucky to improve stroke-related health outcomes by working with Kentucky health care systems and community providers to implement comprehensive stroke systems for those at high risk for stroke and those who have had a stroke. 

The Coverdell award also will allow the group to target areas of the Commonwealth that are disproportionately affected by stroke, such as the Appalachian counties. The mortality rate due to stroke in that region is 14% higher than the national average and 8% higher than the rest of the state.

“This award could not come at a better time, because Kentucky has among the highest rates of stroke-related deaths in the country,” said Larry B. Goldstein, chairman of the University of Kentucky Department of Neurology and principal investigator on the project. “Over 2,000 Kentuckians die from stroke or stroke-related complications each year. Health behaviors and conditions that contribute to stroke are present at high rates in Kentucky with contributions from smoking, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, excessive alcohol use and physical inactivity. Although there are several existing stroke programs in Kentucky, we are excited that this project will coordinate and expand upon these efforts to improve stroke outcomes for Kentuckians.”

As part of the Coverdell initiative, the Kentucky Stroke Improvement Cooperative (KSIC) will be created to provide leadership for improving the quality of stroke care in the Commonwealth. Building from the KHDSP Taskforce and SEQIP, the UK and UofL Stroke Programs and the SCN, this group will lead the collaborative effort to transform Kentucky’s stroke care and outcomes by improving health approaches and practices.

Since its inception in 2005, The Coverdell Program has funded programs to ensure that all Americans receive the highest quality stroke care, a leading cause of death and long-term disability, by supporting coordinated stroke systems of care.

Joining nine other states currently funded by the Paul Coverdell National Acute Stroke Program, Kentucky’s program will:

  • Increase access and participation in the statewide Kentucky Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Task Force from the current 38 hospitals to help close the gap in stroke care for high burden populations. In addition to focusing on hospitals, the project will expand participation to encompass the community, primary care clinics, EMS, rehabilitation centers and long-term care facilities.
  • Expand coordination between existing programs including the Kentucky SEQIP, the statewide UK/Norton Healthcare Stroke Care Network, and the 36 certified stroke centers in Kentucky.
  • Increase access, understanding, utilization, and compliance with evidence-based performance measures of the American Heart Association’s Get With the Guidelines Stroke Program.
  • Expand existing systems of care to coordinate and extend access to rural and underserved populations.
  • Increase the dissemination of evidence-based guidelines for improvement of hypertension, obesity and diabetes control, which are the leading risk factors for stroke disproportionately affecting high-burden populations.
  • Reduce stroke disparities and deaths over the long term and improve outcomes throughout Kentucky with a focus on Appalachia and underserved communities at highest risk.

UofL resident physician selected for prestigious national fellowship

UofL resident physician selected for prestigious national fellowship

Meena Vessell, M.D.

University of Louisville neurosurgery resident Meena Vessell, M.D. has been selected by the Council of State Neurosurgical Societies (CSNS) as 1 of 12 neurosurgery residents to serve as socioeconomic fellow for 2021-2022. The council selects three residents from each geographic quadrant of the U.S. annually. Vessell is the third UofL resident to serve as a CSNS socioeconomic fellow after Ian Mutchnick in 2008-09 and Paul Larson in 2001-02.

The fellowship is intended to broaden a neurosurgery resident’s working understanding of the socioeconomic issues affecting neurological surgery by working on various committees and dedicated mentorship from council members. The CSNS is made up of members of state neurosurgical societies and functions as a joint committee of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons and the Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS). It began in the 1960s as a committee of the CNS, where it was charged with evaluating neurosurgery fees in the context of Medicare and a proliferation of other health insurance carriers. Today the CSNS is a collaborative organization of neurosurgeons and residents that serves as a resource and advocate on socioeconomic issues for the benefit of patients and the profession.

As a CSNS socioeconomic fellow, Vessell will participate actively in plenary sessions and on committees and will be expected to author or co-author a resolution or white paper on a relevant topic. During her fellowship year, Vessell will be trained in topics including the effects of socioeconomic issues on neurosurgical outcomes, the significance of billing/coding and reimbursements and practices that deliver cost-effective neurosurgical care.

Vessell is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio and earned her medical degree from Northeast Ohio Medical University. She will serve as a CSNS socioeconomic fellow during her seventh residency year. She has previously served as council representative to the American Medical Association (AMA) Council on Legislation, vice chair of the AMA Medical Student Section Council on Legislation and advocacy and government relations fellow for the Ohio State Medical Association. Vessell previously received the United States Public Health Service Excellence in Public Health Award on behalf of the Physicians Professional Advisory Committee of the Department of Health and Human Services and the United States Public Health Service, as well as the AMA Excellence in Medicine Award. 

UofL Health – Peace Hospital opens geriatric psychiatry inpatient unit

UofL Health – Peace Hospital opens geriatric psychiatry inpatient unit

UofL Health - Peace Hospital

UofL Health – Peace Hospital is expanding its care by opening a geriatric psychiatry inpatient unit providing short-term psychiatric treatment for adults aged 55 and older.

The secure 20-bed unit is specifically designed for the unique needs of the older adult and provides treatment for a range of mental health and substance use disorders.

“At our geriatric inpatient program, we will provide care for depression, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar and agitation associated with dementia and more,” said Martha Mather, CAO of UofL Health – Peace Hospital. “This is another example of the commitment UofL Health has made to providing high-quality mental health care for people at all stages of life.”

The treatment team will focus on crisis stabilization and supporting the patient’s return to their home community or to a less restrictive level of care. The interdisciplinary team includes board-certified psychiatrists, gerontologists, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, Master’s level therapists, mental health technicians, activity therapists, occupational, speech and physical therapists, and chaplains.

“There’s not a one-size fits all solution when it comes to mental health treatments, so we use a team approach to make sure every patient gets exactly what he or she needs to thrive,” said Stephen Taylor, M.D., chief medical officer at UofL Health – Peace Hospital. “We’re excited to offer this geriatric program because we know there is a growing need for this care in our community.”

The Peace Hospital Geriatric Inpatient Program will be housed in downtown Louisville at UofL Health – Frazier Rehabilitation Institute to ensure a holistic approach by meeting both the behavioral health and physical health needs of the patient.

This expansion in services created approximately 40 new jobs in Louisville, including a program director, outreach coordinator, nurses, mental health technicians and more. UofL Health invested more than $1 million into this project.

With the addition of this new unit, Peace Hospital now operates 262 inpatient beds to children and adults in need of mental health treatment. Telehealth and 24/7 mobile assessments are also available.

UofL receives $11.3 million from NIH for liver research center

UofL receives $11.3 million from NIH for liver research center

Craig McClain, M.D., right, with Matthew Cave, M.D., liver researcher and H&T COBRE core director, center, and Jamie Young, Ph.D., using equipment known as the NanoDrop instrument to analyze RNA and DNA samples.

The University of Louisville Hepatobiology and Toxicology Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) has received $11.3 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health to support its research into liver-related illness for an additional five years.

The UofL Hepatobiology and Toxicology Center was created in 2016 with an $11.5 million grant from the NIH to support unique research focused on liver injury and disease and toxicology. The center supports leading-edge research conducted by junior investigators with mentorship from senior researchers, as well as pilot projects and core laboratory facilities that support research across the university. The researchers’ goal is reducing the impact of many types of liver illness through prevention and the development of therapies.

Kentucky leads the nation in increases in cirrhosis-related deaths and in liver cancer-related deaths. According to research published in BMJ, mortality due to cirrhosis has been increasing in the U.S. since 2009, with the greatest increase in deaths from cirrhosis in Kentucky. Non-alcoholic fatty liver diseases affect approximately 25% of adults and 10% of children in the U.S.

“This vital research at the University of Louisville advances the health of Kentuckians and people throughout the world,” said UofL President Neeli Bendapudi. “Through this center, UofL researchers will continue to expand their work to find ways to prevent and treat liver illnesses, many of which today have no FDA-approved treatment.”

Researchers at the UofL H&T Center focus on liver injury, nutrition and gut-liver interactions as well as interactions between the liver and environment, toxicants and drugs. Their ultimate goal is to contribute to the prevention and treatment of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (a major cause of cirrhosis of the liver), alcoholic liver disease and liver cancer.

“This incredible cohort of researchers is discovering new ways to address the liver illnesses that afflict so many Kentuckians. I am thrilled that young researchers will continue to be supported with COBRE funding at UofL,” said Toni Ganzel, dean of the UofL School of Medicine.

In its first five years, four of the funded junior investigators in the UofL H&T Center received independent NIH research funding, making way for a new cohort of project researchers. The renewal of COBRE funding encourages a continuous supply of researchers in specialized areas of medicine and the search for new disease treatments.

“This unique thematic center is focused on liver injury, disease and toxicology. We evaluate critical barriers in our understanding of the development and progression of liver disease and we define potential therapeutic targets that could transform current practice,” said Craig McClain, associate vice president for health affairs and translational research and principal investigator for the UofL H&T Center. “This new phase will build on that success and extend and strengthen the scope of the program.”

“To push past the limitations of existing therapeutics, you need COBRE infrastructure grants to establish cutting-edge biomedical research centers and capabilities,” said Joshua L. Hood, a project investigator in the UofL H&T Center. “The more of these capabilities we have, the more we can explore multidisciplinary frontiers in biomedical science to facilitate the development of new treatments for liver-related cancer and other diseases.”

Current projects supported by the center include:

  • Yan Li, associate professor in the Department of Surgery, is investigating preventive strategies and possible mechanisms behind non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, a potential precursor of liver cancer.
  • Joshua L. Hood, assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology, is examining how very small membrane-bound compartments known as nanovesicles that are released by cancer cells influence immune function in liver cancer.
  • Ming Song, assistant professor in the Department of Medicine, is studying the role of fructose consumption on the disruption of intestinal barrier function in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
  • Smita Ghare, instructor in the Department of Medicine, is investigating how alcohol-induced changes in the liver contribute to liver inflammation and injury.

UofL has a legacy of liver research dating to the 1970s when faculty members began investigating a cluster of cases of hepatic angiosarcoma, a rare liver cancer caused by exposure to vinyl chloride in a polymer manufacturing facility in an area of West Louisville known as Rubbertown. UofL researchers worked with the community and industry to document and reduce the effects of toxicants on worker health. UofL still maintains a biorepository of blood and liver tissue specimens begun during that research that serves as a resource for investigators studying the effects of environmental exposures on the liver.

In addition to research, the center provides support for community health. During the epidemic of Hepatitis A and C in the last decade, center investigators helped create the Kentucky Hepatitis Academic Mentorship Program. This program helped to train more than 140 primary care providers in the diagnosis and treatment of Hepatitis C. Those diseases now are declining.

Faculty Position in Viral Immunology Closed

Initial interviews have been concluded and selected candidates have been invited for second visits.

Department of Microbiology & Immunology and the Center for Predictive Medicine announce a new tenure-track faculty position in Infectious Disease Immunology. Click here to learn more.