News

Potential recognized through a unique support system

Potential recognized through a unique support system

John Bowling, ENS, MC, USNR

John Bowling’s childhood was a struggle. At the age of nine, he was placed in a children’s home due to his mother’s cerebral palsy. He lived there until his junior year of high school when he relocated with foster parents, staying with them through high school graduation. Supported by his foster family and his biological mother and sister, he attended Lee University and graduated in 2013 with a degree in broadcast journalism. “I’m living proof that there are lots of kids out there who have so much potential but, due to circumstances out of their control, are unable to realize it.”

Unsure of his next step, he accepted a position through Teach for America as a high school biology and chemistry special education teacher in Hawaii. It was during his time on the Islands that he was inspired to pursue medicine. While working there, he felt a draw towards science and as much as he loved teaching, he felt a call elsewhere. Bowling spent a great deal of time with a physician mentor who encouraged him to consider medicine.

When he made the difficult decision to move back to the mainland and pursue medicine, Bowling searched for programs that would help him obtain his pre-requisite courses for medical school and found the University of Louisville School of Medicine. The Post Baccalaureate Pre-Med program offers individuals with a bachelor’s degree looking for a career change to enroll in a two-year preparation program to gain pre-med science coursework and offers assured admission to the UofL School of Medicine.

Bowling has been an active student leader during his time at the School of Medicine. He served as Historian and used his technical skills in digital media as well as his interest in social media to help document and promote the activities of his classmates. In addition, he was elected President of the Medical Student Council. During his time as president, he led a complete renovation of the medical student lounge, spearheaded initiatives to support and uplift our diversity groups, and contributed to several social events that brought all four classes together despite the COVID pandemic.

As a former teacher, Bowling brings a unique perspective to his medical practice that will undoubtedly benefit his patients. His advice for students pursuing medicine is insightful and emphasizes the importance of following one's passions. “Be sure of yourself and your decision; it will require effort and commitment beyond what you could ever expect,” says Bowling. “Surround yourself with people who encourage you and build you up, but also those who will hold you accountable. Always take time for yourself and do the things that make you happy.”

Upon graduation, Bowling will begin his career in Family Medicine with the Naval Medical Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida. “It is an honor to be able to serve in the US military and I’m beyond excited to get started this summer.” The Military Match allows medical students to practice medicine in a variety of ways across the globe. “I love traveling and adventure. My communications with the Navy confirmed my decision! I’ve made some amazing friends through boot camp and cannot wait to go active duty in May!”

Though Bowling already received his Match, the School of Medicine celebrates his accomplishments and wishes him the best in his residency and future career with our US Military!

Kentucky native has a vision for the future

Kentucky native has a vision for the future

Cameron Garner

Congratulations to Cameron Garner on his match with the University of Louisville School of Medicine Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences! It is always inspiring to see individuals who have a passion for helping others pursue a career in medicine, and Garner's dedication to his patients is truly admirable.

Garner is a native Kentuckian and knew he wanted to go to into medicine. Growing up surrounded by physicians, he was inspired by the amazing care and respect they have for their patients. He began his journey to medical school early as one of 10 Kentucky high school students accepted into the UofL School of Medicine Guaranteed Entrance to Medical School (GEMS) program. After completing the GEMS program, students are automatically admitted into the School of Medicine by maintaining a 3.4 cumulative and science grade point average in undergraduate work, scoring at or above the national mean on each section of the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), and participating fully in program activities.

At a young age, Garner’s mother was diagnosed with macular degeneration and as he observed her ophthalmologist, his inspiration for pursuing Ophthalmology only grew. With each visit they would carefully and patiently care for his mother. Garner wants to help patients in the same way physicians in his life have continued to help his mother.

For anyone interested in pursuing medicine, Garner’s advice is “to find a mentor who you trust to help you along your journey. Having someone that you feel comfortable getting advice from is crucial, because the journey to medicine is not easy, and the road does not end once you are accepted to medical school.”

Garner has already begun in his career of service to others. During his time at the University of Louisville, Garner served as a math tutor, teaching assistant in undergraduate studies, and a tutor in the medical school. As a participant in the Medical Education Distinction track, he created a Math Refresher pre-quiz module for first-year medical students to complete prior to their biostatistics course to address medical students’ anxiety surrounding mathematics.

We are proud of Cameron Garner for his hard work and dedication to the University of Louisville School of Medicine. We wish him luck on his residency and future endeavors!

Q&A: UofL environmental health researcher on leave to serve the White House

Q&A: UofL environmental health researcher on leave to serve the White House

Natasha DeJarnett

Natasha DeJarnett, assistant professor of medicine and researcher with the Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute, is spending a year away from UofL to devote her skills to improving environmental justice for the federal government.

DeJarnett has accepted a one-year fellowship as deputy director for environmental justice data and evaluation for the White House Council on Environmental Quality. The council coordinates the federal government’s efforts to improve, preserve and protect public health and the environment. It also advises the president and develops policies on climate change, environmental justice, federal sustainability, public lands, oceans and wildlife conservation.

DeJarnett is on leave from UofL for the one-year fellowship, but she will be working remotely, so she will remain in Louisville and stay connected with her UofL colleagues.

UofL News talked with DeJarnett about the fellowship and what she hopes to gain from the experience that she can bring back to UofL.

UofL News: What will be your role as deputy director for environmental justice data and evaluation?

DeJarnettThe White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) has created the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool. Version 1.0 was released in November 2022, and we’re continuing to mold it with input from stakeholders across the U.S. and experts in the field. I will continue that process and engage people and experts around the tool. We are also developing an Environmental Justice Scorecard that will track government agencies’ progress on environmental justice.

I’m very excited to see how the information from these environmental justice tools will be used to identify communities across the U.S. that are disadvantaged and thereby uniquely susceptible to the health hazards of climate and environmental exposures, but ultimately how climate and environmental justice investments in these communities will benefit health.

My interest is in advancing environmental health for everyone, particularly the populations that have borne the greatest burden, that have frequently experienced these exposures and communities that may be less resilient to these health threats. I want to help equip those communities and ensure that future actions and activities and efforts to protect health do not leave certain groups behind. If marginalized communities do not benefit from these actions, then injustice continues to perpetuate.

UofL News:  What is environmental justice?

DeJarnett: According to the Environmental Protection Agency, environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies. This goal will be achieved when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and have equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn and work.

UofL News: What are some examples of environmental injustice?

DeJarnett I have a personal example. I’m from here in Kentucky, but the greater portion of my family is from Birmingham, Alabama, where my parents and my grandparents lived in an area of environmental injustice.

Their community was home to numerous steel mills. Some still are in the neighborhood today. Also, a major interstate runs right through their community, another interstate is south of it, the airport is just south of their neighborhoods, there were hazardous waste sites and so forth. There was documented soil contamination in their community that has been remediated. But the community continues to deal with poor air quality and there are a number of health disparities present – cardiovascular disease, low birth weight and other chronic conditions.

We have similar experiences right here in Louisville in Rubbertown, which at its height, had 11 to 13 chemical manufacturers in a community that’s largely populated by low-wealth individuals and people of color. Another example is in southeastern Louisiana in an area known as cancer alley.

Flint, Michigan’s water crisis and formerly redlined communities that have warmer surface temperatures, poorer air quality and are more flood prone are other examples.

You have places where there are large industrial exposures, hazardous waste sites or other environmental toxins that people are being exposed to and we often find that those happen to certain segments of our population. It could be on tribal lands; it could be communities of low wealth.

UofL News: What do you hope to contribute to the council’s mission?

DeJarnett: My interest overall is to contribute to the advancement of environmental justice for the advancement of public health. I am super excited that I may be able to contribute to actions, activities, resources and tools that could contribute to improved health across our nation, particularly for communities that bear a heavier burden and that have higher risk.

I hope to be able to make a difference for communities like that of my family in Birmingham and Rubbertown here in Louisville, in Mossville, Louisiana and all across the nation. These and other communities have not always been given a voice in their exposure to environmental burdens and are not able to – nor should they have to – just up and move.

We all deserve clean air to breathe, we all deserve safe water to drink, and I hope to contribute to activities that support upholding those rights.

UofL News: What in your previous experience makes this a perfect position for you?

DeJarnett: At UofL, I was doing research on climate change and health and was looking at extreme heat exposure and cardiovascular disease risk as well as poor air quality and cardiovascular disease risk. In addition, I was examining environmental health disparities.

Before I came to UofL, I worked at two national nonprofits, the American Public Health Association and the National Environmental Health Association. There I did a lot of work building partnerships and facilitating opportunities for multiple people to weigh in with their expertise and contribute to an end product.

I have appreciated opportunities to build consensus among national leaders and to identify emerging trends and share environmental health resources.

In this role I’ll need to work between agencies and be able to put on multiple hats and speak to multiple audiences. I love opportunities to try to meet people where they are, find what we have in common, what values we share and how can we move from there with shared vision.

UofL News: How will this experience be helpful to you and the mission of the Envirome Institute once you return to UofL?

DeJarnett: I will get a national picture of the current state of environmental justice research and data that exists and a deeper understanding of the gaps in knowledge in environmental health and environmental injustice across the U.S. This will help me understand where academic research may be able to fill those gaps.

In addition, this opportunity will expose me to environmental justice data tools that our communities can utilize to inform local action.

Our center is committed to human health, to improving, advancing and protecting health in our communities. Environmental justice is a key aspect of health in our community. Plus, I’ll get a lot of experience with data and analysis, and that always benefits in environmental epidemiologist.

I love being at the University of Louisville. I love the expansion and direction that’s happening right here within the Envirome Institute, so I’m grateful for the support to have this life-bridging opportunity and to be able to bring that back here.

University of Louisville Appoints School of Medicine Interim Dean

University of Louisville Appoints School of Medicine Interim Dean

Jeffrey M. Bumpous, M.D., F.A.C.S.

Jeffrey M. Bumpous, MD, has been appointed to serve as interim dean of the University of Louisville School of Medicine effective July 1, 2023. Bumpous will work closely with current dean Toni Ganzel, MD, MBA, for the remainder of the semester to ensure he is thoroughly onboarded before Ganzel begins her retirement at the end of June. 

“Dr. Bumpous possesses many qualities that School of Medicine faculty, staff and students expressed wanting in an interim dean at listening sessions hosted earlier this year,” said UofL Executive Vice President & University Provost Lori Stewart Gonzalez in announcing the appointment to the UofL community. “We plan to start a formal dean search in the fall 2023 semester to fill the dean position permanently.”

Bumpous brings a wealth of experience to the appointed role. He has served as the chair of the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and Communicative Disorders at the UofL School of Medicine since 2015. He has also served as president of the Association of Academic Departments of Head and Neck Surgery (AADO-HNS), president of the Society of University Otolaryngologists (SUO), member of the Board of Directors of the American Board of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery and in a variety of other leadership roles with the American Academy of Otolaryngology, the American Head and Neck Society, the Kentucky Society of Otolaryngology, the Louisville Otolaryngologic Society and other professional organizations. 

 “I am committed to our excellent learners, staff, faculty and community and look forward to working with an outstanding and growing medical school and health system,” Bumpous said of the new role.  

Ganzel announced her retirement in early January after serving as dean of the School of Medicine for more than 10 years and serving in other leadership positions at the university for 30 years. Ganzel was the first woman in the school’s history to serve as dean.

“I have had the privilege of knowing and working with Dr. Bumpous for over 25 years and I am confident he will be extraordinarily effective in the role,” Ganzel said. “It will be an honor to pass the baton to him as I leave.”

Women’s History Month Spotlight: Dr. Shorye Durrett

Women’s History Month Spotlight: Dr. Shorye Durrett

Shorye Durrett, M.D.

The University of Louisville School of Medicine recognizes the importance of Women’s History Month and takes pride in highlighting faculty members going above and beyond for the school and the Louisville community. Shorye Durrett, MD, assistant dean for Medical Student Affairs, has been a part of the University of Louisville family since enrolling in its pre-matriculation program in 1993.   

Her passion for Ophthalmology began at a young age. In the 8th grade, her stepfather helped make an eye model using clay and a yarn spool. She entered the project in a science fair at a local university. Judges of the fair asked her to explain how the eye works internally, and thus created a ‘spark’ in her own eye. “I am humbly grateful to not only be an ophthalmologist, but actually a retina specialist,” said Durrett.

Durrett is a part of a small community of African American ophthalmologists in the U.S., where less than 5% of the country’s ophthalmologists identify as African American. In 1997, she became the second African American graduate from the University of Louisville School of Medicine to match in ophthalmology and the first African American woman resident at the University of Louisville Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences.

Durrett’s legacy of gratitude continues today. She started a non-profit called Vision Ambassadors (VisAmb) to provide “educational assistance to help students obtain terminal graduate degrees with the intent of community wealth building and service.” Durrett’s aim is to continue to build upon the rich legacies of many others, for others.  Thus, she’s busy helping establish the Mary S. Joshua Endowment Fund, Portnoy-Berberich-Payne ‘Vision Heirs’ Endowment Fund, and Dr. Delores Gordon Allyne Lecture Series to honor their legendary contributions in medical progress for all.

The School of Medicine is honored to have Dr. Shorye Durrett as a part of its faculty and a greater part of the Louisville community.

Central High School students in Pre-Medical Magnet Program receive white coats at UofL

Central High School students in Pre-Medical Magnet Program receive white coats at UofL

Central High School juniors in the Pre-Medical Magnet Program received white coats at the UofL School of Medicine on Feb. 26.

What’s normally a rite of passage for medical students has become a symbol of achievement for 33 Central High School juniors who are one step closer to pursuing a career in the medical field.

The Central High School Pre-Medical Magnet Program, which launched in the fall semester of 2022, gives west Louisville students an up-close and personal experience with a career in medicine. Students are able to shadow UofL doctors during rounds at UofL Health – UofL Hospital, scrub into operating rooms and witness surgeries, and also get practice performing simpler procedures, like sutures through this immersive curriculum.

With every white coat placed on the shoulders of a student, this ceremony serves as a reminder of goals that can be fulfilled. This historic partnership connects UofL Health, Central High School, UofL School of Medicine and the Falls City Medical Society to encourage the future generation towards a career in the medical field.

“I’m so proud of these students and I know that programs like this work. We already have and will continue to see the changes it makes to our community,” said Edward Miller, MD, assistant professor in the UofL Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health and a physician with UofL Physicians – OB/GYN & Women’s Health. “We’ve already connected dozens of students to meet, work with and befriend doctors, nurses and so many more health care professionals, and eventually that number will turn to hundreds, then thousands. These students will no longer be able to say that they have never seen a doctor that looks like them.”

As juniors in this program, these students rotated through each of the core medical clerkships from OB/GYN to emergency medicine in an effort to learn which field best suits them. In their senior year, they’ll get to choose which area of medicine they wish to pursue a future in and have one-on-one mentorship with leaders in those specialties.

“I am in awe of the determination and dedication of the students at Central High School and the eagerness of our faculty physicians to give of their time and talents to showcase to them the wonderful world of medicine,” said Toni Ganzel, dean of the UofL School of Medicine. “Part of our mission is to educate the next generation of physicians and contribute to the health and wellness of the community—locally, regionally, nationally and globally. Thanks to partnerships like this driven by our Office of Community Engagement and Diversity, our faculty physicians have the chance to instill a love for medicine early in a student’s academic career and welcome a new cohort of medical professionals.”

The pre-medical pipeline program offers educational opportunities, college credit and hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships. At the end, students will be equipped with knowledge, resources and mentorship to lead the change for this community.

“This program is an extension of the commitment to transform the health of our community by engaging with the next generation of health care professionals,” said Tom Miller, UofL Health CEO. “We want to share our passion to care for people, hoping to inspire more students to consider nursing, medical school and other health careers at UofL Health.”

Students in the Central High School Magnet Career Academy are selected for admission through a competitive process with over 100 applicants that includes achievement test scores, grade point average, personal essays and other teacher recommendations. Central has the second-highest number of Governor’s Scholars in the district. Central is one of two high schools in Kentucky to offer Montessori education.

“Donning a white coat holds special significance for our students,” said Dr. Marty Pollio, JCPS Superintendent. “Being viewed as a member of the UofL Health team is a tremendous opportunity as our students get hands on experience with the doctors and other health care professionals whose footsteps many of them hope to follow.”

The white coats, presented to the 33 juniors at UofL’s Health Sciences Center on Feb. 26, were provided by UofL Health. The pre-medical magnet program starts accepting applicants in a student’s high school freshman year. For more information on how to apply, click here

School of Medicine honors its residents on Appreciation Day

School of Medicine honors its residents on Appreciation Day

Dr. Shengnan (Shannon) Zheng

Tomorrow, February 24, is Resident Appreciation Day and the UofL School of Medicine recognizes the importance of our residents to the Louisville community. Every Resident is an essential part of the School of Medicine by ensuring proper care for patients in the clinical setting. They continually go above and beyond to ensure that we uphold our mission to improve the health and vitality of our community, our Commonwealth, and our world. Residents like Cardiology Fellow, Shengnan (Shannon) Zheng, MD, are a vital aspect of our clinical family.

Zheng serves as a patient advocate; she always seeks the best possible care for her patients. For her, it is not a job, it’s a calling. Zheng does not operate on a 9-5 schedule. Instead, she works her schedule around her patients’ needs. She embodies what we look for in our residents and places a strong emphasis on community engagement and volunteerism. She often serves local health clinics, churches, schools, blood drives, as well as outreach health clinics for the underserved and uninsured.

Zheng is a firm believer in integrity and transparency in medicine and explains everything thoroughly to her patients and their family, ensuring that they have adequate information before making any decisions concerning their health. She has arranged for transportation of her patients, assisted vehicle accident victims, and provided medical support on an international flight. For Zheng, treating people is woven into her everyday life.

Throughout her time in the cardiology program, Zheng has shown excellent leadership and comradery skills. She advocates for her program fellows, assists in covering shifts, and stays late when necessary to help others. She leads with a humble nature and is well-respected by the nurses and staff around the hospital.  She was recently voted as Cardiology Chief Fellow for the next program year.

Zheng has a professional interest in the advancement of medicine and has actively participated in multiple research projects and clinical trials at UofL. She serves as a mentor to others who have an interest in medicine and cardiology, such as participating in the American College of Cardiology’s Young Scholar Program as well as mentoring to our own medical students and Residents.

To future medical students and Residents, Zheng offers this advice: “Never give up, even if you do not see immediate results, because hard is work never wasted!”

Dr. Zheng’s, as well as all our current residents’, efforts to the School of Medicine are invaluable. The UofL community is grateful for our wonderful team of resident physicians!

Climbing Kilimanjaro to beat Huntington’s Disease

Climbing Kilimanjaro to beat Huntington’s Disease

Laura Dixon at the summit of Mount Meru in Tanzania in February 2022.

Laura Dixon is ready to climb a mountain to benefit people with a rare, inherited neurological disease.

The University of Louisville staff member and alumna is planning to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to raise awareness and support patients with Huntington’s Disease and their families.

“I decided if I was going to make this climb, I wanted to make it count. I want to make a difference for this underserved, underrepresented and often misunderstood population,” Dixon said.

The highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro is a snow-capped dormant volcano that rises 19,341 feet above sea level. After climbing nearby 14,968-foot Mount Meru in February 2022, Dixon set a goal of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with the added motivation of increasing awareness of Huntington’s Disease and raising funds for the research, education and advocacy of the Kentucky Chapter of the Huntington’s Disease Society of America (HDSA). 

Dixon has treated patients with Huntington's Disease (HD) for more than seven years as a nurse practitioner in the UofL Department of Neurology, co-director of UofL's HDSA Center of Excellence and director of the Huntington’s Disease Multidisciplinary Clinic at UofL Physicians.

Huntington's Disease is a progressive, incurable and fatal disease that causes the progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain. According to HDSA, approximately 41,000 Americans have symptomatic HD. Symptoms usually first appear in patients between the ages of 30 and 50 and can include involuntary movements, cognition difficulties and psychiatric problems such as depression and irritability. The disorder is caused by a single specific gene.

“After caring for more than 100 people with Huntington's Disease over the years, it is not lost on me how fortunate I am to have the opportunity and the physical and cognitive abilities needed to make this climb,” Dixon said. “I will be carrying my people with me every step of the way.”

UofL has the only HDSA Center of Excellence in Kentucky. The twice-monthly clinic offers multidisciplinary care for patients and families with HD, providing services in nutrition, mental health, social services. Patients also have access to physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech-language therapy and genetic counseling.

Dixon will start her seven-day ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro on March 1. To support her climb with a donation to HDSA, visit her page on their website.

Heartwheels! STEM Mobile Outreach brings heart health to life for kids

Heartwheels! STEM Mobile Outreach brings heart health to life for kids

Steven C. Koenig, PhD, with young people at a HeartWheels! demonstration.

The University of Louisville School of Medicine amplifies excellence through its students, faculty, and staff. Gretel Monreal, PhD, associate professor in the department of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery, and Steven C. Koenig, PhD, professor and endowed chair of Cardiac Implant Science in the department of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery, are upholding the long-standing tradition of giving back to the commonwealth. Together, they founded Heartwheels! STEM Mobile Outreach—an innovative experiential initiative designed to bring participation in and promote awareness of STEM fields to young people and their families, including those in rural and underserved communities. Heartwheels! helps spread awareness of cardiovascular sciences, bioengineering, biomedical technologies, and heart-healthy living through educational initiatives that give the students hands-on experiences.

Heartwheels! is a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Previously, Monreal and Koenig hosted STEM community events in their Advanced Heart Failure Research Program (AHFR) at the University of Louisville.  They would invite numerous student groups into their labs to experience fun, hands-on educational activities, but these types of events were halted due to the pandemic.

Heartwheels!STEM Mobile Outreach allows their educational program to continue reaching young people and their families. “Informal extracurricular experiential learning and educational activities trigger young people’s aspiring interests in science, technology, engineering, and math,” said Monreal and Koenig, “Participation in extracurricular STEM activities is one of the most significant factors that drives a student’s interest and passion in pursuing a STEM career.”

The School of Medicine asked Monreal and Koenig their favorite memories from Heartwheels! Koenig recalled his favorite was of a little girl who kept returning to their Heartwheels! booth to ask more questions and asking to hold one of the mechanical circulatory support devices again and again. She was very engaged with the activities and asked insightful questions.

Heartwheels! has an upcoming outreach event in Louisville on February 17-18 at the Kentucky Science Center. The event is open to the public and will allow young people and their families to learn more about STEM fields, living heart-healthy, and seeing cardiovascular and bioengineering technologies in person through fun, hands-on, and interactive engagements.

Monreal and Koenig hope the Heartwheels! program will alleviate any potential fears of STEM fields. “Hopefully it helps young people to believe that they can be anything they want to be, no matter their background or where they’re from.”

University of Louisville receives nearly $1.2 million from Humana Foundation to address community’s heart health

Grants include support for cardiac disease screening to impact health disparities among underrepresented segments of Louisville’s population

LOUISVILLE, Ky.  –  The University of Louisville joined The Humana Foundation today to announce two grants for the School of Medicine that will support dietary interventions aimed at improving heart health in the Black community.

The grants contribute to UofL’s strategic imperative to address health equity and serve as part of The Humana Foundation’s strategy to eliminate unjust and unnecessary barriers in health care.

“UofL continues to appreciate the support of The Humana Foundation in addressing health equity,” President Kim Schatzel said. “Their generous support will enable us to conduct the important work of engaging with communities of color to research the role of nutrition, food quality and diagnostic screening as they relate to heart health.”

“Every day, people face a multitude of choices that can affect their health and quality of life,” said Tiffany Benjamin, CEO of the Humana Foundation. “In too many communities, these choices are limited by factors beyond their control. That is why we are expanding healthy choices for communities and eliminating social and structural barriers, so that more people can reach their full health potential.”

Each of the three-year grants will fund regional nutrition programs. The larger of the two grants is $1,037,000 and will support the DISPARITY Trial (Dietary Intervention for primary and Secondary Prevention And Plaque Regression Investigated with Computed TomographY). The grant will support cardiac disease screening and nutrition-based interventions to address cardiac health disparities among older Black adults in Louisville.

The second grant of $154,000 is earmarked for the H.E.A.R.T. of Louisville Project: Helping Everyone Address Risk Today. The funding will support the identification of members of the Black community in Louisville at-risk for coronary disease and enrollment into long-term nutrition and lifestyle interventions.

“Food insecurity is a major problem that correlates with health care disparities,” said cardiologist Kim Allan Williams Sr., chair of the UofL department of medicine. “Nutrition education and food quality issues plague our African-American community, keeping heart disease as the leading killer of Americans. Our trials will help detect disease in those who are at risk and manage those already diagnosed using lifestyle changes, medication, enhanced access to cardiac care and advanced diagnostic imaging.”

The programs funded by both grants will include efforts to create healthy emotional connections, as a vital part of a holistic approach to care and shaping a healthier approach to nutrition to support lifelong health and wellbeing.

Staying heart healthy on Superbowl Sunday featuring Kim Williams, Sr., MD

The University of Louisville School of Medicine recognizes our faculty and staff for their excellence and insight. In honor of Black History Month, the school recognizes Dr. Kim Williams Sr., for his contributions to the University of Louisville and its community.

Dr. Williams is a renowned cardiologist and health equity expert. His inspiration behind becoming a cardiologist stem from noticing the lack of physicians within the south side of Chicago. “We really needed every kind of physician,” said Williams, “I really went into cardiology because it resonated with me personally and was enjoyable to learn about from early-on in medical school.”

His passion for cardiology and health equity was a driving force in his decision to join the Louisville community. In 2023, Williams hopes to enhance screening for heart disease by meeting people where they are: community groups, churches, and UofL sporting events. “No at-risk person should be left behind due to a lack of access,” said Williams. He intends to educate the community on proper nutrition to lower heart disease as well as increase CPR training for the Kentuckiana area. 

When asked for one easy step we can all take to improve our heart health, Williams suggests to “Focus on lifestyle. Exercise daily and consume a plant-based diet. Every meal and every mile matters.”

With Superbowl Sunday approaching, the School of Medicine asked Dr. Williams what is on his game day menu. “You might not remember that “Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche” book from the early ‘80s?  Well, somehow after sautéing the onions, celery, and bell peppers, then mixing in the mashed potatoes, I usually end up pouring the egg substitute over it, and then covering it with marinara sauce, oregano, and vegan mozzarella cheese. Yup, quiche. Except it tastes like pizza. Don’t judge it until you try it!”

Alternative appetizer suggestions included the (in)famous Dr. Kim Williams’ “Blackened” Kale. “The recipe is simple: olive oil, garlic powder, oregano, balsamic vinegar, potassium chloride (i.e., salt substitute), and nutritional yeast in a gallon bag with a lot of baby kale. Once you mix all your ingredients, shake them vigorously. Then spread the covered kale on a baking sheet and set the oven to broil. How to figure your broiling time? Take a call about a critically ill patient. Totally forget about the oven. Smell some smoke. Hear the smoke alarm. Sprint to the kitchen. Put out the fire.  Eat it anyway. They taste incredible.”

Medical students equipped with Narcan and training to prevent overdose deaths

Medical students equipped with Narcan and training to prevent overdose deaths

Clinical Professor Pat Murphy instructs first-year medical students at UofL in harm reduction and Narcan use. Photo by Kellen Murphy.

Students in the UofL School of Medicine are prepared to have a direct impact on their own communities and families years before they officially become physicians.

For the first time, 165 first-year med students received a training session to address the state’s opioid epidemic where they learned the principles of harm reduction and to use Narcan, also known as naloxone, to reverse an opioid overdose. The students also each received their own Narcan kit, equipping them to possibly save someone from an overdose.

“We learned how serious the opioid crisis is. It is an epidemic in this country. To tackle the crisis, we need Narcan to be available over the counter and we need more people trained,” said Daniel Hughes, a first-year medical student who took part in the course. “It’s good that the UofL School of Medicine is trying to get as many people as possible trained early on.”

According to the Kentucky Drug Overdose Report, 2,250 Kentuckians died from drug overdoses in 2021, a 14.5% increase over 2020, which saw a 49% increase over 2019. An opioid was involved in 90% of overdose deaths.

The 90-minute mandatory session informed the students how to respond if they encounter someone experiencing an overdose. Instructors James Patrick Murphy, a clinical professor at UofL and board member of the Kentucky Harm Reduction Coalition (KyHRC), and Christopher Stewart, associate professor in the UofL Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, also outlined the rationale and evidence for harm reduction according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

“Harm reduction is care that meets people who use drugs ‘where they are,’ on their own terms, keeping them alive and as healthy as possible by decreasing overdoses, preventing life-threatening infections and reducing the impact of diseases such as HIV and hepatitis,” Murphy said. “Harm reduction also serves as a proven pathway to additional prevention, treatment and recovery. Simply put, harm reduction is humble and compassionate care that saves lives.”

The students were shown how to use Narcan to reverse an opioid overdose and given a Narcan kit, provided by the KyHRC and valued at $100 each.

Susan Sawning, a professor in UofL’s office of medical education, was instrumental in creating the course and obtaining the Narcan kits for the students. For her, the need is personal.

“I have lost multiple people in my life to overdose,” Sawning said. “I wish their families, friends and medical professionals had had the knowledge about harm reduction our students learned through this training.”

School of Medicine appoints new Chair of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery

School of Medicine appoints new Chair of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery

Nicholas Ahn, MD

Nicholas Ahn, MD, is joining the University of Louisville School of Medicine from Case Western University and University Hospitals – Cleveland, effective June 1, 2023. 

Dr. Ahn served as the Director of the Spine Fellowship Program (2010-2022) and the Director of the Spinal Cord Injury Unit at the Louis Stokes VA Medical Center (2005-2018). He received a B.S. degree in molecular biophysics and biochemistry from Yale University, and his medical degree from Harvard Medical School. He completed his orthopedic residency at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland.  After his residency, he completed a fellowship in Spine Surgery at Rush University in Chicago.

Dr. Ahn specializes in spine surgery with a focus on reconstruction for complex spinal conditions and minimally invasive procedures for degenerative disease.  He has published over 200 articles, abstracts, and book chapters with his medical students and residents, and his research has been nominated for awards from the Cervical Spine Research Society, the North American Spine Society, and the Ohio Orthopedic Society. 

A prolific teacher, he organized and ran the musculoskeletal anatomy course at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine as part of the preclinical curriculum.  He was elected into the Alpha Omega Alpha Honors Society for Excellence in Teaching by the medical school class of 2012, and was given the Kaiser Permanente Teaching Award by the medical school class of 2015.  He is a two-time recipient of the Teaching Award for the orthopedic residency at University Hospitals/ Case Western Reserve University and led the Spine Fellowship Program since 2010.

Dr. Ahn has served on the Field Test Task Force, the Question Writing Committee, and as a Part II Examiner for the American Board of Orthopedic Surgeons and as an advisory editor for multiple orthopedic journals. He has served on the Health Care Quality Assurance Advisory Committee and the Medical Initiatives and Research Committee for the Ohio Bureau of Worker’s Compensation where he helped shape policy for lumbar surgery.  He has been named a “Top Doctor” by Cleveland Magazine and the American Registry, a “Best Doctor” by America’s Best Physicians, and was nominated for the “Patient’s Choice Award” and the “Compassionate Doctor Award” by Vitals. 

"We are delighted to have Dr. Ahn join our leadership team,” said dean Toni Ganzel. “We're confident his talents and skills will bring great value to the department of Orthopedic Surgery and the institution."

UofL College of Education & Human Development, School of Medicine launch new master’s degree in health professions education

UofL College of Education & Human Development, School of Medicine launch new master’s degree in health professions education

Wil Abshier, left, assistant professor of comprehensive dentistry at the University of Louisville School of Dentistry, is a recent graduate of UofL’s new Master of Science in Health Professions Education program.

The College of Education and Human Development and the School of Medicine at the University of Louisville have launched a new, fully online Master of Science degree in Health Professions Education (MSHPE).

"The goal of the MSHPE program is to magnify the impact of the health professions educator. Not only do health professions educators improve the outcomes of their patients, but they significantly improve the educational outcomes of their practitioner learners and impact the patients that those learners ultimately care for in the future,” Staci Saner, EdD., program director and assistant professor of medicine, said.

Employment in the health care industry is booming, with expected growth of 2.6 million jobs from 2020 to 2030 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The curriculum within UofL’s MSHPE program will meet this need by equipping educators with the skills and expertise to be highly effective health professions educators.

Additionally, many accrediting bodies are moving towards requesting background knowledge in teaching and learning for health professions educators. This degree will provide this necessary credential.

The new degree plan focuses on the needs for health care professionals who currently teach or plan to teach in their respective discipline—medicine, nursing, dentistry, pharmacy or other health fields—and who want to become effective educators in a clinical or classroom setting.

An article in the journal “Medical Teacher” found that graduate programs in HPE—including certificate and degree programs—are viewed by many as a key strategy to contribute to a health professional's conversion from competent clinician to academic leader. Additionally, the “Journal of Graduate Medical Education” reported that accreditation bodies increasingly require that residency leaders have the requisite specialty expertise and documented educational and administrative experience. “With this explicit requirement, and with the need to maintain an educational environment conducive to educating the residents in graduate health care education competencies, institutions recognize the value of employing leaders who possess advanced training in education to maintain and improve their residency programs,” the report found.

UofL Assistant Professor of Comprehensive Dentistry Wil Abshier has completed the program. “I recommend this program to anyone who just simply wants to be a better educator for their students,” Abshier said. “So many people in HPE are clinicians at heart but have no formal education in teaching. This bridges that gap."

7th Annual Dean's Staff Excellence Awards

7th Annual Dean's Staff Excellence Awards

image of paperweight awards

The School of Medicine spent Thursday evening celebrating its outstanding staff members during the 7th annual Dean's Staff Excellence Awards.

The event, hosted by Toni Ganzel, MD, dean of the School of Medicine, and Glenn Gittings, PhD, chief of staff, honored staff members nominated by their colleagues for their outstanding excellence exhibited over the last 12 months.

"The nominations tell a compelling story about the excellence, creativity, and personal dedication of a great number of our staff who lean in each and every day to help us carry out our mission," said Ganzel, "The Dean’s Staff Awards recognizes a thriving SOM support system full of staff members that have made a significant impact and contribution to the life of others here at the School of Medicine."

Over 30 staff members were nominated for seven different award categories. The awards were presented to:

  • Brigitte Warren, for Performance Excellence in an Administrative Office
  • Katherine Linzy, for Performance Excellence in a Clinical Department
  • Russ Howard, for Performance Excellence in a Basic Science Department
  • Robert Peck, for Heart of the School
  • Jan Ke-McCue, for the Anti-Racism, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award
  • Green Dot, for Team of the Year
  • Beth Williams, for Employee of the Year
  • Gordon Stout and Sherri Gary, co-awardees for the Dean’s Lifetime Achievement Award

The celebration was the conclusion to a day-long event for School of Medicine Staff members.

"Investing time, energy, and resources into our staff is the key to making the School of Medicine the place it is today. Without our staff, we couldn't operate at the high capacity we do daily," said Gittings, "Their hard work never goes unnoticed, and I hope the resurgence of S.M.A.R.T. Staff events will help our colleagues feel better supported in their daily efforts."

View photos from the event here.

UofL School of Medicine Student receives RIME Award at AAMC

The University of Louisville School of Medicine is committed to highlighting the success of our faculty and learners.
UofL School of Medicine Student receives RIME Award at AAMC

Luca Petrey, ULSOM class of 2023

Fourth-year medical student, Luca Petrey (they/them), was recently awarded the 2022 RIME Underrepresented in Medicine Research Award from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).  Petrey, in collaboration with Emily Noonan, PhD, and Laura Weingartner, PhD, were recognized at the 2022 AAMC Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, for their paper titled “Gender Diverse Representation in Patient Simulation: A Scoping Review.”

Petrey dedicated their research towards the advocacy of transgender and non-binary patient simulation. Petrey was inspired when they recognized a lack of medical education surrounding transgender and non-binary patients within medical simulations. When these medical simulations were portrayed, they were performed by actors who were hired to take on a specific gender identity. This removed the authenticity of the medical simulation. Additionally, the study identified there was an overwhelming amount of data collected on transgender individuals, but less on non-binary patients.

“Receiving the Underrepresented in Medicine research award from the AAMC for this work is a very encouraging marker of increasing interest in competent, respectful care for gender diverse people,” said Petrey. “It also signals the value that people with lived experience bring as medical educators, and that realization will drive medicine forward in so many areas.”

Petrey created a three-step goal for educator development: to establish a relationship between transgender and non-binary communities and the University of Louisville to identify casting limitations and create a specialized clinical simulation to overcome those limitations, and. to document the gender identities of the characters in specific cases and of those hired to portray the patients.

“It’s students like Luca who are identifying problems within medical education and creating plans to overcome those for future generations of medical students,” said Toni Ganzel, dean of the School of Medicine. “I could not be prouder of them for publishing their research and receiving the RIME award.”

Petrey’s research, along with the work of many of their colleagues, set an expectation for the diversity and inclusion efforts of the School of Medicine. The School of Medicine admires the efforts of Petrey, Noonan and Weingartner toward advancing the medical education curriculum to create a more inclusive space.

“The UofL School of Medicine has a team of dedicated researchers who focus on LGBTQ+ healthcare competencies in the undergraduate medical curriculum,” said Petrey. “I have been so honored to work with many of these wonderful folks who continue every day to make things better for our community, and to make sure that we are represented with competence and respect within the curriculum. Their work continues to be groundbreaking, and I am so looking forward to what the future holds for this incredible team at ULSOM.”

UofL researchers find people with high levels of psychological well-being have lower heart disease risk factors

A study at the University of Louisville found that overall psychological well-being corresponds to lower risk factors for heart disease.

Researchers in UofL’s Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute surveyed more than 700 people on a broad spectrum of psychological well-being factors and at the same time, tested the participants’ cardiovascular disease risk factors, including cholesterol levels, blood pressure, triglyceride levels and arterial stiffness, which is associated with the progression of heart disease. They found that participants who scored higher on the well-being survey also had lower levels of cardiovascular disease risk factors.

One of the strongest findings in the study, which was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, was that well-being moderated the association between age and arterial stiffness. While study participants with the lowest well-being scores were more likely to have increased arterial stiffness with age, there was no association between age and arterial stiffness for those with high levels of well-being.

Previous studies have showed a correlation between optimism and happiness and lower risk of cardiovascular health events. The survey for this study took a broader approach to assess psychological well-being, said Alison McLeish, associate professor of clinical psychology at UofL and first author of this study.

“In addition to happiness and optimism, overall well-being includes something we call flourishing. It’s when you're doing things in your work or in your personal life that use your personal strengths and in which you're striving to reach a goal,” McLeish said. “It might not always bring you happiness in the moment, but there's an outcome that is exciting and brings you joy and a sense of accomplishment.”

The study’s authors suggested that health care providers may want to incorporate psychological well-being evaluation when assessing cardiovascular risk and recommend well-being interventions to mitigate the effects of age-related decline in cardiovascular health.

Rachel Keith, UofL associate professor of medicine and co-author who coordinated cardiovascular health assessments for the study, said that having an additional option to reduce heart disease that does not involve medication is appealing.

“When clinicians address heart health without medications we typically think about diet, exercise and tobacco cessation. Given that cardiovascular disease is so prevalent in our society, incorporating new and novel approaches that address risk, such as assessing and educating on ways to improve psychological well-being, may provide exciting opportunities to increase health, especially in an aging population,” Keith said.

Individuals can take steps on their own to maximize psychological well-being. McLeish suggested practicing mindfulness activities, for one. This could be seated meditation or intentionally being present in the moment while doing daily tasks such as walking, washing the dishes or even eating. In addition, she suggested what she calls positive psychology interventions.

“Part of that is identifying your strengths and your values so you can start to craft your life and your activities to build on those strengths and utilize them in different ways. You can do activities that use those strengths as a way to feel a sense of accomplishment as well as joy and happiness,” McLeish said.

McLeish said that while more research is needed to determine the extent to which improving well-being will improve cardiovascular disease risk, this study supports the idea that improving mental health can have a positive impact on physical health.

“The absence of disease doesn't necessarily indicate health or well-being. It just gets you to neutral,” McLeish said. “A lot of times, both clinical psychology as well as medicine are focused on the absence of disease. We are trying to say let's go a little bit further than that.”

4th Annual Celebration of Faculty Excellence Awards

The 4th annual Dean's Celebration of Faculty Excellence was hosted on November 2 on the Health Sciences Campus. The event was attended by School of Medicine faculty and leadership in honor of our faculty who bring distinction to our university through their commitment to the areas of service, teaching, and research.

This was a record-breaking year, with 40 nominations for faculty members and some being nominated multiple times. The Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award sponsored by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation was added to the program this year, as well as engraved memorabilia recognizing all nominees. 

“I am continually in awe of the passion our faculty brings to the School of Medicine,” said Toni Ganzel, MD, dean of the School of Medicine. “To all of our nominated faculty members, thank you for your dedication to our students, our school, and to our profession. Your hard work does not go unnoticed.”

The 2022 Awardees are as follows:

Outstanding Scholarship, Research and Creative Activity Awards:

  • Basic & Applied Sciences award
    J. Christopher States, PhD
    Professor, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology
  • Career Achievement in Research award
    Janice E. Sullivan, MD
    Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Pediatric Clinical Research Unit

Distinguished Service Awards:

  • Service to UofL award
    Jennifer P. Daily, MD
    Associate Professor, Department of Family and Geriatric Medicine
  • Service to Profession award
    Robert Martin, II, MD, PhD
    Professor, Department of Surgery, Division of Surgical Oncology
  • Service to the community, Commonwealth or Region award
    Melissa L. Currie, MD
    Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Division of Forensic Medicine
  • National/International Service award
    Mark Slaughter, MD
    Professor, Department of Cardiovascular & Thoracic Surgery, Division of Adult Cardiac Surgery
  • Career of Service award
    Susan Galandiuk, MD
    Professor, Department of Surgery, Division of Colon and Rectal Surgery

Educator Awards:

  • Gratis Faculty Teaching award
    Patricia M. Purcell, MD, MBA
    Clinical Associate Professor Gratis, Department of Pediatrics
  • Outstanding Educator award
    Russell W. Farmer, MD
    Associate Professor, Department of Surgery, Division of Colorectal Surgery
  • Career Achievement in Education award
    Kathy M. Vincent, MD
    Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Multicultural Teaching Award:
       John Chenault, PhD
       Associate Professor, Office of the SOM Dean, Division of Undergraduate Medical Education

Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award:
       Sheridan R. Langford, MD
       
Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics

UofL Trager Institute mental health services accredited by international agency

UofL one of just 10 organizations worldwide to earn accreditation for older adult services
UofL Trager Institute mental health services accredited by international agency

The UofL Trager Institute and Republic Bank Foundation Optimal Aging Clinic are located at 204 E. Market St.

Mental health services provided to adults and older adults by the University of Louisville Trager Institute/Republic Bank Foundation Optimal Aging Clinic now are backed by an international accrediting agency.

The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) has accredited the Behavioral Health Service Organization at Trager for three years for outpatient treatment of adults and older adults. Trager is one of only 10 organizations around the globe accredited by CARF for mental health services for older adults.

“Accreditation is a public statement that our organization strives to ensure that our services are of the highest possible quality,” said Joe D’Ambrosio, the Trager Institute’s director of behavioral health. “At Trager, we are committed to reducing risk, addressing health and safety concerns, respecting cultural and individual preferences and providing the best possible quality of care.”

Mental health is an important aspect of overall health and well-being, particularly among older adults, D’Ambrosio said. Losses that can occur with aging – social activity, identity and physical health – put individuals at higher risk for developing behavioral health issues.

However, signs of mental illness in older adults often are overlooked or dismissed as normal symptoms of aging. Without treatment, conditions such as depression and anxiety can lead to further physical decline. Behavioral health services are provided as part of the clinic’s comprehensive care to help individuals maintain health as they age.

In order to be CARF-accredited, programs and services must demonstrate that they conform to internationally recognized standards for service delivery and are committed to continuous quality improvement and a consumer-driven focus.

CARF International is an independent, nonprofit accreditor of health and human services providers in aging services, behavioral health, child and youth services, durable medical equipment, employment and community services, medical rehabilitation, opioid treatment programs and vision rehabilitation services.

“For our Trager team, accreditation demonstrates our belief that all people have the right to be treated with dignity and respect, have access to needed services that achieve optimum outcomes and are empowered to exercise informed choice,” D’Ambrosio said.

D’Ambrosio said that during Trager’s accreditation survey, the CARF surveyor commended the institute’s FlourishCareTM service, an integrated lifelong wellness care approach focused on lifestyle and preventative medicine for adults of all ages, as well as the use of student interns and telehealth, increasing accessibility to services.

Trager’s aging services include the FlourishCare assessment, care coordination, family support, medication management and education, organized education programs, end-of-life care and grief support, all available in a nationally recognized, age-friendly clinic.

The School of Medicine takes FLIGHT

The School of Medicine takes FLIGHT

The University of Louisville School of Medicine is committed to the success and promotion of our faculty and learners. To serve our constituents more fully, the School of Medicine has launched the Faculty Leadership for Inclusion and Growth in Health by Transformation, or FLIGHT program.

The FLIGHT program is a yearlong development program that seeks to build an infrastructure that reinforces the promotion, tenure and long-term success of our current and future faculty. Its goal is to increase the numbers of underrepresented minorities in medicine (URiM) among our faculty ranks by taking an extra step in development, support, and community building. Those that qualify for the FLIGHT program include junior faculty, senior residents, fellows, postdocs and all but dissertation (ABD) doctoral students.

“Within a few months of being in my role at the School of Medicine, I identified the need to establish a program that would especially support our unit in retaining strong faculty that are URiM,” said Chris Seals, PhD, assistant professor and assistant dean for faculty affairs and advancement. “The bottom line is that our students do better when they learn from those who look like them and who can relate to them; this program will help to ensure that our students are taught by the best faculty from all backgrounds.”

Flight members will participate in an 8-month curriculum focused on communication, emotional intelligence, motivation, leadership, and personal wellness. In addition, members will be paired with multiple mentors to help along the journey as a young professional in the academic medical field.

“I’m delighted to see the FLIGHT program leave the ground,” said Ron Paul, MD, professor and vice dean for faculty affairs and advancement. “Investing in the FLIGHT program and our URiM faculty and post-docs shows a strong commitment to create a stronger sense of belonging and inclusivity at the School of Medicine. Retaining our current faculty and post-docs, while recruiting for new faculty, aid in making the School of Medicine such a great place to work.”

On October 25, 2022, the program took flight by welcoming its inaugural cohort of 14 members, including:

  • Dr. Landry Konan, Trainee in Anatomical Sciences
  • Dr. Jeffrey Kim, Faculty member in Comparative Medicine Research Unit
  • Dr. Noel Verjan-Garcia, Postdoctoral Fellow in the Brown Cancer Center
  • Dr. Monica Chamorro, Faculty member in Family Medicine
  • Dr. Mohammad Malik, Postdoctoral Fellow in the Envirome institute
  • Dr. LaTisha Frazier, Trainee in OBGYN
  • Dr. Abou Bakr Salama, Postdoctoral Fellow in Cardiology
  • Dr. Jessica Kline, Faculty in OBGYN
  • Jane Bartonjo, ABD Doctoral student in Anatomical Sciences
  • Dr. Daniel Medina Aguinaga, Postdoctoral Fellow in Anatomical Sciences
  • Dr. Danova Lopez Fajerstein, Trainee in Infectious Disease
  • Dr. Kesley Cage, Trainee in the Department of Surgery
  • Dr. Andrew Villasenor, Trainee in Internal Medicine
  • Dr. Malaviak Prasad, Faculty in Pediatric Nephrology