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UofL president honored for leadership in employee health management

Ramsey given Jerry Noyce Executive Health Champion Award by Health Enhancement Research Organization
UofL president honored for leadership in employee health management

UofL President James Ramsey, center, accepts the Jerry Noyce Executive Health Champion Award.

University of Louisville President James Ramsey has won a national award for his dedication to improving health and corporate performance.

Ramsey received the award Sept. 30 at the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) forum and meeting in San Diego. The HERO Jerry Noyce Executive Health Champion Award was given to Ramsey because his “personal and professional dedication to health exemplifies what this award seeks to honor” according to Noyce, president and CEO of HERO.

The Executive Health Champion Award recognizes a person of senior leadership status who has made outstanding contributions toward the advancement of employee health management within their company. According to HERO, the award was developed to acknowledge the significant role leadership plays in establishing and maintaining a culture of health in the workplace.

Ramsey is credited with driving year-over-year success for the University’s employee wellness program, “Get Healthy Now,” which has more than 4,000 participants and has been used as a model for a statewide strategic wellness initiative called “Get Healthy Kentucky.”

“Our job as leaders is to do what is right for our employees,” Ramsey said in his acceptance speech. “This is fundamental to effective leadership. Regardless of what our financial statements say, our employees are our most valuable assets.”

Under Ramsey’s leadership, “Get Healthy Now” has helped the university reduce health care claims by $4.3 million, with program participants realizing an average claims savings of $1,300 per person (in 2012). Four years into the program, the University achieved a benefit-to-cost ratio, or return on investment, of 7.16:1.

Ramsey has also used his leadership and influence to drive improvements and growth across campus. For example, the university graduates nearly 1,000 more students each year (a 60 percent increase in its graduation rate), and has become one of America’s fastest-growing research universities, as measured by National Institutes of Health funding.

In addition to driving positive health and academic results for the University of Louisville, Ramsey’s leadership has helped UofL secure several awards and recognitions, including the Business First’s Healthiest Employer of Louisville Award, the American Heart Association Platinum Start! “Fit-Friendly employer,” and the Mayor’s Healthy Hometown Worksite Wellness Award.

Ramsey was nominated for the award by Patricia Benson, director of UofL’s Get Healthy Now program. Benson credits Ramsey for the success and growth of UofL’s health and fitness initiatives for its employees—more than two thirds of the school’s employees are enrolled in the Get Healthy Now program.  “The campus community is very familiar with President Ramsey’s healthy, competitive spirit and the ripple effect it has on his closest advisors and every member of the Cardinal family,” wrote Benson is her nomination letter.

 

University of Louisville institute focuses on sustainable health and optimal aging

The societal phenomenon known as the Baby Boom has impacted every aspect of life since it first burst on the scene following World War II. As these people reach what had been called their senior years, their effect on aging and expectations of older citizens is no less dramatic.

Understanding these societal implications, the University of Louisville Board of Trustees recently created the UofL Institute for Sustainable Health and Optimal Aging.

“Through this institute, the University of Louisville will grow the knowledge base related to the aging process, not just biologically, but also in terms of function, environment, culture and socio-economic aspects,” said David L. Dunn, M.D., Ph.D., executive vice president for health affairs at UofL. “The need for multi-disciplinary approaches to examine issues that our aging population faces is significant because no issue stands on its own; all are inter-related from a health, social science, legal and policy perspective.”

As envisioned, the institute likely will include faculty, staff and students from nearly every school and college comprising the University of Louisville, including arts and sciences, dentistry, engineering, law, medicine, nursing, public health and social work.

The growth in the population over 65 years of age is significant with more than 40 million people in the United States over the age of 65 at the time of the 2010 census. This is a 13.3 percent increase from 2000. However, that number is expected to reach nearly 72 million by 2030, an 80 percent increase over 2010. In Kentucky, the numbers are nearly as dramatic. The Commonwealth is predicted to see a 56 percent increase in people 65 and older by 2030, reaching just more than 900,000.

No less than seven national senior care companies are headquartered in Louisville. Additionally, UofL houses the Commonwealth’s only fellowship program in geriatrics and has a nationally recognized polypharmacy in the elderly education program.

“Louisville is becoming the epicenter of business activity related to the aging population and this offers significant opportunities for collaboration and partnering for the university to address education, research and advocacy programs for the elderly,” Dunn said.

Further, UofL officials have had collaborative discussions with researchers at other leading universities including Duke University, the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Mt. Sinai Medical Center, among others.

PRIDE Blood Drive nets needed units plus call for changes in blood donation policy

PRIDE Blood Drive nets needed units plus call for changes in blood donation policy

The numbers tell the story: 25, 45, 56, 188.

Helping local blood banks rebuild their critical supplies while also drawing attention to the FDA’s lifetime ban on blood donations from men who have sex with men (MSM77), was the goal of the Health Sciences Center PRIDE Blood Drive.

During the event, the goal of 25 units was greatly surpassed with 45 units of blood provided by 56 donors, and 188 people signed a petition to abolish the FDA MSM77 blood donation deferral policy. The event was organized by the School of Public Health and Information Sciences (SPHIS), Student Government Association, UofL LGBT Center and the American Red Cross.

SPHIS Dean Craig Blakely, Ph.D., offered remarks and was the first to sign the petition. “As a leading institution of public health, we want to continuously evaluate national public health policy to optimize the ability to provide exceptional health for all of our citizens with maximum participation in the process.

“The concern and initiative that the students of the LGBT Center at the University of Louisville have shown on the MSM 77 lifetime deferral policy is an excellent example of a diverse grass-roots effort to change government policy to improve health in the United States,” Blakely said.

“This lifetime deferral unfairly stigmatizes and discriminates against a large portion of the LGBT community, and keeps many healthy would-be donors from giving blood – creating a negative impact on the nation’s blood supply,” said Dustin Scott, event organizer and a student in the SPHIS master’s in public health program. “The FDA policy, established in 1983 after the onset of the AIDS epidemic, is outdated and needs to be abolished.”

Scott gave blood on a regular basis until his status as an MSM prevented him from continuing to do so.

“My parents were once in a car accident and donated blood saved their lives. This is why I am so passionate about blood donation, and I encourage friends, colleagues, family, and even strangers to donate blood in my place,” Scott said.

Scott plans to present research along with the signed petition to the FDA. He is working with medical student Mellad Khoshnood and Professor of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery and Bioengineering George Pantalos, Ph.D., to provide an analysis of the effectiveness of the MSM blood donation ban.

The team has contacted the 20 countries that spend the most on health care per capita, and has asked for their stance on the MSM donor policy, prevalence of HIV, demographics of those affected, frequency of transfusion of HIV infections, blood screening processes and changes made to their MSM donor policy in the past 10 years.

“We are learning that countries such as the United Kingdom have modified bans, meaning that after an individual engages in risky sexual activity, they are deferred from donating blood for one year to allow for diseases that have prolonged dormant periods to present. We support that,” Scott said. “Our petition to the FDA asks them to rescind the lifetime deferral policy for a more reasonable policy that will permit healthy gay men to contribute to the needs of our society as blood donors.”

“At the LGBT Center, we love connecting students, faculty and the community around us to emerging health issues like this one, and bridging classroom topics with real-world issues. The HSC PRIDE student group expands our capacity to raise awareness and make novel connections to health issues spanning our various disciplines. I’m excited to see them fostering such interprofessional connections and engaging the community,” said Stacie Steinbock, director, LGBT Center Health Science Center satellite office.

 

Duo explores ‘Storytelling, Cancer and Compassion’

A novelist and a scientist will combine their expertise for “Storytelling, Cancer and Compassion: A Duet Talk and Conversation” at the University of Louisville Oct. 9.

The free, public event at 11 a.m. in Chao Auditorium, Ekstrom Library, will feature Cornell University couple Helena Viramontes, English professor and award-winning author, and Eloy Rodriguez, James Perkins endowed professor of environmental studies.

They will discuss how storytelling is universal among cultures and over time as well as being the conduit across generations for scientific and medicinal information. Viramontes refers to curative, medicinal plants helping characters in her short story “The Moths” and novel “Under the Feet of Jesus”; as a scientist, Rodriguez found that most of those references, common in Chicano culture, extend from Aztec plant knowledge and continue to be medically viable.

The event kicks off a discussion series that inaugurates the chemistry department’s Targeting Excellence: Hispanic-Latino Student Initiative to support opportunities for students. The chemistry and English departments are sponsoring campus visits by prominent Hispanic-Latino scientists and writers, supported by UofL’s Brown & Williamson endowment for distinguished speakers.

Viramontes won the 1995 John Dos Passos Prize for Literature and numerous fellowships from groups including the National Endowment for the Arts. She is former coordinator of the Los Angeles Latino Writers Association and a founder of the Southern California Latino Writers and Filmmakers.

Rodriguez has been director of the National Chicano Council for Higher Education’s science fellowship program and founder of the organization Kids Investigating and Discovering Science. His research interests include plant biology, chemical ecology, medicinal chemistry and environmental toxicology.

Also while at UofL, Rodriguez will speak at a chemistry seminar and Viramontes will lead a creative writing seminar.

For more information, contact GB Hammond at 502-852-5998 or gb.hammond@louisville.edu

Bone marrow drive nets more than 1,100 registrants

Vote online through Sept. 29 to help group compete for $50,000 grant

More than 1,100 University of Louisville students, faculty, staff and friends turned out last week to register as bone marrow donors, and both participants and non-participants in the drive can continue to support the effort.

Sharing America’s Marrow (SAM) conducted the event earlier this month on both the Health Sciences Campus and the Belknap campus, and 1,153 donors were registered as potential bone marrow donors.

“This is by far the biggest number SAM has seen in a three-day event,” said Kelli Bullard Dunn, M.D., senior associate dean, statewide initiatives and outreach, School of Medicine. “We are sure many patients fighting blood cancer will have a second chance at life thanks to this effort.”

The event was held to highlight the ever-present need for bone marrow donations for patients such as Owen McMasters, the 15-year-old son of Kelly McMasters, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the UofL Department of Surgery. Diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) three years ago, Owen now needs a bone marrow transplant to fight the disease, requiring a donor with similar genetic composition.

“I know our success was very special and inspiring to the McMasters family while Owen continues his search for a match,” Dunn said.

She added that SAM has been named one of the Top 10 finalists to compete for a $50,000 grant from National Geographic. The magazine’s “Expedition+Granted” contest highlights deserving nonprofit efforts. The public is invited to vote for the effort they believe is the most deserving, with the winner receiving the grant.

“A grant such as this would give SAM the support to produce more drives like the one at UofL across the country, and save even more lives,” Dunn said.

One vote per person per day through Sept. 29 is allowed at http://expeditiongranted.nationalgeographic.com/project/sharing-americas-marrow-sam/.

For more information on the bone marrow donation process, visit https://www.deletebloodcancer.org/en/faq or contact sam@sharemarrow.com.

For information about Owen and his fight against ALL, “like” the Owen’s Wish page on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/OwensWish.

 

 

Tse named director of bone marrow transplantation division at University of Louisville

Tse named director of bone marrow transplantation division at University of Louisville

Williams Tse, M.D.

William Tse, M.D., associate professor of medicine and eminent scholar in hematologic malignancies research at the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center at West Virginia University, has been named the new director of Bone Marrow Transplantation at the University of Louisville James Graham Brown Cancer Center, a part of KentuckyOne Health. Tse will join UofL Nov. 1.

Tse will hold the Marion F. Beard Endowed Chair in Hematology Research and become a member of the cancer center’s Developmental Biology Program.

“Dr. Tse is emerging as one of the thought leaders in bone marrow transplantation,” said Donald Miller, M.D., Ph.D., director of the JGBCC. “He has trained and worked at several of the leading blood cancer programs in the nation. We look forward to his leading our program at UofL.”

Tse has been at West Virginia since 2009, where he also is the co-leader the Osborn Hematologic Malignancies Program. Prior to joining West Virginia, Tse was on the faculty at the University of Colorado Denver, where he was the director of translational research program for bone marrow transplantation and hematologic malignancies. He also previously was with Case Western Reserve University and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center/University of Washington Medical Center.

Tse is active in national organizations, serving in several capacities with the American Society of Hematology, including section chair for the annual meeting’s Oncogene Section and bone marrow transplantation outcome section, as well as the American Society of Clinical Oncology as an annual meeting abstract reviewer and the section chair on geriatric oncology. Tse also serves leadership roles on several editorial boards including as the senior editor of the American Journal of Blood Research, stem cell biomarkers section editor for Biomarker Research, senior editor of the American Journal of Stem Cells and the academic editor of PLoS One.

A graduate of the Sun Yat-Sen University School of Medicine in Guangzhou, Guangdong, in China, he did a thoracic surgical oncology residency at Sun Yat-Sen University Cancer Center in Guangzhou before completing postdoctoral research fellowships in medical biophysics, immunology and cancer at the Princess Margaret Hospital/Ontario Cancer Institute and the Hospital for Sick Children in Ontario, Canada. He completed clinical pathology and internal medicine residencies at North Shore-Long Island Jewish Hospital before undertaking a senior medical fellowship in clinical research and medical oncology divisions at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center at the University of Washington Medical Center.

UofL ribbon-cutting ceremony official opens renovated medical school instructional building

Ushering in a new era in medical education, officials with the University of Louisville School of Medicine formally celebrated the completion of a $9 million renovation of the school’s 40-year-old instructional building.

“How we educate our future physicians today barely resembles the methods we used four decades ago,” said David L. Dunn, M.D., Ph.D, UofL executive vice president for health affairs. “Instruction now is much more interactive, peer-to-peer and technologically driven. While we have made ad hoc changes through the years, today we celebrate an intensive transformation of a facility that affords each of our students the opportunity to be successful in earning the privilege of providing health care to the people of Kentucky and beyond.”

“The improvements in how we educate our students demanded a significant change in our instructional spaces,” said Toni Ganzel, M.D., dean of the UofL School of Medicine. “While needing new state-of-the-art lecture halls that support active learning, we also needed smaller study spaces the that allow for small-group learning and interaction.”

In addition to creating teaching environments to support the changing instructional techniques of the program that is focused on student-led dialogue, the renovated facility makes uses of an integrated audio-visual infrastructure that allows for the seamless sharing of information from instructor to student and also from student to instructor. The smaller group study rooms have been configured to support the School of Medicine’s six internal mentoring colleges to foster the support of a community for the students as they move through their years within the school’s programs.

The technology enhancements are among the key and fundamental changes undertaken. The first-floor lecture hall houses 30 tables, seating six students each who have the ability to collaborate using their tablets or laptops to share content locally on a table-mounted monitor. The technology provides the ability to switch to any of the six student’s devices at the touch of a button on the display cable, while reviewing information sent at the selection of the facilitator on a second table mounted monitor.

All the tables have a push-to-talk microphone to facilitate student group reporting to the entire class or for asking questions. Each table has a seventh space for the faculty facilitator to “drop in” and participate in the discussion. Faculty can route student laptop or tablet presentations from their table to all of the other tables, and/or on the six high-resolution, ultra bright, large projected displays that circle the room.

Technology enhancements also have created the ability to route audio, video and presentations to 12 small group break-out rooms per floor, where students have control of a large flat-panel monitor for collaboration, and the faculty facilitator controls a second display. For offline study, students can use both displays for local presentation from their devices.

“My colleagues have shown great excitement and enthusiasm in these new spaces,” said Travis Spaulding, president of the class of 2017. “The technological capabilities of the both the classrooms and study areas allow us to collaborate and share ideas like never before. Our administration has demonstrated a tremendous commitment to providing students with the resources necessary to succeed in an era of medical education that is constantly evolving. The University of Louisville School of Medicine is certainly ahead of the curve.”

Messer Construction served as the general contractor and EOP Architects, the architects for the project.

James Graham Brown Cancer Center becomes first site in Kentucky providing Keytruda, newly FDA-approved for advanced melanoma

James Graham Brown Cancer Center becomes first site in Kentucky providing Keytruda, newly FDA-approved for advanced melanoma

Jason A. Chesney, M.D., Ph.D.

A newly FDA-approved treatment for patients with advanced or inoperable melanoma who are no longer responding to other drugs is now available to patients at the University of Louisville’s James Graham Brown Cancer Center, a part of KentuckyOne Health. As a site for Keytruda’s research clinical trial, the cancer center is the first in Kentucky to offer the drug now that it is approved.

Keytruda (pembrolizumab) was given accelerated approval by the FDA Sept. 4 and is the first approved drug in the United States that blocks a cellular pathway known as PD-1, which restricts the body’s immune system from attacking melanoma cells. It is approved for use following other treatments if those treatments fail.

Melanoma accounts for approximately 5 percent of all new cancers in the United States and occurs when cancer cells form in skin cells that make the pigment responsible for color in the skin. According to the National Cancer Institute, an estimated 76,100 Americans will be diagnosed with melanoma and 9,710 will die from the disease this year.

Keytruda represents a new breed of cancer treatment, Jason Chesney, M.D., Ph.D., deputy director of the Brown Cancer Center, said. “Keytruda is designed to galvanize an immune system attack on tumors by blocking the PD-1 pathway,” he said. “Left unchecked, this pathway allows cancerous cells to pass undetected.

“The drug shows greatest promise as a combination therapy, and this approval, handed down almost two months ahead of schedule, clears the drug for use on patients with advanced skin cancers who have already taken Yervoy (ipilimumab).”

“Adding to the body of research on new, advanced treatments exemplifies the James Graham Brown Cancer Center’s leadership on a regional, and even national, level,” said Mark Milburn, vice president, oncology services, KentuckyOne Health.  “The expertise from University of Louisville partnered with the statewide reach of KentuckyOne Health helps citizens all over the Commonwealth and beyond with increased access and new hope to fight cancer.”

The FDA granted Keytruda breakthrough therapy designation because preliminary clinical evidence showed that the drug may offer a substantial improvement over available therapies. It also received priority review and orphan product designation. Priority review is granted to drugs that have the potential to be a significant improvement in safety or effectiveness in the treatment of a serious condition. Orphan product designation is given to drugs intended to treat rare diseases.

The FDA action was taken under the agency’s accelerated approval program, which allows approval of a drug to treat a serious or life-threatening disease based on clinical data showing the drug has an effect on a surrogate endpoint reasonably likely to predict clinical benefit to patients. This program provides earlier patient access to promising new drugs while the company conducts confirmatory clinical trials. An improvement in survival or disease-related symptoms has not yet been established.

Keytruda is manufactured by Merck and Yervoy is from Bristol-Myers Squibb. For information on Keytruda and its use, contact the James Graham Brown Cancer Center toll free at 1-800-333-2230 or at 502-587-4011.

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About the University of Louisville

The University of Louisville Health Sciences Center is the city’s only academic health center with approximately 1,000 faculty members involved in education, research and clinical care.  The UofL HSC is home to more than 650 medical and dental residents, 3,000 students pursuing degrees in health-related fields within the Schools of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing and Public Health and Information Sciences, as well as 16 interdisciplinary centers and institutes.  Approximately $140 million in extramural funding enables researchers to uncover the causes of disease and better ways to prevent, treat and cure illness and injury. That research is translated into the clinical setting, where evidence-based medical care for patients is provided by UofL faculty through University of Louisville Physicians, our partnership with KentuckyOne Health, and in affiliations with other health systems and clinics throughout Kentucky and southern Indiana.

About KentuckyOne Health

KentuckyOne Health was formed when two major Kentucky health care organizations came together in early 2012. KentuckyOne Health combines the Jewish and Catholic heritages of the two former systems – Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s HealthCare and Saint Joseph Health System. In late 2012, the organization formed a partnership with the University of Louisville Hospital | James Graham Brown Cancer Center.  The nonprofit system is committed to improving the health of Kentuckians by integrating medical research, education, technology and health care services wherever patients receive care. KentuckyOne Health has more than 200 locations including hospitals, physician groups, clinics, primary care centers, specialty institutes and home health agencies across the state of Kentucky and southern Indiana.

NIH awards grant to take aim at legal barriers that hinder genetic research

Rothstein awarded $612,000 over two years

University of Louisville law and medicine professor Mark A. Rothstein, J.D., has received a two- year $612,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to foster international collaboration on genetic research while maintaining human rights and privacy.

Rothstein is an expert on the legal and ethical issues raised by genetic research—including compiling large collections of biological specimens.

“International collaboration in genetic research is extremely valuable in advancing understanding and developing new therapies,” Rothstein said. “We need to make sure that essential privacy laws don't unnecessarily interfere with research."

Rothstein has a joint appointment at the Louis D. Brandeis School of Law and the School of Medicine. He holds the Herbert F. Boehl Chair of Law and Medicine and is the founding director of the university’s Institute for Bioethics, Health Policy and Law. He frequently writes and comments on issues of bioethics, genetics and health privacy.

Rothstein will conduct the research with co-investigator Bartha Maria Knoppers, a medicine professor and director of the Centre of Genomics and Policy at McGill University, Montreal, Canada. Legal experts from 26 countries will take part in the research effort.

Their findings and recommendations will take aim at removing legal impediments to international collaboration on health research and be published in the Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics in 2016.

UofL Physicians ALS Clinic named Recognized Treatment Clinic

UofL to launch ALS research program
UofL Physicians ALS Clinic named Recognized Treatment Clinic

UofL President James Ramsey has kicked off the new UofL ALS research fund with a personal donation of $10,000.

The University of Louisville Physicians ALS Clinic, located at Frazier Rehab Institute, part of KentuckyOne Health, was named a Recognized Treatment Clinic by The ALS Association on Tuesday, Sept. 16. The clinic is one of 50 in the United States to earn such a designation.

The designation follows a rigorous clinical and administrative review by the association and a vote of its board. Earning the recognition means the clinic meets a national standard of quality and implements best-practice care for patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

In addition to celebrating the designation, the University of Louisville announced the establishment of a research fund to further the activities of the clinic as it pursues its goal of becoming a Certified Center for Excellence. Dr. James Ramsey, president of the University of Louisville, kicked off the new UofL ALS research fund with a personal donation of $10,000, which he announced at the news conference Tuesday.

“For me, ALS is personal,” Ramsey said. “My mother-in-law passed away from ALS, and developing this clinic and an ALS research program at UofL has been a goal of mine for a long time. I hope others will choose to donate to UofL’s ALS research program as well so we might help find the cause and a cure for this devastating disease.”

Ramsey made his donation as part of the “ice bucket challenge” that has swept the nation since July and greatly raised awareness of ALS and contributions to ALS research. He participated in the challenge on Aug. 28 on the UofL Health Sciences Campus. (Watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3im8sWo1R3g&feature=youtu.be)

On Tuesday, The ALS Association’s Kentucky Chapter also presented the UofL Physicians ALS Clinic with a $10,000 check.

“We are proud to present this one-time donation to the UofL Physicians ALS Clinic, which is made possible by a gift from Heaven Hill Distilleries through the sale of Parker’s Heritage bourbon to help us continue to fulfill our three mission priorities, one of which is to expand our care services,” said Mari Bacon, executive director of the chapter.

Parker’s Heritage Collection bourbon is named for Parker Beam, a sixth-generation master distiller for Heaven Hill who has ALS. As a way to help The ALS Association raise funds to find a cure, Heaven Hill donates a portion from the sale of every bottle to The ALS Association.

Recognition process

The ALS Association’s Certified Center Program – which includes Recognized Treatment Clinics and Certified Centers of Excellence – selects, recognizes and supports distinguished institutions recognized as the best in the field when it comes to knowledge, skill and experience with ALS; access to care; and neurological diagnostics and imaging. Recognized Treatment Clinics must also have an on-site designated multidisciplinary team.

Other requirements to become a Recognized Treatment Clinic are serving a number of patients living with ALS, and an ongoing relationship with the local chapter to provide programs to assist those with ALS and their families. The primary goal of the ALS recognition process is to ensure each patient receives the best evidence-based care closely linked to positive outcomes.

The designation confirms to patients and families, as well as government institutions and other key stakeholders, the validity and comprehensiveness of the UofL Physicians program.

“We are honored to recognize the University of Louisville Physicians ALS Clinic for the staff’s expertise, and for all they have done and are continuing to do for patients living with the disease,” said Shawn Mullennex, president of the board for The ALS Association’s Kentucky Chapter. “Becoming a Recognized Treatment Clinic is not easy to achieve, and patients who come to the UofL Physicians clinic can feel confident that they are receiving the best care possible, in a compassionate and caring environment.”

Mullennex presented clinic director Dr. Martin Brown with a plaque designating the UofL Physicians ALS Clinic as an ALS Recognized Treatment Clinic, a goal that was years in the making. Brown was joined by Dr. Kerri Remmel, chief of vascular neurology at University of Louisville Physicians, and Randy Napier, president of Frazier Rehab Institute, in receiving the plaque.

Lisa Shannon, chief operating officer of KentuckyOne Health, said the UofL Physicians ALS Clinic at Frazier Rehab “is indeed yet another example of the partnership between UofL, Frazier Rehab and KentuckyOne Health to advance medical care and research in the Commonwealth.”

“It is our mission to bring wellness, healing and hope to all, including the underserved. The ALS clinic and the research that will be done here is part of that mission, and I want to emphasize the word ‘hope,’” Shannon said. “ALS is a devastating disease. But through research, there is hope. Hope for better care and advancements in treatment that can improve quality of life for these patients, and maybe one day find a cure.”

Napier added “We are honored to be the home of the ALS Clinic and the physicians, staff and researchers that will work with us every day to make a difference in the lives of the patients and their families who entrust us for care. The Frazier Rehab team that cares for ALS patients is an incredibly dedicated group of professionals – from physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy to psychology, pulmonary rehab and case management.”

UofL ALS research

Brown said the new UofL research program will have two components: clinical research, which includes trials of possible treatments for existing patients; and basic science research of ALS to try to determine how the disease starts and why it progresses.

“We don’t know what causes ALS, why it starts or how it spreads from one limb to another,” Brown said. “It’s hard to come up with a treatment if we don’t know the underlying cause. Our goal is to try to answer some of those questions, and give patients more hope through clinical trials that might make a difference. Research is the key to fighting ALS.”

For more on the University of Louisville Physicians ALS Clinic and the new UofL ALS research fund, visit www.uoflphysicians.com/als or email fightALS@louisville.edu.

History of the UofL Physicians ALS Clinic

UofL’s quest to serve patients with ALS started with a conversation nearly 10 years ago between Dr. Kerri Remmel, chair of the Department of Neurology at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, and UofL President Dr. James Ramsey. It was an important cause for both – for Remmel as a neurologist, and for Ramsey for his family.

Dr. Martin Brown was then hired in 2007 to help develop the clinic, and in 2011, he met with The ALS Association’s national chief of care services, Kim Maginnis, and the Kentucky Chapter’s executive director, Mari Bacon, to discuss becoming a Recognized Treatment Clinic. He had already begun seeing patients, and he and clinic coordinator Johanna Harris had started working with the association’s Kentucky care services manager, Patricia Peak.

In June 2013, the clinic became a reality, seeing patients on the sixth floor at Frazier Rehab Institute, 220 Abraham Flexner Way. On Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014, the clinic became a Recognized Treatment Clinic by the ALS Association.

UofL medical student earns national award

UofL medical student earns national award

Mickey Ising

Mickey Ising, a student at the University of Louisville School of Medicine and a two-time graduate of the UofL J.B. Speed School of Engineering, is one of 21 fourth-year medical students throughout the nation to earn an American Medical Association (AMA) Foundation Physicians of Tomorrow Award.

Ising was selected to receive this $10,000 national scholarship recognizing academic achievement. After graduating from Elizabethtown (Ky.) High School in 2005, he earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in bioengineering at UofL. He works at the Cardiovascular Innovation Institute at the UofL Health Sciences Center developing and evaluating medical devices and novel therapeutic techniques. Ising has authored eight manuscripts published in peer-reviewed journals and is vice president of the UofL School of Medicine Class of 2015.

Recipients were nominated by their medical schools and chosen based upon academic achievement and financial need.  The AMA Foundation has awarded over $61 million in scholarships to deserving medical students since 1950.

The AMA Foundation, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt foundation, is dedicated to improving public health by raising funds and providing philanthropic support to high-impact health and medical scholarship programs. Visit www.amafoundation.orgto join the AMA Foundation in improving the health of Americans.

Bone marrow registration drive scheduled Sept. 16-18 at UofL

Set for Sept. 16-17 at the HSC, Sept. 18 on the Belknap campus
Bone marrow registration drive scheduled Sept. 16-18 at UofL

Owen is second from left in this portrait of the McMasters family.

The University of Louisville will host a bone marrow drive from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday and Wednesday (Sept. 16 and 17) on the Health Sciences Center campus in the courtyard between Kornhauser Library and Medical School Instructional Building B, and Thursday (Sept. 18) in the Swain Student Activities Center on the Belknap campus.

The drive is being held to highlight the ever-present need for bone marrow donations for patients such as Owen McMasters, the 15-year-old son of Kelly McMasters, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the UofL Department of Surgery. Diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) three years ago, Owen now needs a bone marrow transplant to fight the disease, requiring a donor with similar genetic composition.

The McMasters family has teamed up with Sharing America’s Marrow to host the donor registration events at UofL.  All it takes to sign up to the national marrow donor registry is completion of a short consent form and a cheek swab, which determines donor/recipient matches. Registrants must be between the ages of 18 and 55 and meet other requirements.

The entire registration process takes about 5 minutes and those who sign up could be the cure for Owen or for the thousands of patients like him who are fighting blood cancers.

For more information on the bone marrow donation process, visit https://www.deletebloodcancer.org/en/faq or contact sam@sharemarrow.com.

For information about Owen and his fight against ALL, “like” the Owen’s Wish page on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/OwensWish.

Research!Louisville focuses on research at Louisville Medical Center, Sept. 16-19

Research!America president to speak on federal funding for research
Research!Louisville focuses on research at Louisville Medical Center, Sept. 16-19

Mary Woolley, president and CEO, Research!America

Research in cancer biology, spinal cord injury, birth defects, circulatory support devices and more will highlight Research!Louisville 2014, Sept. 16-19 at various locations in the Louisville Medical Center.

Now in its 19th year, Research!Louisville annually features reports on the latest research underway at the institutions and organizations in the medical center and is sponsored by the University of Louisville; University of Louisville Hospital, Jewish Hospital and St. Mary’s Foundation, all part of KentuckyOne Health; and Norton Healthcare.

Also included will be addresses from two internationally known leaders in medical research:

  • Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America, Alexandria, Va., will address “Your Role in Changing Hearts and Minds for Science” at 2 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 18, in Room 101/102 of the Kosair Charities Clinical and Translational Research (KCCTR) building, 505 S. Hancock St. Woolley will discuss the impact of a polarized Congress on federal health research agency budgets, share public opinion poll data and provide insights on how to effectively communicate with policy makers, the public and the media about research during an election year.
  • Stefano Bonassi, Ph.D., head of the Clinical and Molecular Epidemiology Area of Systems Approaches and Non-Communicable Diseases of the Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico, Rome, will speak on “From Exposure Assessment to P4 Medicine” at 1:30 p.m., Friday, Sept. 19, in Room 101/102 of the KCCTR. “P4 Medicine” is a term coined by biologist Leroy Hood, M.D., Ph.D., and is short for "Predictive, Preventive, Personalized and Participatory Medicine." The premise of P4 medicine is that, over the next 20 years, medical practice will be revolutionized by biotechnology, to manage a person's health instead of a person’s disease. Bonassi will discuss the scientific and clinical features of several systems medicine platforms.

Featured reports on ongoing research in Louisville include:

  • Cancer Biology and Therapeutics Symposium: 10:30 a.m., Tuesday, Sept. 16, 101/102 KCCTR – Translational research results on the discovery of novel cancer targets and the development of cancer therapeutics. Chief presenter: Jason Chesney, M.D., Ph.D., Deputy Director, University of Louisville James Graham Brown Cancer Center, a part of KentuckyOne Health
  • Recovery and Repair After Spinal Cord Injury: 2:30 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 16, 101/102 KCCTR – Issues critical to rehabilitation after spinal cord injury and strategies employed by the UofL Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center, Kosair Charities Center for Pediatric Neurorecovery, Frazier Rehab Institute and Robley Rex VA Medical Center. Presenters: David S.K. Magnuson, Ph.D.; Dena Howland, Ph.D.; and Andrea Behrman, Ph.D., all of the UofL Department of Neurosurgery
  • Molecular Determinants of Birth Defects: 10:30 a.m., Wednesday, Sept. 17, 101/102 KCCTR – Research supported by the UofL Center of Biomedical Research Excellence with the goal of illuminating the molecular etiologies of developmental defects and disabilities. Presenters: Jun Cai, Ph.D., UofL School of Medicine; Lisa Sandell, Ph.D., UofL School of Dentistry; and Rachel Neal, Ph.D., UofL School of Public Health and Information Sciences
  • Symposium: Intravital Imaging and Diseased States: 10:30 a.m., Thursday, Sept. 18, 101/102 KCCTR – Use of state-of-the-art imaging techniques to track biological process in normal, diseased and damaged tissue. Presenters: Bart Borghuis, Ph.D, UofL Department of Anatomical Sciences and Neurobiology, and Lacey McNally, Ph.D., UofL James Graham Brown Cancer Center, a part of KentuckyOne Health
  • Community Engagement and Engaged Scholarship: 3 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 18, 101/102 KCCTR – Four 15-20 minute presentations by faculty from the UofL Schools of Medicine, Nursing and Public Health and Information Sciences and UofL’s Kent School of Social Work followed by a panel discussion moderated by Erica R.H. Sutton, M.D., UofL Department of Surgery. Presenters: Vicki P. Hines-Martin, Ph.D., R.N., School of Nursing; Monica L. Wendel, Dr.P.H., School of Public Health and Information Sciences; and Riaan van Zyl, Ph.D., and Cheri Langley, Ph.D., both of Kent School of Social Work
  • Clinical Translation of Mechanical Circulatory Support Devices for Treatment of Advanced Heart Failure: 10 a.m., Friday, Sept. 19, 101/102 KCCTR – Novel experimental models and innovative approaches for treating advanced heart failure. Presenters: Steven Koenig, Ph.D., UofL Speed School of Engineering; Guruprasad Giridharan, Ph.D., Cardiovascular Innovation Institute (CII), a joint initiative of UofL and Jewish Hospital and St. Mary’s HealthCare; Yu Wang, Ph.D., UofL Speed School of Engineering; Leslie Sherwood, D.V.M., CII and UofL Research Resource Facilities; Gretel Monreal, Ph.D., UofL Department of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery; Kevin Soucy, Ph.D., UofL Department of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery; and Mike Sobieski, R.N., CII

Other reports focused on research practice will be:

  • Are We There Yet? Personal Reflection on Community-Based Participatory/Translational Research: 1 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 17, 101/102 KCCTR – Perspectives from Ida Johnson-Spruill, Ph.D., R.N., of the Medical University of South Carolina whose research interests include chronic disease management, genetic literacy and reducing health disparities among vulnerable populations
  • Auditing of Clinical Trials – GCP and Billing, a GEAR (Gaining Essentials About Research) symposium presented by Norton University and Norton Healthcare Office of Research Administration: 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 18, Cranmer Auditorium, Norton Healthcare Pavilion, 315 E. Broadway – The combined auditing of clinical trials for both good clinical practice (GCP) and billing compliance leading to capitalization of revenue and ensuring principal investigators and research teams are following GCP guidelines. Presenters: Kelly M. Willenberg, principal of Research Compliance Advocates LLC, Chesnee, S.C., and Kathleen Hurtado, president and CEO of Health Research Association, Los Angeles
  • Super Hero Evidence: Does Your Literature Have the Strength to Support Your Practice Change? Offered twice from 7:30 a.m.-noon and again from 11:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Friday, Sept. 19, Rudd Heart and Lung Conference Center, Jewish Hospital, 201 Abraham Flexner Way – An overview of evidence-based practice with a focus on establishing the worth of a study through the critical appraisal process. Organizer: Reeta Stikes, KentuckyOne Health

Also on tap will be scientific poster presentations by summer interns of the James Graham Brown Cancer Center and UofL graduate students, postgraduates, fellows and faculty. Poster presentation awards will be announced at 1 p.m., Friday, Sept. 19, in 101/102 KCCTR.

Admission to Research!Louisville is free. For information, contact Bonnie Dean, 502-852-2647 or bonnie.dean@louisville.edu.

 

UofL's James Graham Brown Cancer Center earns 3-year accreditation from American College of Radiology

UofL's James Graham Brown Cancer Center earns 3-year accreditation from American College of Radiology

The radiation oncology department at the University of Louisville's James Graham Brown Cancer Center, part of KentuckyOne Health, has been awarded another three-year term of accreditation in radiation oncology by the American College of Radiology (ACR).

The ACR is the nation’s oldest and most widely accepted radiation oncology accrediting body, with more than 600 accredited sites and 27 years of accreditation history. The accreditation is awarded only to facilities that meet the ACR's specific practice guidelines and technical standards following a peer-review evaluation by board-certified radiation oncologists and medical physicists who are experts in the field. Patient care and treatment, patient safety, personnel qualifications, adequacy of facility equipment, quality control procedures and quality assurance programs also are assessed by the ACR prior to accreditation.

The radiation oncology department has six board-certified physicians working with board-certified radiation therapists, a team of oncology nurses and a dosimetrist - the professional who determines how to deliver prescribed radiation treatment to a patient - among others.

“Our hospital, doctors and staff work extremely hard to make sure that we are doing everything we can to provide the best outcomes for our patients,” said Donald Miller, M.D., cancer center director. “Continued recognition from the American College of Radiology is an important confirmation that we continue to lead the way in cancer care in the region.”

The James Graham Brown Cancer Center opened on the UofL health sciences campus in 1981 with a $12 million gift from the James Graham Brown Foundation and the citizens of Louisville with a mission of relieving the pain and suffering caused by cancer in Kentucky. The center is a partnership between UofL and KentuckyOne Health and offers robust clinical and basic science research programs. Combining these research elements in a treatment environment provides the best opportunity for discovery of new techniques and therapies for the benefit of patients. It has been ranked as one of the best cancer care hospitals in Kentucky for 2014-15 by U.S. News & World Report, which recognizes hospitals that excel in treating the most challenging patients.

UofL's James Graham Brown Cancer Center is located at 529 S. Jackson St. For information, call 502-562-4158 or toll-free at 1-866-530-5516.

UofL pediatric spinal cord injury research program garners significant support

The Helmsley Charitable Trust provides $1.5 million grant
UofL pediatric spinal cord injury research program garners significant support

Andrea Behrman, Ph.D.

At three months of age, Emmalie Smith suffered a spinal cord injury leaving her paralyzed. Her parents, Amy and Bryce, took her to traditional physical and occupational therapy three times a week with the hope that their little girl would regain her ability to move.

Amy says the results were underwhelming, with Emmalie using her forehead to activate a motorized wheelchair.

Unsatisfied with that as an option, Amy contacted the University of Louisville and Andrea Behrman, Ph.D., who had brought to UofL her research into the use of Locomotor Training to provide better rehabilitation to children with paralysis from spinal cord injuries.

Nine months after the intense physical therapy at the Frazier Rehab Institute, a part of KentuckyOne Health, Emmalie was able to better move her arms, roll over and come to sit in bed, and use a manual wheelchair. After her most recent work with Behrman and the pediatric team, the now 4-year-old from Brighton, Mich., is beginning to stand. With an injury at such a very young age, these are new experiences in Emmalie’s growth and development.

“This has made a tremendous difference in Emmalie’s life,” Amy said. “Her core strength is to where she is able to sit on her own and doesn’t need a chest belt. She’s able to get herself around and is much more independent. Working with Dr. Behrman and her team has had a huge impact on Emmalie and our entire family.”

More children like Emmalie will be able to benefit from Behrman’s groundbreaking efforts, thanks to a three-year, $1.5 million grant provided by The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

“The work of Dr. Behrman and her team is a perfect example of the goal of every researcher at the UofL Health Sciences Center -- transforming peoples’ lives through creating and translating into actions new knowledge about how to prevent, treat and cure medical issues,” said James R. Ramsey, Ph.D., president of the University of Louisville, in announcing the grant at a news conference today (Sept. 4). “We are very excited and grateful that the Helmsley Charitable Trust shares our vision and is providing significant support to help us achieve this ambitious objective.”

To date, the Helmsley Charitable Trust has provided nearly $16.5 million to support UofL researchers investigating both cancer prevention and cures and rehabilitation efforts for adults and children who are paralyzed.

“Dr. Behrman’s work has the potential to be truly transformative for adults and children who are affected by paralysis -- not just in Louisville and Kentucky, but around the world.” said John Codey, a trustee of the Helmsley Charitable Trust.  “With this latest grant that is focused on treating pediatric spinal cord injuries, the Trust is thrilled to build upon our relationship with UofL’s world-class team of researchers, who continue to break new ground in the quest to understand and solve some of the most critical medical challenges that we face today.”

“The importance of support from our partners cannot be over-emphasized,” said David L. Dunn, M.D., Ph.D., UofL executive vice president for health affairs. “The current research funding environment does not guarantee that projects like Dr. Behrman’s will receive support from the typical funding agencies. We are extremely grateful that the Helmsley Charitable Trust recognizes that the work taking place at the University of Louisville has the significant potential to change the lives of children throughout the world.”

Behrman, professor of neurosurgery and director of the UofL Kosair Charities Center for Pediatric Neurorecovery, is a pioneer in the use of Locomotor Training in children. The intense physical therapy regime was developed by Behrman and fellow UofL faculty member Susan J. Harkema, Ph.D., professor of neurological surgery and the Owsley B. Frazier Chair in Neurological Rehabilitation at UofL and the Rehabilitation Research Director of the UofL Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center.

Locomotor Training allows individuals with certain kinds of spinal cord injuries to repetitively practice standing and stepping using body weight support and a treadmill with manual facilitation from therapists and technicians. The ultimate goal is to re-train patients with spinal cord injuries to sit independently, stand and walk again. Further benefits including improved respiration, bladder control, and sensation have made a significant impact on the quality of life for children. Behrman’s goal is to help children who not only have spinal cord injuries, but also conditions such as head trauma and tumors.

“The generous support we are receiving from the Helmsley Charitable Trust will enable our team to develop equipment that better fits children as they participate in Locomotor Training,” Behrman said. “Also, we now will be able to develop a systematic database for immediate and long-term outcomes for the children who are participating in our program. We also will gain a better understanding of the value of sensory cues such as surface texture, heat/cold or vibrations and their potential impact on the child’s rehabilitation effort.”

Breast radiation trial provides more convenience, better compliance, lowered cost and patient outcomes on par with current treatment

UofL researcher finds once-weekly regimen successful with no adverse effects
Breast radiation trial provides more convenience, better compliance, lowered cost and patient outcomes on par with current treatment

Anthony E. Dragun, M.D.

An experimental regimen of once-weekly breast irradiation following lumpectomy provides more convenience to patients at a lower cost, results in better completion rates of prescribed radiation treatment, and produces cosmetic outcomes comparable to the current standard of daily radiation.

These interim results of the 5-year Phase II clinical trial using the experimental regimen were presented Sept. 4 at the Breast Cancer Symposium 2014 in San Francisco by Anthony E. Dragun, M.D., vice chair and associate professor of radiation oncology at the University of Louisville.

Dragun, a radiation oncologist with University of Louisville Physicians, launched the trial three years ago at UofL’s James Graham Brown Cancer Center, a part of KentuckyOne Health and the only site offering the experimental regimen in the United States. A second KentuckyOne Health site is being planned, he said, and is expected to begin enrolling patients this autumn.

Reviewing data from Europe – the United Kingdom in particular – Dragun found an alternative to the currently standard daily radiation treatments prescribed to patients after a lumpectomy. Physicians in the U.K. and other European countries were reporting excellent results with a regimen of radiation administered once-weekly.

“Instead of daily treatments for 25-30 days, five to six treatments administered once each week were being used,” he said. “I thought this regimen would give our patients here in Kentucky a great deal of access and choice, so we developed the trial and launched it in 2011.”

Approximately 150 female patients have been enrolled in the trial thus far, he said. Patients undergoing a lumpectomy following diagnosis of breast cancer are given a choice of the current standard of daily radiation treatments or the option to enroll in the trial and receive treatment one time per week.

The radiation dosing has been calibrated to compensate for the change in how the treatments are administered, but no adverse effects have been seen, Dragun said. “The outcomes with once-weekly treatments are absolutely in line with what we see in daily breast irradiation,” he said. “The standard of care is maintained.”

Giving women the choice of how their treatment is administered means more women complete their treatment, he said. “Finding time for daily treatments for 6 weeks or more just isn’t possible for many women,” Dragun said. “Scheduling once-weekly treatments is much easier to fit into the busy lives our patients lead.

“We also see many patients who depend on public transportation or live in rural areas that are 30 miles or more from our center, and they have told us that they would not have been able to complete a traditional course of daily radiation treatment.  Their only alternative would be a mastectomy,” he said.

Because radiation treatment is reimbursed on a per-treatment basis, Dragun said the overall cost is lowered. “We have reduced the number of treatments to about one-fourth to one-third of what the current daily treatment regimen is,” he said. “Medicare reimburses radiation costs on a per-treatment basis, and most private insurers do likewise.

“This means we’ve been able to reduce the cost by 50 to 60 percent without jeopardizing the quality of care.”

Dragun plans to enroll another 50 patients at the Louisville site and 30 at the future trial site. After the completion of this trial, he intends to expand into a multi-center Phase III trial at facilities in other states.

“We believe the once-weekly regimen such as this will become a standard option in the next decade,” he said.

 

 

 

 

Bhatnagar leads group developing first policy statement on e-cigarettes

Bhatnagar leads group developing first policy statement on e-cigarettes

Aruni Bhatnagar, Ph.D.

A University of Louisville professor chaired a 10-member American Heart Association panel of experts in formulating the association’s first-ever policy statement on e-cigarettes.

Aruni Bhatnagar, Ph.D., the Smith and Lucille Gibson Chair in Medicine and director of the UofL Diabetes and Obesity Center, is lead author of the statement as published in the journal CirculationAug. 24.

While much is still unknown about the rapidly growing electronic cigarette industry, e-cigarettes are dangerous because they target young people, can keep people hooked on nicotine, and threaten to “re-normalize” tobacco use, according to the policy statement.

The battery-powered e-cigarettes that contain nicotine are tobacco products and should be subject to all laws that apply to these products, according to recommendations in the policy statement. The association also calls for strong new regulations to prevent access, sales and marketing of e-cigarettes to youth, and for more research into the product’s health impact.

“People need to know that e-cigarettes are unregulated and there are many variables that we don’t know about them,” Bhatnagar said. “Recent studies raise concerns that e-cigarettes may be a gateway to traditional tobacco products for the nation’s youth, and could re-normalize smoking in our society.”

Manufacturers present e-cigarettes as “cool and sexy and acceptable, which is a problem because you’re increasing addiction,” Bhatnagar said. Companies also use terms like “vaping” rather than smoking to gain public acceptance and try to break the connection between e-cigarettes and traditional, “combustible” cigarettes, he added.

In April the Food and Drug Administration proposed rules banning the sale of e-cigarettes to people under the age of 18 and subjecting the $2 billion industry to federal regulation for the first time. Such rules had been long sought by the AHA and other organizations.

The FDA’s proposal fell short of what was hoped for by the AHA and other public health advocates, however, because it did not go far enough in limiting online sales, advertising and flavored products, all tactics used to make e-cigarettes appealing to young people.

Liquid nicotine used by e-cigarettes comes in many flavors like bubble gum, caramel, chocolate, fruit and mint, all attractive to young people, and many brands use colorful, candy-like packaging.

“That’s an unfortunate trend, to make them palatable and attractive to children,” Bhatnagar said.

UofL ophthalmology researcher named chair of NIH study section

Group reviews research grant applications for scientific merit
UofL ophthalmology researcher named chair of NIH study section

Maureen McCall, Ph.D.

A professor in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences in the University of Louisville School of Medicine has been named chair of a panel that reviews research grant applications, helping determine which are worthy for support from the National Institutes of Health.

Maureen McCall, Ph.D., has been named chair of the 20-member Neurotransporters, Receptors and Calcium Signaling Study Section of the NIH’s Center for Scientific Review. She is the only Kentuckian on the panel, which has representatives from universities in 14 states. Her term begins this month (August 2014) and will conclude in 2016.

The Center for Scientific Review is the gateway for NIH grant applications and their review for scientific merit. It recruits and organizes scientists into 174 study sections to review applications for funding made to the NIH.

Each study section has a precise focus so that applications receive expert reviews to help the NIH identify the most promising research. The Neurotransporters, Receptors and Calcium Signaling Study Section reviews studies that investigate signal transduction pathways in neurons, muscles and other excitable cells – those that can be stimulated to create an electric current.

McCall holds joint appointments as professor in the Departments of Anatomical Sciences and Neurobiology and Psychological and Brain Sciences. She came to UofL in 1997.

The author of approximately 60 journal articles, McCall uses electrophysiological techniques in her research to evaluate normal retinal function, dysfunction caused by blinding retinal diseases, and the restoration of function using a variety of therapeutic strategies. Particular areas of emphasis are in the study of retinitis pigmentosa, glaucoma and congenital stationary night blindness.

Accelerated rural medical education program graduates first physician

Ashley Flanary Jessup, 24, intends to return to practice in hometown Benton, Ky.
Accelerated rural medical education program graduates first physician

Ashley Jessup, M.D.

Ashley Flanary Jessup always wanted to be a doctor when she grew up. She just never imagined that along the way she would blaze a new trail for medical education in Kentucky. Growing up in the small rural town of Benton, Ky., Jessup didn’t fit the typical demographic for a medical school candidate. But she held on to her dream and now, at age 24, that determination has paid off.

When Jessup received her medical degree in June, the University of Louisville celebrated not only her success, but a historic first when Jessup became the first person to graduate the School of Medicine’s Rural Medical Accelerated Track program, or RMAT. This new program enables students to finish medical school in three years, reducing cost and time commitments for rural students who plan to open practices in small towns in Kentucky.

Rural doctors are desperately needed in the United States. Nationwide, 20 percent of the U.S. population is living in small towns or far away from big cities, but only 9 percent of physicians practice in those rural areas. Family doctors are distributed more evenly, with 22 percent practicing outside large cities, but the need is still greater. Proponents of the RMAT hope that more successes like Jessup’s will pave the way for more doctors to go where they are needed.

William Crump, M.D., associate dean of the University of Louisville School of Medicine, says that outcome is likely, considering Kentucky’s numbers. He stressed that “most of the counties in Kentucky that are underserved are only underserved by an average of 1.5 full-time equivalent positions. This means that placing one more physician permanently in a county may move it from being an underserved to an adequately served county.”

The idea for an accelerated medical track gained national attention in 2006 with an essay by the editor of Academic Medicine, an internationally renowned medical journal. The essay made the case that financial barriers may keep many students coming from families with more modest incomes—the ones most likely to choose a rural medical path—from considering medical school. At the same time, a strategic planning process by Kentucky Academy of Family Physicians supported a proposal for a three-year track to rural practice. The University of Louisville began the planning process in 2009.

Crump says the RMAT program will definitely help Kentucky’s shortage of doctors and healthcare providers in rural areas. In his opinion, “The best way to get a doctor to a rural area is to get a medical student from a rural area.” The program channels students from small towns that truly want to study family medicine, and then keeps them in that channel.

Students in RMAT have the same required curriculum as traditional four-year medical students, but the lens in which they filter the material is focused on a rural practice, and undertaken in a condensed amount of time.  It begins with a four-week experience in a rural community practice, and students must complete their capstone, a family medicine clerkship at the end of their final year.

Jessup says the program was fast-paced, but manageable. “At first glance, it sounds overwhelming, but if you take things one step at a time, it isn’t.” In fact, Jessup was able to find the time to get married during her time in the RMAT program. She says the biggest advantage of the program was the financial aspect. “One less year of school means one less year of tuition, and I was finished one year sooner,” she said.

Denying the label of a trailblazer, Jessup gives the credit to others. “I would consider all of the faculty and staff who envisioned the program as the trailblazers,” she said. “They laid the plans for me and made it all possible.”  She simply says she worked hard and did what every other medical student does—just in a smaller amount of time. She views herself as just another kid who dreamed of becoming a doctor, and hopes that more will follow in her footsteps at UofL.

Crump says students who have chosen to take the accelerated path have done very well with the course load despite initial fears to the contrary. “Even though the program is stressful and does not leave much wiggle room, students who are focused and efficient will succeed,” he says.

Two second-year medical students are currently taking part in the RMAT program and Crump says several first-year students have expressed an interest in the program.

In Crump’s view, the RMAT program has had an amazing start. “I tend to think of it as my ‘baby’,” he says. “When we started in 2006, we had a vision, and we have seen that vision come true. We have overcome the doubters and the skeptics.”

Jessup says she is proof of the RMAT program’s success. With her successful graduation from UofL’s program, Jessup hopes to return to her hometown of Benton to begin her practice after her residency in Madisonville. She says she is very excited to have the chance to make a difference in her community, and is optimistic about the program’s future. “We wanted to make the RMAT successful, and we all worked together to make it happen.”

UofL neurosurgeon performs unique surgery: Extended endoscopic skull-based surgery of the brain

UofL neurosurgeon performs unique surgery: Extended endoscopic skull-based surgery of the brain

Mary Koutourousiou, M.D.

A surgeon at University of Louisville Hospital, part of KentuckyOne Health, recently performed an extended endoscopic skull-based surgery of the brain, a unique surgery of its kind in Kentucky.

Performed by Dr. Mary Koutourousiou, assistant professor of neurosurgery and director of the skull base program, the minimally invasive surgery was done to help restore the eyesight of a 34-year-old man who suffered from a malignant brain tumor located at the base of the skull.

Extended endoscopic skull-based surgery is performed through the nose and enables surgeons to remove brain tumors and lesions – some as large as softballs. During the procedure, which takes an average of six hours, surgeons use a specially designed endoscope to view the tumor and additional instruments to dissect it piece-by-piece through the nasal cavity.

This approach reduces risks and recovery times for the patient who would otherwise need a craniotomy, which requires temporary removal of a bone flap from the skull to access the brain and brain retraction to reach the tumor.

“The base of the skull is one of the most challenging regions of the body to access,” Koutourousiou said. “Using an endoscopic endonasal approach provides a panoramic view of the base of the skull and the patient’s tumor.”

The minimally invasive nature of the procedure leaves no visible scarring, shortens a patient’s hospital stay, reduces overall recovery times and involves less trauma to the brain and critical nerves. Hospital stays following a craniotomy could be up to 30 days, compared to three to four days following an extended endoscopic skull-based procedure.

“This approach is the future of brain surgery,” said Ken Marshall, president, University of Louisville Hospital. “There are only a handful of surgeons with fellowship training on this procedure in the country. We are proud to have one of those surgeons on our team and to be able to offer this new option for patients in the Commonwealth.”

Koutourousiou completed a clinical fellowship in endoscopic skull base surgery and open skull base surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. She has published extensively on the endonasal approach to brain surgery.