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

UofL Superfund Research Center receives $10.8 million to expand studies into effects of environmental toxins on human health

UofL Superfund Research Center receives $10.8 million to expand studies into effects of environmental toxins on human health

The University of Louisville has been awarded $10.8 million in renewed funding for the UofL Superfund Research Center, part of the Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute, by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. The funds will enable researchers to expand studies to monitor environmental toxins and understand their effects on human health.

The five-year funding renewal represents a 62% increase over the previous funding cycle for the UofL center, one of just 23 multiproject centers across the U.S. conducting research into the health effects of chemicals and compounds found at hazardous waste disposal sites known as Superfund sites.

UofL was named one of five new superfund research centers in 2017. Since that time, UofL researchers in the center conducted research into the health effects of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), gases emitted by combustion and from liquid and solid chemicals, found at the Lee’s Lane Superfund Site in southwest Louisville.

“This funding ensures that UofL researchers will continue and accelerate the important work to reduce the effects of these toxins on the health of residents in Jefferson County, our state and our country,” said Lori Stewart Gonzalez, interim president of UofL. “The significant increase in funding shows just how successful our center has been in advancing this knowledge under the leadership of Dr. Sanjay Srivastava.”

The Superfund program, created in 1980, is part of a federal government effort to clean up land contaminated by hazardous waste and identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a potential risk to human health or the environment. The program was started in part due to the discovery of a waste site near Louisville in Bullitt County known as the “Valley of the Drums,” which contained thousands of steel drums and contamination from 140 different chemicals.

Superfund Research Centers conduct multidisciplinary research in the detection and investigation of the health effects of specific chemicals and compounds and train young investigators in this area of research. The research at the UofL center is focused on understanding how exposure to VOCs contributes to heart disease, inflammation and liver disease, collectively called cardiometabolic disease.

During its first five-year cycle, the UofL Superfund Research Center engaged in three key project areas where they:

  • Developed two portable devices to detect airborne volatile organic compounds in neighborhoods and homes
  • Assessed effects of VOCs and other toxins on cardiovascular and immune health in human participants
  • Conducted lab studies of health effects of VOCs including acrolein, benzene, xylene, vinyl chloride and trichloroethylene

UofL researchers developed two types of technology to detect and monitor VOCs in the environment. First, collaborating with investigators at Washington University in St. Louis, they designed and built a portable device to monitor and measure VOCs inside and outside of homes to compare indoor and outdoor exposure levels.

Second, chemists and chemical engineers at UofL developed a small “lab on a chip” that can be used in a wearable device to monitor an individual’s exposure in various environments, capturing VOCs for analysis in the lab.

Field studies with both technologies will begin in January 2023.

To study health effects of VOC exposure, UofL researchers enrolled about 700 individuals living in south and west Louisville in a human study program to assess exposure and health changes over time. The initial results of this study indicated that low-level exposure to VOCs could increase blood pressure and damage blood vessels and impair their repair. These effects are important markers for heart disease.

Although planned follow-up studies for the human study were delayed by the pandemic, laboratory and animal studies confirmed these effects.

“This research is revealing and decoding the factors that affect our health outcomes,” said Kevin Gardner, UofL’s executive vice president for research and innovation. “By better understanding these factors, such as VOC exposure, we can develop new interventions that help people here in Louisville and around the world live lives that are not just longer, but healthier and more resilient.”

Next studies expand area, add wastewater monitoring and address mitigation

Over the next five years, center researchers will apply the tools and data from the initial phase to expand the studies. They will broaden the human study to include 1,200 participants across Jefferson County, begin monitoring wastewater for VOCs and launch research to develop VOC mitigation methods.

The broader human health study will enable researchers to compare health changes and exposure levels in different parts of the metro area. Participants will be reassessed periodically over several years for changes in their health and to determine whether the toxins have greater impact on older or younger individuals and those with existing health conditions.

The team will begin monitoring wastewater in Jefferson County for the presence of both VOCs and metabolites shed by individuals, indicating exposure to VOCs. It also may reveal sources of VOC contamination.

“We will measure the metabolites of VOCs in the urine of the participants and in the wastewater, so we will have the environmental exposures and personal exposures. Then we will look at all the health outcomes and see the associations,” said Sanjay Srivastava, professor of medicine and director of the center. “We hope to gain better knowledge of how these chemicals exert toxicity and at what levels the toxicity occurs, as well as how exposures may exacerbate other conditions.”

Technology to monitor wastewater for VOCs and metabolites is an outgrowth of methods developed during the pandemic to detect COVID-19 and its variants in wastewater.

Center investigators also will launch remediation research. They will collaborate with researchers at Yale University who are developing methods to break down VOCs using heat to reduce or eliminate VOCs at hazardous waste sites or in a home or business.

In conjunction with the Green Heart Project, UofL researchers also are investigating whether increasing the tree canopy will decrease levels of VOCs and other toxins and improve the health of residents in the area.

“Our work is unique in that it focuses on the effects of these toxins on heart disease,” said Aruni Bhatnagar, director of the Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute. “Most people have heard of cancer-causing chemicals, but we are finding that these chemicals also lead to heart disease, the leading cause of death in the world.”

School of Medicine Alumni Honored for lifelong work

School of Medicine Alumni Honored for lifelong work

image of Dr. Christa-Marie Singleton being honored at 2022 Alumni Awards

The University of Louisville Alumni Awards are the highest honor bestowed by Louisville Alumni. For more than 30 years, the Alumni Awards have honored and celebrated the achievements of graduates from the University of Louisville. These awards recognize distinguished graduates who are exemplary ambassadors for the university and their college or school. The Alumni Award honorees reflect the high standing and character of their alma mater and are recognized at a ceremony during Homecoming week.

The School of Medicine proudly awarded Dr. Christa-Marie Singleton because of her career accomplishments, philanthropic endeavors, and contributions to her community. Nominations were received in the Spring and reviewed by a select committee at the School of Medicine.

Singleton knew from a very early age that she wanted to pursue medicine, but it wasn’t until later in life that her passion for medicine and advocacy met in the middle, leading her to where she is today. The journey wasn’t easy, but her passion ran deep; she accepted challenges without fear. Her story is inspiring to others facing similar challenges. While in Louisville, Dr. Singleton met with a group of students on October 21 to discuss overcoming challenges and following your dreams. We later interviewed Dr. Singleton on her own inspirations and continued dreams for the future.

1.    What inspired you to go into medicine? 

In my early life, I was a frequent visitor in my pediatrician’s office due to frequent illnesses. By age 11, I knew I wanted to be a pediatrician just like my doctor, Dr. Eleanor Stafford. Dr. Stafford inspired me to go into medicine because she took the time to tell me, and remind me, that it was important to take the time to talk to people and listen to their situation in order to help people heal.  

2.     What are some of your greatest accomplishments you’re proud of; what challenges did you face to get to where you are today?

I consider my greatest accomplishment to be the honor and privilege of being a parent to my now 16-year-old son; I’m also honored to have had the experience and opportunity to be able to use my medical and public health policy training to help translate my patients’ health priorities into better health access for communities. I am very grateful that one day during my pediatric internship one of my teachers or attendings said to me, “You, young lady, I can see, have a career in government.”  He introduced me to the concept of public health as a way to blend science into clinical medicine and not just impact one person’s individual health, but to improve the community’s health.  Instead of being one person’s doctor, I could be the community’s doctor.  I suspect he had heard about my health advocacy experience with the Kentucky Medical Student Section of the AMA that I began at UofL. He convinced my residency program to allow me to take a trial public health class at Johns Hopkins (about 1.5-2 hours down the road – pre online education). The agreement was that if I made a B or better in that class, the program would allow me to go to public health school while in residency. So, I rearranged my residency call schedule so that I could commute from Delaware to either suburban Washington D.C. or downtown D.C. Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings to pursue a Master of Public Health degree in health policy at the same time as my pediatric residency. The thought of a person pursuing two simultaneous programs was relatively unheard of at the time, and as I look back on that time, I think the things that got me through it was a simmering sense of “do” – stoked by seeds of my faith in God planted by my parents and by lots of questioning “why” and “how” evidence-based science could be used at the bedside of patients coming into the world and leaving the world. Those experiences gave me the opportunity to find strength to find my way “to not try but to do.” 

3.     What’s the greatest piece of advice you would offer to this generation of medical students?

I am a big fan of the character “Yoda” from the Star Wars movies and the line “Do or no do…no try.” In answering these questions related to my “to do,” I’d also like to share with you the “the power of “be.” In the words of Lisa Kohn, it is important, even essential, that leaders don’t just “try” but that they “do.” Leaders get things done, move projects forward, and sometimes too much doing can also be an issue. Lisa’s reminder to add the second sentence to Yoda’s mantra, “There is no do, only be,” makes this concept even more real, and more pertinent to what this generation of medical students can be for this world. Time and time again we can get caught up in too much doing to try to rush to solve a patient’s chief complaint and to move on the next patient. However, there are times when, in order to heal our patients, we must stop and reflect. To sit and simply “be” with the patient issues at hand, so that our next steps to support our patients’ health are intentional, evidence-based, thoughtful, and effective. I’d also advise students to respect the power of be. When we get too caught up in action and doing, we lose sight of who we really are, what we really believe, and, at times, what is really important. When we can look at the world with where we’ve been, as well as the experience of what others have been, we can better make an imprint on the lives we know…and those we may never know. I hope that this generation of medical students will not only go on “to do” – and to “go be great.

4. What’s something you’re hopeful for in the future of medicine?

I hope that this generation of medical students will use their interests and passion in evidence-based medicine, social justice, and holistic health “to do” and to make an imprint on someone’s life. I have had the privilege to work in settings outside the comfortable life all of us have been blessed to have – to see first-hand health access – or the lack thereof – both in our country or challenged by another language and culture ---and most recently, the challenge of creating scientific, evidence-based public policy recommendations to improve community health. My goal when I left high school was to go off to college, medical school and return for private pediatric practice in a comfortable setting like the physicians with whom I had trained. But along the way, by working in public health emergency preparedness in Baltimore communities, at CDC in their State and Local preparedness departments, in my current work on evidence-based prevention policy, and during the COVID-19 response I found my “do” and my “be” – the calling to take evidence-based science and “have the community” as my “to do” that can make an imprint on multiple lives. Public health, particularly through the governmental lens - has been that “do” for me – because it’s the merger of evidence-based science, medicine and public policy that allows the opportunity and the privilege to take the nuts and bolts of clinical science that can physically improve a part of a single person’s life and then “do” that for a larger group of people. I’m now what one calls a preventive medicine public health physician which is a blend of training in scientific methods, clinical patient care, prevention, health policy, and government.  I hope that UofL medical students and all future medical students will now get to “do patient care” through the creation of public policies, social justice, and health programs that hopefully will protect the public’s health for a larger group of people. For me – in order to be effective in trying to improve a community’s health it was - and is important for me to have spent time in multiple facets of the health and policy arenas. I had to have some semblance of not just “do-ing” via classroom theory but “be-ing” – and actually have been there. I am trying to pass that mantra of not just do – but to be - onto the students that come behind me as well. I encourage this generation of medical students to go and to be – to be in as many places as you can be, not just in your comfort zone of what is usual and customary. We aren’t any help to each other if we are only being one same size, one type, one thing.  

UofL and Robley Rex VA Medical Center partnership leads to new state-of-the-art multiphoton microscopes for exposure studies

UofL and Robley Rex VA Medical Center partnership leads to new state-of-the-art multiphoton microscopes for exposure studies

Lauren Garrett, UofL senior bioengineering student, tests one of two new multiphoton confocal microscopes provided to the University of Louisville by the Veterans Health Administration



As the nation gets set to celebrate Veterans Day on Nov. 11, a pair of new state-of-the-art microscopes have been provided by the Veterans Health Administration to the University of Louisville.

UofL researchers will use the microscopes to continue their close working relationship with the Clinical Research Foundation (CRF) at the Robley Rex VA Medical Center to understand how environmental exposures cause health effects in military veterans.

The multiphoton confocal microscopes, valued at nearly $2 million, will help the researchers discover the mechanisms behind health effects that have been documented by veterans and their health providers and finding ways to prevent or reduce their impact. The new instruments provide 3-D images of thicker tissue samples than were previously accessible, allowing the researchers to better see changes in biological tissues and metabolic functions in response to specific substances such as benzene and aldehydes.

The new microscopes are housed in spaces allocated by the UofL School of Medicine to the VA hospital, one in the Center for Cardiometabolic Science (formerly the Diabetes and Obesity Center), part of the Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute, where it will be used to study heart and vascular functions, as well as immune responses in animal models. The other is in the Hepatobiology and Toxicology Center for Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) and will be used to understand the effects of environmental toxins on the liver.

“We are exceptionally grateful to the VA for providing this new technology, which will allow our researchers to have a greater understanding of the impacts and effects of wartime exposure on the health of our veterans,” said Toni Ganzel, dean of the UofL School of Medicine. “And we are pleased that the UofL School of Medicine is partnering with the VA and Clinical Research Foundation to improve care for our veterans as well as citizens of Kentucky and beyond.” 

Most imaging methods enable scientists to see only small, thin sections of tissue at a time. The images from the larger, thicker samples captured by the new multiphoton microscopes allow scientists to study the metabolic processes taking place.

“The multiphoton microscope uses lasers that can penetrate more deeply into a much thicker section of tissue rather than a very thin slice,” said Steven P. Jones, director of the Center for Cardiometabolic Science and professor of medicine. “Using the system, we can look in real time at what is happening in immune cells that may be trafficking to the liver, skeletal muscle, adipose depots and the heart.”

Matthew Nystoriak, associate professor of medicine, investigates the effects of inhaled substances on the cardiovascular system.

“We can look at the molecular processes behind different disease development that affect a broad section of the population,” Nystoriak said. “One of the things we want to look at is vascular inflammation. With this instrument, we can track immune cells leaving the bloodstream and infiltrating the walls of blood vessels.”

The liver research, led by Matthew Cave and Craig McClain, both professors of medicine at UofL and physicians and researchers affiliated with Robley Rex VA Medical Center, will include evaluating the effects of environmental exposures on liver diseases and the metabolic syndrome, studying interactions of environmental exposures with nutrition and with alcohol intake, and investigating clinically-relevant exposures such as those related to Camp Lejeune and to burn pits.

The VA has increased this research as a result of the PACT Act, recently signed into law to help veterans suffering negative health effects from war and peacetime exposures related to burn pits and other service-related activities. The act improves access to medical care for conditions resulting from these exposures through VA Medical Centers and helps the VA improve research, staff education and treatment related to those exposures.

“The VA enjoys a close relationship with UofL researchers, and this state-of-the-art equipment will be utilized to advance the research agenda of the VA , including allowing VA-affiliated researchers to apply the latest scientific methods to the investigation of respiratory, gastrointestinal, liver and metabolic diseases that commonly affect veterans,” said Gerald Dryden, professor of medicine at the UofL School of Medicine and associate chief of staff for research and development at Robley Rex VA Medical Center. “This will be especially important as we begin to look into the causes and effects of chronic burn pit and other environmental exposures on veterans’ health.”

The CRF is a nonprofit corporation that provides the administrative infrastructure dedicated to Robley Rex VA Medical Center researchers under the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The CRF also works with UofL to provide groundbreaking research opportunities to veterans and active military in the Louisville area.

Nonprofit corporations (NPCs) such as CRF were established to provide a more efficient mechanism for VA researchers to participate in research and educational programs funded by private and non-VA public sources. There are more than 80 NPCs nationally, each affiliated with a VA medical center, who collectively have a resource and voice through the National Association of Veteran Research and Education Foundation.

Michael Book, executive editor of the CRF, underscored what this investment means for the partnership in the future.

“These microscopes further advance the research capabilities of the incredible investigators in our region,” said Michael J. Book, executive director of the CRF. “The equipment will aid in attracting other investigators to the groundbreaking work being done at Robley Rex VA Medical Center and the University of Louisville. Beyond the technological advancement, the investment also signifies the importance of the strong relationship between VAMC, the University of Louisville and the Clinical Research Foundation. We are excited to be a part of the innovation that lies ahead.”

UofL researchers discover e-cigarettes cause cardiac arrhythmias

Some cardiac effects of e-cigarette ingredients are similar to or worse than conventional cigarettes
UofL researchers discover e-cigarettes cause cardiac arrhythmias

Alex Carll, assistant professor in the UofL Department of Physiology, front, with Matthew Nystoriak, associate professor of medicine

A new study from University of Louisville researchers in the Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute has found that exposure to e-cigarette aerosols can cause heart arrhythmias in animal models — both in the form of premature and skipped heart beats. The study findings, published Oct. 25 in Nature Communications, suggest exposure to specific chemicals within e-cigarette liquids (e-liquids) promote arrhythmias and cardiac electrical dysfunction.

“Our findings demonstrate that short-term exposure to e-cigarettes can destabilize heart rhythm through specific chemicals within e-liquids,” said Alex Carll, assistant professor in the UofL Department of Physiology who led the study. “These findings suggest that e-cigarette use involving certain flavors or solvent vehicles may disrupt the heart’s electrical conduction and provoke arrhythmias. These effects could increase the risk for atrial or ventricular fibrillation and sudden cardiac arrest.”

The researchers tested the cardiac impacts of inhaled e-cigarette aerosols solely from the main two ingredients in e-liquids (nicotine-free propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin) or from flavored retail e-liquids containing nicotine. They found that for all e-cigarette aerosols, the animals’ heart rate slowed during puff exposures and sped up afterwards as heart rate variability declined, indicating fight-or-flight stress responses. In addition, e-cigarette puffs from a menthol-flavored e-liquid or from propylene glycol alone caused ventricular arrhythmias and other conduction irregularities in the heart.

Conducted in collaboration with Daniel Conklin and Aruni Bhatnagar, professors in the UofL Division of Environmental Medicine, this work adds to a growing body of research on the potential toxicity and health impacts of e-cigarettes reported by the American Heart Association Tobacco Regulation and Addiction Center, for which UofL serves as the flagship institute.

“The findings of this study are important because they provide fresh evidence that the use of e-cigarettes could interfere with normal heart rhythms – something we did not know before,” Bhatnagar said. “This is highly concerning given the rapid growth of e-cigarette use, particularly among young people.”

As e-cigarette use has grown nationwide, the potential advantages and harms of vaping have been debated. Since vaping does not involve combustion, it exposes users and bystanders to little if any carbon monoxide, tar or cancer-causing nitrosamines compared with conventional cigarettes. However, e-cigarettes can deliver aldehydes, particles and nicotine at levels comparable to combustible cigarettes. Vaping might help smokers quit combustible cigarettes, but the appeal and addictiveness of e-cigarettes may encourage youth to vape amidst unknown long-term risks or take up smoking. More than 25% of high schoolers and 10% of middle schoolers in the U.S. reported using e-cigarettes before the pandemic.

Additional research by Carll and Matthew Nystoriak, an associate professor of medicine at UofL, to determine the effects of vape flavorings on the heart recently received $3.6 million in research funding from the National Institutes of Health.

“Our team’s findings that specific ingredients in e-cigarette liquids promote arrhythmias indicates there is an urgent need for more research into the cardiac effects of these components in both animals and humans,” Carll said.

UofL research links biological data to workplace factors that can cause chronic disease risk in employees

UofL research links biological data to workplace factors that can cause chronic disease risk in employees

Left to right, UofL researchers Joy Hart, Kandi Walker, Brad Shuck and Rachel Keith form a team that has demonstrated the link between work determinants of health and biomarkers for chronic disease risk.

With employee burnout high and the Great Resignation being felt throughout all employment sectors, pioneering new research from the University of Louisville demonstrates biological links between workplace culture and human health. 
The UofL study is believed to be the first to connect biomarkers for chronic disease risk to factors such as stress, employee capacity for work assigned, workplace physical and social environment and whether work is regarded as meaningful to the person performing it. The findings are published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
These factors are part of a new “Work Determinants of Health” concept the UofL researchers have identified that they hope will become a model for both employers and employees to better understand the health impacts of workplace culture.
“For a long time, we’ve assumed that workplace culture can impact our health,” said Brad Shuck, an author on the study and organizational culture researcher in UofL’s College of Education and Human Development. “This study shows, in biological terms, that assumption is true and improving our understanding of these links could help both employees and employers make better, more informed decisions that keep everyone healthy and happy in their work environments.” 
In the study, Shuck and UofL Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute researchers Kandi Walker, Joy Hart and Rachel Keith asked participants to complete questionnaires on their well-being and work determinants of health factors, such as how engaged and positive or negative they felt about their work environment. Walker and Hart hold faculty appointments in the College of Arts & Sciences and Keith is a faculty member in the School of Medicine.
The researchers then compared the survey results with biological samples that measure hormones signaling sympathetic nervous system activity. When higher than normal over a long period, these hormones indicate chronic stress and increased risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic health conditions.
The results showed participants who reported greater well-being, engagement and positive feelings toward their work environment had lower levels of these stress-associated hormones, while the opposite was true for participants reporting poor well-being, isolation and negative feelings toward work. 
“Stress is fine in smaller, short-term doses, and may even help us to finish an important project or solve a big crisis,” Keith said. “But if our work culture puts us under constant stress, this study suggests it can affect our health and our risk for chronic conditions over time.”
Stress and related burnout remain a leading cause of employee resignation, especially among younger workers. In a recent survey by Deloitte, about 46% of Gen Z and 45% of millennial workers reported feeling burned out by their work environments. Stress can negatively impact employee health – as the UofL study suggests – but it also can impact worker retention, as indicated by a fair number of both Gen Z and millennials reporting that they hoped to leave their jobs within two years. Shuck said better understanding of work determinants of health could help reduce burnout and improve both employee retention and health.
The work determinants of health concept and model, along with Shuck’s previous work to measure employee engagement, are protected through the UofL Office of Research and Innovation and are licensed or optioned to OrgVitals, an organizational metrics company he co-founded. 
“Understanding these cultural factors and what contributes to an employee’s health and engagement in their work environment is good for everyone,” he said. “By understanding the work determinants of health, we can create better and healthier work environments that attract and retain great talent who want to be engaged.”

Central High School students experience life in the medical field by shadowing UofL doctors

Central High School students experience life in the medical field by shadowing UofL doctors

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

“The Central High School Pre-Medical Magnet Program is what I’ve dreamed of being able to create since I graduated medical school,” said Edward Miller, assistant professor and director of maternal fetal medicine at UofL and provider with UofL Physicians – OB/GYN & Women’s Health “This is a chance for students in west Louisville to not only know doctors that look like them, but to call them a mentor and friend.”

“UofL Health is proud to support Central High School and inspire the next generation of health care workers,” said Tom Miller, UofL Health CEO. “This program complements our commitment to reduce barriers to care by reducing barriers for employment. Together, with our fully funded UofL tuition program, we are investing to ensure our community is well prepared for the future.”

The pre-medical pipeline program launched in August and offers educational opportunities, mentorship, college credit and hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships. Its creation is in partnership with UofL Health, the UofL School of Medicine, Falls City Medical Society and Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS).

“I am so proud of our students and so excited to see their success,” Central High School Principal Dr. Tamela Compton said. “Our first pre-medical magnet class has already learned so much – from gaining hands-on first aid and emergency response experience in Central High School classrooms to scrubbing into surgeries at the hospital. Just two months into the program, these students are flourishing.”

More than 20 Central High seniors are currently rotating through different specialties, including OB/GYN, anesthesia and cardiothoracic surgery, while learning from UofL Health physicians and local physicians through the Falls City Medical Society. The Falls City Medical Society is committed to advancing the art and science of medicine for people of African descent and is playing a key role in ensuring student experience in the Pre-Medical Magnet Program is integrated into the Louisville physician community. Students shadow these physicians twice a week, earning college credit.

Later this month, the program will open up to Central High School juniors, who will rotate through each of the 10 core specialties.

“We are proud of our continued and strengthened partnership with Central High School and the opportunities it provides our faculty and students,” said Toni Ganzel, dean of the UofL School of Medicine. “Working alongside school administrators to enact quality learning for underserved youth is a strategic goal of the School of Medicine. We aim to fill our classrooms with diverse and talented students that reflect the world around us, and it is partnerships such as this that will create that transformative change.”

Students in the Central High School Magnet Career Academy (MCA) are selected for admission through a competitive process that includes achievement test scores, grade point average (GPA), 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.

“This program is already changing lives,” JCPS Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio said. “Central’s pre-medical magnet students will graduate with knowledge many don’t gain until college. Opportunities like this are what we are working hard to provide to all JCPS students, so they graduate college and career ready.”