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Shining a Spotlight on Eating Disorders: Why Awareness Week is Crucial, According to an Expert

Shining a Spotlight on Eating Disorders: Why Awareness Week is Crucial, According to an Expert

The University of Louisville School of Medicine is committed to pursuing groundbreaking research that positively impacts the community, the commonwealth, and beyond. Eating disorders affect an estimated 9% of Americans — nearly 30 million people — and can impact a person’s eating behaviors and perceptions about food and their bodies. Cheri Levinson, Ph. D., HSP, is an associate professor at the University of Louisville and is the founder of the Louisville Center for Eating Disorders. Levinson specializes in the study and intervention of eating and anxiety disorders and leads innovative research funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). For National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, we sat down with Dr. Levinson to better understand her research in eating disorders.

ULSOM: What has been your motivation to pursue eating disorder research? 

Levinson: Growing up I had many friends and family members who had eating disorders and there was nowhere for them to go to get help. I wanted to understand the illnesses more and so when I started doing psychology research, I was drawn into research on eating disorders that would help me understand how to better help those impacted by these deadly diseases.

ULSOM: How did receiving the NIH New Innovator Award impact you? 

Levinson: I am just so excited! This award is amazing because it allows me and my team to do what I think is extremely important work developing a personalized treatment for eating disorders and doing it in the way that I think will lead to the most success. I've also always been told I am an ‘out of the box’ thinker, which is not always rewarded with traditional funding mechanisms, so it is extremely validating to get this award and know that so many people are rooting for these ideas to become a success in a way that can positively impact society.

ULSOM: Who do you hope to see impacted by your research in eating disorders? 

Levinson: Everyone with an eating disorder and everyone who has ever loved or cared for someone with an eating disorder. I also think that this work will end up being extended to the whole field of psychology and psychiatry, meaning it has the potential to impact treatment development for all mental illnesses. I am very hopeful that we are going to be able to build a data-based personalized treatment that works for everyone and is easy to scale and implement in communities globally.

ULSOM: What impact does the personalization of eating disorder treatment have on those being treated?

Levinson: We are finding that personalization really improves treatment adherence (meaning people are more likely to stick with treatment) and that it significantly reduces not only eating disorder symptoms, but also symptoms of depression, worry, and anxiety, and improves quality of life. I think the ability to personalize treatment to one person is so important because every eating disorder looks different. Using treatments not designed for the specific person leaves so much out of treatment that is needed for successful recovery.

ULSOM: In what ways do you see underserved populations go unnoticed in eating disorder research and treatment?

Levinson: Eating disorders impact people of all genders, ages, ethnicities, sexual identities, socioeconomic status, and body size. Unfortunately, most of our research and treatment access to date has been for white females. We need more research that includes everyone with all their unique identities and experiences.

ULSOM: How do you see eating disorder research and treatment changing for the next generation?

Levinson: I think we are going to see a huge focus on more inclusive research, the use of technology and digital treatments to improve treatments, and a focus on dismantling systems like food insecurity and weight stigma to improve outcomes.

ULSOM: How has the University of Louisville School of Medicine played a role in advancing your research?

Levinson: My primary appointment is in psychological and brain sciences in arts and sciences, and I just joined pediatrics this summer. Overall, UofL has always been extremely supportive of my work and providing the resources and support I need to grow the research impact and team of people who are dedicated to doing this type of work.

The University of Louisville School of Medicine recognizes Dr. Levinson and her advances in the field of eating disorder treatment. If you or someone you know is struggling, we encourage you to reach out for help and seek treatment.

UofL researchers develop AI-powered tool to diagnose autism earlier

Posted by UL News on February 19, 2024
UofL researchers develop AI-powered tool to diagnose autism earlier

University of Louisville researchers have developed a new AI-powered tool that could help doctors diagnose autism at a younger age.

Autism is a spectrum of developmental disabilities effecting social skills, language processing, cognition and other functions. The UofL tool has been shown to be 98.5% accurate in kids as young as two, which could give doctors more time to intervene with potentially life-changing therapy. Their results were published in the journal Biomedicines.

“Therapy could be the difference between an individual needing full-time care and being independent, holding a job and living a fulfilled life,” said Ayman El-Baz, a co-inventor and professor and chair in the J.B. Speed School of Engineering. He developed the technology with Gregory Barnes and Manuel Casanova of the UofL School of Medicine.

Research shows therapy can have the most impact if done in early childhood, when the brain is more elastic. However, currently, less than half of kids are tested before age three and even fewer are diagnosed by age eight. The problem, the researchers say, is one of supply and demand — there are too many patients and too few specialists to conduct the interviews and examinations needed for diagnosis.

“As a result, there’s an urgent need for a new, objective technology that can help us diagnose kids early,” said Barnes, a professor of neurology and executive director of the UofL Autism Center. “We think our tool can help fill that need, while providing more objectivity over the current interview method.” 

With the UofL technology, AI can make the initial diagnosis, which researchers think could reduce specialist workload by as much as 30%. The specialist would meet later with the patient to confirm the diagnosis and talk about next steps. 

The UofL technology works by using AI to analyze magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans for differences and abnormal connections that may indicate autism. Tested against scans of 226 children between the ages of 24 and 48 months, the technology was able to identify the 120-some children with autism with near perfect accuracy. 

By looking at the physical structures of the brain rather than using interviews, researchers believe they can make diagnoses more objective and target the specific parts of the brain that may benefit most from therapy. 

“The idea is that by drawing from both medicine and engineering, we can come up with a better solution that improves lives,” said Mohamed Khudri, a bioengineering undergraduate student and author on the paper. 

The diagnostic technology and intellectual property received support through UofL’s Office of Research and Innovation. That includes the office’s suite of innovation programs, aimed at developing research-backed inventions for market, including the prestigious national Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program through the National Science Foundation. UofL is one of only a handful of universities nationwide to have each of these programs — and it’s the only one to have them all.

Celebrating ULSOM Women in Science: Dawn Caster, MD

Celebrating ULSOM Women in Science: Dawn Caster, MD

The University of Louisville School of Medicine is committed to uplifting the women who play a pivotal role in making the research and clinical care at our institution possible every day. For International Women and Girls in Science Day, we are highlighting one of our many dedicated women in science, Dr. Dawn Caster.

Caster is a clinician scientist who specializes in Nephrology (kidney diseases) specifically glomerular diseases which are autoimmune kidney diseases. She serves as an associate professor and the co-director of research for the division of Nephrology and Hypertension. Caster is a recognized researcher in the field of glomerular diseases, with a translational lab that is focused on identifying novel biomarkers in lupus nephritis and evaluating mechanisms of inflammation in lupus nephritis.

Pursuing medicine wasn’t always Caster’s plan for herself. She didn’t start college on the “pre-med” track. Instead, she obtained dual undergraduate degrees in Nutrition (BS) and Sociology (BA). She became more interested in medicine as she progressed through college because she enjoyed both her science and humanities courses. “I think that Medicine is a great intersection of science and humanities,” said Caster.

Many components inspired Caster’s motivation to pursue clinical medicine. Her mother was a teacher who encouraged her from a young age to pursue an education and a career. Her decision to specialize in Nephrology was motivated by both her mother’s diagnosis of kidney disease and the many strong role models and mentors in the division. “I was fortunate to have exposure to many amazing female faculty members,” said Caster. Caster highlighted Dr. Eleanor Lederer (former ULSOM interim chair of medicine and former president of the American Society of Nephrology) and Dr. Rosemary Ouseph (now ULSOM division chief) as faculty that directly inspired her to pursue academic medicine. 

The passion for research came to Caster later from a patient interaction during her training. During her Nephrology fellowship, she encountered a young patient with lupus nephritis that ended up in kidney failure at 18 years old. “I was frustrated with the outcome and wanted to understand more about the disease,” said Caster.  Soon after, she became involved in a research project on lupus nephritis and the project evolved into her scientific career. 

Caster hopes to make a difference for young girls pursuing a career in science or medicine. She highlighted the importance for young girls to have role models in their chosen career fields, as she did. “It is critical for girls and young women to see successful women in science so that they can know this is possible for them,” said Caster.

As the number of women and girls in science and medical fields grows, Caster hopes to see these young women and girls taking up space in these fields. “When I was younger, I was often worried about making the “wrong” choice or failing at something,” said Caster “I also hope that they will be inspired to speak up more, ask more questions, and not be afraid of failure.”

UofL Pre-Health Symposium arms students with skills to navigate higher education

The 2024 University of Louisville Health Sciences Pre-Health Symposium will take place on Saturday, February 10th in the Instructional Building of the School of Medicine. The goal of the Pre-Health Symposium is to provide all high school, community college, and university students, who have an interest in the health sciences, with the information and tools necessary to succeed in the professional and graduate school admissions process. The University of Louisville Schools of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing and Public Health & Information Sciences will have representatives on hand to discuss with students the skills needed to navigate the road to higher education.

This year's Pre-Health Symposium will feature Dr. Trinidad Jackson. In May 2022, Jackson earned his Ph.D. in Public Health Sciences. He is currently the inaugural Assistant Dean for Culture and Liberation and an assistant professor at SPHIS; he also holds a joint appointment as a Senior Advisor within the government sector and is the CEO of a company that prioritizes culture, liberation, art and science. His keynote will address “Leveling the Scales” highlighting social justice and equity in healthcare.

To learn more about the Pre-Health Symposium, the University of Louisville School of Medicine interviewed Sharon Gordon, MS, the Pre-Health Symposium event coordinator.

ULSOM: What is the Pre-Health Symposium? 

Gordon: A forum to share information about the professional schools at HSC and the many STEM careers available to their graduates.

ULSOM: Why was the Pre-Health Symposium created?

Gordon: The symposium was the brainchild of two former students, one medical and one dental, to provide information to those who would one day follow in their footsteps.Their hope was to educate, provide resources, and the opportunity for guidance and mentorship to college students, in return leading to an increase in the number of applicants from populations typically underrepresented in professional school. The symposium has now grown to provide these same opportunities to all students in the area.

ULSOM: What is the ultimate goal of the Pre- Health Symposium? 

Gordon: To connect local and regional youth interested in STEM careers with UofL professional students and administrators to share information, resources and advice.

ULSOM: Who do you hope to reach with the Pre-Health Symposium? 

Gordon: The symposium is open to everyone, especially student populations that have been historically underrepresented in dentistry, medicine, nursing and public health. 

ULSOM: Who is the ideal participant for the Pre-Health Symposium?

Gordon: A local high school or undergraduate student with an interest in dentistry, medicine, nursing or public health.

ULSOM: What topics will be covered at the Pre-Health Symposium? 

Gordon: Social justice, health equity, STEM careers, resumes, personal statements, mental health, shadowing, volunteering, admission requirements.

ULSOM: What effect have you observed the Pre-Health Symposium has had on those interested in pursuing health and medical fields? 

Participants who have attended the Pre-Health Symposium leave the forum with more knowledge of what is required to obtain a successful career in the STEM field; including the classes to enroll in as well as the extracurricular activities to involve themselves in before they apply.  Our hope is that by sharing these resources with a younger population, that they are better prepared and more confident as they navigate the road to professional school.

UofL researchers among the most-cited in the world

Posted to UL News on February 7, 2024

More than 100 University of Louisville researchers are among the top 2% most-cited in the world, according to a new list compiled by Stanford University and Elsevier. 

The list includes researchers whose work was the most cited — that is, referenced by another researcher — in either calendar year 2022 or over the course of their career. The list spans 22 disciplines, from business to engineering to medicine.

“Each and every day, UofL researchers are breaking ground by discovering new knowledge,” said Jon Klein, UofL’s interim executive vice president for research and innovation. “The citation of a scholar’s work is essentially a stamp of approval that the work is important and worthwhile. The fact that so many of our researchers are listed among the most cited shows that knowledge is truly groundbreaking and has impact. It shows UofL research is being used to help to improve lives and expand our understanding of the world and our place in it.” 

Citations, when one researcher references and builds on another’s work, are an important measure of success for academics. Typically, citations mean the researcher made a meaningful and original contribution to the world’s knowledge — and that their peers agree. 

The 118 current UofL researchers, representing eight UofL schools and colleges, included on the list are below. 

  • Thomas Abell, School of Medicine
  • Yousef Abu-Kwaik, School of Medicine
  • David Adamkin, School of Medicine
  • Manju Ahuja, College of Business
  • Bahaaldin Alsoufi, School of Medicine
  • Farrukh Aqil, School of Medicine
  • Richard Baldwin, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Charles Barr, School of Medicine
  • Richard Baumgartner, School of Public Health and Information Sciences
  • Aruni Bhatnagar, School of Medicine
  • Roberto Bolli, School of Medicine
  • Douglas Borchman, School of Medicine
  • Konrad Bresin, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Lu Cai, School of Medicine
  • Jeffrey Callen, School of Medicine
  • David Casey, School of Medicine
  • Matthew Cave, School of Medicine
  • William Cheadle, School of Medicine
  • Yanyu Chen, J.B. Speed School of Engineering
  • Jason Chesney, School of Medicine
  • Kevin Chou, J.B. Speed School of Engineering
  • Barbara Clark, School of Medicine
  • Daniel Conklin, School of Medicine
  • Michael Cunningham, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Douglas Dean, School of Medicine
  • Gill Diamond, School of Dentistry
  • Lee Dugatkin, College of Arts & Sciences
  • John Eaton, School of Medicine
  • Ayman El-Baz, J.B. Speed School of Engineering
  • Rif El-Mallakh, School of Medicine
  • Ronald Elin, School of Medicine
  • Adel Elmaghraby, J.B. Speed School of Engineering
  • Paul Ewald, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Mary Fallat, School of Medicine
  • Aly Farag, J.B. Speed School of Engineering
  • Wenke Feng, School of Medicine
  • James Fiet, College of Business
  • Eugene Fletcher, School of Medicine
  • Joseph Fowler, School of Medicine
  • Per Fredriksson, College of Business
  • Robert Friedland, School of Medicine
  • Hichem Frigui, J.B. Speed School of Engineering
  • Susan Galandiuk, School of Medicine
  • Yury Gerasimenko, School of Medicine
  • Mahesh Gupta, College of Business
  • Ramesh Gupta, School of Medicine
  • Lynne Hall, School of Nursing
  • Gerald Hammond, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Brian Harbrecht, School of Medicine
  • Susan Harkema, School of Medicine
  • Peter Hedera, School of Medicine
  • David Hein, School of Medicine
  • George Higgins, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Thomas Higgins, School of Medicine
  • Bradford Hill, School of Medicine
  • Joshua Hood, School of Medicine
  • Suzanne Ildstad, School of Medicine
  • Steven Jones, School of Medicine
  • Sham Kakar, School of Medicine
  • Mehmed Kantardzic, J.B. Speed School of Engineering
  • Carolyn Klinge, School of Medicine
  • Charles Kodner, School of Medicine
  • Richard Lamont, School of Dentistry
  • Gerald Larson, School of Medicine
  • Rainer Lenhardt, School of Medicine
  • Cheri Levinson, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Stanley Levinson, School of Medicine
  • Yongsheng Lian, J.B. Speed School of Engineering
  • Mark Linder, School of Medicine
  • Bertis Little, School of Public Health and Information Sciences
  • Yiyan Liu, School of Medicine
  • M. Cynthia Logsdon, School of Nursing
  • Frederick Luzzio, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Arthur Malkani, School of Medicine
  • Gary Marshall, School of Medicine
  • Robert Martin, School of Medicine
  • Craig McClain, School of Medicine
  • Stephen McClave, School of Medicine
  • William Paul McKinney, School of Public Health and Information sciences
  • Kelly McMasters, School of Medicine
  • Madhu Menon, J.B. Speed School of Engineering
  • Michael Merchant, School of Medicine
  • Carolyn Mervis, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Donald Miller, School of Medicine
  • Hiram Polk, School of Medicine
  • Julio Ramirez, School of Medicine
  • Janina Ratajczak, School of Medicine
  • Mariusz Ratajczak, School of Medicine
  • Brad Rodu, School of Medicine
  • William Scarfe, School of Dentistry
  • Arnold Schecter, School of Medicine
  • Charles Scoggins, School of Medicine
  • David Seligson, School of Medicine
  • Brad Shuck, College of Education and Human Development
  • Leah Siskind, School of Medicine
  • Mark Slaughter, School of Medicine
  • Joshua Spurgeon, J.B. Speed School of Engineering
  • Thomas Starr, J.B. Speed School of Engineering
  • J. Christopher States, School of Medicine
  • Yi Tan, School of Medicine
  • Sucheta Telang, School of Medicine
  • Kenneth Thomson, School of Medicine
  • Gordon Tobin, School of Medicine
  • Suresh Tyagi, School of Medicine
  • Neetu Tyagi, School of Medicine
  • Roland Valdes, School of Medicine
  • Jeffrey Valentine, College of Education and Human Development
  • Banrida Wahlang, School of Medicine
  • Hui Wang, J.B. Speed School of Engineering
  • Scott Whittemore, School of Medicine
  • Kim Williams, School of Medicine
  • Stephen Winters, School of Medicine
  • Richard Wittebort, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Roman Yampolskiy, J.B. Speed School of Engineering
  • Jun Yan, School of Medicine
  • Li Yang, J.B. Speed School of Engineering
  • Pavel Zahorik, School of Medicine
  • Jacek Zurada, J.B. Speed School of Engineering

UofL leader in medication management expands polypharmacy education, research

Posted to UL News on February 6, 2024
UofL leader in medication management expands polypharmacy education, research

Demetra Antimisiaris, second from left, was a visiting lecturer at the University of Poznan Schools of Medicine and Pharmacy in June 2023.

Demetra Antimisiaris, director of the Jean Frazier Polypharmacy and Medication Management Program (FPMMP) at the University of Louisville Schools of Medicine and Public Health and Information Sciences, shares a disturbing but all too common story that demonstrates the need for education about medication management.

She explains how one of her patients living in a long-term care facility was given a medication to treat osteoporosis, but the medicine was administered incorrectly by crushing it first, which led to burning of the patient’s esophagus. The patient stopped eating and almost died.

“Fortunately, we were able to save her and send her home, where she healed and gained her weight back,” Antimisiaris said. “This is an example of the critical importance of medication literacy from the patient to the entire health care team.”

Polypharmacy, the use of multiple medications together, often associated with medication use risk, is usually associated with older adults, but is increasingly becoming more common among younger adults and children. With approximately 20,000 prescription and more than 300,000 over-the-counter products available to consumers, understanding on how to use medications and how they interact together has never been more important. 

“There’s nowhere in the health care system that you can go if you’re taking 20 drugs and say, ‘Here’s what I’m taking. Is everything ok?’,” Antimisiaris said.

UofL’s distinctive program 

The UofL Jean Frazier Polypharmacy & Medication Management Program is unique among colleges and universities in its dedication to education, research and outreach on the growing challenge of polypharmacy.

Originally launched through the UofL Department of Family and Geriatric Medicine (DFGM), the FPMMP was launched in 2007 through the support of local citizen and philanthropist Jean Frazier whose long-standing concern about polypharmacy aligned with the work led by then DFGM chair,  James G. O’Brien.

Frazier’s interest in supporting a polypharmacy program was sparked after three people she knew well suffered from adverse medication issues within one year’s time – one of them, her mother.

“I started to wonder if there was anything I could do to help stop problems like this and I talked with Dr. O’Brien, who hired Dr. Antimisiaris, and that’s where it all started,” said Frazier.

Since 2007, Frazier said she is pleased with the progress in community awareness about polypharmacy through the efforts of the polypharmacy program.

“One of the things the program is doing that I am delighted with is a process of having people take an interest in their own health – understanding their illnesses and medications and knowing the side effects and interactions,” she said. “I think the program is beneficial and it is growing. It really is an asset for the community.”

Antimisiaris says 275,000 people die every year trying to use their medicines correctly, and adverse drug events account for more than 3.5 million doctor visits annually and 1 million emergency department visits.

“When you have one medicine from your cardiologist, one from your psychologist and three more you take over the counter, it’s a lot harder to monitor and predict the effects,” said Antimisiaris. “Usually, we don’t recognize it until they hit the emergency room doors. And by then, it’s often too late.” 

Making a global impact 

As a dedicated program focused on polypharmacy, UofL’s efforts are leading the way nationally and internationally in medication management expertise. In June 2023, the FPMMP worked with the Polish Ministry of Health and the Universities of Poznan and Warsaw to pilot a medication therapy management (MTM) project. Antimisiaris served as one of the ministry’s experts on MTM implementation and evaluation, providing advanced practice education.

Agnieszka Neumann Podczaska, Polish Ministry of Health’s Medication Management pilot project director, said the Frazier program partnership has been valuable for their program and for the field of polypharmacy.

“At Poznan University of Medical Sciences, the collaboration with Dr. Antimisiaris helped us to understand the need of providing research in all aspects of polypharmacy, not only the influence on clinical assessment but also on barriers to medication literacy and systems, or lack of systems, of polypharmacy management in clinic,” Podczaska said.

In addition, she said observing the program emphasized the importance of engagement with diverse experts in health systems of care delivery, policy, incentives, literacy, international perspectives and governance.

Antimisiaris said the FPMMP is extending its efforts across the European Union (EU) to help bring medication management to more populations. “We recognize they face the same problems we do with gaps in medication management caused by policy and systems of health care,” she said. “I think this is a credit to UofL and to Mrs. Frazier that we have the stakeholders and leaders in the EU looking to us.”

Collaboration within the UofL community

Closer to home, the FPMMP is looking to leverage public health expertise and education in medication literacy to develop innovative programming in the polypharmacy space. Population and societal approaches that empower people are especially important to address system gaps, said Antimisiaris.

For example, the School of Public Health and Information Sciences recently launched a new course open to undergraduate students called “Medication Use: History, Science and Humanity,” designed to raise awareness and skills of students who will be better equipped citizens and advocates, beyond those working in health care.

Creative inter-disciplinary approaches also led to a collaboration with colleagues in the J.B. Speed School of Engineering to examine pharmacy accessibility in care deserts (pharmacy deserts) that was funded by UofL’s Health Equity Innovation Hub.

With an average of 50 new prescription products approved for market annually, most of which are high-technology and unfamiliar, and nearly 50% of the US population taking at least one prescription medication, the challenge of effective and safe medication use will continue.

“What has happened is that our systems, policies and individual medication literacy have not kept up with the growth of medication consumption worldwide,” Antimisiaris said.

What motivates Antimisiaris is seeking innovative solutions to transform the way society interacts with polypharmacy and medication management.

“What are the systems and individual-level solutions needed to keep us healthy and safe? These are the questions we will continue to study,” she said.

Student affirms strength of UofL’s research community

Posted to UL News on January 29, 2024
Student affirms strength of UofL’s research community

Katelyn Sheneman is a doctoral student in microbiology and immunology at UofL School of Medicine.

Katelyn Sheneman, a doctoral student in microbiology and immunology at UofL, is studying Yersinia pestis, the bacteria that causes bubonic and pneumonic plague, to better understand how it evades the immune system.

A native of Southern Indiana, Sheneman completed her bachelor’s degree in biochemistry at the University of Southern Indiana before coming to UofL, where she is studying with Matt Lawrenz, a professor of microbiology and immunology in the School of Medicine.

UofL News asked Sheneman about her interest in science, her research project and her work with prospective young scientists through the Louisville Science Pathways program.

UofL News: How did you first become interested in science and microbiology and immunology in particular?

Katelyn Sheneman: During my undergraduate career, I was pursuing medicine. I worked full-time at the hospital during all four years, took the MCAT, got accepted into medical school — until I finally realized I didn’t have a desire to treat illnesses, but rather to study disease prevention. The upstream progression was pretty natural from there: in order to prevent illness, you need to study preventative medicine, but in order to study/develop those therapeutics, you have to understand the disease — you have to understand the pathogen and how it is causing the disease. My interests now lie within not only microbiology but also immunology, because you cannot understand one without also studying the other.

ULN: What has been the most exciting thing you have experienced in science so far?

Sheneman: I have been very fortunate to have many exciting experiences in science, but to answer this question, I think I would rather focus on defining experiences that validated my passion for research. During my rotation in the Lawrenz lab in my first year, my rotation involved establishing an entirely new project in the lab — we had no idea how difficult it would be or what results we would find. During my seven-week rotation, I was successful in my endeavor to establish successful protocols for this project and was fortunate enough to generate some exciting data that was included in a grant proposal Dr. Lawrenz was writing, which ultimately got funded. This was definitely a defining moment for me in my scientific career.

ULN: What are you investigating in your current research project?

Sheneman: My research is focused on the host-pathogen interactions during pneumonic plague, which is when Y. pestis infects the lungs. Specifically, I am studying the impact of Y. pestis on the production of extracellular vesicles (EVs) from neutrophils. EVs are produced by all cells in the body that facilitate communication between cells. Previous work by our lab has confirmed that Y. pestis can prevent immune cells from eliminating them. My work is focused on how Y. pestis alters the contents of the EVs and how other immune cells respond to EVs from infected neutrophil cells. Going forward, I plan to look  at how the EVs produced by infected neutrophils affect the development of pneumonic plague.

ULN: What inspired you to come to UofL and the Lawrenz lab?

Sheneman: When I was interviewing and choosing a graduate program, I was particularly interested in programs that offered biosafety level 3 lab training, which is part of the reason I was drawn to UofL. When I initially joined the program, the Lawrenz lab was not yet on my radar as I was more drawn to the biochemistry and virology labs (unsurprisingly as I joined during the pandemic). However, during orientation, the investigators who are recruiting students present their research to encourage students to rotate in their labs. During his presentation, Dr. Lawrenz showed some absolutely beautiful science, exemplifying Y. pestis as a sophisticated and “perfect” pathogen, if you will. As I do not come from a background in microbiology, I had never thought of infectious disease from the perspective of the pathogen, and I found this absolutely captivating. This led me to rotate in this lab where Dr. Lawrenz guided me to spearhead this new project. Our shared enthusiasm for this project is ultimately what led to me join the Lawrenz lab.

ULN: What do you appreciate about the research community at UofL?

Sheneman: The research community is composed of individuals who are all curious, driven and encouraging of students. What I appreciate most about the community is encouragement to seek a diverse repertoire of mentors. Dr. Lawrenz is an excellent principal mentor, but I have been fortunate enough to develop relationships with other mentors in other departments here at UofL as well as from other institutions across the country. These relationships allow for more well-rounded science — people from different backgrounds and expertise ask very different scientific questions. I believe these relationships have helped shape my project and steer it into new directions that I never anticipated.

ULN: Recently, you received a prestigious $100,000 research award for trainees from the National Institutes of Health to help fund your research. Competition is stiff for these awards. How did you react when you learned you would receive the F31 grant?

Sheneman: I did not anticipate getting awarded an F31 on my first submission of the proposal — I was extremely surprised to say the least. I am extremely grateful and humbled, and I hope I can convey my gratitude in the productivity of my future work.

ULN: You also work with high school students through Louisville Science Pathways. Why is this work important to you?

Sheneman: Louisville Science Pathways (LSP) is a summer program that offers high school students the opportunity to work in a research lab at UofL. The goal of the program is to bring unique opportunities in science to these students by promoting science education and literacy, as well as to introduce them to potential career prospects in STEM. I am currently serving in my second year as co-director of this program, but the Lawrenz lab has been actively involved in the program since before the pandemic. I initially sought involvement in LSP because it allows me to work with students that come from a similar background as I do, having to sacrifice opportunities for career development because they depend on summer employment. LSP really provides these students with the best of both worlds: development of the skills and experience from a research internship with all of the benefits of a summer job. The most rewarding part of working with LSP is helping develop opportunities for these young scientists that I wish had been available to me when I was in their shoes, with the ultimate goal that these students will be better prepared and more competitive candidates as they pursue further education.

ULN: What are your future plans?

Sheneman: I plan on staying in research and pursuing a post-doctoral fellowship/program? after I complete my PhD, but after that, my path is undecided. When I started this program, I was confident that I wanted to pursue a job in government (CDC, NIH, WHO, etc.) to work at the forefront of research in infectious disease, but the prospect of staying in academia has been growing on me these past few years. At this stage in my career, I would say I am quite open-minded when it comes to my future plans.

UofL researchers are unmasking an old foe’s tricks to thwart new diseases

Posted to UL News November 27, 2023
UofL researchers are unmasking an old foe’s tricks to thwart new diseases

Microbiology and immunology professor Matthew Lawrenz, right, and doctoral student Katelyn Sheneman have received new research funding to better understand how bacteria can outmaneuver the immune system.

When the body encounters bacteria, viruses or harmful substances, its innate immune cells, neutrophils, assemble at the site to combat the invader.

Bacteria and viruses have ways to avoid these defenses, however. Yersinia pestis, the bacteria that causes bubonic and pneumonic plague, for example, can hide from the immune system, allowing it to replicate in the body unhindered until it can overwhelm the host. This ability allowed Y. pestis to spread bubonic plague across Europe in the 14th Century, killing a third of the European population.

While plague may not be a serious threat to human health in modern times, researchers at the University of Louisville are studying Y. pestis to better understand its ability to evade the immune system and apply that understanding to control other pathogens.

“If you look at human plague, people don’t show symptoms right away even though they have an active infection because the bacteria is hiding from the immune system. Then all of a sudden there is a lot of bacteria, the immune system is overwhelmed and in the case of pneumonic plague, the individual dies from pneumonia,” said Matthew Lawrenz, professor in the UofL Department of Microbiology and Immunology.

Neutrophils are the immune system’s first responders, sending out protein molecules to summon other neutrophils to attack and destroy the invader. Among the first molecules sent out by neutrophils to signal an infection are Leukotriene B4 (LTB4) lipid molecules. Y. pestis interferes with the immune response by suppressing the LTB4 signals. Lawrenz has received a new $2.9 million, four-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to investigate how Y. pestis blocks LTB4. Ultimately, he expects this understanding will lead to ways to prevent Y. pestis from blocking the signals and hopefully, apply that understanding to other types of infections.

“This historic pathogen is really good at manipulating the immune system, so we use it as a tool to better understand how white blood cells like neutrophils and macrophages respond to bacterial infection,” Lawrenz said. “In this project, we are using Yersinia to better understand why LTB4 is so important to controlling plague. This understanding would apply to almost any infection of the lungs or other areas, and it probably could apply to viruses also.”

A member of the UofL Center for Predictive Medicine for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases, Lawrenz has been studying plague bacteria for nearly two decades. His previous work includes discoveries of how Y. pestis acquires iron and zinc to overcome a host’s defense mechanism known as nutritional immunity and has increased understanding of how Y. pestis inhabits spaces within host macrophages to hide from the immune system.

Katelyn Sheneman, a doctoral student in Lawrenz’s lab, also has received a prestigious $100,000 research award for trainees from the NIH. This grant will fund her research to understand how Y. pestis changes the contents of extracellular vesicles, cellular containers produced by immune cells that contain proteins, lipids such as LTB4 and other components. These vesicles are released into the bloodstream to communicate to other cells what is happening in their part of the body, such as an infection.

“My project is looking at how Y. pestis alters the number of vesicles being produced, what is being packaged in them and how other cells are responding to them,” Sheneman said. “We have some good evidence that pestis is able to manipulate the production of these vesicles, so we are going to look at the role the vesicles play in pulmonary infection and how that influence contributes to overall systemic infection.”

Since there is no effective vaccine against infection by Y. pestis and it has the potential to be used as a bioweapon, Lawrenz and Sheneman study Y. pestis in UofL’s Biosafety Level 3 facilities at the Regional Biocontainment Laboratory, part of a network of 12 regional and 2 national biocontainment laboratories for studying infectious agents. Biosafety Level 3 facilities are built to exacting federal safety and security standards in order to protect researchers and the public from exposure to the pathogens being investigated.

American Heart Association grants UofL $750K to research AI in cardiac surgery

Posted by UL News January 23, 2024
American Heart Association grants UofL $750K to research AI in cardiac surgery

Jiapeng Huang, above, professor and vice chair of the anesthesiology and perioperative medicine department and principal investigator for the project.

Artificial intelligence continues to evolve our world and the medical field. The University of Louisville is investigating how AI could help improve patient outcomes during cardiac surgery with a $750,000 grant from the American Heart Association. 

The grant will allow researchers to advance AI specifically for acute kidney injury and complications during or following cardiac surgery. Acute kidney injury can result in increased mortality or persistent kidney dysfunction and, because it has a wide variety of contributing factors from patient-specific conditions to procedure complexity, this issue can be difficult for physicians to predict and prevent.

The project is a joint effort between UofL researchers from the School of Medicine, School of Public Health and Information Sciences, the J.B. Speed School of Engineering, UofL Health and researchers at SUNY Buffalo, Georgia Institute of Technology and Baylor Scott & White Heart and Vascular Institute.

The team will innovate machine-learning AI models to analyze detailed, clinical patient data and develop a personalized risk prediction and decision-making process for managing kidney injury in heart surgery patients. They then will validate the process using independent databases and clinical trials at UofL Health. 

UofL’s Jiapeng Huang, professor and vice chair of the anesthesiology and perioperative medicine department, is principal investigator for the project. As a cardiac anesthesiologist at UofL Health, he also sees numerous patients who deal with acute kidney injury. 

“Our goal is to use AI and machine learning methodology to do two things. One, to predict in real time when the patient might develop acute kidney injury or if the patient will be at risk for acute kidney injury,” he said. The second thing is to develop a clinical decision-support system to help the clinicians do the right thing for the patients at the right time to reduce chance of acute kidney injury after heart surgery.” 

While Huang and UofL faculty member Bert Little focus on the clinical procedures and decision-making process, Lihui Bai, professor of industrial engineering at the Speed School, Xiaoyu Chen, assistant professor of industrial and systems engineering at SUNY Buffalo and George (Guanghui) Lan, professor of industrial and systems engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology, will work with a team of engineers to build the AI technology. The tech will allow physicians to use patients’ clinical information before, during and after surgery to inform physicians of the best sequence of treatment for patients to reduce the chance of kidney injury after heart surgery.

For the last 10 years, AI has been used in the medical field to analyze large health care data. AI can more easily recognize patterns than the human eye or brain, according to Huang, and can be a significant benefit to patient outcomes.

“This is one of those research (projects) that will benefit patients directly,” he said Acute kidney injury happens in about 25% of patients after cardiac surgery. This study aims to protect patients from acute kidney injury after heart surgery.”

The three-year project, which is currently in phase one, began in July of this year. During this early phase, the team is establishing the database and prediction model. In year three, clinical trials conducted at UofL Health will be used to determine whether the predictive modeling and clinical decision support system will reduce the rate of acute kidney injury after cardiac surgery.

UofL Health is an excellent partner for this project as it is one of the premier cardiac programs in the nation, according to Huang. It was responsible for the first heart transplant in the state of Kentucky, as well as many innovations in artificial heart pumps. UofL Health cardiovascular surgeon Siddharth Pahwa and cardiologist Dinesh Kalra, for example, are involved in other studies, including cardiac imaging and data collection in addition to patient care.

“UofL Health always focuses on improving patient safety and outcomes,” Huang said. “UofL faculty and researchers are perfect partners to perform clinical studies to advance our knowledge and benefit our patients at UofL Health.”

Endowment to support study of immune system and genetics

Posted by UofL News January 9, 2024

To remain at the forefront of immune system and disease research, the University of Louisville School of Medicine will establish the Carolyn Siler Browning Endowed Chair in Immunogenetics. The Executive & Compensation Committee of UofL’s Board of Trustees approved the request submitted by University Advancement at its Dec. 14, 2023, meeting.

Immunogenomics combines the fields of immunology (study of the immune system) and genomics (study of the genetic changes in cancer). According to the proposal submitted for approval, researchers are just now uncovering the extent of immunogenetic diversity among human populations. Genetic diversity in immune genes significantly impacts individual immune responses, with critical implications for how people develop and administer novel vaccines and therapeutics, as well as characterize complex and dynamic immune responses in infection, autoimmune disease and cancer.

School of Medicine Interim Dean Jeffrey Bumpous said that the university is well-prepared to support this research with equipment that other research institutes do not have, and the new endowment will accelerate efforts to understand the rapidly expanding field of immunogenomics.

Funding for the endowment comes from the estate of Carolyn S. Browning ($934,498.15) and the estate of Clifford Ernst ($65,501.85). UofL will request the gifts be matched by a contribution of $1 million from the Commonwealth of Kentucky Research Challenge Trust Fund, resulting in a total contribution of $2 million.

Browning, the endowment’s namesake, was a longtime Louisville resident, teaching music and Spanish for more than 30 years. Her husband, Harold Alonzo Browning, Jr., was a city editor for the Louisville Times. The Browning estate has provided gifts to other medical schools as well as the American Diabetes Association, memorial Sloan Kettering and St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

UofL study shows nicotine in e-cigarettes may not be harmless, as some claim

Posted by UofL News January 4, 2024
UofL study shows nicotine in e-cigarettes may not be harmless, as some claim

Alex Carll, assistant professor in the UofL School of Medicine Department of Physiology.

With the start of a new year, smokers and vapers may have resolved to quit or cut back on the habit to improve their health. They may want to use caution, however, if their strategy involves switching from cigarettes to e-cigarettes, considered by some to be a less harmful alternative. 

A new study from the University of Louisville shows the nicotine in certain types of e-cigarettes may be more harmful than others, increasing risk for irregular heartbeat, or heart arrhythmias.

A popular claim is that nicotine in e-cigarettes is relatively harmless, whereas additives and combustion products largely account for the harms of traditional cigarettes. The UofL research, which tested the effects of e-cigarettes with various types and doses of nicotine in animal models, showed that the nicotine form contained in pod-based e-cigarettes  nicotine salts  led to heart arrhythmias, particularly at higher doses.

In the study, published in Nicotine and Tobacco Research, researchers compared heart rate and heart rate variability in mice exposed to vape aerosols containing different types of nicotine. The aerosols contained either freebase nicotine, used in older types of e-cigarettes; nicotine salts, used in Juul and other pod-based e-cigarettes; or racemic freebase nicotine, simulating the recently popularized synthetic nicotine; and their effects were compared to nicotine-free e-cigarette aerosols or air. In addition, the research team delivered increasing concentrations of the nicotine over time, from 1% to 2.5%, to 5%.

The nicotine salts induced cardiac arrhythmias more potently than freebase nicotine, and the cardiac arrhythmias increased with the higher concentrations of nicotine. 

“This suggests the nicotine is harmful to the heart and counters popular claims that the nicotine itself is harmless,” said Alex Carll, assistant professor in UofL’s Department of Physiology, who led the study. “Our findings provide new evidence that nicotine type and concentration modify the adverse cardiovascular effects of e-cigarette aerosols, which may have important regulatory implications.”

The study also revealed that the higher levels of nicotine salts increased sympathetic nervous system activity, also known as the fight-or-flight response, by stimulating the same receptor that is inhibited by beta blockers, heart medications which are prescribed to treat cardiac arrhythmias. In the autonomic nervous system, sympathetic dominance increases the fight-or-flight response in bodily functions, including heart rate.

“The nicotine in e-cigarettes causes irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias) in a dose-dependent manner by stimulating the very receptor that many heart medications are designed to inhibit,” Carll said.  

The findings conclude that inhalation of e-cig aerosols from nicotine-salt-containing e-liquids could increase cardiovascular risks by inducing sympathetic dominance and cardiac arrhythmias. 

This work is part of 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 team’s previous research found that exposure to e-cigarette aerosols containing certain flavors or solvent vehicles caused ventricular arrhythmias and other conduction irregularities in the heart, even without nicotine, leading Carll to speculate that the arrhythmias may not be the result of the nicotine alone, but also by the flavors and solvents included in the e-cigarettes.

The researchers concluded that, if these results are confirmed in humans, regulating nicotine salts through minimum pH standards or limits on acid additives in e-liquids may mitigate the public health risks of vaping.

Even without regulatory changes, however, the research suggests that users may reduce potential harm by opting for e-cigarettes with freebase nicotine instead of nicotine salts or using e-cigarettes with a lower nicotine content.

University of Louisville School of Medicine Celebrates Excellence in Staff Performance at 8th Annual Awards Ceremony

Posted December 11, 2023
University of Louisville School of Medicine Celebrates Excellence in Staff Performance at 8th Annual Awards Ceremony

2023 Staff Excellence Awards

The University of Louisville School of Medicine held its 8th annual Dean’s Staff Excellence Awards on December 7, 2023, to honor the achievement of its staff members and recognize the dedication to advancing the mission of the school of medicine they have demonstrated throughout the year.

“The Dean’s Staff Awards acknowledges the astounding contributions of School of Medicine staff that allow us to continue to best serve our students, our patients, and the Commonwealth,” said Jeffrey Bumpous, MD, interim dean for the School of Medicine and vice president of academic medical affairs. “Our staff embody the mission of our school through their unfailing commitment every day in their work.”

The awards ceremony featured recognition in several categories, showcasing the diverse talents and accomplishments of the School of Medicine’s dedicated staff. The categories included:

Employee of the Year: Jennifer Coffey

Team of the Year Award: Cardiology Administrative Team and Envirome Institute Administrative Team

Dean’s Lifetime Achievement Award: Amy Kiper

Anti-Racism, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Engagement Award: Lisa Gunterman and Aaron Weathers

Heart of the School Award: Machenize Eason

Performance Excellence Awards:

  • Administrative Office: Courtney Jenkins
  • Basic Science Department: Jennifer Wells
  • Clinical Science Department: Stephanie Cox

The 2023 Dean’s Staff Excellence Awards aimed to express gratitude for the unwavering commitment of the School of Medicine staff in upholding the institution’s values. The awards express appreciation for the diligence its staff members have in upholding the values of the School of Medicine. The everyday passion from staff members ensures that the University of Louisville School of Medicine can continue to move its mission forward in education, research, and service.

View event photos here.

 

UofL CIEHS Symposium Highlights Environmental Health Science Research

Posted on December 5, 2023

The Center for Integrative Environmental Health Sciences (CIEHS) at the University of Louisville recently hosted a symposium on October 30th to spotlight their cutting-edge research. CIEHS is funded by a prestigious P30 grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Science (NIEHS), one of only 25

CIEHS works to unravel the complex web of interactions between pollutants and structural determinants of health in human health and disease. The center achieves this through promoting interdisciplinary collaboration, translating research findings, recruiting new and established investigators to environmental health science research, and actively promoting community engagement and community-based research.

The symposium was attended by students and faculty from all three UofL campuses and visitors from other NIEHS P30 centers. The event featured a full day of seminars and poster sessions, with UofL CIEHS scientists presenting research on the impact of environmental exposures on health.

Presentations covered a wide range of topics, from wastewater-based epidemiology to advanced imaging techniques for tracing copper distribution in response to cadmium exposure, and the effects of prenatal cigarette smoke exposure on postnatal motor development.

The symposium featured a diverse array of posters presented by faculty, students, post-docs, and research staff, covering various environmental and health-related topics and those in attendance were invited to participate in a poster competition. Winners in each category received certificates and $500 travel award vouchers, fostering the development of future scientific leaders. Below you will find a list of awardees: 

Medical Student Award

Jahnavi Sunkara

Masters Graduate Student and Pre-Candidacy Ph.D. Student Award

Oluwanifemi Esther Bolatimi

Ph.D. Candidate Award

Dakotah Cathey

Postdoctoral Fellow Award

Anand Ramalingam

Undergraduate Student Award

Romith Paily

Research Staff

Yiqun Mo

The CIEHS symposium was a remarkable display of cutting-edge research in the field of environmental health sciences. If you are interested in learning more about CIEHS, have an environmental concern or interest, idea for content or if you are interested in a partnership please fill out the following form https://louisville.edu/ciehs/cores/cec/request-form or contact Sarah Jump sejump01@louisville.edu 

UofL awarded $11.5 million for research to prevent and treat eating disorders

Posted by UofL News November 29, 2023
UofL awarded $11.5 million for research to prevent and treat eating disorders

From left: Kevin Gardner, Executive Vice President for Research and Innovation; Dayna Touron, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; Cheri Levinson, associate professor; and Kim Schatzel, president

A University of Louisville researcher has been awarded $11.5 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to better understand and address some of the most devastating effects of eating disorders.

Eating disorders affect an estimated 9% of Americans — nearly 30 million people — and can impact a person’s eating behaviors and perceptions about food and their bodies. The UofL research, backed by three grants, will investigate how eating disorders may develop in childhood and adolescence, their contribution to suicidal behaviors and how innovative personalized treatment may offer hope.

“UofL has made a longstanding commitment to groundbreaking research and discovery that makes a positive impact on our world,” said President Kim Schatzel. “This is research that can save and improve the lives of millions of Americans and many, many more around the world impacted by eating disorders.”

 

The work is led by researcher Cheri Levinson, who specializes in the study and intervention of eating and anxiety disorders. The key, she said, is a personalized approach to diagnosis and treatment, recognizing that these disorders affect people of all different ages, ethnicities, gender identities and backgrounds, and individualizing treatment to each specific person.

“Despite the high prevalence of these conditions, there are few available treatment and prevention options,” said Levinson, an associate professor in the UofL College of Arts and Sciences and director of the Eating Anxiety Treatment (EAT) Lab. “This work not only will create options, but opens this whole possibility for treatments that are personalized based on the individual. Because eating disorders don’t just affect one kind of person and there are a multitude of different factors that can influence them.”

Through an NIH research project grant totaling nearly $4 million, Levinson’s team will study how eating disorders develop in childhood and beyond, with the hope their findings can help avert the large personal and societal costs associated with childhood onset and chronic disorders. Recent studies show more than one in five kids worldwide may show signs of disordered eating.

A second project grant, also nearly $4 million, will identify patterns of anorexia nervosa — an eating disorder characterized by a fear of gaining weight — that contribute to suicide risk, with data providing a model of personalized psychiatric medicine and new methods of prevention and treatment. Currently, patients with anorexia have a suicide risk 18 times higher than those without an eating disorder.

The third grant, a prestigious NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, also worth nearly $4 million across two phases, will further the creation and dissemination of a novel personalized treatment for eating disorders and integrate social determinants of health (food insecurity, racism) into treatment. The New Innovator Award, part of NIH’s High-Risk, High-Reward Research program, supports unusually innovative research from early-career investigators who are within 10 years of their final degree or clinical residency. Levinson is the first from UofL and the first studying eating disorders to receive this award.

“Our mission at the College of Arts and Sciences is to improve life in the Commonwealth, including by creating new knowledge through groundbreaking research and innovation,” said Dana Touron, the college’s dean. “Dr. Levinson’s work will undoubtedly improve the lives of millions living with eating disorders, and we are very proud to count her among our faculty.”

These grants are the culmination of years of groundbreaking work by Levinson and her team, for which they earned a UofL Trailblazer Award in early 2023. The research has also received support through UofL’s Office of Research and Innovation, including mentoring through the Ascending Stars Fellows Program for promising mid-career faculty. 

Work to develop a companion personalized treatment application and virtual reality technology has also been supported by the office’s Innovation and Commercialization and UofL New Ventures teams. This includes patenting, entrepreneurial coaching and training and financial support through two innovation development programs: KYNETIC, focused on furthering biomedical technologies, and PRePARE, focused on technologies that address a health or societal problem resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“UofL has built a strong and vibrant ecosystem and supports for important research, like this, that can improve and save lives,” said Kevin Gardner, UofL’s executive vice president for research and innovation. “We’re so proud of the work Dr. Levinson and her team are doing and the positive impacts it will have across the U.S. and the globe.” 

University of Louisville School of Medicine Honors Exceptional Faculty

Posted on November 28, 2023
University of Louisville School of Medicine Honors Exceptional Faculty

Image of 2023 Faculty Excellence Awards

The University of Louisville School of Medicine held its 5th Annual Celebration of Faculty Excellence on November 16, 2023, to acknowledge and celebrate the remarkable contributions of its faculty members in the areas of service, teaching, and research. The event took place at the Kosair for Kids Clinical and Translational Research (CTR) building from 4:30 PM to 6:30 PM. Over 100 people gathered to celebrate the event, including Provost Gerry Bradley.

Jeffrey Bumpous, MD, interim dean of the School of Medicine and vice president for academic medical affairs, expressed his admiration for the faculty's dedication to shaping the future of healthcare and making a significant impact on the Commonwealth of Kentucky. "The commitment our faculty have to educating the next generation of physicians and scientists, advancing the future of healthcare, and improving the conditions of the Commonwealth is astounding," Dr. Bumpous remarked. "It is an honor to recognize the achievements of our faculty."

The 2023 Faculty Excellence Awards honored individuals in the following categories:

Outstanding Scholarship, Research, and Creative Activity Awards:

  • Basic & Applied Sciences Award: Sanjay Srivastava, PhD
  • Career Achievement in Research Award: Steven C. Koenig, PhD

Distinguished Service Awards:

  • Service to UofL Award: Raymond Orthober, MD
  • Service to Profession Award: Gary Vitale, MD
  • Service to the Community, Commonwealth, or Region Award: Keith Miller, MD
  • National/International Service Award: John Wise, Sr., PhD
  • Career of Service Award: Ronald Paul, MD

Educator Awards:

  • Gratis Faculty Teaching Award: Arthur Malkani, MD
  • Outstanding Educator Award: Nicole Herring, PhD
  • Career Achievement in Education Award: Aaron Calhoun, MD

Multicultural Teaching Award: Luis Marsano, MD

Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award: Corrie Harris, MD

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Champion Award: Jennifer Porter, MD

Each of these awards recognized exceptional faculty members who have shown exemplary dedication and commitment to their respective fields. The University of Louisville School of Medicine takes pride in its faculty's outstanding contributions to medical research, education, and service, and these awards aim to acknowledge their hard work and dedication.

In addition to the regular awards that are given, this year the School of Medicine recognized:

  • 21 promotions from assistant professor to associate professor
  • 14 promotions from associate professor to professor
  • 11 newly tenured appointments
  • 11 Endowed Chairs

The 5th Annual Celebration of Faculty Excellence at the University of Louisville School of Medicine is a testament to the institution's ongoing commitment to fostering excellence in medical education, research, and service, and it serves as a reminder of the significant role the school plays in advancing the healthcare landscape both locally and globally.

View photos from the event here.

Horses and Hope celebrates 15 years of breast cancer education and screening

Posted by UofL News on November 17, 2023
Horses and Hope celebrates 15 years of breast cancer education and screening

Former Kentucky First Lady Jane Beshear, second from left, with breast cancer survivors and friends honored at a Horses and Hope event.

Horses and Hope will celebrate 15 years of cancer education and screening and honor breast cancer survivors with a special day of racing at Churchill Downs on Sunday, Nov. 19. Race day festivities will include remarks by Former First Lady Jane Beshear, founder of Horses and Hope, Gov. Andy Beshear, a performance by D’Corey Johnson, 2023 America’s Got Talent participant and emcee Heather French Henry, Miss America 2000 at 1 p.m.

“Britainy and I were honored to join Horses and Hope to celebrate 15 years of this amazing program,” said Gov. Andy Beshear. “Horses and Hope is close to my heart because it was created by my mom, Jane Beshear. I am so proud to see her mission to increase access to cancer screenings for Kentucky women being carried out. I want to congratulate everyone at Horses and Hope and celebrate the incredible survivors and warriors who are fighting and beating cancer. Together, we can make a difference in this fight.”

“We are so proud to join Horses and Hope to celebrate 15 years of amazing work on behalf of cancer survivors,” said First Lady Britainy Beshear. “Since Andy’s mom created this program, it has helped countless Kentucky women receive breast cancer screenings and saved lives. I’m so glad this important work will continue.”

Horses and Hope℠ began in 2008 to increase breast cancer awareness, education, screening and treatment referral among Kentucky’s horse industry workers and other special populations. The program has hosted screenings and events honoring cancer survivors across the state in collaboration with the Horses and Hope/UofL Health Brown Cancer Center Screening Van and the Horses and Hope Pink Ford Mustang. Former First Lady Jane Beshear and the Kentucky Cancer Program at the University of Louisville were instrumental in the program’s launch, along with the Pink Stable, a committee of Kentucky horse owners, riders, trainers, farm owners, jockeys and others.

Operated by the UofL Health – Brown Cancer Center, the Horses and Hope van launched in 2016 has screened more than 17,000 women for breast cancer. Through breast cancer race days at Kentucky racetracks, Horses and Hope has reached more than a million racing fans.

Today, Horses and Hope has been expanded to offer cancer prevention and early detection programs along with screening and treatment referrals for many different cancers through the mobile van. Special events are held throughout the state to honor breast cancer survivors and to raise funds for Horses and Hope, including events at Churchill Downs, Keeneland, Ellis Park, the North American Championship Rodeo and others.

For more information, contact the Kentucky Cancer Program 1-877-326-1134 or email Horses and Hope.

Michelle Stevenson M.D., M.S., appointed vice dean of Faculty Affairs and Advancement

Posted on November 9, 2023
Michelle Stevenson M.D., M.S., appointed vice dean of Faculty Affairs and Advancement

Michelle Stevenson, M.D., M.S.

The University of Louisville School of Medicine is pleased to announce the appointment of Michelle Stevenson, M.D., M.S., to vice dean of Faculty Affairs and Advancement effective January 4, 2024. Stevenson will work closely with current vice dean Ron Paul, MD, to ensure a smooth transition when Paul begins his retirement in early January.

“Dr. Stevenson’s commitment throughout her career to supporting her fellow School of Medicine faculty in their career confirms that she possesses the qualities necessary to be successful in her new role,” said Jeffrey Bumpous, M.D., interim dean and vice president for Academic Medical Affairs. “We are fortunate to now have Dr. Stevenson among our leadership ranks.”

Stevenson brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to her appointed role. She has taught at the undergraduate and graduate level of medical education for nearly 20 years and has authored 62 peer-reviewed publications in her field. She has served as director of research development for the Department of Pediatrics at the UofL School of Medicine and Norton Children’s Research Institute since 2020 and is an elected member of the American Pediatric Society and Society of Pediatric Research.

Stevenson embodies the mission of the Office of Faculty Affairs and Advancement, as she is tremendously passionate about supporting her peers’ professional success at the School of Medicine. She has served on the Promotion, Appointment, and Tenure Committee of the UofL School of Medicine since 2018, previously serving as chair and vice-chair, and has received eleven Faculty Peer Clinician-Teacher or Faculty Peer Mentorship awards from the Department of Pediatrics since 2010, for her work in mentoring her fellow faculty members.

“I am honored to take on this new role, and I am deeply committed to the success of our faculty and staff that continue to foster innovation at the UofL School of Medicine,” said Stevenson.

 Stevenson received a B.S. in Biochemistry from Indiana University in 1993. She graduated in 1997 from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine. Returning to her hometown, she completed the residency program in pediatrics at the University of Louisville in 2000. She completed a fellowship in Pediatric Emergency Medicine (PEM) at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in 2003 and later completed a Master of Science in Molecular Epidemiology and Children’s Environmental Health from the University of Cincinnati and has served as a faculty member at the U of L School of Medicine since 2008.

Heartwheels interactive display at Maker Days this weekend

Posted on November 8, 2023
Heartwheels interactive display at Maker Days this weekend

Dr. Koenig and students during previous Heartwheels event

Heartwheels! STEM Mobile Outreach— an experiential educational initiative designed to engage young people in the local community and throughout Kentucky in STEM fields and inspire them to pursue their interests in related fields—is participating in the Kentucky Science Center’s Maker Days event on November 10-11 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Heartwheels! was founded and developed by faculty members Gretel Monreal, PhD and Steven C. Koenig, PhD from the Advanced Heart Failure Research (AHFR) Program at the University of Louisville School of Medicine. They bring a portable version of their laboratory out into schools and communities, many of which are underrepresented with limited resources and/or access to STEM faculty and technologies, and create innovative cardiovascular-based learning opportunities and fun hands-on activities for learning about heart health

Monreal and Koenig founded Heartwheels! to share their expertise, experience, and passion in developing and testing cardiovascular medical devices. They use these events as a vehicle to engage and inspire young minds to envision themselves as scientists, clinicians, and/or engineers with future productive and rewarding careers in emerging STEM fields. 

“Harnessing young people’s interests in science, technology, engineering, and math at a young age allows them to envision themselves in STEM careers in their future,” said Monreal and Koenig, “Our participants’ eagerness to join in on our learning activities shows that young people’s STEM interests are there they just need opportunities for exploration.”

The Kentucky Science Center’s Maker Days has a similar mission as Heartwheels! in encouraging the local community to partake in learning about STEM-related topics. Makers Days is an exemplary event designed to allow students to gain knowledge on STEM careers with local professionals and gain hands-on experience with a variety of engaging Maker activities.

Visit Heartwheels! at the Kentucky Science Center’s Maker Days this Friday and Saturday and experience fun and interactive educational engagements, observe an assortment of cardiovascular devices used in clinical treatment, and learn more about STEM fields.

ULSOM Basic Sciences department chair announces retirement

Posted on October 31, 2023
ULSOM Basic Sciences department chair announces retirement

William Guido, PhD

It is with deep gratitude that we announce the retirement of William Guido, PhD, chair of the department of Anatomical Sciences & Neurobiology at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, effective July 1, 2024. We are thankful for his 12 years of academic service at the UofL School of Medicine and all the work he has done to elevate the department to a nationally recognized center for research and education. 

Guido’s passion for neuroscience touched every aspect of his career, and his research in the field is vast. Guido co-authored87 peer-reviewed papers on the development, form, and function of the thalamus and has been invited to speak on his findings at 89 national and international meetings. He assisted in establishing the bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience at the University of Louisville and served as President for the Association for Medical School Neurosciences Directors and Chairs from 2018-2020.   

“We are so grateful to Dr. Guido for his commitment to his field and his students,” said interim dean Jeffrey Bumpous, MD. “His relentless dedication to advancing the activities of the department of Anatomical Sciences & Neurobiology during his time as chair has shaped the department into a model learning and research environment that we are extremely proud of.” 

Guido has been a strong advocate for his students and the importance of diversity in the medical field. He supported many departmental initiatives while serving as chair and helped establish an endowedexcellence fund for diversity. Guido’s commitment to his students has been profound, mentoring dozens of M.S. and Ph.D. students during his career as a professor that spanned nearly 30 years. 

“My time at the University of Louisville School of Medicine has been incredibly rewarding,” said Guido. “Expanding the field of Neuroscience has been a career-long effort and I am proud to pass on the role to the next generation of scientists and researchers.” 

Guido completed his PhD at the University of North Carolina in physiological psychology followed by a Postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Wisconsin in Neuroscience. He has held faculty positions at LSU HSC and VCU School of Medicine. 

University of Louisville School of Medicine's S.M.A.R.T. Staff Program Enhances Wellness and Professional Development for Staff

Posted on October 25, 2023

The School of Medicine Advancement, Retention, and Training, or S.M.A.R.T. Staff, provides opportunities for professional and personal development for more than 900+ staff members working in all areas of the School of Medicine through recurring monthly programs and educational programming. As one of this year’s RaiseSomeL priority initiatives, the University of Louisville School of Medicine interviewed Glenn Gittings, Ph.D., chief of staff in the Office of the Dean, to learn more about S.M.A.R.T. Staff’s programming and initiatives.

Q. What are S.M.A.R.T staff’s initiatives?

A. S.M.A.R.T. Staff originated from the Office of the Dean as a way for University of Louisville SOM staff to have opportunities for development, camaraderie, and communication. Its design is structured to offer staff professional and personal development opportunities throughout the workday.  The S.M.A.R.T. initiative features recurring monthly programs will be offered both virtually and in-person to stimulate, motivate, and continue innovation at the SOM to achieve commitment to our mission, vision, and goals.

Q. What kind of programs does S.M.A.R.T staff have to offer to School of Medicine staff?

A. Staff training and development, staff wellness programming (mental health and physical); staff networking; financial education programming; technology development programming; and community engagement opportunities.

Q. How does being involved with S.M.A.R.T staff effect the wellness and professional performance of staff at the School of Medicine?

A. S.M.A.R.T. staff engagement can have a multi-faceted impact on the wellness and professional performance of staff at the School of Medicine. By creating a positive, supportive, and engaging work environment, these programs contribute to helping staff feel valued and supported which in turn impacts the overall satisfaction and effectiveness of the staff; it provides networking and collaborative activities to help build camaraderie and a sense of belonging; it offers professional development opportunities to enhance staff skills and knowledge; and finally SMART staff provides recognition and appreciation programming to further demonstrate the appreciation we have for the dedicated staff of the School of Medicine.  All of this therefore develops the staff member and contributes to the overall environment and success of the School of Medicine as a whole.

Q. Who is encouraged to join S.M.A.R.T staff?

A. All 900+ School of Medicine staff are encouraged to register for any of our monthly programming events and can visit the website to learn more on those events: https://louisville.edu/medicine/dean/smart/events

Q. Why should someone donate to S.M.A.R.T staff’s program?

A. Donating money to support S.M.A.R.T. Staff not only benefits the employees directly but also has a ripple effect on the School of Medicine's overall success, culture, and reputation. It's an investment in both the well-being of our staff and the health of the organization as a whole.

Q. What sort of programs will donations go to fund?

A. Programs that support physical wellness, mental health wellness, social wellness, financial education, community engagement, professional development, safety/awareness, and staff belonging.

S.M.A.R.T. Staff is designed to support our staff’s overall health and wellness, create awareness on financial, professional, and safety topics, and foster a sense of belonging for working within the School of Medicine. These initiatives take root in UofL’s commitment to making UofL a great place to work. Donations to S.M.A.R.T. Staff directly impact our employees and in turn contribute to the overall success and culture of the School of Medicine that is reliant on the efforts of our committed staff to continue to foster innovation, pave the way in scientific and medical research, and educate the next generation of future physician scientists.

If you are interested in giving to our S.M.A.R.T. Staff program, please consider donating during RaiseSomeL 2023!