Health equity program sets stage for integration of LGBT competency in UofL medical school curriculum

LGBT Health and Wellness Competency certificates presented to 102 students, faculty and staff
Health equity program sets stage for integration of LGBT competency in UofL medical school curriculum

Recipients of 2015 LGBT Health and Wellness Competency certificates

Last year, the first year it was offered, the University of Louisville LGBT Center awarded 26 certificates in LGBT Health and Wellness Competency. This year, that number nearly quadrupled to 102 certificates awarded April 13 to students, faculty and staff members at the UofL Health Sciences Center campus. The year-long program educates health-care workers about treating individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

“It really speaks to the interest and the passion of all of those who have attended sessions for making sure they are doing their utmost in caring for a broad swathe of the population,” said Stacie Steinbock, director of the LGBT Center Satellite Office on the Health Sciences Center Campus, who organized the program.

The certificate program consists of monthly lunchtime sessions covering issues facing LGBT patients and their health-care providers. In all, more than 650 people attended this year’s sessions. Individuals who attended at least four of the sessions and completed a post-test were eligible to receive the certificate and lapel pin recognizing their completion of the LGBT Health and Wellness Competency program. Recipients included students in the schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry and public health, as well as faculty and staff members from all parts of the Health Sciences Center campus.

“The speakers were dynamic and I couldn’t ask for a better certificate series,” said Ron Welch, of the Office of Diversity & Inclusion, who received a certificate.

“It was really about diversifying and providing a more inclusive environment for our students, for our faculty, for our staff. Beyond that, it was also about improving the health and the care of our LGBT patients,” Toni Ganzel, M.D., dean of the UofL School of Medicine, said of the program.

"This certificate training further fosters diversity and inclusivity as we work together in the future as interprofessional teams," said Marcia Hern, Ed.D., C.N.S., R.N., dean of the UofL School of Nursing.

The certificate program coincides with the UofL School of Medicine’s incorporation of LGBT training competencies identified by the Association of American Medical Colleges into the formal curriculum beginning with the 2015-2016 academic year. UofL is the national pilot site for this program.

“Having additional training in the equitable, just and affirmative care of LGBT patients is critical. We as a medical school are going to be one of the first in the country to systematically build it into our curriculum and the certificate program was really something that preceded our ability to change the medical curriculum,” said Amy Holthauser, M.D., a member of the UofL School of Medicine faculty and certificate recipient.

To increase the relevance of the program to students and staff in the individual schools, next year’s program will offer four general sessions, with two sessions designed to be specifically relevant to each of the medical, dental, nursing and public health programs.

Dried sea monkeys and frozen wood frogs - Beer with a Scientist, Oct. 16

UofL biologist explains how animals that survive extreme conditions are game changers for human medicine
Dried sea monkeys and frozen wood frogs - Beer with a Scientist, Oct. 16

Michael Menze, Ph.D.

Some animals have developed the ability to survive in extreme conditions such being frozen, drying or with a complete lack of oxygen.

At this month’s Beer with a Scientist, Michael Menze, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Louisville, will discuss how the mechanisms behind these animals’ survival in impossible conditions can be used to transform human medicine.

“I am fascinated with how these animals can survive the limits of life, so my research focuses on decoding the molecular mechanisms that protect animals exposed to harsh environmental factors,” Menze said. “Understanding how life can survive these intense insults allows us to solve medical challenges ranging from long-duration space travel to securing the human blood supply.”

Menze’s talk begins at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 16, at Holsopple Brewing, 8023 Catherine Lane. A 30-minute presentation will be followed by an informal Q&A session.

Admission is free. Purchase of beer or other items is not required but is encouraged. Organizers encourage Beer with a Scientist patrons to drink responsibly.

UofL cancer researcher Levi Beverly, Ph.D., created the Beer with a Scientist program in 2014 as a way to bring science to the public in an informal setting. At these events, the public is invited to enjoy exactly what the title promises:  beer and science.

New teaching physician guidelines announced

To comply with recent CMS changes, UofL Physicians has modified current attending attestation statements and have added some resident attestations.
For billing purposes, CMS wants a summarization of the teaching physician role in the care of the patient. For the most part, current attending attestations are fine, but providers must briefly summarize key portions of the visit. Depending on the workflow, these changes may make it easier for attending physicians by essentially allowing the resident to document for them. 

For questions regarding documentation, please contact Laura Gilbert, director, Compliance & Audit Services with ULP, at or 502-588-6462.

Drive Out Cancer golf scramble to help bone marrow transplant patients at UofL Brown Cancer Center

Oct. 14 event will support Mary Jane Gift Quality of Life Fund
Drive Out Cancer golf scramble to help bone marrow transplant patients at UofL Brown Cancer Center

Tommy Jr., Mary Jane and Alex Gift

For six years, Tommy Gift Jr. and his brother, Alex Gift, have been helping cancer patients at the University of Louisville’s James Graham Brown Cancer Center through the Mary Jane Gift Quality of Life Fund. Later this month, the Gift brothers will raise the bar by hosting the inaugural Drive Out Cancer golf scramble to increase support for the fund.

Established in honor of the Gifts’ mother, who passed away from breast cancer in 2010, the Gift Fund helps patients and their families enjoy life while facing a cancer diagnosis. Over the years, the Gift Fund has provided more than 600 Thanksgiving turkeys for patients undergoing treatment at the UofL Brown Cancer Center.

Now, the fund also will support a year-round apartment for patients receiving bone marrow transplants. To raise additional funds to support this patient resource, they established Drive Out Cancer, a golf scramble to be held later this month.

“We have raised money for the fund only from the Spike It To Cancer Volleyball Tournament for years. Recently, when we learned the fund also will be supporting an apartment for bone marrow transplant recipients, we decided to host the golf scramble to raise even more money. This is a huge deal,” Tommy Gift said.

Bone marrow transplant procedures require patients to stay in or near the hospital for lengthy periods. Those who travel long distances to UofL Brown Cancer Center for this lifesaving treatment must be away from home for an extended period of time. This can create a substantial financial burden for the patients and their families. Having lodging available will ease this burden for many patients.

“The Fund was established to help keep spirits up for cancer fighters at James Graham Brown Cancer Center and let them know there are complete strangers in our community who are pulling for them, willing to help make their lives a little easier during this hard time,” Tommy Gift said.

Drive Out Cancer will be held at South Park Country Club, 915 S. Park Road in Fairdale., on Monday, Oct. 14 beginning at 10 a.m. Registration for the event is $400 for a three-person golf team. To register or sponsor the event, follow the link here.

UofL cardiovascular surgeon implants two patients with new heart-support device at Jewish Hospital

Minimally invasive device in trial stage for use as bridge to heart transplant or for long-term cardiovascular support in patients with severe heart failure
UofL cardiovascular surgeon implants two patients with new heart-support device at Jewish Hospital

iVAS illustration courtesy NuPulseCV, Inc.

University of Louisville heart transplant surgeon Mark Slaughter, M.D., has implanted two patients with an investigational device, the intravascular ventricular assist system (iVAS), at Jewish Hospital to improve heart function. The iVAS is a minimally invasive alternative to ventricular assist devices for use in patients with severe heart failure, allowing more mobility and implant without open-heart surgery. The iVAS supports heart function and can be used temporarily while patients await a heart transplant or as a more permanent treatment. UofL is the only site in Kentucky participating in the iVAS trial.

The iVAS is a counterpulsation heart device, assisting the heart by pumping between beats while the heart is resting to increase the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart. Manufactured by NuPulseCV, Inc., the device consists of a balloon-type pump placed in the descending aorta. This pump is inflated and deflated to help move blood through the body. The intra-aortic pump is connected through the skin to an external drive unit. The new technology is an improvement over other heart assist devices such as the left ventricular assist device (LVAD) most significantly in that the iVAS is implanted with a minimally invasive procedure, not requiring open heart surgery.

“The iVAS is put in through a peripheral artery so it does not require opening the chest or placing the patient on a heart-lung machine,” said Slaughter, chair of the Department of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery in the UofL School of Medicine and surgical director of heart transplant and mechanical assist devices for UofL and Jewish Hospital. “Through this clinical trial, we may find additional advantages such as the opportunity for patients to disconnect from the device intermittently. With the VAD, you are always tethered to the device. With the iVAS, you may be able to be untethered or turn it off for short periods,” Slaughter said.

Another benefit, Slaughter said, is patients are not required to be on long-term blood thinners, which can have serious side effects.

Robert Hughes, one of the patients who received the iVAS implanted by Slaughter in Louisville, had a heart attack in May and subsequently learned he had heart failure.

“I finished chemo for leukemia in January. I had gone from 200 pounds to 145 pounds and I was pretty weak,” Hughes said. “Then I had the heart attack on May 17. Afterward I was getting dizzy just standing. I felt like I would faint. It was very unnerving. I didn’t want to get out and do a nosedive at Pic Pac,” Hughes said.

Hughes’s diagnosis was advanced heart failure, but he did not qualify for either a heart transplant or open-heart surgery, so when he was presented with the iVAS as a long-term option, he was ready to participate in the trial. His iVAS was implanted on Aug. 13. Within a few weeks, he was able to go home.

“Since the surgery, I feel stronger and haven’t had dizzy spells. I am gaining my weight back,” Hughes said. “I am very pleased with the outcome. As far as I’m concerned, everything is a plus.”

Hughes said he has been able to get out for trips to the drug store or grocery store without fear of passing out. The external drive unit for iVAS weighs only 8 pounds, permitting patients to be discharged from the hospital to await transplant or continue their lives at home and free to go out in the community.

The goal of the clinical trial is to determine whether iVAS is as effective as the LVAD. Including the two patients at Jewish Hospital, 70 patients have been implanted with the iVAS device in 12 centers across the United States. 

Learn more about clinical trials at UofL here.




Sept. 30, 2019

How in the brain are you?

UofL Alzheimer’s specialist to talk brain health at Beer with a Scientist, Sept. 11
How in the brain are you?

Sam Cotton, Ph.D.

The search for effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease continues, as new cases are diagnosed at an ever-increasing rate. Unfortunately, every drug tested to treat the disease so far has been proven ineffective. The focus now is on prevention with healthy habits and mitigating other health risks.

At this month’s Beer with a Scientist, Sam Cotton, Ph.D., program manager of Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP) at the University of Louisville Trager Institute and director of the Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias program, will share the latest updates on what we all can do to prevent development of Alzheimer’s disease. Plus, for those who have developed Alzheimer’s and their caregivers, Cotton’s talk also will include how to care compassionately for people who have the disease.

This month’s Beer with a Scientist event is part of Research!Louisville, a citywide event going on Sept. 10-13 highlighting health research for physicians, nurses, researchers and other health care providers and students. In addition, September is Optimal Aging month, with a focus on aging well.

Cotton’s talk begins at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 11, at Holsopple Brewing, 8023 Catherine Lane. A 30-minute presentation will be followed by an informal Q&A session.

Admission is free. Purchase of beer or other items is not required but is encouraged. Organizers encourage Beer with a Scientist patrons to drink responsibly.

UofL cancer researcher Levi Beverly, Ph.D., created the Beer with a Scientist program in 2014 as a way to bring science to the public in an informal setting. At these events, the public is invited to enjoy exactly what the title promises:  beer and science.

First patient enrolled in NanoKnife® DIRECT study for treatment of stage III pancreatic cancer

First patient enrolled in NanoKnife® DIRECT study for treatment of stage III pancreatic cancer

Dr. Robert Martin

The University of Louisville has enrolled the first patient in AngioDynamics’ NanoKnife® Irreversible Electroporation (IRE) “Data IRE Cancer Treatment” clinical study (DIRECT). The DIRECT Study supports a proposed expanded use of the NanoKnife System in the treatment of stage III pancreatic cancer.

“We are pleased to be the first enrolling site. The DIRECT Study represents an important milestone in the standardization of care for patients with stage III pancreatic cancer,” said Robert C.G. Martin, MD, co-principal investigator of the DIRECT Study; director, Division of Surgical Oncology; professor of surgery, University of Louisville and surgical oncologist with UofL Physicians – Surgical Oncology.

“Our goal is to generate important data that should standardize and optimize the use of IRE in the treatment of locally advanced pancreatic cancer, significantly improving outcomes for patients with this late-stage diagnosis,” Martin said.

Annually, there are approximately 57,000 new cases and 46,000 estimated deaths from pancreatic cancer in the United States. Deaths from pancreatic cancer are projected to increase dramatically in the coming years, with a trajectory of becoming the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths before 2030.

The mortality rate is high due to the aggressive nature of the disease and lack of early warning signs. Less than 20 percent of patients are candidates for surgical resection at time of diagnosis.

Approximately 35 to 40 percent of patients will initially present with stage III and 45 to 55 percent with metastatic disease. Regardless of the stage of pancreatic cancer, it is one of the least survivable cancers, and survival rates have not improved substantially for more than 40 years. For all stages combined, the five-year relative survival rate is 8 percent and, for those with advanced disease at the time of diagnosis, the five-year survival rate remains at 3 percent.

The DIRECT study continues the research of Martin and other health care providers at UofL that has helped lead to results that have tripled the overall survival in stage III pancreatic cancer.

AngioDynamics’ DIRECT clinical study features a comprehensive data collection strategy that will provide meaningful clinical information to health care professionals, support a regulatory indication for the treatment of stage III pancreatic cancer and facilitate reimbursement for hospitals and treating physicians. The next-generation study is classified as a Category B IDE by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which allows participating sites to obtain coverage for procedures performed, in addition to related routine costs.

The DIRECT Study includes a randomized controlled trial at up to 15 sites, as well as a real-world evidence, next generation registry at up to 30 sites, each with a NanoKnife System treatment arm and a control arm. AngioDynamics expects each NanoKnife arm to consist of approximately 250 patients with an equal number of control patients. The primary goal of the study is overall survival.

As part of the DIRECT Study, AngioDynamics launched to facilitate the enrollment of participants. The online platform provides patients and their families with information about pancreatic cancer and details about the study. It also features a physician locator to help prospective participants and referring health care professionals identify clinical study locations.

UofL’s Envirome Institute creates Louisville Data Commons to support community health research

Researchers and citizen scientists will be able to access and contribute verified environment data through new portal
UofL’s Envirome Institute creates Louisville Data Commons to support community health research

Circle of Harmony and Health

An important mission of the Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute at the University of Louisville is to encourage citizens to participate in research to understand and improve the health of our community. A new online data resource hosted by the Envirome Institute will allow citizen scientists and researchers to access and contribute to public knowledge about the health of the air, water and soil in Greater Louisville.

Louisville Data Commons is a new online data repository available to anyone interested in the state of our local environment or involved in citizen science or related data-gathering projects.

“For many years, we have been fortunate to have a strong Metro Government open data portal, a resource for sharing data gathered by the city. However, there is not a place to store and review data gathered by citizens that could ultimately help us gain a better understanding of our city,” said Ted Smith, Ph.D., director of the Center for Healthy Air, Water and Soil of the UofL Envirome Institute.

“The growth of citizen science and the excitement around low-cost sensors has highlighted the great need to have a place where information gathered by our community, in our community, about our community can be made available to our whole community and governed by our community,” Smith said.

To provide credibility for the data, Louisville Data Commons is hosted by the Envirome Institute and governed by a volunteer board of community members. These community members will ensure the data sets maintained on the site are reliable, objective and useful to researchers. Members of the volunteer board will review data submitted by the public or non-profit organizations prior to making it available within the portal.

An example of the need for objective third-party validation of data is the recently released odor-reporting app, “Smell My City.” Members of the community expressed concern whether the data could be altered and sought assurance that the data was protected. Louisville Data Commons now archives reports from Smell My City that has been validated by a public process and maintained for future research by anyone using the portal.

Other sources of data will include information gathered by Brightside and Internet of Things sensors, as well as local environmental information provided by the federal government. As more residents discover new things to measure and share in the future, additional data can be held and shared on this portal.

"Louisville Data Commons is a great example of educational institutions, community partners and Louisville Metro Government working together to create a new tool to help local innovators change lives for the better,” said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. “That's the type of collaboration and focus on big ideas that we need as we work to become a city where everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential."

Data may be uploaded to by individuals, citizen scientists or non-profit organizations and may include information related to sensor projects, air or water quality, weather, odors, noise or other community health characteristics. Other data related to the city of Louisville also may be approved. The data is reviewed by at least two members of the Louisville Data Commons committee prior to being published to ensure validity and appropriateness.

The current Louisville Data Commons committee includes Smith, Grace Simrall, chief of civic innovation and technology for Louisville Metro Government, Aaron Drake, a technology consultant, and Nur Ozgener, a Brightside board member.

"Louisville Metro Government is proud to be a part of the Louisville Data Commons. We are focused on using innovation to address the challenges residents face each day and on expanding access to the digital tools and skills of the future,” Simrall said. “As we work toward these goals, the community needs access to data and good partners.”

The Louisville Data Commons portal uses open source data portal platform CKAN. 

UofL archaeologist to discuss mapping of Maya ‘Atlantis’ at Beer with a Scientist, Aug. 14

John R. Hale, Ph.D., will recount underwater mapping of an ancient ceremonial site
UofL archaeologist to discuss mapping of Maya ‘Atlantis’ at Beer with a Scientist, Aug. 14

John R. Hale, Ph.D.

After a Guatemalan sport diver discovered ancient Maya ruins in the depths of Lake Atitlan, underwater archaeologist John R. Hale, Ph.D., director of the Liberal Studies program at the University of Louisville, was invited to map the site, located in the Sierra Madre mountains of Guatemala. 

“Working with UofL archaeology majors who also were scuba divers, we were able to show that the site was in fact a 2000-year-old ceremonial center that the Maya had constructed on a small circular island in the middle of the large lake,” Hale said. “Using newly developed mapping techniques that linked sonar with satellite data, our UofL team was able to reconstruct the original contours of this Maya ‘Atlantis’ and reveal the extraordinary array of altars, standing stones and processional ways which had played a vital role in early Maya ceremony, cult and myth-making.”

A real-life “Indiana Jones,” Hale received a Ph.D. in archaeology from Cambridge University and has performed field work for more than 40 years. He has published works on ancient Scandinavian, Greek and Maya civilizations and technologies.

At this month’s Beer with a Scientist, Hale will recount the exploration of the ancient, underwater site. His talk begins at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 14, at Holsopple Brewing, 8023 Catherine Lane. A 30-minute presentation will be followed by an informal Q&A session.

Admission is free. Purchase of beer or other items is not required but is encouraged. Organizers encourage Beer with a Scientist patrons to drink responsibly.

UofL cancer researcher Levi Beverly, Ph.D., created the Beer with a Scientist program in 2014 as a way to bring science to the public in an informal setting. At these events, the public is invited to enjoy exactly what the title promises:  beer and science.



August 9, 2019

Grant funding opens new opportunities for JCTC students in STEM degree programs

Grant funding opens new opportunities for JCTC students in STEM degree programs

UofL researchers

A new initiative called the UofL Bridges to Baccalaureate (ULBB) program will provide a pipeline of support and mentoring for underrepresented and economically disadvantaged students enrolled in two-year science degree programs at Jefferson Community and Technical College (JCTC). The program will be for students who plan to complete a four-year degree at the University of Louisville in a biomedical or health-related field.

ULBB launches this fall thanks to a $900,000 National Institutes of Health five-year training grant. The funding will support eight JCTC freshman the first year, with eight additional students to be added in each of the second through fifth years.

Sham S. Kakar, PhD, MBA, is a professor in the Department of Physiology and the James Graham Brown Cancer Center. Kakar, along with JCTC Dean of Academic Affairs Randall Davis, PhD, are program directors on the grant.

"Our goal is to improve success rates not only of the transfer students in the ULBB program itself, but also to help develop an environment in which more STEM students make a successful transition from JCTC to UofL to biomedical careers," Kakar said.

Highlights of the program include:

  • Mentoring, help with courses, career counseling and advising both prior to and after transferring to UofL
  • Opportunity to take a UofL biology course at JCTC tuition rate
  • Summer research program after first year at JCTC to learn biomedical research skills; $5,000 salary
  • Summer research program after second year at JCTC working full-time in a UofL lab conducting research; $5,000 salary
  • Research presentation opportunities at local and national scientific conferences
  • Networking and planning for next steps after college

The first group of JCTC students are expected to start the ULBB program in October.

Other collaborators on the grant include: Joshua Irving, PhD, chair, Department of Physiology; Cynthia Corbitt, PhD, associate professor, Department of Biology; Adrienne Bratcher, PhD, assistant professor, Department of Exercise Physiology and Paul Florence, MS, professor, JCTC.


Spike it to Cancer Volleyball Tournament to benefit patients at UofL Brown Cancer Center

Two-division tournament set for Aug. 10 funds Thanksgiving turkeys for cancer patients
Spike it to Cancer Volleyball Tournament to benefit patients at UofL Brown Cancer Center

Participants in the 2018 Spike it to Cancer Tournament

Sand volleyball teams from around Kentuckiana are invited to the seventh annual Spike it to Cancer sand volleyball tournament on Saturday, Aug. 10, at Baxter Jack’s Volleyball Cub, 427 Baxter Ave. The tournament will raise funds to support patients at the University of Louisville James Graham Brown Cancer Center through the Mary Jane Gift Quality of Life Fund.

Established in 2013 by Alex and Tommy Gift in honor of their late mother, who passed away from breast cancer in 2010, the Gift Fund helps patients and their families enjoy life while facing a cancer diagnosis. For the past several years, the fund has provided Thanksgiving turkeys for patients at the UofL Brown Cancer Center.

To continue the tradition, the Gifts and former volleyball player Paige Sutton are sponsoring the tournament. Coed Quad Open Division play starts at 9 a.m. (check in at 8:15 a.m.). The Coed Sixes Division will start at about 2 p.m. (check in at 1:30 p.m.). 

Team registration fees of $300 go directly to the fund. A cash prize of $3,000 to be divided among winning and runner up teams has been donated by The Power Agency. To register a team or make a donation, go to the event’s online link.

Ward 426 on Baxter Ave., directly across the street from Baxter Jack’s, has once again agreed to donate a portion of all food and beverage sales throughout the day to the Gift Fund.

“Mary Jane taught us countless lessons throughout the course of her life. Stay Positive. Be thankful. Step away from it all,” Alex Gift said. “The fund can help do this by providing simple gifts to patients that could help improve their quality of life, even if it’s for a short period of time.”

The event has brought in more than $45,000 over six years.

Kentuckians with rare diseases gain support through new advisory council

Kentuckians with rare diseases gain support through new advisory council

Ceremonial Bill Signing

A new Kentucky Rare Disease Advisory Council will bring together the best minds in the Commonwealth to help raise awareness, secure funding and speed the development of treatments and medical protocols that lead to cures.

Gov. Matt Bevin today ceremonially signed a bill establishing the council which will help provide a focus to finding cures for the 7,000 known rare diseases that affect approximately 30 million men, women and children throughout the United States.

“The creation of the Rare Disease Advisory Council will provide an important mechanism to raise public awareness about rare diseases and develop centralized resources for patients, caregivers, and family members,” said Gov. Bevin. “The council will bring together medical professionals and experts from across the state to work on advancing research, diagnosis, and treatment efforts. Kudos to Sen. Raque Adams and the General Assembly for passing this legislation with overwhelming, bipartisan support.”

Gov. Bevin also presented a proclamation declaring August 2019 as Gastroparesis Awareness Month.

University of Louisville physicians and other health care providers were on hand for the ceremonial signing at the Novak Center for Children’s Health.

“We know all too well the challenges and hurdles that people with rare diseases face,” said Kim Boland, MD, interim chair of the Department of Pediatrics, University of Louisville School of Medicine. “The impact felt by patients and families who face these diseases is just as great as any resulting from more common maladies.”

A rare disease is defined as one that affects fewer than 200,000 people. Jennifer Dunegan is one of the few with the stomach condition gastroparesis. She and her husband Patrick created the support organization, Gastroparesis Support Services Inc. They also serve as ambassadors of the National Organization for Rare Disorders. Patrick Dunegan will now take on the role of inaugural chair of the new council.

“It an honor to advocate for all of those with rare diseases. Following my wife’s gastroparesis diagnosis in 2014, we knew it was important to join with others who face similar difficult rare disease health journeys,” Patrick said.

As part of his work in the council, Patrick said he hopes to secure funding for genetic testing for earlier diagnosis of rare diseases.

UofL medical student wins national essay contest

UofL medical student wins national essay contest

April Butler

This year, the Gold Foundation’s annual essay prompted students with a Maya Angelou quote: “I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.”

For one UofL medical student, this quote struck a particularly personal chord. 

“‘Home is wherever I’m with you,’ a patient wrote on a marker board to his daughter. He lay in a hospital bed thin and frail, with the sound of his ventilator whirring in the background, a wash cloth hanging in his mouth to soak up saliva, a fentanyl patch tucked behind his ear. Out of his entire body, he could only use his right hand. In a few hours he would be taken off his ventilator and placed on a morphine pump. His daughter held his hand with tears in her eyes. This is ALS.”

These are the opening words of the winning submission by April Butler, which chronicles her father’s battle with ALS – the disease commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s – from the outside in.

“I had this unique parallel in school about learning anatomy and how the body is supposed to work, and at home I was witnessing the manifestations of what happened when the body didn’t follow the rules we learned,” said Butler, who learned of her father’s diagnosis before starting medical school. “In medical school – especially the first two years – it can sometimes be hard to see in the thick of all the exams and the stress why we’re doing this. I was lucky enough to always have my ‘why’ on the forefront of my mind.”

It’s easy to understand why this perspective on medicine would be shared by the Gold Foundation, whose mission statement includes the evolution of healthcare through both compassion and “scientific excellence.” The Hope Babette Tang Humanism Contest (named for Hope Babette Tang-Goodwin, MD, who devoted her career to treating HIV-infected babies) is overseen by a panel of experts that includes various healthcare professionals, writers/journalists and educators.

There were 300 submissions this year. By winning first place, Butler’s essay will be published in two esteemed medical journals: Academic Medicine, in the October, November, and December issues, and Journal of Professional Nursing, in the September/October, November/December and January/February issues.

“A physician once told me, ‘you will not be able to cure or save every patient in your career. However, you do have the opportunity to heal every patient,’” she writes in The Healing Yellow Raincoat. “I did not truly understand what this meant until my experience with my dad. […] I am thankful for some of his final ‘words’ that I will carry with me throughout my medical career and life: ‘Because of the challenges I face, I am less than half the man I used to be on the outside, but more than twice the man on the inside.’”

Now in her fourth year of medical school, Butler will take this experience with her as she applies for Internal Medicine and Pediatrics residencies this fall.

Disruption of glucose transport to rods and cones shown to cause vision loss in retinitis pigmentosa

UofL researchers note the metabolic changes are similar to those seen in lung cancer in laboratory
Disruption of glucose transport to rods and cones shown to cause vision loss in retinitis pigmentosa

Douglas Dean, Ph.D., and Wei Wang, M.D., Ph.D.

Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is a common hereditary eye disorder that leads to the gradual deterioration of rod cells causing reduced peripheral vision and night vision. Subsequent loss of cone photoreceptors cause the loss of high-resolution daylight and color vision.

Ophthalmology researchers at the University of Louisville have discovered the loss of vision in RP is the result of a disruption in the flow of nourishing glucose to the rods and cones. This disruption leads to the starvation of the photoreceptors.

In research published today in Cell Reports, the researchers, led by Douglas C. Dean, Ph.D., and Wei Wang, M.D., Ph.D., of the UofL Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, described metabolic changes that result in the reduced availability of glucose in the cells.

As research provides a better understanding of the progression of RP, this knowledge may lead to therapies that could slow or stop this process before the rods and cones are destroyed. In addition to the relevance for RP, the researchers discovered the failure in glucose metabolism in RP is similar to changes seen in lung cancer and may be useful in developing therapeutic targets for both diseases.

“Interestingly, these metabolic changes appear similar to those we also are investigating in other studies into lung cancer in the laboratory,” Dean said. “Both lung cancer and neurons in the retina use glucose as a primary source for their metabolism. Attacking glucose utilization is a major strategy in fighting lung cancer. This unexpected connection in retinal and lung cancer metabolism has led us to link these seemingly unrelated systems to search for common drugs that target both lung cancer and retinal degeneration.”

RP is an inherited disease in which the photoreceptor cells in the retina – rods and cones – deteriorate over time. Photoreceptors absorb and convert light into electrical signals, which are sent through the optic nerve to the brain. Rods, located in the outer regions of the retina, allow peripheral and low-light vision. Cones, located mostly in the central part of the retina, allow perception of color and visual detail.

In RP, rods deteriorate first, causing the peripheral and low light vision loss typically associated with the disease. In later stages, the cones also deteriorate. Without cone function, RP patients lose the high-resolution daylight vision necessary for reading, facial recognition and driving. As a result, this stage of RP vision loss is more debilitating than the loss of nighttime or peripheral vision. RP affects 1 in 4,000 people globally.

This research is supported by grants from the National Eye Institute, BrightFocus Foundation and Research to Prevent Blindness.

Special ceremonies mark student entry into health professions

White Coat ceremonies hold meaning for medical, dental, dental hygiene and doctorate of nursing practice students
Special ceremonies mark student entry into health professions

Previous White Coat Ceremony

Over the next month, 360 students in the health professions will take their first step in establishing the importance of the provider-patient relationship. 

The Schools of Medicine, Nursing and Dentistry each host a White Coat Ceremony encouraging students to enter into an inner, personal contract, accepting the obligations specific to their practice, as they are cloaked with a white coat. 

University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi, PhD, is expected to give the keynote address to more than 160 medical students during the School of Medicine Class of 2023 White Coat Ceremony on July 28, 3 p.m., at the Louisville Marriott Downtown. 

“The ceremony is designed to clarify for students that a physician's responsibility is to take care of patients, care for the patients and practice humanism in medicine,” said Toni Ganzel, MD, MBA, FACS, dean of the School of Medicine. 

Nearly 50 doctorate of nursing practice students will receive a white coat on Aug. 15 during a ceremony on the UofL Health Sciences Center campus. Presiding will be Sonya Hardin, PhD, MBA, MHA, CCRN, NP-C, FAAN, dean of the UofL School of Nursing. 

One hundred, twenty dental and 30 dental hygiene students will participate in a White Coat Ceremony Aug. 24 at The Palace Theatre for the UofL School of Dentistry’s event. 

David C. Johnsen, DDS, MS, dean of the University of Iowa College of Dentistry and Dental Clinics, will give the keynote with UofL School of Dentistry Dean T. Gerard Bradley, BDS, MS, DrMedDent, presiding. Johnsen, a pediatric dentist, will speak on critical thinking in learning and professional environments.



New method developed at UofL enables more extensive preclinical testing of heart drugs and therapies

Researchers extend life of heart segments from 24 hours to six days. Process allows better testing for efficacy and toxicity and saves money and time.
New method developed at UofL enables more extensive preclinical testing of heart drugs and therapies

Tamer Mohamed, Ph.D., Qinghui Ou, B.Sc., and Riham Abouleisa, Ph.D.

Researchers at the University of Louisville have developed an easily reproducible system that enables them to keep slices of human hearts alive for a longer period of time, allowing more extensive testing of new drugs and gene therapies.This new biomimetic culture system mimics the environment of a living organ through continuous electrical stimulation and oxygenation, maintaining viability and functionality of the heart segments for six days. Previous culture systems maintained functional heart slices for no more than 24 hours. The extended viability time will enable improved preclinical testing of new drugs for effectiveness and toxicity.

“This new method maintains fully functional human heart slices for six days in the culture environment. This facilitates testing efficacy of heart failure therapeutics and cardiotoxins on human heart tissue with no need for a living human,” said Tamer M. A. Mohamed, Ph.D., who led the research.

The system provides access to the complete 3D multicellular system that reflects the heart’s functional and structural condition in a living person.

“This system will save time and costs of clinical trials during phase one research, which includes testing for toxicity and proof of efficacy,” Mohamed said. “In addition to drugs, we have demonstrated the system’s effectiveness in testing gene therapy.”

The optimized medium for sustaining the heart tissue slices is described in an article published online last week in Circulation Research, a publication of the American Heart Association. It will appear in the August 30, 2019, print and online issue. Along with Mohamed, the research was conducted by Qinghui Ou, B.Sc., Riham R.E. Abouleisa, Ph.D., and others at UofL, along with colleagues in California, Colorado, the United Kingdom, Germany and Egypt. UofL has a provisional patent application on this technology.



July 25, 2019

Free hep C screenings available on World Hepatitis Day, July 28

“You don’t know how bad it makes you feel until you are well again”
Free hep C screenings available on World Hepatitis Day, July 28

World Hepatitis Day, designated by the World Health Organization, is Sunday, July 28

Amber Bow knew she was sick, but did not seek treatment for hepatitis C for more than two years. She did not realize just how much the virus was affecting her daily health. After completing an eight-week course of treatment in July, Bow said she feels good again.

“You don’t know how bad it makes you feel until you are well again,” Bow said. “I am getting my senses back and remembering what it’s like to live without the virus. You feel good when you get up in the morning.”

University of Louisville Hospital and community partners will be offering free hepatitis C screenings at 13 locations in Louisville and surrounding counties for World Hepatitis Day on Sunday, July 28.

Hepatitis C, a blood-borne illness, is prevalent in the Louisville area. Kentucky has one of the highest hepatitis C infection rates in the United States. Currently, providers are encouraged to test for hepatitis C only in patients with certain risk factors [SEE SIDEBAR: Known risk factors for hepatitis C] or who are from the Baby Boom generation (born 1946-1964). However, those guidelines may not be leading health care providers to everyone who has the disease.

“A growing body of evidence suggests age and risk-based screening is missing a significant number of people, including children, with hepatitis C infection,” said Barbra Cave, a family nurse practitioner specializing in gastroenterology and hepatology who leads the Hep C Center at UofL Hospital. Cave is helping to organize the local events as part of a global effort by the World Health Organization.

“Up to half of patients who have it may not know they are infected, and people may carry the disease for decades before they have symptoms,” Cave said. “The goal of the World Hepatitis Day screening event is to expand testing and awareness, link more people to curative treatment, and normalize the conversation about hepatitis C. There should be no stigma surrounding hepatitis C. Anyone could have it, including babies.”

Screenings will be offered from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Sunday, July 28, at sites in Louisville and Jefferson, Oldham, Shelby and Bullitt counties in Kentucky and Clark County in Indiana. Screening is done with a simple finger prick and results will be available on site in 20 minutes. Hepatitis C experts will be available at all sites to answer questions and help link those affected by hepatitis C to appropriate care.

Free hepatitis C testing sites on July 28

  • Mall St. Matthews (2 sites within the mall), 5000 Shelbyville Road, Louisville, KY 40207
  • CVS Pharmacy, 1002 Spring St., Jeffersonville, IN 47130
  • CVS Pharmacy, 2169 Midland Trail, Shelbyville, KY 40065
  • Southwest Family YMCA, 2800 Fordhaven Road, Louisville, KY 40214
  • Walgreens, 5900 Timber Ridge Dr., Prospect, KY 40059
  • Walgreens, 12101 Shelbyville Rd., Middletown, KY 40243
  • Walgreens, 2360 Stony Brook Dr., Louisville, KY 40220
  • Walgreens, 6620 Bardstown Rd., Louisville, KY 40291
  • Walgreens, 4310 Outer Loop, Louisville, KY 40219
  • Walgreens, 152 N. Buckman St., Shepherdsville, KY 40165
  • Walgreens, 11099 Highway 44E, Mount Washington, KY 40047
  • Walgreens, 807 S. Highway 53, LaGrange, KY 40031
  • Walgreens, 200 E. Broadway, Louisville, KY 40202

“We have a local goal to decrease the stigma about hepatitis C, and let people know it is easy to test for and treat,” Cave said. “Some may still remember the old days of treating hep C when treatment was difficult, involving a triple therapy with interferon that lasted almost a year and multiple side effects. Not everyone was a candidate for treatment and some patients opted to not get treated at all.

“Today, hepatitis C is easily curable and relatively inexpensive to treat. Common treatments for hep C are one or three pills, once a day, for 8-12 weeks – with minimal side effects. It is covered by almost all insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid. Cost and side effects are no longer an excuse to defer treatment.”

Left untreated, the disease can cause major complications. It can cause cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer, and is a leading cause of liver transplant. Hepatitis C may also predispose those infected to diabetes and depression, and has an association with joint pain, certain skin disorders and lymphoma.

Partners with UofL Hospital in the screening event include the Louisville Metro Department of Health and Wellness, the Kentucky Department of Public Health, KentuckyOne Health, Volunteers of America, the Sullivan University College of Pharmacy, the nursing programs of Galen University and Bellarmine University, and University of Louisville Schools of Medicine, Nursing, Dentistry and Public Health and Information Sciences, as well as generous sponsors, including Abbvie.



Known risk factors for hepatitis C

  • Born between 1945 and 1965
  • A blood transfusion or organ transplant prior to 1992
  • Had blood filtered by a machine (hemodialysis) for a long period of time because kidneys were not working
  • IV drug use at any point in life, even just once
  • Intranasal drug use at any point in life
  • HIV or hepatitis B infection
  • Health care workers exposed to blood through a needle stick or other contact with blood or bodily fluids
  • Exposure to contaminated tattoo equipment, including ink
  • Men who have sex with other men
  • Prior military service: “Older veterans are particularly at risk due to the use of the old ‘jet gun’ vaccinators by the military and from combat injuries requiring blood transfusion,” Cave said.

Contaminated dental equipment, such as that used before most items were single patient/single use, may also have spread hepatitis C, and Cave said the virus can live on a surface for six weeks if not sterilized properly.




July 25, 2019

Immunotherapy – using the body’s immune system to attack cancer cells – is leading to longer life for more cancer patients

Learn about the state of cancer treatment at Beer with a Scientist July 17
Immunotherapy – using the body’s immune system to attack cancer cells – is leading to longer life for more cancer patients

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

At a Beer with a Scientist event four years ago, cancer specialist Jason Chesney, M.D., Ph.D., described clinical trials in immunotherapy being conducted at the University of Louisville James Graham Brown Cancer Center. At that time, the new therapies were showing promise in the treatment of melanoma.

At this month’s Beer with a Scientist, Chesney, director of the UofL Brown Cancer Center, will share just how far those therapies have come in improving treatment of cancer.

Chesney will discuss cutting-edge approaches to stimulate the immune system to eradicate previously terminal cancers, focusing on treatments that stimulate white blood cells called T cells to kill cancer cells using antibodies and viruses. These immunotherapies are proving to be effective for multiple types of cancer.

"These novel immunotherapies are translating to previously terminal cancer patients having normal life spans,” Chesney said. “I believe we will experience a 25 percent decrease in cancer-related deaths in the next five years."

Chesney’s talk begins at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, July 17, at Holsopple Brewing, 8023 Catherine Lane. A 30-minute presentation will be followed by an informal Q&A session.

Admission is free. Purchase of beer or other items is not required but is encouraged. Organizers encourage Beer with a Scientist patrons to drink responsibly.

UofL cancer researcher Levi Beverly, Ph.D., created the Beer with a Scientist program in 2014 as a way to bring science to the public in an informal setting. At these events, the public is invited to enjoy exactly what the title promises:  beer and science.




July 15, 2019

Elder abuse is a growing danger as population ages

UofL Trager Institute and Age-Friendly Louisville urge seniors, loved ones to look for signs of abuse
Elder abuse is a growing danger as population ages

Dr. Christian Furman

With a growing older adult population, the potential for elder abuse is a problem that affects the health and human rights of seniors. Leaders of the University of Louisville Trager Institute and Age-Friendly Louisville encourage older adults and their loved loved ones to take steps toward prevention.  

“As a geriatrician, I routinely check for signs of physical abuse, such as unusual weight loss, bruising or skin breakdown, but the form of elder abuse I encounter the most is financial abuse,” said Christian D. Furman, MD, MSPH, AGSF, interim chief, Division of General Internal Medicine, Palliative Medicine and Medical Education, Margaret Dorward Smock Endowed Chair in Geriatric Medicine and medical director, UofL Trager Institute. “Older adults are vulnerable to financial exploitation, such as scams, especially when they have dementia. This population is targeted as many receive monthly income (such as pensions or VA checks), have savings and may have a reduced ability to fend off scams.”

She encourages older adults and their family members to sign up for the Kentucky Attorney General Scam Alert service to receive notice of how would-be criminals may try to steal money.

Furman urges older adults to plan ahead financially to prevent this type of abuse.

“I see too many individuals who lose their life savings in situations like this,” she said.

Elder abuse can take on different forms: physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect and financial exploitation. Possible signs include:

  • Physical abuse - frequent injuries; multiple bruises in various stages of healing; individual appears to be frightened
  • Sexual abuse - fear of a particular person; upset when being changed or bathed; irritation or injuries of the mouth, genitals or anus
  • Neglect - obvious malnutrition or dehydration; dirty and offensive body odor; absence  of glasses, dentures or hearing aid
  • Financial exploitation - unusual activity in bank account; lack of food, clothing and personal supplies; missing personal belongings such as jewelry, television or art

Age-Friendly Louisville, through the Social Participation, Respect and Inclusion Workgroup, is working to raise awareness of elder abuse in Louisville. In coordination with various social service agencies, the group seeks to improve community cohesion to guard against elder abuse through education.

“It can be hard to imagine that anyone would deliberately want to harm an elderly person, but unfortunately elder abuse does occur,” said Chris Clements, Louisville Metro Retired Senior Volunteer Program coordinator and facilitator for Age-Friendly Louisville. “Some instances of elder abuse are intended to exploit the person through things like scams, and in other cases, neglect can be unintentional like when an older adult’s caretaker does not provide them with basic necessities.”

The Age-Friendly Louisville Social Participation, Respect and Inclusion Workgroup meets the second Tuesday of every month from 2p.m.– 4 p.m. at the Thrive Center, 204 E. Market Street.

To learn more about elder abuse and other Age-Friendly Louisville initiatives, visit or contact Natalie Pope at 502-852-7733 or


Women’s wellness event centers on preventing cervical cancer

The University of Louisville and several west Louisville community clinics are offering a free June 23 event to educate women about preventing cervical cancer. The disease is preventable by vaccine and treatable if detected early; however, it kills about 70 Kentuckians annually.

The Women’s Wellness event will be 4-6 p.m. Sunday at Louisville Central Community Center, 1300 W. Muhammad Ali Blvd. Women can sign up for screenings and vaccinations; learn from experts, advocates and exhibits; and enjoy music and food.

Speakers will discuss HPV and vaccination; cervical cancer screening, prevention and survivorship; and ways to talk to family members about cancer; a question-and-answer session will follow.

Speakers will include patient advocate and volunteer Aquishala Ware and Drs. Bennett Jenson, UofL James Graham Brown Cancer Center; Andrea Woolfolk, Family Health Center; Giavonne Rondo, Shawnee Christian Healthcare Center; and Sula Hood, Indiana University Fairbanks School of Public Health.  

Although the event is free, attendees are encouraged to register by calling 502-276-5747 or signing up online at

UofL’s Kent School of Social Work and School of Public Health and Information Sciences are organizing the event, with grant support from the Cooperative Consortium for Transdisciplinary Social Justice Research.

Sponsors include Kentucky Cancer Program, Baptist Health and Gilda’s Club Kentuckiana.

For more information, contact Karen Kayser at 502-852-1946 or