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 or contact Sarah Jump 

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 Dayna 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:

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!

Support the School of Medicine's Mission to Shape the Future of Healthcare

Posted on October 24, 2023

RaiseSomeL, the University of Louisville’s annual day of giving kicks off tonight, October 24 at 6:02 p.m. For 1,798 minutes, the cardinal community will come together to celebrate its rich history and thriving future by giving back to the university.

This year, the School of Medicine is focused on supporting programs that will continue to move our mission forward in education, research, and clinical care, including: our 23 academic departments, our learners, our leaders, our scientists, and our staff. The support of each of these initiatives ensures our students, faculty, and staff have the resources needed to prepare future physicians and physician scientists to improve the health of our campus, our community, and our commonwealth.

Initiatives like S.M.A.R.T. Staff and FLIGHT give our staff and leaders a place to reflect on experiences, recharge their energy, and renew their commitment to work while increasing diversity amongst one another. These initiatives help faculty and staff feel supported in their roles, thus leading to them providing more support to our students, departments and programs.

Our learners are the reason our school exists – to educate the future generations of medical professionals and scientists. Our MD-PhD program strives to prepare future scientists and physician scientists to advance the human experience. The program allows students to receive a dual program degree from the School of Medicine. During this time, students may elect to use our Academic Support Services, which helps students navigate the challenges that arise throughout their education. The Academic Support Services office provides services to students such as academic coaching, tracking, peer learning programs, and referrals to outside resources to help students feel supported in their journey.

Supporting the School of Medicine not only transforms lives but provides the opportunity for something much larger – to make a positive impact here in our community and our commonwealth. Your contributions are the key to advancing medical care, educating future medical professionals, and supporting key innovations.

“To keep serving our community in the way the School of Medicine has done for more than 185 years, we need your help supporting these critical programs and initiatives,” said interim dean and vice president of academic medical affairs Jeffrey Bumpous, MD. “I challenge you to Raise Some L by joining my dean’s donor match and pledge your support of our learners, leaders, scientists and staff to unlock a $10,000 gift from me and help shape our future.” 

Help us continue our mission and RaiseSomeL with the School of Medicine!

Official giving begins this evening at 6:02 p.m. Please consider giving a gift to the School of Medicine.

UofL awards celebrate year of research, scholarship and creativity

Posted by UofL News on October 20, 2023
UofL awards celebrate year of research, scholarship and creativity

More than 80 honorees, representing nine UofL schools and colleges, include researchers, scholars and artists, along with those who provide critical support as administrators at the 2023 Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities Awards.

The University of Louisville celebrated more than 80 faculty and staff for their work to expand knowledge and understanding at its 2023 Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity Awards, held Oct. 19.

This year’s honorees, representing nine UofL schools and colleges, include researchers, scholars and artists, along with those who provide critical support as administrators. Their work over the past year helped to advance health, grow our technology workforce, improve equity and more.

“I continue to be impressed by the bold and dauntless sense of curiosity and exploration that’s so foundational to our campus and what it means to be a Cardinal,” said UofL President Kim Schatzel, speaking at the event. “Each and every one of you here tonight brings a passion and energy to that work, and it’s just incredible.” 


At the event, hosted by the Office of Research and Innovation, several major awards were presented to: 

    • Patrick Possel, of the College of Education and Human Development, for his work to shape mental health practice, especially for adolescent trauma-informed care and treatment;
    • Center of Biomedical Research Excellence in Functional Microbiomics, Inflammation and Pathogenicity, of the Schools of Dentistry and Medicine, which won Center of the Year in part for its recent $12 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study links between the human microbiome and disease, which could lead to better treatments for a range of conditions; 
    • Tiffany Calvert, of the College of Arts and Sciences, who won the inaugural Creative Works Award for her innovative work to marry technology and art, via an artificially intelligent painting collaborator;
    • Cheri Hildreth, of Environmental Health and Safety, who won the Unsung Hero Award for leading the launch and growth of the environmental health and safety programs over her 30-plus years of service to UofL;
    • Natalie Christian, of the College of Arts and Sciences, who won Early-Career Researcher of the Year for her work to harness plant-associated microbiomes to improve crop health;
    • Jennifer Middleton and Shantel Crosby, of the Kent School of Social Work, who won the Grand Challenger Award in Empowering our Communities for their work to create supports for youth and their families most impacted by community violence and racial trauma;
    • Hermann Frieboes, of the J.B. Speed School of Engineering, who won the Grand Challenger Award in Advancing our Health for work to integrate biological and clinical information, paving the way for personalized medicine;
    • Sharon Kerrick, of the College of Eduacation and Human Development, who won the Grand Challenger Award in Engineering our Future Economy for her commitment to workforce up/re-skilling in the field of technology, including via innovative badging programs; and
    • Joan Scott, of the School of Dentistry, who won Research Administrator of the Year for providing integral research support to her school and department for more than 20 years. 

In the past year, UofL researchers and scholars submitted 1,075 proposals and received nearly $176 million in external grant funding to support groundbreaking discovery and exploration. 

“I believe what we celebrate is what we value as an institution,”  said Kevin Gardner, UofL’s executive vice president for research and innovation. “With awards like these, we show that we value research, scholarship and creative activity. And, that we value you. The work you do is the backbone of UofL’s knowledge enterprise.”

View photos from the event on Flickr.

Research!Louisville announces 2023 winners, explores role of UofL research

Posted by UofLNews on October 16, 2023
Research!Louisville announces 2023 winners, explores role of UofL research

UofL student Leshaia Davis-Johnson and judges Faye Jones and Ryan Simpson.

The 28th-annual Research!Louisville (R!L) symposium, sponsored by the University of Louisville, School of Medicine, the Office of the Executive Vice President for Research and Innovation and Norton Healthcare, took place the week of Oct. 2-6. The symposium offers valuable opportunities to research scholars to improve essential presentation skills, gain experience, meet scholarship requirements for faculty ranking and promotion, build peer networks and receive valuable feedback from research scientists in a wide range of disciplines.

“Research!Louisville is a great opportunity to explore the important role UofL research plays in our day-to-day lives,” said Kevin Gardner, executive vice president for research and innovation. “That work positively impacts our world, from creating meaningful educational experiences and career pathways for students to developing innovative new technologies and companies.”

This year, R!L highlighted 365 abstracts for presentation. Among the scientific poster competition participants represented were masters and doctoral engineering students, NCI R25 undergraduate students, cancer and health disparity Summer Bridge Program students, Brown Cancer Center high school scholars, dental students, masters and doctoral basic science students, medical students, distinction tract medical students, case reports, postdoctoral scholars, research associates, research staff, PharmDs, masters and doctoral public health students, nursing students, medical residents, clinical fellows and faculty.

A full list of award winners and their slide presentations, as well as photos/recording of the closing ceremony are available on the R!L webpage.

Richard Woychik, director of the National Institute of Environmental Science and the National Toxicology Program delivered the keynote address, “Looking to the Future of Environmental Health Sciences.” Woychik oversees federal funding for biomedical research to discover how the environment influences human health and disease. His lecture drew a full house and was preceded with an introduction by UofL President Kim Schatzel.

R!L’s symposium featured seminars, presentations and lectures on a variety of subjects, including nursing research, environmental health sciences, anti-racism research, IRB protocol and more.

The event schedule included a Q&A forum with renowned medical ethicist and author, Harriett Washington. The School of Nursing presented Imelda Wright, assistant professor of nursing, whose research focuses on the effects of perioperative nurse practice and the environment on patient safety in the operating room. UofL’s Social, Educational and Behavioral IRB presented a workshop to provide an overview of the UofL SBE IRB and HSPP Office. The IRB also hosted a workshop geared toward biomedical researchers from the UofL Health Sciences and Shelby Campuses. The Research Integrity Office presented Leslie Hollie, a distinguished expert in health care fraud and economic crimes, including grant fraud with a concentration in foreign influence/interference and administrative conflict of interest investigations.

The Center for Integrative Environmental Health Sciences (CIEHS) hosted two forums of presentations by Pilot Project awardees and Research Voucher awardees highlighting their accomplishments from their third-year awards. The Office of HSC Diversity and Inclusion hosted a panel discussion, “The Past is Present: Slavery & Medicine in Louisville History” and an anti-racism program which supports anti-racism research occurring at the University of Louisville which encourages further research aimed at impacting racial inequities.

Juw Won Park, director of the Center for Integrative Environmental Health Sciences Biostatistics and Informatics Facility Core, director of Brown Cancer Center Bioinformatics Core, and colleagues discussed their research interest in bioinformatics and computational genomics which requires high-performance computing. Finally, R!L sponsored a seminar at the Kentucky Science Center for students in grades 7-12 with a biomedical focus. The day also included a “Pulse of Surgery” program, a real-time, open-heart surgery. The full schedule of 2023 events are on the R!L webpage.

The co-chairs of R!L, Jon Klein, vice dean for research, and Chris States, associate dean for research, along with the R!L Steering Committee, look forward to R!L 2024. Look for announcements of dates/agenda in UofL Today.

Dr. Jordan Hilgefort to Share Insights on Athlete Injury Prevention at 'Beer with a Scientist'

Posted on October 17, 2023
Dr. Jordan Hilgefort to Share Insights on Athlete Injury Prevention at 'Beer with a Scientist'

Jordan Hilgefort, MD, MBA, CAQSM, assistant professor of Family and Geriatric Medicine at the School of Medicine and medical director for University of Louisville Physicians Family Medicine

Jordan Hilgefort, MD, MBA, CAQSM, assistant professor of Family and Geriatric Medicine at the School of Medicine and medical director for University of Louisville Physicians Family Medicine, will be featured at “Beer with a Scientist” on October 19th to discuss the importance of mental, physical, and nutritional components in injury prevention for today’s athlete.

Hilgefort often counsels athletes to not only train their bodies physically for competition, but also to intentionally develop mental resilience to support their mental health as a critical measure for injury prevention. “Day-to-day stressors, social and family dynamics, and other influencers of our mental well-being don’t disappear just because we step onto a field or court,” says Hilgefort. “To compete at our best, we have to exercise tactics to optimize our mental health to develop healthy responses to struggles and failures.” He notes the University of Louisville has invested in athlete well-being by creating the largest team of mental health professionals available to student athletes within the ACC conference. 

Much like other sports medicine physicians, Hilgefort said his passion for working with athletes is driven by being involved in athletics in his youth. “The nostalgia brings back memories of your own experiences and makes the job enjoyable,” said Hilgefort. “You have an opportunity to help people become the best version of themselves by educating them on preventative health measures, examining and diagnosing injuries, or guiding them through recovery. There’s satisfaction in knowing a small portion of their success was predicated upon your efforts.”

Hilgefort is a huge proponent of preventive health and takes pride in explaining to patients why taking certain steps can prevent a problem before it exists. Injury prevention saves the patient from added investments of time and money, as well as discomfort. Preventative education can shape how athletes train and prepare to meet their goals, allowing them to pursue a healthier and more successful path towards achieving the goals they’ve set out for themselves. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” said Hilgefort.

Mental, physical, and nutritional health are key components of health and wellness in athletes. A combination of these factors is needed to create a healthy foundation to decrease opportunities for injury and optimize athletes’ performance. The absence of any of them leads to a drop in performance and an increased risk for injuries.

“Beer with a Scientist” is a 30-minute presentation, hosted by Holsopple Brewery and Louisville Underground Science, geared to educate the general public on a diverse array of topics.

Join the discussion on October 19 from 7-8 p.m. to learn more.

UofL-led research shows immune response may come down to genetics

Posted by UofLNews on October 5, 2023
UofL-led research shows immune response may come down to genetics

Melissa Smith, left, director of the UofL Sequencing Technology Center, was a lead author on research published in Nature Communications that reveals an underappreciated connection between genetics and our antibodies.

New research led by the University of Louisville shows that differences in our DNA can drastically impact our bodies’ immune response. 

The work, recently published in the journal Nature Communications, reveals an underappreciated connection between genetics and our antibodies. Antibodies are key players in our immune system, with important roles in human health and disease, including in infection, autoimmunity, cancer and even vaccine responsiveness.

“Our work demonstrates that not everyone has the same capacity to generate certain types of antibodies due to genetics,” said Oscar Rodriguez, a post-doctoral fellow at UofL, and the first author of the study. “This could have critical implications for how we assess outcomes related to treatments and vaccines that depend on the antibody response.”

Vaccines, for example, work by simulating a viral infection and triggering an immune response — a sort of drill that teaches the body what a virus looks like and how to fight it. While it’s commonly known that individual response to vaccines can vary from person to person, this work shows more clearly than ever that these variations may depend on the antibody genes a person has inherited.

“For a long time, we’ve assumed vaccines could be designed using a one-size-fits-all approach,” said Melissa Smith, director of the UofL Sequencing Technology Center, and lead author of the study. “This research shows that genetics predisposes us to qualitatively and quantitatively different antibody responses. If this information could be used to understand when individuals will or won’t respond to a given vaccine or treatment, that could be hugely impactful.”

The research also revealed that differences in our antibody responses could be linked to broader patterns of genetic diversity across human populations. This stresses the need to better characterize diversity in the genes that encode antibodies, and specifically increase the sampling of understudied populations. This is one of the driving forces behind research being conducted by this team.

Critical for advancing this effort is the recent acquisition of a new state-of-the-art genomic Revio sequencing system by the Sequencing Technology Center. UofL is one of only a handful of service providers in the country to offer access to this technology. Its use by this team could help improve our understanding of ancestry-specific immune gene-associated disease through the characterization of antibody genes in thousands of individuals worldwide, leading to improved and more equitable patient care. 

“We are currently building the most comprehensive catalogs of human antibody genetic variation from diverse genetic ancestries,” said Corey T. Watson, associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, and senior author of the study. “By studying a greater number of populations across the globe, we will be able to clarify the contribution genes make in positioning our immune systems to respond in a variety of disease contexts, and hopefully inform next-generation treatments.”

UofL gets $16 million to increase supply of primary care doctors in underserved areas

Posted by UofL News on October 9, 2023
UofL gets $16 million to increase supply of primary care doctors in underserved areas

UofL medical students participate in a Compassion Clinic at Redeemer Lutheran Church in West Louisville.

The University of Louisville has received $16 million to help increase Kentuckians’ access to health care, particularly in underserved rural and urban areas. The UofL School of Medicine will use the funds from a four-year grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to train more primary care physicians and encourage them to practice in underserved communities where they are needed.

Kentucky has a severe shortage of health care providers, with at least some portion of 113 of the state’s 120 counties designated as Health Professional Shortage Areas, including parts of Jefferson County. Recent projections rank Kentucky lowest among the states in meeting the need for primary care physicians by 2025.

To attract and train medical students with an interest in practicing primary care in medically underserved communities, the School of Medicine will enhance existing programs that train students in the underserved rural environments, assist individuals from other careers who want to prepare for medical school, create a new program to train medical students in an urban environment and provide scholarships to support students financially in all of these programs.

“The UofL School of Medicine is honored to have been selected as a recipient of the HRSA grant and is committed to creating pathways that support workforce development for primary care careers in medically underserved regions,” said Jeffrey Bumpous, interim dean for the UofL School of Medicine and vice president of medical affairs. “University leaders recognize the projects and programs supported by this funding are critical to the institutional mission of both the university and the School of Medicine and aim to sustain the efforts beyond the four-year term.”

UofL has a long history of preparing physicians for practice in rural and smaller communities through the UofL School of Medicine Trover Campus, started in 1998 with the goal of increasing the number of physicians practicing in rural areas, and in existing UofL family medicine residencies in Glasgow and Owensboro.

“Students tend to practice what they are taught and where they learn it. Our idea is to enhance our training programs with a focus on improving their educational experience in primary care, particularly in underserved communities,” said Kelli Bullard Dunn, vice dean of community engagement and diversity for the UofL School of Medicine, who leads the project. “At the UofL School of Medicine, we are in a unique position in that not only do we serve rural parts of the state, but we have an urban, underserved core right in our backyard. We would like to take what we have learned from the Trover Campus and replicate part or all of that in the urban environment here in West Louisville and other underserved areas.”

Medical students in the UofL Trover Rural Track complete their final two years of medical school at Trover Campus, located in Madisonville, Kentucky, hosted by Baptist Health Deaconess Madisonville. Of the 170 physicians who have graduated from the Trover Rural Track so far, 75% practice primary care and 43% practice in rural communities.

“The Trover Campus has been successful because we are able to get more rural students into medical school and then into rural practice by supporting them all the way through the process, starting with high school,” said William J. Crump, associate dean of the UofL School of Medicine Trover Campus. “This grant holds the promise of enlarging our campus, but most importantly building an urban underserved counterpart.”

Three programs to achieve the grant goals

The grant project focuses on three programs aimed at increasing the number of physicians who choose primary care specialties of family medicine, general internal medicine, pediatrics and internal medicine-pediatrics and encouraging them to practice in underserved communities.

First, UofL will increase participation opportunities for students in the Trover Rural Track and expand primary care clinical training for students in conjunction with the UofL family medicine residency programs at Glasgow and Owensboro.

Second, a new urban training program will be created, modeled on the Trover program, that provides medical students opportunities to train in medical facilities in West Louisville and other communities that provide care for underserved populations. This project will involve partnerships with community health systems such as UofL Health, Family Health Centers and others.

In addition, the project calls for enhancement of the UofL Postbaccalaureate Premedical Program, which prepares individuals who have a bachelor’s degree in another field to enter medical school. Of the 114 students who have completed the Postbaccalaureate Premedical Program since it began in 2009, 98% have been accepted into a medical school and 36% of those who have completed residency programs now practice in primary care fields.

The new funding will allow this program to recruit more students from medically underserved communities who are interested in practicing in those areas after completing residency training and to improve access to medical school for them with scholarships and additional academic support.

“This new grant allows us to help even more people fulfill their dream of becoming a physician. A lot of the postbaccalaureate premedical students have come from underserved populations or underserved areas, including rural areas. Having more folks from rural areas and underserved communities going into medicine is a great thing for Kentucky,” said V. Faye Jones, UofL Health Sciences Center associate vice president for health affairs and diversity initiatives and co-lead for the grant project.

Students in each of the three programs will receive academic and financial support with coaching and scholarships to help ensure their success in applying to and completing medical school.

“Everyone deserves the best quality health care we can provide, and that means having the best quality of talent in the medical school pipeline,” said Rep. Morgan McGarvey, who supported the grant proposal. “I’m excited for UofL and for the future of Kentucky health care with this HRSA Medical Student Education Program grant to address the primary care provider shortage. We need to be doing everything we can to ensure we are supporting the primary care providers of tomorrow, and I’m proud UofL is leading the way.”

Stambaugh Lecture Series brings Compassionomics to UofL

Posted October 2, 2023
Stambaugh Lecture Series brings Compassionomics to UofL

Stephen Trzeciak, MD, MPH, and author of Compassionomics: The Revolutionary Scientific Evidence that Caring Makes a Difference, was featured during the James L. Stambaugh, Jr., MD, Lectureship in Humanities in Medicine. The lecture, held on September 26, was attended by over 120 learners, faculty members, and hospital specialists to inquire: can implementing compassion in healthcare save lives? Does compassion in healthcare really matter?

“Through curating evidence from more than 1000 scientific abstracts and over 250 original peer reviewed journal science research papers we have evidence-based confirmation that compassion matters in meaningful and measurable ways for patients, for patient care, and for those who care for patients,” said Trzeciak.

Trzeciak addressed the "Compassionomics" of which compassion can be used to improve the delivery of healthcare, the effects of compassion on physician health and burnout rates, and the opportunity to reduce healthcare disparities using compassion.

“Dr. Trzeciak’s visit emphasized that there is an evidence-based case for compassion,” said Jeffrey Bumpous, MD, interim dean of the School of Medicine. “Compassion improves medical outcomes and reduces burnout of health professionals. Compassion must be intentional and can be learned and improved.”

Trzeciak, a specialist in intensive care medicine, focuses his research on “Compassionomics” the study of the scientific effects of compassion on patients, patient care and those who care for patients.

“I only wish that more students and faculty could have heard the lecture on compassion in healthcare,” said Chris Seals, PhD, MEd, assistant dean and assistant professor for the School of Medicine. “Spending literally 40 additional seconds of compassionate and genuine dialogue with a patient makes a significant difference in health outcomes for the patient. This wasn’t just a warm and fuzzy opinion piece. The lecture referenced numerous pieces of research that supported the argument. This was for doctors and patients but I also hope that people use this knowledge with their families, teammates, and coworkers.”

The Stambaugh Lecture Series was made possible by a generous donation from the Stambaugh family. The $75,000 donation was used to establish the James. L. Stambaugh, Jr., M.D. Humanities Lectureship in Humanities in Medicine, which seeks to educate on subjects directly related to the humane and benevolent aspects of professional medical care and medical ethics.

See photos from the event here.