From waterboy to star player: astrocytes shown to have a leading role in brain development

From waterboy to star player: astrocytes shown to have a leading role in brain development

William Guido, Ph.D., and Naomi Charalambakis, Ph.D.

Astrocytes, abundant, star-shaped glial cells in the central nervous system, are known to support neurons through such tasks as providing glue that helps neurons stick together, delivering nutrients and removing waste. However, research published last month in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) reveals they also play a commanding role in visual development.

University of Louisville researchers, working with colleagues at Virginia Tech Carillion (VTC), have discovered that astrocytes play a crucial role in directing interneurons, specialized neurons essential for vision, to the proper location in the brain during development. In response to visual stimulation, astrocytes express fibroblast growth factor 15, (FGF15), a molecule that directs the interneurons from germinal zones to their destination in the visual thalamus.

Neurobiologists William Guido, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Anatomical Sciences and Neurobiology at UofL, and Michael Fox, Ph.D., director of the Center for Neurobiology Research at Virginia Tech Carilion, worked in collaboration to reveal this process. The publication, “Retinal inputs signal astrocytes to recruit interneurons into visual thalamus,” also included significant lab work by graduate students at both universities.

“My lab identifies a neurocircuit and follows it during development to visualize it, manipulate it and understand how it works,” Guido said. “Dr. Fox provides the molecular mechanisms that underlie that circuit assembly. We combined our strengths to come up with these findings. Neither one of us could have done this on our own.”

Interneurons are part of a class of neurons that balance excitatory neurons and are essential in maintaining proper brain function. If the interneurons do not populate the thalamus correctly, neural circuits mediating vision do not develop properly. Therefore, the accuracy of the interneuron movement is essential for how the brain views the external world.

The proper balance between excitatory and inhibitory neurons is essential not only in visual processing, but in other brain functions as well. That means this research provides new targets for treating neurological diseases caused by an imbalance between inhibitory and excitatory activity in the brain.

“Neurological diseases such as epilepsy and schizophrenia can be attributed, in part, to abnormal interneuron levels and activity,” said Naomi Charalambakis, Ph.D., a UofL alumna who shares first authoriship of the publication. “This work not only reveals the importance of astrocytes in the development of thalamic interneuron circuitry, it also sparks more questions for future research: How does this affect the physiology patterns of other sensory systems? Does this phenotype manifest in behavioral differences?”

For this reason, Guido believes understanding how these cells migrate and are incorporated into brain circuitry could lead to new ways to ensure the proper balance of excitatory and inhibitory activity of other neurons.

“Knowing the importance of the location and incorporation of this type of neuron into the brain circuitry as well as the mechanism for its placement, we may be able to design strategies to make sure those neurons get where they should be or to overcome a deficit if they are missing,” Guido said. “This could allow us to correct some of these conditions.”

Another key finding of the work is that the astrocytes cue the migration of interneurons in response to external influences.

“Experience with the outside world is critical. When there is visual stimulation, that triggers the regulatory role for these cells in targeting,” Guido said.

Graduate students at both UofL and VTC conducted much of the lab work for this research. Charalambakis, whose 2018 doctoral dissertation resulted in this publication and another in The Journal of Neuroscience in May 2019, now is a senior science policy analyst at Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

The synergistic research between the Guido and Fox labs has led to numerous discoveries of vital information about neurodevelopment and five high profile publications over the past decade. The National Eye Institute funds both research labs.

Robert Friedland, M.D., to conduct research on neurodegenerative disorders in Japan

Researcher awarded competitive fellowship grant from Japan Society for the Promotion of Science
Robert Friedland, M.D., to conduct research on neurodegenerative disorders in Japan

Robert Friedland, M.D.

University of Louisville neurologist and researcher Robert P. Friedland, M.D., a professor in the Department of Neurology, will teach and conduct research in Japan during a one-year sabbatical beginning May 1. Friedland will conduct research on neurodegenerative diseases at the Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine (KPUM). The work is funded by a long-term Invitational Fellowship for Research in Japan from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) which was awarded through a competitive selection process.

Friedland has studied Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and related conditions for more than 30 years. His previous work has uncovered the role of amyloid proteins made by intestinal and oral bacteria in neurodegenerative diseases such as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease), Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Previously, Friedland worked with researchers at the National Cerebral and Cardiovascular Center in Osaka to reveal the important influence of oral bacteria on the development of hemorrhagic stroke.

In Kyoto, Friedland will further investigate the influence of the microbiota on neurodegenerative disease models in fruit flies. He plans tests to determine the influence of functional bacterial amyloid proteins on the aggregation of brain proteins, a key element of neurodegenerative diseases. Friedland will collaborate in this research with Toshiki Mizuno, Ph.D., of the KPUM Division of Neurology and Gerontology, one of several Japanese researchers with whom Friedland has worked for several decades.

He also will conduct research with collaborators at the Kyoto Institute of Technology.

“I am excited to have the opportunity to collaborate further with my Japanese colleagues and to conduct this research in Kyoto,” Friedland said.

JSPS awards fellowships to select international researchers to conduct collaborative work with researchers in Japan. Long-term fellowships for 2020 have been awarded in agriculture, engineering, chemistry, math, humanities and medicine. Friedland received one of four fellowships in the field of medicine.

After his year in Kyoto, Friedland will continue his research and clinical work at UofL, where his collaborators in the lab of Levi Beverly, Ph.D., currently are finishing data analysis on a study of the influence of bacterial amyloid on ALS in mice.

Owners of Holsopple Brewing talk beer at Beer with a Scientist Feb. 26

Owners of Holsopple Brewing talk beer at Beer with a Scientist Feb. 26

Sam Gambill and Kristy Holsopple

Flavors and aromas are the key to great beer. Kristy Holsopple and Sam Gambill have developed some uniquely flavored beers for their microbrewery, Holsopple Brewing, including brews flavored with blueberry, toasted hemp seeds and cinnamon, to name just a few.

Holsopple, a microbiologist, and Gambill met at a brewery and each have 15 years in the alcohol manufacturing industry. Now married with two young boys, they share their brewing talents with customers at the brewery. At the next Beer with a Scientist, Holsopple and Gambill will discuss beer sensory terms and how raw materials and yeast create beer aromas and flavor.

The talk begins at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 26 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.

Pfizer Inc. designates UofL first-of-its-kind Center of Excellence for epidemiological research

Pfizer Inc. designates UofL first-of-its-kind Center of Excellence for epidemiological research

Julio Ramirez, M.D., right, in the UofL infectious diseases laboratory

A new collaboration with Pfizer Inc. will enable the University of Louisville’s Division of Infectious Diseases to play a significant role in epidemiological research related to vaccine-preventable diseases affecting adults, including the elderly.

UofL has been designated the first Center of Excellence by Pfizer Vaccines.

“UofL’s Division of Infectious Diseases has a rich history of collaboration with Pfizer through the successful implementation of numerous clinical epidemiological research studies. We are excited to formalize a long-term collaboration that builds on these past successes,” said Julio Ramirez, M.D., chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Louisville.

The Center of Excellence, directed by Ramirez, is a collaboration between the university and the pharmaceutical corporation aimed at determining the human health burden of important infectious diseases and potential vaccine effectiveness. The data will provide robust evidence to national health officials and independent policy makers who develop recommendations for the use of vaccines in immunization programs worldwide. Studies will take place in hospitals, long-term care facilities and the community.

UofL is the first Center of Excellence selected by Pfizer Vaccines Medical Development and Scientific/Clinical Affairs to be part of an international network of epidemiological research organizations. This designation is for a period of three years with an option for renewal. Pfizer selected UofL because of the university’s exceptional capabilities for conducting population-based surveillance and clinical research that engages multiple health care facilities, health care personnel, industry and communities-at-large.

“Pfizer has had an outstanding working relationship with the University of Louisville for more than 10 years,” said Luis Jodar, Ph.D., chief medical and scientific affairs officer, Pfizer Vaccines. “The quality of disease burden evidence varies widely worldwide. Deriving accurate and credible population-based incidence estimates require comprehensive surveillance to identify cases of diseases within a well-defined and well-characterized geographic area. Thanks to UofL’s excellent network of research partners, the population available for research studies in Louisville can provide the data to derive estimates of disease burden that can be generalized nationally.”

The demographics of Jefferson County, Kentucky, are similar to the United States in general, including racial and ethnic make-up, socioeconomic status, and the proportion of rural and urban populations.

The research studies conducted as part of the center may lead to economic growth and development for the city of Louisville and the Kentuckiana region, including jobs and educational opportunities in the health care industry.

“This collaboration will provide increased visibility for the university on a global scale, making UofL attractive for high-caliber researchers and research grants,” said Neeli Bendapudi, Ph.D., president of UofL. ”It also presents an exceptional opportunity for our researchers to improve the human condition by helping to reduce the burden of infectious diseases worldwide by generating data that will inform governments and health care policymakers.”

Pfizer studies anticipated for UofL include population-based surveillance of infectious diseases including Streptococcus pneumoniae, a bacteria which causes pneumonia and other infections, Clostridioides difficile, a bacteria that causes severe diarrhea and colitis, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a common virus associated with mild cold-like symptoms but can cause severe infection in some people, including older adults. Visit for additional information on these diseases and two Center of Excellence studies already underway at UofL:

  • The City of Louisville Diarrhea (CLOUD) study launched in September 2019. Pfizer will be providing up to $6.5 million in funding for a one-year study of the incidence of diarrhea among Louisville-area residents.
  • The Louisville Pneumonia study is up to $4.5 million in funding provided by Pfizer for a one-year study of the incidence of pneumonia among adults in Louisville that launched in November 2019.

Watch a video here

UofL researchers rehydrate dried blood in weightless environment

Goal of the research is to ensure availability of medical care during long-term space missions
UofL researchers rehydrate dried blood in weightless environment

Research crew preparing to board ZERO-G aircraft with the glovebox.

Technologies in development by researchers at the University of Louisville are aimed at ensuring astronauts on long-range space missions have access to medical care. A UofL research team recently tested rehydrating dried red blood cells in a weightless environment. The UofL group completed more than 50 weightless cycles during two flights to test rehydrating the blood and the use of 3D-printed surgical instruments aboard a ZERO-G aircraft.

ZERO-G is a privately owned company that uses a modified Boeing 727 jet to create a weightless environment using parabolic flight patterns. The experiments, sponsored by NASA, are designed to ensure that crews have access to proper medical treatment during long-range exploration space flights, such as to Mars.

Michael Menze, Ph.D., associate professor of biology, and Jonathan Kopechek, Ph.D., assistant professor of bioengineering at UofL, lead a team that has developed several methods for drying blood to enable it to be stored for long periods of time without refrigeration. The dried blood then can be rehydrated using sterile water when it is needed. Current methods for storing blood require constant refrigeration and the blood can only be stored for six weeks, which would not be sufficient for crews on years-long space missions.

“If cosmic radiation reduces red blood cell count, for example, you are not going to have a donor and a recipient [with a four-person flight crew], you are going to have four people needing blood and there is no good way to store it during a long space trip of months or years,” said Brett Janis, a graduate research assistant who also is involved in the project. “So being able to store it in a dried state and then confidently rehydrate it is critical.”

The dried blood is typically rehydrated by adding water and inverting the container, Menze said. This method relies on normal gravity, however, so the researchers devised other methods for potential use in space. [See a video about the project HERE.]

To develop testing procedures, Menze worked with George Pantalos, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery. Pantalos tested medical equipment in a weightless environment in the past and customized a glovebox enclosure he developed for his research for these experiments.

“If you are in reduced gravity or zero gravity, will the red blood cells rehydrate correctly and will they function like normal red blood cells, transporting oxygen to the tissues of the body,” Pantalos said.

Pantalos, Menze and Janis, along with other researchers and five students, designed and prepared the tests to rehydrate the blood cells and traveled to Florida with the glovebox and equipment in November 2019 to conduct the experiments aboard the ZERO-G aircraft. During the tests, the team assembled a bag with the powdered blood cells, a syringe and sterilized water in the glovebox. There they tested multiple techniques to rehydrate the cells during the weightless phases of flight.

“We tested two different ways of assisting in the mixing of liquid and powdered red blood cells,” Menze said. “We used pliable plastic bags instead of hard-plastic containers for the mixing. The water was added to the bag from an attached syringe and the liquid and powder were mixed by ‘massaging’ the bag or by using a second attached syringe and moving the liquid in and out of the bag. The ‘massage’ methods seem to work a bit better.”

Pantalos said the glove box and planned experiment techniques worked well, allowing the scientists and students to complete all the planned tests on the blood cells, which had been dehydrated using two different methods -- spray-dried and freeze-dried -- in 5 milliliter and 10 milliliter volumes. After the aircraft landed, the rehydrated samples were analyzed by a ground crew for evaluation to see if they are suitable for infusion into a patient.

“We found that the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood was comparable to what we find when we are rehydrating our blood at one-earth gravity,” Menze said. “I was really excited.”

During the flight, Pantalos also tested the use of 3D-printed instruments to simulate basic surgical tasks such as incision and retraction. By 3-D printing tools and instruments they need aboard the spacecraft, it is possible for the crew to take basic materials and create specific pieces according to needs that arise during the mission rather than trying to anticipate all potential medical needs in advance.

The NASA Flight Opportunities Program, which supports projects for developing technology appropriate for use in space flight, funded the preparation testing and the flights. The UofL team now is preparing for their next flight campaign, planned for later this year, to test rehydration processes for cells dehydrated using different methods and rehydrating up to 350 milliliters of blood, which would be needed in an actual transfusion therapy situation.

What in the world is CRISPR, anyway?

Beer with a Scientist features a non-scientist’s guide to cutting-edge biomedical research tools
What in the world is CRISPR, anyway?

Levi Beverly, Ph.D.

You may have heard about breakthroughs in medical research such as CRISPR, a technology that allows scientists to edit genes, or the microbiota, the bugs that live in and on us and are getting the credit and blame for any number of health conditions. But how can non-scientists understand these subjects and their effects on health and health care?

University of Louisville researcher Levi Beverly, Ph.D., is here to help.

At the next Beer with a Scientist, Beverly, associate professor in the Department of Medicine, will explain these and other recent developments in biomedical research for people without a degree in science.

“We will talk about CRISPR, microbiota and other topics, but we also are asking the audience what they want to learn about,” Beverly said. “People are invited to bring an article or headline they have seen that needs more explanation or to post questions or topics on our Facebook page, Louisville Underground Science.”

Beverly’s talk begins at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 22 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.

UofL Trager Institute executive director elected to national board

UofL Trager Institute executive director elected to national board

Anna Faul, PhD, and Catherine P. Carrico, PhD, President of the National Association for Geriatric Education board

Selected for her leadership in the area of geriatric education, Anna Faul, PhD, executive director, University of Louisville Trager Institute, has been elected to join the executive board of the National Association for Geriatric Education (N-AGE).

N-AGE is a non-profit membership organization representing geriatric education centers and other organizations that provide education and training to health professionals. The organization seeks to improve the quality of health care for older adults, including underserved and minority groups. N-AGE is a leading national voice for building a robust pipeline at every level of education to increase the size and skill set of students and professionals in the aging-related workforce.

“I am honored to be selected for this national leadership position. As a long-time educator in the field of gerontology, I am deeply passionate about increasing the workforce size and improving the skills of the aging-related workforce,” Faul said. “Workforce development is one of the UofL Trager Institute’s strategic initiatives and we have received several HRSA-funded grants to support this goal. I look forward to taking what we have learned from these programs to a national level.”

“We are thrilled that Dr. Faul has joined the N-AGE Board of Directors. She is an experienced leader in the field who brings a wealth of knowledge about aging services and geriatrics,” said Catherine P. Carrico, PhD, president of the N-AGE board.

As a new board member, Faul will serve as chair of the Education and Training Committee. In this role, she will further the committee’s goal of enhancing nationwide opportunities for the education of health care practitioners in geriatrics and gerontology. Specifically, Faul will work to increase the visibility of HRSA Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Programs and Geriatrics Academic Career Awards. This builds on her experience as principal investigator for both the UofL Trager Institute’s HRSA Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program and HRSA Behavioral Health Workforce Enhancement Program. She also has served as mentor for Samantha Cotton, PhD, program manager at the UofL Trager Institute and 2019 Geriatrics Academic Career Award recipient.

Faul learned of her board selection during the 2019 Gerontological Society of America’s 2019 Annual Scientific Meeting in Austin, Texas. She begins her 3-year term on the N-AGE board in January 2020.

“I am grateful and excited to begin this new role on the National Association for Geriatric Education Board. This is an incredible opportunity to elevate the leadership of the UofL Trager Institute, and the University of Louisville in shaping the future of geriatric education in our country,” Faul said.


UofL medical student leads effort for medical education to prevent firearm-related injury

Suicide risk screening and other training added to UofL School of Medicine curriculum, resolution adopted by state and national medical organizations
UofL medical student leads effort for medical education to prevent firearm-related injury

Rachel Safeek, left, and Patrice Harris, MD, MA, president of AMA

Rachel Safeek, a second-year medical student at the University of Louisville, is calling for medical schools to train future physicians in techniques to help prevent injuries and death caused by firearms. Her work has led to UofL being one of the first medical schools to incorporate this training for all students.

“About 40,000 Americans die and 85,000 others are injured each year from firearm-related causes, and the incidence of firearm-related morbidity and mortality has increased over the past decade,” Safeek said. “This is a very important public health issue. My classmates, colleagues and I believe that physicians have a role in counseling patients related to their health and we have an opportunity through those interactions to help reduce the number of firearm-related deaths and injuries.”

In September, Safeek and her colleagues wrote and presented a resolution that was adopted by the Kentucky Medical Association (KMA) to support training in Kentucky’s medical schools to reduce firearm-related morbidity and mortality in their curriculum. She presented a similar resolution at the American Medical Association conference in November, which was adopted by the American Medical Association Medical Student Section.

The resolution calls for all future physicians to have training to counsel patients in safe firearm use and storage, to know how to screen patients for suicide risk and to learn trauma-related first response techniques.

At UofL, Safeek presented a curriculum plan she coauthored with faculty members Suzanne McGee, M.D., and Charles Kodner, M.D., and Susan Sawning, M.S.S.W., to the School of Medicine’s Educational Program Committee, which voted to include it in the school’s curriculum beginning with the 2020-2021 academic year.

To jump-start the training effort, Safeek and other students and faculty have partnered with Whitney/Strong to organize a week-long series of optional events to educate UofL medical students, faculty and residents on firearm violence prevention, scheduled for February.

“Our hope is that more medical schools will incorporate this type of training into their programs and doctors will be able to help make a difference in this health crisis,” Safeek said.

Priya Chandan, M.D., M.P.H., recognized by AAPM&R for work in inclusive health for people with intellectual disabilities

Priya Chandan, M.D., M.P.H., recognized by AAPM&R for work in inclusive health for people with intellectual disabilities

Priya Chandan, M.D., M.P.H.

For Priya Chandan, M.D., M.P.H., creating an inclusive world for individuals with intellectual disability is a life mission. Inspired by her older brother who has Down syndrome, Chandan is leading efforts to ensure all health care professionals are trained to treat adults with intellectual disabilities.

The American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (AAPM&R) has presented Chandan the Distinguished Public Service Award at the organization’s annual assembly in San Antonio, Texas. Chandan, assistant professor in the University of Louisville’s Division of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) and the Department of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences, was selected thanks to her efforts at ensuring inclusive health through innovations in medical education and her work with Special Olympics.

In a ceremony last month, Chandan received the award, established to honor individuals who, in the course of public service activities, have significantly contributed to the growth and development of services that directly impact the specialty of PM&R. Previous winners of the award include Michelle Obama, Judith E. Heumann, an international disability rights activist, and numerous members of Congress.

Chandan is committed to inclusive health, the intentional inclusion of all people, including people with intellectual disabilities (ID), in mainstream health services, training programs, research, funding streams, policies and laws.

“Intentional inclusion of people with disabilities in the spaces physicians occupy — clinical, research and teaching environments — is critical for repairing trust with marginalized communities, including the 1 in 4 American adults with a disability,” Chandan said. “Historically, medicine has been part of the problem, which means we have a responsibility to be part of the solution moving forward by engaging in advocacy efforts together with the patients we serve.”

Chandan’s personal experience with her brother has given her a personal understanding of the need for physicians who can provide equitable care for people with ID. She led AAPM&R’s Inclusive Health Innovation grant from the Special Olympics, which involved policy, education and advocacy activities, including the creation of an AAPM&R Intellectual Disability Member Community.

“Dr. Chandan is taking her personal experience and has turned it into a passion that she uses every day in her career,” said Darryl Kaelin, M.D., chief of the UofL Division of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. “She is making better care for individuals with intellectual disability a local and national goal. She represents the University of Louisville well.”

Chandan directs the National Curriculum Initiative in Developmental Medicine, a partnership between Special Olympics International and the American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry to ensure future physicians receive training to care for individuals with ID across their lifespan. For this program, she oversees inclusive medical education efforts at 18 medical schools nationwide and led UofL’s participation in the program, partnering with Special Olympics Kentucky and Lee Specialty Clinic.

Chandan also received funding from WITH Foundation to further develop medical education in the form of a standardized patient experience for PM&R residents using actors from Down Syndrome of Louisville.

Chandan is involved in Special Olympics International's Inclusive Health movement, where she serves as a content expert for the Center for Inclusive Health, an online resource for health care providers and other audiences for ways to intentionally include people with intellectual disability in mainstream health care services, training programs and research. She also is a global clinical advisor for MedFest, the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes program that provides free pre-participation sports physical exams to athletes with ID. She has engaged residents and faculty in MedFest efforts in Virginia, North Carolina and Kentucky.

Chandan was a member of the 2018-19 cohort of the faculty leadership program at UofL, Leadership and Innovation in Academic Medicine (LIAM). As part of the year-long leadership curriculum, she and her group colleagues piloted interactive, online topic tournaments to increase active, self-directed learning opportunities in the medical school curriculum.

UofL medical residents collect toys for area children

UofL medical residents collect toys for area children

Toys for Tots

University of Louisville medical residents in collaboration with the UofL Office of Graduate Medical Education will make the holidays brighter for children in the community through their Toys for Tots toy drive. This is the fifth year 700 residents in 70-plus programs have made Toys for Tots the focus of their holiday service mission. This year the residents exceeded their goal of 1,000 toys. 

UofL closes on purchase of KentuckyOne's Louisville-area assets

UofL closes on purchase of KentuckyOne's Louisville-area assets

Workers prepare to make sign changes to Our Lady of Peace, now known as UofL Health - Peace Hospital.

The University of Louisville has completed its acquisition of KentuckyOne Health’s Louisville-area portfolio, ending two years of uncertainty about the future of Jewish Hospital and the other health care assets.

The transition of ownership from KentuckyOne’s parent company, CommonSpirit Health, to the university’s UofL Health affiliate is effective Nov. 1. Some 5,500 former KentuckyOne employees have now joined UofL and UofL Health, which has assumed management of the assets.

“This is an exciting and historic day for the University of Louisville,” said UofL President Neeli Bendapudi. “This acquisition enables us to ensure access to quality health care for our entire community, and it strengthens our School of Medicine and our Health Sciences Center campus by allowing us to offer more training opportunities for our students and more research capacity for our faculty. It also saves thousands of jobs that could have been lost if any of these facilities closed.”

UofL is acquiring the KentuckyOne assets with the promise of a critical $50 million, 20-year loan from the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority. Half of that loan would be forgiven if the university meets certain criteria in terms of employment or service to underserved areas. The Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence and the Jewish Hospital and St. Mary’s Foundation also are investing in the deal, contributing $10 million and $40 million, respectively.

“We owe such a debt of gratitude to our partners—Gov. Matt Bevin, the leadership of the House and Senate and these foundations—for making this transaction a reality,” Bendapudi said. She also thanked the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth and leaders of the local Jewish community for the legacy of care they have created over more than a century of work in the Louisville community.

The purchase includes:

·         Jewish Hospital, including the Outpatient Center, Rudd Heart and Lung Center, offices and parking garages;

·         Frazier Rehabilitation Institute;

·         Sts. Mary and Elizabeth Hospital;

·         Our Lady of Peace;

·         Jewish Hospital Shelbyville;

·         Jewish Medical Centers East, Northeast, South and Southwest;

·         Physicians groups affiliated with KentuckyOne.

All of the assets will be rebranded under the UofL Health umbrella.

“Today marks an important moment for the future of health care in the Louisville community, and I want to thank everyone who contributed to the successful completion of this transition,” said Larry Schumacher, Senior Vice President of Operations, Southeast Division, CommonSpirit Health. “As we transfer the ownership and operations to UofL Health, I am optimistic that these facilities will continue their legacy of excellence and innovation led by the outstanding employees and providers.”



UofL faculty develop and license specialized treadmill for children with spinal cord injuries

Medicine, engineering work together to build custom tool for successful therapy
UofL faculty develop and license specialized treadmill for children with spinal cord injuries

The old treadmill system, left. The new, specially designed treadmill system, right.

Children with spinal cord injuries have experienced remarkable results in recovery at the University of Louisville and Frazier Rehab Institute through locomotor training, a therapy designed to help them recover the ability to sit, stand and even walk. In locomotor training, the child is suspended over a treadmill and his or her feet are moved by trainers in a stepping motion. This taps into capability of the spinal cord to help the child regain movement and trunk control.

Andrea Behrman, Ph.D., of the UofL Department of Neurological Surgery and the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center (KSCIRC), pioneered the use of locomotor training in children at UofL since 2012. Until now, however, Behrman’s team has used treadmills and harnesses designed for adults that have been adapted for children. The oversized equipment is cumbersome for children and working on cut-down adult-sized devices has resulted in unnecessary strain for the trainers and therapists who work with them.

So Behrman enlisted Tommy Roussel, Ph.D. of the Department of Bioengineering at UofL, to engineer a treadmill and harness system specifically for young children. Using engineering expertise, user feedback and a patent held by Susan Harkema, Ph.D., professor of neurosurgery and pioneer in spinal cord injury research in adults at UofL, a new treadmill was designed from the ground up just for children. [See video]

“It was kind of like putting a kid on an adult bicycle or watching kids play basketball with a ten-foot goal,” Roussel said. “So we have redesigned the system with the same operational capacity but with kids in mind.”

The new pediatric treadmill has multiple advantages for both children and trainers:

  • Suspension tower is located behind the child on the treadmill so therapists can more easily and directly engage with the child
  • Narrower tread, focusing the child’s steps and bringing trainers closer to the child’s legs and feet
  • Trainers’ seats are more appropriately positioned closer to the child and are adjustable to accommodate trainers of different heights
  • Treadmill tower swivels to allow the child to be hoisted from a wheelchair and onto the treadmill
  • Smaller, more adaptable harness that is more comfortable and easier to adjust to the child’s changing capability

“The treadmill is a tool for us, but we want it to be a smart tool. By making it better, we are going to do our jobs better and the child is going to participate better,” Behrman said. “We changed it to make the child more accessible to the trainer with good body posture and position for all this repetitive activity.”

Thanks to funding and support from the Coulter Translational Partnership at UofL, the team was able to develop the initial prototype. Behrman and Roussel then collaborated with other specialized manufacturers, further refining the treadmill and harnesses. Once they had a customized treadmill, the team worked to commercialize the device and harness system to make it available to therapists in other centers.

“We starting thinking, ‘How can we make it better?’” Roussel said. “If we are going to move to manufacturing this, how can we make it more modular and with fewer parts that need to be assembled? That’s where the magic and the fun happened.”

The treadmill design was licensed to Power Neurorecovery and units are in place or on their way to facilities in Pittsburgh, Houston and New York, as well as in Louisville at Frazier Rehab Institute.

“In the last several years, we have been able to achieve things that have not historically happened in terms of rehabilitation outcomes for these children,” Behrman said. "Children once unable to sit on their own, for example, can now do so due to locomotor training. Such improvements open up other possibilities to play and engage, and help a child get back on the developmental track. This new treadmill system gives physical therapists and trainers a device that is state-of-the-art in design and utility and revolutionizes the way we deliver locomotor training specifically for children."


Thank you to these donors and developers:

Treadmill Donors

  • Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation
  • Kosair Charities
  • WHAS Crusade for Children
  • Independent Pilots Association Foundation

Treadmill Developers

  • Ty Adams
  • Jena Allen
  • Laura Argetsinger
  • Andrea Behrman
  • Yangsheng Chen
  • Ran Cheng
  • Susan J. Harkema
  • Dena Howland
  • Winston Rauch
  • Tommy Roussel
  • Shelley Trimble
  • Winston Industries
  • Haffendorfer Machine Inc.
  • Tuff Tread Treadmills

Harness Donors

  • WHAS Crusade for Children
  • Rich and Norrie Oelkers and the Bonita Bay Tennis Club

Harness Developers

  • Jenna Allen
  • Laura Argetsinger
  • Andrea Behrman
  • Goose Kearse
  • Rachel Marsilia
  • MacKenzie Roberts
  • Misty Mountain Threadworks


Oct. 28, 2019

Dunbar CAR T-Cell Program to bring more advanced immunotherapy treatment to cancer patients

Dunbar CAR T-Cell Program to bring more advanced immunotherapy treatment to cancer patients

Tom Dunbar with his son, Evan

Cancer patients in Louisville, in Kentucky and throughout the region soon will have access to some of the most advanced immunotherapy treatments available. Louisville resident Thomas E. Dunbar has pledged $1 million to the University of Louisville to create a specialized center to provide chimeric antigen receptor positive T (CAR T) cell therapies to patients at the UofL James Graham Brown Cancer Center and other centers in Kentucky and the Midwest. The new program will be named the Dunbar CAR T-Cell Program.

“This gift will allow both kids and adults to be treated right here in Kentucky with the most innovative cell-based immunotherapy being developed,” said Jason Chesney, M.D., Ph.D., director of the UofL Brown Cancer Center.

See a video of the announcement here.

In CAR T-cell therapies, immune cells are extracted from the patient’s own blood and then are genetically modified to fight cancer. The modified cells are infused back into the patient where they fight the cancer and create long-term immunity to its recurrence. In addition to dramatic treatment results, CAR T-cell immunotherapy leads to fewer toxic side effects than traditional chemotherapy.

“Patients who have been treated with all the conventional therapies who then underwent treatment in clinical trials with CAR T cells had dramatic response rates. Eighty-three percent of kids in the original trial who had lethal, terminal B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia responded to this therapy,” Chesney said.

CAR T-cell therapy is FDA approved for treating patients who have B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, who are mostly children, as well as adults who have an adult form of a B-cell (non-Hodgkin’s) lymphoma. This technology also is being tested for treatment of other cancers through clinical trials. Until now however, these treatments have been available primarily in larger coastal cities outside of the Midwestern United States.

“At the UofL Brown Cancer Center, we feel strongly that these advanced therapies should be available not just to people in New York or California or Texas, but to people in Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee and Illinois. If you live in these areas, it is going to be very hard for you to be treated a thousand miles away with a therapy like this,” Chesney said. “And any patient with health assistance through Medicaid is likely to be covered only if the treatment is delivered within the state.”

The Dunbar CAR T-Cell Program will include laboratories for manufacturing the CAR T cells and will administer both FDA-approved and clinical-trial therapies to adult and pediatric cancer patients. The program intends to expand clinical trials and clinical research using CAR T-cell therapy to treat additional cancer types in Louisville. The goal is for the facilities to be fully functional and receiving patients by Sept. 30, 2020.

Tom Dunbar’s son, Evan, lost his battle to cancer with neuroblastoma in 2001 at the age of 6. In 2009, Wally Dunbar, Tom Dunbar’s father, lost his battle with melanoma. This year, Tom’s physician wife, Stephanie Altobellis, M.D., helped identify his own cancer.

“Kentucky is at ground zero, with the nation’s highest rates of cancer diagnosis and death,” Tom Dunbar said. “It’s completely unacceptable. We have to lead the charge right here where the need is the greatest and we can do the most good. We need treatments that are not toxic. Watching our loved ones miserable with pain, often just from the treatments, and yet still die in front of us simply can’t be the best that we can do.”

How CAR T cells work

T cells are key immune cells in the body that attack cancer cells. CAR T cells are T cells that have been isolated from the patient’s blood and then genetically modified to more effectively destroy the cancer cells.

A non-infectious virus is used to insert genes into the T cells that express a receptor specific to proteins, or antigens, present on cells of the cancer to be treated. The armed, loaded T cell is drawn into close proximity to the cancer cell, and the new cell sends a signal for the T cell to kill the cancer cell.

“We add the receptor gene into the T cells, which makes them stick to the cancer cells like Velcro,” Chesney said. “In theory, all cancers have unique antigens on their surface that we can target with this approach. We are nudging the immune system on to really hit the target, in this case the cancer cells.”

The sophisticated technology requires the use of a specialized clean room for genetically manipulating the patients’ immune cells. The clean rooms, known as Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) laboratories, require specialized documentation and equipment to protect the individuals working there and ensure a sterile and controlled environment for the cells.

The Dunbar CAR T-Cell Program will include two GMP laboratories, one for use in pediatric therapies to be named for Evan Dunbar and one for adult therapies to be named for Altobellis. These labs are intended to support not only clinical trials and patient treatment at the UofL Brown Cancer Center, but also in other health centers in Louisville, Lexington and elsewhere.

“Our goal for the Dunbar CAR T-Cell Program GMP labs is to be a hub manufacturing facility for CAR T cells, not just in Kentucky, not just in the region, but for the entire country,” Chesney said.

For Dunbar, the goal is to improve cancer treatment for patients.

“The burden is on each of us to create a better future for our children,” Dunbar said. “Working together, we can ensure Louisville is equipped to provide the durable cures, free of side-effects, that we desperately need.”

UofL's Clayton Smith named Best Doctor by LEO Weekly

UofL's Clayton Smith named Best Doctor by LEO Weekly

Clayton M. Smith, M.D.

Clayton M. Smith, M.D., associate professor of medicine in the UofL School of Medicine and internal medicine physician with UofL Physicians, has received 1st place, Best Doctor in LEO Weekly’s Readers’ Choice Awards, winning over more than 100 nominees. Smith focuses his clinical practice on primary care internal medicine and LGBTQ health. He will be honored Oct. 3 at the Readers’ Choice Awards Party. 

See the LEO Readers Choice Awards list here.

UofL’s McMasters gives moving speech on difference between patient treatment and care

Keynote address given at national conference
UofL’s McMasters gives moving speech on difference between  patient treatment and care

Kelly McMasters, M.D., Ph.D.

In a moving speech on the difference between palliative “treatment” and palliative “care,” the University of Louisville’s Kelly McMasters, M.D., Ph.D., gave the keynote lecture today at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium in San Francisco.

McMasters is the Ben A. Reid Sr., M.D., Professor and Chairman of the Department of Surgery at the University of Louisville School of Medicine. He also serves as director of the Multidisciplinary Melanoma Clinic and is associate director of the James Graham Brown Cancer Center at UofL.

In his keynote address, titled “The Fundamental Difference Between Palliative Treatment and Palliative Care,” McMasters noted the audience was filled with those who have devoted their lives to the care of patients with cancer, and will perform research that will relieve suffering, improve quality of life, extend survival and find a cure.

Using one of his patients as an example, he argued that while regular tests and treatments make sense for patients whose cancer can be cured or their lives extended (with good quality), for those with recurring cancer who will eventually die from the disease, there is no evidence early detection of asymptomatic recurrence is any better than waiting until they are symptomatic. For those patients, regular tests and treatments can rob them of their quality of life.

“Our duty to our patients is to care for them, not just for their disease, but for who they are,” McMasters said. “Sometimes, it doesn’t make sense to put the patient through treatments and tests that in the end, won’t affect whether they live or die. They are often better served by living free of pain and suffering, happily in the company of those they love, doing the things that make life worth living.”

McMasters has personal experience in losing a loved one to cancer. He lost his son, Owen, to leukemia.

Also speaking on the topic during the keynote address was Shishir Maithel, M.D., chair of the Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University.

McMasters specializes in melanoma, breast cancer, sarcoma, hepatobiliary tumors and pancreatic and gastric cancers.  At the Brown Cancer Center, he works to identify the most effective combination of treatment including surgery, immunotherapy, targeted therapies, and radiation therapy for patients with all stages of melanoma.

He has been principal investigator or co-investigator of over 30 clinical trials, and president of the Society of Surgical Oncology, the Society of Surgical Chairs, the Western Surgical Association and the Southeastern Surgical Association.  In 2018, he was named editor-in-chief of Annals of Surgical Oncology, and he has authored over 400 peer-reviewed publications and a book.

To hear more from McMasters, see this article on the difference between treatment and care in the Annals of Surgical Oncology:

For more information about society and the symposium, visit

UofL Hospital opens newly renovated and expanded Burn Center

Center is currently the only dedicated burn unit in state of Kentucky
UofL Hospital opens newly renovated and expanded Burn Center

Romaine Knight, a firefighter with the Louisville Fire Department’s Engine 5. Knight was a patient at UofL Hospital’s Burn Center in September 2017 after suffering severe burns to his hand.

University of Louisville Hospital has opened its newly renovated and expanded Burn Center, currently the only dedicated burn unit in the state of Kentucky.

Dozens of hospital staff and emergency service workers, including members of the Louisville Fire Department, marked the occasion on Friday with a ribbon-cutting and celebration at the center.

The new Burn Center is on the hospital’s sixth floor, in 6 East, and holds 16 beds. The center was formerly housed on the hospital’s fifth floor, where it held six beds.

“What makes this space so unique is that from start to finish, it was specifically designed just for burn patients,” said Glen Franklin, M.D., a trauma surgeon and a professor in the Department of Surgery at the UofL School of Medicine. “It was made just for them, by the people who take care of them. It’s special. ”

Lori Sipes, clinical nurse manager for the Burn Center, said the renovation marks 35 years of UofL Hospital having a dedicated burn unit. She said the expansion and renovation will help provide even better service to the community and state.

“We are expanding all of our services, from beds to staff to therapy, to offer even better care for patients and their families,” she said. “Everything has been improved and updated, and they have a new state-of-the-art area to be treated in.”

Sipes said the center has 36 critical care nurses and technicians, all of whom have specialized education and training in the care of burn patients and the most up-to-date methods for their care. Its dedicated physical therapist is the only wound specialist in Kentucky dedicated to burns.

Sipes said the center’s brand-new beds are the newest and best surfaces for patients, and each room has its own temperature and humidity control and heat lamps, which she said is important for burn patients as the skin is a primary method of thermoregulation. A new, larger hydrotherapy room with a shower system is also part of the new center.

Even the color palate and interior design is designed to be more soothing for patients and families, she said, with a sitting area in each room, cubbyholes to charge cell phones and dedicated room where families can conference with staff or members can be alone.

Among those in attendance Friday were Louisville Fire Department Chief Greg Frederick and Romaine Knight, a firefighter assigned to Engine 5 downtown at Floyd and Jefferson streets. Knight has firsthand experience in UofL Hospital’s Burn Center as a patient.

On Sept. 20, 2017, he suffered serious burns to his left hand and was admitted to the Burn Center. He was in the center’s intensive care unit for eight days, where he underwent skin grafts to his hand.

“They really have a good team there,” he said. “Everyone was exceptional. They were all so nice, from the nurses, to the technicians, to the plastic surgeons. And they have so much experience, which really helped alleviate my worries. They were able to explain what was happening, and what I could expect - the next day, the next week, the next month, the next year, and even the next couple of years.”

After surgery, he went immediately into physical therapy, which he continued at the UofL Physicians Outpatient Center after he was released from the hospital.

“They did everything they could to ensure I didn’t lose function of my hand, which was vital for me,” he said. “They told me that they would do whatever it took to have the best outcome.”

Today, he said he has virtually normal function of his hand. 

“I really, really appreciate everyone’s service.”

Just before the new Burn Center’s opening, UofL Hospital was re-verified as a Level I Trauma Center by the American College of Surgeons, recognizing its dedication to providing the highest quality of trauma care for all injured patients.  UofL Hospital is one of just two adult Level I Trauma Centers in the state of Kentucky.

UofL Hospital receives re-verification as a Level I Trauma Center

ULH is one of only two adult Level I Trauma Centers in Kentucky
UofL Hospital receives re-verification as a Level I Trauma Center

A medical transport helicopter takes off from University of Louisville Hospital.

UofL Hospital has been re-verified as a Level I Trauma Center by the American College of Surgeons, recognizing the hospital’s dedication to providing the highest quality of trauma care for all injured patients.  

A team of experienced reviewers in the field of trauma conducted an on-site review of the hospital in July, and the hospital received word of the re-verification this month in an official letter. The verification process provides confirmation the hospital has demonstrated its commitment to providing optimal care.

“The re-verification is acknowledgement of all the hard work that happens here at UofL Hospital every day,” said Kim Denzik, MSN, RN, director of the UofL Hospital Trauma Institute. “There is a tremendous amount of work and preparation that goes into the trauma review. There are a lot of people to be thanked for their continued hard work, diligence and commitment to providing the very best care for our patients.”

The re-verification came from the American College of Surgeons’ Verification Review Committee, an ad hoc committee of the group’s Committee on Trauma.

The Committee on Trauma’s verification program does not designate trauma centers, rather it provides confirmation that a trauma center has demonstrated its commitment to providing the highest quality of trauma care. The actual establishment and designation of a trauma center is the function of local, regional or state agencies. However, verified trauma centers must meet essential criteria that ensure trauma care capability and institutional performance as outlined by the Committee on Trauma.

Having the expert level of care here in Louisville is important to patients like Brandon Clark, who was in a dirt bike accident in March 2017 at age 19.

“I was at my girlfriend’s house racing my brother when the throttle got stuck and I was thrown 53 feet,” Clark said. He was transported from Floyds Knobs, Ind., to UofL Hospital, where he was diagnosed with a broken femur and a separated shoulder. He underwent surgery with an orthopedic specialist at UofL Hospital the next morning.

“It was very rough in the beginning,” Clark said. “I was just 19, and I couldn’t even walk. I left the hospital in a wheelchair. I wanted to give up on life. But nobody there let me give up.”

By August 2018, he was walking again - at the Kentucky State Fair. It was there he ran into a member of the Trauma Center’s staff, Annabelle Pike.

“I wanted to tell her just how great it felt to be walking again. I wouldn’t be here without the staff at UofL Hospital. They work with you a lot. They want to help you out the most.”

Today, he’s going to the University of Northwestern Ohio to be a diesel mechanic, and driving home on weekends to do farming and construction work from his home in Ballardsville, Ky. On Oct. 16, he said he was able to run a mile, just a year and a half after his stay at UofL Hospital.

He said he’s appreciative of the second chance he was given. “It made me realize you can lose your life in the blink of an eye.”

Established by the American College of Surgeons in 1987, the Committee on Trauma’s Consultation/Verification Program for Hospitals promotes the development of trauma centers that provide the entire spectrum of care to address the needs of injured patient, from preventing injuries before they occur, to the hospital resources necessary for trauma care, all the way through the rehabilitation process.

There are five separate categories of verification in the Committee on Trauma’s program: Level I Trauma Center; Level II Trauma Center; Level III Trauma Center; Level I Pediatric Trauma Center; and Level II Pediatric Trauma Center. Each has specific criteria that must be met. UofL Hospital is one of just two adult Level I Trauma Centers in the state of Kentucky, with the other at the University of Kentucky’s Albert B. Chandler Hospital.

Founded in 1913, the American College of Surgeons is a scientific and educational association of surgeons to raise the standards of surgical practice and education and improve the care of the surgical patient. The College is an important advocate for surgical patients and has over 72,000 members, making it the largest association of surgeons in the world.

The College’s Committee on Trauma promotes leadership and cooperation of all participants in a trauma center so injured patients are provided with the best possible care.

UofL and Jewish Hospital Trager Transplant Center achieve 300th Lung Transplant

First lung transplant at Jewish Hospital took place in 1991
UofL and Jewish Hospital Trager Transplant Center achieve 300th Lung Transplant

UofL's Victor van Berkel, M.D., Ph.D., performed the 300th lung transplant at Jewish Hospital.

The Jewish Hospital Trager Transplant Center and the University of Louisville are celebrating an important milestone – the 300thlung transplant performed at the hospital since the lung transplant program began there 27 years ago.

“Three-hundred lung transplants is a significant milestone for Jewish Hospital Transplant Care,” said Chris Jones, M.D., director of the Transplantation Program at Jewish Hospital and chief of the division of Transplant Surgery at University of Louisville Physicians and the UofL School of Medicine. “We recognize the selfless sacrifice of all organ donors, celebrate the improved lives of our organ recipients, and recognize the impact of everyone on the transplant team for their lifesaving and life-changing work.”

The 300th lung transplant was performed Tuesday, Sept. 18, on a 71-year-old man from northern Kentucky who suffered from pulmonary fibrosis. The patient was on the transplant list for two months before undergoing a lung transplant. The surgery was performed by Victor van Berkel, M.D., Ph.D., surgical director of the Lung Transplant Program at Jewish Hospital and chief of Thoracic Surgery at UofL Physicians and the UofL School of Medicine.

“Each year, we are performing more and more lung transplants at Jewish Hospital, and it is exciting to hit this milestone as this momentum continues,” said Dr. van Berkel, “When I first started, we were doing between five to 10 lung transplants a year. Now we are closer to 20 lung transplants a year, and we’re trying to grow that even further.”

The first lung transplant at the hospital took place in 1991, and the first double lung transplant in 1995. Since then, transplantation has seen significant advancements in anti-rejection medications, surgical techniques and other technologies, helping Jewish Hospital achieve one-year survival rates higher than the national average.

In 2017, the Jewish Hospital Trager Transplant Center’s program with UofL became the first transplant program in Kentucky, and only the second program in the region, to begin offering Ex Vivo Lung Perfusion (EVLP). EVLP is a leading-edge technology that allows for an expansion of the Lung Donor Pool that will allow more patients to receive lifesaving lung transplants.  

“The Jewish Hospital and UofL transplant team are helping save lives in our community each day,” said Ronald Waldridge, M.D., president of Jewish Hospital. “The team is one of the leading providers of organ transplantation in the United States, and milestones like the 300th lung transplant remind us how important this work is daily. We’ve come so far since the first lung transplant in 1991, and we’re looking forward to many more lives impacted.”

On Thursday, doctors and lung transplant recipients gathered at the Jewish Hospital Rudd Heart and Lung Center to celebrate the 300th milestone and the many lives that have been saved over the years thanks to lung transplantation. 

“When I first started my training, we used to have a firm age limit of 65. That was the absolute limit for transplantation,” said Allan Ramirez, M.D., medical director of the Lung Transplant Program at Jewish Hospital and a pulmonologist with UofL Physicians and assistant professor at the UofL School of Medicine. “These days, we are extending that age and our oldest recipient got their lungs at age 75, so we are continuing to push the envelope in terms of being able to offer transplants to older patients, and patients who are sicker who we would not have considered doing a transplant on 5 to 10 years ago.”

Dr. Jill Jacobs is among the 300th lung recipients at Jewish Hospital. Jacobs was the 271st recipient, and was also a double lung transplant recipient. Jacobs says she smoked cigarettes for about 40 years, and by the time she stopped, had already developed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).  

“I had the transplant in February of 2017,” Jacobs said. “I have been extremely happy and grateful that I had doctors who have given me my life back. They’ve given me a new life, in fact.”

Jacobs said before the transplant, she couldn’t even do simple things, like getting dressed, without being short of breath. She says the Jewish Hospital Trager Transplant Center has helped change her life.

“I can’t tell you how happy I am that I went to Jewish to have this done,” Jacobs said. “It’s a gift nobody can believe. It’s a miracle, in my opinion. A miracle.”

Earlier this year, the Jewish Hospital Trager Transplant Center – a joint program with the UofL Physicians, the UofL School of Medicine and KentuckyOne Health – also celebrated its 500th heart transplant. In addition to Kentucky’s first heart transplant, the program is known for performing Kentucky’s first adult pancreas, heart-lung and liver transplants.

For information on the Jewish Hospital Trager Transplant Center, visit

Future doctors receive their first white coat at UofL

White Coat Ceremony marks beginning of journey in medical school
Future doctors receive their first white coat at UofL

First-year medical students at the University of Louisville receive their first white coats at the White Coat Ceremony on Sunday. Classes started today.

Today is the first day of medical school for 163 students at the University of Louisville, who received their first white coat as a doctor over the weekend.

On Sunday, there were lots of smiles, hugs, cheers and tears from students and their families at the School of Medicine’s White Coat Ceremony, which formally marks the students’ entry into medical school. The ceremony was held Sunday afternoon in the ballroom at the Marriott Louisville Downtown.

At the annual ceremony, UofL faculty and the local medical community formally welcome first-year medical students (known as “M1s”) by presenting them with their first white coat, a gift from the Greater Louisville Medical Society. They also received their first stethoscope, courtesy of the Stethoscopes for Students program, an effort funded by alumni of the UofL School of Medicine.

The class of 2022 is a diverse group, with the youngest being 19, and the oldest 32. Forty-three percent of the class is female, and 11 percent are from groups underrepresented in medicine. Twelve percent are from rural Kentucky counties. The 163 were selected from a pool of 3,558, and come from 18 different states and 58 different colleges and universities.

Compassion was a theme of the ceremony. Speakers urged students to take care of themselves, so that they could take better care of others.

UofL President Neeli Bendapudi, Ph.D., gave the students three pieces of advice: to take care of themselves, to look out for one another, and to recognize that being a doctor meant they were part of a broader community.

“Remember, you will be treating a whole human,” she advised. “When you are physicians and you are working with a patient, the patient is more than an aching knee or a tumor, or something else that’s wrong with them. You need to see the psychosocial dimensions of every individual. The more you cultivate your own humanity, the more you cultivate who you are and the better off you will be.”

She told them they had chosen a noble profession. “You will see us when we are at our most vulnerable, our most nervous, most scared, and we will look to you to be our partners, our coaches, to be our cheerleaders, and I am thrilled that you’ve chosen to embark on that journey with us at UofL.”

Keynote speaker Barry Kerzin, M.D., a Buddhist monk and founder and president of the Altruism in Medicine Institute and the personal physician to the Dalai Lama, also urged the students to practice self-care, along with humility and gratitude.

“The more you give, the more you receive. That’s enough. It says it all. … The more you love, the more you are loved. The more you are kind, the more kindness is shown to you,” he said.

He noted “these are kind of compasses to try to orient our lives. Of course we won’t achieve these things overnight, maybe not – probably not – fully achieved in a lifetime. But these are goals, these are aspirations.”

He said gratitude was “extremely important.”

“To feel gratitude for the next breath that you take. That you’re alive. It’s wonderful stuff,” he said. “It makes you feel good, makes you appreciate life. Even when you’re having a rough time.”

He said humility, by decreasing the ego and arrogance, increases compassion and love.

“So in terms of a doctor, make a proper diagnosis, give a treatment, but also support the patient emotionally and the family emotionally. That’s critical, and that’s what makes a good doctor.”

After Kerzin’s speech, the students filed across the stage in groups, where UofL doctors helped them don their coats. The students’ first white coat is a short white coat, and after they graduate from medical school, they are entitled to wear a long white coat.  The white coat symbolizes cleanliness and the compassion that inspires students to become physicians. As they walked from the stage, they were handed their stethoscopes.

Led by Greg Postel, M.D., executive vice president for Health Affairs at UofL, the students then took the Declaration of Geneva, a more modern version of the Oath of Hippocrates, in which a new physician swears to uphold professional ethical standards.

‘A Taste of Health’ to honor nurses, health care workers for community service during hepatitis A outbreak

July 26 event will feature healthy food from local restaurants, live music
 ‘A Taste of Health’ to honor nurses, health care workers for community service during hepatitis A outbreak

Ruth Carrico, Ph.D., RN, is clinical director of the UofL Physicians Vaccine and International Travel Center and an associate professor at the UofL School of Medicine.

“A Taste of Health” event will be held on Thursday, July 26, to thank nurses and other health care workers for their service to the community during the recent hepatitis A outbreak.

The event, which is open to the public, will feature healthy food options from more than 20 different restaurants and local grocers, as well as a cash bar, live music from Joe DeBow (blues, R&B, reggae, jazz), a silent auction and raffles.

Hosted by University of Louisville Physicians – Infectious Diseases, the Kentucky Nurses Association and the Kentucky Restaurant Association, the event will be held from 6-8 p.m. at the UofL Kosair Charities Clinical and Translational Research Building at 505 S. Hancock St. on the UofL Health Sciences Campus.

The cost of the event is $45 for members of the Kentucky Nurses Association, and $50 for others. The money will go toward scholarship funds, education and research at the UofL School of Nursing, and some also will go to UofL Physicians - Infectious Diseases for vaccine supplies. The event also will feature a “Giving Tree.” 

“The event is a way for restaurants and the community to say ‘thank you’ to nurses for their efforts to mobilize and come to restaurants and vaccinate all workers against hepatitis A,” said Ruth Carrico, Ph.D., RN, clinical director of the UofL Physicians Vaccine and International Travel Center and an associate professor at the UofL School of Medicine.

Nurses from UofL vaccinated around 6,000 people at restaurants in Louisville and Jefferson County. Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection, most likely to be spread from contaminated food or water or from close contact with an infected person or contaminated object.

“It’s important to recognize their contribution to public health,” Carrico said. “It’s also important to realize what a resource UofL is, in that we have the ability to mobilize and respond to a public health crisis such as this.”

RSVPs are requested by July 20 by visiting the Kentucky Nurses Foundation site here, or by calling the Kentucky Nurses Association office at 502-245-2843.