Reduced sleep linked to air pollution, heat, carbon dioxide and noise

Reduced sleep linked to air pollution, heat, carbon dioxide and noise

Participant data from the Green Heart Project at UofL’s Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute, led by director Aruni Bhatnagar, were utilized in the new sleep study.

  • Penn, UofL study finds drop in sleep efficiency for high exposures to environmental factors
  • Study published in Sleep Health is one of the first to measure multiple variables on sleep
  • Participant data from UofL’s Green Heart Project utilized to obtain results

Air pollution, a warm bedroom and high levels of carbon dioxide and ambient noise all may adversely affect our ability to get a good night’s sleep, suggests a study from researchers with the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Louisville’s Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute (CLBEI).

The study, published April 18 in Sleep Health, is one of the first to measure multiple environmental variables in the bedroom and analyze their associations with sleep efficiency—the time spent sleeping relative to the time available for sleep. The analysis found that in a group of 62 participants tracked for two weeks with activity monitors and sleep logs, higher bedroom levels of air pollution (particulate matter <2.5 micrometers or PM2.5), carbon dioxide, noise and temperature were all linked independently to lower sleep efficiency.

The study was a collaboration between Penn Medicine and UofL’s CLBEI which is led by Aruni Bhatnagar. The researchers recruited participants from the CLBEI’s National Institutes of Health-funded Green Heart Project that investigates the effects of planting 8,000 mature trees on the cardiovascular health of Louisville residents.

“These findings highlight the importance of the bedroom environment for high-quality sleep,” said study lead author Mathias Basner, professor and director of the division of Sleep and Chronobiology in the department of Psychiatry at Penn Medicine.

The researchers suggest that more research is needed now on interventions that could improve sleep efficiency by reducing exposures to these sleep-disrupting factors.

“This could be as simple as leaving a bedroom door open to lower carbon dioxide levels, and using triple-pane windows to reduce noise,” Bhatnagar said. “We also applied for (future) funding that will allow us to investigate whether planting trees can improve sleep and cardiovascular health through improving health behaviors and the bedroom environment.”

About the study

In addition to work and family obligations that compete with sleep for time, a quickly changing environment due to growing urbanization and climate change seems to have made it harder to get a good night’s sleep. Sleep that is of inadequate duration, or inadequate efficiency due to frequent disruption (“tossing and turning”), affects work productivity and quality of life. It also has been linked to a higher risk of chronic diseases including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, depression and dementia.

This research is among a limited number of studies that looked at associations between multiple objectively measured factors in the sleep environment—such as noise and temperature—and objectively measured sleep.

For each of the environmental variables measured, the researchers compared sleep efficiency during exposures to the highest 20 percent of levels versus lowest 20 percent of levels. Through this analysis, they found that high noise was associated with a 4.7 percent decline in sleep efficiency compared to low noise, high carbon dioxide with a 4.0 percent decline compared to low levels, high temperature with a 3.4 percent decline compared to low temperature, and high PM2.5 with a 3.2 percent decline compared to low PM2.5. Two other sleep environment variables, relative humidity and barometric pressure, appeared to have no significant association with sleep efficiency among the participants.

Interestingly, only bedroom humidity was associated with sleep outcomes assessed with questionnaires, such that higher humidity was associated with lower self-reported sleep quality and more daytime sleepiness. This suggests that studies based on questionnaires may miss important associations readily detected by objective measures of sleep. This is not surprising as humans are unconscious and unaware of themselves and their surroundings during large portions of their sleep period.

Also, most study participants rated humidity, temperature and noise levels in the bedroom as “just right” regardless of the actual exposure levels.

“We seem to habituate subjectively to our bedroom environment, and feel there is no need to improve it, when in fact our sleep may be disturbed night after night as evidenced by the objective measures of sleep we used in our study,” said Basner.

University of Louisville's Alcohol Research Center Leads the Way to Recovery

University of Louisville's Alcohol Research Center Leads the Way to Recovery


April is alcohol awareness month, and the University of Louisville Alcohol Research Center (ULARC) is paving the way to recovery with novel findings. The ULARC was created to serve as a regional and national resource to investigate interactions of nutrition and alcohol on alcohol-induced organ injury and to develop new agents/interventions to prevent/treat this organ injury, both of which represent important unmet research needs.

Led by Craig McClain, MD, director of the NIH-funded Alcohol Research Center and professor of Medicine and Pharmacology and Toxicology at the School of Medicine, the ULARC hopes to influence the commonwealth by addressing the effects alcohol has on a person’s body. Alcohol affects multiple organs and organ systems.  The ULARC studies the liver and the gut:liver:brain axis as well as fetal alcohol syndrome and lung injury through multidisciplinary research.

“Alcohol abuse, alcoholism and alcohol use disorder kill over 3 million people each year, accounting for up to 6% of global deaths,” said McClain. “During the COVID pandemic, we saw an increase in alcohol usage that has persisted since. One of our recent projects studies the effects of alcohol on COVID-19 infection. We are also in the process of publishing some of our findings as they relate to novel therapies for alcohol-associated hepatitis, including the use of a specific probiotic and a type of omega-3 fat supplementation.”

McClain’s passion for research in alcohol-associated liver injury and disease started at the University of Minnesota. His mentor was an expert on the subject which gave McClain an opportunity to work hands-on with this vulnerable patient population. As noted, alcohol effects the brain and other organs; it is associated with cancers, heart disease, premature aging, and dementia; and alcohol use can lead to automobile accidents, homicides, and suicides.

McClain was the first to find an association between pro-inflammatory cytokines and alcohol-associated liver injury. His group of researchers specialize in nutritional therapies for alcohol-associated liver injury/disease (ALD) and have used funding from the NIH to study the therapeutic effects of probiotics and over-the-counter nutrition supplements for ALD.

McClain’s advice for alcohol consumption is to “not exceed moderate drinking limits which is two standard drinks a day for men and one standard drink a day for women. A standard drink is 14 grams of alcohol.” He references the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism as a resource to help rethink drinking for anyone struggling with addiction.

Brain-penetrating drug candidate shown to be effective against deadly encephalitis viruses

Brain-penetrating drug candidate shown to be effective against deadly encephalitis viruses

University of Louisville researcher Donghoon Chung examines specimens in his lab in this April 2023 photo.

A new antiviral compound that was designed, synthesized and tested by researchers at the University of Louisville, the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s School of Pharmacy and the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center (UTHSC) has been shown to be highly effective against two types of devastating encephalitis viruses that cause harm to humans. The multidisciplinary team found that BDGR-49 protects against the deadly eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEEV) or Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV).

The researchers described BDGR-49 and its efficacy against lethal infections of EEEV or VEEV in animal models in a study published April 12 in Science Translational Medicine.

“Collaboration across disciplines and capabilities was key to this discovery,” said Jennifer E. Golden, an associate professor in the UW–Madison School of Pharmacy and synthetic medicinal chemist who led the discovery and optimization effort.

Chemical virology studies were led by Donghoon Chung, an associate professor in the UofL Department of Microbiology and Immunology and the Center for Predictive Medicine, and animal efficacy studies were performed by Colleen Jonsson, a professor at UTHSC.

The team found that BDGR-49 potently inhibited EEEV and VEEV and was well tolerated. The compound provided significant protection to EEEV-infected animals. Meanwhile, it not only fully protected VEEV-infected animals, but could also be used as a therapeutic treatment days after infection.

An important feature of this antiviral compound is its ability to access the brain where these viruses cause damage, while other critical attributes include its improved stability, potency and efficacy compared to earlier prototypes. Based on resistance studies, BDGR-49 efficiently prevents these viruses from copying themselves, meaning it operates by disrupting the viral machinery needed for replication.

Classified as New World alphaviruses, equine encephalitis viruses are transmitted by the bite of a mosquito and can infect the brain, causing neurological effects, serious illness and death in humans as well as horses. There currently are no FDA-approved vaccines or treatments available specifically for preventing or treating alphavirus infection in humans.

Symptoms of EEEV infection include fever, headache, chills and vomiting. Severe infection can result in seizure, coma and death. About one-third of individuals who develop encephalitis (brain inflammation) from EEEV infection die, and many of those who do recover suffer permanent neurological effects.

Although, outbreaks of eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) are rare, with an average of 11 cases per year in the United States, in 2019 an outbreak of EEE across nine states resulted in 38 confirmed cases, 19 deaths and neurological effects in survivors.

VEE has a much lower mortality rate of 1%, but outbreaks can affect thousands of people, most often occurring in Central and South America. While insect bites are the typical cause of these infections, there is also concern the viruses could be leveraged as bioweapons.

“What we are trying to do is to develop a drug that can be used to treat infected people or as a prophylactic in case of bioterrorism,” Chung said. “Now we are seeing that it therapeutically protects from lethal infection. This is a big milestone in terms of the therapeutic development.”

The team has been developing and optimizing chemical structures against VEEV and EEEV for more than a decade. Golden, Jonsson and Chung are co-investigators in the Center of Excellence for Encephalitic Alphavirus Therapeutics, based at UTHSC. The center was created to refine the properties and activity of early-stage small molecule compounds discovered in the Golden lab and to develop them into clinical candidates for VEEV and EEEV that could be studied in humans. This work was funded with a five-year, $21-million grant from the National Institutes of Health in 2019.

The team is evaluating BDGR-49 in advanced preclinical studies while expanding the understanding of its antiviral properties. As RNA viruses such as EEEV and VEEV are prone to develop mutations, they can potentially evolve into more lethal or transmissible versions without warning, resulting in widespread infections.

“It is essential that we develop these countermeasures for viruses of pandemic potential so we don’t find ourselves unprepared to respond to an outbreak,” Golden says. “We can do better, and we intend to leverage this discovery as broadly as possible with respect to VEEV, EEEV and other viruses of concern.”

This research was supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (U19AI142762 and R01AI118814) and by a grant (S10OD016226) from the Office of the Director of the NIH. 

Paving the Way: A Doctor's Journey in Obstetrics and Gynecology to Improve Healthcare for Minority Women

Tanya Franklin, MD MSPH, is an associate professor for the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Women's Health. She serves as an advocate for mentorship in the medical field, and is a proud mentor for the Central High School Pre-Med program in the West Louisville Community. The University of Louisville School of Medicine interviewed Franklin to get insights on her life as a person of color within the medical field and her passions that persuaded her to pursue medicine.

UofL School of Medicine: What inspired you to pursue the area of General Obstetrics and Gynecology?

Dr. Franklin: As an adolescent I was surrounded by so many examples of unhealthy relationships, teen pregnancy, and missed potential of young women. I knew that these situations were avoidable with education, access to healthcare, and having a trusted doctor.  

UofL School of Medicine: What are some issues minority women face within OBGYN Health Care?

Dr. Franklin: Black women die in childbirth at rates 3-4x higher than their white counterparts. Some Black women enter the medical system with reluctance and mistrust. They may not see anyone at any level in the healthcare system who looks like them. They may feel guarded and unable to experience and express their vulnerability during a life-changing vulnerable time.

UofL School of Medicine: How does the University of Louisville School of Medicine and UofL Health address these issues?

Dr. Franklin: The University of Louisville has worked to diversify our medical school and faculty in addition to hiring a more diverse hospital staff. The goal is to have the healthcare staff represent the diversity of the patient population. During the first and second year of medical school, the curriculum includes clinical cases and discussions about their own personal bias and how it can impact the care is delivered and how race and racism negatively impacts the outcomes of black patients.

UofL School of Medicine: What challenges did you overcome when pursuing your field of study?

Dr. Franklin: When I joined the OBGYN residency program at UofL, I was the first black resident in 30 years. This position came with a lot of pressure, that I placed on myself, to represent myself and represent my community in the most positive light. It did not allow me to show much vulnerability and, at times, made me feel isolated. Knowing that my purpose was bigger than me helped me to overcome the pressure and sometimes unrealistic expectations I placed on myself. Knowing that I was paving the way for more residents of color, more faculty of color to come after me has been worth it all.  

UofL School of Medicine: What programs have you been a part of to advance OBGYN healthcare in Louisville, Kentucky?

Dr. Franklin: We have invested in the Central High School Pre-Medical Magnet Program, which launched in the Fall semester of 2022. This relationship gives West Louisville high school students an up-close and personal experience with a career in medicine. I was fortunate to take part in the White Coat Ceremony on Feb 26, 2023. As we placed white coats on each of the 33 students, their dreams of becoming doctors became a more tangible goal. They were able to show the community and their families that they were committed to being a part of the changing healthcare landscape. The energy in the room that day was powerful.  

UofL School of Medicine: As a woman of color, how do you use your background to show compassion and understanding to your patients?

Dr. Franklin: I understand what it was like to be an adolescent that had little knowledge about my body and felt like I had no power to advocate for myself. Every young woman needs someone in her life to tell her and remind her that she is powerful, smart, and in control of her own destiny. Medical decisions can be overwhelming when you don’t have the medical knowledge base to understand. With each patient, I try to serve as their doctor, their guide, and partner in all their healthcare decisions.

UofL School of Medicine: What are your favorite aspects of working in the medical field?

Dr. Franklin: I love being a doctor. I love building relationships with people and am seeing some of my relationships reach almost a decade and a half now. I am also mentoring a Central High School student who was one of the first babies I helped deliver while I was in residency! I know I have a unique role in people’s lives. I get the honor to be a part of very intimate moments with people. Some of these moments are very special and joyful like the birth of a child. Some moments are difficult like a cancer diagnosis or a miscarriage. I am grateful for the opportunity to support my patients through the brightest times and the darkest times of their lives.

UofL School of Medicine: What advice would you give to a student wanting to pursue a medical degree to become an OBGYN?

Dr. Franklin: Many students feel overwhelmed with the amount of time required to become a physician. My advice is always that time is going to pass anyway. The question is, will you be doing what you love during that time or wasting your time doing something else? The time goes by so fast and before you know it you will be mentoring those babies you delivered 17 years ago. Also, this is not meant for everyone to do. This is meant for YOU to do. At the white coat ceremony, the constant theme was that this white coat is like a cape. You do have superpowers when you put it on. You are able to diagnose and treat disease. You are able to remove a cancer from someone’s body and extend their lives. OBGYN is such a unique field because it combines primary care and surgery. You build long-lasting relationships with women across the entire life span and that is so special.  

The University of Louisville School of Medicine thanks Dr. Franklin for her insight into the medical field and her valuable work at UofL and within our community.

Shaping the next generation of physicians through student-led service

Shaping the next generation of physicians through student-led service

Project HEAL

With the support of Dwayne Compton, EdD, chief diversity office at the School of Medicine and Eddie Miller, MD, assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health, nine first-year medical students are providing avenues for experiencing science education for Louisville-area high school students.

Project HEAL (Health, Education, Advocacy, and Leadership) is a recently founded student-led organization created to reduce barriers for high school students accessing science education with a pre-medicine focus at Louisville’s Title 1 schools. The program allows students an opportunity to meet current medical students and healthcare providers that share similarities and gain mentors who have a robust set of resources for the student to explore. The program currently serves 10th and 11th grade students at Pleasure Ridge Park High School and Moore High School.

“The goal of the program is to provide high school students with exposure to different healthcare fields and mentorship before applying to college,” said Jennifer Kreinik, a first-year medical student and executive director of Project HEAL. “My hope is to get kids excited about science and healthcare in general. By getting them excited and having the opportunity to learn from healthcare professionals, they will be more interested in exploring those career paths. That’s what Project HEAL is all about.”

Before coming to the UofL School of Medicine, Kreinik worked as a high school science teacher at a Title 1 school in Bronx, NY. “So many of my students did not realize the career possibilities in healthcare, and they never had people who looked like, or came from a similar background as them to model from. When starting medical school, I realized I was in a unique position to create a program that could really change the trajectory of young students’ lives.”

Kreinik and the other medical student leaders look forward to expanding their program to reach more schools in the Louisville community while working to expand the School of Medicine’s mission of educating the next generation of scientists and physicians. Project HEAL is helping to bridge the gaps for children who have been historically underrepresented in healthcare by providing them early access and exposure to what a career in those fields might look like.

The most rewarding part of the program, Kreinik said, is “witnessing all of the ideas and passion that my peers bring to our meetings and how quickly the group has grown.” To get involved in Project HEAL, UofL medical students should contact Kreinik or Cameron Stephens, director of recruitment, to be added to an email list that provides details of upcoming events throughout the semester, including information on monthly meetings.



Women’s History Month Spotlight: Dr. Kimberly Boland and Dr. Kerri Remmel

Women’s History Month Spotlight: Dr. Kimberly Boland and Dr. Kerri Remmel

Drs. Boland and Remmel

In US medical schools, only 23% of department chairs are women. In recognition of Women’s History month and National Doctors Day, the School of Medicine highlights its female department chairs that are paving the way for women in medicine.

Kimberly Boland, MD, a native Louisvillian, received her medical degree from the University of Louisville in 1987. She serves as a professor, chair of the Billy F. Andrews Endowed Chair of Pediatrics, and chief of staff of Nortons Childrens Hospital and Nortons Childrens Medical Group. Boland’s philosophy in life is to, “encourage people to say, ‘yes’ to opportunities that intrigue them because it will open doors and provide paths you never thought you would find.” This advice has led Boland throughout her career and landed her the astounding positions she holds today.

Training at Washington University in St. Louis at the St. Louis Children’s Hospital reaffirmed Boland’s ability to lead and reach for bigger things, pushing her outside her comfort zone. Boland’s advice for women pursuing medicine is taken from Sheryl Sandberg to “really lean in, speak up, and make sure you have a place at the table. Don’t sit in the second row. And get rid of that imposter syndrome, you deserve to be there.” To Boland, an empowered woman is a person who feels successful and supported in their role and knows they can make a difference. Her goal is to ensure all women she works with are empowered to advocate for themselves and find joy in their successes.

Kerri S. Remmel, MD, PhD, is a nationally recognized physician. She holds many titles including chair of the University of Louisville Department of Neurology and Director of the University of Louisville Stroke Center. She received her PhD in Communications Disorders and Linguistics at Louisiana State University. Remmels philosophy in her career and in life is to “do what you love, love what you do and always give more than you promise.”

Remmel’s advice for women pursuing a career in medicine is to, “Prepare and persevere. Through the ages women have been revered as healers. In modern times woman have contributed to and led medical teams in substantive ways. Numerous studies have shown improved patient outcomes when patients are cared for by women physicians, however I feel a collaborative team of women and men providers gives us a broader perspective. My advice to all students has been first and foremost to care, to collaborate with everyone and to tirelessly pursue your goals.”

The University of Louisville School of Medicine recognizes the contributions that women make to the medical field on a daily basis. We thank Drs. Boland and Remmel for their hardwork and dedication to our school and the Louisville community.

Celebrating excellence in service through community engagement

Celebrating excellence in service through community engagement

HERO Run Starting Line

Jason Beare, research manager in the department of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery, was awarded the 2023 Outstanding Community Engagement Award in the staff category at the 8th Annual Engaged Scholarship Symposium sponsored by the University of Louisville Office of Community Engagement on March 24, 2023. The intent of the Community Engagement Award is to recognize exemplary contributions that impact the well-being of the community or individuals in the community. Beare received a monetary award and his name added to a permanent recognition display in Ekstrom Library on UofL’s Belknap campus.

A 14-year employee of the University and longstanding UofL Staff Senator, Beare and his wife, Melissa, created the Louisville Honor Earned, Remembrance Owed (H.E.R.O.) Run/Walk/Ruck 5K to honor military personnel while supporting Kentuckiana-area veterans and dependent students. The event was first held in June 2022 with nearly three hundred participants, including virtual runners from Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Kosovo, and Horn of Africa.

Through the inaugural event, Beare raised more than $12,000 to benefit veterans and veteran dependents. A $7,500 donation was awarded to Veterans Club, Inc. to assist local veterans who have fallen on financial hardships. Numerous local veterans received life-changing support thanks to the donation, including a new HVAC unit for a disabled veteran caring for his spouse with severe asthma, housing assistance for a veteran and his family living in a storage unit, and food assistance for an elderly disabled veteran.

“What is more amazing,” said Kyle Hurwitz, director of the Center for Military-Connected Students, “is the enduring impact their actions will have on UofL students through their $5,000 H.E.R.O. Run/Walk/Ruck 5K contribution to UofL’s Salute to Service scholarship fund for veteran and dependent students.” Awarded for the first-time in fall 2022, the scholarship is changing lives. The first recipient was a Freshman Music Therapy major, and youngest daughter of a deceased veteran. The student is a Type 1 Diabetic, struggling to afford insulin and continuous glucose monitoring. The scholarship is allowing her to not have to choose between medical care and tuition bills and is enabling her to continue her education.

Beare was also able to bring positive attention to the University of Louisville campus, partnering with various offices in support of the event. University Athletics were involved in hosting the Start/Finish line at Cardinal Track Stadium. UofL Police provided security officers and police officers for road closures and overall safety. UofL Parking provided the barricades for road closures, and also offered free parking in the Floyd Street garage for all race participants.

“Melissa and I had no idea what to expect when we started talking about creating a charity 5K event for veterans,” said Beare. “We thought we’d be lucky to get 100 participants and donate a couple thousand dollars. The support of the UofL community has been a humbling and rewarding experience, and truly helped grow the Louisville H.E.R.O. Run beyond our wildest expectations. The 2023 event will be even bigger and better.”

The School of Medicine recognizes the importance of supporting our community, and we are proud of the engagement that Jason Beare has achieved through his service to veterans in the city of Louisville. The next Louisville H.E.R.O. Run/Walk/Ruck 5K will occur on June 3, 2023 to close out Memorial week.


First-gen American celebrates dream come true

First-gen American celebrates dream come true

Rachelle Alexander

As a first-generation American of immigrant parents from Jamaica, Rachelle Alexander's story is a testament to the power of hard work and determination. Despite facing adversity and doubters, she never lost sight of her goal of becoming a doctor and has become a trailblazer for other minority women pursuing medicine. “Pursing medicine has been a dream of mine since I was an adolescent and, from watching my parents, I learned what it meant to have a heart to help others.” Her parents instilled in her the passion to advocate for individuals with cultural and socioeconomic differences through her service as a physician.

Alexander was inspired to study medicine by her pediatrician and parents. Her pediatrician noticed how curious she was during all the routine procedures, and even offered to walk her through each step to ensure she understood. Alexander’s pediatrician left a great impact on her after expressing that she indeed would become a doctor one day. Her pediatrician's encouragement and willingness to walk her through procedures helped spark her interest and set her on the path to pursue medicine.

Alexander’s journey didn’t just comprise of a deep interest in medicine; service and volunteering were also key elements of her childhood, thanks to her parents love for giving back to the community. Growing up, she and her parents often went to serve food on Thanksgiving and Christmas mornings at the local shelter. Her parents’ dedication to help others with their hands and their time inspired Alexander to help people using similar tools. She combined her love for medicine with a passion for service and decided to pursue a career in General Surgery.

Alexander recalls her own admissions cycle to the School of Medicine and names Student Success Coordinator, Sharon Gordon, in her decision making process. "She wanted to make sure I felt prepared and she was willing to answer any questions I had about the medical school,” says Alexander. “I was amazed at how much they seemed to care about me as an individual even before I stepped foot on the campus. Upon my arrival, everyone was so kind and welcoming. I felt that if I came to this medical school, I would find family away from my family.”

Alexander's advice for those pursuing medicine: remember your “why.” “Working towards any goal often comes with struggles and going through medical school was one of my biggest challenges. Every step towards success came with another mountain I had to climb, but there is beauty in perseverance,” says Alexander. “At each stage of medical school, especially when dealing with COVID-19 and the racial injustices across America, I continued to tell myself that though I struggle I will proceed, and God has taken me through.”

The University of Louisville School of Medicine is proud to honor Rachelle Alexander for her contributions to our school and our city. She recently matched into her General Surgery residency at University of Alabama - Birmingham. We wish her all the best in her future endeavors and are confident she will continue to make a difference in the lives of her patients and community.

Potential recognized through a unique support system

Potential recognized through a unique support system

John Bowling, ENS, MC, USNR

John Bowling’s childhood was a struggle. At the age of nine, he was placed in a children’s home due to his mother’s cerebral palsy. He lived there until his junior year of high school when he relocated with foster parents, staying with them through high school graduation. Supported by his foster family and his biological mother and sister, he attended Lee University and graduated in 2013 with a degree in broadcast journalism. “I’m living proof that there are lots of kids out there who have so much potential but, due to circumstances out of their control, are unable to realize it.”

Unsure of his next step, he accepted a position through Teach for America as a high school biology and chemistry special education teacher in Hawaii. It was during his time on the Islands that he was inspired to pursue medicine. While working there, he felt a draw towards science and as much as he loved teaching, he felt a call elsewhere. Bowling spent a great deal of time with a physician mentor who encouraged him to consider medicine.

When he made the difficult decision to move back to the mainland and pursue medicine, Bowling searched for programs that would help him obtain his pre-requisite courses for medical school and found the University of Louisville School of Medicine. The Post Baccalaureate Pre-Med program offers individuals with a bachelor’s degree looking for a career change to enroll in a two-year preparation program to gain pre-med science coursework and offers assured admission to the UofL School of Medicine.

Bowling has been an active student leader during his time at the School of Medicine. He served as Historian and used his technical skills in digital media as well as his interest in social media to help document and promote the activities of his classmates. In addition, he was elected President of the Medical Student Council. During his time as president, he led a complete renovation of the medical student lounge, spearheaded initiatives to support and uplift our diversity groups, and contributed to several social events that brought all four classes together despite the COVID pandemic.

As a former teacher, Bowling brings a unique perspective to his medical practice that will undoubtedly benefit his patients. His advice for students pursuing medicine is insightful and emphasizes the importance of following one's passions. “Be sure of yourself and your decision; it will require effort and commitment beyond what you could ever expect,” says Bowling. “Surround yourself with people who encourage you and build you up, but also those who will hold you accountable. Always take time for yourself and do the things that make you happy.”

Upon graduation, Bowling will begin his career in Family Medicine with the Naval Medical Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida. “It is an honor to be able to serve in the US military and I’m beyond excited to get started this summer.” The Military Match allows medical students to practice medicine in a variety of ways across the globe. “I love traveling and adventure. My communications with the Navy confirmed my decision! I’ve made some amazing friends through boot camp and cannot wait to go active duty in May!”

Though Bowling already received his Match, the School of Medicine celebrates his accomplishments and wishes him the best in his residency and future career with our US Military!

Kentucky native has a vision for the future

Kentucky native has a vision for the future

Cameron Garner

Congratulations to Cameron Garner on his match with the University of Louisville School of Medicine Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences! It is always inspiring to see individuals who have a passion for helping others pursue a career in medicine, and Garner's dedication to his patients is truly admirable.

Garner is a native Kentuckian and knew he wanted to go to into medicine. Growing up surrounded by physicians, he was inspired by the amazing care and respect they have for their patients. He began his journey to medical school early as one of 10 Kentucky high school students accepted into the UofL School of Medicine Guaranteed Entrance to Medical School (GEMS) program. After completing the GEMS program, students are automatically admitted into the School of Medicine by maintaining a 3.4 cumulative and science grade point average in undergraduate work, scoring at or above the national mean on each section of the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), and participating fully in program activities.

At a young age, Garner’s mother was diagnosed with macular degeneration and as he observed her ophthalmologist, his inspiration for pursuing Ophthalmology only grew. With each visit they would carefully and patiently care for his mother. Garner wants to help patients in the same way physicians in his life have continued to help his mother.

For anyone interested in pursuing medicine, Garner’s advice is “to find a mentor who you trust to help you along your journey. Having someone that you feel comfortable getting advice from is crucial, because the journey to medicine is not easy, and the road does not end once you are accepted to medical school.”

Garner has already begun in his career of service to others. During his time at the University of Louisville, Garner served as a math tutor, teaching assistant in undergraduate studies, and a tutor in the medical school. As a participant in the Medical Education Distinction track, he created a Math Refresher pre-quiz module for first-year medical students to complete prior to their biostatistics course to address medical students’ anxiety surrounding mathematics.

We are proud of Cameron Garner for his hard work and dedication to the University of Louisville School of Medicine. We wish him luck on his residency and future endeavors!

Q&A: UofL environmental health researcher on leave to serve the White House

Q&A: UofL environmental health researcher on leave to serve the White House

Natasha DeJarnett

Natasha DeJarnett, assistant professor of medicine and researcher with the Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute, is spending a year away from UofL to devote her skills to improving environmental justice for the federal government.

DeJarnett has accepted a one-year fellowship as deputy director for environmental justice data and evaluation for the White House Council on Environmental Quality. The council coordinates the federal government’s efforts to improve, preserve and protect public health and the environment. It also advises the president and develops policies on climate change, environmental justice, federal sustainability, public lands, oceans and wildlife conservation.

DeJarnett is on leave from UofL for the one-year fellowship, but she will be working remotely, so she will remain in Louisville and stay connected with her UofL colleagues.

UofL News talked with DeJarnett about the fellowship and what she hopes to gain from the experience that she can bring back to UofL.

UofL News: What will be your role as deputy director for environmental justice data and evaluation?

DeJarnettThe White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) has created the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool. Version 1.0 was released in November 2022, and we’re continuing to mold it with input from stakeholders across the U.S. and experts in the field. I will continue that process and engage people and experts around the tool. We are also developing an Environmental Justice Scorecard that will track government agencies’ progress on environmental justice.

I’m very excited to see how the information from these environmental justice tools will be used to identify communities across the U.S. that are disadvantaged and thereby uniquely susceptible to the health hazards of climate and environmental exposures, but ultimately how climate and environmental justice investments in these communities will benefit health.

My interest is in advancing environmental health for everyone, particularly the populations that have borne the greatest burden, that have frequently experienced these exposures and communities that may be less resilient to these health threats. I want to help equip those communities and ensure that future actions and activities and efforts to protect health do not leave certain groups behind. If marginalized communities do not benefit from these actions, then injustice continues to perpetuate.

UofL News:  What is environmental justice?

DeJarnett: According to the Environmental Protection Agency, environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies. This goal will be achieved when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and have equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn and work.

UofL News: What are some examples of environmental injustice?

DeJarnett I have a personal example. I’m from here in Kentucky, but the greater portion of my family is from Birmingham, Alabama, where my parents and my grandparents lived in an area of environmental injustice.

Their community was home to numerous steel mills. Some still are in the neighborhood today. Also, a major interstate runs right through their community, another interstate is south of it, the airport is just south of their neighborhoods, there were hazardous waste sites and so forth. There was documented soil contamination in their community that has been remediated. But the community continues to deal with poor air quality and there are a number of health disparities present – cardiovascular disease, low birth weight and other chronic conditions.

We have similar experiences right here in Louisville in Rubbertown, which at its height, had 11 to 13 chemical manufacturers in a community that’s largely populated by low-wealth individuals and people of color. Another example is in southeastern Louisiana in an area known as cancer alley.

Flint, Michigan’s water crisis and formerly redlined communities that have warmer surface temperatures, poorer air quality and are more flood prone are other examples.

You have places where there are large industrial exposures, hazardous waste sites or other environmental toxins that people are being exposed to and we often find that those happen to certain segments of our population. It could be on tribal lands; it could be communities of low wealth.

UofL News: What do you hope to contribute to the council’s mission?

DeJarnett: My interest overall is to contribute to the advancement of environmental justice for the advancement of public health. I am super excited that I may be able to contribute to actions, activities, resources and tools that could contribute to improved health across our nation, particularly for communities that bear a heavier burden and that have higher risk.

I hope to be able to make a difference for communities like that of my family in Birmingham and Rubbertown here in Louisville, in Mossville, Louisiana and all across the nation. These and other communities have not always been given a voice in their exposure to environmental burdens and are not able to – nor should they have to – just up and move.

We all deserve clean air to breathe, we all deserve safe water to drink, and I hope to contribute to activities that support upholding those rights.

UofL News: What in your previous experience makes this a perfect position for you?

DeJarnett: At UofL, I was doing research on climate change and health and was looking at extreme heat exposure and cardiovascular disease risk as well as poor air quality and cardiovascular disease risk. In addition, I was examining environmental health disparities.

Before I came to UofL, I worked at two national nonprofits, the American Public Health Association and the National Environmental Health Association. There I did a lot of work building partnerships and facilitating opportunities for multiple people to weigh in with their expertise and contribute to an end product.

I have appreciated opportunities to build consensus among national leaders and to identify emerging trends and share environmental health resources.

In this role I’ll need to work between agencies and be able to put on multiple hats and speak to multiple audiences. I love opportunities to try to meet people where they are, find what we have in common, what values we share and how can we move from there with shared vision.

UofL News: How will this experience be helpful to you and the mission of the Envirome Institute once you return to UofL?

DeJarnett: I will get a national picture of the current state of environmental justice research and data that exists and a deeper understanding of the gaps in knowledge in environmental health and environmental injustice across the U.S. This will help me understand where academic research may be able to fill those gaps.

In addition, this opportunity will expose me to environmental justice data tools that our communities can utilize to inform local action.

Our center is committed to human health, to improving, advancing and protecting health in our communities. Environmental justice is a key aspect of health in our community. Plus, I’ll get a lot of experience with data and analysis, and that always benefits in environmental epidemiologist.

I love being at the University of Louisville. I love the expansion and direction that’s happening right here within the Envirome Institute, so I’m grateful for the support to have this life-bridging opportunity and to be able to bring that back here.

University of Louisville Appoints School of Medicine Interim Dean

University of Louisville Appoints School of Medicine Interim Dean

Jeffrey M. Bumpous, M.D., F.A.C.S.

Jeffrey M. Bumpous, MD, has been appointed to serve as interim dean of the University of Louisville School of Medicine effective July 1, 2023. Bumpous will work closely with current dean Toni Ganzel, MD, MBA, for the remainder of the semester to ensure he is thoroughly onboarded before Ganzel begins her retirement at the end of June. 

“Dr. Bumpous possesses many qualities that School of Medicine faculty, staff and students expressed wanting in an interim dean at listening sessions hosted earlier this year,” said UofL Executive Vice President & University Provost Lori Stewart Gonzalez in announcing the appointment to the UofL community. “We plan to start a formal dean search in the fall 2023 semester to fill the dean position permanently.”

Bumpous brings a wealth of experience to the appointed role. He has served as the chair of the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and Communicative Disorders at the UofL School of Medicine since 2015. He has also served as president of the Association of Academic Departments of Head and Neck Surgery (AADO-HNS), president of the Society of University Otolaryngologists (SUO), member of the Board of Directors of the American Board of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery and in a variety of other leadership roles with the American Academy of Otolaryngology, the American Head and Neck Society, the Kentucky Society of Otolaryngology, the Louisville Otolaryngologic Society and other professional organizations. 

 “I am committed to our excellent learners, staff, faculty and community and look forward to working with an outstanding and growing medical school and health system,” Bumpous said of the new role.  

Ganzel announced her retirement in early January after serving as dean of the School of Medicine for more than 10 years and serving in other leadership positions at the university for 30 years. Ganzel was the first woman in the school’s history to serve as dean.

“I have had the privilege of knowing and working with Dr. Bumpous for over 25 years and I am confident he will be extraordinarily effective in the role,” Ganzel said. “It will be an honor to pass the baton to him as I leave.”

Women’s History Month Spotlight: Dr. Shorye Durrett

Women’s History Month Spotlight: Dr. Shorye Durrett

Shorye Durrett, M.D.

The University of Louisville School of Medicine recognizes the importance of Women’s History Month and takes pride in highlighting faculty members going above and beyond for the school and the Louisville community. Shorye Durrett, MD, assistant dean for Medical Student Affairs, has been a part of the University of Louisville family since enrolling in its pre-matriculation program in 1993.   

Her passion for Ophthalmology began at a young age. In the 8th grade, her stepfather helped make an eye model using clay and a yarn spool. She entered the project in a science fair at a local university. Judges of the fair asked her to explain how the eye works internally, and thus created a ‘spark’ in her own eye. “I am humbly grateful to not only be an ophthalmologist, but actually a retina specialist,” said Durrett.

Durrett is a part of a small community of African American ophthalmologists in the U.S., where less than 5% of the country’s ophthalmologists identify as African American. In 1997, she became the second African American graduate from the University of Louisville School of Medicine to match in ophthalmology and the first African American woman resident at the University of Louisville Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences.

Durrett’s legacy of gratitude continues today. She started a non-profit called Vision Ambassadors (VisAmb) to provide “educational assistance to help students obtain terminal graduate degrees with the intent of community wealth building and service.” Durrett’s aim is to continue to build upon the rich legacies of many others, for others.  Thus, she’s busy helping establish the Mary S. Joshua Endowment Fund, Portnoy-Berberich-Payne ‘Vision Heirs’ Endowment Fund, and Dr. Delores Gordon Allyne Lecture Series to honor their legendary contributions in medical progress for all.

The School of Medicine is honored to have Dr. Shorye Durrett as a part of its faculty and a greater part of the Louisville community.

Central High School students in Pre-Medical Magnet Program receive white coats at UofL

Central High School students in Pre-Medical Magnet Program receive white coats at UofL

Central High School juniors in the Pre-Medical Magnet Program received white coats at the UofL School of Medicine on Feb. 26.

What’s normally a rite of passage for medical students has become a symbol of achievement for 33 Central High School juniors who are one step closer to pursuing a career in the medical field.

The Central High School Pre-Medical Magnet Program, which launched in the fall semester of 2022, gives west Louisville students an up-close and personal experience with a career in medicine. Students are able to shadow UofL doctors during rounds at UofL Health – UofL Hospital, scrub into operating rooms and witness surgeries, and also get practice performing simpler procedures, like sutures through this immersive curriculum.

With every white coat placed on the shoulders of a student, this ceremony serves as a reminder of goals that can be fulfilled. This historic partnership connects UofL Health, Central High School, UofL School of Medicine and the Falls City Medical Society to encourage the future generation towards a career in the medical field.

“I’m so proud of these students and I know that programs like this work. We already have and will continue to see the changes it makes to our community,” said Edward Miller, MD, assistant professor in the UofL Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health and a physician with UofL Physicians – OB/GYN & Women’s Health. “We’ve already connected dozens of students to meet, work with and befriend doctors, nurses and so many more health care professionals, and eventually that number will turn to hundreds, then thousands. These students will no longer be able to say that they have never seen a doctor that looks like them.”

As juniors in this program, these students rotated through each of the core medical clerkships from OB/GYN to emergency medicine in an effort to learn which field best suits them. In their senior year, they’ll get to choose which area of medicine they wish to pursue a future in and have one-on-one mentorship with leaders in those specialties.

“I am in awe of the determination and dedication of the students at Central High School and the eagerness of our faculty physicians to give of their time and talents to showcase to them the wonderful world of medicine,” said Toni Ganzel, dean of the UofL School of Medicine. “Part of our mission is to educate the next generation of physicians and contribute to the health and wellness of the community—locally, regionally, nationally and globally. Thanks to partnerships like this driven by our Office of Community Engagement and Diversity, our faculty physicians have the chance to instill a love for medicine early in a student’s academic career and welcome a new cohort of medical professionals.”

The pre-medical pipeline program offers educational opportunities, college credit and hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships. At the end, students will be equipped with knowledge, resources and mentorship to lead the change for this community.

“This program is an extension of the commitment to transform the health of our community by engaging with the next generation of health care professionals,” said Tom Miller, UofL Health CEO. “We want to share our passion to care for people, hoping to inspire more students to consider nursing, medical school and other health careers at UofL Health.”

Students in the Central High School Magnet Career Academy are selected for admission through a competitive process with over 100 applicants that includes achievement test scores, grade point average, personal essays and other teacher recommendations. Central has the second-highest number of Governor’s Scholars in the district. Central is one of two high schools in Kentucky to offer Montessori education.

“Donning a white coat holds special significance for our students,” said Dr. Marty Pollio, JCPS Superintendent. “Being viewed as a member of the UofL Health team is a tremendous opportunity as our students get hands on experience with the doctors and other health care professionals whose footsteps many of them hope to follow.”

The white coats, presented to the 33 juniors at UofL’s Health Sciences Center on Feb. 26, were provided by UofL Health. The pre-medical magnet program starts accepting applicants in a student’s high school freshman year. For more information on how to apply, click here

School of Medicine honors its residents on Appreciation Day

School of Medicine honors its residents on Appreciation Day

Dr. Shengnan (Shannon) Zheng

Tomorrow, February 24, is Resident Appreciation Day and the UofL School of Medicine recognizes the importance of our residents to the Louisville community. Every Resident is an essential part of the School of Medicine by ensuring proper care for patients in the clinical setting. They continually go above and beyond to ensure that we uphold our mission to improve the health and vitality of our community, our Commonwealth, and our world. Residents like Cardiology Fellow, Shengnan (Shannon) Zheng, MD, are a vital aspect of our clinical family.

Zheng serves as a patient advocate; she always seeks the best possible care for her patients. For her, it is not a job, it’s a calling. Zheng does not operate on a 9-5 schedule. Instead, she works her schedule around her patients’ needs. She embodies what we look for in our residents and places a strong emphasis on community engagement and volunteerism. She often serves local health clinics, churches, schools, blood drives, as well as outreach health clinics for the underserved and uninsured.

Zheng is a firm believer in integrity and transparency in medicine and explains everything thoroughly to her patients and their family, ensuring that they have adequate information before making any decisions concerning their health. She has arranged for transportation of her patients, assisted vehicle accident victims, and provided medical support on an international flight. For Zheng, treating people is woven into her everyday life.

Throughout her time in the cardiology program, Zheng has shown excellent leadership and comradery skills. She advocates for her program fellows, assists in covering shifts, and stays late when necessary to help others. She leads with a humble nature and is well-respected by the nurses and staff around the hospital.  She was recently voted as Cardiology Chief Fellow for the next program year.

Zheng has a professional interest in the advancement of medicine and has actively participated in multiple research projects and clinical trials at UofL. She serves as a mentor to others who have an interest in medicine and cardiology, such as participating in the American College of Cardiology’s Young Scholar Program as well as mentoring to our own medical students and Residents.

To future medical students and Residents, Zheng offers this advice: “Never give up, even if you do not see immediate results, because hard is work never wasted!”

Dr. Zheng’s, as well as all our current residents’, efforts to the School of Medicine are invaluable. The UofL community is grateful for our wonderful team of resident physicians!

Climbing Kilimanjaro to beat Huntington’s Disease

Climbing Kilimanjaro to beat Huntington’s Disease

Laura Dixon at the summit of Mount Meru in Tanzania in February 2022.

Laura Dixon is ready to climb a mountain to benefit people with a rare, inherited neurological disease.

The University of Louisville staff member and alumna is planning to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to raise awareness and support patients with Huntington’s Disease and their families.

“I decided if I was going to make this climb, I wanted to make it count. I want to make a difference for this underserved, underrepresented and often misunderstood population,” Dixon said.

The highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro is a snow-capped dormant volcano that rises 19,341 feet above sea level. After climbing nearby 14,968-foot Mount Meru in February 2022, Dixon set a goal of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with the added motivation of increasing awareness of Huntington’s Disease and raising funds for the research, education and advocacy of the Kentucky Chapter of the Huntington’s Disease Society of America (HDSA). 

Dixon has treated patients with Huntington's Disease (HD) for more than seven years as a nurse practitioner in the UofL Department of Neurology, co-director of UofL's HDSA Center of Excellence and director of the Huntington’s Disease Multidisciplinary Clinic at UofL Physicians.

Huntington's Disease is a progressive, incurable and fatal disease that causes the progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain. According to HDSA, approximately 41,000 Americans have symptomatic HD. Symptoms usually first appear in patients between the ages of 30 and 50 and can include involuntary movements, cognition difficulties and psychiatric problems such as depression and irritability. The disorder is caused by a single specific gene.

“After caring for more than 100 people with Huntington's Disease over the years, it is not lost on me how fortunate I am to have the opportunity and the physical and cognitive abilities needed to make this climb,” Dixon said. “I will be carrying my people with me every step of the way.”

UofL has the only HDSA Center of Excellence in Kentucky. The twice-monthly clinic offers multidisciplinary care for patients and families with HD, providing services in nutrition, mental health, social services. Patients also have access to physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech-language therapy and genetic counseling.

Dixon will start her seven-day ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro on March 1. To support her climb with a donation to HDSA, visit her page on their website.

Heartwheels! STEM Mobile Outreach brings heart health to life for kids

Heartwheels! STEM Mobile Outreach brings heart health to life for kids

Steven C. Koenig, PhD, with young people at a HeartWheels! demonstration.

The University of Louisville School of Medicine amplifies excellence through its students, faculty, and staff. Gretel Monreal, PhD, associate professor in the department of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery, and Steven C. Koenig, PhD, professor and endowed chair of Cardiac Implant Science in the department of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery, are upholding the long-standing tradition of giving back to the commonwealth. Together, they founded Heartwheels! STEM Mobile Outreach—an innovative experiential initiative designed to bring participation in and promote awareness of STEM fields to young people and their families, including those in rural and underserved communities. Heartwheels! helps spread awareness of cardiovascular sciences, bioengineering, biomedical technologies, and heart-healthy living through educational initiatives that give the students hands-on experiences.

Heartwheels! is a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Previously, Monreal and Koenig hosted STEM community events in their Advanced Heart Failure Research Program (AHFR) at the University of Louisville.  They would invite numerous student groups into their labs to experience fun, hands-on educational activities, but these types of events were halted due to the pandemic.

Heartwheels!STEM Mobile Outreach allows their educational program to continue reaching young people and their families. “Informal extracurricular experiential learning and educational activities trigger young people’s aspiring interests in science, technology, engineering, and math,” said Monreal and Koenig, “Participation in extracurricular STEM activities is one of the most significant factors that drives a student’s interest and passion in pursuing a STEM career.”

The School of Medicine asked Monreal and Koenig their favorite memories from Heartwheels! Koenig recalled his favorite was of a little girl who kept returning to their Heartwheels! booth to ask more questions and asking to hold one of the mechanical circulatory support devices again and again. She was very engaged with the activities and asked insightful questions.

Heartwheels! has an upcoming outreach event in Louisville on February 17-18 at the Kentucky Science Center. The event is open to the public and will allow young people and their families to learn more about STEM fields, living heart-healthy, and seeing cardiovascular and bioengineering technologies in person through fun, hands-on, and interactive engagements.

Monreal and Koenig hope the Heartwheels! program will alleviate any potential fears of STEM fields. “Hopefully it helps young people to believe that they can be anything they want to be, no matter their background or where they’re from.”

University of Louisville receives nearly $1.2 million from Humana Foundation to address community’s heart health

Grants include support for cardiac disease screening to impact health disparities among underrepresented segments of Louisville’s population

LOUISVILLE, Ky.  –  The University of Louisville joined The Humana Foundation today to announce two grants for the School of Medicine that will support dietary interventions aimed at improving heart health in the Black community.

The grants contribute to UofL’s strategic imperative to address health equity and serve as part of The Humana Foundation’s strategy to eliminate unjust and unnecessary barriers in health care.

“UofL continues to appreciate the support of The Humana Foundation in addressing health equity,” President Kim Schatzel said. “Their generous support will enable us to conduct the important work of engaging with communities of color to research the role of nutrition, food quality and diagnostic screening as they relate to heart health.”

“Every day, people face a multitude of choices that can affect their health and quality of life,” said Tiffany Benjamin, CEO of the Humana Foundation. “In too many communities, these choices are limited by factors beyond their control. That is why we are expanding healthy choices for communities and eliminating social and structural barriers, so that more people can reach their full health potential.”

Each of the three-year grants will fund regional nutrition programs. The larger of the two grants is $1,037,000 and will support the DISPARITY Trial (Dietary Intervention for primary and Secondary Prevention And Plaque Regression Investigated with Computed TomographY). The grant will support cardiac disease screening and nutrition-based interventions to address cardiac health disparities among older Black adults in Louisville.

The second grant of $154,000 is earmarked for the H.E.A.R.T. of Louisville Project: Helping Everyone Address Risk Today. The funding will support the identification of members of the Black community in Louisville at-risk for coronary disease and enrollment into long-term nutrition and lifestyle interventions.

“Food insecurity is a major problem that correlates with health care disparities,” said cardiologist Kim Allan Williams Sr., chair of the UofL department of medicine. “Nutrition education and food quality issues plague our African-American community, keeping heart disease as the leading killer of Americans. Our trials will help detect disease in those who are at risk and manage those already diagnosed using lifestyle changes, medication, enhanced access to cardiac care and advanced diagnostic imaging.”

The programs funded by both grants will include efforts to create healthy emotional connections, as a vital part of a holistic approach to care and shaping a healthier approach to nutrition to support lifelong health and wellbeing.

Staying heart healthy on Superbowl Sunday featuring Kim Williams, Sr., MD

The University of Louisville School of Medicine recognizes our faculty and staff for their excellence and insight. In honor of Black History Month, the school recognizes Dr. Kim Williams Sr., for his contributions to the University of Louisville and its community.

Dr. Williams is a renowned cardiologist and health equity expert. His inspiration behind becoming a cardiologist stem from noticing the lack of physicians within the south side of Chicago. “We really needed every kind of physician,” said Williams, “I really went into cardiology because it resonated with me personally and was enjoyable to learn about from early-on in medical school.”

His passion for cardiology and health equity was a driving force in his decision to join the Louisville community. In 2023, Williams hopes to enhance screening for heart disease by meeting people where they are: community groups, churches, and UofL sporting events. “No at-risk person should be left behind due to a lack of access,” said Williams. He intends to educate the community on proper nutrition to lower heart disease as well as increase CPR training for the Kentuckiana area. 

When asked for one easy step we can all take to improve our heart health, Williams suggests to “Focus on lifestyle. Exercise daily and consume a plant-based diet. Every meal and every mile matters.”

With Superbowl Sunday approaching, the School of Medicine asked Dr. Williams what is on his game day menu. “You might not remember that “Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche” book from the early ‘80s?  Well, somehow after sautéing the onions, celery, and bell peppers, then mixing in the mashed potatoes, I usually end up pouring the egg substitute over it, and then covering it with marinara sauce, oregano, and vegan mozzarella cheese. Yup, quiche. Except it tastes like pizza. Don’t judge it until you try it!”

Alternative appetizer suggestions included the (in)famous Dr. Kim Williams’ “Blackened” Kale. “The recipe is simple: olive oil, garlic powder, oregano, balsamic vinegar, potassium chloride (i.e., salt substitute), and nutritional yeast in a gallon bag with a lot of baby kale. Once you mix all your ingredients, shake them vigorously. Then spread the covered kale on a baking sheet and set the oven to broil. How to figure your broiling time? Take a call about a critically ill patient. Totally forget about the oven. Smell some smoke. Hear the smoke alarm. Sprint to the kitchen. Put out the fire.  Eat it anyway. They taste incredible.”

Medical students equipped with Narcan and training to prevent overdose deaths

Medical students equipped with Narcan and training to prevent overdose deaths

Clinical Professor Pat Murphy instructs first-year medical students at UofL in harm reduction and Narcan use. Photo by Kellen Murphy.

Students in the UofL School of Medicine are prepared to have a direct impact on their own communities and families years before they officially become physicians.

For the first time, 165 first-year med students received a training session to address the state’s opioid epidemic where they learned the principles of harm reduction and to use Narcan, also known as naloxone, to reverse an opioid overdose. The students also each received their own Narcan kit, equipping them to possibly save someone from an overdose.

“We learned how serious the opioid crisis is. It is an epidemic in this country. To tackle the crisis, we need Narcan to be available over the counter and we need more people trained,” said Daniel Hughes, a first-year medical student who took part in the course. “It’s good that the UofL School of Medicine is trying to get as many people as possible trained early on.”

According to the Kentucky Drug Overdose Report, 2,250 Kentuckians died from drug overdoses in 2021, a 14.5% increase over 2020, which saw a 49% increase over 2019. An opioid was involved in 90% of overdose deaths.

The 90-minute mandatory session informed the students how to respond if they encounter someone experiencing an overdose. Instructors James Patrick Murphy, a clinical professor at UofL and board member of the Kentucky Harm Reduction Coalition (KyHRC), and Christopher Stewart, associate professor in the UofL Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, also outlined the rationale and evidence for harm reduction according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

“Harm reduction is care that meets people who use drugs ‘where they are,’ on their own terms, keeping them alive and as healthy as possible by decreasing overdoses, preventing life-threatening infections and reducing the impact of diseases such as HIV and hepatitis,” Murphy said. “Harm reduction also serves as a proven pathway to additional prevention, treatment and recovery. Simply put, harm reduction is humble and compassionate care that saves lives.”

The students were shown how to use Narcan to reverse an opioid overdose and given a Narcan kit, provided by the KyHRC and valued at $100 each.

Susan Sawning, a professor in UofL’s office of medical education, was instrumental in creating the course and obtaining the Narcan kits for the students. For her, the need is personal.

“I have lost multiple people in my life to overdose,” Sawning said. “I wish their families, friends and medical professionals had had the knowledge about harm reduction our students learned through this training.”