Join the conversation, follow our blogs and get up-to-the-minute news and health information from UK HealthCare.
Join us on social media for health tips and news, as well as the latest on UK HealthCare events. You can also help us give the very best care by sharing your feedback.
The Pulse: Health and wellness blogs from the experts at UK HealthCare.
A Passion for Cleft Care »
Community Matters »
Markey Menu »
Saddle Up Safely »
UK HealthCare Delivers »
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 23, 2016) — Concerns about privacy, safety, stigmatization and quality of care have deterred members of the LGBTQ community from accessing health care services and resources. Disengagement from the health care system has contributed to many health disparities affecting the LGBTQ population.
A new coalition at the University of Kentucky is working to increase LGBTQ health care engagement and provide safe clinical environments for LGBTQ individuals seeking treatment. Transform Health is an interprofessional health care home serving LGBTQ patients in the Lexington and UK community. The university-wide initiative comprises UK faculty members and health care providers, including doctors, nurses and counselors, as well community members. The initiative seeks to improve patient care, conduct evidence-based research, market and promote LGBTQ-specific health services, and educate health care providers about customizing care to the distinctive needs of these patients.
Transform health providers, who are located at multiple UK clinic locations, offer medical treatment and services for the specific medical and psychological needs of LGBTQ patients. These nurses, doctors, counselors, and educators foster inclusive environments while providing medical treatment and services such as preventive care, hormone therapy, counseling and tobacco cessation therapies.
“Our objective is to promote health services centered on the unique needs of LGBTQ patients,” said Dr. Keisa Fallin-Bennett, an associate professor of Family and Community Medicine and Transform task force member. “Creating inclusive health care settings is not just about providing services. We are building a movement through patient care, provider training and research that aims to improve the climate of health care for LGBTQ individuals in the local community. We want patients to be able to identify a safe and welcoming space for care and be a resource for students and providers."
Transform clinics are located the UK Family and Community Medicine clinic at Turfland. Appointments are available this fall. To make an appointment or refer a patient, call (859) 323-6371 and ask for a Transform clinic appointment. Students seeking a specific hormone therapy through a Transform provider at University Health Service should as for the specific need when making their appointment. To reach UHS, call (859) 323-2778.
For more information, click here.
MEDIA CONTACT: Elizabeth Adams, email@example.com
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 22, 2016) — The Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Bluegrass (RMHC) recently honored Dr. Carmel Wallace, chair of the University of Kentucky Department of Pediatrics and physician-in-chief of Kentucky Children’s Hospital, with the 2016 Elizabeth Carey Nahra Legacy of Love Award.
The award recognizes an organization or individual whose exceptional contributions or projects have enabled the Ronald McDonald House of the Bluegrass to assist families of children hospitalized at Kentucky Children’s Hospital (KCH). Wallace founded the Helping Hands Fund, which supplements family donations to cover the charity’s operational costs through scholarships. The fund contributes $20,000 annually to the RMHC.
“Many of our KCH families reside in Eastern Kentucky and travel long distances to receive the best care possible for their child,” Wallace said. “The Ronald McDonald House Charities have provided support so parents can stay close to their children and have a place to lay their head at night. Covering the operational cost to stay at RMHC was an opportunity for us to make life a bit easier for these families.”
A native of Eastern Kentucky, Wallace has worked to ensure Eastern Kentucky families receive access to advanced pediatric care available at KCH. Through Wallace’s leadership, KCH has extended its presence in Eastern Kentucky by providing specialists and clinical services in rural communities.
Wallace accepted the award during the charity’s annual McDazzle Gala on Sept. 10. Recipients of the award are selected by the family of Elizabeth Carey Nahra, an advocate and former director of the Ronald McDonald House who passed away in 2015. Past recipients include KCH, Children’s Charity Fund of the Bluegrass and KCH neonatologist Dr. Nirmala Desai.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 22, 2016) – The University of Kentucky College of Dentistry (UKCD) has welcomed two new faculty members. Drs. Marcus Abboud and Richard Windhorn will focus on introducing enhancements in the area of digital dentistry within the College and UK dental clinics.
From Stony Brook University School of Dental Medicine in New York, Abboud comes to UKCD to serve as associate dean for Digital Dentistry. While in his previous position, Abboud was the founding chair of the Department of Prosthodontics and Digital Technology and responsible for introducing, and growing, various computer assisted planning and treatment solutions taught to dental students and used in clinics.
Abboud has authored numerous publications and lectured extensively on CAD/CAM technology, digital dentistry, implantology, bone grafting, guided surgery and CBCT/CT diagnostic imaging. Additionally, he has given many training courses on new technologies for implant treatment and acted as a consultant for various manufacturers regarding new digital technologies and implantology. He holds multiple patents around the world which provide new solutions in dentistry.
“No sensible decision in dental education, or clinic care, can be made any longer without taking into account both the dental profession as it is today and also, very importantly, what the dental profession will be,” Abboud shared. “The future of dentistry is strongly geared towards a growing number of digital innovations. It is a privilege to be part of the UK team actively participating in shaping the digital future of dentistry.”
Windhorn completed his dental degree at UKCD and went on to become a board-certified prosthodontist and fellow of the American College of Prosthodontists. He returns to UKCD to serve in the role of assistant dean for Digital Dentistry following a 30-year career in the United States Army. During his time in the Army, he served in many capacities around the world including as a general dentist, chief prosthodontist, director of the prosthodontic residency program, commander of the Army Dental Laboratory and commander of the Fort Richardson Dental Clinic.
While serving as commander of the Army Dental Laboratory, Windhorn introduced digital technology and improved workflow through the use of new scanners, mills and 3D printers. Case submission procedures were streamlined to improve turnaround times and return completed restorations to doctors in a more timely manner, helping to improve patient care.
“I am proud to have served our great nation for the last 30 years, but it is good to be back home in Kentucky," said Windhorn. "My wish is to be able to serve the College of Dentistry in the same fashion and incorporate new digital dental technology for our students, faculty, and staff to utilize. I look forward to making a difference, helping bring UKCD to the forefront of modern dentistry.”
UK is the University for Kentucky. At UK, we are educating more students, treating more patients with complex illnesses and conducting more research and service than at any time in our 150-year history. To read more about the UK story and how you can support continued investment in your university and the Commonwealth, go to: uky.edu/uk4ky. #uk4ky #seeblue
MEDIA CONTACT: Olivia McCoy, firstname.lastname@example.org, (859) 257-1076
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 22, 2016) — From the mountains and waterfalls of Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, to the rolling hills and equine landscapes of Lexington, Kentucky, Dr. Getachew Hailu endured an exhausting 17-hour trip this summer to begin his sabbatical year at the University of Kentucky.
During this year, Hailu said he hopes to observe other doctors and learn more about cancer, his main field of interest, while working at UK’s College of Medicine.
“I was already considering a sabbatical, and in January of this year, (a representative from) the UK College of Medicine made a trip to Bahir Dar and eventually convinced me to come to Kentucky,” Hailu said.
Hailu is no stranger to Kentucky. He visited in 2014 and enjoyed a tour of UK’s campus. He said he was amazed by the “kindness and receptiveness” of the people. This time around, his trip is not for tourism, but to learn more about his field of pathology and observe the medical practices in the United States.
Hailu defines pathology as the “medical discipline focusing on diseases” with his personal focus being cancer diagnosis. His interest was sparked after seeing how so many women in his home country of Ethiopia were diagnosed with breast cancer at a stage too late due to inadequate technologies. Moved by the pain his community experienced, he has devoted a significant part of his career to breast cancer research and it is something he has managed to observe in great detail during his first months in Lexington.
Though he has loved his time in Kentucky so far, he said he misses his family back in Ethiopia and is hoping his wife and three children can visit soon. Aside from the southern hospitality, Hailu said he loves the food in the Bluegrass and his favorite dish is grilled chicken and French fries.
When asked how he found his passion in pathology and cancer research, Hailu said it was as simple as wanting to help his home country with a problem that was taking many lives – breast cancer. As an expert in his field, Hailu offered a piece of advice to students who are interested in scientific research, “Look around and find the problem. The problem is something experienced largely by your community. Base your research on the problem and find the solution to help and empower your community.”
UK is the University for Kentucky. At UK, we are educating more students, treating more patients with complex illnesses and conducting more research and service than at any time in our 150-year history. To read more about the UK story and how you can support continued investment in your university and the Commonwealth, go to: uky.edu/uk4ky. #uk4ky #seeblue
MEDIA CONTACT: Gail Hairston, 859-257-3302, email@example.com
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 20, 2016) – Julia Sparks was the first person in the University of Kentucky's Adolescent Health and Recovery Treatment and Training (AHARTT) clinic to complete one of her smart goals, graduating from high school. Not only has she accomplished that goal, she’s begun working toward accomplishing a new one, getting her degree in hospitality management from Sullivan University.
Goals are an important part of the treatment plan for adolescents in recovery at the UK Psychiatry Clinic for Adolescent Substance Abuse. Each week, patients set goals and when they accomplish them they are rewarded with gift cards. Peer support is another important tool used in the clinic. Peer support specialists, like Kelli Fullenlove, have lived experience that allows them to relate to young patients.
An activity that focuses on setting goals and celebrating when they’re accomplished is fitness. People set a goal of running a faster pace, lifting a certain amount of weight or riding their bike for a specific distance. It makes sense then, that fitness would be incorporated into the treatment plan for adolescents.
Planning for the Wellness Program within AHARTT began in the Fall 2015 and was incorporated in January 2016. The program includes a Fitbit, gym membership to the YMCA of Central Kentucky, body analysis and a workout buddy in the form of a peer support specialist.
Each Tuesday and Thursday, Sparks, Fullenlove and a group from the clinic go to the gym and spend time working out and talking. This setting, outside of the clinic, provides a more relaxed space for sharing, “You can be more open at the gym, there’s not a lot of people around” Sparks said. The gym also decreases the pressure adolescents can feel to talk during a meeting. Instead, between sets or runs on the treadmill they can stop and check in and have a more casual conversation.
Fullenlove shared how leading a healthy lifestyle helps in her recovery, “It changes the way you feel; you start to feel better about yourself.” That’s incredibly important because, according to Fullenlove, “when you’re in active addiction, you feel terrible about yourself.” Sparks and Fullenllove are already feeling the benefits of their new fitness routines.
When Sparks feels her time at the AHARTT clinic is done, she’ll always have the support of someone who has been where she’s been and can relate to issues she’s having related to her recovery. The Wellness Program in the clinic means she’ll also have a gym partner to keep helping her achieve her goals.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 21, 2016) — Twenty-five years ago, Dr. Stephanos Kyrkanides began a project during his orthodontic residency studying asymmetries in children born with cleft lip and palate. It was this project that sparked the realization for him that research is crucial, that has been a driving force throughout his career.
“It was through the cleft lip/palate project, and others that I came to the realization that research is the main engine in producing new, original knowledge so we can advance our science, both in medicine and dentistry, in order to improve patient care,” Kyrkanides said.
Dean of the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry, Kyrkanides is both a dentist and neuroscientist. He came to UK last year from Stony Brook University, one of the leading public research institutions in the country.
Kyrkanides has many accomplishments including inventing Natural Enamel, a new biomaterial for use in CAD/CAM dentistry. Also, in collaboration with Dr. Kerry O’Banion (University of Rochester) and Dr. Sabine M. Brouxhon (Principal Inventor) in the Department of Surgery, UK College of Medicine, he helped develop a novel cancer drug while at the State University of New York that is licensed by COI Pharmaceuticals Inc., an Avalon Ventures/GlaxoSmithKline consortium.
During his early training in orofacial pain and temporomandibular joint disorders, Kyrkanides was assigned to a project to understand how pathogenesis of internal derangements in the temporomandibular joint created pain. This project led Kyrkanides to devote his life mission to finding answers and improving the quality of life of the 90 percent of people, over age 65, who suffer with temporomandibular joint arthritis.
Currently, Kyrkanides and his team are dedicated to researching regenerative dentistry and are working to prove that dental enamel and fillings can be made out of patients’ cells. This would eliminate having to use plastic, metal or glass for dental reconstruction.
“What I've come to realize, and what I try to teach to my own students, including student dentists, is the fact that dental school is a doctorate level program,” he said. That leads to what we call lifelong learning, so our dental graduates, for many, many years, are able to keep up with all the innovations and expansion in dentistry, for the benefit of their own patients.”
Kyrkanides has worked extensively researching pain, which led to his discovery that pain is more than just a symptom of disease but part of the disease itself in osteoarthritis. This research is the basis for what he calls central nervous system (CNS) two-way “cross-talk,” where pain is transmitted from the site to the spinal cord and brain, and then spread through the CNS from one joint to another spurring further pain and disease.
“The peak of my research career was in 2007, when our discovery of how the brain affects disease development in joints, including that of the temporomandibular joint, was picked up by popular media, in the United States and around the world,” he said. “And, we were in position to educate millions of people of a new way helping those in need, improve their quality of life, and find treatment.”
“Having joined UK from the east coast, I have realized that UK, as a campus, is the place to be as a researcher,” said Kyrkanides. He believes that UK provides a warm and encouraging environment when it comes to research.
“It offers many collaborative opportunities through its many centers, such as the Markey Cancer Center, an NCI designated center now going for Comprehensive,” he said, as well as “The Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, the Center for Oral Health, and many others. There's probably no other place where all this activity happens on one campus.”
Kyrkanides has excelled during his career and continues to accomplish more goals at UK. He believes that he is in a great atmosphere for research and has big plans to further transform the school of dentistry.
“As dean of the College, I'm committed in leading UK Dentistry into its full potential,” he said. “What I realized from the beginning, is that we have a group of faculty, staff and students that are very talented, very motivated, and willing to work hard, to join me into making UK Dentistry the number one dental school in the country, maybe in the globe.”
This video feature is part of a monthly series called ‘“see discovery:” The People Behind Our Research.’ The videos, produced by UKNow and REVEAL, highlight the important work being conducted at the University of Kentucky by telling the stories of our researchers. The idea is to discover and share what motivates our faculty, staff and students to ask the questions that lead to discovery.
UKPR&M CONTACT: Kathryn Macon, firstname.lastname@example.org, 859-257-8716
Olivia McCoy, email@example.com, 859-257-1076
UK is the University for Kentucky. At UK, we are educating more students, treating more patients with complex illnesses and conducting more research and service than at any time in our 150-year history. To read more about the UK story and how you can support continued investment in your university and the Commonwealth, visit uky.edu/uk4ky. #uk4ky #seeblue
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 20, 2016) — Jim Lester encourages others to listen to his heart.
As you adjust the stethoscope's earpieces and lean in, you hear an electronic whirr and zing reminiscent of a video game. The sound that startles others, makes Lester laugh. Apparently this is not the first time he's unleashed this parlor trick.
Just two weeks prior, Lester was gravely ill, in end-stage heart failure, the result of a lifetime of repeated heart attacks (three), blood clots (four) and a stroke. His ejection fraction – a measure of the heart's ability to pump blood – was less than 20 percent. A healthy person's EF sits in the 50 to 70 percent range.
Lester remembers the conversation with Alexis Shafii, his physician at the Gill Heart Institute. "Dr. Shafii was straight to the point," Lester remembers. "He said that I had to have an LVAD in order to survive."
A left ventricular assist device, or LVAD, is a mechanical device that helps a weakened heart pump blood. "An LVAD doesn't replace the heart," said Dr. Maya Guglin, medical director of Mechanical Circulatory Support at the University of Kentucky Gill Heart Institute. "It just helps it do its job." However, Guglin cautions, implanting an LVAD requires open heart surgery and a lifetime of maintenance, and is therefore not a good fit for every patient.
Lester was afraid of surgery. He kept asking whether there were any pills that could help him instead of this strange-looking machine.
Then he met Sarah Branam, one of the three LVAD coordinators at the Gill.
"The team asked me to do some education with Jim, since he was very standoffish about the idea of having an LVAD," Branam said. "I started discussing with him what his fears were with the LVAD, I just wanted to help relieve his concerns. And I always say, 'Where are you from?' and when he said, 'Maysville, Kentucky,' I was like, 'Well, funny thing, so am I!'"
They bonded instantly. Lester knew Branam's "Papaw," Clarence Branam, and by association knew he could trust Sarah. She understood his fear of the unknown, but could also share with Lester her experiences with many patients with LVADs.
"I got to see patients go from being in the ICU, and being as sick as they are, to seeing them with quality of life: the stamina, no oxygen tank, being able to walk farther, getting back to what they wanted to do, it was just amazing," Branam explained.
"I was awful scared, but after talking to Sarah, and finding out she comes from Maysville, why, everything leveled out," Lester said tearfully. "This little thing came in, and she would answer any questions I had, and took all my fears away."
Even better: Lester qualified for a clinical trial to implant a new version of an LVAD called HeartMate 3.
According to Guglin, the HeartMate 3 is a quantum improvement from its predecessor, with a longer battery life, smaller profile and engineering that minimizes the potential for complications like blood clots and GI bleeds.
"That the Gill was included in this major clinical trial was a coup for us," Guglin said. "It's a signal that the cardiology world recognizes our expertise, our professionalism, and our teamwork."
And, Guglin adds, this also helps fulfill the heart institute's academic mission, since high-profile trials like that for the HeartMate 3[DLC1] expose Gill trainees to the newest available technology – technology that could become standard treatment by the time they are in their own practice.
On Aug. 8, Lester was implanted with the HeartMate 3. Everyone noticed immediately how improved he was.
"The biggest thing I saw about Jim before the surgery was how hard he was struggling to breathe. And the day after the breathing tube was pulled out, he did not need supplemental oxygen," Branam said.
"It felt like I was getting too much oxygen," Lester laughs.
After a couple of weeks of recovery and therapy, Lester was discharged. What will he do with this new lease on life?
"Well, I aim to go home, sit on my front porch, watch the traffic go up and down the street, and hug my wife," Lester said.
Lester was the Gill's first HeartMate 3 patient, but three others followed within 10 days. This phase of the trial is now closed, but the UK will be involved in the next phase, a “Continued Access Protocol” that permits all qualifying patients to receive the HeartMate 3 while FDA approval is pending.
Based on her initial involvement with the HeartMate 3 trial, Guglin has great hopes for the device.
"It's an amazing feeling when you come to see the patient next morning after the surgery and their skin color is different and there is life in them," she said. "And when they are being discharged 10 days or two weeks later it's gratifying to see how much they improved on your watch because of the intervention you were able to offer."
UK is the University for Kentucky. At UK, we are educating more students, treating more patients with complex illnesses and conducting more research and service than at any time in our 150-year history. To read more about the UK story and how you can support continued investment in your university and the Commonwealth, go to: uky.edu/uk4ky. #uky4ky #seeblue
Media Contact: Laura Dawahare, Laura.Dawahare@uky.edu, (859) 257-5307
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 19, 2016) — GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, is an extremely common problem seen by both primary care providers and specialists in gastroenterology. It is estimated that 10 to 20 percent of adults in the western world are suffering from this ailment at any given time.
Multiple studies have documented a direct connection between increasing body mass index and worsening symptoms of acid reflux. With the current obesity epidemic in our country, which has taken a particularly heavy toll on the population of Kentucky, GERD is sure to effect a growing number of people in our community in the near future.
Classic symptoms of GERD include a burning feeling in one’s chest, the sensation of food in the back of the throat, sour/acidic taste in the mouth, cough, hoarseness or even outright regurgitation of food. These symptoms are often triggered by eating or laying down, and more particularly, poor eating habits or ingestion of foods known to trigger reflux. These easily avoidable eating habits include binge eating or ingestion of a few large meals throughout the day and eating within three hours of bedtime.
Foods which are known to be associated with reflux include citrus, tomatoes, garlic, onions, mint/peppermint, chocolate and greasy/fatty/spicy foods. Ingestion of alcohol, caffeine and smoking (even second hand) are also particularly problematic.
Many patients may self- medicate with OTC treatments such as calcium carbonate, ranitidine, omeprazole or even esomeprazole. As a general rule, it is not advisable to continue daily or long term reflux treatments without advice from a medical professional. The reasoning behind this recommendation is twofold. Persistent reflux may indicate a more serious medical issue and chronic usage of antacids can effect absorption of important vitamins and minerals in your GI tract increasing risk for problems such as osteoporosis, vitamin deficiencies and electrolyte abnormalities.
Alarm symptoms that should trigger a visit to your local health care provider include difficult or painful swallowing, vomiting, unintentional weight loss, anemia, visible bleeding or black stools. In most cases, primary care providers can adequately and effectively treat mild to moderate acid reflux without the need for referral to a specialty provider. Non-medicinal interventions such as weight loss, dietary changes and even raising the head of your bed at night can be extremely effective in preventing or minimizing recurrent episodes of reflux. Endoscopy is generally not recommended unless reflux is resistant to treatment or alarm symptoms are present.
GERD is an extremely common phenomenon that is bound to become even more prevalent with the worsening obesity epidemic in the United States. While over the counter treatments for acid reflux abound, persistent or alarm symptoms should always prompt consultation with a health care professional.
Primary care/family medicine professionals represent the front line for treatment of reflux and the gateway for referral to gastroenterology for refractory or alarm symptoms. They are also an excellent resource for behavioral/dietary management of chronic or intermittent reflux.
Lucas J. Kennedy, PA-C MSPAS, is a Physician Assistant in the Division of Digestive Diseases at UK Health Care
Media Contact: Ann Blackford at 859-323-6442 or firstname.lastname@example.org
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 15, 2016) — Responding to an environmental health emergency requires public health workers to enter the field, work alongside community members, and educate residents about risk-reduction measures.
And, as a group of UK College of Public Health students learned on Sept. 7, sometimes fieldwork involves unusual tasks, such as asking a complete stranger for toenail clippings.
Armed with baby wipes and sterile toenail clippers, seven UK College of Public Health students went door to door interviewing and taking biological samples from Long Lane residents in Mount Sterling, Kentucky. They joined an emergency response team from the Kentucky Department for Public Health and the Montgomery County Health Department after dangerous levels of arsenic were detected in the soil of the residential community. The interviews and samples were collected for an assessment of arsenic exposure levels and other health risk factors that public health officials must monitor in response to the residential contamination.
Two weeks ago, a manager from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) measured high levels of arsenic, a poisonous metal, in a sample taken from Long Lane. Public records showed that the residential area, classified by the DEP as a Superfund section, was the site of a wood treatment plant until the early 1990s. The wood was treated with arsenic for commercial use. Local officials believe the former owner of the plant destroyed the facility and burned the supplies, contaminating the soil with high amounts of arsenic. The property was divided and sold as residential space in the 1990s, and many of the families residing on Long Lane have lived in the community for years, unaware of the presence of arsenic in the soil. Arsenic is a toxic metal associated with respiratory disease and cancers.
“Residents are very concerned about their health,” Jan Chamness, director of the Montgomery County Health Department, said. “They are wondering if it’s going to be safe to continue living here.”
The Kentucky Department for Public Health developed a questionnaire to collect demographic, behavioral, lifestyle and health history information from each resident through oral interviews. Students were paired with a state or county health department official to assist with conducting interviews and collecting samples. Residents were asked to provide a sample of toenail clippings to be tested for arsenic exposure.
Wayne Sanderson, a professor of epidemiology, preventive medicine and environmental health and the director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health/Centers for Disease Control-funded Education and Research Center (ERC) at the UK College of Public Health, supported the students’ work, coordinated students’ participation in the emergency response in collaboration with local and state agencies. Jason Unrine in the UK College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment will lead the analysis of the nail samples.
Unrine, Sanderson and students from both colleges will then assist with coding, analysis, and the drafting and editing of the final report. They will report the results of the analysis and tests to state officials, who will determine the appropriate response. While the students acquired hands-on experience on the frontlines of an emergency response, they also provided expertise, knowledge and resources to help an underserved community.
“I think it’s important for both our state and our university community to know we are people of service, and service is an important component of our training ground,” Sanderson said. “This is clearly an important responsibility that falls to the state and county agencies, but it’s an opportunity for our students to learn and participate, and help and contribute.”
For many of the students, the project was their first experience working in the field during a real environmental health emergency response. Maria D. Politis, a second-year doctoral student, said participating in fieldwork allowed her to understand the impact of the arsenic contamination on families and individuals living in the community. Residents reported regular contact with the contaminated soil through gardening, yard maintenance or playing with children. Many residents expressed concern for the children in the community.
“You really don’t know until you come out,” Politis said. “You’re seeing where they live and what they are going through. They do care about this issue, and they are also worried about their children.”
Student April Ballard said she was encouraged to see public health workers actively engaged in communities exposed to a health threat. Fieldwork was one of the aspects of environmental health that interested her in the public health profession. She said making people aware of the risk can help them monitor their health in the future.
“If anything, it’s just building awareness,” Ballard, a master’s of public health student, said. “Public health always goes back to awareness and education.”
Long Lane residents will receive the results of their tests, feedback and long-term support from the state and county health departments.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 14, 2016) – University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto and UK Executive Vice President for Health Affairs (EVPHA) Dr. Michael Karpf today announced Karpf’s decision to retire in 2017 following the hiring and appropriate transition period for his replacement.
“My original mandate when recruited to this position by then UK President Lee Todd was to revitalize the clinical enterprise at UK incorporating both the hospital system and the College of Medicine,” Karpf said. “Since my arrival in 2003, we have made considerable progress, and I feel that the original goals we established have been achieved and we have built a strong foundation for UK HealthCare.”
Under Karpf’s leadership, in the past 13 years, UK has invested close to $2 billion for faculty recruitment, program development, technology acquisition as well as facilities, while also fostering partnerships with leading regional health providers across the state to extend care to those who need it most.
As a result, hospital discharges in the last decade have nearly doubled from under 20,000 annually to nearly 40,000. At the same time, health research into the problems most impacting Kentucky has grown considerably, capped off two years ago by legislative approval to build a new $265 million health research facility focused specifically on the most daunting health challenges confronting the state
Against that backdrop, a national search for a new EVPHA will be conducted with the goal of completing the search and allowing for an appropriate transition. Karpf, 71, will remain fully in charge of UK HealthCare until that time, Capilouto said.
“I am convinced that UK HealthCare is the greatest success story in modern academic health center history,” Capilouto said. “This is not grandiosity. The numbers show it. The faces and stories behind those numbers paint an undeniable picture of progress, compassion and care.
“Through sheer determination and a brilliance to see far ahead into the future, and, more so, to prepare for it, Mike Karpf has authored a remarkable chapter in the history of UK HealthCare, the University of Kentucky, and the Commonwealth.”
Karpf plans to transition to a part-time faculty position working on health service and health policy issues and plans to stay involved in the art, music and humanities program that makes UK HealthCare a very special place for all, he said. “These past 13 years have been challenging but immensely rewarding to me personally. I respect the colleagues with whom I have worked, especially the faculty and staff in UK HealthCare and cherish the wonderful friends Ellen and I have made here in Lexington.”
Since being recruited to UK in 2003 from UCLA, Karpf has developed advanced sub-specialty care programs comparable to those available at the nation’s very best referral, research-intensive academic medical centers. This has been achieved in great part through the recruitment of outstanding physicians and aggressively built nationally competitive tertiary and quaternary programs which have grown dramatically both in volume and quality.
“Dr. Michael Karpf has, without question, changed the face of health care in Kentucky for the better,” said Dr. Britt Brockman, chair, UK Board of Trustees. “Because of his compassion and unrelenting work ethic, we have made remarkable strides in the last 13 years at UK HealthCare toward transforming that dream into a reality. Now, with Mike’s vision and continued commitment, we will over the next several months, plan how we continue to move forward in ensuring all Kentuckians have access to the best of care from an outstanding academic medical center that exists for the sole purpose of healing Kentuckians facing the gravest of challenges.”
In addition to focusing on advanced subspecialty care on campus, Karpf has also strived to develop strong relationships with community providers by expanding and improving the services they can offer. The culmination of these efforts has been the launching of the Kentucky Health Collaborative, 10 major systems in Kentucky comprising more than 50 hospitals working together to deliver value-based care – producing the best outcomes at the highest level of efficiency.
As a result of these endeavors, UK HealthCare’s outpatient activity has grown dramatically, now exceeding 1.5 million outpatient visits per year. In addition, in 2016, UK has received more than 18,000 patient transfers from other providers compared to 1,000 patient transfers in 2003.
To accommodate this unprecedented growth, Karpf led the charge to develop a replacement hospital, known as the 12-story UK Chandler Hospital Pavilion A, which is not only “as technologically advanced as any hospital in the country, it is also an exceptionally empathetic facility – comfortable and comforting for our patients, their families, visitors, and, just as important, for our faculty and staff,” Karpf said.
As of June 2016, 96 percent of the 1.2 million-square foot Pavilion A is occupied or has received approval for finishing out.
Quotes about Dr. Karpf’s Retirement
– Dr. Britt Brockman, chair, UK Board of Trustees
“Dr. Michael Karpf has, without question, changed the face of health care in Kentucky for the better. His dream has been to ensure that no Kentuckian, no matter where they live or who they are, should have to worry about leaving the Commonwealth to receive the best of advanced care. Because of his compassion and unrelenting work ethic, we have made remarkable strides in the last 15 years at UK HealthCare toward transforming that dream into a reality. Now, with Mike’s vision and continued commitment, we will over the next several months, plan how we continue to move forward in ensuring all Kentuckians have access to the best of care from an outstanding academic medical center that exists for the sole purpose of healing Kentuckians facing the gravest of challenges.”
– Robert Vance, Chair, UK Health Care Committee, UK Board of Trustees
“The name Michael Karpf is synonymous with the concept of leadership and transformation. Under his leadership, and with his vision, an academic medical center that was struggling more than a decade ago has grown and been transformed into one of the country’s outstanding hospital systems. He has changed health care in Kentucky. Most importantly, his work – alongside talented doctors and medical professionals – is saving lives and forging a brighter path for the future in terms of addressing our state’s most daunting health care challenges. UK and Kentucky are better for his leadership, his commitment and his incredible vision.”
-- Former UK President Lee T. Todd Jr.
“While I had high expectations for UK HealthCare when we hired Michael Karpf, he has significantly exceeded those expectations. A new hospital was definitely needed but there were no thoughts that we could invest nearly $2 billion in facilities and other much-needed infrastructure through the years or generate more than $1.3 billion in revenue last year alone. The high quality of the physician and staff recruits, the focus on obtaining NCI designation, the building of relationships with hospitals throughout Kentucky and the surrounding region, and his personal commitment to patients are all indicators of his professional leadership and his personal desire to make health care better for all Kentuckians. I admire him for not only the many things that he achieved but, as importantly, for how he achieved them.”
-- Barbara Young, UK Board of Trustees and former chair of the UK Health Care Committee
“For more than a decade I have had the honor of working alongside Dr. Michael Karpf. Thanks to his far reaching vision and steadfast commitment to excellence, UK HealthCare has become one of the most respected academic medical centers in the country. Today, UK HealthCare is providing care to people in need, in our state and beyond, who in the past have had few options. Whether he is visiting with patients and families, or creating partnerships to extend the healing touch of UK HealthCare, his focus has always been on how best to make the lives of others better. That is his legacy.”
-- Cathy Jacobs, Philanthropist, Lexington
"His outstanding leadership of — and his passion for — the University, along with his compassion for the people it serves, will be felt and appreciated for many years to come."
-- Myra Leigh Tobin, UK Board of Trustees 2002-2008; UK HealthCare Community Member 2008-2015
“I was on UK's Board of Trustees and its Healthcare Committee when Dr. Karpf arrived in Lexington. His leadership was evident from his first week and his passion for serving this community is still just as strong today. I am particularly proud of him for initiating the Arts and Music Healing Program at the hospital. This has been appreciated by patients, family, and the Lexington community. He set high standards of performance, excellence in execution of the delivery of health care services, and achieved outstanding results because he believed in partnerships.”
-- U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky
“Dr. Michael Karpf’s retirement will be a great loss for the University of Kentucky and for our Commonwealth. He’s made a transformational impact on UK thanks to his vision and leadership. He was instrumental in bringing competitive health research funding to UK, and in earning national recognition and additional funding for the university’s Markey Cancer Center. I’ve enjoyed working with him over the years on many projects to benefit the university and Kentucky. Elaine and I send him and his family our best wishes.”
-- U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington
“On behalf of the people of Central and Eastern Kentucky, I want to thank Dr. Michael Karpf for his outstanding contributions to the University of Kentucky, as well as his commitment to improving health care throughout his long career in medicine and research. While his leadership will be missed, I congratulate him on his retirement and wish him and his wife Ellen the best.”
-- Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester
“Dr. Karpf has been the driving force in developing networks between UK HealthCare and community hospitals in the rural parts of Kentucky that have helped those hospitals remain economically sustainable. Those partnerships have also aided our communities and, most important, the thousands of patients that benefit from care closer to home - several of whom I know personally. On campus, his leadership in advancing biomedical research and the drive for National Cancer Institute designation for the Markey Cancer Center helped provide the General Assembly with the comfort that the new $265 million research building currently under construction would be a great success in attacking the health disparities of Kentuckians. He will be sorely missed.”
-- House Majority Floor Leader, Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook
“In my time working with Dr. Karpf he has not only approached his job as a true professional but always managed to treat patients and their families with a very personal, human touch. Furthermore, the partnerships he formed with Morehead State University and St. Claire Regional Medical Center to help educate more healthcare professionals in and for eastern Kentucky will greatly improve quality care in our region for many years to come.”
-- Bob Quick, President and CEO, Commerce Lexington
"Dr. Karpf's legacy will be felt for generations to come. He has been a transformational leader in health care, an excellent partner in economic development and totally committed to advancing the Commonwealth's health, wellness and prosperity (economic) efforts."
-- David Adkisson, President and CEO of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce
“Dr. Karpf has been a transformation leader for healthcare, for Lexington and for Kentucky. From building that massive hospital during a recession when people desperately needed jobs, getting the cancer center recognized nationally and working with the other hospitals across the state on Kentucky’s wellness issues, Dr. Karpf led on all those fronts and we’re all better off for it.”
-- Michael Rust, President and Chief Executive Officer, Kentucky Hospital Association
“Dr. Karpf has been an extremely valuable member of the Kentucky Hospital Association. He served on our Board of Trustees for four years and his knowledge and expertise has provided great leadership and insight as we face Kentucky’s many health care challenges. He will be greatly missed by the hospitals and the patients served in the Commonwealth.”
-- Stephen A. Williams, CEO, Norton Healthcare
"In my 44 years of health care administration in Kentucky, Mike Karpf is the most committed, hard working and effective health care leader I've known. He has advanced health care not only at UK but for the entire Commonwealth, and I continue to appreciate the opportunity to work with him as a respected colleague and as a great friend."
-- Joe Grossman, Appalachian Regional Hospital President and CEO
"ARH appreciates the vision and leadership of Dr. Karpf and his passion for improving the availability of advanced healthcare services to the rural areas ARH serves in eastern Kentucky and southern West Virginia. Dr. Karpf has always supported keeping patients in their home communities for care and close to their support network of family and their local physician, when possible. Under his guidance, ARH has partnered with UK HealthCare on a number of critical services such as cardiac, stroke and oncology. These partnerships offer our patients a seamless system of care between ARH and UK HealthCare, enabling them to receive care at their local ARH hospital while also having access to UK's broader range of specialists and services when necessary. We appreciate all Dr. Karpf has done for ARH and the great strides in health care UK has made under his direction."
-- Connie Smith, Chief Executive Officer, Med Center Health at Bowling Green
“Dr. Michael Karpf is a unique and talented person, a great friend and a valued colleague. Under his leadership, UK HealthCare and Med Center Health have developed innovative partnerships that will benefit patients in our region and throughout the Commonwealth for years to come. I congratulate Mike and look forward to our continued friendship.”
Dr. Michael Karpf Biosketch
Michael Karpf, MD, has served as the executive vice president for health affairs at the University of Kentucky since October 2003 when he was recruited to Lexington, Kentucky, to integrate the university’s clinical services. He is responsible for all clinical operations across the university – known as UK HealthCare – and encompassing two hospitals, a variety of ambulatory practices, and clinical activities of the UK College of Medicine and five health profession colleges.
In his tenure at UK, Dr. Karpf has led UK HealthCare through two major strategic, financial and capital planning processes with a focus on strengthening local health care and improving the Commonwealth’s delivery system by partnering with community hospitals and physicians. Over the years, these relationships with other providers have matured to the point that in 2016 UK HealthCare joined nine other hospital systems in establishing the Kentucky Health Collaborative.
In the same timeframe, more than $1.8 billion has been invested in facilities, technology and programs to support the growth of advanced subspecialty programs. Hospital discharges have nearly doubled, and transfers from community hospitals to UK HealthCare are nearing 19,000 a year. Today, UK HealthCare ranks in the 75th percentile of academic medical centers (AMCs) for both patient volume and case complexity. Overall, improvements in the quality of care and patient safety led to UK HealthCare winning the UHC Rising Star Award in 2013 and becoming a national leader among AMCs in patient safety in 2015.
Michael Karpf received both his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Pennsylvania. After an internship in medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital, he served as a research associate in the Laboratory of Immunology at the National Institutes of Health. He returned to the University of Pennsylvania to complete his medical residency, fellowship in hematology and oncology and a chief residency in internal medicine. In 1978, he went to the Miami Veteran Administration Hospital to start a Division of General Internal Medicine.
In 1979, he was recruited to the University of Pittsburgh to develop a Division of General Medicine. In 1985, he assumed the Falk Chair in General Medicine and became vice chair of medicine. At the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Karpf was instrumental in restructuring the educational programs for medical students and housestaff, as well as the clinical programs of the Department of Medicine. He established a large Division of General Internal Medicine which served as a model for other programs.
In 1994, Dr. Karpf went to Allegheny Health Systems as senior vice president for clinical affairs at both Allegheny General Hospital and the Allegheny Integrated Health Group. In 1995, he was recruited to UCLA as vice provost for hospital systems. There he integrated the UCLA Medical Center, the Santa Monica /UCLA Medical Center and the Neuropsychiatric Hospital into one corporate entity. He was instrumental in developing a primary care network and reorganized the practice management organization for the medical group.
Dr. Karpf’s academic interests have been in developing and evaluating innovative educational and clinical programs. He established the Primary Care Training Residency and the General Medicine Fellowships at the University of Pittsburgh. At UCLA and at the University of Kentucky he has been instrumental in establishing a Center for Patient Safety and Quality and the Ethics Center.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 15, 2016) — Robert DiPaola, dean of the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, was featured during "UK at the Half" that aired during the UK at Florida football game, broadcast on radio Sept. 10.
DiPaola, who came to UK March 1, talks about his impressions of the college and the university, including the collaborative nature, strong leadership and strength of faculty.
To hear the Sept. 10 "UK at the Half," click on the play button below. To view a transcript of the show, click here.
"UK at the Half" airs during the halftime of each UK football and basketball game broadcast and is hosted by Carl Nathe of UK Public Relations and Marketing.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 13, 2016) — Individuals who inject drugs are at risk of endocarditis, a bacterial infection that enters the bloodstream and clusters on the valves of the heart. The infection requires prolonged antibiotic treatment and, in some cases, surgery. Without intervention, the infection can be fatal.
In the past 10 years, the number of patients presenting to U.S. hospitals with endocarditis has doubled with the proliferation of prescription opioid and heroin addiction. Endocarditis requires a team of providers, including doctors trained in infectious disease, cardiology and cardiothoracic surgery, working together to manage the condition through antibiotic therapies and heart valve repair or replacement procedures. Patients with opioid use disorder receive evidence-based treatment to repair their hearts. But the underlying cause of endocarditis —opioid addiction — lacks evidence-based treatment and intervention during hospitalization.
Two health care providers at the University of Kentucky called attention to the need to integrate treatment of substance use disorders during acute care hospitalizations in a recent article published in the New England Journal of Medicine. In the article, Dr. Laura Fanucchi, a UK HealthCare internist and faculty member in the Center for Health Services Research, and Dr. Michelle Lofwall, an addiction medicine specialist and psychiatrist at the Center on Drug and Alcohol Research, delineated the course of treatment for an addicted patient admitted to the hospital for endocarditis. Without evidence-based treatment for addiction, this patient returned to injection drug use after discharge. He suffered a recurrence of endocarditis, required subsequent heart valve replacement surgery and died from complications after another prolonged hospitalization.
Although tragic, this patient’s case illustrates a common outcome for endocarditis patients with an untreated opioid addiction. Patients who continue to participate in injection drug use after their initial surgery are at risk of a repeat infection and life-threatening complications. Addicted patients who receive a heart valve replacement are 10 times more likely to die or require reoperation between 90 and 180 days after the initial surgery than other patients. These cases also overburden health care providers, who might perceive the valve replacement procedures as futile, and cost the health care system billions for inpatient care.
“Currently, we are not routinely assessing the severity or treatment needs of the underlying opioid use disorders, initiating evidence-based treatments, and supporting risk reduction,” Fanucchi said. “Though opioid use disorder is a complex medical illness amenable to treatment, stigma and conflict unfortunately continue to influence care, frustrate providers and marginalize patients.”
The authors argued hospitalization for conditions such as endocarditis present medical teams with opportunities to introduce medication-assisted therapies (MAT) for opioid use disorder such as buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone. Fanucchi and Lofwall implored medical providers to integrate substance use disorder assessments, MAT, and harm-reduction measures into the treatment process.
The authors also demonstrated that the current system for advising opioid users during acute care has failed to produce positive outcomes. Patients with opioid use disorders and endocarditis are often hospitalized for weeks to administer antibiotic therapies. Forced withdrawal from opioids during hospitalization creates tension between the patients and health care providers and sometimes leads to early discharge. Health care providers often interpret requests for opioid medications during hospitalization as drug-seeking behaviors. Patients are discharged from the hospital lacking sufficient treatment for their addiction, often returning to injection opioid use, which can lead to a recurrence of endocarditis.
Fanucchi and Lofwall aim to develop an evidence-based mechanism for integrating MAT as a simultaneous treatment during hospitalization for acute problems. The researchers are conducting a study to assess the needs of opioid-addicted patients who are admitted to UK HealthCare with endocarditis. They plan to use the results to inform the medical community of how to address opioid addiction in the most beneficial manner for patients, providers and the health care system at large.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 13, 2016) – The following column ran in the Lexington Herald-Leader Sunday, Sept., 11, 2016.
Unbearable snoring is often the reason sleep apnea is diagnosed. Sleep apnea occurs in about 18 million Americans, or about one in 15 people. The two types of sleep apnea are central and obstructive. Central sleep apnea is less common and is often associated with other conditions, like stroke. It occurs when the brain does not tell the muscles to breathe. Obstructive sleep apnea is more common and is caused by a repetitive (partial or complete) airway collapse which prevents air from reaching the lungs.
Sleep apnea can have negative consequences if it goes undiagnosed and untreated. First, it can cause chronic tiredness, which can lead to cognitive impairment including trouble concentrating and memory problems. Cardiovascular problems can also occur, the most common issue caused by sleep apnea is hypertension.
Often times, when a patient is not responding to medication for hypertension it may be due to undiagnosed sleep apnea. Additionally, the regulation of glucose levels can be negatively affected by lack of sleep; this problem increases the risk of diabetes.
Some people are more likely to be affected by obstructive sleep apnea. A high Body Mass Index is the number one indicator of sleep apnea. The higher the BMI, the greater risk for obstructive sleep apnea. Having a large neck circumference is another indicator. Men are also at higher risk than women, that is, until menopause when the risk increases for women. Smokers are also at increased risk. A large uvula and long soft palate, big tongue, deviated septum and enlarged tonsils can also cause the disorder.
In the 1950s sleep behaviors started being studied and became part of medical care. In the 1970s sleep clinics were developed so people could be monitored and diagnosed with sleep disorders. Today, sleep physicians are able to diagnose the disorder and decide on a course of treatment, which can include referral to a dentist.
The most common treatment option is a CPAP machine, which a patient wears that works to keep the airway open with steady airflow. Oral appliances can be used to move the lower jaw forward to improve airflow. Surgery is a less common treatment option, tonsilectomies may be done when the cause of the sleep apnea is enlarged tonsils.
Behavioral modification is a treatment option that should go along with other treatments. For example, if a patient is overweight weight reduction could be a solution, quitting smoking or changing sleeping positions can also help.
Sleep is an incredibly important part of living a healthy life. Anything that gets in the way of a sound night of sleep needs to be addressed and remedied.
Dr. Isabel Moreno-Hay is an assistant professor in the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry’s Orofacial Pain Clinic
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 7, 2016) – On his 45th birthday, University of Kentucky employee Jimmy Thomas got some dire news. After weeks of feeling under the weather, Thomas was diagnosed with leukemia on Sept. 8 of last year.
“The news from my doctor telling me that I had leukemia was shocking and devastating,” Thomas said. “As many times as I’ve visited friends and family in Markey, I never thought in a million years that I myself would be a patient there.”
Thomas underwent several rounds of chemotherapy at the UK Markey Cancer Center. As the months passed, the prognosis looked good: his cancer appeared to be in remission. After being off of work for 11 months, he was finally cleared to return to his job.
But on Aug. 12, a mere few weeks after returning to UK, his routine bloodwork and a bone marrow biopsy showed that leukemia had come back. Thomas was readmitted on Aug. 22. This time, he’ll need a bone marrow transplant to beat the cancer if he can get back in remission. As an African-American — a population that only makes up roughly 7 percent of the bone marrow registry – Thomas knows that finding a bone marrow match will be difficult for him.
For the second year in a row, Thomas will spend his birthday as an inpatient at Markey. But to make the day as special as possible, his family came up with a plan: since Thomas cannot leave the hospital, they’re bringing the party to him.
On Sept. 8 at 6 p.m., Thomas’s friends, family, UK coworkers and others will gather at the Markey courtyard to sing “Happy Birthday” to Thomas as he sits on the balcony of the inpatient floor. Attendees have been asked to wear orange, bring orange balloons or carry orange signs in honor of National Leukemia Awareness Month in September.
Immediately following the serenade, Thomas’s family, along with a representative from Be The Match, will be in the Combs Atrium with a supply of bone marrow registry kits from the Be the Match registry. Testing only requires a sample of cells, taken with cotton swab on the inside of the cheek. The kits will be mailed back to Be the Match and added to the registry.
Joining the registry is not a guarantee that you will be asked to donate – some people are never called; others may be called multiple times as a potential donor. Additionally, medical research shows that younger donors are best for patients and provide the greatest chance for transplant success. Because of this, doctors request donors in the 18 to 44 age group more than 95 percent of the time and the cost for this age group to sign up on the registry is free. Potential donors age 45 and older can participate but must enroll online and are required to make a $100 payment to cover the cost to join the registry. Potential donors over the age 44 are also able to join the registry through another donor site, DKMS, for a slightly lower fee of $60.
Though there’s no guarantee that any participants in their bone marrow registry drive will be a match for Thomas, he hopes the event will at least help raise awareness about bone marrow donation and the need for minority donors. While he says that dealing with the disease itself and side effects from chemotherapy are hard, knowing that he might face difficulty finding a bone marrow match is even harder.
“I guess the hardest part of it all is knowing that my best chance of survival is a bone marrow transplant and knowing that there’s such a low percentage of finding a possible match because I’m African-American,” Thomas said. “I encourage, plead, and beg not only African-Americans, but everyone to sign up on the National Bone Marrow Donor registry. There still might not be a match out there for me after people sign up, but at least it will give someone else a better chance for a life-saving match.”
Visitors are welcome to attend both Thomas’s birthday serenade in the Markey courtyard and the ensuing bone marrow registry drive at 6 p.m. Thursday evening. Public parking is available in the UK HealthCare garage on the corner of South Limestone and Transcript Avenue.
If you are interested in joining the Be the Match registry but are unable to attend the drive, visit Be the Match for information on requesting your own testing kit.
MEDIA CONTACT: Allison Perry, (859) 323-2399 or email@example.com
This column originally appeared in the Sept. 4 edition of the Lexington Herald-Leader.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 6, 2016) — In the formative years of adolescence, teens test their limits and push their boundaries, often with the expectation of emancipation through a driver’s license.
Parents must provide a safe passage to adulthood while guarding teens against risky behaviors. But parents rarely pause to consider the risks associated with handing the car keys to an inexperienced adolescent driver.
Driving a car is the riskiest and deadliest adolescent activity. Every year, 5,000 youth die in motor vehicle crashes, which are the leading cause of death for this age group. Early drivers ages 16 to 19 are twice as likely to be involved in a fatal crash than drivers in the 20 to 24 age group. Every year, 450,000 teens are injured in a motor vehicle accident and 27,000 will require hospitalization.
Both parents and teens are responsible when an inexperienced youth gets behind the wheel. Earning a driver’s license is only a first step in becoming a safe and responsible driver. In addition to a lack of experience, youth drivers increase their risk of accidents by engaging in high-risk behaviors, such as driving on dangerous roads, traveling with too many passengers, texting or using a phone with driving, and driving while intoxicated. Teens who abstain from risky driving behaviors and understand the parameters surrounding their privilege to drive are more likely to avoid an accident.
Most teens consider driving an entitlement rather than a privilege, disregarding the fact that adolescent accidents are commonly linked to distractions, intoxication from drugs and alcohol, and inexperience or failure to follow traffic laws. Parents have the duty to reinforce driving as a privilege that carries tremendous responsibility. While parents can’t always control their child’s driving habits and decision-making, they can impart the importance of responsible driving to teens and set boundaries. There are two effective ways for parents to promote safe driving in teens.
1. Model safe driving behaviors. Teenagers are highly impressionable, so parents must exemplify safe driving behaviors if they expect to see the same standards upheld by their children. Always put the phone away while driving and never text and drive. If you must communicate or it’s an emergency, pull off the road and put the car in park before picking up the phone. Respect the law and never drink any amount and drive. Avoid rushed or frantic driving, and never drive over the speed limit. Give yourself plenty of time to reach your destination and observe traffic laws.
2. Create a driving contract with your teen. For teens, the excitement of driving can overshadow important safety concerns, so put everything in writing with a driving contract or agreement. The contract should address some of the social pressures of driving teens may experience, such giving friends rides or using the car for speed. There should be a zero-tolerance policy for phone use, as well as drug or alcohol use in the contract. Parents can incentivize driving by requiring good standing in academics to maintain driving privileges. The contract should also outline the consequences of violating the contract as well as the legal repercussions of violating traffic laws or using substances while driving. If a teen does drink or use drugs, they should know their only safe option is calling a parent for a ride home.
The American Academy of Pediatrics developed a safe driving agreement that covers many driving concerns for teens and sets rules for avoiding distractions, limiting passengers, obeying traffic laws, and driving drug- and alcohol-free. Visit www.healthychildren.org or click here to access the template.
Dianna Inman is a pediatric nurse practitioner, pediatric primary care mental health specialist and assistant professor in the UK College of Nursing.