UK Research Project to Focus on Lung Cancer, Pediatric Obesity in Appalachia

Sun, 05/18/2014 - 18:43

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 19, 2014) -- The University of Kentucky Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS), in conjunction with the Appalachian Translational Research Network (ATRN), has awarded funding to two projects to develop sustainable, interdisciplinary, community engaged research in Appalachia.


"Raising Awareness About Lung Cancer Screening: Kentucky Terminate Lung Cancer (TLC) Study," will partner with community-based organizations and focus groups to create an awareness campaign encouraging high risk individuals to obtain lung cancer screening.  The second project, "Circadian Rhythm Parameters and Metabolic Syndrome Associated Factors in Young Children," will examine circadian rhythm parameters and associated health risks and behavioral factors of children in Clay County.


Each project will receive $100,000 over two years to build partnerships between academic researchers and community stakeholders. It is the first pilot funding opportunity from CCTS to require that projects have a community advisory board and that responsibility for the study is shared between the academic and community partners.


"This is the first time we've put called for proposals specifically for sustainable partnership," said Tom Curry, director of the CCTS pilot program.  "The idea is that this infrastructure that will come out of the project will stay in place after the funding period."


Dr. Roberto Cardarelli, chief of community medicine in the Department of Family & Community Medicine at UK and director of the Kentucky Ambulatory Network, is the principle investigator of the lung cancer screening project, which is co-funded by the UK Markey Cancer Center. Cardarelli says that Kentucky's lung cancer rates - the highest in the country for both incidence and mortality - demand collaborative, interdisciplinary action that works with communities to develop the most effective interventions. The project thus involves collaboration between UK doctors and researchers, the UK Center of Excellence in Rural Health at Hazard and Morehead, the University of Pikeville/ Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine, the Kentucky Cancer Program, the Kentucky Cancer Consortium ,and the Appalachian Osteopathic Postgraduate Training Institute Consortium. 


Using the input of a community advisory board and focus groups comprised of 72 community members in Hazard, Pikeville and Morehead, the research team will develop a population-based awareness campaign to encourage high risk individuals to obtain lung cancer screenings, the guidelines for which changed in December 2013. Cardarelli's team will also work to inform physicians in those counties about the changes in the screening guidelines.


"We're trying to determine the best way to reach this target population," Cardarelli said. "Working with community focus groups will help us focus on what we should do with the awareness campaign, versus just trying to guess what might have a meaningful reach to this high risk population."


The project will also assess the impact of using community health workers from Kentucky Homeplace to promote lung cancer screenings. Kentucky Homeplace is housed at the UK Center for Excellence in Rural Health and works to address the "lifestyle choices, environmental factors, inadequate health insurance and general lack of understanding of the healthcare system" that contribute to health disparities of rural populations. Furthermore, the community health workers will be trained to conduct the focus groups, a skillset that they could use in future projects as well.


"We're not going to be successful if we don't listen to our communities," said Dr. Fran Feltner, director of the UK Center for Excellence in Rural Health.


The second project, "Circadian Rhythm Parameters and Metabolic Syndrome Associated Factors in Young Children," is led by co-principle investigators Dr. Jody Clasey, associate professor in the department of kinesiology and health promotion, and Dr. Karyn Esser, professor in the department of physiology. The project draws on the diverse expertise of UK researchers from public health, kinesiology, and physiology in collaboration students and staff of Clay County public schools. The project will use a new, noninvasive skin temperature monitoring system with activity monitors to analyze the potential impact of circadian rhythm disruption as a contributing risk factor to the development of obesity and metabolic syndrome in school children.


Clasey says that the research team hopes to learn about the relationship between circadian rhythms, feeding and activity behaviors and the incidence of overweight and obesity in children. Previous studies have demonstrated circadian rhythm disruption is associated with increased risk for metabolic disease in adults.  With new findings implicating time of feeding and time of activity as contributors to circadian health there is reason to believe that these lifestyle factors may contribute to metabolic health in children, but to date, very little is known. 


Kentucky has elevated rates of childhood obesity and overweight, but the incidence is particularly high in rural Appalachian areas.


"We have an epidemic of obesity, and there's a fair amount of evidence that there's some sort of relationship between obesity and circadian rhythms, but we don't really understand the direction of that relationship," said Dr. Mark Swanson, associate professor in the UK College of Public Health and a member of the research team. "With nearly half the kids in the Clay county schools being overweight or obese, we need to get a clear understanding of all the factors related to obesity."


The research could also identify potential ways the school systems may work to better align the structure of the school day with children's natural body cycles.


"We're hoping that this will give us information to better structure our school day so that it to matches students' circadian rhythms and they can get the most out of their educational experiences," said Dr. Deann Allen, who works as the instructional supervisor, district assessment coordinator, and district health coordinator for Clay County public schools.  


A particularly unique aspect to the project is that it gives the fourth and fifth grade Clay County students first-hand experience in the research and data collection. The students will wear small monitors, about the size of a watch battery, on their wrist for a week to gather physiological data. The students will also report each day on their sleep and eating activities. In exchange for their participation, the students will be rewarded with a field trip to UK's campus and a bookstore.


"This is a chance for our students to interact with real researchers," said Allen. "And we want to make sure that every child, whether in the city limits or on the banks of the Kentucky River, has the same opportunities."


The project builds upon a partnership that was originally initiated by Dr. Jill Day, a Clay County native turned UK faculty member, who partnered with the Clay County school system to study the relationships between physical activity, body composition, and academic achievement in rural children for her Ed.D dissertation at UK.


Allen describes Day as a local hero who is inspiring a generation in Clay County.


"She has a servant's heart and she wants to give back to her community, and what better way than to influence the next generation of scientist," Allen said of Day.


Day knows that for some of the students, the trip to UK will be the first time that they've left Eastern Kentucky.


"For some of them, it will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that they've never had-- to come here to UK and see that there's more than that what's in their hometown, and get them excited about science and research and their own health."



MEDIA CONTACT: Mallory Powell,

College of Health Sciences Faculty Member Named Red Cross Hero of the Year

Fri, 05/16/2014 - 16:15


LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 19, 2014) − For the second year in a row, the UK HealthCare nominee submitted by the University of Kentucky College of Health Sciences, has won the Red Cross Hero of the Year award. Lynn English, associate professor and director of clinical education in the Division of Physical Therapy, is this year's recipient.


 English's work with the Samaritan's Touch UK Student Physical Therapy Clinic and with Shoulder to Shoulder Global earned her the Red Cross 2014 "Hero of the Year" Award. The award was presented to her May 15 at the Marriott Griffin Gate Resort following the seventh annual Heroes Campaign, sponsored by the Bluegrass Chapter of the American Red Cross.


Samaritan's Touch UK Student Physical Therapy Clinic is led by UK physical therapy students and supervised by English two nights a week. The clinic offers free physical  therapy services to under insured and uninsured individuals. Previously located at the Salvation Army in Lexington, Samaritan's Touch UK Student Physical Therapy Clinic is currently located in UK HealthCare's  Samaritan Hospital Physical Therapy Center and works in collaboration with the Samaritan Rehabilitation Department.


English also supervises the coordination of the physical therapy component for UK's Shoulder to Shoulder Global efforts in Ecuador since 2008.  Shoulder to Shoulder makes three trips a year to Ecuador to work with community partners to provide physical therapy services to impoverished and underserved individuals. English says that seeing how repeat care has changed and improved the lives of others has inspired her to keep working.


"I have a strong sense that part of being a physical therapist should include being altruistic and thinking of those who don't have access to care," English said. "I encourage physical therapy students to consider the service component of their careers."


The Heroes Campaign is a community awareness and fundraising campaign that seeks to recognize those individuals who are making a difference in the community, while also supporting the local Red Cross through financial contributions.  “Our goals were to strengthen the local Red Cross chapter, educate our constituents about the programs and services offered by the American Red Cross, and recognize community heroes,” stated Terry Burkhart, chief executive officer of the Bluegrass Chapter.


A campaign team of 35 community leaders, led by co-chairs Lexington Vice Mayor Linda Gorton and her husband Charles, began work in February and successfully raised more than $106,000 to support local Red Cross programs and services.  Campaign donors were eligible to nominate 2014 Red Cross “Hero of the Year” candidates.


This was UK HealthCare's third year in a row to win the Hero of the Year Award. Last year's winner was Linda Allen from the Student Admissions Office and the 2012 winner was Vicki Blevins Booth with Kentucky Pink Connection.   


Media Contact: Ann Blackford at 759-323-6442 or 

Kentucky Hospital Officials Meet to Discuss Preserving Vital Drug Discount Program

Fri, 05/16/2014 - 07:33

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 16, 2014)  —  More than 50 Kentucky hospitals met May 16 at the University of Kentucky to discuss threats to a little-known federal program that helps them serve low-income and uninsured patients across the Commonwealth.


Since 1992, the 340B drug discount program has allowed hospitals that treat large numbers of needy patients to buy reduced-price medications from drug companies. Providers then pass these discounts on to patients through reduced cost or free prescriptions. Hospitals also use savings generated through the program to fund services as diabetes, cancer, dental and HIV/AIDS clinics.


The pharmaceutical industry has raised concerns about the growth of 340B and is lobbying in Washington to place significant restrictions on the program such as cutting the number of hospitals that can access the discounts.  There are 62 hospitals in the Commonwealth that participate in the program including large health systems such as Appalachian Regional Healthcare, academic medical centers such as UK HealthCare and the University of Louisville Hospital as well as numerous small rural hospitals.


“The program allows us to reach more patients with high-quality care and discount medications,” said Ann Smith, chief administrative officer for UK HealthCare. “Without it, we would be forced to cut back and close vital services to needy Kentuckians.”


While the program has been expanded in recent years to rural hospitals, it still represents just 2 percent of the annual $329 billion U.S. pharmaceutical market. “Not only is it not taxpayer funded, it helps save public dollars by keeping outpatients healthier and out of the emergency room”, said Ted Slafsky, president and CEO of Safety Net Hospitals for Pharmaceutical Access, a non-profit group that represents the hospitals in 340B.


“Even with the arrival of the Affordable Care Act, it’s estimated that 31 million Americans will remain without health insurance,” said Slafsky. “The 340B program is an absolutely vital resource for health providers to help patients who cannot afford to pay for care.”


Media Contact:  Kristi Lopez,



UK Police to Trade in Handcuffs for Aprons

Thu, 05/15/2014 - 17:02

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 16, 2014) — Local law enforcement agencies, including officers from the University of Kentucky Police Department, will trade in their handcuffs and badges for aprons and wings this coming Wednesday (May 21) at the Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant location at 3090 Old Todds Road in Lexington. The “Buffalo Wild Wings Cops Gone Wild for Special Olympics Kentucky” event will last for five hours, from 4 to 9 p.m. at the popular hangout.


UK Police and personnel from other police agencies will be collecting tips and helping  to serve restaurant guests, as well as participate in a “wing eating” contest.


In addition to UK, participating law enforcement agencies include the Lexington Police Department, Fayette County Sheriff’s Office, LFUCG Community Corrections, Transylvania University Police Department, and ATFE personnel.


Proceeds will benefit Special Olympics Kentucky, part of the world’s largest program of sports training and competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.


Participation in competitive events is open to all individuals eight years of age or older. Training and competition in local, area, state, and national programs is offered year-round in Kentucky in 16 sports. In addition to its traditional sports competitions, Special Olympics also offers early childhood programming through the Young Athletes Program and medical screenings though the Healthy Athletes Initiative. Special Olympics Kentucky has been changing the lives of people with intellectual disabilities in Kentucky for 41 years.


The “Buffalo Wild Wings Cops Gone Wild for Special Olympics Kentucky” is one of many Tip-A-Cop events in the state that is part of the annual Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) campaign.


LETR, which includes an international series of relay runs and special events like Tip-A-Cop, is presented by more than 85,000 law enforcement officers worldwide to help raise money and public awareness for Special Olympics. LETR is the largest grassroots fundraiser and public awareness vehicle for Special Olympics through which funds raised go directly to local programs in states where the funds are generated.


For more information about this special event on May 21, contact ATFE Special Agent Scott Teal at 859-983-6886, or Jayna Oakley, Torch Run Liaison for Special Olympics Kentucky at 502-695-8222.


MEDIA CONTACT:  Carl Nathe, 859-257-3200;


Malone Receives ACPA Outstanding Graduate Student Award

Thu, 05/15/2014 - 16:11

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 16, 2014) — Dana Malone, a University of Kentucky graduate student and Academic Enhancement staff member, was presented with the Outstanding Graduate Student Award at the 2014 American College Personnel Association (ACPA) conference in Indianapolis on March 30.


The award is presented to a graduate student who has shown outstanding work in the field of academic support. The individual must be currently enrolled in a master’s or doctoral program at an accredited college or university.


Jim Breslin, interim executive director of Academic Enhancement and chair of the ACPA Commission for Academic Support in Higher Education, nominated Malone for the award. 


“Her insight, intellectual acuity, and passion for students give Dana a determination and dedication for supporting students that I genuinely admire," said Breslin. "She lives the role of a scholar-practitioner each day and my own work and career are better for having had the opportunity to work with her. Dana is so much more than what is typically expected of a graduate student in an academic support unit.”


Malone recently defended her doctoral dissertation in the Educational Policy Studies and Evaluation Department in the UK College of Education. She has a master’s in school counseling and a bachelor's in psychology. Malone began her higher education career in residence life, working at various private colleges as a student affairs administrator. For the past four years, as she has been completing her PhD, Malone has worked in assistantship roles in Academic Enhancement, first as an EPE 174 instructor and more recently as the department’s assessment coordinator.


The ACPA provides opportunities for professional development for student affairs professionals and anyone who works with college students. The Commission for Academic Support in Higher Education sponsored the award.


115 Graduates to Receive Medical Degrees from University of Kentucky

Thu, 05/15/2014 - 15:39


LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 16, 2014) -- The University of Kentucky's College of Medicine Class of 2014 Graduation Ceremony will be held at 2 p.m., May 17, in the Concert Hall of the UK Singletary Center for the Arts. Doctor of Medicine degrees will be bestowed upon 115 graduates at the ceremony.


This year’s ceremony marks the 51st graduation processional. Dr. Martin Gebrow, a 1964 graduate in the College’s first graduating class will hood his goddaughter, Martha (Marti) Robinson, a 2014 graduate in the 51st graduating class.


During the ceremony greetings will be presented by Dr. Frederick C. de Beer, dean of the College and vice president for clinical academic affairs; UK Provost Christine Riordan; Dr. Michael Karpf, UK executive vice president for health affairs; and Dr. William H. Mitchell, president of the UK Medical Alumni Association. The commencement address will be given by Dr. Charles "Chipper" Griffith III, senior associate dean for medical education; and the introduction of honorary class members and remarks will be given by Christine Gladman, president of the Class of 2014.


The seniors matched into 22 different specialties. Thirty-seven percent of the graduates are entering primary care specialties which include family practice, internal medicine, pediatrics and medicine-pediatrics. Within the graduating class, 31 percent elected to remain at UK Albert B. Chandler Hospital for residencies, and another 4 percent will stay at programs also in Kentucky.


Wildcats are 22 for 22 on NCAA Academic Progress

Thu, 05/15/2014 - 10:17

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 16, 2014) — The NCAA released its Academic Progress Rate (APR) report this week, showing that all 22 of the University of Kentucky sports teams surpassed the NCAA cut score. 15 of the 22 squads exceeded the national average for public universities in their sports and 18 of the 22 Wildcat teams had a better or same score as a year ago.


The men’s golf, men’s tennis and women’s cross country teams led the way with perfect 1,000 scores, followed by women’s golf (993), women’s indoor track and field (991), women’s outdoor track and field (991), volleyball (990), men’s basketball (989) and rifle (989)


The marks are a four-year composite, covering the 2009-10, 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years, that measures academic eligibility and retention of scholarship student-athletes.  The NCAA cut score for each sport is 930.


The 15 Wildcat teams that exceeded the national average among public universities in their sports included the nine teams listed above, along with women’s soccer (988), softball (985), women’s tennis (985) men’s cross country (983), women’s basketball (977) and baseball (977).


Another highlight of the report was that 11 UK teams notched a perfect 1,000 score for the 2012-13 school year – men’s basketball, women’s cross country, men’s golf, gymnastics, rifle, women’s soccer, men’s swimming, women’s swimming, men’s tennis, women’s tennis and volleyball.


“It’s gratifying to see the number of teams that continue to improve their scores and exceed national averages,” said Mitch Barnhart, UK Director of Athletics.  “Our coaches and support personnel have done well in monitoring the requirements of the APR and I’m proud of our student-athletes for their work in posting strong scores.”


With each team exceeding the NCAA cut score, no Wildcat squads are subject to penalties, such as scholarship reductions or postseason restrictions.  None of UK’s 22 teams have incurred a penalty during the 10-year history of the APR.



MEDIA CONTACT: Tony Neely,, (859) 257-3838.


Perhaps Blue and Pink Aren't the Right Colors

Wed, 05/14/2014 - 17:11

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 15, 2014) — From the first day of their lives, most of us treat boys and girls differently. Those differences begin with a pink versus blue nursery, clothes with laces rather than ribbons, sports equipment or dance lessons, and on and on right through to “manly” careers versus “feminine” jobs.


Across the country, devoted parents routinely treat boys and girls differently because their parents, sundry child rearing experts and psychiatrists, and ultimately all of society has taught us to believe that boys and girls are fundamentally and radically different.


But what if we are all wrong? What if treating boys like boys and girls like girls is not a good approach to bringing out the best in every child?


In “Parenting Beyond Pink and Blue: How to Raise Your Kids Free of Gender Stereotypes” author Christia Spears Brown bridges what she knows as a developmental psychologist with what she faces as the mother of two very different kids, who both happen to be girls, in a culture obsessed with fitting everyone into his or her prescribed color box.


“When we put together all of the research on gender differences, the complete picture is less dramatic than a Mars-Venus mindset suggests,” said Brown, associate professor of developmental psychology and Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Kentucky College of Arts and Sciences.


“Seeing gender differences in adult men and women doesn’t tell us anything about the ways we are innately different or about children,” she said. Citing copious studies, she focuses on the often-striking similarities between boys and girls, from infancy through adolescence. Rather than advocate extreme gender-blind parenting, Brown offers concrete, realistic, encouraging advice to help parents recognize how they habitually use gender to explain their children’s behavior, stop relying on stereotypes, and truly embrace, validate and cultivate their children’s unique strengths.


“Basically, ‘Parenting Beyond Pink and Blue’ aims for a little less focus on gender and a little more focus on individual children. With this approach, children can be more secure, happier, more well-rounded, and better able to reach their full potential,” said Brown. “And it can be a lot more fun for parents.” 


MEDIA CONTACT: Gail Hairston, 859-257-3302;

Writing His Next Chapter

Wed, 05/14/2014 - 16:27

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 15, 2014) — Originally from Indianapolis, Nathan Moore and his mother moved to Louisville when he was around 12. Growing up on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line, Moore is somewhat conflicted as northern southerner, or is that southern northerner?


Regardless, one direction that Moore is certainly moving is up. The UK junior was recently named a fellow for the Schomburg-Mellon Humanities Summer Institute in New York City, and as one of only 10 recipients to be bestowed that honor, it is helping to further define who Nathan Moore is and who he is quickly becoming as an academic.


“Being accepted into this fellowship is not only a prestigious and exciting opportunity, but it also serves as a great validation of all the hours I have spent working so hard in and outside of the classroom,” Moore said, who is majoring in English with a minor in African American & Africana Studies.


“It really is a great honor to be able to spend time with some of the ‘big names’ in my discipline and just be able to devote time to research. This will definitely be a great learning experience and this fellowship serves a way to network and learn from other people in my field that have similar interests.”


Instrumental in Moore’s success has been Assistant Professor Damaris Hill, who began to mentor him after she was impressed by his insightful commentary and writing in one of her courses.


Moore says that Hill understands the challenges he faces as a student working a full-time job trying to also be a scholar and an artist in academia. “This whole semester, Dr. Hill has challenged me not only to follow my passions but to challenge my mind as a scholar and researcher. I can honestly say she has had a very influential impact on my academic career.”


It was Hill who brought the fellowship opportunity to Moore’s attention and helped him during the application process. “He is a talented student that offers unique perspectives about American/African American literature, particularly the intersections between African American literature and notions of the fantastic in marginalized cultures,” said Hill.


Hill’s accolades for Moore continued, as she sees him as someone that is ready to burst onto the scene. “His insights regarding African American literature stand above those of his peers and contemporaries. The Schomburg-Mellon Humanities Summer Institute will give him the training he needs to transform quality research ideas into publishable academic papers and prepare for high-ranking doctoral degree programs. Additionally, his writing prescribes literary tropes and extends meanings beyond cultural rhetoric into psychoanalytic and philosophical inquiry regarding the author’s intentions. In this way, his work resonates with readers and writers. Moore is sure to be a researcher that will change the literary landscape of African American studies with his contributions.”


The fellowship was created to encourage minority students and others with an interest in African-American and African diaspora studies to pursue graduate degrees, and it’s a path that Moore is focused on. “I am totally planning on going to graduate school to pursue a master’s of fine arts and then most likely a doctorate. My research, which I will be pursuing more fully at the Schomburg this summer, centers on early African American literature, particularly slave narratives, and the visionary qualities of those texts.”


With Moore primed and ready for the academic undertaking, what challenges could possibly be on the horizon? “Maybe trying to see every single part of New York in only six weeks?”


Additional info:


Moore’s contribution to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research that was hosted by UK this spring:


Listen to Nathan Moore and Damaris Hill talk about afrofuturism on WUKY:


New Book by UK Professor Complements Seminal History of Higher Education

Wed, 05/14/2014 - 13:38


LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 15, 2014) -- John Thelin, University Research Professor and a professor of the history of higher education and public policy, has long been known as one of the country's most renowned historians of higher education.


His book, "A History of American Higher Education," is often cited as one of the critical works in its field.


Recently, Thelin authored a companion piece to this seminal work -- "Essential Documents in the History of American Higher Education." Published by Johns Hopkins University Press, the work reprints many of the fundamental documents essential to higher education's development, including the Morrill Act of 1862 that outlined the creation land-grant institutions and the GI Bill of 1944, which paved the way for millions of Americans to go to college.


UKnow recently discussed this important new work with Thelin.


What prompted you to take on this new project?

About one year ago, the editorial director at the Johns Hopkins University Press, Greg Britton, asked me to consider this project.  It’s been years, even decades, since there has been a convenient, current anthology of significant documents about higher education.  We want to make sure that a new generation of readers and scholars have good access to these fascinating stories and records. We also wanted to bring attention and applause to archivists who make these records available and accessible.


How do you see it as a complement or addition to “A History of American Higher Education?”

We organized the anthology of documents so that they would be synchronized with the chapters and themes as presented in the original book, A History of American Higher Education.  Our aim was to have a convenient source for readers who wanted to delve into the actual memoirs and stories.



What do you hope readers will take away from this newest book?

The campus is a stage set for an amazing drama. My hope is that readers  will discover how incredibly interesting the legacies of our colleges and universities are, especially in the memoirs that students, professors, presidents, deans and donors have left behind.  The memoirs and documents literally and figuratively bring to life the history of our institutions.


What are you working on next?

Matter of fact, this week my co-author Richard W. Trollinger, vice president of Centre College and Ph.D. alumnus of UK, are reading the galley proofs for our book, Philanthropy and American Highter Education. Other than that, this summer I am working on solving ALL of the problems facing UK and other universities. This may take a while, but I am optimistic about finding the solutions.


WUKY's 'UK Perspectives' Talks Weather Preparedness

Wed, 05/14/2014 - 11:02

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 16, 2014) — WUKY's "UK Perspectives" focuses on the people and programs of the University of Kentucky and is hosted by WUKY General Manager Tom Godell.  On today's program, Tom introduces us to UK Police Captain Tom Matlock, director of UK's Crisis Management and Preparedness office. The two will discuss dealing with severe weather at work and at home.  And, Matlock gives advice on how family members should prepare to enable communication with one another before and after a storm. 


To listen to the podcast interview from which "UK Perspectives" is produced, visit


"UK Perspectives" airs at 8:35 a.m. and 5:45 p.m. each Friday on WUKY-FM 91.3, UK's NPR station.



MEDIA CONTACT: Carl Nathe, 859-257-3200   ;



UK Students Help Fight Hunger

Wed, 05/14/2014 - 10:00


LEXINGTON, Ky., (May 15, 2014) – When some people think of others going hungry, they don’t necessarily think it is a local problem, but there are many people in Kentucky and Lexington who face food insecurity every day. To help raise awareness of this issue, students in the University of Kentucky Department of Dietetics and Human Nutrition recently hosted a meal packing event.




According the Kentucky Association of Food Banks, over 750,000 Kentuckians—17 percent of the population—are faced with hunger. For children, that number increases to one in four.


“Hunger is a solvable issue,” said Liz Renzaglia, the UK Student Dietetic and Nutrition Association co-chair for hunger. “It’s an issue of inequitable distribution of resources and power. When we can start bringing those resources to people, it’s amazing.”


The students decided to do the event after they participated in a similar event at Auburn University as a part of the Universities Fighting World Hunger Summit. Christa Childers, the association’s president, reached out to Meals of Hope to get started. Meals of Hope provides food for the event and connects groups to local food pantries. To pay for the cost of packaging and shipping the meals, the students held bake sales, an online fundraiser and smoothie bike smoothie sales, where students made their own smoothies by pedaling a stationary bicycle. The UK event was held on the Lexington campus in Erikson Hall.


“This event has been 100 percent student driven,” said Tammy Stephenson, the group’s faculty adviser and senior lecturer in the UK College of Agricultural, Food and Environment. “We are so excited that combating hunger is something that’s interesting to our students and that they will dedicate an evening to come here and participate.”


Within two hours, UK students packaged enough meals to feed 10,000 Central and Eastern Kentuckians.


The association has an interest in fighting hunger at not only the local level, but at the international level. For many years, the group has been one of several UK organizations to collect money to feed children at the Kentucky Academy, a kindergarten in Ghana. To kick off the meal packing event, association members presented a $700 check to Janet Mullins, UK associate extension professor of dietetics and human nutrition, to go toward lunches for the academy’s children. Their donation will provide lunch for every child in the academy for two months.


“Participating in events like this, giving to the Kentucky Academy and attending Universities Fighting World Hunger Summit can be life changing for these students, especially when they realize they have the expertise to solve world hunger,” Mullins said.



MEDIA CONTACT:  Katie Pratt, 859-257-8774.


Roots in Rural Kentucky Fuel Medical Student's Desire to Respond to Emergencies

Tue, 05/13/2014 - 17:17

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 16, 2014) - University of Kentucky medical student Ashley Loan eagerly anticipates the day she handles the chaos of the emergency room with a controlled calm.


"I can't wait for the day I develop that calm," Loan said. "It's an eerie thing when you see a physician gain control of the room."


Loan recognized the importance of a calm emergency response at a young age when her mother Elizabeth Loan performed CPR on a farmer in the fields of Greenup County. The farmer was pinned from the waist down under a turned-over tractor. Elizabeth Loan administered CPR to keep him alive until emergency responders from the nearest hospital arrived.  


Loan is among the 115 members of the UK College of Medicine Class of 2014 graduating Saturday, May 17, at in the Concert Hall of the UK Singletary Center for the Arts. She also is one of 10 graduating students that participated in UK's Rural Physician Leadership Program, where she believes her roots in Greenup County prepared her for a future responding to medical emergencies in rural Kentucky.


Loan was raised on a tobacco farm, following behind her father's setter when she was just 8 years old and selling produce at the family's roadside farm stand during the summers. She showed lambs raised on the farm at county fairs and through the 4-H program. She understands cultural characteristics that influence health in rural populations, like the patient's attitude of self-reliance that results in attempts to self-medicate or postpone a doctor's visits. It's often difficult for doctors from urban environments to appreciate those cultural variances.



"I get why people don't go to the doctor - rural people are raised to take care of themselves," Loan said. "Before they come to the doctor, they've tried a few things."


Loan's earliest experiences in emergency medicine were watching her mother respond to accidents in the farming community. Elizabeth Loan commuted to the nearest community college to obtain an associate's degree in nursing, which qualified her as the most educated health care provider within a 10-mile radius of the Loan farm. When the neighbor's son went into a diabetic coma, Loan remembers her mother rushing to their house to administer sugar water.


"There have been a lot of instances when my mom was the sole health care provider," Loan said.


Loan has personal ties to health challenges that are common in many rural communities. Loan's father, a lifelong tobacco user, suffers from COPD. Understanding that tobacco farming was once a way of life for many farmers, Loan thinks it's important that doctors aren't judgmental when working with rural patients. She has also learned the importance of thorough questioning when asking about a patient's health condition. 


Loan said growing up in a rural area isolated from hospitals fueled her desire to deliver more efficient emergency medical care to rural communities. She enjoys the challenge of being the first doctor on the trauma scene and "Macgyver-ing" her way through emergencies with limited resources. She said it's especially rewarding see relief in the patient with a few steps and in a short period of time.


"I love the fact that patients who come to the emergency department are the sickest patients you are going to see," Loan said. "You lay your eyes on them, you have no previous notes - you are the person who has an hour before the patient crashes to figure out what's going on."


Along with the other students part of UK's Rural Physician Leadership Program, Loan participated in clerkship rotations and lectures at St. Claire Regional Hospital through a partnership between the UK College of Medicine and Morehead State University. She said the hospital's smaller medical staff and fewer residents opened up more opportunities for medical students to gain hands-on experience with patients. Loan has delivered more than 10 babies, assisted attending physicians with bowel surgery and helped stabilize a coding patient in the emergency department. She's also visited rural hospitals in West Virginia.


Dr. Phillip Overall, a UK College of Medicine graduate and the emergency clerkship director at St. Claire Regional Hospital, believes Loan has already demonstrated the calm and decisive qualities needed in an emergency room doctor. As part of the program at Morehead State, one medical student is assigned to work with one attending physician at a time, so there's less competition for opportunities among residents, fellows and medical students. Overall said Loan has shown both compassion and leadership in the midst of an emergency.


"She is able to think very quickly on her feet and subsequently provide excellent patient care," Overall said. "We take care of critical patients on a daily basis and she is absolutely able to step back and assess the entire situation calmly and come up with a plan to take care of the patient."


As the assistant dean for the Rural Physician Leadership Program, Dr. Anthony Weaver recruited Loan to the program four years ago. When evaluating students for the program, Weaver considers the student's mindfulness of family and sense of responsibility to the community where they practice. Weaver said rural practices and hospitals need physicians who are committed to living and working in small towns. Loan's closeness to her family and ability to "have conversations with anyone about just about anything" made her an ideal candidate for the program.


"Ashley Loan has the intelligence and drive to succeed as a physician, but more importantly, she cares about her family and her neighbors," Weaver said. "Improvements in the health of rural Kentucky will come from people like Ashley."


With her commitment to practicing medicine in Greenup County, Loan was awarded the $20,000 Vernon Smith Scholarship for students who graduated from Greenup County High School. Along with a doctorate in medicine, on May 17 she also will receive a certificate in health systems leadership. During her medical residency also being completed at UK, she will take one class a semester to obtain a master's in business administration, with aspirations to serve as the director of a rural emergency department one day.


As a high school student, Loan wanted to escape rural Kentucky, but she now finds herself drawn back to the farming life. Loan and her fiancé Ryan Brown, who she met at a county fair during high school, recently purchased an 87-acre farm in Greenup County. They built a small house on the farm, which will serve as their weekend home while Loan completes her residency program in Lexington.


After residency, Loan plans to practice emergency medicine at a nearby hospital. She will raise beef cattle when she's not responding to emergencies.


"I'm definitely a small-town person," Loan said. "I feel an obligation to come back and serve the people who have really believed in me for so long. It makes my day when someone says, 'You are coming back here?' I'm Ashley - I'm the girl who sold corn with her dad on the side of the road - they trust me, and I like that."


MEDIA CONTACT: Elizabeth Adams,

Noehren Studies Muscle Injuries, Shares Findings with Community

Tue, 05/13/2014 - 16:53

UK's Brian Noehren Studies Muscle Injuries, Shares Findings with Community from reveal on Vimeo.



LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 14, 2014) -- While working as a physical therapist, Brian Noehren was frustrated by the lack of robust clinical evidence to support the interventions used in the clinic. He had ideas about what could be done differently, but he didn't have the research training to explore them.


"I wanted to come up with better strategies to address injuries that are so vexing and challenging to treat," he said.


Motived to find solutions, Noehren turned his career to translational research in physical therapy, completing his Ph.D. in biomechanics and movement science at the University of Delaware before joining the University of Kentucky's faculty five years ago. With the funding and support from the UK Center for Clinical and Translational Science and the National Institutes of Health, Noehren studies how muscle and physical function are affected by knee injuries--a significant source of disability in the United States--and how best to intervene and treat such injuries.  


"I started by looking at really big picture things - after you have these injuries, do you alter the way you walk or run?" he said.  "I've always been fascinated by how the human body moves. And at its heart, physical therapy is really about helping individuals improve their physical function, and one part of that is their ability to move."


His research uses MRIs and assays of muscle biopsies to examine how muscles have been altered by injury and then identify therapeutic targets. By examining the mechanisms of the altered muscle and gait function, he can develop, test, and asses new physical therapy interventions.


Noehren conducts his research with the assistance of a number of students, many of whom are undergraduates. In addition to instilling knowledge about physical therapy and research, he is also committed to helping his students develop keen critical thinking skills to look at problems from all angles.


"We devote a lot of time and resources to them - they're in essence the heart of the lab," he said. "I wish I'd had the opportunities that the students at UK have to participate in research starting at the undergraduate level. I've been so impressed with the undergrads working in our lab - they go from having a limited sense of what we do, to rapidly becoming content experts."


Twice a month, Noehren also offers a specialty running clinic with Dr. Scott Black, a UK sports medicine doctor and the physician for the UK track and field team. Noehren and Black see patients jointly, combining the expertise of physical therapy and sports medicine to offer a unique treatment resource for patients.


"Working together gives us a unique perspective on injuries and has helped with diagnosing of some of the more challenging ones," he said.


The collaborative running clinic has also helped to stimulate research ideas, and beginning this summer, the clinic will be held in the new, state-of-the-art research lab.


"This will also give people the chance to see research in action," he said. "I hope it gets the community excited about some of the unique things we have here at UK. There aren't a lot of labs that do what we do in the U.S., and for the community to use and see these resources really contributes to town-and-gown relationships."


Community engagement is a key aspect of research for Noehren, who recognizes the imperative to share his research findings with the home communities of his research participants. He operates a Facebook page to share information from the lab, and  last year alone he spoke at ten community events, collaborating with the YMCA, John's Run Walk Shop and Lexmark, among others.


"It's critically important to me that the community knows who we are, that we do good work and that we are good stewards- that we're not doing this just to publish in academic journals, but to help the Commonwealth."


MEDIA CONTACT: Mallory Powell,

UK Fire Cats Wrap Up Their First Wildfire Season

Tue, 05/13/2014 - 15:16

LEXINGTON, Ky., (May 14, 2014) — On any given weekend, when smoke curled over the mountains, the University of Kentucky Fire Cats could get the call. That call to fight some of the state’s wildfires during the recent spring fire hazard season came pretty regularly this year. The Fire Cats’ inaugural fire season turned out to be a bad one.


Over the past 14 years, Kentucky has averaged about 1,500 fires and almost 56,000 acres burned each year. The state has two fire hazard seasons—spring and fall. This year’s spring fire hazard season alone, which ran from Feb. 15 through April 30, saw 1,171 fires burn 35,613 acres. There were plenty of opportunities for the young firefighters to learn the ropes.


Andrew Nielsen, one of the three Fire Cats squad leaders, came into the new program with more experience than most. For the past six years, he has battled blazes in Oregon, where the Kentucky native lived for awhile. But for many of the Cats, this season was their first. Trained by the U.S. Forest Service and employed by the Kentucky Division of Forestry, the students are receiving “a brilliant opportunity,” according to UK Department of Forestry Chair Terrell “Red” Baker.


“Not only do they get in a few extra hours and earn some money, but they get excellent hands-on training that enables them to find jobs in the summer that could ultimately lead to career opportunities,” Baker said.


Chris Osborne, manager of UK’s Robinson Forest in the southeastern part of the state, is the Fire Cats’ crew leader and the unofficial liaison between the group, the Kentucky Division of Forestry and the Daniel Boone National Forest, which is managed by the U.S. Forest Service. He explained that wildland fires in this part of the country are different than western fires, which often spread rapidly through the canopy, fueled by evergreens. In hardwood-dominated Eastern Kentucky, fires usually run across the ground’s surface, fueled by leaf litter or logging slash.


“That being said, there are conditions and times that fire activity in Eastern Kentucky can be extreme. There are fires where you’ll have one- to two-foot flame heights, but we do have some grass fires and other fuel types that can create some extreme fire activity with much higher flame fronts,” Osborne said.


One of the fires Nielsen and his squad helped extinguish was a slow 15-acre fire burning in mixed hardwood and leaf litter in Lee County.

“It had been skulking around on the ground for a day or so,” Nielsen said. “Out west that fire would have taken at least a day to get control of, where here, you get two people on a blower blowing all the leaves away and people burning behind it, and you’re pretty much around it…. It took maybe an hour and a half. It was that quick, which is amazing to me.”


MacKenzie Schaeffer, another squad leader, has been interested in fighting wildfires for a long time.


“I always thought it would be really cool to go out west and fight the big wildfires, but that’s a big step to take,” she said. “When they started offering this program, I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to find out if it’s something I really like or want to do when I graduate and make a career out of it. It’s been an awesome opportunity, and I’ve loved it.


Schaeffer recalled her first fire.


“We did a mop-up, which is where you walk back through and check the line to make sure nothing’s blown into it or across it to start a fire,” she said. “When you go through the training, there’s no actual fire, so we got to see things in action.”


To prevent a trailer backed up to grass from catching fire, Schaeffer’s squad got to dig the line and then set a backfire to run the flames away from the trailer and towards what had already burned.


“I like using the drip torch,” Schaeffer said and laughed.


The idea for the Fire Cats grew out of the Department of Forestry’s long relationship with the Daniel Boone National Forest, said E.J. Bunzendahl, forest assistant fire manager officer for the Daniel Boone. Since 2011, UK forestry students have had to take fire training as a mandatory course for their degree. The U.S. Forest Service, through Bunzendahl and her staff, facilitate the online version of the wildland firefighter training. Students spend between 40 and 60 hours completing the online portion of the class, which culminates in an eight-hour required field day that the Daniel Boone National Forest hosts.


“We have a participating agreement signed between the University of Kentucky Department of Forestry and the Daniel Boone National Forest that says we’ll help each other; we’ll provide the class and they offer consultation assistance to us,” Bunzendahl said.

Alabama A&M University and Virginia Tech both field teams of student firefighters, so when Baker saw how interested his students were in taking the mandatory course, he considered fielding a team. He spoke with Dan Olsen, who at the time wasdirector of fire and aviation management for the Southern Region of the U.S. Forest Service. Olsen brought Bunzendahl on board, who called the Kentucky Division of Forestry.


“On the Daniel Boone, we average less than 100 fires a year, and the Kentucky Division of Forestry averages about 1,500 or 1,600 fires a year,” Bunzendahl said. “If you want to get some experience, you’ll have a little more opportunity working for them than you will right here on the Boone. KDF was instrumental in getting this program off the ground.”


Leah MacSwords, state forester and director of KDF, gave the idea her approval and Mike Harp, assistant fire chief with the division, started making the arrangements to work with the UK students. KDF employs the students and has provided all their equipment. Both Harp and his supervisor, Luke Saunier, are graduates of the UK Department of Forestry, and they immediately saw the benefit to the students.


“When we both came into the Kentucky Division of Forestry, we were not prepared for the firefighting aspect,” said Harp, who graduated in 1996. “If I would have had this back in school, it could have really helped me understand things a bitbetter. I would have been ahead of the curve.”


The FireCats have helped KDF, too. Harp accompanied one of the squads on what he called a “somewhat complicated small 10-acre fire.”


“When I say complicated, it was because of the terrain,” he explained. “If I would have let the crews they had on-site at the time fight that fire, it probably would have taken two or two and a half hours to put it out. But with the UK Fire Cats there, with that added personnel, we knocked it out in probably half the time. They really made a difference up there.”


In Osborne’s eyes, it’s a win-win situation.


“So far, there’s been really positive interaction with these kids. They’ve asked really good questions, and they’re engaged, and they’ve been hardworking,” he said. “So far it’s been a great success.”


The 2014 UK Fire Cats include James Baunach, Andrew Hagerty and Andrew Nielsen, all from Louisville; Christopher Bullock from Winchester; Lexingtonians Austin Combs, William Ellis, Kristian Elswick and Taylor York; David Corr from Fort Thomas; Sam Cox from Riverside, Illinois; Tyler Frame, from Maysville; William McCormick from Inez; Cody Pyles from Monticello; Josh Robinson from Elizabethtown; MacKenzie Schaeffer, Derwood, Maryland; and Richard Tamer from Shelbyville, who was the third squad leader.




MEDIA CONTACT:  Carol Lea Spence, 859-257-8324.


Good Barn Parking Lot Closed for Summer

Tue, 05/13/2014 - 14:52

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 14, 2014) —The Good Barn parking lot (E/C2), located on University Drive south of the Good Barn on the University of Kentucky campus, is now closed for the duration of this summer.


The action went into effect this week in order to facilitate expansion of the lot. The newly-expanded lot will relocate 660 spaces from the Commonwealth Stadium overflow parking lot (Black Lot) as part of the South Campus FEMA Storm Water Mitigation project. This construction effort will create approximately 400 new parking spaces, designed to offset a portion of the spaces eliminated by the Commonwealth Stadium expansion and renovation project. The new lot is expected to be completed prior to the fall semester.


During the summer months, parking demand is significantly reduced, providing increased flexibility in parking alternatives. Employees who normally park in the Good Barn Lot may park in any E or R areas or the K areas at Commonwealth Stadium. Visit to view the campus summer parking map and identify alternate parking locations.


MEDIA CONTACTS: Carl Nathe, 859-257-2226; Chrissie Balding Tune; 859-257-3512.


Videos of UK May Commencement Ceremonies Now Available Online

Tue, 05/13/2014 - 09:00



LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 14, 2014) — If you want to relive the May 2014 Commencement ceremonies or share with family and friends who may have missed your walk across the stage, you can now watch them on YouTube! 


The YouTube playlist above features all three ceremonies from Sunday, May 5.


The Graduate and Professional Ceremony can be found here:


The Undergraduate Ceremony for the Colleges of Agriculture, Food & Environment, Gatton (Business & Economics), Education, Engineering and Nursing can be found here:


The Undergraduate Ceremony for the Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Communication & Information, Design, Fine Arts, Health Sciences and Social Work can be found here:


UK Public Relations and Marketing would like to thank John Herbst and Wildcat Student TV for their assistance in the video production and live streaming of these ceremonies. 

College of Education Professor Receives 2014 Sturgill Award

Mon, 05/12/2014 - 17:14

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 13, 2014) — John Thelin, professor of higher education in the UK College of Education's Department of Educational Policy Studies and Evaluation, has received the 2014 Sturgill Award, an honor presented each year to a graduate faculty member who has provided outstanding contributions to graduate education at UK.


Thelin, who also has a joint appointment with the UK Martin School of Public Policy and Administration, came to UK in 1996. During that time, he has become nationally renowned as one of UK's experts on higher education history, policies and issues. Thelin's students benefit from his array of expertise in areas such as philanthropy, foundations and economics of higher education, as well as the study of college sports. Thelin enjoys bringing historical documents and events into contemporary discussions on significant issues in higher education.


Thelin is a past recipient of the UK Alumni Association's Great Teachers Award and the Provost's Award for Teaching Excellence, and was selected as a University Research Professor in 2000.


The Sturgill Award is named in honor of William B. Sturgill, who contributed to higher education through organizing and serving as president of the Hazard Independent College Foundation, in addition to working with legislators to develop the community college system in the Commonwealth.


Sturgill was born in Lackey, Ky., and graduated from UK in 1946. He has been involved in a variety of businesses, including executive and owner of several coal operations, East Kentucky Investment Company, Fourth Street and Gentry Tobacco Warehouses, and the Hartland Development Project. Sturgill served as both secretary of energy and secretary of agriculture under Gov. John Y. Brown Jr.  He served 18 years on UK's Board of Trustees, including serving as chair for 10 years. The Sturgill Development Building is named in his honor.


MEDIA CONTACT: Jenny Wells, 859-257-5343;


UK Engineering Professor, Student Join Paducah Mayor on Africa Trip

Mon, 05/12/2014 - 16:48
LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 13, 2014) — Paducah mayor Gayle Kaler, UK Paducah engineering faculty member Jeffrey Seay and chemical engineering undergraduate research student Chandni Joshi are traveling this month to the sub-Saharan African country of Gabon. 


The group plans to discuss economic development opportunities between Kentucky and Gabon as well as potential research and collaboration opportunities for UK in Gabon.


"This opportunity has grown out of our on-going research in sustainable biofuels in Cameroon – the country to the north of Gabon," Seay said. "Through the relationships we have built in Cameroon, we now have the chance to disseminate our work to other countries in the region."


The group departs for Libreville, Gabon on Tuesday, May 13. Upon arrival, they will travel by motorcade to Lambaréné, where they will meet the governor of the Moyen-Ogooué province and the city’s mayor. Seay will give a presentation covering the research capabilities at the UK Paducah campus plus an overview of the ongoing research work in Cameroon. Mayor Kaler will discuss the economic and cultural exchange opportunities available with Paducah.


"I'm honored to be invited by the University of Kentucky to travel to Gabon, and I am extremely thankful that an anonymous donor is providing the funds for my airfare,” Kaler said. “My hope is that this visit will be the beginning of a longstanding cultural, economic and educational partnership between Paducah and Lambaréné."

Kaler will be visiting several schools in Lambaréné and present them with McCracken County High School and Paducah Tilghman High School shirts in addition to books donated by McNabb Elementary and local residents. 


Following the presentations by Kaler and Seay, the group will tour several of Gabon’s cultural landmarks. In addition to observing a traditional ceremony at a Bwiti temple, they will visit the Albert Schweitzer Hospital, the State School for the Deaf and Mute, the National School of Waters and Forests and more. The contingent will also meet the President of the Gabonese Senate, Vice President of the National Assembly and the U.S. Ambassador to Gabon.


“This trip is an amazing opportunity for the UK Paducah campus and especially for our students," Seay said. "We are looking forward to the chance to build new relationships and experience the richness of the Gabonese culture."


The trip formally concludes May 16; however, Seay and Joshi will connect with a group of UK engineering students studying abroad in Cameroon. The University of Kentucky Appropriate Technology and Sustainability (UKATS) Research Group, headed by Seay, has been working on low-cost, locally produced biodiesel and biochar projects since 2011. The UKATS group has developed these projects in partnership with the African Centre for Renewable Energy & Sustainable Technology (ACREST), located in the village of Bangang in rural Cameroon. This will be the group’s second visit to Bangang since 2012.


Prevention of Deadly Melanoma Begins in the Pediatric Years

Mon, 05/12/2014 - 14:11

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 14, 2014) - Painful blisters and glowing red skin after a day outdoors are the short-term consequences of a child's overexposure to the sun.  While sunburn heals with time, the long-term effects to the skin are irreversible. It's often years - even decades - later when the more dire consequences of sunburn can resurface in the form of malignant melanoma.


Because 80 percent of lifetime sun exposure occurs before the age of 20, efforts to prevent melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, must begin early in life. For a variety of reasons, melanoma incidence has increased steadily since the 1930s when only one out of 1,600 Americans were diagnosed with the disease.


Today, melanoma affects one in 60 Americans and is appearing more frequently in teenagers and young adults. In fact, melanoma is the most common cancer of young adults ages 25-29 and is the leading cause of cancer death in women ages 25-30. Because it can spread quickly through the body to places such as the brain and the liver, melanoma accounts for three-quarters of total deaths caused by skin cancer. Ironically, as much as melanoma is a growing public health concern, it is also largely preventable. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight and tanning beds plays a major role in melanoma development.


Dr. John D'Orazio, a researcher at the Markey Cancer Center and a pediatric oncologist at Kentucky Children's Hospital, rarely sees skin cancer in children but says the pediatric years are a critical period for preventing melanoma later in life. Melanoma risk correlates especially with sunburns, and since the skin is more delicate in childhood, children are especially susceptible to sunburns.  Having at least five sunburns increases the lifetime risk of melanoma, and blistering sunburns are particularly risky.


Know Your Child's Skin Type

According to D'Orazio, skin pigmentation and amount of exposure to UV rays are the predominant risk factors for developing melanoma. People who have dark pigmentation have high amounts of melanin pigment in their skin. Melanin acts like a natural sunblock and protects the skin very effectively against UV damage. Those who have fair skin and a lighter complexion are born with lower amounts of melanin in their skin and are much more vulnerable to UV penetrating deeply and altering skin cells. There is overwhelming evidence to show that skin cancers such as melanoma are caused by UV radiation that penetrates into the skin and causes mutations in skin cells.


Therefore, the more UV rays that penetrate into the skin without the protection of natural or artificial sunblocking agents, the higher the person's risk of developing melanoma. Children with fair complexions are most vulnerable to damaging effects of UV rays. It's important to notice whether a child is prone to sunburning or tanning. Knowing a child's skin profile will help parents determine level of protection that should be enforced during outdoor activities. Parents and caregivers must be vigilant about restricting sun and tanning bed exposure to ensure the long-term skin health of children and teens. 


D'Orazio says to use common sense when it comes to sun safety and to avoid sunburns as much as possible. Avoiding or limiting outdoor activities during the time of day the sun is most intense, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., is a good strategy.  If sunburn-susceptible children are outdoors during this time, seek a shady spot and wear UV-protected items, such as bathing suits, rash guards, sunglasses and hats to escape the sun. Apply sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15 designed to block both UVB and UVA rays. Make sure all exposed areas of the body are coated, including the feet and the tops of ears. At a minimum, sunscreen should be applied every 90 minutes and immediately after sweating or swimming. Because their components break down over time, sunscreens should be replaced annually.


Get Teens Out of Tanning Beds

Despite having a strong link to melanoma, the use of tanning beds in adolescents and young adults continues to skyrocket. Sixty-seven percent of teens think they look better with a tan and 2.3 million American teens are estimated to visit tanning beds at least once a year. D'Orazio said research has shown a connection between frequent use of tanning beds and other addictive behaviors.


"The problem with the tanning bed is once you start, it’s hard to stop," D'Orazio said. "Many tanning bed patrons say they look and feel better with a tan… and there’s a good reason for this. When your skin tans, your body makes natural endorphins, which are morphine-like compounds."


One visit to the tanning bed under the age of 30 increases the chance of developing melanoma by 75 percent.  In fact, the UV output of a tanning bed can be 10 times stronger than the sun. Currently there is no way to get a tan without the increased risk of melanoma and other skin cancers. In spite of those risks, in the greater Lexington area, tanning beds outnumber McDonald's restaurants and Starbucks combined.


Regulation of the tanning bed industry, including UV lamp output and restrictions on use by minors, is highly variable among states. Currently in Kentucky, there is no ban in place for indoor tanning by minors.  Children under the age of 14 are allowed to use indoor tanning facilities if accompanied by a parent, and those ages 14-17 can come alone if they have signed parental consent. Sunless tanning products are healthier alternatives to tanning, but users should be aware such products don't provide much UV protection. Parents should strongly consider the risks when a teen expresses an interest in a tanning beds and other tanning products.


Early Detection

Fortunately, skin cancer in children is very rare, and D’Orazio has only seen a handful of children with melanoma.  However, risk starts to rise in late adolescence and increases as people age. Death from this aggressive cancer is all too common in people in the prime of their lives. In his laboratory, D'Orazio is currently investigating ways to replicate the protective melanin mechanism for people who are especially vulnerable to sunburn and reverse the negative effects of UV exposure.


“By understanding what happens in the skin during sun tanning, we hope to develop new drugs to make tanning possible without the risk of cancer.”


For now, however, tanning remains a very risky business, especially for fair-skinned people who get sunburns.  For these people, it is especially important to do regular skin surveys to get an early jump on problems. Early detection of melanoma can save lives. Since most melanomas develop in moles, guidelines focus on mole awareness. Be aware of the ABCDEs of moles to detect problematic or irregular patterns on the skin:

  • A - Asymmetry
  • B - Border -irregular, jagged
  • C - Color - more than one
  • D - Diameter (larger than a pencil eraser)
  • E - Elevation - raise from the surrounding skin

Skin surveys should start sometime in adolescence and be done at regular intervals, depending on melanoma risk.  Since children and teens still associate beauty with tanning, a cultural change will be required for young people to fully embrace sun protection.


With the opening of pools, proms, graduations and warm-weather events, teens are focused on tanning in the spring and early summer seasons. Parents and pediatricians should look for “teachable moments” this time of year, such as discussions about tanning or sunscreen use, to share the dangers of sun exposure with children who are at high risk of sunburn. 


MEDIA CONTACT: Elizabeth Adams,