Feds give UK $19.8 million second-round grant to bring health research into communities in Kentucky and Central Appalachia

By Al Cross and Traci Thomas
Kentucky Health News

A four-year, $19.8 million research grant to the University of Kentucky will bring better health care for people in Kentucky and Central Appalachia, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell said at Thursday’s announcement of the grant. “It’s great news for the entire commonwealth,” said McConnell, the Senate majority leader.

The grant is the second multi-year award for UK’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science, which was established with another grant in 2011 after years of effort. There are 64 such centers, funded by the National Institutes of Health, which McConnell lobbied for the money. The grants “support innovative solutions to improve the efficiency, quality, and impact of translating scientific discoveries into interventions or applications that improve the health of individuals and communities,” a UK news release said.

L-R: CCTS Director Phillip Kern, grant-funded diabetes screener Brittany Martin, U.S. Rep.
Andy Barr, UK Health VP Michael Karpf, President Eli Capilouto, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell,
UK Research VP Lisa Cassis, UK College of Medicine Dean Robert DiPaola. (UK photo)

Most but not all of the centers that applied for this round of funding received money, according to Dr. Phillip Kern, director of the center. UK President Eli Capilouto complimented Kern and others who worked on the application but said McConnell was “another reason we got across the finish line.”

Capilouto said that the grant positions the university “to recruit the brightest scientific minds of our generation,” but the heart of its impact is on communities. McConnell noted that Kentucky has the nation’s highest rate of deaths from cancer, and Eastern Kentucky has many great health disparities. The UK center is the translational-science hub for Central Appalachia.

Kern cited several examples of useful research done under the previous grant, including a collaboration that found disruptive behavior and hearing loss among Appalachian children are related.

Brittany Martin, coordinator of the Big Sandy Diabetes Coalition, told how the center had helped her personally screen more than 800 people in five far-eastern counties. She is a graduate of the center’s Community Leadership Institute of Kentucky, which provides research and training in health for community leaders.

Dr. Michael Karpf, UK’s executive vice president for health affairs, said “Developing new treatments and diagnostics, and training top-notch physicians and researchers who can carry on the processes of discovery” will provide the most advanced care for Kentuckians. “Our focused efforts and investment in translational team science mean we have more clinical trials available to our patients, and we’re able to bring the best and most innovative science to their care,” he said.

Part of UK’s grant goes to Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va., for work in the Mountain State. Marshall is part of the Appalachian Translational Research Network founded by UK, along with West Virginia University in Morgantown, Ohio University in Athens, The Ohio State University in Columbus, the University of Cincinnati and East Tennessee State University in Johnson City.

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