Keith Hautala

By

College: Engineering

At the Heart of Innovation

Published: Jul 15, 2013

LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 15, 2013) — Given the numerous challenges facing our world, there is plenty of opportunity to make a positive impact and help people. Fortunately, field engineers are well compensated and engineering faculty are often free to explore their research interests on their way to achiev­ing tenure. For the University of Kentucky's Dr. Brandon Fornwalt, a passion for discovering innovative ways to make a difference gripped him long before he settled on a formal career path. 

 

The assistant professor, who holds a joint appointment with the Department of Pediatric Cardiology in the College of Medicine and the Center for Biomedical Engineering, graduated from the University of South Carolina with degrees in mathematics and marine science and a visceral desire to make a positive contribution to the world. What he didn’t have was a clear vision for applying mathematics to ­systemic social issues. 

 

That’s when Fornwalt slammed the brakes on his vocational plan­ning and made the counterintuitive move to volunteer full-time at a free medical clinic for a year.

 

"Many of the patients were impoverished and had conditions rarely seen in modern medicine because they lacked basic health care," he says. "Most had no health insurance at all. The pharmacy received free prescription drugs, but there wasn’t a system for organizing what came in or out."

 

Enter Fornwalt’s background in mathematics. He quickly developed a computer-based tracking system that improved the workflow and significantly increased the amount of free medicine given to the clinic. 

 

Later, Fornwalt and his wife, Fiona, decided to join the Peace Corps. They enlisted, trained, received an assignment and prepared for departure. Then Sept. 11, 2001, changed everything. 

 

The Peace Corps brought nearly everyone back to the United States. With volunteers coming home, there was nowhere to send the Forn­walts. Time dragged with no immediate change on the hori­zon. Serendipitously, that is how Fornwalt ended up in medical school. 

 

"I’ve learned that life isn’t as planned out as I think it’s going to be," he said. "I had fallen in love with medicine working at the free clinic and enrolled in medical school at the last minute."

 

Fornwalt is an M.D./Ph.D., a fully licensed medical doctor focused primarily on research. At weekly patient care confer­ences with pediatric cardiologists, Fornwalt brings an engineering perspective to the discussion; when consulting with biomedical engineers, his training as a clini­cian is close at hand. 

 

"For a while, I tried extremely hard to be a top researcher and a top clinician; eventually, I felt that trying to be good at both was impossible," he said. "I made a difficult  decision to focus on research but also resolved to do research in a clinical department where I could still be involved with patient care." 

 

Hired by UK in 2011, Fornwalt’s joint appointment with the College of Medicine and the College of En­gineering allows him to do just that. Now, the guy whose classmates brought him EKGs in the middle of the night — simply because he loved reading them — has access to a $3.2 million 7-tesla MRI. The magnet, one of seven of its kind in the country, uses no radiation and allows Fornwalt to see a mouse’s heartbeat at 40 frames a minute. 

 

Not bad, considering a mouse’s heart beats 500 times per minute and is only 7 mm long.

 

"One aspect of my research is understanding pediatric obesity and the cardiovascular compli­cations of obesity in children," he says, referring to images of mouse hearts on a nearby mon­itor. "For that project we feed mice a high-fat diet and watch for changes in their hearts over time. We are using the knowl­edge gained from the mouse models to understand what is going on in kids who are obese." 

 

The other focus of Fornwalt’s research is pediatric heart fail­ure — specifically, the problem of dyssynchrony, a condition where different parts of the heart contract at a different pace, resulting in an inefficient output of blood. In October, his research earned him a National Institutes of Health Director’s Early Independence Award. The award will entitle Fornwalt to $1.96 million over five years to continue his research. He is the first UK faculty member to win the prestigious award. 

 

No, it isn’t the Peace Corps, and Fornwalt admits to occasionally wondering what might have been; however, he is thoroughly satisfied that his research at UK, particularly exploring cardio­vascular effects of pediatric obesity, is making inroads toward saving lives. 

 

"I’m working on something that affects one in five kids," he says, smiling. "There aren’t many things that affect one in five kids."

 

This article originally appeared in the University of Kentucky College of Engineering Magazine, which may be viewed online or downloaded free from http://issuu.com/ukengr/docs/uky-engineering/1

 

fornwalt.jpg
Tags:
November
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
Free Saturday Swing Dance Lessons
College of Pharmacy Open House
Iron Pour
UK Women's Choir 20th Anniversary Concert
Adventure Hiking & Rappelling @ Red River Gorge
Pickin' Time Mountain Music and Harvest Day
Purposeful Retirement: Planning Your Next Stage of Life
Diwali Dhoom 2014
Sat
2
UK Percussion Ensemble
Day Hike
Curator Tour: Take My Word For It
Sun
3
Industry Career Week: Resumes and Cover Letters
Kentucky Volleyball vs. Morehead State
Mon
4
Industry Career Week: How to Impress Your Boss in 90 Days
Rock Star Professionalism Series
UK Lab Band
Tue
5
Industry Career Week: Networking and Job Search
Social Enterprise and Innovation / Certified Nonprofit Professional Program Informational Meeting
Circle of Love Name Distribution
Appalachian Forum with Dr. Fran Ansley
Dana Harper Gallery Reception
Wed
6
Career Assessment Workshop
LNFS Presents: Zona Sur
LNFS Presents: The Grand Budapest Hotel
UK Jazz Ensemble
Circle of Love Name Distribution
Abstract Workshop
Lauren Potter
Thu
7
LNFS Presents: V for Vendetta
Last Day to Withdraw or Reduce Course Load
Circle of Love Name Distribution
R.C. May Photography Lecture Series: Marvin Heiferman
Men's Soccer vs. Charlotte
Kentucky Volleyball vs. Georgia
Free Friday Evening Swing Dance
Fri
8
Kentucky Football vs. Georgia
Free Saturday Swing Dance Lessons
The Power of Poetry
The Lexington Lowdown and Free Lindy Hop Workshop
Swing Dance Featuring Live music by"The Metrognomes Orchestra"
Sat
9
UK Combos Concert
Kentucky Volleyball vs. Missouri
Sun
10
Circle of Love Name Distribution
Mon
11
UK Sax Ensembles
Job Club - Interviewing Strategies
Undergraduate Research Information Session
Jose Abisambra Presentation on Current Alzheimer's Research
Women of the World: Judy Smith
Tue
12
Internship Info Session
LNFS Presents: Reservoir Dogs
Refugee Life in America
#UKEDTALKS: International Opportunities for Education Majors
Leadership Assessment
Wed
13
Career Assessment Workshop
LNFS Presents: Iron Man 3
Chili and Pie Cook-Off Supper
#TrendingTopics: Vegetarians vs. Meat-Eaters
Campus Polar Plunge to benefit Special Olympics KY
LNFS Presents: La Demora
Thu
14
LNFS Presents: Pretty in Pink
LNFS Presents: Mean Girls
Fri
15
Free Saturday Swing Dance Lessons
Sat
16
Kentucky Volleyball vs. Florida
Greek Cinematography: Critical Approach and Discussion
"Storied Streets" Documentary Showing about Experiences of Homelessness
Sun
17
The Vexillology (the study of maps) Contest
UK Rep Bands Concert
College of Agriculture, Food & Environment 2014 Celebration of Land-Grant Research
Amanda Rogers, "Black Flags, ISIS 'Swag' & Jihadi Rap: Marketing Militancy after the Arab Spring"
Stories of Homelessness: Panel Discussion
Mon
18
The Vexillology (the study of maps) Contest
A Positive Approach to Caregiving Conference
Education Abroad Open House
CatWatch Party
Appalachian Forum and Film Screening of "Up the Ridge"
Tue
19
The Vexillology (the study of maps) Contest
LNFS Presents: The Princess and the Frog
Pinterest Party
International Games Day
Global Design with Phil Duncan
Caregiver Support Group
OXFAM Social Issues Banquet
Wed
20
The Vexillology (the study of maps) Contest
Much Ado About Nothing
LNFS Presents: I Travel Because I Have To, I Come Back Because I Love You
LNFS Presents: The Big Lebowski
International Education Week Keynote Speaker: Christie Vilsack, Senior Advisor for International Education at USAID
Tobacco-free Tailgate 5 Year Anniversary
Bollywood Night
Thu
21
The Vexillology (the study of maps) Contest
Much Ado About Nothing
LNFS Presents: Water For Elephants
4th Annual Markesbery Symposium on Aging & Dementia
Freedom from Fear: On Black Childhood and Other Dangers
Bouldering @ Stone Fort
MEAT.
Fri
22
The Vexillology (the study of maps) Contest
Much Ado About Nothing
Bouldering @ Stone Fort
Free Saturday Swing Dance Lessons
Sat
23
The Vexillology (the study of maps) Contest
Much Ado About Nothing
Bouldering @ Stone Fort
UK Symphony Band and UK Concert Band
Sun
24
The Vexillology (the study of maps) Contest
Free Thanksgiving Shuttle to Blue Grass Airport
Mon
25
Free Thanksgiving Shuttle to Blue Grass Airport
Job Club - What is your money habitude?
Multicultural Student Thanksgiving Dinner
Tue
26
Thanksgiving - Academic Holidays
Free Thanksgiving Shuttle to Blue Grass Airport
Wed
27
Thanksgiving - Academic Holidays
Thu
28
Thanksgiving - Academic Holidays
Fri
29
Thanksgiving - Academic Holidays
Free Saturday Swing Dance Lessons
Kentucky Volleyball vs. Arkansas
Sat
30
 
Sun
 
 
 
 
 
 
Reset Page