Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Over the past year, I've had the privilege of recognizing the outstanding efforts of faculty members across our campus, time and time again. It never gets old.
The close of the spring semester confirmed more than ever to me in a deeply profound way that people make the place — from teaching that changes and touches lives to research that can transform communities and heal families. The last few weeks have seen a flurry of announcements of grants related to research mission. But it’s the people behind those grants and those numbers that demonstrate the special place that is the University of Kentucky.
Three examples of faculty — among so many — highlight what I mean.
Lisa Cassis, chair of the Department of Pharmacology and newly named interim UK vice president for research, and Alison Gustafson, assistant professor in the Department of Dietetics and Human Nutrition, were among the participants selected for the 2014 SEC Symposium in Atlanta, Sept. 21-23.
The symposium is titled "Prevention of Obesity: Overcoming a 21st Century Public Health Challenge." Researchers at this symposium aim to identify solutions to this tremendously challenging issue, focusing on a range of topics from genetics, to technology and media, to environmental influences.
I was honored to introduce Dr. Cassis last fall, when we received one of the largest health grants ever made to our institution: an $11.3 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant supporting research focusing on obesity and cardiovascular disease. Dr. Cassis serves as the program director of this grant, which supports the Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) focused on obesity and cardiovascular diseases.
Each time I meet with Dr. Cassis, I'm reminded of and moved by her dedication to fighting obesity, a problem that too many Kentuckians unfortunately confront.
Another faculty member whose efforts and dedication move me is Dr. Jayakrishna Ambati, professor and vice chair of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences in the UK College of Medicine. He has been named one of 14 recipients of the 2014 SEC Faculty Achievement Awards, an honor recognizing one faculty member from every SEC university who demonstrates outstanding records of teaching, research and scholarship.
I recently had the privilege of touring his lab, and left it deeply impressed with all that he is doing as a national leader in the fight against macular degeneration — a scourge that confronts millions of Americans.
Achievements such as these showcase and renew our commitment to our state and our nation. As the Commonwealth's indispensable institution, we work each day to improve the lives of our fellow citizens. These three individuals personify that commitment.
As I said, recognizing outstanding members of the UK family never gets old. I'm very grateful for the hard work occurring across our campus by so many people in so many ways that serve our state and our world.
All the best,