We have a compelling story -- the story of how our university educates our students, serves communities across the Commonwealth, develops a broader understanding of our world, and heals those most in need of complex health care.
It is a story of momentum and results that I tell with tremendous pride. It is a Kentucky story. It is a story illustrated by the extraordinary progress we’ve made in every corner of our campus.
Because of you, we have over the last several years experienced a 15 percent growth in enrollment and some of the highest graduation rates in our history. Who are these students?
They are promising young scholars like Tony Kao, a student from Georgetown whose family immigrated to the United States from Cambodia at age 5. Tony was a first-generation college student, who pursued a degree in mechanical engineering. As a student, he interned with Toyota and Marathon Petroleum. He led a student organization on our campus, built friendships with his fellow students, and found mentors in our faculty and staff. Today, he is working for the company where he was a past intern, Marathon.
Our story is manifest in UK’s creative research and discovery, where pioneering faculty and staff are on the frontlines of the questions of our day. Last year, our research enterprise earned $285 million in competitive external grants and contracts, helping propel us toward the top echelons of the nation’s research universities.
These grants support the groundbreaking research of faculty like Dr. Stephen Dobson and Dr. Grayson Brown. As the world confronts the dangers of Zika virus, two UK professors may have a clue in combating this potential global epidemic.
Dobson and his former doctoral student turned business partner, Dr. Jimmy Mains, developed technology that uses male mosquitoes to effectively sterilize females through a naturally occurring bacterium and without using chemical pesticides that can negatively impact beneficial non-target insects like bees and butterflies.
With the help of the National Institutes of Health, the Kentucky Science and Technology Corp. and the Gatton College’s Von Allmen Center for Entrepreneurship, Dobson and Mains have commercialized their research and launched MosquitoMate, which is currently conducting field trials of their product.
This critical discovery may hold a key to unlocking a solution to deadly diseases transmitted by mosquitos; not just Zika Virus, but also diseases like Yellow Fever, Dengue Fever, and Malaria, to name a few.
These aren’t the only health maladies that confront our state, nation and world, and UK is providing more complex care close to home than at any point in our history. Over the last decade, patient discharges have grown by more than 95 percent to more than 37,000 annually.
Included in that number are the record 43 heart transplants UK performed in 2015; the most performed by a Kentucky medical center in a single year. This number places UK among the top 20-25 medical centers nationally that perform more than 30 heart transplants each year.
Two of those hearts went to Stan Burch and Dennis Hamilton, who received their new hearts within five days of each other.
Stan, a 64-year old Louisville resident who dealt with a heart murmur as a child and more recent episodes as an adult, came to UK in 2014 after what seemed like a series of hopeless dead ends.
Dennis was the fifth person in a family with an intractable history of heart disease. He did everything right, exercised, had regular, pre-emptive checkups, and maintained a healthy diet. However genetics caught up with him.
Today, both families are walking the post-transplant recovery path together.
These three stories – a first-generation college student whose education opened doors to success, two faculty finding creative solutions that have potential global implications, and two lives transformed by quality care – represent countless others who have been served by Kentucky’s flagship university.
Their stories are our stories. They are Kentucky stories.