John van Nagell on the Legacy of the Ovarian Cancer Screening Program

In his 50 years at UK, John R. van Nagell, Jr. has worked with countless patients, faculty and students, but his lasting legacy will likely be the Ovarian Cancer Screening Program at the Markey Cancer Center.

Now in its 30th year, the program has provided free screenings to more than 46,000 women, with 775 ovarian tumors and 103 malignancies found. Though the use of transvaginal ultrasound as a screening method has been controversial over the years—with critics suggesting it may lead to unnecessary surgeries—van Nagell emphasizes that newer technologies such as molecular genetic testing will help identify women with the highest risk profile who could most benefit, and the research itself has already taught physicians much about finding malignancies.

"We now know, because of this screening program, that certain ovarian cysts are always benign," he said. "We're not saying that ovarian cancer screening should be adopted nationally out of a research setting. But, what we are saying is more research needs to be done on it, and that's where the University of Kentucky, in my view, has been a leader."

Van Nagell was recently honored for his years of clinical, research and educational work on a national level, earning the Society of Gynecologic Oncology's Distinguished Service Award for 2017. Listen to the podcast to hear his reaction to this recent national recognition and learn what keeps him motivated, and see the video at