Our Work in Northern Kentucky Offers a Bright Hope for Our Commonwealth

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

As the University for Kentucky, we are the institution our Commonwealth has charged with confronting the most profound of challenges— in education, economic development, health care, and cultural and societal advance— in Kentucky and beyond.

This week, our Board of Trustees will visit Northern Kentucky. This opportunity affords us a moment to reflect upon our partnerships in Northern Kentucky, which demonstrate our goals for collaboration and growth in the region and beyond.

Consider this story:

Mackenzee Walters, a bright and cheerful 11-year-old, has struggled with chronic pain her entire life. Born with a genetic pancreatic disorder, Mackenzee was denied a typical childhood. While her peers were playing outdoors, Mackenzee was often in bed at home or staying at the hospital, struggling with a flare-up of her excruciating disease.

When even adult-strength medication could not improve her quality of life, her doctor at Kentucky Children’s Hospital reached out to colleagues at Cincinnati Children’s to recommend Mackenzee for a unique form of surgery, which would remove her pancreas.  

Cincinnati Children’s performed the innovative and rare surgery, reconstructing Mackenzee’s body to function without her pancreas. The 12-hour procedure proved successful, and now, Mackenzee is experiencing a rich life, no longer limited by the hardships of chronic pain.

Mackenzee’s experience was possible through partnership between UK HealthCare and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital—one of few hospitals in the country offering this rare surgery. If collaborations like this can change a little girl’s life expectancy, just think about what else can they do?

But that’s only the start. Consider that:

We have more than $258,000 in research partnerships with Northern Kentucky University, working on complex issues such as the effects of alcoholic and caffeinated drinks and the improvement of elementary math education.

In February, the UK College of Medicine announced its plans of developing a regional medical school campus at NKU—the third four-year regional campus in development. Campuses in Morehead and Bowling Green are under way as well.

Why have we worked to expand our College of Medicine? Because in Kentucky, we have a shortage of physicians—particularly primary care physicians.

In partnership, we can change that reality.

By working together with NKU, we aim to increase our capacity to educate future health care professionals and to launch local, hardworking students into successful careers in the Northern Kentucky community. It will allow us to utilize resources at UK, while effectively and efficiently integrating existing resources throughout the state.

To start this program, the University of Kentucky has partnered with both NKU and St. Elizabeth Healthcare. St. Elizabeth Healthcare has seven facilities throughout Northern Kentucky, which will serve as clinical training locations for our medical students.

St. Elizabeth Healthcare’s goal of “leading Northern Kentucky to become one of the healthiest communities in America,” aligns with our commitment to improving the lives in the Commonwealth.

These partnerships are important reminders of our unity as institutes of higher education. We share common goals of developing healthier and more prosperous communities in which to live, work, and learn. 

Our work in Northern Kentucky offers a bright hope for transformations and change in the Commonwealth and the world in which we serve. From young Mackenzee Walters to entire cities and communities, the University for Kentucky will continue to improve lives, while fostering our relationships with the communities surrounding us, to merge our individual strengths and pave the way for a promising future.

Our legacy is built on the indelible marks we make on others. Together, with our partners, we will leave a lasting legacy in the Northern Kentucky area.