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Personal Experience Ignites UK Coach Kyra Elzy's Passion for Alzheimer’s Research

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 10, 2022) - University of Kentucky Women’s Basketball Coach Kyra Elzy is passionate about Alzheimer’s disease research because of her close relationships with her grandmother, Mary Elzy, and her college basketball coach.

As a four-year letter winner at Tennessee, Elzy was a member of two national championship teams in 1997 and 1998 and a national runner-up squad in 2000, all under the legendary Pat Summitt. Her beloved coach died in 2016 at the age of 64 following a battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Back in January, Elzy and current Tennessee head coach Kellie Harper made generous donations to the Pat Summitt Foundation Fund in honor of We Back Pat Week. Both coaches each presented $10,000 personal checks at half court before the two teams played on Sunday for a total of a $20,000 donation. Elzy and Harper are former teammates, both playing under and learning from Summitt.

When the Wildcats returned home for their next game at Memorial Coliseum, they continued to show support for Alzheimer’s research during We Back Pat Week by recognizing the University of Kentucky’s Sanders-Brown Center on Aging and dedicating their game to the fight against Alzheimer's. For decades, Sanders-Brown has been a global leader in Alzheimer’s and dementia research. As part of the celebration and recognition of the work done at Sanders-Brown - researchers, students, clinic staff, coaches, players, and fans all completed signs sharing “why” this work is so important to them. 

“The people of Big Blue Nation are truly blessed to have the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging right here in Lexington,” said Elzy.

The game recognition was not Elzy's first interaction with the faculty and staff at Sanders-Brown. Back in the summer, the coach along with some of her players spent time at the center learning about their ongoing efforts aimed at finding a cure for a disease that kills more people every year than breast and prostate cancer combined.

While Coach Elzy draws motivation to support Alzheimer’s research from her former coach, she is also creating her own legacy of winning championships just as Summitt did at Tennessee.

In her second season as head coach, Elzy just led Kentucky to its first SEC Tournament title in 40 years - winning the conference championship for only the second time in school history. The Cats are now preparing for a run in the NCAA Tournament and will learn where that journey begins this Sunday during the selection show on ESPN. 


Coach Kyra Elzy and members of the UK Women's Basketball Team spent time with clinical trials director, Greg Jicha, M.D., Ph.D., during a visit to UK's Sanders-Brown Center on Aging. Photo by | UK Athletics
Coach Kyra Elzy and Pete Nelson, M.D., Ph.D., during a visit to UK's Sanders-Brown Center on Aging. Photo by | UK Athletics
Coach Kyra Elzy and the team visited a statue in honor of the late Pate Summitt while in Knoxville for their game against Tennessee. Eddie Justice | UK Athletics
As part of their home "We Back Pat" week game dedicated to Sanders-Brown and Alzheimer's research, members of UK Women's Basketball as well as Sanders-Brown shared their "why".
Fans at the game also created signs sharing their "why". Photo by | UK Athletics
Members of Sanders-Brown were recognized at half court during the UK Women's Basketball game dedicated to Alzheimer's research. Photo by | UK Athletics
Coach Kyra Elzy's grandmother and former coach ignited her passion for Alzheimer's research. Photo by | UK Athletics

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.