UK COM: Prominent Cornerstone in UK's Rich History and Provider of World Class Health Care

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 18, 2015) — The University of Kentucky is currently celebrating 150 years as the state's flagship, land-grant institution of higher education.  From the early days as a school of agriculture to the vast campus that comprises UK today, the university has evolved into a nationally recognized leader in academics as well as a leader in patient care, medical education and research.

 The dream of a state medical center at UK became a reality in the mid-1950s when then governor Albert B. Chandler made creating a world-class medical center and medical college a priority during his appointment in office in an effort to make better health care more accessible to Kentuckians. Today, the UK College of Medicine is one of six health care colleges that constitute the UK Medical Center, which also includes DentistryHealth SciencesNursingPharmacy, and Public Health.

 Since the first graduating class in 1964, the College of Medicine has graduated more than 4,500 highly qualified physicians to practice medicine across the state of Kentucky and around the nation. The roots of the college have a storied past that has helped shape and define not only the College of Medicine today, but health care in Kentucky and beyond. A small sampling of notable highlights from the history of the college include: 

  • 1956: Dr. William R. Willard, dean of the State University of New York's Upstate Medical Center and known as a medical pioneer, became the founding vice president of the UK Medical Center and first dean of the UK College of Medicine. Under Willard's leadership, the colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Dentistry and Allied Health were developed, the University Hospital was designed and opened, and the College of Pharmacy became part of the medical center. He established the nation's first departments of Community Medicine and Behavioral Sciences and led the national movement to establish Family Practice as a recognized specialty in medical education and practice.
  • September 1960: After receiving more than 400 applications, the college admits its first class of 40 students; 39 men and one woman.
  • 1962: Dr. Jacqueline A. Noonan, UK Pediatrics, becomes internationally known for description of a genetic disorder now called Noonan Syndrome, characterized by distinct facial traits, short stature and congenital cardiac defects. Noonan became the first woman chair of a College of Medicine department in 1974, and she later helped establish the Kentucky Children's Hospital.  Noonan has received national recognition of her care for children with heart disease.
  • 1969: Dr. Nicholas J. Pisacano, UK Internal Medicine, founded and became the executive director of the American Board of Family Practice, after years of effort to gain recognition of Family Practice as one of the major specialties.
  • 1974: Dr. William R. Markesbery, UK Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, became an extraordinary researcher, clinician and director of the UK Sanders-Brown Center on Aging. He was the first to describe a rare form of heredity tardive distal muscular dystrophy, now called Finnish-Markesbery Disease. He and collaborators published numerous pioneering studies on the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease. He received numerous awards for his work and the National Alzheimer's Association recognized him among the top researchers in the world of Alzheimer's disease.
  • 1979: the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging opens, and goes on to develop as a national leader in efforts to improve the quality of life for the elderly through research and education.  In 1985, the Center is designated one of 10 original NIH Alzheimer's Disease Research Centers
  • 1975: Robert Straus, Ph.D., chair of Behavioral Sciences, is named a member of the Institute of Medicine (IOM), one of the highest honors bestowed in medicine.  He was the first UK faculty member to become a member of IOM for his many achievements. Straus was also instrumental in the development of the UK College of Medicine and the UK Albert B. Chandler Medical Center.
  • 1979: The popular "Clinician's Pocket Reference," also known as the "Scut Monkey Book," comes to fruition after being based on UK's original "So You Want to Be a Scut Monkey: Medical Student's and House Officer's Clinical Handbook" used during the first ever program unique to UK intended to alleviate the transition from preclinical to clinical years for third-year medical students. The program went on to be emulated by other medical schools across the nation.
  • 1983: After teaching medicine at Harvard University, Boston University and the University of Massachusetts, Dr. Gilbert H. Fridell joins UK as the first director of the Markey Cancer Center.
  • 1984: The UK Board of Trustees formally accepts a gift of nearly $5 million from the Lucille Parker Markey Charitable Trust, the largest single cash gift ever received at the university at that time, used for the construction of the Markey Cancer Center building.
  • 1987: Dr. John R. van Nagell Jr., Obstetrics and Gynecology, starts the UK Ovarian Cancer Screening Program, the first of its kind in the United States.
  • 1988: Two UK medical students, Scott Black and Robert Bratton, receive national attention when they ask the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council to pass an ordinance requiring businesses that sell alcohol to display signs warning pregnant women of the danger of drinking. The student's actions receive the backing of the American Medical Association which led to federal legislation requiring warning labels on alcohol bottles.
  • 1990: The UK Board of Trustees appoints Dr. Wayne Myers, UK Pediatrics, as the director of the Center of Excellence for Rural Health located in Hazard, Kentucky.
  • 1992: The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grants UK $2.5 million to completely redesign its medical school curriculum to focus more on primary care, disease prevention, wellness, ethics, social issues and cost containment.
  • 1997: Linda and Jack Gill donate $5 million, matched by the Kentucky Research Challenge Trust Fund, to establish a unified, comprehensive academic program in cardiovascular science. The gift is one of the largest individual gifts ever given to UK. In 2000, ground is broken on the $25 million building and the Gill Heart Institute opens on April 23, 2004.
  • 2003: UK ophthalmologist Dr. Jayakrishna Ambati and his team develop the first animal model for age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss in older adults. Ambati is recognized internationally and has received numerous awards for his research in macular degeneration. He is the first UK researcher ever to receive the prestigious Burroughs Wellcome Fund Clinical Scientist Award in Translational Research.
  • 2004: Academic Medicine features the UK College of Medicine as one of the eight medical schools having exceptional medical education research programs.
  • 2005: Eight departments in the College of Medicine rank in the Top 20 nationally for National Institutes of Health funding.
  • 2007: Researchers in the Department of Radiation Medicine, led by UK molecular biologist Vivek Rangnekar, Ph.D., create a cancer-resistant mouse. Following discoveries hold promise for the development of new, more effective cancer treatments.
  • 2008: The College of Medicine announces plans to address the acute shortage of physicians by increasing its enrollment and recruiting and training physicians in the state's medically underserved rural areas.
  • 2009: Dr. Ardis Hoven, UK Internal Medicine, is voted chair-elect of the American Medical Association Board of Trustees.
  • 2011: UK’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science is awarded $20 million from the Nation Institutes of Health.  This designation makes it a part of a select national biomedical research consortium.
  • 2012: The College of Medicine implements its most dramatic curriculum change in over 20 years emphasizing a systems-based approach to the integration of the basic and clinical sciences (i.e. a cardiology systems course provides instruction in cardiac anatomy, physiology, pathology, pharmacology and microbiology in one integrated course). This hybrid systems-based structure integrates foundational disciplines in the first year.  The second year culminates in a multisystem and integrative course that brings all of the systems-based knowledge together into a comprehensive perspective on the patient.
  • 2013: Markey Cancer Center becomes the 68th National Cancer Institute designated center in the country.
  • 2014: NIH funding for the fiscal year stood at $62.4 million, up from $50.6 million in the previous fiscal year.
  • 2015: UK receives endorsed funding from Kentucky legislators to build a multi-disciplinary research facility that will focus on health disparities in the state.

 Dean Frederick de Beer stated, “We must continue to strengthen our efforts through education and research so as to position the University of Kentucky as the premier provider of superior medical services for the people of Kentucky and beyond.”

 MEDIA CONTACT: Ann Blackford at 859-323-6442 or