UK Chandler Hospital ranked best in state by U.S. News; UK HealthCare specialty services rated high

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By Kristi Lopez and Allison Perry
Special to KyForward

UK HealthCare’s University of Kentucky Albert B. Chandler Hospital remains the No. 1 hospital in Kentucky and the Bluegrass Region, according to the U.S. News & World Report’s Best Hospitals Rankings released Tuesday.

In addition, four major health care areas have achieved top 50 national rankings, three of them for the first time. UK HealthCare rankings included: #50 in Cancer, #44 in Neurology and Neurosurgery, #43 in Geriatrics, and #37 in Diabetes and Endocrinology.

Along with the Top 50 rankings, UK HealthCare is ranked as high-performing in five other adult specialties – Gastroenterology and GI Surgery; Nephrology; Orthopedics; Pulmonology; and Urology. Additionally, the health care system was designated high performing in eight common adult procedures and conditions: Aortic Valve Surgery, Heart Bypass Surgery, Heart Failure, Colon Cancer Surgery, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Hip Replacement, Knee Replacement, and Lung Cancer Surgery.

As many patients in the Commonwealth struggle with some of the most complex health issues, these recognitions cement UK HealthCare’s role as the major health care system best equipped to deal with our state’s unique health needs, said Dr. Michael Karpf, University of Kentucky executive vice president for health affairs.

“We are committed to providing the best programs and best care available in Kentucky so that no one has to travel far from home for world-class advanced specialty care and these rankings speak to the hard work and dedication of our physicians, nurses and our entire health care team,” Karpf said.

This year’s U.S. News & World Report rankings cover nearly every hospital in every community nationwide. According to survey officials, the rankings are grounded in objective data and offer patients a deep, rich resource on their hospital choices. Over 70 percent of the rankings are based on objective data, with U.S. News analyzing more than 2,600 metrics across 21 data-driven specialties and procedures and conditions. The result is thousands of data points on hospitals that excel at treating the most challenging cases, those that do best in more routine procedures, like knee replacements, and those that provide top local care.

“UK HealthCare is a place where you feel safe because you know we’re ready no matter the situation or illness,” said Colleen Swartz, UK HealthCare’s chief administrative officer. “If you have someone you love who lives in Kentucky you will need UK HealthCare at some point in time. Whether it’s someone with a newly diagnosed cancer, or a premature baby, or a critically ill or injured child, or brother or mother or sister, you want to know that a place like this is ready to go when you need us.”

Cancer care was included in the top 50 for the first time — although it has consistently been designated as High Performing for many years. Still, the move up is indicative of the Markey Cancer Center’s continued emphasis on providing exemplary care as the state’s only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated center.

“We see 50 percent of our patients coming from Eastern Kentucky which has some of the highest rates of cancer in the country — particularly lung cancer and colon cancer. So, the Markey Cancer Center is vitally important to our region,” said Dr. Mark Evers, director of the Markey Cancer Center.

Since 2016, UK HealthCare has gone from one specialty top-50 ranking — Geriatrics, which moved up two spots from #45 to #43 — to having four major adult specialties nationally ranked.

“This is the first time our programs at UK in neuro (neurology and neurosurgery) have achieved national rankings,” said Dr. Larry B. Goldstein, the Ruth L. Works Professor and chair of the UK Department of Neurology, and co-director of the Kentucky Neuroscience Institute (KNI). “This is something we’ve been working on for the past two years, and it’s wonderful to be able to have our faculty and staff receive this recognition for all the great things they’re doing.”

Fellow KNI co-director Linda Van Eldik, who also is director of the UK Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, was pleased with national rankings in Neurology and Neurosurgery as well as Geriatrics. This is really a culmination of the work we’ve been doing for many years in the areas of brain,” Van Eldik said. “It’s recognition from the outside that we already knew — that we were doing cutting-edge work and we are continuing to enhance our excellence.”

Dr. Shawn Caudill, professor and chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine and Women’s Health, sees increasingly more geriatric patients in UK HealthCare’s outpatient clinics. “(The rankings) are a reflection of why we have such a larger aging population than we had before,” Caudill said. “We’ve had lot of success on overcoming the things that used to kill people — heart attacks, strokes, lung disease — and we’ve done interventions to help keep people going longer and now it is important for us to continue to help take care of them.”

This year’s rankings also included a major leap for UK’s diabetes and endocrinology program. The previously unranked adult specialty is now 37th in the country, a testament to both the clinical care and research at UK’s Barnstable-Brown Diabetes Center. “We are one of the few places in Kentucky where all these services are provided either under one roof or where we can engage people to help you in all these different arenas,” said Dr. John Fowlkes, director of the Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center.

This collaboration and patient-centered care offered at the Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center provides patients with outstanding clinical care throughout their lifespan and for all aspects of their health, added Dr. Lisa Tannock, chief of the Division of Endocrinology and Molecular Medicine. “Our physicians, advanced practice providers (APPs), endocrinology fellows and staff, including expert certified diabetes educators, continually seek opportunities to pass on advanced patient care based on our ongoing research into the best ways to prevent and treat diabetes and endocrine diseases.”

In acknowledging all of UK HealthCare’s national rankings and achievements, one common factor is always first to be attributed to success — the people who work there.

“I’ve been here almost a year and a half and to see what the University of Kentucky and UK HealthCare has achieved, really in a short time is remarkable,” said UK College of Medicine Dean Dr. Robert DiPaola. “And to see the passion of the people here behind the scenes doing the things that make a difference for our patients — it is absolutely amazing. I know that going forward, we will continue this trajectory.”

Kristi Lopez and Allison Perry write for UK Now

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