Over the past five years, the UK College of Medicine Office of Graduate Medical Education (GME) has undergone a remarkable transformation. GME has added 21 new residency and fellowship programs, 200 additional fellows and residents, and a new partnership with the Medical Center at Bowling Green to its varied graduate medical education training offerings. 

The numbers are impressive on their own. But Katherine McKinney, MD, senior associate dean for graduate medical education, explains that GME expansion has also included “an intentional emphasis on enhancing resident and fellow engagement in health care quality and safety and development of additional training in leadership and teaching.”

Jitesh Patel, MD, professor of surgery, serves as director of the new colorectal fellowship program at UK College of Medicine in Lexington, providing general surgery residency graduates with opportunities for additional specialty-specific training and advanced research opportunities. 

Kentucky has one of the highest incidences of and mortality rates for colorectal cancer in the nation, and so, as Dr. Patel points out, the clinical volume and case complexity fellows experience prepare them thoroughly for the challenges of the field. 

The program also contributes significantly to patient care at UK HealthCare. “It’s a complement to the general surgical program,” Dr. Patel said. “It improves the experience of the junior resident while freeing up the chief resident for more in-depth inpatient care and allows them to have a richer experience in the outpatient setting.” 

Pulmonologist Nisar Kazimuddin, MD, directs the pulmonary disease and critical care fellowship at the UK College of Medicine-Bowling Green Campus. The fellowship initially began in 2019 as a pulmonary disease-focused training program and subsequently expanded to a combined pulmonary and critical care fellowship.  

The following spring, COVID-19 emerged, a special challenge for pulmonary specialists. The Medical Center at Bowling Green, serving 10 surrounding counties, saw a sharp increase in patients needing intensive care treatment. 

With the pulmonary fellowship in place, the Medical Center was in a strong position to respond. The addition of critical care to the pulmonary program and the increase in fellows, Dr. Kazimuddin explains, benefited both the Medical Center and the program. 

“Further this year, we plan to move to a closed ICU, thereby ensuring 24/7 coverage by critical care physicians for every sick patient that comes into ICU. This allows for fellows, residents, and students to have plenty of time for formal and informal teaching sessions,” she said. “We’re big enough to provide comprehensive care for patients and small enough for rapport, so we can adapt to the needs of fellows.”

The first fellows will graduate in July with experience under pandemic conditions and in-depth learning provided by the program. Dr. Kazimuddin is confident that they will be well-prepared. “Wherever they go, they’ll provide effective care,” she said. “They’re clinically strong.” 

The extraordinary growth in GME is not over by any means, according to Dr. McKinney. Several of the new programs have not completely filled all classes of residents and as they fully expand will be adding more learners in the years ahead. 

“We’re continuing to look for additional opportunities to partner with hospitals across the state, especially more rural opportunities, and additional subspecialty training in Lexington,” said Dr. McKinney. “More partnerships across Kentucky, more advanced opportunities in Lexington,” with the long-term result of an increase of highly trained physicians, with many who decide to make the Commonwealth their home. 

You can read this story and much more in our summer 2022 edition of UK Medicine magazine.