Leadership Kentucky focuses on state's healthcare woes

July 18, 2004|JULIE McGLOTHLIN

"It's the 800-pound gorilla that no one can get their arms around."

That's how Mayfield Mayor Arthur Byrn II described the giant problem of healthcare in Kentucky.

Byrn and the other 55 members of this year's Leadership Kentucky class spent Thursday and Friday in Danville for a session on "Health and Human Services."

Created in 1984, Leadership Kentucky is a non-profit group that sponsors a series of two-day sessions for a select group of "emerging or existing leaders from all over the Commonwealth," said Julie Schmidt, president of Leadership Kentucky.

Each month, a session is held in a different congressional district. These seminars focus on education, justice and the economy, among other issues, before concluding with a graduation in November. The sessions examine the state of the Commonwealth and the challenges it faces as well as its resources and opportunities.


"It gives us the opportunity to experience and understand different regions of the state and exposes us to a lot of issues," Byrn said.

The "Health and Human Services" program included a trip to the University of Kentucky on Thursday to learn about medical research and a series of speakers at Centre College on Friday. While Thursday's sessions looked at UK's innovative research into Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, Friday focused on heightening understanding of the complexity of health issues facing the state.

A panel discussion titled "The Challenges Facing Healthcare" brought up the strengths and weaknesses of the Kentucky healthcare system and offered possible solutions to the biggest problems. Medical liability, cost, nursing shortages, and prevalent problems such as smoking, diabetes and obesity were highlighted as key issues.

One of the speakers, Dr. Scott Scutchfield, an associate professor at the University of Kentucky who used to practice in Danville, said, "Each of us interacts with the health system. I may look at it differently as a provider... we all have a different perspective, but we all have a common interest."

Clark Taylor, CEO of Ephraim McDowell Health, also spoke on the panel, urging the members of Kentucky's new crop of leaders to pick one particular problem in healthcare and "be active" by seeking its resolution.

Margaret Levi, general counsel for Ephraim McDowell Health and program chair for the "Health and Human Services" session, helped organize Leadership Kentucky's visit to Danville. A 2002 participant in Leadership Kentucky, she wanted to "give back what I got" from the program.

The participants come from all backgrounds, ranging from educators to attorneys, and come from all over the state.

"If we didn't have a diverse group in Leadership Kentucky, it would be boring," said Ronald Coleman of Robards, a maintenance mechanic and union leader at Alcan Aluminum. Coleman cites the different ethnic backgrounds, 30-year age range of attendees, and general diversity of the group as one of the program's strongest assets.

It wasn't all work and no play. In addition to exploring political, social and economic concerns, the program also tries to showcase the beauty and diversity of the state. Some members of the group participated in optional activities on Wednesday including a tour of the Ephraim McDowell House and Apothecary Museum and golfing at the Danville Country Club.

Thursday evening they enjoyed a glassblowing demonstration by famed Centre College Professor Stephen Powell.

"And the glassblowing, that was awesome," said Michael Hoseus, executive director of the Center for Quality People and Organizations in Georgetown. "To have a program of that international stature made me proud. I'm going to be bragging some more on Kentucky."

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