Community Impact Ambassadors

In 2021, Community Outreach and Engagement (COE) invited each of Markey's Research Programs to nominate two members to serve as Community Impact Ambassadors. These ambassadors meet monthly with Dr. Hull and the Research Integration team to serve as liaisons between their research programs and the COE team. In their role, ambassadors relay information and updates, needs, and interests as well as provide input on strategies to engage with investigators. In turn, they learn about community engagement and relay COE updates back to their programs. Additionally, COE trains them in giving presentations to lay audiences, which they are practicing with the Community Advisory Board.

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Why We CARE (Celebrate Access to Research for Everyone)


Here at Markey Cancer Center, researchers, doctors, and staff come from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, and all share one common goal – to provide Kentucky with cutting-edge research and high-quality cancer care. Watch the video to hear from Dr. Jill Kolesar as she talks about what inspired her to become a cancer researcher.


Ren Xu, PhD

Learn more from Dr. Xu as he talks about what inspired him to become a cancer researcher and hear about his research in breast cancer.


Krystle Kuhs, PhD, MPH

Learn more about Dr. Krystle Kuhs, from
Appalachia, as she talks about what inspired her to
become a cancer researcher focused on HPV.


John D'Orazio, MD

Learn more about Dr. John D'Orazio and what
inspired him to become a pediatric oncologist,
physician-scientist, and cancer researcher.

Learn more about the Community Impact Ambassador's research

Meet the Ambassadors

john dorazioJohn D’Orazio, MD, PhD
Chief, Division of Hematology/Oncology, Department of Pediatrics 
Molecular and Cellular Oncology Research (MCO) Program member
View research profile »

Hello, my name is Dr. John D’Orazio and I am a pediatric oncologist who treats children, adolescents and young adults with cancer and diseases of the blood. I am honored to be a Community Impact Ambassador for the Markey Cancer Center. My job involves the clinical care of patients as well as scientific and clinical research to try to advance our understanding of what causes cancer and better ways to treat it. I accepted the responsibility of being a Community Impact Ambassador because I know that no matter what advances scientists make in the laboratory, they won’t make much difference unless the community is partnered with them. Community perspectives are critical to let researchers know what are the most pressing needs facing cancer patients and their families. Engaging the community engenders mutual trust and respect, breaks down barriers, and can help scientific advances make it into the clinic because scientists can learn how better to communicate those advances to interested advocates who may not themselves have a deep scientific background. It takes trust and courage to enroll on research studies, and two-way communication between researchers and the broader cancer community can go a long way in building up that trust.  I take what I learn as an Ambassador and share it with my Markey research program to let my colleagues know that getting input from the community is something to be treasured.

jill kolesarJill Kolesar, PharmD
Professor, College of Pharmacy, Pharmacy Practice and Science 
Joint Appointment, College of Medicine, Internal Medicine 
Joint Appointment, College of Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynecology 
Dr. Michael Karpf Endowed Chair in Precision Medicine 
Translational Oncology (TO) Research Program leader 
View research profile »

Hello, my name is Jill Kolesar and I am a scientist who studies precision medicine, a way of using genes to determine which cancer treatment works best for an individual person with cancer. My work also involves helping community oncologists learn about and implement precision medicine in their practices. I wanted to be a Community Impact Ambassador so I can do research that improves cancer outcomes and matters to patients and their families. As a Community Impact Ambassador, I have learned so much about the priorities of community members and barriers to access to care, which has helped me focus my research on things that matter most.

timothy mullettTimothy Mullett, MD
Professor, College of Medicine, Surgery 
Medical Director, Network, Markey Cancer Center/Cancer Research Priority Initiative 
Translational Oncology (TO) Research Program member
View research profile »

Hi, I am Tim Mullett, a thoracic surgeon at Markey Cancer Center. While thoracic surgeons treat diseases throughout the chest, my practice has developed into a focus of how to diagnose and treat the burden of lung cancer in Kentucky. For many years, Kentucky has led the nation in risk of developing, and dying from, lung cancer. We are changing that together! By working with so many passionate Kentuckians, we are teaching others how to be effective in lung cancer screening—which helps to find cancer at stage more likely to be cured—and the use of personalized medicine to give patients with more advanced disease hope for their future. I am excited to serve as a Community Impact Ambassador because I know that we can’t change Kentucky’s future with lung cancer from Lexington, alone. We must engage the citizens, healthcare systems, providers and caregivers across the Commonwealth for patients to have the best outcomes.

ren xuRen Xu, PhD
Professor, College of Medicine, Pharmacology and Nutritional Sciences 
Molecular and Cellular Oncology Research (MCO) Program member
View research profile »

My name is Dr. Ren Xu, and I am a cancer biologist at the Markey Cancer Center. As a Community Impact Ambassador, I have learned how to make communities better by connecting scientists at the cancer center and their research to the local community. I take what I learn as an ambassador and share it within my program to encourage my colleagues to include community components in their research projects. My long-term goal as an ambassador is to help research at the cancer center to better serve our community.

laurie mclouthLaurie McLouth, PhD
Assistant Professor, College of Medicine, Behavioral Science 
College of Medicine, Center for Health Equity Transformation 
Cancer Prevention and Control Research (CP) Program member 
View research profile »

I’m Dr. Laurie McLouth, a behavioral scientist with expertise in cancer survivorship and cancer care delivery at the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center and Center for Health Equity Transformation. I am thrilled to be a Community Impact Ambassador. My job involves clinical research to try to improve the quality of care and quality of life for people who are undergoing treatment for advanced cancer or are entering post-treatment survivorship. Patient, family member, and community clinician voices are critical in shaping my research. I am trained as a clinical psychologist and have always held the perspective that the people facing a challenge hold the keys to effective solutions – they are the experts. I see my role as partnering with patients, family members, and clinicians to design research that will advance cancer care and improve the outcomes that matter most to patients and their families. As a Community Impact Ambassador, I am eager to learn how to advance these partnerships to move beyond a traditional research framework to one in which patients and their family members join my research team to fully shape our research questions, methods, and reporting. I hope to help other members in our Cancer Prevention and Control Research Program learn how to bring community members onto their teams, as I know diversity of thought will significantly enrich our science and advance our mission of reducing the burden of cancer in the Commonwealth.

krystle kuhsKrystle Kuhs, PhD
Associate Professor, College of Public Health, Epidemiology
Cancer Prevention and Control (CP) Program Leader
View research profile »

Hello, my name is Dr. Krystle Kuhs and I am an epidemiologist who studies cancers caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. Many Kentuckians may not be aware that we have the highest rates of HPV caused cancers in the US. Recently, we have seen a rapid increase in throat cancers caused by HPV. Unfortunately, there is no screening to detect throat cancer early. Treatment for throat cancer can cause severe and often permanent side effects including difficulties speaking and eating. If we could detect throat cancer earlier, we may be able to give patients less treatment to prevent the most severe side effects. That is what my research focuses on - developing screening for throat cancer. This work cannot be accomplished without the help of the community. Thousands of community members have selflessly volunteered their time to participate in my research to help advance early detection of throat cancer. Survivors of HPV cancers and their family members have generously donated funds to help support this research and countless other community members have provided invaluable advice on how to tailor studies to the specific needs of the community. This bidirectional communication between the community and researchers improves the quality of the science and ensures that we, as researchers, are actually working towards making the difference in peoples’ lives that we strive to.  I am honored to be a Community Impact Ambassador for the Markey Cancer Center and to help communicate the importance of partnering with the community.
NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center - A Cancer Center Designated by the National Cancer Institute

Markey Cancer Center is designated by the National Cancer Institute as a Comprehensive Cancer Center – a distinction that recognizes our commitment to accelerating precision cancer research and care to patients. We are the first and only NCI-Comprehensive Cancer Center in Kentucky, and one of 57 in the nation.