Pitino Foundation Van dedication on July 21, 2015
Pitino Foundation Van dedication on July 21, 2015

On July 21, a new van was dedicated that is critical to delivering those services. The van, bought with the gift from the foundation, was unveiled during a news conference at the UofL Physicians Health Care Outpatient Center.

For more than four decades, doctors and staff affiliated with the University of Louisville have packed their bags every week and traveled the state to give those thousands of children with heart problems specialized care close to home.

The pediatric cardiology team travels to eight rotating sites from Ashland to Paducah and places in between, bringing all their supplies and medical equipment – such as EKG and echocardiogram machines – in a customized van made just for the task. The team, which lives on the road four days a week, reaches up to 50 patients a day and more than 5,600 per year.

For many of these children, the van makes it possible to get the care they need without having to travel hours to Louisville and have their parents take time off work and spend precious resources on travel expenses and hotels. For some with very limited resources, it makes the difference between getting the care they need and not getting care at all.

But over the years as the latest van aged, it became unreliable, at times leaving the doctors and staff without a way to transport their equipment to patients. Now, thanks to the $56,901 grant from the Daniel Pitino Foundation, the pediatric cardiology travel team has a brand new van made just for them to reach the many patients they serve.

“We are so thankful to the Daniel Pitino Foundation for this generous grant that helps us reach so many children in Kentucky who need our services,” said Dr. Walter Sobczyk, senior pediatric cardiologist at UofL Physicians and an associate professor at the UofL School of Medicine.

“Getting care in rural and outlying areas, far from large cities like Louisville, is a very tough task for many families. They have enough to worry about without adding travel and the associated expenses to the mix. We believe that every child deserves access to the health care they need, no matter their circumstances. The van helps ensure they get expert care and have access to the latest in medical advancements and treatments so they can live the best possible life.”

The Daniel Pitino Foundation was founded by UofL men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino and his wife, JoAnne, to honor the memory of their infant son, Daniel, who died of a congenital heart condition in 1987. The foundation’s mission is to benefit underprivileged children and other charitable causes.

“In recognizing the quality care and treatment provided by the doctors and staff of UofL Physicians across the Commonwealth, our board is pleased that we can provide support for the transportation needs of these dedicated individuals,” said Ron Carmicle, executive vice president of the Daniel Pitino Foundation’s board.

For many patients, the van’s services are invaluable.

“It’s made a huge difference in our lives,” said Jill Story, of Benton, Ky., whose daughter Jacee, 16, sees the van’s doctors because of a congenital heart defect. Her husband Matt, 45, also has a congenital heart defect and has been seeing the van’s doctors since he was a child. “It keeps us from having to routinely travel more than three hours to Louisville for their care.”

More about the pediatric cardiology outreach program

The outreach van travels to sites around Kentucky, including Owensboro, Bowling Green, Paducah, Ashland, Murray and Elizabethtown. On most days, the team consists of two doctors and six support staff.  At each site, the team leases office space for the day, where the staff sees up to 50 patients a day, four days a week, Monday through Friday.

The staff also sees referrals from pediatricians and local hospitals. Some patients of the outreach program, like Matt Story, are adults who have been seeing the team’s doctors since they were children.

For patients who need surgery or more complex procedures, the team can arrange for care at Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville, as well as transport there.

Back in Louisville, the team is also part of a statewide telemedicine network, where staff at 27 hospitals around the state can digitally transmit results of a heart test for immediate analysis by pediatric cardiology specialists with UofL Physicians at Kosair Children’s Hospital. The UofL Physicians staff at the hospital read up to 2,500 echocardiograms a year.

Initially a state-funded program in the 1950s and 1960s, funding for the outreach van dried up in the late 1970s, leaving the pediatric cardiology clinical practice of the University of Louisville, now part of University of Louisville Physicians, to supply the money and keep it going.

About University of Louisville Physicians

University of Louisville Physicians is the largest multispecialty physician practice in the Louisville region, with nearly 600 physicians in more than 78 specialties and subspecialties, including primary care. Our doctors are the professors and researchers of the University of Louisville School of Medicine, teaching tomorrow’s physicians and leading research into medical advancements. For more information, visit www.uoflphysicians.com.

UofL School of Medicine

About the University of Louisville Health Sciences Center

The University of Louisville Health Sciences Center is the city’s only academic medical center. Approximately 1,000 faculty members are involved in education, research and clinical care.  The UofL HSC is home to more than 650 medical and dental residents, 3,000 students pursuing degrees in health-related fields within the Schools of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing and Public Health and Information Sciences, as well as 14 interdisciplinary centers and institutes.  Approximately $140 million in extramural funding enables researchers to uncover the causes of disease and better ways to prevent, treat and cure those diseases. Patients are seen at the Ambulatory Care Building, The James Graham Brown Cancer Center, the UofL Physicians Outpatient Center, and University Hospital, which is the primary adult teaching hospital for the School of Medicine.  University Hospital’s public mission is steeped in history and now is most clearly visible through its provision of nearly $90 million of health care to the uninsured annually.