U of L President Neeli Bendapudi: “Our Cardinal Family of color needs your help. Our society needs your help.” Monday, Jun 1 2020 

By Eli Hughes–

President Neeli Bendapudi announced in an email on May 29 the actions the University of Louisville plans to take after the recent deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd.

“At the University of Louisville, Diversity and Inclusion is one of our core Cardinal Principles,” Bendapudi said.

“This university strives to be a home and safe haven for our students, faculty and staff of color just as we strive to do this for all of the many rich and diverse identities held throughout our campus community.”

Those actions include updating the Bias Incident Response Team, which is responsible for responding to incidents of racism, microaggressions and bias. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion will also update their programming and will reach out to students who need support during this time or want to be educated on racial topics.

Another action the university will take is creating a new education program for faculty and staff that will cover diversity and inclusion. The educational series will be developed by the Department of Education Leadership, Evaluation and Organizational Development in the College of Education and Human Development, and the Office of Diversity and Equity.

Bendapudi also stated the University of Louisville Police Department is committed to keeping campus safe for all students and is involved in discussions surrounding race. “The Department continues to be actively involved in open forums discussing critical racial issues that impact our campus and local community,” Bendapudi said.

U of L has also created a resource page that can be found on the Diversity and Inclusion website. The website provides information on the history of racism and slavery for those interested in learning more about these issues.

Bendapudi concluded the email by acknowledging that these actions are not a solution by themselves but do point to progress the university is making.

“It will take all of us acting collectively with informed intention and empowering care to start to see the change we need, “Bendapudi said.

“I ask each of us to please take an intentional step today to be better and to do more. I need your help. Our Cardinal Family of color needs your help. Our society needs your help.”

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal

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President Bendapudi gives summer update to U of L community Monday, May 25 2020 

By Madelin Shelton–

University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi sent out an email on May 21 regarding U of L’s decisions through June and July amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. 

These months are expected to be a transitional period for the pivot to the fall semester. This transition will include various policies to help protect the health and safety of faculty, staff and students. 

Among them, Bendapudi announced that the university has “extended the remote-work policy through June 30 for those employees who can continue performing their duties off campus.” 

In addition, June 1 will mark the first day that certain units may begin to bring some employees back to campus who provide critical on-campus needs. June 1 will also be the first day that small meetings and events of up to 10 people can begin. 

The other policies of the transition include a confirmation that pay reductions and furloughs scheduled between now and June 30 will continue as planned and “some research labs and clinical research programs will begin to open following strict health and safety guidelines.”

Bendapudi said that the university would continue to evaluate the evolving situation and update the U of L community on further developments before July 1. 

She also pointed to the work Provost Beth Boehm is doing to craft a smooth transition for the fall semester, including the formation of three separate committees comprised of faculty, staff and student representatives. 

These committees include a coordinating committee in charge of developing plans for “campus operations, student services and other key functions,” a safe return to campus committee with the responsibility of planning necessary COVID-19 testing for the U of L community, and an academic scenario committee “to address delivery of academic programming.”

In response to much uncertainty regarding the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bendapudi said the university and its leadership “are working diligently to ensure that the University of Louisville will be prepared for any eventuality.”

File Graphic// The Louisville Cardinal

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U of L plans a virtual graduation for the class of 2020 Monday, May 4 2020 

By Eli Hughes–

The University of Louisville will host a virtual graduation on May 9 as a way to recognize the achievements of graduates while still maintaining social distancing guidelines.

This virtual ceremony will not replace the in-person spring commencement, which is expected to take place along with winter commencement later this year.

“As you know, the coronavirus pandemic necessitated the postponement of our spring 2020 commencement ceremony,” U of L President Neeli Bendapudi said in an email sent to the U of L community on May 3. “Although we do plan to hold a formal ceremony in December for our spring graduates, we want to ensure that we also recognize them now.”

The online commencement ceremony will take place on a website U of L has set up for this event. Beginning at 10 a.m. on May 9, the site will become active with messages from the U of L community, alumni, and state and local leaders.

Those interested can participate by celebrating the graduates through social media. The hashtag #UofLGrads2020 should be used to share the graduates’ accomplishments, personal stories, pictures and words of encouragement.

Graduates are also encouraged to use the hashtag to reflect on their time at U of L and share how they are celebrating. Bendapudi hinted in the email that the posts shared using the hashtag would be involved in the event on the website.

According to the email, the website will also feature spotlights of graduates, interactive features and numerous surprises.

“Although we’ll be celebrating their accomplishments in a way that is far different than anyone could have anticipated, I am certain that what the Class of 2020 has endured during this unprecedented time will further fuel their potential to build a better world, here and beyond,” Bendapudi said.

Graphic by Joseph Garcia // The Louisville Cardinal

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U of L takes further action to address the financial effects of COVID-19 Saturday, May 2 2020 

By Madelin Shelton and Eli Hughes

President Neeli Bendapudi has announced the actions that the University of Louisville will take to help alleviate some of the financial effects of COVID-19.

According to Bendapudi’s email, U of L is expected to lose $39 million by the end of the fiscal year. The athletic department is expected to add another $15 million to that loss. 

“The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our University, hometown, state and nation has created a great deal of uncertainty for all of us,” said Bendapudi.

 “From the very beginning, I have expressed to all of you that my utmost responsibility is to protect the health and well-being of our students, faculty and staff during this unprecedented time.”

Some of the actions already implemented include pay reductions for senior leadership and athletics administrators, a hiring freeze and various spending reductions. However, Bendapudi went on to detail the necessity of further action to cut university costs due to the financial havoc caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among these, the university retirement contributions for all employees will be stopped from May 1 through July 31 and some staff members will be subject to a temporary furlough at the discretion of their unit’s vice president, dean or vice provost. The furloughs could be for varying amounts of time dependent on the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally, all faculty and some staff members earning between $58,000 to $99,999 will see a 1% pay reduction for the months of May and June.

Bendapudi emphasized that deciding to suspend the retirement match program was not an easy one, but one that is common among institutions of U of L’s size when facing financial crises. The university hopes to reinstate the match program by August 1.

John Karman, U of L director of media relations, said that there is a chance the missed retirement contributions could be made up at a later date. “There is a hope that these contributions can be provided to employees at a later time if our financial picture improves, but there are no guarantees,” Karman said.

To help mitigate the financial impact on furloughed employees in the meantime, the university has decided to cover the full cost of their health insurance, including both employer and employee premiums. These individuals will also maintain access to their tuition remission and are able to apply for unemployment insurance benefits.

Bendapudi also included resources available to employees facing financial difficulties, specifically encouraging those facing hardship to apply for the Staff  Help Assistance Relief Effort program. 

Bendapudi noted that the new actions are based on projections of returning the university back to normal operations on June 30. The lingering effects of COVID-19 could force the budget to be altered and further adjustments to be taken.

File Graphic//The Louisville Cardinal

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School of Medicine Dean named vice president for academic medical affairs Friday, Apr 3 2020 

By Matthew Keck —

The University of Louisville named Toni Ganzel, School of Medicine dean, vice president for academic medical affairs March 30.

“I’m pleased to announce that School of Medicine Dean Toni Ganzel has agreed to take on an additional role in leading our Health Sciences Center,” said President Neeli Bendapudi.

Ganzel will be taking on the role of vice president for academic medical affairs while also remaining the School of Medicine dean.

Her duties as vice president will include overseeing research activity at the Health Sciences Center, areas regarding diversity and inclusion and faculty development and student health. She will be reporting the overseen activity to Bendapudi and provost Beth Boehm.

Alongside U of L Health CEO Tom Miller, Ganzel will be in charge of making sure that teaching and researching are successful at U of L Health.

“Dr. Ganzel has done an excellent job as dean of the School of Medicine,” said Bendapudi. “I value her expertise and her leadership and look forward to continuing to work with her in this new role. She and Tom Miller are a great team to lead medical education, research and care in our community.”

Ganzel has served as the School of Medicine dean since 2012. She joined U of L in 1983 as an assistant professor in otolaryngology and has held other various roles with the school since.

Bendapudi said she wishes Ganzel well in educating U of L’s health professionals of tomorrow.

Photo Courtesy of The University of Louisville

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Classes moved online until end of semester; Spring Commencement postponed Wednesday, Mar 18 2020 

By Matthew Keck —

The University of Louisville announced March 18 that classes will be operated remotely through April 28 and the Spring 2020 Commencement is postponed.

President Neeli Bendapudi said that U of L is taking the recommendations of health and local and state government leaders to move forward in their emergency response. She said that U of L’s main goal is to keep everyone healthy and informed moving forward.

Professional colleges are currently making decisions to help ensure the timely graduation of their students. They can expect to receive updates from their dean with further instruction.

In addition, all finals will be conducted remotely. Students will receive instructions and updates on how these finals will be served from professors.

Students living in Miller, Threlkeld, Unitas, Community Park, Kurz, Louisville and Billy Minardi halls are being asked to move out by March 29. Bendapudi said this is extremely important to increase social distance for health and safety.

Those living in these residence halls must complete a cancellation form. But U of L is making exceptions for students who must remain on campus. These students will have to fill out a housing exemption form for Spring 2020.

Along with that, students who have no outstanding balances may have a portion of their housing costs applied to Fall 2020. They can put the credit towards housing, tuition, or dining. Graduating students will have a portion of these costs refunded.

While Spring 2020 Commencement is postponed, May 9 is still the day for spring degree conferral. Students who are set to graduate in Spring 2020 are invited to the Winter 2020 Commencement in December.

“We know this is a tremendous disappointment to our graduates and their families,” said Bendapudi. “And we share that disappointment as well. We will invite all Spring graduates to our December 2020 Commencement ceremony to be honored for your achievements.”

Other campus closures include the Health Sciences fitness center and the Student Recreation Center, effective immediately.

Faculty and staff have also been directed to work remotely from home through April 28.

U of L has suspended all international and domestic university-sponsored travel through June 30. Any event hosted by U of L entity or facility will also be postponed or cancelled through April 28.

Bendapudi closed her email with this statement:

“Meanwhile I hope each of you takes care of your own physical and mental health. Despite all the busy-ness, I hope you will take a moment to pause. Slow down. Anchor yourself in what matters most to you. Reach out to someone for help. Whether it is your dean, supervisor or another leader on campus, let us know how we can support you best at this time. Reach out to see if someone else needs help. Let us be patient with one another. Together we will persevere through this tumultuous time and come out the other side a stronger, more unified university community.”

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal 

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President Neeli Bendapudi announces cancellation of U of L events and remote work plan for faculty and staff Monday, Mar 16 2020 

By Eli Hughes —

University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi announced in an email March 14 that all campus events would be canceled or postponed until at least April 5 to help limit the spread of COVID-19. 

She went on to say the university will still be open, but eligible faculty and staff should work remotely.

Bendapudi introduced these measures as a way to keep the campus functioning while prioritizing the safety of the university community.

“In our Cardinal community of care, we cherish, support and are there for one another,” Bendapudi said. 

“Just as our campus community serves as a primary home for so many of our students, it also is an important source of income and the foundation of the livelihoods for so many of our staff and faculty. I take that reality and responsibility seriously. “

Bendapudi has been working with her leadership team to reduce the number of faculty and staff on campus without interfering with the operation of the university. 

Faculty and staff’s ability to work remotely will be decided based on the practicality of their job being done remotely and their access to the proper equipment. There will still be some staff present on campus to help keep the university operational.

These positions include custodians, campus housing staff, library staff, etc. The staff present on the Health Science Campus will be decided based on patient care.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends these social distancing efforts for areas where COVID-19 is spreading. The CDC suggests avoiding close contact with groups and people who feel sick. 

More information about COVID-19 and U of L’s response can be found at https://louisville.edu/campushealth/information/coronavirus

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal

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Loan to help U of L with Jewish Hospital acquisition passes legislature Thursday, Jan 30 2020 

By Matthew Keck —

The University of Louisville’s $35 million loan request to help with the purchase of Jewish Hospital passed one barrier of legislature Jan. 21. The Kentucky House’s Appropriations and Revenue Committee approved the university’s request, and now it moves to the full House.

“We appreciate the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee’s vote in favor of the state loan supporting the acquisition and enhancement of the properties that now are part of U of L Health,” said U of L President Neeli Bendapudi.

The request for this loan came back in August 2019 when U of L decided they would purchase KentuckyOne Health’s Louisville assets. Originally, U of L asked for a $50 million loan, but they announced that they decreased the loan to $35 million Jan. 9. Bendapudi said this was due to U of L calculating procurement savings and reductions in operational expenses.

“Under the leadership of Chairman Rudy, the committee showed its commitment not only to the teaching, research and patient care missions of the University of Louisville and its medical system, but also to the economic success of the commonwealth and the health and well-being of its citizens,” she said. “I also want to personally thank Speaker Osborne and Minority Floor Leader Jenkins for their continued support of the legislation.”

While the bill was passed, some still had doubts about this being good for the state. Andrew McNeill, state director of Americans for Prosperity, was concerned about this loan leaving tax payers on the hook.

The original terms of the loan request are being upheld: Half of the loan will be forgiven if U of L meets certain criteria, including retaining jobs and providing their services to underserved communities in Louisville. These terms were set by former Gov. Matt Bevin when he committed this loan last August.

“We continue to work with our elected officials to emphasize the importance of this loan, which will help us stabilize these assets and ensure the long-term viability of U of L Health,” said Bendapudi.

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal 

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U of L becoming first-of-its-kind Center of Excellence for epidemiological research Thursday, Jan 30 2020 

By Matthew Keck —

The University of Louisville’s Division of Infectious Diseases and Pfizer Inc. announced they are collaborating on epidemiological research Jan. 23. The research will be related to vaccine-preventable diseases affecting adults, including the elderly.

“U of L’s Division of Infectious Diseases has a rich history of collaboration with Pfizer through the successful implementation of numerous clinical epidemiological research studies,” said Julio Ramirez, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at U of L. “We are excited to formalize a long-term collaboration that builds on these past successes.”

U of L is the first Center of Excellence designated by Pfizer Vaccines for this type of research. Ramirez will direct this Center for Excellence in collaboration with the pharmaceutical corporation.

As collaborators, they are aiming to determine the human health burden of important infectious diseases and potential vaccine effectiveness.

National health officials and independent policy makers will use the data collected from this research to develop recommendations for the use of vaccines in immunization programs worldwide.

This collaboration will last for a three-year period with an option for a renewal at the end of that period. Pfizer said they selected U of L for their exceptional capabilities for conducting population-based surveillance and clinical research.

“Pfizer has had an outstanding working relationship with the University of Louisville for more than 10 years,” said Luis Jodar, chief medical and scientific affairs officer for Pfizer Vaccines.

“The quality of disease burden evidence varies widely worldwide. Deriving accurate and credible population-based incidence estimates require comprehensive surveillance to identify cases of diseases within a well-defined and well-characterized geographic area. Thanks to U of L’s excellent network of research partners, the population available for research studies in Louisville can provide the data to derive estimates of disease burden that can be generalized nationally,” Joder said.

Because of Louisville’s racial and ethnic make-up, socioeconomic status and proportion of rural and urban population being similar to the general U.S., the city was an ideal place for this center.

The research conducted at the center may lead to economic growth and development for Louisville, along with job and educational opportunities in the healthcare sector.

“This collaboration will provide increased visibility for the university on a global scale, making U of L attractive for high-caliber researchers and research grants,” said President Neeli Bendapudi. ”It also presents an exceptional opportunity for our researchers to improve the human condition by helping to reduce the burden of infectious diseases worldwide by generating data that will inform governments and health care policymakers.”

Studies for this research will be population-based surveillance of infectious diseases including:

  • Streptococcus pneumoniae, a bacteria which causes pneumonia and other infections.
  • Clostridioides difficile, a bacteria that causes severe diarrhea and colitis.
  • Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a common virus associated with mild cold-like symptoms but can cause severe infection in some people, including older adults.

Studies for this research will take place in hospitals, long-term care facilities and the local community.

“Within the next five years, what I hope, is we’ll be able to look back and say ‘This relationship was an amazing opportunity for Louisville, for Kentucky, for our university and for the U.S.,'” said Ruth Carrico, family nurse practitioner-Division of Infectious Diseases.

Photo Courtesy of The University of Louisville

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U of L asking less from state loan for KentuckyOne purchase Tuesday, Jan 14 2020 

By Matthew Keck —

In August 2019, the University of Louisville announced it would be buying KentuckyOne Health’s Louisville assets. To make that purchase possible, the university asked the state of Kentucky to provide a $50 million dollar loan.

On Jan. 9, President Neeli Bendapudi announced U of L would only be requesting a $35 million loan now.

“As you know, last fall we received a commitment from the elected leadership of Kentucky for a $50 million partially forgivable loan to help with the acquisition of the former KentuckyOne Health properties, including Jewish Hospital,” she said. “After just over two months since we acquired the facilities, I was happy to tell Governor Beshear, Senate President Stivers and House Speaker Osborne that we are reducing our loan request from $50 million to $35 million with the previously agreed upon forgiveness and repayment terms.”

U of L will still pay half of the state loan back over a 20-year period. With this new restructured loan from the state, U of L will only receive a total of $61 million in support for future expenses.

Bendapudi said there were several reasons for lowering the requested amount of the loan. “For example, we are anticipating a procurement savings of more than $7 million annually, and we will make operational reductions of nearly $10 million after Year 1,” she said. “On the revenue side, Enhanced Medicaid intergovernmental transfer payments from the federal government should be higher given that more facilities will qualify for this funding more quickly than we originally expected.”

She also said that improved payer contracts have led to increased billing rates for physicians, which is another reason that led to a reduction of the loan.

In addition to these loans, the state will contribute more than $100 million annually thanks to HB320 being passed last year. This bill allows for the state to enhance federal pass-through funding for rural hospitals.

“As we have shared time and again, this loan is critical to our success,” said Bendapudi. “As it will help us address immediate cash flow and other financial needs as we continue to make important changes in the operations and infrastructure of the expanded U of L Health system during our two- to three-year turnaround plan.”

The approval of this loan is still pending as the 2020 legislative season started last week.

U of L finalized the purchase of the KentuckyOne assets last November. In this deal, U of L acquired five hospitals, one outpatient center and physician groups affiliated with KentuckyOne.

“I am so appreciative that our elected leadership is working with us in a bipartisan manner to preserve and enhance these vital health care facilities and services,” said Bendapudi.

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal 

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