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UK Neuroscience Major Gets Support to Pursue Research into the Health of Appalachia

By Richard LeComte 

Photo of a student
Maddie Duff

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Maddie Duff is reaching out to her fellow Appalachians through a University of Kentucky research initiative called SPARK, or Students Participating as Ambassadors for Research in Kentucky.  

Duff, a junior neuroscience major in the University of Kentucky’s College of Arts and Sciences, conducts research through SPARK, the Appalachian Career Training in Oncology and the John Calhoun Wells Eastern Kentucky Scholars Fund. Each of these programs encourage and assist students with giving back inside their communities. For example, Duff conducts phone surveys of people with hearing issues.

“A lot of the participants I've dealt with just want to be heard,” said Duff, who’s from Prestonburg, Ky. “They want somebody to understand the struggles that they go through as a patient who has all these conditions Also, they have to travel at least two hours to get adequate care. A lot of people are open to talking about their health.” 

Duff conducts her research under the guidance of Matthew Bush, chair of the Department of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery at UK and the UK College of Medicine Endowed Chair in Rural Health Policy. Duff also helps new students adjust to campus life as an Honors College Ambassador a Lewis Launch Leader and member of the Appalachian Health Initiative. She also recently was elected UK student body president.

Duff’s commitment to exploring research on the undergraduate level that aids Kentuckians shows what College of Arts and Sciences students can do when benefiting from such programs as the Workplace Ready Wildcats Fund, which provides support for career preparation. 

“The vital knowledge and experience I have gained studying the effects of chronic conditions among Kentuckians is unmatched,” she said. “By donating to these UK opportunities, healthcare outcomes across the state and around the world can be improved.”