LITTLE ROCK – Unlocking a person’s genetic code provides a pathway to understanding their susceptibility to disease and their ability to combat it.
With that in mind, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) today named genetics educator and physician Kent McKelvey, M.D., the inaugural recipient of the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Chair in Clinical Genetics.
The endowed chair and genetics clinic was established with a donation from Lisenne Rockefeller, wife of the late Arkansas Lt. Gov. Winthrop P. Rockefeller.
A founding member of the new UAMS Division of Genetics, McKelvey is director of Cancer Genetics Services at the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute.
“Molecular genetics increasingly provides valuable information in determining if a person is predisposed to a disease and what options may be taken to prevent or treat that disease,” McKelvey said. His clinic serves as a statewide resource for people seeking to understand how their personal genetic makeup affects their health.
“We are grateful for the philanthropic support from Lisenne Rockefeller and the Rockefeller family that allows us to extend the latest knowledge of genetics to help patients from all over the state.”
In addition to McKelvey’s focus on cancer genetics, he evaluates patients at the new UAMS adult genetics clinic in the Freeway Medical Tower and advises them on genetic testing regarding multiple medical conditions.
He has worked closely with the Arkansas Down Syndrome Association to fill the need for specialty care of people with Down syndrome and focus on health promotion and disease prevention throughout life. The clinic will serve as a statewide resource for the specific medical management of adolescents and adults with Down syndrome.
“As our knowledge of genetics grows, so does our ability to prevent and individualize treatment for many medical conditions,” said UAMS Chancellor I. Dodd Wilson, M.D. “Dr. McKelvey is at the forefront nationally in genetics education and practice, and we are proud to name him the inaugural recipient of this chair honoring our former Lt. Gov. Winthrop P. Rockefeller.”
Rockefeller became chief executive officer of Winrock Farms following the 1973 death of his father, former Arkansas governor Winthrop Rockefeller.
Under his leadership, Winrock Farms became a diversified land company, with interests in ranching, farming, timber and minerals. Rockefeller also had interests in automobile dealerships, commercial and residential real estate developments, resorts and other retail businesses.
Rockefeller was elected lieutenant governor in a special election in 1996 and was re-elected in 1998 and 2002. He was running for governor when in 2005 doctors discovered he had an unclassifiable myeloproliferative disorder, a rare bone marrow disease in which excessive blood cells are manufactured. In some patients, the disease can transform into acute leukemia. Rockefeller died on July 16, 2006.
The Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute at UAMS was renamed for him in September 2007.
McKelvey earned his medical degree from the UAMS College of Medicine in 1996 and completed an internship and residency through the family medicine program in Texarkana.
After two years of private practice in Mountain Home, he began a second residency in medical genetics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. McKelvey is a diplomate of the American Board of Medical Genetics and the American Board of Family Medicine — one of only 12 physicians in the nation with similar credentials.
In 2003, McKelvey returned to UAMS as director of the Family Medicine Predoctoral program in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine. As a clinician and teacher in family medicine, he was the highest rated preceptor by the junior medical students and was voted by peers as one the best family doctors in Arkansas.
McKelvey wrote and served as principal investigator of a federally funded study concerning the ethical use of predictive genetic testing in clinical medicine and has been on the forefront in teaching the responsible use of molecular genetics in preventive medicine. He also has been director of the medical genetics course in the UAMS College of Medicine since 2006 and has twice received the Red Sash Award for clinical teaching from the senior medical class.
UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a new 540,000-square-foot hospital, six centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has 2,652 students and 733 medical residents. Its centers of excellence include the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute and the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including nearly 1,150 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS’ Area Health Education Centers throughout the state. Visit www.uams.edu or uamshealth.com.
UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a hospital; a northwest Arkansas regional campus; a statewide network of regional centers; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute, the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging and the Translational Research Institute. It is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has 3,021 students, 789 medical residents and two dental residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including about 1,000 physicians and other professionals who provide care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS regional centers throughout the state. Visit www.uams.edu or www.uamshealth.com. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram.