Robert DiPaola, MD, UK HealthCare

Robert DiPaola, MD, Dean of the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and Vice President of Clinical Academic Affairs for UK HealthCare


  • Bachelor of science degree and medical degree at the University of Utah; completed an internship and residency in Internal Medicine at Duke University Medical Center; and completed a Fellowship in Hematology-Oncology at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia.
  • Along with mentoring future physicians and researchers, serves as a board member on the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) and in this role he will serve as site lead for multiple LCME reaccreditation reviews for medical schools this year.
  • Enjoys spending time with his wife, three sons and their rescued canine companion.
  • Is an avid golfer and can often be found on the course caddying for his youngest son during tournaments.
  • 2019 Dean Dorton Physician of the Year MediStar Honoree

Medical News: What have you done to improve the accessibility, affordability and quality of healthcare in our region?

Robert DiPaola: As the dean of the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, I lead a medical education institution that’s working vigorously to combat its state’s physician shortage and provide greater, more affordable access to quality care.

I have directed the college’s advocacy efforts toward ensuring its learners are fully equipped to treat Kentucky’s sickest patients in order to improve overall health and wellness within the state. To make this possible, I launched a transdisciplinary strategy to strengthen the college’s educational programs, advance transformative research and clinical care, promote diversity and engage communities.

I also have established new educational and research initiatives, which have led to increased federal funding for important research, and collaborated with well-respected organizations to open two new campuses, one in Northern Kentucky and Bowling Green, with a goal of retaining more well-trained primary care physicians to serve the commonwealth.

MN: How will the results of this initiative impact the healthcare community

RD: My focus on issues related to healthcare accessibility is vital to Kentucky. The state can’t afford to suffer a long-term shortage of qualified physicians, given that it is simultaneously facing several health crises: the opioid epidemic, high cancer rates, heart disease, tobacco usage, and malnutrition, just to name a few.

Meanwhile, Kentucky ranked 40th among U.S. states in the number of primary care physicians per 100,000 people in 2016, and data showed the state would need an additional 1,186 primary care physicians by 2025 for these shortages not to worsen. Because of this, I’ve worked to thoroughly and efficiently execute UK’s growing in-state presence.

MN: In what ways will you be able to measure the success of these efforts?

RD: Success will be measured in the amount of well-trained, highly qualified physicians the UK College of Medicine will add to workforce of the commonwealth. The college already has witnessed the impact of an increased in-state presence.

In 2019, 40 percent of residents and fellows trained at UK HealthCare, the clinical enterprise of UK, remained in Kentucky to practice medicine. And with the college welcoming an even larger class this fall – 35 students at a new northern Kentucky Campus, 30 students in Bowling Green, and 138 students in Lexington – there are more opportunities for continued retention to combat the physician shortage.

MN: Looking back on the past year, how has the healthcare system changes and what it the physician community doing to adapt?

RD: Our goal as physicians is to deliver exceptional care to each of our patients in order to provide personalized treatment and even cures. Over the past year, there have been significant changes in the health care system nationally including the shift to quality-based metrics for payment that have had significant impact across our system and the Commonwealth.

At the College of Medicine and UK HealthCare, we have launched initiatives to further ingrain our mission to deliver high-quality care to each patient. These include the development and implementation of organizational values, continuous quality improvement efforts based on data analysis, infrastructure investment, and the launch of a comprehensive EMR system to provide an even better experience across the continuum of care.

MN: What is the biggest challenge your organization will face in the upcoming year?

RD: Since 2016, the College of Medicine has doubled our National Institutes of Health funding, especially in programmatic areas such as cancer, cardiovascular, diabetes and obesity, neuroscience and substance use disorders that will directly impact the health of our state.

To bridge the gap between discovery, translation and implementation, we have developed several initiatives including the Multidisciplinary Value Program, Value for Innovation and Implementation Program, and, most recently, our Alliances initiative.

Each of these programs seeks to address the disparities across the commonwealth as well as the challenge of translation of discoveries to the delivery of care by encouraging the collaboration between scientists and clinicians. With these activities, we can create positive impact to standards of care.

In addition to focusing on the delivery of high-quality, innovative care, we have also expanded our Rural Physician Leadership Program and launched two four-year regional campus, increasing our class size to over 200 students with plans to have more than 800 students total across the four years by 2022, in an effort to address the physician shortage challenge facing Kentucky.