• Oct 31 2023

CCTS Director Honored for Longstanding Dedication to Medical Education

Dr. Philip Kern receives the 2023 Willard award. He's wearing a dark suit, holding a small statue and a certificate. Beside him is a man in a white medical coat. They're both smiling.


For more than 40 years, Philip Kern, MD, professor of medicine, has provided exceptional medical education, delivered excellent clinical care, and conducted groundbreaking research; for the last decade and a half, his service has been dedicated to advancing the mission of the University of Kentucky.

In recognition of his incredible contributions, Dr. Kern recently received the UK College of Medicine’s highest honor in medical education—the William R. Willard Dean’s Recognition Award—at the 2023 Awards Convocation ceremony. The award is bestowed upon a faculty member who has demonstrated significant and longstanding dedication to students and trainees in the medical field.

Dr. Kern is an endocrinologist, physician-scientist, and professor in the UK College of Medicine Department of Internal Medicine. His storied career includes leading the Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS) for the past 14 years, including three successful applications to the National Institutes of Health (2011, 2016, and 2021) that have yielded approximately $60 million in funding for the institution’s research, education, and training infrastructure.

“These awards have further contributed, in no small manner, to the unprecedented growth in UK’s extramural funding in general and in the health sciences, in particular, over the past decade,” noted his nominators.

He has also served as the associate vice president for clinical and translational sciences for the University of Kentucky since 2021. Previously, he was director of the Barnstable Brown Diabetes and Obesity Center from 2009-2015.

As an educator, Dr. Kern is an active mentor who has impacted hundreds of graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and early-career faculty. Many learned under him when he served as a principal investigator and founding member of the Alliance for Diabetes and Obesity Research (ADORE), an interdisciplinary team that was dedicated to finding solutions for one of Kentucky’s most urgent health needs. Kern’s leadership of the CCTS has also enabled monumental expansion of education and training in translational science at UK, from the undergraduate to faculty levels.

In his time UK, he has served on 14 graduate committees, trained 13 clinicians to obtain fat and muscle biopsies for clinical research, and mentored 10 medical students in the Professional Student Mentored Research Fellowship program and 20 early-career faculty members.

Those who nominated Dr. Kern for the Willard award stated that he “serves as one of the most active and effective mentors at the University of Kentucky, with his former graduate students, postdoctoral scholars and early career faculty mentees having successfully competed for their own funding and successfully transitioned to independent research careers.”

“It is an honor and a privilege to receive this award and to be in the same group as the many outstanding Willard awardees of the past.  Since coming to UK in 2009, it has been a pleasure to work with so many talented people and to be a part of a university system that is supportive, collaborative and which naturally embraces team science,” he said.

Dr. Kern’s wealth of clinical and research experience is a vital component of his successful mentorship. Continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) since 1984, he has been integral to more than 200 publications, articles, reviews, book chapters, and monographs. His research involves the study of obesity, metabolic syndrome, inflammation, lipid metabolism, diabetes and insulin resistance.  In addition to his grant funding as principal investigator, Dr. Kern is a collaborator or co-investigator on numerous projects at UK spanning a wide range of diseases and disciplines.

In 2019, Dr. Kern was selected by peers and leadership as a University Research Professor, the premier research recognition at UK. He has also been given the Fred and Marcielle de Beer Award.

Dr. Kern is a member of many national organizations. In 1992, he was elected into the prestigious American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI), and is the institutional representative at UK. In 2004 he was elected into the sister organization the American Association of Physicians (AAP). He is also a member of the American Diabetes Association, The Endocrine Society, and the American Heart Association. Since 2007, he has been named among the Best Doctors in America.

Congratulations to Dr. Kern on this incredible, well-deserved honor!