By Susanna Elliot, UK Now
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Beneath the bright lights of Rupp Arena at ONE: The Alltech Ideas Conference, Alltech and UK HealthCare at the University of Kentucky announced a momentous partnership to support lifelong wellness. The Lyons Family Life Foundation will honor the life and legacy of late Alltech founder Dr. Pearse Lyons.
Speaking to local and international press gathered for ONE: The Alltech Ideas Conference (ONE19), Dr. Mark Lyons, president and CEO of Alltech and son of Dr. Pearse Lyons, and Dr. Phillip Chang, chief medical officer at UK HealthCare, explained that the collaboration will focus broadly on total wellness, empowering people to both live well and die well. The initiative was inspired by Dr. Pearse Lyons’ lifelong endeavor to “make a difference.”
When Dr. Pearse Lyons passed away in March 2018, his final days were spent in the care of UK HealthCare. During that time, the Lyons family developed a close relationship with the hospital’s team, including Dr. Chang.
The experience of Dr. Lyons’ hospitalization left a significant impact on the Lyons family. In the months that followed, they stayed in contact with Dr. Chang and began seeking opportunities for Alltech and UK to work together in ways that could improve patient care and wellness.
“When you lose someone you love, you have a choice to make,” said Dr. Mark Lyons. “You can become consumed by grief, or you can channel your energy into your loved one’s legacy, advancing the impact of their life.”
“The collaboration with the foundation and UK HealthCare is an affirmation of the commitment to excellence and innovation the two institutions share,” said Dr. Chang. “As I began to know the family, it was striking to me how similar our values are. We have the opportunity to build upon these foundational values to take patient safety and advocacy to the next level, making a national and global impact.”
An important component of this initiative will be empowering effective communication, a gift possessed by Dr. Pearse Lyons, who understood the value of making complicated science simple.
“Strong, clear communication between caregivers and patients and their families is so important,” said Dr. Mark Lyons. “We see an opportunity to use this foundation to improve the clarity of that communication, from doctor to patient and family, and from one institution of care to another.”
The foundation’s initiatives will reflect Dr. Pearse Lyons’ passion for new technology, music therapy and lifelong health. In his final days, several musician friends sang and played music at Dr. Lyons’ bedside, bringing peace and creating cherished memories for his family.
Dr. Pearse Lyons was also dedicated to personal wellness. No matter where he was in the world or how much sleep he had the previous night, he rose before the sun to run, often outpacing much younger Alltech colleagues.
He was passionate about advancing research in human health studies, which were showing promise for the application of the company’s animal health products to major challenges, including gut and brain health within humans. Alltech’s partnership with the University of Kentucky Sanders-Brown Center on Aging began with Dr. Pearse Lyons and the center’s then-director Dr. William Markesbery initiating a study to minimize the effects of the aging process on the brain. When Dr. Pearse Lyons passed away, his family made the decision to donate his brain to the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging to support the continuation of this important work.
“Alltech and the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging share a vision in which brain health and the eradication of diseases like Alzheimer’s can be accomplished on a global scale,” said Dr. Gregory Jicha, current director of the University of Kentucky Sanders-Brown Center on Aging. “Through our longstanding collaborative scientific exploration, this shared vision is moving closer to reality with each day that passes.”
The long history of collaboration between Alltech and the University of Kentucky also extends to music, nutrition and education. In 2012, Alltech committed to a five-year strategic research alliance with UK for work within agriculture, pharmacy and medicine. Alltech also awarded a $40,000 fellowship to a UK doctoral student, Anne Koontz, who is now a research scientist for the company. Alltech also had a nutrition-focused research alliance with the University of Kentucky at the Coldstream Research Campus.
“Pearse Lyons was a global entrepreneur and philanthropist whose generosity shaped communities across our nation and world, but nowhere does the light of his legacy shine brighter than in this community and throughout the University of Kentucky,” said UK President Eli Capilouto. “His philanthropy has helped highlight Lexington on the global stage, and he has supported artists and students in pursuit of their passions and extraordinary talents. We are honored to play a role in continuing his legacy of compassion and innovation as a partner in the Lyons Family Life Foundation.”
Additionally, Alltech has supported the growth of the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre. Since 2006, more than 150 students have received over $1.3 million in cash prizes and over $5.6 million in scholarships and assistantships through the Alltech Vocal Scholarship Competition. Every December, the local community in Lexington is treated to free holiday concerts showcasing the musical talents cultivated through this shared partnership.
Dr. Pearse Lyons had a close relationship with many members of UK’s team, including John Calipari, head coach of the men’s basketball team, and Dr. Everett McCorvey, director of University of Kentucky Opera Theatre. Both men shared Dr. Pearse Lyons’ passion for creating opportunities for young people and joined him on visits to the Haitian primary schools supported by Alltech’s Sustainable Haiti Project.
“What we are doing today is establishing a framework that will enable us to advance the ideas that we believe could have the greatest potential impact on others,” said Dr. Mark Lyons. “We can think of no better partner than UK, a place where my father found so many friends who share our values and our vision for impact.”