Faculty and Staff

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Program Leadership          Faculty          Staff



Program Leadership

Susan McDowell, MD
Susan M. McDowell, M.D., is the Chairperson for PM&R in the College of Medicine at the University of Kentucky.  She also services as the Medical Director for Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital.  Dr. McDowell earned her medical degree from the Medical College of Georgia. She is board certified in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation with a subspecialty certificate in Spinal Cord Injury Medicine. She has served in numerous other leadership roles within the Dept. of PM&R and the College of Medicine including the former Associate Dean for Graduate Medical Education. Dr. McDowell has served on or been a member of numerous regional and national academic societies.  In addition, she has presented both regionally and nationally with publications in educational and clinical areas.  Her primary interests are in leadership, team, and interprofessional education and care. 

Jamie Key, DO
Residency Program Director
Dr. Jamie Key grew up in Tennessee and is a proud alumnus of the University of Tennessee - Knoxville where she graduated with
honors with a degree in Psychology and minor in Chemistry. She considers a third degree in being a Vol for life! She obtained her D.O. degree from the Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine in Pikeville, KY and completed PM&R residency at UK. She is board certified in PM&R and in Brain Injury Medicine. She completed one year of private practice in Cincinnati before returning to UK to join the faculty. Although she serves as the Residency Program Director, her favorite title is Chair of the Wellness Committee. She enjoys participating in the ministry at Southland Christian Church and traveling. Out of all the hats she wears, being a mother is her favorite. 

jessica kavanaugh md

Jessica Kavanaugh, MD
CCC Chair
Dr. Jessica Kavanaugh is very connected to the “Tri-State area”.  She grew up in southeastern Indiana and graduated with honors from Xavier University (Cincinnati, OH) with a B.S. in biology. She received her M.D. from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in 2006 and completed her PM&R Residency at the University of Kentucky in 2010.  After graduation, she worked in academic medicine at the University of Cincinnati until taking the role of Residency Program Director here at UK from 2016 - 2020. As a self-identified“Xennial”, she loves social media (Reddit is the app du jour) and gaming (PS forever, Xbox never).  When not busy as a clinician, she is busy raising her two elementary aged daughters to be sci-fi nerds and movie lovers much like herself. 

Sara Salles, MD
Vice Chairperson
Dr. Sara Salles is originally from Iran but has lived most of her life in the US. She earned her B.A. in Biology with a minor in French from St. Louis University. She received her DO degree from Kansas City University in Kansas City, MO followed by her traditional internship at The Medical Center in Columbus, GA. She completed her residency in PM&R at the University of Kentucky in 2000 where she currently serves as the Vice Chair for the department. She is also Medical Director of the Spinal Cord Injury Unit at Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital, and Medical Director for Post-Acute Care Services for UK Health Care. Dr. Salles is boarded in PM&R and Spinal Cord Injury Medicine. She is passionate about her clinical work, patient advocacy as well as medical education. When not working, Dr. Salles loves spending time with her three children, her husband, Dr. Stefan Kiessling, a Pediatric Nephrologist at the University of Kentucky, watching soccer, cooking and traveling.

leslie combs program coordinator

Leslie Justice, BA
GME Program Coordinator
Born and raised in the bluegrass, Leslie is a graduate and loyal fan of the University of Kentucky with a Bachelor of Arts in Physical Anthropology. After a grand 4 year adventure working alongside UK archaeologists at the UK Archaeology Lab, she shifted her career to the world of GME, where her passion for resident and program success has blossomed. Leslie spent two years working within UK's department of Internal Medicine as both staff support and GME Program Coordinator before transitioning to the PM&R residency program where she resides today. 


Paula Ackerman, DO
Dr. Paula Ackerman is originally from Cincinnati, OH. She earned her BA in Physical Anthropology with a minor in Spanish at Wright State University followed by her DO degree at Ohio University. She completed her residency at Albany Medical Center in Albany, New York. She spent 3 years in private practice prior to joining the faculty of University of Kentucky in 2019. Her practice interest include Neurorehabilitation, spasticity and torticollis management with botulinum toxin, and electrodiagnosis. Dr. Ackerman has participated in several medical related trips to Latin America including Ecuador, Guatemala, Costa Rica and El Salvador.

Heidi Beavan, APRN
Heidi has been a practicing family nurse practitioner since 2015 when she graduated with honors from Indiana Wesleyan University.  She has worked as part of the PM&R department, helping manage patients with brain, spinal cord, nerve, and musculoskeletal conditions and injuries, since 2016. On a more personal note, she is a music enthusiast who enjoys attending concerts and spending time with family and friends when not helping others. She has two wonderful children who push her daily to be a better version of herself (and at times her buttons) and an affectionate, though more than slightly disgruntled dog.

Ashley Cornett, APRN
Ashley Cornett grew up in Lexington Kentucky and attended the University of Kentucky studying kinesiology and biology. She changed directions and pursued a degree in nursing soon after, graduating from Eastern Kentucky University with a bachelor's degree in nursing. After 7 years of nursing, she attended Indiana Wesleyan University where she obtained her Masters of Science in Nursing and Family Nurse Practitioner Certification. She pursued her dream of becoming a nurse practitioner while working at Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital while working with spinal cord injury patients.  She enjoys music, church, movies, the ocean and most of all spending time outdoors with her family.

Nick Elwert, DO (@DrNick_DO)
Dr. Nick Elwert is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation at the University of Kentucky.  He graduated from Lincoln Memorial University-DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine where he completed a 1-year OMM/Anatomy pre-doctoral fellowship while obtaining his masters in anatomical sciences. He completed his residency training in PM&R at the University of Kentucky. He currently serves as the medical director of the stroke rehabilitation unit at Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital and serves as the resident research advisor for the UK PM&R Residency program.  His passions in PM&R include neurorehabilitation, spasticity management, and performing arts medicine. He is equally as passionate about resident education, diversity and inclusivity as well as networking with the use of social media. While not working, he enjoys time rooting on his Cincinnati Reds and spending time with his family.  

Cecil Hollen, DO
Dr. Hollen is a native of Appalachian Eastern Kentucky. He is a graduate of the University of Pikeville Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine (KYCOM) where he also completed an additional year of education as a member of the national undergraduate fellow association (NUFA) for teaching osteopathic manipulative techniques and treatments. At KYCOM, he developed his enthusiasm for human anatomy, nervous system, musculoskeletal medicine and movement. Following medical school, Dr. Hollen completed his 4-year residency in PM&R at the UK College of Medicine where he served as chief resident before joining on as faculty. He obtained his board certification through the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and the American Osteopathic Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Dr. Hollen has also completed his certification in Performing Arts Medicine through the Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA). He currently serves as an assistant professor in PM&R, and primarily works in the UK PM&R outpatient clinic in Good Samaritan Hospital evaluating and treating nonsurgical orthopedic conditions. His interests include performance arts medicine, osteopathic manipulation, neural hydrodissection, ultrasound guided injection techniques and electrodiagnostic medicine.

Justin Huber, MD, MS
Dr. Huber grew up in Kentucky where he completed undergraduate and graduate degrees in Mechanical Engineering. Following an internship with Panasonic, he gravitated to the world of biomedical startups with a particular penchant for mechanical design. Recognizing a need for clinical and patient input to device design, he pursued medical training at the University of Kentucky (UK) and was immediately drawn to the field of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R). He completed his residency at UK and joined as faculty with the PM&R Department in the fall of 2019. His clinical interest is stroke neurorehabilitation, and research interests include user-centered design of assistive technology as well as measurement of functional outcomes following stroke. With a secondary appointment in Mechanical Engineering, he is excited to nurture new collaborations and new learning experiences for students. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with family & friends and being outdoors.

Gerald Klim, DO
Dr. Gerald Klim is an Associate professor in the department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. He received his B.S. from the University of Richmond and his D.O. degree from the Philadelphia College of  Osteopathic Medicine. He completed his internship and residency at Thomas JeffersonUniversity in PM+R and a fellowship in Hospice and Palliative Medicine at the University of Kentucky. He is board-certified in both. In addition, he has an M.A. in religion and Theology from the Lexington Theological Seminary and is an ordained deacon in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. His interests include neurorehabilitation, spasticity management, and Hospice care. His outside interests include the study of religion, theology, physical training, and watching soccer, rugby, and American football.

Robert Nickerson, MD
Dr. Robert Nickerson is an Associate Professor in the Dept of PM&R at the University of Kentucky. He is Board Certified in PM&R and Electrodiagnostic Medicine. He attended Medical School at the Medical College of Georgia and graduated in 1989. He completed residency at the University of Kentucky. He has been an attending in the Dept of PM&R at the University of Kentucky  since 1993. He was the Residency Program Director for 15 years. His clinical interests include musculoskeletal medicine and electrodiagnosis.

Kelly Patterson, APRN
Born and grew up in Kentucky.  Kelly graduated from nursing school in 2007, and has worked for the University of Kentucky HealthCare since then. She graduated from Indiana Wesleyan with FNP in 2015 and from University of Kentucky with AG-ACNP in 2019. Kelly’s background as a nurse was spent in all levels of care, floor, telemetry, progressive, and ICU.  Since being a nurse practitioner, she has worked with Family Medicine at the University of Kentucky HealthCare, Hematology at the University of Kentucky HealthCare, and now with PM&R.

Dwan Perry, DO
Dr. Perry grew up in West Virginia and is an alumus of West Virginia University where he graduated with honors in Exercise Physiology. He obtained his D.O. degree from the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine in Lewisburg, WV. Dr. Perry completed his osteopathic internship in Miami, FL prior to completing residency at UK. After residency, Dr. Perry completed his sports medicine fellowship at Virginia Tech. He is currently board certified in PM&R and Sports Medicine. Dr. Perry has worked previously as team physician for Lincoln Memorial University (TN) in addition to treating athletes of all ages, from middle school to professional levels. Occasionally, Dr. Perry will volunteer his time with USA Boxing covering amateur matches in Kentucky. He currently practices MSK physiatry and serves as medical director for the outpatient clinic at Samaritan Hospital. Dr. Perry lives in Lexington with his wife and 3 daughters.

stephen porter

Stephen Porter, MD
Dr. Stephen Porter grew up in Madisonville, KY and attended Transylvania University as an undergrad. He then went on to get his medical degree from the University of Louisville, completed his internship in Kettering, Ohio, and did his PM&R residency at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. He joined the UK faculty as an Assistant Professor with a focus on brain injury rehabilitation and spasticity management.

Randal Schleenbaker, MD
Dr Schleenbaker grew up in Long Island NY with roots in Carter County KY.  He earned his B.S. in Psychology from Columbia Union Collage, Takoma Park MD, and received his M.D. from Loma Linda University, Loma Linda CA.  Dr. Schleenbaker completed his PM&R residency at SUNY Stoney Brook, Nassau County Medical Center campus, and later served as the Chief of the PM&R Service at the Lexington VAMC as well as Medical Director for Mid Health South Polytrauma Network VAH Lexington. He is currently an attending with UK PM&R on the General Rehabilitation Unit CHRH , focusing on Polytrauma rehabilitation and Fragility fractures.

Nancy Stiles, MD
Dr. Stiles earned her medical degree from the University of Texas in Houston and completed her residency in Internal Medicine at the University of Kentucky. During her “gap year” between residency and fellowship, she staffed a subacute head injury rehabilitation facility in North Carolina which launched her love of rehabilitation medicine. She then completed a fellowship in Geriatric Medicine at Duke University. She joined the faculty at the University of Kentucky in 1992. She is a past president of the Kentucky Geriatric Society and has served as medical director of multiple long term care facilities in the area. Her main interests are geriatric medicine and rehabilitation of patients with major medical conditions. Past research has focused on occupational therapy in the elderly and nutrition. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her three children and four dogs. 

Celysse van Zyl, DO
Dr. Celysse van Zyl is a born and raised Floridian. After graduating with honors from the University of Central Florida with her B.S. in Interdisciplinary Studies, Dr. van Zyl decided the mountains were calling her name. She attended the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine and graduated with her D.O. degree in 2017. She headed back to Florida to complete her intern year of residency at St. Petersburg General Hospital before returning to WV to complete her residency in Osteopathic Neuromusculoskeletal Medicine in 2020; with her practice focusing on conservative measures to address musculoskeletal pain. She joined the U.K. family shortly after finishing her residency and is enjoying the four season life that Kentucky has to offer! When not busy in the clinic, she enjoys spending time with her husband and their two dogs.


Danielle Crail
Administrative Support Associate I

A UK transplant and a Kentucky native, Danielle received her undergrad degree in Business Administration from NKU and is now currently attending the University of Kentucky for her Masters of Public Health. Danielle joined the PM&R team in 2018, bringing with her a love for life and making an impact in her community. In between working on her BA and MPH, Danielle worked in veterinary medicine for years, mostly in small animal medicine, but also volunteering her time at the zoo working with elephants and giraffes. 

Andrea Granville-Taylor
Administrative Support Associate II

Andrea is a graduate of Sullivan University here in Lexington with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and Finance and Master’s in Business. She’s been with the PM&R since 2009 serving as both administrative support and clerkship coordinator, and looks forward to continuing moving upward in the department. 


Teresa Griffee
Administrative Services Assistant Senior
Teresa has over 40 years of administrative service experience and has been with the University of Kentucky, department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation for 12 years.  She is currently the PM&R Chairperson’s administrative assistant and manages the business office. She also works alongside her husband in their real estate business.   

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