College of Nursing Professor Featured in RCTF Annual Report for Tobacco Control Research

Posted: April 3, 2016

By Alicia Gregory

Recruiting and retaining outstanding faculty is an integral part of the mission of the University of Kentucky's Research Challenge Trust Fund, and each year the university highlights four outstanding endowed chairs and professors. This year's annual report, approved by the UK Board of Trustees Feb. 19, featured Ellen J. Hahn, the Marcia A. Dake Professor of Nursing.

Hahn is a tobacco control researcher with expertise in environmental health and risk reduction. She earned her doctorate. in health policy from the Indiana University School of Nursing. Hahn is a professor in the UK colleges of Nursing and Public Health, and she directs the BREATHE research team and Kentucky Center for Smoke-Free Policy.

In 2000, she was invited to a meeting of "movers and shakers" to discuss tobacco use in Lexington.

"I had nothing to lose so I just said, 'How about if we work together to try to make Lexington smoke free' and, frankly, I thought they’d laugh me out of the room, but that’s not what happened," Hahn said.  

Hahn worked with the health department to develop a plan, and Lexington went smoke free in 2004.

"We saw a dramatic decline in adult smoking in Lexington compared to 30 other counties that looked like us, but who didn’t have smoke free laws. We saw a 32 percent decline in adult smoking, and that translated into 16,500 fewer smokers, and it meant that we were saving about $21 million dollars a year in health care costs, just in Lexington-Fayette County alone."

Currently, Hahn has multiple research studies under way. Three of these projects focus on radon, including FRESH: Dual Home Screening for Lung Cancer Prevention, a $2.1 million grant funded by National Institute of Environmental Health Science, for which she is the principal investigator. She was also a co-investigator on a recently completed $1.4 million grant from the Army to study the impact of environmental carcinogens on lung cancer in Appalachian Kentucky.

In fiscal year 2015 alone, Hahn had 21 peer-reviewed research papers published or in press.

"UK has been a great place to give me the community laboratory to do the work that I do, so that we can make a difference in the lives of the people who live in Kentucky," she said.

Over the last 14 years, the "Bucks for Brains" partnership between UK's Research Challenge Trust Fund and the Commonwealth of Kentucky has been a key component in supporting the innovations made by our faculty, staff and students. Since its inception, Kentucky has pledged more than $230 million in state funds to UK, which the university matched — dollar for dollar — with private funds to support the research enterprise. UK has used these funds as part of the effort to build the university’s endowment from $420.8 million in 2001 to more than $1 billion in 2015 and to create more than 300 endowed chairs and professorships across all colleges and professional schools.

For more on the Research Challenge Trust Fund visit