Sharing my thoughts on the people, places and things that make Lexington so special

A firm believer in volunteer work, a dedicated public servant, and a love mother, Isabel Yates found her inspiration working with other people


I spent the morning with one of the coolest women I have ever met. I had asked if we could chat about her career and she graciously accepted. 


Her name is Isabel Yates but you can also call her “Lexington’s Most Famous Matriarch,” since she was named Kentucky Mother of the Year back in 1981.


She was standing on the front porch when I arrived at her beautiful home. 


I came inside the house and she poured me a cup of coffee while we got acquainted.


She took her coffee “black,” something she grew accustomed to when they didn’t have sugar during the war.


Isabel is one popular woman, something made clear to me by the fact that her phone rang three times during our first five minutes together. She’s also remained active into her 90’s.


She believes she has to keep moving, she explained, which is why she was up this morning for her daily exercise at the Y from 6-7.


We sat down together in the sunroom overlooking her luscious backyard while she told me about her life.  


Born in South Carolina and raised by her parents along with three sisters, she credits her Dad, who was a doctor in town, as the most influential person in her life.


Mrs. Yates is a college graduate who also earned a Masters degree. She spent time teaching English but it’s people that she really loves.


“I’ve always wanted to work with people,” she explained, “I do better when I have other people around me that give me energy and inspiration to do things.”


She is also a firm believer in volunteer work.  


“Volunteer work is wonderful,” she said. She was extremely active in numerous organizations while raising her four children.


Because of her volunteer work, Isabel knew a lot of people. With each new idea she had, she would go to those who she’d worked with in the past.


Mrs. Yates is the type of person who has an idea and works to make it happen.  Although she admits all of her ideas haven’t come to fruition, many of them have been successful.


It’s her desire to set goals and aim to reach them that is so inspiring. Being in her presence and hearing her determination is motivation enough to get moving.


In her life, things just fell into place.


“Everything builds on itself,” she explained, and after years of volunteer work and a couple of business adventures she became a public servant in local government.


For those of you who are new to Lexington, she was Vice Mayor back in the 90’s and served 11 years on the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government City Council.


She was instrumental in the rebirth of McConnell Springs, the historic park where Lexington was named, as well as the popular Horse Mania public art exhibit.


Her immense love for both Lexington and the horse country is evident when she speaks.


Her decision to go into politics was not her idea. Someone asked her to run for council so she decided to go for it.


She was in her 60’s when she joined the local government. She spent 11 years on the council and three years as Vice Mayor.


“You have to listen to people and there are always two sides,” she said about the council.


“Lexington is something special. We have something that no other city in the U.S. has, so we ought to make the best of it,” she said.


As a council member she wanted to make the city beautiful. She knew she wanted to preserve the horse farms and was a great believer in neighborhood associations.


A public servant for over 50 years and a charmer, it’s no surprise that so many of her ideas became reality.


As we were wrapping up our conversation, I asked Mrs. Yates about McConnell Springs.


She told me it had been several years since she had last visited the park so we decided to go together the following week.


Sure enough, she gave me a personal tour of McConnell Springs just a few days later, describing how she managed to purchase and clean up the first settlement in Lexington.


Isabel Yates is an amazing woman who truly loves people, Lexington, and serving others. Lexington is a better place because of this woman and we should all be grateful for her service.


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After over 13 years spent leading U.K. Healthcare, Dr. Michael Karpf discusses his successes, failures, and passion for relationships following the news of his retirement




Dr. Michael Karpf has been a leader at U.K. Healthcare for 13 years.

He recently announced his retirement so I sat down with him to talk about his success in the Bluegrass state and his thoughts on Lexington, KY.

He was kind enough to give me thirty minutes of his time before he transitions out of Lexington.


Dr. Karpf is one accomplished man and his success at the University of Kentucky cannot be denied.

He came to U.K. with an idea and has since enjoyed seeing it come to fruition.


His idea was simple…

He wanted to build relationships with other hospitals throughout the state and earn referrals to U.K.

Academic medical institutions were too insular, in his opinion; they were simply waiting for everyone to come to them.

He thought academic medical centers needed to earn their patients and his inkling was right.


Since his start at the university, he’s doubled volume, increased the operating budget five fold, and helped to make U.K. a central part of healthcare in the Bluegrass state.


Why relationships?

Dr. Karpf is a relationship kind of guy. Originally, he planned to be a pediatrician. You can’t find a medical position more relational than that.

He hated medical school in the beginning. “I almost dropped out,” he said.

That changed when he met one of three mentors who would ultimately shape his future path. 


Ironically, the first, an internist and medical professor who took all the complex patients in town, was a relationship man.

Rotations with him taught Dr. Karpf about the importance of relationships with patients.

He noted that this particular professor gave his personal phone number out, something that Dr. Karpf now does as he builds relationships.


The next mentor, his advisor in medical school, wanted him to be his chief resident and represent him at meetings.

This was Dr. Karpf’s first experience in administration and it sent him on the path to working in Healthcare administration; sending him to Pittsburgh, UCLA and eventually U.K


U.K. was struggling when he arrived but he was given enough authority to build relationships with the university’s doctors.

Today, Karpf is satisfied with what he has done and thinks it has been good for U.K.


How does someone lead U.K. Healthcare without a degree in Healthcare Administration or taking a single business class?

I asked him this question and he explained that his father owned a business so Dr. Karpf was raised around it.

It turns out he picked up a lot from working as a youth in the family business.

He was in his Dad's office everyday and engaged in all aspects of the business. He simply learned as he went along 


When asked to define success his answer was simple. 

“Success is having done something that you can look in the mirror and say, ‘it’s pretty good.’ I don’t define it by external markers; it’s not how much money you made, how much recognition you got, or how many boards you are on. It’s ‘did you think about what you did’, ‘did you get it done’, ‘was it worthwhile?’”

“I have to please myself rather than other people. Life is much simpler that way,” he said.


As we continued our discussion, it became clear that Dr. Karpf genuinely loves what he does.

“If I get to get up in the morning and I think about what to do that will help people, I am lucky,” he explained.

“I have a vocation, I don’t have a job,” he said.

Defining a vocation as, “something you are committed to, that is part of you, when everything is going wrong you don’t quit, you keep pushing; it’s more of a calling than a job.”


Dr. Karpf has loved living in Central Kentucky.

“Lexington is a good town,” he said, explaining that it’s especially a good town for recruiting young faculty because of the school system, reasonably priced homes, and cleanliness.

According to Karpf, Lexington is a prime example of small town America.


I feel incredibly fortunate to have spent 30 minutes with this man.

When I asked him if he had ever failed at anything he said, “Sure I have failed, you gotta fail or you don’t learn anything. If you don’t fail, you don’t grow.”

A humble answer from someone who has had plenty of success.


Book Recommendation: Dr. Karpf recommends David Brooks’ discussion on “The difference between a Job versus a Vocation” 


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