Thrive by IU Health

November 14, 2023

School principal wants to make an impact on students

IU Health Simon Cancer Center

School principal wants to make an impact on students

Keith Gilpatrick always hoped he could make a difference in the life of a child, so he followed in his mom’s footsteps and pursued a career in education.

By TJ Banes, Senior Writer, IU Health,

Keith Gilpatrick grew up on the Southside of Indianapolis where he enjoyed playing basketball, baseball and football. He also enjoyed playing bass in a band, and building sets for the theater at Franklin Central High School.

After graduation he earned a bachelor’s degree in social studies education from IUPU and started his first teaching job in Pike Township. His principal became his mentor and he soon returned to school where he received a master’s degree in education leadership from Ball State University.

“My mom was an educator. She taught pre-school and I just thought her creativity was something very cool — the way she put together her lessons. After a time, the opportunity to mentor students became the favorite part of my job and I felt I could do more of that on the administrative side,” said Gilpatrick, who turns 38 on November 19.

He went on to serve as Dean of Students at Crispus Attucks High School and then Assistant Principal at North Putnam Middle School.

It was while he was at Crispus Attucks that he received his initial diagnosis of adult acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow.

“I was having bad leg pain, night sweats and fatigue so I went to the doctor and from there went straight to ER,” said Gilpatrick. That was in 2020. At IU Health Simon Cancer Center, Gilpatrick received a bone marrow transplant donated by his sister, Jessica Gilpatrick, who works as a clinical care specialist in respiratory care at IU Health Methodist Hospital.

“Things went well for two years and then in July of 2023 I started getting weak. My hands stopped functioning and I went into the hospital with dehydration and pneumonia,” said Gilpatrick.

Married since July 14, 2007, to what he refers to as “another Jessica Gilpatrick” he is the father of Ella, 11, and Charlie, 8.

After 10 days on a ventilator, Gilpatrick learned he had relapsed causing damage to his kidneys. He was in the hospital for two months in care of Dr. Rita Assi who specializes in hematology.

As he talked with nurse Allison Boone, Gilpatrick explained the process for his new treatment.

“Dr. Assi told me I needed CAR-T but the team didn’t think I’d get approved. She pushed for it and I got approved,” said Gilpatrick. CAR-T Cell Therapy is a way to get immune cells called “T cells” (a type of white blood cells) to fight cancer by changing them in a lab so they can find and destroy cancer cells. The innovative therapy involves collecting a patient’s blood and passing it through a machine that separates out the T cells. The cells are then sent to a laboratory to be modified to become CAR-T. Gilpatrick underwent three days of chemotherapy to prepare his body for the treatment and then the CAR-T cells were infused back into his body. IU Health was the first health system in Indiana to have access to CAR-T cell therapy.

“Dr. Assi is very optimistic. My bone marrow is in good remission. We’ll keep monitoring things and after I go home I’ll come twice a week for labs and check in with Dr. Assi periodically,” said Gilpatrick.

He’s already looking forward to returning to life at home with his family. He enjoys playing video games and throwing footballs with his son, challenging his daughter to board games and watching her act out her roles in plays. He and his wife love to watch movies and listen to music - especially Ska, a combination of Caribbean mento and calypso and American jazz, rhythm, and blues.



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