Dean’s Message Spring 2020

By John J. Reilly, Jr., MD

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(May 2020) This spring, our country and the rest of the world were confronted with a public health crisis unlike any we’ve ever experienced. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted life as we know it and resulted in the tragic loss of thousands of lives and the collapse of the national economy.

On the Anschutz Medical Campus, we have made many difficult decisions to reduce transmission of the deadly virus. We closed campus buildings, including those with research laboratories, through the end of April and we cancelled major celebrations including Match Day and the 2020 commencement.

Amid the hardships, we have also witnessed incredible grace, kindness, resourcefulness, compassion, and courage. Faced with potential shortages of personal protective equipment in clinical settings, researchers donated theirs. More than 100 clinicians who work primarily in outpatient settings stepped forward to help in the hospital with the surge of patients. One former trainee shipped surgical masks to campus.

The articles in this issue of CU Medicine Today were assembled prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and reflect the usual outstanding work of the members of the CU School of Medicine community. Production of the issue was delayed due to the broad mitigation measures that required off-campus working for most non-clinical faculty and staff. As a result, we had limited accessibility to the operations that we depend on for designing and printing the magazine.

The content of this issue reflects the old normal for how we did things. As we move forward, we will apply the lessons of our experience during the pandemic to adjust to a new normal.

For example, telehealth will almost certainly be a much larger component of our clinical work. Prior to the pandemic, our telehealth consultations could be counted in the hundreds per month. During the last two weeks of March and in early April, CU providers were handling between 1,000 and 2,000 telehealth calls, and sometimes more, per day. This became possible as a result of changes to reimbursement structures that allowed for these visits to be covered by insurance.

Our laboratories on the Anschutz Medical Campus were vacated during the social distancing, stay-at-home mandates that were necessary to protect the public health. As we look to ramp up those operations, we’ll need to reconsider work times and access to ensure that we can come back to productive research.

Our educational programming shifted to online methods during the final months of the 2020 academic year. A quickly assembled pair of courses on COVID-19 offered in-depth studies of virology, hospital medicine, and social determinants of health. Students also received credit for serving as community volunteers in the response.

This has been no ordinary time, but we trained to be ready for such extraordinary circumstances. We are called to address challenges with dedication, compassion, and intelligence. The School of Medicine community has responded in ways that fulfill the noble traditions of our profession and set standards for the days ahead.

I hope you and your family, friends, and colleagues have been and remain safe and healthy, and I look forward to seeing you soon.

With warm regards, 

John J. Reilly, Jr., MD
Richard D. Krugman Endowed Chair
Dean, School of Medicine
Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs
University of Colorado

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