(April 2022) Even as the latest spike of COVID-19 cases recedes, reckoning with the pandemic’s impact continues.
The University of Colorado School of Medicine and our clinical partners have been a bulwark during these past two years, protecting as many people as possible with strategies to prevent illness, to mitigate the spread of infection, and to care for those who get sick.
All that work – even when we’ve spent our careers training and preparing for such circumstances – takes a toll. As a result, we are meeting the need for renewal and recommitment with reinvestment in what matters most: people.
We have created a new senior leadership position in the School of Medicine – Senior Associate Dean for Faculty and Chief Well-being Officer – to lead our efforts to address workload and burnout. For that new role, we have hired an expert who helped write the book on the subject: Lotte Dyrbye, MD, MHPE.
Lotte is co-author of the National Academy of Medicine’s consensus study, “Taking Action Against Clinician Burnout: A Systems Approach to Professional Well-Being.” The book was named the 2021 winner of the James A. Hamilton Award, which is given annually to the authors of a management or health care book judged outstanding by the American College of Healthcare Executives.
Lotte is joining us this spring from the Mayo Clinic, where she has worked since 2001 and where she is a professor of medicine and medical education and co-director of the Mayo Clinic Department of Medicine Physician Well-Being Program.
While it is crucial to have ways to care for our colleagues when they are challenged by the consequences of our demanding work, it is important to heed advice we would give to others. We often advise patients on ways they can prevent unhealthy outcomes. It is no different for ourselves and our colleagues.
We must look at the mounting pressures in our professional lives and address the factors that cause emotional exhaustion, detachment, and a low sense of personal accomplishment. Those factors can include long work hours, technologies and documentation requirements that detract from patient care, insufficient job resources, unsupportive organizational cultures, and ineffective team structures.
To identify and correct these matters, we must measure them and take action. This investment requires consistent attention and rigorous effort to implement. This approach is consistent with our academic medical campus’s mission to ask challenging questions, develop experiments to understand experience, collect the data, test the results, and design interventions that will make a difference.
To that end, the School of Medicine is energizing its overall commitment to data science by establishing a new Department of Biomedical Informatics. Computation drives many facets of biomedical discovery and innovation, from the most basic molecular biology through each step of clinical translation. If our goal is to deliver the most advanced health care, we must be adept with the best practices of measuring, collecting, and applying data.
During the past two years, we have recruited faculty to coordinate and lead this effort. Notably, Casey Greene, PhD, joined us in November 2020 as the director of the newly created Center for Health Artificial Intelligence, and Melissa Haendel, PhD, in April 2021 was named the campus’s first Chief Research Informatics Officer. Casey joined us from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and Melissa came from Oregon Health & Science University.
In the Department of Biomedical Informatics, we will be uniting talented faculty housed in multiple departments into an academic home that continues to serve all. The members of the new department will raise the level of training in the field and will spur additional robust collaborations between data scientists and laboratory researchers. The department will also offer an opportunity to continue our efforts to recruit biomedical informatics leaders, faculty, fellows, and students.
Such investments are key to our future and necessary if we are to thrive.
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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