Listening to Every Voice 

By John J. Reilly, Jr., MD

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(November 2019) This issue of CU Medicine Today features several articles about women in medicine and science and administrative leadership, but it’s not a themed issue. Rather it’s a reflection of the talent we have here on the Anschutz Medical Campus and the contributions women are making in science and medicine.

Take the cover story about Liz McCullagh, PhD, who became weary of seeing so many all-male panels at scientific meetings. Women are leaders in science and medicine, yet conference organizers continue to overlook their contributions and consistently fail to make sure their voices were heard.

Liz and some friends decided to do something about it. In January 2018, they created the “Request a Woman Scientist” database. In just one week, 2,500 women joined. Now, the database has more than 11,000 women and it has been queried more than 100,000 times.

Leaders are taking notice. In June, Francis Collins, MD, PhD, director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, posted on the NIH website that he would decline to participate in meetings if organizers failed to be inclusive. “If that attention to inclusiveness is not evident in the agenda, I will decline to take part,” Collins wrote. “I challenge other scientific leaders across the biomedical enterprise to do the same.”

At the School of Medicine, we have made advances in promoting women into leadership positions. This fall, we announced that Julia P. Cooper, PhD, will become next chair of biochemistry and molecular genetics. She is currently at the National Cancer Institute, where she heads the Laboratory of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s Telomere Biology Section.

With her appointment, the School of Medicine will have nine women chairs among our 23 departments. At 39 percent, our School doubles the national average of women chairs at medical schools.

CU ranks among the top medical schools in terms of having women as department chairs, according to data compiled by the Association of American Medical Colleges. At year-end 2018, there were 618 women serving as department chairs out of 3,274 chair positions at all U.S. medical schools. Among the 152 U.S. medical schools, only seven have nine or more women department chairs.

While we are making progress, we must continue to ensure a level playing field where scientists, physicians, and all other leaders are evaluated fairly and their voices can be heard.

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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