October 2022

Reporters locally and nationally turn to the School of Medicine for expertise and research news. Here are some examples from near and far. 

Megan Adams, MD, assistant professor of surgery, in August was quoted by the Denver affiliate of Fox discussing the liver transplant surgery, made possible by an adult living donor, to save the life of a two-year-old child. “Especially for a small child or a baby, we only need to take probably 10 to 15% of the adult’s liver, and in both the donor and the recipient, that liver will be regenerated to the size it needs to be within six weeks,” she said. 

Omer Mei-Dan, MD, professor of orthopedics, was quoted in June in a Colorado Sun article about treating extreme-sprots athletes. “God knows I had so many surgeries on myself,” said Mei-Dan, who participates in wingsuit flying, rock and ice climbing, downhill mountain biking, kayaking and BASE jumping. “These are not the type of people who get hurt and then you tell them, ‘Now you should not get back into climbing.’ That won’t work. I did feel that as an athlete. Sometimes I was … I don’t know if ‘judged’ is the right word … but I was looked at through a certain lens.” 

Stacey Martiniano, MD, associate professor of pediatrics, discussed her specialty, cystic fibrosis, in May on the Denver ABC affiliate. “We start treatment very early with pancreatic enzymes that help babies digest their food, absorb the nutrients and grow,” she said. “We also then start treatments to help protect lungs. And then most recently, in just the last few years, we have these really great, new disease modifying drugs that really have improved the outlook for children with cystic fibrosis.” 

Mario Santiago, PhD, associate professor of medicine, and Eric Poeschla, MD, head of the Division of Infectious Diseases, were quoted by The Atlantic in August describing the role of interferons in fighting COVID-19. Santiago said strong, punchy interferon responses are essential to early viral control, acting as a “first line of defense” that comes online within minutes or hours. 

Evalina Burger, MD, chair of orthopedics, discussed the rates of breast cancer among female orthopedic surgeons. She said trainees should be learning about radiation exposure during surgery in addition to practicing using drills and scalpels. “Would it have changed my decision to be an orthopedic surgeon?” she said in an article published by Mother Jones in August. “No. Would I have taken better precautions? Maybe.” 

Sean O’Leary, MD, professor of pediatrics, told U.S. News and World Report in July that COVID-19 is now the No. 4 cause of death among children, behind accidents, cancer, and suicides. “If we had a simple, safe, effective intervention to get rid of any one of those single things, we would jump at it.” With COVID-19, “we have that and, unfortunately, a lot of parents aren't taking it,” he said. 

Eric Lavonas, MD, professor of emergency medicine, described seeing patients injured in electric scooter crashes in a report on the Denver ABC affiliate. “I’m working 3:00 PM to midnight tonight, and if I get to midnight without seeing somebody injured in a scooter crash I’ll be really surprised,” he said in July. 

Emmy Betz, MD, MPH, professor of emergency medicine, told the CBS affiliate in July that the new 988 national suicide prevention will help save lives. “Maybe it was one good thing to come out of COVID is that we all started talking about mental health a lot more. Life is a bumpy rollercoaster, and I think it’s important we all talk about that because there’s treatment,” she said. 

Rebecca Cohen MD, MPH, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology, told the Denver Post in July that abortion bans in nearby states are causing some patients to travel to Colorado. “A year ago, we rarely saw patients who needed to travel to Colorado for necessary medical care, whereas now up to a third of our patients are traveling from out of state — this means that each patient faces more anxiety and stress in navigating unfamiliar systems,” she said. 

Paula Riggs, MD, professor of psychiatry, described to the New York Times the goal of a treatment program for adolescents with co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders as recognizing addiction as a chronic condition rather than an acute crisis. “Nobody graduates from a diabetes clinic,” she said an article published in June. “You just keep taking care of your health, and then if you need to intensify treatment because something is out of whack, you come back in until you’ve got it under control.”

 Jay Lemery, MD, professor of emergency medicine specialist and co-founder of the CU Climate and Health Program, told the Colorado Sun in August that tracking heat-related deaths is difficult: “I would consider heat to be a threat-multiplier, meaning it often puts other coexisting medical conditions in crisis.” 

Lilia Cervantes, MD, associate professor of medicine and director of immigrant health, discussed a policy change that allowed the state to cover regular dialysis for people who would otherwise have to wait until they are so sick that they land in the emergency department. “We don’t have 130 patients coming through the ED needing emergency dialysis anymore,” she said a June report by Kaiser Health News. 

Ernest E. Moore, MD, Distinguished Professor of Surgery, described for CNN the difference between injuries caused by gun violence. “I often use the analogy that the injury to the liver [with a semi-automatic rifle] would be similar to just taking a watermelon and dropping it on the cement. It’s incredible the amount of energy delivered,” he said in June. “By comparison, the 9 millimeter would drill a hole through the liver. So, you'd have a sizable hole, but if you didn't hit a major blood vessel, it’s a pretty tolerable injury.” 

Jenna Glover, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry, joined the Colorado Public Radio program “Colorado Matters” in May to answer questions parents submitted over Twitter about discussing gun violence with children. “One of the ways that some of us cope is we want to constantly consume anything and everything about this to try to understand it,” she said. “But it’s so important to take breaks and turn off the TV, turn off social media and just be present with your family.... Some exposure is helpful; overexposure is dangerous.” 

Bonnie Jortberg, PhD, associate professor of family medicine, was quoted in a May report on the CBS affiliate about Colorado dairy farm selling camel milk as a substitute for cow milk. “There are some potential benefits for adults or even children, not infants and young toddlers who need to be consuming formula,” she said. 

Sean O’Leary, MD, professor of pediatrics was interviewed on Good Morning America in May about the COVID-19 vaccine for children under 5 years old. “I think we all want to be done with this pandemic but unfortunately, it’s not quite done with us,” he said. “We are in a much different place than we were two years ago in terms of both the therapeutics that are available to treat the disease and the vaccines, showing a decreased spread of the disease and a decrease in hospitalizations.”

Lotte Dyrbye, MD, MHPE, senior associate dean of faculty and chief well-being officer, in May discussed with United Press International her study of mistreatment experienced by physicians from patients or their families. The study, which included 6,500 physicians, reported that 30% said they had been subjected to racially or ethnically offensive remarks, and a similar percentage reported having offensive sexist remarks directed at them. “Physicians who have [these] experiences are more likely to be burned out,” she said. “When physicians are burned out, they are more likely to leave their practice, reduce their time taking care of patients, make medical mistakes, and deliver more costly care to patients.” 

Timothy Amass, MD, assistant professor of medicine, was featured in a CNN report about his study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine in April, on the stress-related disorders of family members of patients admitted to intensive care units with COVID-19. He explained that small acts of kindness, such as asking for a photo that hospital staff could hang to make the patient feel happier, can make a difference. “Even that small act of compassion from the health care team to the family can really have a really powerful impact for those family members and their risk of developing these (PTSD) symptoms,” he said.

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