In the News

(October 2021)  Reporters locally and nationally turn to the School of Medicine for expertise and research news. Here are some examples from near and far.

Matthew Wynia, MD, MPH, director of the CU Center for Bioethics and Humanities and professor of medicine, explained on the Denver Fox affiliate that medical professionals have an obligation to get vaccinated. “The professional ethics around here are quite clear: If you are a health professional and you’ve taken an oath not to harm your patients, and if you catch COVID — even if you’re asymptomatic, and you end up giving it to a patient, that is the very definition of unethical for a healthcare professional,” he said in July.

Sean O’Leary, MD, professor of pediatrics, told Reuters in August that the Delta variant poses a risk for children as they return to school. “That is absolutely a concern as we move into this coming school year that we have this more contagious variant, and this is a group of individuals who won't be eligible for vaccination yet,” he said.

Lisa Dannemiller, DSC, PT, associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation, told the Washington Post in July that childhood clumsiness is associated with longer-term issues such as social isolation and anxiety. “Repeated frustration with motor tasks can lead to poor academic performance, low self-esteem, behavior problems and depression,” she said.

Jenna Glover, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry, discussed the pandemic’s effect on children’s mental health in a July report on CNN. "We really have never seen anything like this rapid growth in kids presenting with mental health problems and the severity of those problems. I've never seen this in my entire career,” she said. “Kids’ mental health, truly, has been under assault for over a year. It'’ probably actually worse than people think it is.”

Fernando Holguin, MD, professor of medicine and director of the Latino Research and Policy Center at the Colorado School of Public Health, told National Public Radio in July that hospitalizations and deaths will continue to flare in less-vaccinated communities. “They're at risk, especially moving into the fall of seeing increasing waves of infections,” he said. “I think it is really critical that people really become vaccinated.”

Carlos Franco-Paredes, MD, associate professor of medicine, was quoted in The New York Times in a report in July about surging COVID cases at immigration detention centers. He cited several factors, including transfers of detainees between facilities, insufficient testing, and lax safety measures. At an inspection of the center in Aurora, he saw many staff members not wearing masks properly. There is minimal to no accountability regarding their protocols,” he said.

Lilia Cervantes, MD, associate professor of medicine, was interviewed in June by Colorado Public Radio for a report about how life expectancy in 2020 decreased by four years for Hispanic and Black residents in Colorado, compared with a decrease of 1.4 years for white residents. Cervantes explained that Black and Hispanic residents were at greater risk of exposure to coronavirus due to their living and working conditions. “How long you live depends on where you live in this country, your zip code, and is a measure of how healthy we are as a nation,” she said.

Richard Zane, MD, chair of emergency medicine, expressed concern about people refusing to get vaccinated. “Not getting vaccinated if you have the opportunity to do so, is going to be one of the most selfish acts that history will view,” he said in June to the Denver Fox affiliate. “If you are not getting a vaccine, you are not participating in the solution to this pandemic. You are not doing your societal duty. You are not doing your act of patriotism. You are behaving in the most un-American way ever imaginable after a pandemic. You are the problem if you are not vaccinated.”

Emmy Betz, MD, MPH, professor of emergency medicine, was quoted in June by Axios in a report about federal funding for gun injury research. “It’s opening up whole new areas of junior researchers into the field,” she said. “When I started [12 years ago], I definitely got advice from well-meaning mentors who said don’t go after gun violence. You can’t get it funded.”

Melissa Haendel, PhD, chief research informatics officer and visiting professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics, in June explained the importance of the National COVID Cohort Collaborative, which collects medical records from millions of patients across the country. “It’s just shocking that we had no harmonized, aggregate health data for research in the face of a pandemic,” she said to MIT Technology Review. “We never would have gotten everyone to give us this degree of data outside the context of a pandemic, but now that we’ve done it, it’s a demonstration that clinical data can be harmonized and shared broadly in a secure way, and a transparent way.”

Vik Bebarta, MD, professor of emergency medicine, was asked by the Denver Fox affiliate for advice for people facing hot weather in June. “They should try and limit their time outside,” he said. “They should try and make sure they’re staying cool. The moment they develop symptoms, they should get inside, drink liquid, stay hydrated.”

David Bentley, PhD, professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics, was featured in a June report about mRNA technology and vaccine development on the Denver NBC affiliate. “The thing about messenger RNA technology, it’s very nimble,” he said. “It’s very flexible. It’s a technology that can respond to a new challenge rapidly. If and when another pandemic strikes, the first approach we’re going to take is to use mRNA technology to develop a vaccine against it. It’s a technology you can ramp up rapidly. We now know for the experience from Pfizer and Moderna vaccines this is a safe and very effective strategy.”

Jessica Cataldi, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics, in an August report on Colorado Public Radio about COVID and the beginning of the school year, urged parents to advise their children to wear masks in crowded indoor spaces, like schools, even if their school district doesn’t require it. “We will see school outbreaks, that will certainly happen. And the question is just how many and how big,” she said.

Ross Kedl, PhD, professor of immunology and microbiology, was interviewed in August by the Denver Fox affiliate about the effect of a COVID vaccine booster shot. “What an additional booster does do is: It increases not only your immunity against the original strain, but sort of interestingly, it broadens your immunity to give you enhanced immunity against these various different strains that are out there,” he said.

Saketh Guntupalli, MD, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology, was quoted in the Denver Post in May, describing efforts to gather supplies to send to India to aid in a COVID outbreak there. “India provided medicines and much-needed supplies to the U.S. last March,” he said. “We are returning the favor. We are all in this together.”

Jay Lemery, MD, associate professor of emergency medicine, was one of the experts quoted in an August article in the Washington Post describing the physiological response to hot weather. “It’s very different when you’re on oxygen or you’re on a diuretic or heart medicine or, you know, you’re a smoker or have existing heart disease,” he said. “At that point, you know, that physiological stressor is just enough to put you over into crisis.”

Katherine Green, MD, assistant professor of otolaryngology, recommended no screen time before bed in a report on the Denver ABC affiliate in August. “Melatonin is the hormone that helps you to fall asleep and stay asleep. When your eyes see blue light within a couple of hours of bedtime, basically that hormone production gets suppressed,” she said.

Heather De Keyser, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics, was asked by the Washington Post in August about hazy skies in Denver due to smoke from major forest fire in the western United States. “It was a really, really rough weekend for anyone with lungs,” she said.

Natasha Altman, MD, assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Cardiology, told NBC News in July that it is too soon to determine whether breakthrough cases among a vaccinated persons will reduce the chances of long-haul COVID-19 symptoms. “I think the trends are only going to start bearing out in the next six months,” she said.

Michelle Barron, MD, professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases, was asked by the Denver NBC affiliate about social distancing due to the rise of the delta variant of COVID-19. “You can still enjoy time with your friends and family,” she said. “But knowing the status of vaccination is a big deal, and I think that's something I would include in the equation.”

Suzanne Brandenburg, MD, professor of medicine and associate dean of the Fort Collins branch, was interviewed in July by the Fort Collins Coloradoan about CU’s partnership with Colorado State University as the branch welcomed its first students. “These are both really strong institutions,” she said. “CSU is excited about having a medical school on its campus and CU is excited about the collaboration. … It's great for our students to get to see such a high functioning medical community and see how medicine is practiced.”

Sonja O’Leary, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics and medical director of Denver Health’s School-based Health Centers, told the Denver Fox affiliate in July that children who are old enough to get COVID-19 vaccinations should get their shots. “Get the kids in,” she said. “In order for your student to have a more normal school year, I think it’s going to be really important to get them vaccinated if they are eligible.”

Marc Moss, MD, chief of the Division of Pulmonary Sciences and Critical Care Medicine, described the exhaustion that health care workers feel as they care for mostly unvaccinated patients with the Delta variant of COVID-19. “I’m afraid that this wave, because of the reason it’s happening ... is going to break the souls of health care workers,” he told the Denver Post in August. “I’m concerned people are just going to say, ‘I can’t do it anymore.’”

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