In the News

April 2022

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

Lalit Bajaj, MD, MPH, professor of pediatrics, told the Denver Post in November that the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is safe for children ages 5 to 11. “The scrutiny these vaccines are under from our regulatory agency is pretty intense,” he said. “We wouldn’t put it out there if we didn’t think it was safe and the benefit didn’t outweigh the risk.”

Carey Candrian, PhD, associate professor of medicine, was quoted in a November article in USA Today about a U.S. Army veteran rejected from multiple elder care homes because she is transgender. Candrian said older LGBTQ adults often face discrimination. “Especially for the older LGBT community, who grew up when being gay was dangerous, or even illegal, to stay safe they had to develop this silence about who they are,” Candrian said. “That stays with them, despite growing acceptance and new laws. They’re fearful to disclose their identity.”

Vik Bebarta, MD, professor of emergency medicine, was quoted by the Colorado Springs Gazette in February after a meeting with its editorial board to discuss drug overdoses. “We’re seeing a major increase in fentanyl-related doses, overdoses and deaths specifically, which is by far the majority of all the deaths around drug overdoses in Colorado and across the country.”

Irina Petrache, MD, chief of the division of pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine at National Jewish Health and professor of medicine, described lingering effects of COVID in some patients in a February report in Everyday Health. “Most patients who suffer from long COVID were previously healthy and are extremely frustrated and exasperated by this condition,” she said. “Lots of folks are expecting answers more quickly than the speed with which we can provide them because of how new this is and how unexpected this new syndrome has been.”

Brandi Freeman, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics, described an interaction with a 12-year-old patient who wanted the COVID-19 vaccination. “He researched it on his own and brought it to his mom,” she said in December on the NBC affiliate in Denver. “They came here together to talk about it, talked about the COVID-19 vaccine and routine immunizations. Kids recognize the world is different for them right now. And they’re listening to the science, too, that the vaccine can help us and keep us safe so they can keep doing what they want to do, which is to be healthy kids.”

Lilia Cervantes, MD, associate professor of medicine, was quoted in a December report on Colorado Public Radio about efforts to vaccinate Colorado’s Latino population. “For this community, family comes first and self-care comes second and if there are concerns, such as religious, side-effects, or simply due to competing social challenges, they may not get the vaccine,” she said.

Sean O’Leary, MD, MPH, professor of pediatrics, was quoted in a February report by the PBS NewsHour discussing the rise in pediatric COVID-19 infections. “What we’re seeing right now is still a lot of hospitalizations and unfortunately some deaths in this age group,” he said, adding that if the FDA clears vaccinations for children under 5, “that’s going to be really important because all of those hospitalizations and deaths essentially are preventable.”

Eric Simoes, MD, clinical professor of pediatrics, described the results of a clinical trial of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in children ages 5 to 11 at Children’s Hospital Colorado in a November news report on the Denver ABC affiliate. “As principal investigator of this site, and one of the largest sites in the world, I believe in the science and integrity of the trial and this vaccine,” he said.

Paula Riggs, MD, professor of psychiatry, discussed shortcomings in care provided to teenagers treated for drug overdoses in a CNN report in January. “Less than 10% of kids go to treatment with the standard screening, brief intervention, referral to treatment model that we’re using,” she said. “They do a great job screening, but the referral to treatment part is not working. It’s broken.”

Nanette Santoro, MD, professor and chair of obstetrics and gynecology, told the Denver CBS affiliate in January that a new study funded by the National Institutes of Health should reassure pregnant women to get the COVID-19 vaccine. “There’s quite a bit of vaccine hesitancy in women who want to get pregnant,” she said. “A lot feel their body is a temple, and they don’t want to do anything. Only 31% of women who are pregnant are vaccinated nationally. This should make them feel better about protecting themselves and their baby. This sample size is one of the largest we’ve seen.”

Joshua Barocas, MD, visiting associate professor of medicine, was interviewed by the Washington Post for a November article about rock star Eric Clapton’s vocal opposition to measures that would reduce the spread of COVID-19. “He could be helping us in finishing off this pandemic, especially with a vulnerable population,” he said. “We’re looking at millions and millions of people worldwide. He could be a global ambassador, and instead he’s chosen the pro-covid, anti-public-health route.”

Matthew Wynia, MD, MPH, professor of medicine and director of the CU Center for Bioethics and Humanities, told the Denver Gazette in March that Colorado needs to do a better job vaccinating underserved populations. “It’s a deadly embarrassment that Colorado is still doing so poorly at vaccinating our Latino/Hispanic residents,” he said. “While other states have narrowed the gap, or even eliminated it, we have not. We need to do more outreach and make it super easy for folks in this community to get vaccinated. With only about 40% of Colorado’s Latinx population vaccinated, we remain a set-up for future waves of infections in that community.”

Linda Zittleman, MSPH, senior instructor of family medicine, described the Implementing Technology and Medication-Assisted Team Training program in a February report by Healio. The program engaged 42 primary care practices in efforts to improve care for those with opioid-use disorder. “The on-site team training truly aims to give practices a resource that utilizes the entire team,” she said. “Everyone — front desk staff, medical assistants, nurses, billing — can play a role, reduce stigma around opioid use disorder and medication-assisted treatment and help clinicians provide this treatment.”

Megan Adams, MD, assistant professor of surgery, was quoted by the Denver ABC affiliate in a February report about an 11-year-old who received a liver transplant from a living donor. “A living donor is a great option to transplant patients sooner,” she said. “The outcomes are much better with a living donor because you don’t have to be so sick to obtain the organ.”

Pei-Ni Jone, MD, professor of pediatrics, explained in a January report in Healthline, that the risk of viral heart disease is higher for those who contract COVID-19 than for those who get vaccinated. “There is a 1-in-3,000 risk for myocarditis in patients with COVID-19,” she said. “This risk is much higher than 1-in-50,000 to 1-in-100,000 in myocarditis associated with the vaccine.”

Eric G. Campbell, PhD, professor of medicine and director of research for the CU Center for Bioethics and Humanities, discussed the nomination of Robert Califf, MD, to serve as commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in a November article in the Washington Post. Campbell said Califf’s past consulting work with pharmaceutical companies should not disqualify him. “To my knowledge those relationships have been fully discussed and widely debated in the academic and political arena,” Campbell said.

Samuel Dominguez, MD, PhD, professor of pediatrics, told the Colorado Sun in November that vaccinating 5- to 11-year-olds against COVID-19 would be beneficial to the children and to the community. “You’re either a stop in the chain of transmission or you’re a propagator in the chain of transmission,” he said, “And the more stops we have, the better off we are as a community, as a state, as a nation, and as a world.”

Michael Puente, Jr., MD, assistant professor of ophthalmology, discussed with the NBC affiliate in Denver his efforts to update a 27-year-old federal policy prohibiting gay men from donating their corneas. “This is just nonsense that this is still the law,” he said in a November news report. “I’ve been working the last couple of years to research this policy and raise awareness about it and how to convince the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that it’s time to change it.”

Rosemary Rochford, PhD, professor of immunology and microbiology, was quoted in the Smithsonian magazine in November in an article about waning immunity to COVID-19 among the vaccinated. “We’re seeing a lot of breakthrough cases,” she said. “But we don’t see as much breakthrough disease.”

Emmy Betz, MD, MPH, professor of emergency medicine and director of the Firearm Injury Prevention Initiative with the Colorado School of Public Health, in February described the Firearm Life Plan on the ABC affiliate in Colorado Springs. “It’s something that we developed for firearm owners and their families to help think through what they would want to happen in the future, either if they develop impairments that make them less safe at handling firearms, or ultimately in their death.”

Matthew Greenhawt, MD, MSc, professor of pediatrics, told HealthDay in February that an allergic reaction to a second shot of the COVID-19 vaccine is low for those who had a reaction to the first shot. “Persons who have had an immediate allergic reaction to the first dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine can be safely revaccinated and receive a second dose under allergist supervision, allowing persons to be able to receive a full vaccination series,” he said. “This has the potential to change current practice and further prevent COVID-19 transmission and severe COVID-19 outcomes.”

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