Dean's Weekly Message

Aug. 12, 2019

Dear Colleague:

At the matriculation ceremony on Friday, August 9, the School of Medicine welcomed the Class of 2023 medical students, giving them white coats, stethoscopes, and a healthy dose of advice. Maurice “Scotty” Scott, MD, assistant professor of medicine and the ceremony’s keynote speaker, told the new “baby docs” that they should rely on others to get through tough times: “There will be dark days, but search for the light. Find it. Find it! There will be glimmers of it all around you. These glimmers will help you persevere, even if just slowly, one foot in front of the other. And with the more light you find, you will start reflecting it back. And then you will be the light for all of your patients and their families, the ones who from now on will undoubtedly come in your presence in search of relief, advice, and cure.“

The sun was shining brightly Friday morning on Boettcher Commons where the 184 students in the Class of 2023 joined the CU School of Medicine. This class was selected from 8,666 applicants to our School. Only 353 of those applicants received offers of admission from us. The Class of 2023 includes 104 women, 90 Colorado residents, 54 biology majors, and so many members of the Dean’s List at their respective undergraduate institutions that we stopped counting. Twenty-eight percent of the class members are from backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in medicine. This year’s class includes 28 Hispanic or Latinx students and nine black or African-American students. Thirty-four members of the class are the first generation in their families to complete college. Twenty-nine students were born outside of the United States.

As I noted at the ceremony, I am especially pleased that our new class is increasingly representative of the communities we serve. This is a tumultuous time in American society and around the world, with people too often choosing to separate themselves from one another, particularly based on income, ethnic background, and religious and political beliefs. We are a profession that takes care of everybody. We must understand one another and engage people of different backgrounds constructively and productively, learn how to talk about difficult issues, and listen to each other in a respectful and professional way. We look forward to our students making significant contributions to the improved quality of care we provide one another.

Selecting a class of medical students is a critically important task and we owe great thanks to Nichole Zehnder, MD, assistant dean for admissions and student affairs, the entire staff in the Office of Admissions, and the team of interviewers who participate in the process. We also are grateful to the Medical Alumni Association and other friends of the School who generously support the incoming students with the gift of a stethoscope.

Congratulations to the inductees into the Gold Humanism Honor Society and to Richard Schulick, MD, MBA, chair of surgery and director of the CU Cancer Center and to Rita Lee, MD, associate professor of medicine, who were the recipients of the 13th annual Faculty Professionalism Award. Those honors also were announced during the matriculation ceremony.

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner visited the School of Medicine on Thursday, August 8, for a briefing on the CU Cancer Center and our campus efforts to improve patient care with immunotherapy. Richard Schulick, MD, MBA, director of the CU Cancer Center, outlined the substantial progress that has been made since the 1970s in caring for patients with cancer. At that time, therapies generally provided a five-year survival rate to about 50 percent of patients. Now, the five-year survival rate stands at nearly 70 percent. As Rich pointed out, our faculty are working to make that survival rate even higher and immunotherapy is one of ways we are exploring.

Among the leaders in taking those next steps are two faculty members recently recruited to the Anschutz Medical Campus: Eduardo Davila, PhD, professor of medicine and director of immunotherapy medical oncology, and Terry Fry, MD, professor of pediatrics and co-director of the Human Immunology and Immunotherapy Initiative. Eduardo joined us last year from the University of Maryland and he outlined the research in tumor infiltrating lymphocytes therapy that he is leading. Terry, who became CU faculty in February 2018, described his work with CAR T-cell therapy. These potential therapies show promise, but they also require sustained, meticulous effort. Eduardo highlighted that researchers, government leaders, community members, students, staff, and many others have an important role to play in seeking cures to cancer and developing immunotherapies and we must work together. As Eduardo explained to the senator, we have a united purpose that depends on the strength of our diversity in working toward our goals.

While Eduardo’s advice was directly related to our scientific endeavors, it offers a sensible approach that should be heeded by national leaders as they consider how to address the attacks in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, earlier this month. After a week of acrimony in the wake of the shootings that killed 31 people, elected officials should focus on rooting out sources of hate that apparently motivated the shooters. These include racism, sexism, and all other forms of discrimination. Eduardo, who was born and raised in El Paso, says he has experienced racist, anti-Mexican sentiments throughout his life. We cannot and should not ignore how prejudice has denied our society important contributions from others. As leaders in medicine and science, we can provide an example by offering support and comfort to others in their times of need and by providing a fair opportunity for all to meet their potential for good. We will also encourage others on our faculty and with the School to continue their efforts to inform our public debates. Emmy Betz, MD, associate professor of emergency medicine, for example, has done considerable research on firearm injury prevention. Earlier this year, the Eugene S. Farley, Jr. Health Policy Center published a policy brief by Jennifer Mijer, MD, senior pediatric resident at CU Anschutz, and Shale Wong, MD, MSPH, professor of pediatrics and family medicine and director of the Eugene S. Farley, Jr. Health Policy Center, on the impact of gun violence on youth.

The School of Medicine is celebrating the creation of the Marvin J. Bernstein, MD, Endowed Chair in Renal Diseases and Hypertension at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. The chair has been established with $2 million in gifts and commitments from Marvin J. Bernstein, MD, a nephrologist who practices in Las Vegas and who has taught courses at Touro University Nevada. He earned his medical degree at the University of Chicago School of Medicine in 1964. He previously established the Marvin Bernstein Lectureship at Aspen Renal Conference Endowed Fund to support an annual course on renal disease and electrolyte disorders directed by CU faculty in Aspen each summer. This year’s 46th annual conference, led by Isaac Teitelbaum, MD, professor of medicine, and Richard Johnson, MD, professor of medicine, connects leaders in the field with speakers from around the country to share the latest developments in nephrology. We are grateful for Marvin’s generous and longstanding support.

The July issue of the Child Health Research Enterprise newsletter has been posted online. Since last year, the campus has been engaged in a process of evaluating the operational, administrative, and governance infrastructure that supports researchers who conduct child health research. The goal is to establish a system that better serves the needs of our researchers with a common understanding of our shared strengths and collaborative approach to addressing issues. There are teams reviewing the legal, space, finance and budgeting, communications, and other details necessary for a successful research enterprise.

The Colorado Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CCTSI) is offering a Research Studio program for researchers who want direct expert advice on ways to improve their projects. The studio program provides a 90-minute consultation with a panel of three to five experts who are specifically chosen to provide advice on the researcher’s needs. The program aims to help investigators at any stage of a project – from developing a well-constructed hypothesis to analyzing data to examining how to apply findings to benefit communities, medical practice, and health policy. The service provided by the Research Studio is free to investigators and is an excellent way the CCTSI serves our campus community. I would encourage all to consider using this valuable resource. The Research Studio Program is currently taking requests for sessions to be held on Friday, September 13, and other dates this fall.  For more information, contact Daniel.Holtrop@cuanschutz.edu.

On Friday, August 2, the University of Colorado Cancer Center’s Cancer Research Summer Fellowship (CRSF) held its annual poster session in Krugman Conference Hall. The presentations by 38 undergraduate students from across the country, who were selected from more than 225 top applicants, were the culmination of 10 weeks of intensive, hands-on, lab-based and clinical cancer research efforts. The CRSF program, which was initiated in 1987, is directed by John Tentler, PhD, associate professor of medicine in the Division of Medical Oncology, who offered his thanks to Cancer Center members who served as preceptors for the students. Based on the successes of CRSF graduates, John and principal investigator Mary Reyland, PhD, professor of craniofacial biology in the CU School of Dental Medicine, were recently notified that the NIH will provide $1.6 million in funding over the next five years for their R25 Cancer Education proposal.  This grant will provide funding for the Cancer Research Undergraduate Experience, which will implement enhancements to the CRSF such as clinical/translational workshops, mentorship and career forums, and an emphasis on student diversity through the establishment of links to minority-serving institutions.

Thomas Flaig, MD, professor of medicine and associate dean for clinical research for the School of Medicine and the chief clinical research officer for UCHealth, has been named the University’s interim vice chancellor of research. As the first person to serve concurrently in those clinical research roles, he has helped create the infrastructure and streamline processes related to clinical trials. He also has led efforts to coordinate research activities between the University and our campus clinical partners. In particular, he has provided leadership for the expansion of clinical trial activity throughout the UCHealth system and in the continuing implementation of the OnCore clinical trial management system, which is providing improved web-based resources and a searchable database that researchers, clinicians, and patients can use to find clinical trials at CU and UCHealth. Tom has been effective because, as an accomplished researcher himself, he thoroughly understands the needs of our investigators. Tom is a member of the National Cancer Institute’s Investigational Drug Steering Committee and the bladder cancer task force. He also serves as chair of the bladder cancer committee for the National Comprehensive Care Network, which publishes internationally recognized treatment guidelines, updated regularly with new research findings. Tom has active translational research collaborations with colleagues in the School of Medicine, Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, and CU Boulder. We are fortunate to have Tom add the important role of interim vice chancellor of research.

Have a good week,

John J. Reilly, Jr., MD
Richard D. Krugman Endowed Chair
Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs and
Dean, School of Medicine


The Dean’s weekly message is an email news bulletin from John J. Reilly, Jr., MD, Dean of the CU School of Medicine, that is distributed to inform University of Colorado School of Medicine faculty members, staff, students and others about issues pertaining to the School’s mission of education, research, clinical care and community service.  See the UCH-Insider →

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