Dean's Weekly Message

November 25, 2019

Dear colleague:

Chancellor Don Elliman reported last Tuesday that the state of the Anschutz Medical Campus is strong, outlining progress in attracting highly qualified students, securing major research grants, and providing care to more than 2 million patients. He lauded CU Innovations for its efforts to help faculty get their discoveries to market and he highlighted the School of Medicine’s work on establishing a health center in Aurora that will serve the medically underserved. He called attention to the This Is Breakthrough marketing campaign that is raising the public awareness of the Anschutz Medical Campus and noted that we finally have email addresses that accurately reflect who we are. We have a great deal to be thankful for – steadfast support from benefactors, outstanding commitment to excellence from our faculty and staff, and remarkable dedication to our future from our students. We are strong and it is because of you. Thanks to everyone for your ongoing service to our community.

The fall issue of the School of Medicine’s magazine, CU Medicine Today, was published in late October and it features a collection of articles about outstanding achievements by our faculty and staff. Elizabeth McCullagh, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in physiology and biophysics, discusses how she and some colleagues created the Request a Woman Scientist database to address the lack of women on scientific panels and in media reports that require scientific expertise. Anne Libby, PhD, professor of emergency medicine, talks about using her experience to help colleagues manage their careers. Jacqueline Turner, who is a first-year MD/PhD student in the Medical Scientist Training Program, and Carmen Hernández Candia, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in pharmacology, discuss their research and recent awards they have received: the Hertz Foundation Fellowship and the Pew Latin American Fellowship in the Biomedical Sciences, respectively.

Congratulations to Michelle Sie Whitten, Global Down Syndrome president and CEO, who is recognized as a Most Admired CEO in the current issue of the Denver Business Journal for her work boosting the impact of that nonprofit as it supports research, medical care, advocacy, and education for people with Down syndrome. The Anschutz Medical Campus has been the key beneficiary of the work done by Michelle and the team at Global. Thanks to their partnership, researchers and providers on our campus were primary recipients this year of National Institutes of Health funding that will advance our scientific work and improve care for all. The interviewer from the Denver Business Journal also asked “Rock-star extra” questions and it is worth noting that Michelle picked Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” as her walk-up track.

The Nurse-Family Partnership program was created by David Olds, PhD, professor of pediatrics, to support first-time mothers and their children with home visits by nurses to teach parenting skills and to do health checkups. Since the widespread launch of the nonprofit program in 1996, it has helped more than 286,000 families. Last week, a pair of new studies published in the journal Pediatrics evaluate the program’s results, with a look at the participants 18 years after they were initially involved in the program. The articles – one focused on the effects on mothers and the other on the 18 year olds – found improved cognitive function and academic performance among the 18-year-olds, lower public benefits costs, and improved economic self-sufficiency among the mothers.

Susan Johnson, PhD, professor of pediatrics, is featured in the article “Can Babies Learn to Love Vegetables?” in the November 25 issue of The New Yorker. Susan and her colleagues are scene setters at the beginning of the article, testing the responses of babies as they taste purees of kale. Susan’s research examines what and how we feed infants and toddlers. A common concern is that babies and infants prefer sweet foods to bitter ones. Susan and her colleagues have reviewed contents of commercially available baby foods – work published last year in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition – to document the lack of single-vegetable products. They reviewed 548 infant and toddler foods sold as vegetables, and they found that only 52 were single-vegetable products and none were dark green vegetables. They also found that nearly 40 percent of the multiple-ingredient products listed fruits as a first ingredient. These findings raise questions about introducing children to foods with bitter taste but high nutritional value. The New Yorker article meanders with glimpses of a top-secret Gerber test kitchen, a U.S. military laboratory crafting high-tech tubes of foods, and  a farmer’s market in Maine that sells produce craved by a growing population of African immigrants. Susan gets the final word in the article with an observation about babies and food. “There seems to be this window of opportunity between six and nine months—maybe even twelve months—where [babies are] just interested in food. And that predisposes them to healthy eating. They’re like baby birds. It doesn’t even matter if they like it. They just try it.”

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.  For clinical news and patient stories from UCHealth, please visit UCHealth Today

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