Dean's Weekly Message

October 7, 2019

Dear colleague:

Our Child Health Associate/Physician Assistant (CHA/PA) Program celebrated its 50th anniversary with a reception Friday, October 4, at the CU South Denver campus. The event raised money for student scholarships and featured the successes of graduates from our program, which ranks among the nation’s best and attracts high-quality applicants and educators. From its establishment through the present, CHA/PA has been a trendsetter and leader. CU Professor of Pediatrics Henry Silver, MD, who led the program from its founding in 1968 until 1991, was an innovator in addressing the lack of medical care for children. He worked to develop several programs that would meet those needs. Today, the CHA/PA Program continues to provide expanded training in pediatrics while preparing graduates to diagnose and treat illness in patients of all ages. Our program sets a standard and our faculty and staff are leaders in the field. CHA/PA Program Director Jonathan Bowser, MS, PA-C, for example, currently serves as president of the Physician Assistant Education Association. Admission to the CHA/PA Program is highly competitive, admitting just 44 members each year from about 1,600 applicants. Over the past five years, 98 percent of the graduates pass certification exams on the first time, a rate that exceeds the national average. Our thanks to everyone who joined the celebration and to all the faculty and staff who maintain this exceptional program.

The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus has been awarded a grant by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support efforts to turn biomedical discoveries into commercial products and improved care for patients. Our campus is one of only five institutions to receive a grant under the Research and Evaluation and Commercialization Hub (REACH) program in this round of funding. The NIH announced $20 million in grants under the REACH program on Tuesday, October 1. This grant connects us to a network of 34 academic institutions developing best practices to translate innovations into public benefit. The goal of the Colorado Research Evaluation and Commercialization Hub is to develop and expand programming that incorporates industry expertise, mentorship, skills development, and access to funding and relevant resources to guide inventors from ideation through proof-of- concept studies to early stages of product development. With innovation as one of our campus’s core missions, this important grant should spark growth in our efforts to support our faculty.

The University of Colorado System announced that CU faculty attracted more than $1.2 billion in sponsored research funding and gifts during the 2018-19 fiscal year. Anschutz Medical Campus accounted for $553.5 million, while the Boulder campus brought in $630.9 million. It is the third consecutive year that total awards to faculty in the CU System exceeded in $1 billion.

Malik Kahook, MD, professor and Slater Family Chair in Ophthalmology and vice chair of translational research, has been selected to receive the 10th Annual American Glaucoma Society Innovator Award, which will be presented at the society’s 2020 annual meeting in February 2020. Malik is the inventor of a novel minimally invasive glaucoma surgical treatment, called the Kahook dual blade, which has become an important option for treatment of patients with glaucoma. That treatment is now used around the world. Malik is a prolific inventor who created other technologies at CU that are positioned to make significant impacts in the field of ophthalmology.

Judy Regensteiner, PhD, director of the Center for Women’s Health Research, has been named the 2020 recipient of the Bernadine Healy Award for Visionary Leadership in Women's Health. The award will be presented at next summer’s Women’s Health Conference 2020 hosted by the VCU Institute for Women’s Health. The award honors the work and memory of Bernadine Healy, MD, former director of the National Institutes of Health.

Lilia Cervantes, MD, hospitalist at Denver Health and associate professor of medicine in​ the Department of Medicine, delivered the ​Edward Hook Memorial keynote address at the Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program annual meeting on Wednesday, October 2. Lily, who is herself a graduate of the program, presented “Dialyzing the Undocumented – Driving Policy with Data,” which explained her scholarship that helped make the case for humane and cost-effective care for undocumented immigrants who need kidney dialysis. The Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program, which is supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, held its annual meeting in Denver this year. Thanks to Lily for her presentation and to other CU School of Medicine faculty members were among the panelists and featured speakers: Gregory Austin, MD, MPH, associate professor and vice chair for regional clinical affairs for the Department of Medicine; Mark Earnest, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and head of the Division of General Internal Medicine; Patricia Gabow, MD, professor emerita of medicine and former CEO of Denver Health; and Anne M. Libby, PhD, professor and vice chair for academic affairs of emergency medicine.

The University hosted a reception on Thursday, October 3, to recognize two new endowed chairs in cardiology that have been supported by generous gifts. Timothy McKinsey, PhD, has been named the Joseph and Rose LaConte Cardiology Endowed Chair, and Larry Allen, MD, has been named the Kenneth B. Poirier Cardiac Transplant Endowed Chair. Tim directs the Consortium for Fibrosis Research and Translation (CFReT), one of the School of Medicine’s transformational research funding projects. The scientists at CFReT are making discoveries that could lead better treatments heart failure. Larry is a leading cardiovascular disease expert and he was featured in a recent 9News report that described how a Colorado man’s life was extended thanks to CU cardiologists who have cared for him. Specifically, the patient benefited from a left ventricular assist device that he received at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital. We are fortunate for the support from donors for our talented faculty.

Congresswoman Diana DeGette addressed attendees of the Colorado Science Policy Summit on the Anschutz Medical Campus on Thursday, October 3. She explained to the early-career scientists who gathered at the meeting that their work is necessary for making good public policy. She acknowledged that the political process can be slower than we might like, but contributions from scientists and physicians are crucial for making good decisions. She discussed her previous efforts to ensure that stem cell research could proceed and the current need for more information about the health effects of vaping. In a separate panel, three state lawmakers, Reps. Chris Hansen, Leslie Herod, and Dafna Michaelson Jenet, offered practical advice on how to engage local officials effectively. The bottom line: Persistence matters, so don’t give up. Thanks to the elected officials and all others who participated in the event. Bonus points to the attendee who brought Rep. DeGette’s book and asked her to sign it.

The VA Eastern Colorado Health System hosted a reception Friday, October 4, to welcome its new director, Michael T. Kilmer. In the role, which he started in mid-September, Michael oversees a system with 11 outpatient facilities and serves more than 94,000 veterans. He served 15 years in the U.S. Coast Guard and has extensive administrative experience at other VA facilities, including most recently as director of the VA Western Colorado Health Care System in Grand Junction. Our School has a longstanding partnership with the VA system and we are proud to have faculty who provide care to veterans and who conduct research to improve the health and services that veterans deserve.

Denver Health announced last week that John Curtin, MD, MBA, is joining as the new director of service for obstetrics and gynecology. He has been professor of obstetrics and gynecology at New York University, where he has served as division leader and department chair and as a member of the executive committee of the NYU Cancer Institute. He has also been a member of the executive board of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and past president of the Society of Gynecologic Oncology.

The CU Center for Bioethics and Humanities is partnering with the Colorado Symphony to bring world renowned soprano Renee Fleming to campus for a presentation, “Music and the Mind,” at noon Tuesday, November 12, in Education 2 South auditorium. Joining her in the presentation will be Christopher Filley, MD, professor of neurology and psychiatry. RSVP if you plan to attend because seating is limited.

The Academy of Medical Educators is accepting applications for the Rymer Endowment Innovation Small Grants Program. The Academy annually provides small grants ($3,500 or less, although occasionally grants of up to $5,000 will be considered) to support efforts to create, implement, and evaluate innovative medical education programs and to develop scholarship in medical education. Grant funds are provided with support from the Rymer Family Endowment, the Office of Faculty Affairs, and the Academy of Medical Educators. Check the academy’s website for more information and the application process. Applications are due Friday, November 29. 

Children’s Hospital Colorado Foundation hosted its annual fundraising gala Saturday, October 5, at the Hyatt Regency Denver in downtown. The party raises about $2 million annually to support patient care. This year’s festivities featured the band Fitz and the Tantrums. A highlight of the evening was the generosity of Ed and Jeannette Kerr, who shared their story about the care their daughter, Remi, received from Robert Eilert, MD, professor emeritus of orthopedics, and the rest of the CU and Children’s teams. Thanks to everyone who contributed to the hospital’s event and to our faculty who are dedicated to patients and families who come there for care.

The formal kickoff of the CU System strategic planning process was Thursday, October 3. CU President Mark Kennedy announced the launch last week by unveiling a strategic planning website that provides an outline of the process, timeline, and teams working on the effort. The website also has a link for sharing feedback. The planning process, called “CU Leaning Into the Future,” is expected to address three priorities: 1) access, affordability, and student success, 2) discovery and impact, and 3) fiscal strength. This fall, the working groups are expected to identify best practices and opportunities, leading to a discussion with the CU Board of Regents in November. The aim is to complete the plan by next summer and put in place a plan for implementation and assessment that occurs through 2025.

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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