Dean's Weekly Message

September 23, 2019

Dear colleague:

I am pleased to announce that Julia P. Cooper, PhD, has accepted the School of Medicine’s offer to become the next chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics. We are welcoming Julie back to CU after impressive tenures at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund in London and at the National Cancer Institute’s Center for Cancer Research, where she is currently the head of the Telomere Biology Section of the Laboratory of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. From 1997 to 2002, she was an assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics for the CU School of Medicine. Julie completed her PhD at CU in 1989. During her research career, she’s worked in the laboratories of two Nobel Prize winners: Thomas Cech, PhD, at the University of Colorado Boulder and Sir Paul Nurse, PhD, at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund. Julie will join us March 1, 2020. 

In addition to welcoming Julie, I want to thank Angie Ribera, PhD, chair of physiology and biophysics, for serving as chair of the search committee. Angie and the members of the search committee evaluated and interviewed many highly qualified applicants. Participating in these searches is a vital service to our School, helping evaluate our programs, recognizing areas of strength and opportunity, and recruiting colleagues who will make us stand out among our peers. The School is grateful for the time and energy our search committees put into these efforts. We are strengthened by their commitment. 

With Julia’s appointment, the School of Medicine will have women as chairs of nine of our 23 departments. With 39 percent of our chairs held by women, our School doubles the national average percentage (19 percent) and ranks among the top in terms of having women as department chairs, according to data compiled by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). At year-end 2018, there were 618 women serving as department chairs out of a total 3,274 chair positions at all U.S. medical schools. The AAMC also has compiled data by school. Only seven other medical schools have nine or more women department chairs. Exact comparisons with other medical schools are difficult because of the variations in how each school is structured and how they make chair appointments, but the AAMC numbers indicate that our School stands out among our peers. 

The CU School of Medicine Office of Diversity and Inclusion hosted the 4th Annual Toast to Diversity at the Hyatt Regency Aurora on Tuesday, September 17. More than 150 guests attended, including faculty, students from medicine, physical therapy and the physician assistant programs, residents, staff, and community leaders. The evening opened with “Excellence First,” an inspired video performance by Savannah Patterson and her classmates about studying, going to college, and becoming engineers and physicians. Savannah, who is one of the girls rapping in the video, and her mother came from Milwaukee last week to visit our campus last week and they attended the Toast to Diversity as our special guests. In her remarks, Shanta Zimmer, MD, senior associate dean for education and associate dean for diversity and inclusion, told Savannah: “We hope to see you in 2028.” Student leaders Dorothy Stearns, who is the SNMA co-president, and Phillip Turner, DPT Diversity Council Representative, described their paths to CU and offered passionate remarks on the importance of ongoing discussions of race and equity in education and healthcare. Paul Rochon, MD, associate professor of radiology, called on the audience to get to know one another and build a community of mentorship for our students and trainees. The event concluded with a Call to Action led by Office of Diversity and Inclusion Director Regina Richards, MSW. The Call to Action asks for members of the entire Anschutz Medical Campus community to show their support through diversity scholarships, mentoring, and academic support. You can join the Call to Action online with putting your name with ways to make a difference and I encourage you to sign up. 

The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital hosted a celebration of the Sue Anschutz-Rodgers Eye Center on Friday, September 20.  The reception included a dinner and entertainment for about 225 guests who gathered on a beautiful evening in front the Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Institute building on our campus. The event was timed to coincide with the eye center’s annual symposium, which was focused on innovation in ophthalmology. The School of Medicine ophthalmology faculty are outstanding clinicians supported by a research team and educators who are making a profound contribution to our community. The celebration was an ideal opportunity to display their work and to say thank you to generous benefactors, including Sue Anschutz-Rodgers, who support our faculty. I join in expressing gratitude to them and would also like to thank Naresh Mandava, MD, chair of ophthalmology, for his model leadership. 

Daniel S. Goldberg, JD, PhD, associate professor of family medicine and faculty member for the CU Center for Bioethics and Humanities, is co-author of a Perspective article in the September 12 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine. Goldberg and Zackary D. Berger, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, describe the experience of “Mr. V,” a Honduran immigrant who struggled with gastroesophageal reflux disease and an undetermined behavioral health condition. Mr. V’s health conditions led to follow-up visits to the emergency department and to an outpatient clinic. Patient notes observed that Mr. V had “difficulties navigating the health care system.” Ultimately, Mr. V collected money from fellow immigrant friends and returned to Honduras. The article discusses how multiple social disadvantages Mr. V faced contributed to his health problems and poses the challenge of working to relieve the pain of individual patients in a political landscape that may be contributing to the patient’s condition. The article is a frank discussion of the ethical concerns raised in such cases. 

Our faculty practice, University of Colorado Medicine, in partnership with UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital, received the Vizient Ambulatory Care Quality and Accountability Award last week. It is the second year in a row that we have been recognized for the quality of outpatient care we provide. The award measures care in five areas: access to care, capacity and throughput, quality and efficiency, continuum of care, and equity. Vizient is a health care performance improvement company that works with hospitals, academic medical centers, and other large integrated health systems to improve the quality and cost-effectiveness of care. 

Patricia Gabow, MD, professor emerita of medicine for the CU School of Medicine and former CEO of Denver Health, has been named recipient of the Gustav O. Lienhard Award for Advancement of Health Care. The award is presented annually by the National Academy of Medicine to recognize individuals for outstanding achievement in improving health care services in the United States. Patty is being honored for her nearly 50-year career as a hospital administrator, clinical investigator, professor, board member, and advocate for improved health care delivery. For 20 years, Patty was CEO of Denver Health, which achieved high quality outcomes and financial stability while staying true to its mission to preserve access to care for the most vulnerable. She is highly deserving of this honor, which will be presented at the National Academy of Medicine’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C., on October 21. 

Former CU President Bruce Benson and CU First Lady Marcy Benson have been named the 2020 Citizens of the West by the National Western Stock Show. This annual award recognizes those who embody the spirit and determination of Western pioneers and perpetuate the West’s agricultural heritage and ideals. Bruce and Marcy have been dedicated and inspirational leaders for CU and champions for the Anschutz Medical Campus. Together, they chaired the $1.5 billion Creating Futures fundraising campaign, which exceeded its fundraising goal and supports scholarship, research, and capital improvements on all four CU campuses. While President, Bruce’s office invested significantly in scholarships to the School of Medicine to boost the diversity of our classes. Marcy served on the board of directors of Children’s Hospital Colorado for more than a decade and was co-chair of the campaign that built the new hospital on our campus. She also served as chair of The Children’s Hospital Foundation for three years and has been a member of that board since 1998. Their contributions have had a beneficial impact on countless lives and this award is a worthy tribute to the magnitude of their service. 

The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus has launched its first-ever brand identity and advertising campaign. Called This is Breakthrough, the campaign portrays the power of working together and showcases the outstanding work of the faculty of the University with our campus partners, Children’s Hospital Colorado and UCHealth University of Colorado. The campaign will include television commercials, advertisements in magazines, newspapers, and health professional journals, and other awareness raising efforts online and on the radio, at conferences, and in outdoor venues. The campaign website currently features videos of Terry Fry, MD, professor of pediatrics and co-director of the Human Immunology and Immunotherapy Initiative, Evalina Burger, MD, chair of orthopedics, and Naresh Mandava, MD, chair of ophthalmology. Videos and content about other CU Anschutz Medical Campus faculty will be added in the months ahead, so stay tuned.

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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