Dean's Weekly Message

August 3, 2020

Dear colleague:

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) last week released a road map for resetting the country’s handling of the pandemic. The Way Forward on COVID-19 recommends nine evidence-based actions that should be taken immediately. These practical suggestions include ending the persistent shortages of supplies and medications, setting a national standard for face coverings, increasing the availability and accessibility of testing, and protecting children and teachers and their families with a national standard for school re-openings. More than five months into a crisis that has claimed the lives of more than 150,000 Americans, it is not unreasonable to expect such actions. Unfortunately, reason has been in short supply among many decision-makers who have been responsible for leading the way. The consequences have been catastrophic in terms of human life, health, economic well-being, and happiness.

In a Washington Post opinion column published last Wednesday, David J. Skorton, MD, president and CEO of the AAMC, offers his perspective on the roadmap and the importance of heading in a new direction. “America needs to change course, and quickly,” he wrote. “We should regard our failures as lessons learned — and apply those lessons right away, across the board.” On supplies, for example, he says the federal government should issue new and larger contracts to increase production of key supplies. Our supplies should not be so limited that the scarcity causes undue harm. The plan calls for setting national targets for supplies that ensure a three-day supply on hospital premises, a 14-day supply within a three-hour drive, and a 30-day supply warehoused within the region. Ample data exists to calculate those needs. Solving this problem is not out of reach for our country, but to do that work, a national strategy and focus is necessary.

Inconsistency has contributed to the burden that we all bear. While it is true that some policies related to the pandemic are the appropriate responsibility of states, others such as the wearing of masks to reduce the risks of transmission, the need for adequate reagents to provide accurate testing with reasonable turnaround times, and the availability of personal protective equipment to protect those caring for infected patients are not unique to any state but are national issues. Our leaders would do well to heed the AAMC road map and point the country in a new direction to reduce the potential harm we face. In a video on the AAMC’s announcement of the road map, David J. Skorton stresses the urgency of the moment. “This summer,” he said, “as we have seen in our country, the increases in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths have convinced many of us that we need to do something different, we need to do it together, and we need to do it now.”

One impact of the current pandemic is the disruption of the normal return to school this summer and fall, with the resultant impact on childcare responsibilities and the work schedules of parents with school age children. We recognize the impact this has, particularly on faculty in the early stages of their careers and most particularly on female faculty. Although the solutions to this are not easy, we are assembling a group to develop actionable recommendations for the campus to consider and enact.

The recent demonstrations related to persistent unequal treatment of people of color and the stark disparities in outcomes from COVID in minority populations highlight the need for continued progress on these issues. The recent death of Congressman John Lewis after a lifetime of work on civil rights issues and the reflections on his contributions remind us of how far we have come and how far we still need to go. Three former presidents delivered eloquent eulogies at his funeral services, highlighting the need to continue to “perfect our union.” The New York Times published a letter to us all from Mr. Lewis that he composed to be published after his death. In it, he reminds us: “Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society.”

Tanya Kelly-Bowry, vice president of government relations for the University of Colorado, has announced that she is retiring from the role after 22 years of lobbying for CU. Tanya has been a force to be reckoned with at the Capitol for so long that it is hard to imagine the statehouse without her. Fortunately, we won’t have to. Though she announced that she is stepping down from the more-than-full-time role of running the CU Government Relations team, she said she plans to remain on team CU during the 2021 legislative session helping with lobbying duties, particularly the state budget. Though the demands of any legislative session are intense, focusing only on the state legislature will be a slower-than-usual pace for her. Tanya has been key to winning support for CU projects for more than two decades and our campus owes tremendous gratitude to her for the dedication, persistence, and success she has had as CU’s top lobbyist. Tanya has been involved in the efforts to create the Anschutz Medical Campus from the beginning, lobbying for the first educational buildings on the campus and winning $68 million in earmarks for the campus. Oversight of the University’s government relations functions will transfer to University Chief Financial Officer Todd Saliman, a former lawmaker and state budget director who is also an important leader on the University’s powerhouse legislative affairs team.

The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation has notified Judy Regensteiner, PhD, director of the Center for Women’s Health Research, that the foundation will continue its support through the Fund to Retain Clinical Scientists. The program provides supplemental, flexible funds to support the research of early-career physician-scientists working on clinical research projects while facing extraprofessional demands of caregiving. Our campus has been fortunate to have support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation for the past five years and it has provided support for many talented clinical researchers, including some featured in CU Medicine Today a few years ago. Congratulations to Judy and Anne Libby, PhD, professor and vice chair for academic affairs in emergency medicine, on their successful renewal of this important grant.

U.S. News and World Report released its annual rankings of adult hospitals last week. UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital ranked No. 1 in Colorado. The hospital also was included in nine specialty categories: Cancer, No. 44; Cardiology and Heart Surgery, No. 39; Diabetes and Endocrinology, No. 18; Gastroenterology and GI Surgery, No. 39; Nephrology, No. 45; Neurology and Neurosurgery, No. 39; Orthopedics, No. 39; Pulmonology and Lung Surgery (ranked jointly with National Jewish Health), No. 2; and Rheumatology, No. 11.

We welcomed our new class of medical students for their orientation to the School of Medicine last Friday. Their formal matriculation as the Class of 2024 occurs later this month. The challenges of teaching and learning medicine during a pandemic obviously are significant. Zoom calls are no substitute for looking someone in the eye and physical distance limits the human touch, but I am confident that we will connect with our new students in ways that add to their knowledge and build the skills they will need to succeed as caregivers. Our medical educators and student affairs team have been working diligently to ensure that the quality of our medical education remains strong and we are happy to have this class join the CU School of Medicine. We all have been tested by the pandemic and we are determined to overcome obstacles we face in our race defeat the virus and to provide outstanding care for all who depend on us.

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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