Dean's Weekly Message

December 28, 2020

Dear colleague:

As we end 2020, I would like to recognize our faculty, staff, trainees, and students, for the perseverance, diligence, and creativity you have shown this year. This has been an extraordinarily challenging year and it has forced us to make major changes in how we work. For our country, the loss of life and the impairment of health due to COVID-19 has been tragic, and the impact on livelihoods has been profound. The limits on in-person meetings has made much of our work more difficult. Yet, the loss of interpersonal interactions does not diminish our responsibility to care for one another and to show leadership. We have dedicated our lives to work that aims to alleviate suffering for others. Keep that in mind when our work calls on us to resolve differences.

Last week, the initial deliveries of the Moderna vaccine arrived at our hospital partners and remarkable progress continued in getting those initial shots into the arms of our frontline workers. We are grateful to our partners for their collaboration as they balance the work required to make sure the vaccinations are delivered in accordance with the state’s guidance. As we begin a new year, the vaccines offer a ray of hope, but it will take many months for the full benefits of widespread vaccinations to reach us. We must remain determined in our efforts to limit the spread of the disease and to mitigate its impact. You have demonstrated compassion and courage through this year and I am confident that you will continue to be leaders in this regard in 2021. Thank you for all your efforts.

Devika Bhatia, MD, a fellow in the Department of Psychiatry is the first author of an article about misuse of opioid medications by adolescents that is listed among the Best of 2020 by the journal Pediatrics. Her co-authors are Susan Mikulich-Gilbertson, PhD, professor of psychiatry, and Joseph Sakai, MD, associate professor of psychiatry. The article reports that adolescents who misused opioids had engaged previously in other risky behaviors. With such knowledge, health care providers may be able to identify youth at high risk for misuse and initiate early interventions.

Matthew K. Wynia, MD, MPH, director of the Center for Bioethics and Humanities and professor of medicine, is the author of an invited commentary, “Crisis Triage – Attention to Values in Addition to Efficiency,” in the December 14 issue of JAMA Network Open. Matt considers triage protocols for use in catastrophic disasters. He discusses the common standard of allocating resources to save the most lives, and he notes the challenges of considering other important values, such as equity, in establishing triage protocols. He concludes: “Deliberative community engagement will therefore be required to determine how to weigh these principles in triage protocols. For states and systems that have not done so already, it is past time to get that conversation started.”

Kevin Messacar, MD, associate professor of pediatrics, is one of the authors of the article, “Acute flaccid myelitis: cause, diagnosis, and management,” published last week in The Lancet. The article is a comprehensive review of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a disabling, polio-like illness that mainly affects children. Kevin has been one of the leaders in diagnosing and treating cases, a cluster of which was recognized in Colorado in 2014. Infection by enterovirus D68 is believed to be the cause, but how it leads to AFM is not fully understood. The infection leads to profound muscle weakness, which can lead to respiratory failure and other severe health problems. This article collects current information about AFM, but also notes that there are critical gaps to our understanding and calls for more research.

The School of Medicine’s annual Facts and Figures book has been published online this year. The book is an extended tour of the School’s missions of education and training, research, care, and features summaries of most of our programs and operational units. Thanks to Sarah Miller, executive assistant in the Dean’s Office, who coordinates this important and extensive project. It requires corralling many data sources, managing a massive flow of information, finding appropriate photos to include, and gathering it into a comprehensive format.

At the end of this year, Luana Tadolini, human resources director for the School of Medicine, will retire. She has been an outstanding, unflappable member of the Dean’s Office team and we wish her a happy and extended retirement. Thanks to Luana for her exemplary work on behalf of our colleagues, especially during this tumultuous year. Olawunmi “Wunmi” Ogunwo, who has been director for the Dean’s Office of the School of Medicine, will succeed Luana and we are fortunate to have Wunmi bring expertise and leadership to this role.

The Center for Women’s Health Research will host a virtual Women’s Health Research Day on Monday, January 11. Each year, this event brings together researchers to hear from a nationally known speaker who address women’s health and sex differences research. This year, Patricia Gabow, MD, former CEO of Denver Health and professor emerita of CU School of Medicine, is the keynote speaker, presenting “Women in American Healthcare – Problems and Promise.” Register online.

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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