Dean's Weekly Message

Feb. 24, 2020

Dear colleague: 

Kumar Thurimella, a second-year medical student at the CU School of Medicine, has been awarded a Gates Cambridge Scholarship to study at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. Each year, about 5,500 applicants worldwide vie for the prestigious scholarship that is awarded to 80 applicants. This year, 25 U.S. citizens were among the recipients. Kumar will enroll in the University of Cambridge’s PhD program in biotechnology, which will take three years, and then he plans to return to CU to complete his medical degree. Kumar earned a bachelor’s degree from CU Boulder in 2013 and spent three years as a software engineer at Uber. After Uber, he studied computational biology at Cambridge, earning a master’s degree. Congratulations to Kumar on the remarkable achievement of earning this scholarship. He has been an excellent student with a talent for mathematics and medicine. At Cambridge, he will be working alongside one of the world’s leading experts in building advanced bioelectronic systems to model gut systems. He aims to help build a statistics model of the chemical signaling between the microbiome and human cells. We look forward to hearing about Kumar’s continuing impressive contributions.

Chelsea Magin, PhD, assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Pulmonary Sciences and Critical Care Medicine and in the Department of Bioengineering at CU Denver and on the Anschutz Medical Campus, has been named a National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program Award Winner. The NSF CAREER Program is the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious award in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through integration of outstanding research and excellent education. This grant will enable Magin and her laboratory to develop biomaterials and engineering strategies to better model the cellular processes that cause fibrosis, a progressive and incurable disease. This proposal focuses on designing and synthesizing a new class of biomaterials to conduct dynamic studies of fibroblast mechanobiology to understand the fibroblast-matrix interactions that contribute to disease progression over time.

Juan Lessing, MD, assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Hospital Medicine, has been notified that he will receive the Excellence in Teaching Award at the Society of Hospital Medicine 2020 conference in San Diego in April. The award recognizes Juan for demonstrating outstanding teaching prowess and for serving as a role model and mentor to hospitalists, residents, medical students, and other health care professionals. Juan serves the Anschutz Medical Campus in several roles, notably as assistant director of the Hospitalized Adult Care Clerkship for the School of Medicine.

Bruce Mandt, PhD, assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology, assistant dean in the Graduate School, and director of the postdoctoral office and career development office, has been named to a three-year term on the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Graduate Research, Education, and Training (GREAT) Postdoctorate leaders section Steering Committee. This national group provides professional development to and fosters the exchange of information and ideas among the faculty and administrative leaders of biomedical PhD, MD-PhD, and postdoctoral programs. The Steering Committee informs the AAMC on requests for information, identifies research-training initiatives, and shapes AAMC policy positions on biomedical graduate and postdoctoral-related issues.

The 2020 Benefactor Recognition Dinner last Thursday evening honored three couples, Susie and Ed Orr, Annalee and Wagner Schorr, MD ’63, and Joan and Henry Strauss, who are distinguished by their generous support of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital. We are grateful for their long-standing support and the inspiration that they offer to all of us to use our gifts for the good of others. Susie and Ed Orr established the Orr Family Endowed Chair in Adult Diabetes, which is held by Peter Gottlieb, MD. Susie and Ed are longtime supporters of the Barbara Davis Center for Diabetes and have included CU Anschutz in their estate plans. Annalee and Wagner Schorr, MD ’63 established the Schorr Family Medical Scholarship Fund with an estate commitment. Wag is a former president of the Medical Alumni Association and a dedicated advocate for the School. Joan and Henry Strauss made contributions that led the campus to name the Health Sciences Library in honor of Henry and his wife Joan. With an endowment initially funded in 1995, Henry honored the memory of his first wife, Florence, with the donation of what is now called the Strauss-Wisneski Indigenous and Integrated Medicine Collection. The Office of Advancement has posted an article and videos featuring the honorees. We are grateful to the Orr, Schorr, and Strauss families for their extraordinary support and commitment to improving the lives of others.

The Office of Advancement announced this month two newly named endowed chairs in the Department of Radiology. The Michael L. Manco-Johnson, MD, Endowed Chair in Radiology is named for a past department chair and 1972 CU School of Medicine alumnus. After completing his training at Duke University, he returned to CU to serve as chief of ultrasound until becoming radiology chair in 1985, a position he held until 2004. He was a leader in the field of diagnostic ultrasound, an accomplished physician and researcher, and a mentor to many. Gerald D. Dodd III, MD, has been named inaugural Michael L. Manco-Johnson, MD, Endowed Chair in Radiology. The David A. Kumpe, MD, Endowed Chair in Radiology is named for a longtime member of the Department of Radiology faculty who joined CU in 1977. He was the first person in Colorado to devote his career to interventional radiology, starting interventional and neurointerventional radiology at CU, and developing more than 40 new procedures. He was the director of interventional radiology from 1978 to 2005, and the director of interventional neuroradiology from 1990 to 2017. The inaugural David A. Kumpe, MD, Endowed Chair in Radiology is Robert Ryu, MD.

A new exhibit honoring Lula O. Lubchenco, MD ’39, a neonatologist whose research on the care of premature infants led to new standards in clinical care for mothers and babies is now on display in the Dean’s Office reception suite. Born in 1915 in Russian Turkestan to an American physician mother and a Russian agronomist father, Lula and her family fled Russia before she was two years old. They escaped the war-torn country by crossing Siberia and China, landing in San Francisco, living for a time in South Carolina, and eventually moving to Colorado in 1930. Lula graduated from the CU School of Medicine in 1939, completed her pediatric residency at Children’s Hospital Colorado, and in 1943 joined the Department of Pediatrics as an associate professor. When the University of Colorado Hospital, then known as Colorado General, established its premature infant center in 1947, she became its first medical director. Her career spanned 1943 to 1977, and she continued to serve on admissions and ethics committees until her death in 2001. In 2018, the University announced the creation of the Lula O. Lubchenco, MD, Endowed Chair in Neonatology, which the Office of Advancement says is the first endowed chair at CU Anschutz named in honor of a female faculty member. The chair is made possible with financial support from the Section of Neonatology and benefactors including Dr. Lubchenco’s family. Stop by the exhibit to learn about the “Lulagram,” a tool that is instrumental in informing optimal newborn care, and her other groundbreaking research.

The National Jewish Health annual Beaux Arts Ball was held Saturday, February 22, at the Hyatt Regency Denver at the Colorado Convention Center in downtown. The gala is National Jewish Health’s largest local fundraising event each year. In 2019, the event raised more than $2.3 million. This year, the event, themed the Beaux Arts RIO Ball, was sponsored by the Morgridge Family Foundation.

Physician surveys for the U.S. News and World Report hospital rankings are now open to those who have registered with Doximity, a social network for health care professionals. To be eligible to vote, physicians must have been registered with Doximity prior to Nov. 1, 2019. Physicians are surveyed in specific categories matching their specialty. While U.S. News considers multiple factors in ranking hospitals, the reputation surveys carry significant influence, so I encourage you to complete the survey. If you practice at Children’s Hospital Colorado and have questions, contact Ani Ermoyan at If you practice at UCHealth hospitals and have questions, contact

Condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of James E. Strain, MD, who died Tuesday, February 4, at the age of 96. He was a Distinguished Clinical Professor in the Department of Pediatrics and in 2001 received the Career Teaching Scholar Award from the Department of Pediatrics. Jim was a chief resident at The Children’s Hospital in 1949-1950 and he was a beloved metro Denver community physician for more than 40 years. He was still teaching in recent years, and residents and students gave his sessions the highest ratings. During his career, Jim led the medical team in 1973 that delivered the first sextuplets in Colorado. He also was the only pediatrician to guide the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) as both President (1982-1983) and Executive Director (1986-1993). Tributes to his celebrated career include Children’s Hospital Colorado’s annual James E. Strain Award, and the Colorado Chapter of the AAP’s James E. Strain Community Service Award. Memorial services are scheduled for Saturday, March 7, at 2 p.m. at South Broadway Christian Church, 23 Lincoln Street, Denver.

Condolences to the friends, family, and colleagues of Donald Bennallack, MD ’50, who died Friday, February 7. Don was a beloved member of the CU School of Medicine community, who opened his Denver medical practice in 1959. Throughout a 36-year career as an obstetrician gynecologist, Don helped deliver more than 3,300 babies. Don was well-known for his passion and dedication to his patients. In some cases, he even delivered “second-generation babies,” the children of children he delivered decades earlier. In recent years, Don, who was a lifelong bachelor, gave back to the CU School of Medicine by creating the Donald A. Bennallack, MD, Scholarship Endowment, and he was recognized as a special honoree in 2013 at a ceremony honoring donors. Inspired by a classmate who had to drop out of medical school for financial reasons, Don wanted to ensure that talented students could launch their careers with less debt. Gifts can be made in his memory to the Donald A. Bennallack, MD, Scholarship Endowment. A viewing memorial will be held on Wednesday, February 26, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Horan & McConaty, 11150 East Dartmouth Avenue, Aurora.

Condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of William Ziegler, MD ’53, who died Friday, January 31. He did a rotating internship at St. Luke’s Hospital and completed his residency at The Children’s Hospital in 1956. He went into private practice in Denver until his retirement in 2007. He held the rank of Associate Clinical Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, teaching medical students in his office and attending on ward rounds at Children’s Hospital Colorado, which included supervising pediatric house staff and medical students. A celebration of Bill’s life will be held June 6, 2020, at Wellshire Event Center, 3333 S. Colorado Blvd., Denver, at 3 p.m.

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.  See the UCH-Insider →

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