Dean's Weekly Message

Feb. 3, 2020

Dear colleague: 

Last week, nine current and former faculty members of the Department of Anesthesiology delivered a letter to the University Regents that accused School leaders of bias in relation to personnel decisions. They also aired their concerns in the media. While I am aware of the details in several of these cases, I await the final results of an independent review process that has been underway in recent months before commenting further. I am confident that the investigation will fully examine their claims and the facts in the case. It is unfortunate that this group decided to attempt to influence that independent review process. As an institution, we value facts, data, fairness, and open-minded inquiry.

Since her arrival as chair of the Department of Anesthesiology, Vesna Jevtovic-Todorovic, MD, PhD, MBA, has impressed us with her dedication to research and commitment to outstanding patient care. Her work ethic and compassion for others is evident from the persistence she has shown in her life and career. Under her leadership, the Department of Anesthesiology has increased its research portfolio, improved committee structures that allow for meaningful faculty participation, and enhanced academic, clinical, and financial collaboration. I commend and support her efforts to improve the standing of the department and our School.

Prior to and since last week’s events, the School’s leadership team has been contacted by many others in the Department who wanted to share their support for Vesna. A group of 15 faculty members sent a letter to me in early January in which they wrote that the department has “reached new heights, realizing accomplishments that would not have been possible without her unparalleled energy, initiative, and dedication to the success and wellbeing of our faculty and staff.” The impact of her leadership is reflected in the marked improvement in the faculty climate survey done two years ago. As a School, we remain committed to recruiting and supporting a diverse workforce.

The recent outbreak of a novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) that was first detected in Wuhan, China, has now spread to 23 additional countries, including 11 cases in the United States. As of February 3, there have been about 17,500 confirmed cases and 362 deaths (updates are available here). We do not yet know how serious the 2019-nCoV outbreak will be in the United States, but concern is appropriate and understandable. While addressing a rapidly growing outbreak is challenging due to many uncertainties, infection prevention and control experts and campus leadership are involved in readiness and contingency planning for our community.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and the hospital infection prevention team should be notified of patients who have fever or symptoms of lower respiratory illness (e.g., cough, shortness of breath) and have in the 14 days prior to symptoms traveled anywhere in China or have been in close contact with a person who is a known or suspected case of 2019-nCoV. Patients who meet these criteria should be masked and evaluated in a private room in accordance with your hospital’s workflows and precautionary guidance. Any faculty or staff returning from travel to China should report to employee health at the hospital where they work regardless of whether they feel sick. Non-hospital employees should report to School of Medicine employee health. 

To place the current numbers of 2019-nCoV in perspective, it is helpful to consider another respiratory virus that we are more familiar with. Seasonal influenza outbreaks typically cause many millions of infections and between 10,000 to 50,000 deaths each year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC Influenza Burden Website). At this point, it is fair to say that the respiratory illnesses we will encounter this winter and spring are much more likely to be caused by influenza or other viruses, but the situation could certainly change. More information about the 2019-nCoV, is available at the CDC website and on the World Health Organization website.  

Eric G. Campbell, PhD, professor of medicine and director of research for the Center for Bioethics and Humanities, and Julie Ressalam, MPH, senior research coordinator for the center, are co-authors of an article that is listed by the editor of Health Affairs as among the top 10 to appear in the journal last year. Their article, “Knowledge of Practicing Physicians About Their Legal Obligations When Caring For Patients with Disability,” was published in April 2019. The authors interviewed physicians in Massachusetts about their understanding of obligations to patients with disability and found that a lack of understanding related to providing accommodations.

The voting for 5280 magazine’s 2020 Top Doctors list has opened. Between now and March 13, physicians in the seven metro-area counties (Denver, Arapahoe, Broomfield, Boulder, Adams, Douglas, and Jefferson) are eligible to vote in the magazine’s poll. All that is required is your name, email address, and license number. The poll is one of the highest-profile rankings of Denver area physicians and each year more than half of the list are CU School of Medicine faculty. The magazine has conducted the poll for more than two decades, asking physicians whom they would trust to treat themselves and their loved ones. I would encourage you to take the time to cast a ballot. The magazine has posted frequently asked questions and the ballot.

BioIntelliSense, a start-up company that has a partnership with the UCHealth and CU innovation teams, announced last week that it had received FDA clearance for its BioSticker, a small, adhesive on-body sensor that can monitor a patient’s vital signs. The sensor allows continuous monitoring of respiratory rate, heart rate, and skin temperature. It also assesses body position, activity levels, sleep status, and gait. Richard Zane, MD, chair of emergency medicine and chief innovation officer for UCHealth, said the device will reduce health care costs and improve the quality of care patients receive by detecting potential health issues sooner. “We’ll be able to see that patient is at risk for becoming ill hours, maybe days, or even weeks before they become symptomatic,” Rich said in a news report about the BioSticker.

The Eugene S. Farley, Jr. Health Policy Center has announced that two new directors will be joining this month. Susan Mathieu, MPP, has been named the center’s Medicaid director, and Lauren Hughes, MD, MPH, MSc, is joining as state policy director. Susan had been manager of the program design section at the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing. Lauren is a practicing family physician who served as deputy secretary for health innovation for the Pennsylvania Department of Health. The Farley Center, which is housed in our Department of Family Medicine, develops and translates evidence into policy to advance comprehensive, integrated strategies that improve individual, family and population health.

The Teaching Scholars Program is now accepting applications. This 18-month certificate program is designed to enhance knowledge and skills, and develop future leaders in healthcare education with a focus on core components of educational scholarship and curriculum development. The program, which is held on the Anschutz Medical Campus, consists of twice-monthly seminars, a curriculum development or education scholarship project focused on MD program curriculum reform, and faculty mentorship and guidance. Information, sample projects, and applications are posted on the Teaching Scholars Program website. Applications are due Thursday, March 12. Preference will be given to curriculum-development or education-research projects that align with MD program curriculum reform. A commitment of protected time from the applicant’s department chair or division head is required. Applicants from all schools and departments are welcome, including residents in two-year educational tracks, and fellows.

The University of Colorado Hospital Annual Medical Staff Awards Dinner was Thursday, January 30, at the Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center. The celebration is an opportunity to thank all providers who contribute to the excellent clinical care delivered at our hospital partner. UCH Ambulatory Medical Emergency Response Team was recipient of the extraordinary service award. Hillary Dunlevy, MD, assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Disease, and Gretchen Ahrendt, MD, professor of surgery, were the full time physician honorees, and Zachary Asher, PA-C, assistant professor of surgery, and Katherine Klingenberg, PA-C, senior instructor of surgery, were the full time allied health provider honorees. There are too many awardees to list them all in an email, so the School has posted the list of UCH Medical Staff Award Winners online. Join me in congratulating all of the awardees and thanks to all who contribute to the excellent care provided on the Anschutz Medical Campus and in all clinical settings.

Chancellor Don Elliman is hosting the Transforming Health Care lecture series on World Cancer Day, Tuesday, February 4. Richard Schulick, MD, MBA, director of the CU Cancer Center and chair of surgery, Wells Messersmith, MD, professor of medicine and head of the Division of Medical Oncology, and Kelly Maloney, MD, professor of pediatrics, are scheduled to speak. Karen Possehl, who traveled to the CU Cancer Center for treatment after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, also will share her story about the care that saved her life. The event, which will be held in Education 2 South, Room 1102, begins with a reception at 5 p.m. and runs until 7:30 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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