Dean's Weekly Message

July 20, 2020

Dear colleague:

The number of cases of COVID-19 has been rising significantly across the country and, while the numbers in Colorado have not been increasing as quickly as in other places, we have seen cases here trending upward. The trajectory is a cause for concern and a reminder that we must remain diligent in our efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus. It is also clear that willful ignorance and persistent efforts to divide us from one another are not solving the problem. At the Anschutz Medical Campus, we are committed to the pursuit of evidence, the gathering of data, and the application of that knowledge to lead us to improved understanding of human health and better care for all. That is why the disparagement of Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is so alarming. He is one of our country’s leading champions of pursuing facts for the common good, and he has come under attack recently for doing his work with clear-eyed purpose. 

With those attacks in mind, I encourage you to read a letter released last Tuesday, by Howard Bauchner, MD, editor in chief of JAMA and the JAMA Network, stating in part: “As we have learned the coronavirus does not respect state lines – Maine or Alabama, or political parties – Republican or Democrat. The undermining of science – and the unprecedented attacks on scientists and public health officials – risk lives in every corner of our country. . . . So to all who are reading this – wherever you live and whatever your political affiliation – please wash your hands, keep your distance from others when appropriate, wear your masks, and please join me in showing respect for Dr. Anthony Fauci and his many colleagues at the NIH, CDC, and throughout the country who are our best hope in these challenging times.” 

It is disheartening that such a plea needs to be made during the most widespread public health crisis of our lives, but Dr. Bauchner’s message is clear: science matters. You and your colleagues at the CU School of Medicine are also among those professionals who are our best hope to get through these trying times. We must reject distractions, continue to guard against falsehoods, and remain focused on our common purpose: conquering the coronavirus as soon as possible so that we can pursue all the other work on this campus that matters. The work you’re doing is too important to be discouraged or diverted. Thank you for your extraordinary efforts to improve our health and safety. 

In last week’s message, I included the announcement that UCHealth and the CU School of Medicine are participating in the phase 3 trial of the Moderna mRNA-1273 vaccine, recruiting 1,000 patients who will be monitored for a year to determine the vaccine’s safety and whether those patients contract COVID-19. On Wednesday, July 15, the New England Journal of Medicine published a preliminary report of the phase 1 study of this vaccine. In the phase 1 trial, 45 healthy adults received two vaccinations. The vaccine induced immune responses in all participants with no trial-limiting safety concerns. These interim findings are encouraging, but there is still much work to do to determine the ultimate safety and efficacy of this vaccine, which was co-developed by researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. 

On behalf of the School of Medicine, I thank George “Doc” Lopez, MD ’73, for a $979,000 gift to support the distinguished scholars fund that he established in 2019 with gift of $1.7 million for four-year scholarships. This fund provides scholarships to students from backgrounds historically underrepresented in medicine. After completing his training, Doc practiced as an internist at the Los Angeles County Hospital and he later became an entrepreneur. He founded ICU Medical, which developed medical devices that have saved countless lives. In his 47-year career, Doc, now retired, has become well-known for inventing infusion therapy devices to enhance and save lives at the point of care, and for his many contributions to the field of medicine. Doc is an inspiring and extraordinarily generous benefactor. We are grateful for his support and commitment to improving the lives of others. The Medical Alumni Association has posted a video of Doc describing his life and work and I encourage you to watch it. 

School of Medicine clinical faculty are invited to sign up to join a virtual Balint Group. No matter your level of training or experience, all clinicians find certain patients challenging to connect with in a therapeutic way. Balint Groups have helped clinicians worldwide to improve their ability to connect with and care for their patients. The supportive environment of a small group of colleagues helps clinicians to reduce burnout and rediscover joy in medicine. The Departments of Medicine, Psychiatry, and Family Medicine have pooled resources to train leaders and support a monthly series of Balint Groups for our faculty. Both daytime and evening groups are available for you to join. Groups will meet monthly and following the first three sessions, members will be asked to commit to regular attendance. For more on Balint Groups visit the American Balint Society: Sign-up here:
Balint Group Sign-Up.

Lori Sussel, PhD, professor of pediatrics and director of the basic and translational research division of the Barbara Davis Center for Diabetes, is co-author of an article in the July 2 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. The article discusses how research on novel oscillations in the Notch pathway contributes to an improved understanding of pancreatic defects. Such research offers potential targets for therapies for people with Type 2 diabetes and pancreatic cancer. 

Our collaboration with Colorado State University to educate medical students in northern Colorado took a major step forward this summer with expanded clinical rotations for some of our current medical students. Nearly 200 clinicians in the northern Colorado community have been recruited as volunteer faculty to serve as preceptors, mentors, and instructors. Eleven School of Medicine students are participating in these rotations this year. Next summer, the CU School of Medicine branch in Fort Collins will matriculate its first cohort of 12 medical students into a four-year program based on the CSU campus. Our thanks to all the medical professionals in northern Colorado who are joining the effort to train our students. 

Patricia C. Heyn, PhD, associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation, has been elected to the board of directors of the Gerontological Society of America, which is the nation’s oldest and largest interdisciplinary organization dedicated to research, education, and practice in the field of aging. 

The Academy of Medical Educators has announced the 2019-2020 recipients of awards from the Rymer Small Grants Program. These awards support efforts to create, implement, and evaluate innovative medical education programs and to develop scholarship in medical education. Congratulations to all.

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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