Dean's Weekly Message

June 22, 2020

Dear colleague:

Congratulations to Charles Dinarello, MD, Distinguished Professor of the University, who last Friday was named one of the winners of the 2020 Tang Prize in Biopharmaceutical Science for his contributions to the development of cytokine-targeting biological therapies for treatment of inflammatory diseases. Charles shares the award with Marc Feldmann, PhD, professor at the University of Oxford and a Senior Research Fellow at Somerville College, Oxford, United Kingdom, and with Tadamitsu Kishimoto, MD, PhD, professor at Osaka University, Japan. Charles discusses his work in a video posted on the Tang Prize website. This award is a major recognition for exceptional work by Charles, who is considered one of the founding fathers of cytokines and is one of the world’s top physician-scientists. In the video, he describes the perseverance it takes to excel, noting that his lab worked for two and a half years to clone the interleukin 1. “We submitted our paper to Nature [in 1984] and it was promptly rejected,” he said. “I often tell my students that when your paper is rejected by a prestigious journal, it means your work was correct.” In December 1984, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published “Nucleotide sequence of human monocyte interleukin 1 precursor cDNA,” which was selected in 2007 by The Journal of Immunology as one of the Pillars of Immunology. Charles is an extraordinary and persistent scientist whose career has included more than 1,000 original research articles, reviews, editorials, and book chapters on inflammatory cytokines. He has trained more than 50 investigators and he has been one of the most cited scientists in the world for decades.

Olivia Rissland, PhD, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics, was a guest speaker at a webinar, “Starting Your Own Lab,” last Thursday, June 18, sponsored by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). Olivia and Prachee Avasthi, PhD, who is moving her lab from the University of Kansas to Dartmouth, addressed about 300 attendees with advice that ranged from practical to inspiring. They gave insight on hiring and managing lab personnel and on writing grant applications. Their comments about how they approach their work were especially insightful. They called for serving a greater purpose, treating others with respect, listening but also speaking up.  “We make science more just by speaking up,” Olivia said, adding later, “If I publish a bunch a papers, but I haven’t made science better, that’s not who I want to be.” The Rissland Lab studies how control of translation impacts mRNA decay and her lab’s Our Philosophy webpage offers a set of standards that are worth everyone’s attention. NIGMS Director Jon Lorsch, PhD, concluded the webinar by saying, “I know things seem dark to all of us right now with everything going on, but listening to the two of you, I feel like the future is actually going to be OK.”

Congratulations to Austin Almand, a student in the MD Class of 2023, who has been named a 2020 Tillman Scholar by the Pat Tillman Foundation. The Tillman Scholars program was founded in 2008 to support active duty service members, veterans, and military spouses by investing in education and professional development. Austin attended the U.S. Air Force Academy and served in the U.S. Air Force for nine years before leaving active duty for the Air National Guard. He completed a master’s degree in aerospace engineering at CU Boulder and now is pursuing his medical degree with us with a goal of pursuing human space flight.

Congratulations to Srinivas Ramachandran, PhD, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics, who last week was named a 2020 Pew-Stewart Scholar for Cancer Research.  The program supports early career scientists whose research will accelerate discovery and advance progress to a cure for cancer. Srinivas’s lab aims to improve methods for early cancer detection using cell-free DNA, which are pieces of DNA present outside the cell in the blood and include fragments that are released from tumors upon cell death. These have recently emerged as noninvasive markers for cancer detection, monitoring, and prognosis.

Congratulations to Chad Rusthoven, MD, assistant professor of radiation oncology and CU Cancer Center member, who has been awarded the Dr. Charles A. Coltman, Jr., research fellowship award from the Hope Foundation for Cancer Research. The fellowship will support Chad’s randomized phase 3 trial of brain MRI surveillance with and without prophylactic cranial irradiation for patients with small-cell lung cancer.

Children’s Hospital Colorado ranked No. 6 on U.S. News & World Report’s Honor Roll of best children’s hospitals, which was released last week. The annual ranking evaluates hospitals in 10 specialties and Children’s Hospital Colorado is highly ranked in all of them, including seven in the top 10. The hospital ranked No. 1 in gastroenterology and gastrointestinal surgery, No. 4 in diabetes and endocrinology, No. 5 in pulmonology and lung surgery, No. 6 in cardiology and heart surgery, No. 8 in urology, and No. 9 in cancer, and No. 10 in neurology and neurosurgery. We are proud of the CU School of Medicine faculty’s leadership and contributions to this recognition for our valued campus partner. Thanks to everyone on the pediatric care teams who year in and year out help Children’s Hospital Colorado land on this high-profile list.

The School of Medicine’s Foundations of Doctoring program annually honors preceptors for their dedication to medical student education and for their contributions in training the next generation of physicians. Students nominate their preceptors for these Golden Stethoscope awards, and the entire School is grateful for the many contributions these professionals make. The list of faculty receiving this year’s honors are posted on the Foundations of Doctoring webpage. In lieu of a ceremony, medical students this year sent video messages to thank their preceptors.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last Thursday that the Trump administration could not immediately dismantle the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that has protected from deportation some 700,000 people who came to the United States as children. For many, the United States is the only country they have known as home. Among the DACA recipients, also known as Dreamers, there are an estimated 27,000 health care workers, some of whom have been providing care during the pandemic. We join with CU President Mark Kennedy and the CU campus chancellors in their statement welcoming this decision because it recognizes the talents and contributions the Dreamers bring to our communities. We also support efforts to limit the continuing threat to their well-being, livelihood, and pursuit of happiness posed by the ongoing uncertainty over their residency status.

The Colorado legislature wrapped up its disrupted 2020 session last Monday. The state budget bill includes a drastic cut in funding to higher education – 58 percent – that will ripple through colleges and universities throughout the state and will have an impact on our campus. While we anticipate that there will be some federal emergency funding made available to our campus to deal with some of the costs of the COVID-19 pandemic, we expect it to fall short of filling the gap caused by lost productivity, higher costs, and decreased revenues. CU Vice President of Government Relations Tanya Kelly-Bowry reported that the university’s lobbying team is working on a report that compiles the results of the bills that passed during this year’s legislative session. Gov. Jared Polis has 30 days to take action on the bills.

The Colorado chapter of the Alpha Omega Alpha National Medical Honor Society has announced that Jeffrey Soohoo, MD, has been named the AOA Councilor for the CU School of Medicine. Each year, medical students are elected to the AOA based on an evaluation of their academic performance, community service, scholarship, and leadership. Faculty and house officers are also selected. Jeff is an associate professor of ophthalmology who was recently named assistant dean of admissions. We are pleased to welcome Jeff to this key role and we thank James Beck, MD, professor and vice chair of medicine, for his dedicated service as the AOA Councilor since 2014.

Faculty and staff in search of information technology computing resources now have an online tool to help them match their needs with the resources available from the University. The Research Resources website provides a list of six types of computing services that researchers may be seeking – Compute, Share, Storage, Analytics, Collect & Assess, and Lab Management. Checking those particular services in turn categorizes 19 available IT resources. The Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research, the School of Medicine, and Office of Information Technology created this new tool.

A second new resource for researchers is LabArchives, a web-based collaborative tool specially designed for storage, organization, sharing, and publishing research data. The LabArchives electronic research notebook (ERN) is available to CU Denver|Anschutz Medical Campus faculty, researchers, staff, graduate students, and undergraduate students who are performing or learning research activities. LabArchives and its notebook software interface is securely accessible via the internet, from web browsers on desktops, laptops, and mobile devices. The Office of Regulatory Compliance has posted a LabArchives website with details.

A special three-year conference series on pragmatic research study design is set to launch in August, with this year’s sessions to be held virtually. The Colorado Pragmatic Research in Health Conference is supported by a grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and is hosted by the School of Medicine’s Adult and Child Consortium for Health Outcomes Research and Delivery Science (ACCORDS). The events will be Tuesday, August 11, and Wednesday, August 12, with several speakers, poster sessions, and opportunities for consultations from experts in the fields of dissemination & implementation science, biostatistics, and public health. Visit the conference website for more information and to register. CU Anschutz Medical Campus faculty and students receive complimentary registration..

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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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 →

If you would like to receive these emails directly, please contact  
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