As the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has continued to spread around the world and in the United States at an increasing pace, the University and the School of Medicine, like many other institutions across the country, have implemented measures to help mitigate the potential impact. Class work will be delivered online and we have shifted teaching that is done in a classroom or lecture setting to online offerings. School employees who can work remotely have been assigned to do so. Match Day festivities, which had been planned for Friday, March 20, have been canceled and we will now be emailing notifications of residencies to our students. Group meetings by our staff now need to be conducted online with Zoom or by telephone. Off-campus visitors coming for interviews have been postponed or set up with virtual interview options.
Some important decisions will soon be made. Access to campus buildings will be restricted to only critical personnel this week. University leaders also will need to decide whether to hold commencement on Friday, May 22, as scheduled. We expect to make that decision by the end of March. While these activities cause personal hardships and professional disruptions, these measures are absolutely necessary because of the important role we have in our community to care for those who depend on us. These efforts are consistent with social distancing practices that are essential in any effort to flatten the curve of COVID-19. Data for prior pandemics (https://www.pnas.org/content/104/18/7582) demonstrate that early institution of “non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPI),” i.e. social distancing, can have a substantial impact on the pace and magnitude of spread. The virus causing COVID-19 is highly transmissible and produces substantial morbidity and mortality in certain at-risk populations. Without a definitive treatment other than supportive care, we know from science and history that the most effective approach to limit and slow such an infectious disease is for as many of us as possible to avoid large groups for an extended period of time.
To stay up to date on the latest guidance related to the effects of the novel coronavirus on our University operations, check www.cuanschutz.edu/coronavirus. The School of Medicine has also set up a webpage, https://som.ucdenver.edu/COVID-19, where members of the School of Medicine community can find information specifically for them. I would encourage you to refer to those sites frequently as we work to address this pandemic. I want to commend everyone who has rallied to the effort on short notice and an ongoing basis. This moment is extraordinary – none of us have faced a worldwide pandemic of this scale – yet it is for a moment like this that our training prepares us.
With the cancellation of group meetings due to concerns about COVID-19, the School made the difficult decision to cancel the annual breakfast and related ceremony for Match Day. I know this is extremely disappointing to our many talented students, who look forward to celebrating Match Day with their peers, families, and friends. While this year’s event is not what we had planned, this rite of passage remains a point of pride and we are excited to see where our soon-to-graduate medical students will be conducting their residencies. The University’s social media team is working with our Office of Student Life to make sure there is a health presence on the CU Anschutz Instagram feed and they have created a special webpage to post news, videos, slides and other information: https://sites.google.com/view/cu-match-day-2020/home.
Nanette Santoro, MD, chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, has been notified that she has been selected as the recipient of the Henry Burger Award, which will be given at the 17th World Congress of the International Menopause Society. The award is given to the investigator who is judged by a society panel as having published the most significant contributions to the field of menopause in basic science or clinical studies in the previous five years.
Angelo D’Alessandro, PhD, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics, has been named recipient of the Jean Julliard Prize by the International Society of Blood Transfusion. The prize recognizes clinicians or scientist who are under 40 years old and have a noteworthy portfolio of recent published work contributing to advances in transfusion medicine. The prize is awarded every two years and is scheduled to be awarded at the 36th International Congress in Barcelona, Spain, in June.
Condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of John W. Singleton, MD, a longtime member of the Department of Medicine and former senior associate dean for faculty affairs, who died on February 3. John was a Denver native who served on the School of Medicine faculty for 45 years. John was a globally recognized clinician, gastroenterologist, and expert on Crohn’s disease. He coordinated the landmark National Cooperative Crohn’s Disease Study that validated the outcome measure used to assess Crohn’s disease therapy. After he retired, John and his wife Louise moved to Santa Fe, where they lived for more than 10 years. He is survived by Louise, four children, and seven grandchildren. The family is planning a Gathering of Gratitude in Denver in April.
The Office of Advancement announced last week that the School of Medicine has established the George “Doc” Lopez, MD, Distinguished Scholars Fund with a $1.7 million gift from alumnus George Lopez, MD ’73. This four-year scholarship will support students from backgrounds historically underrepresented in medicine. Doc grew up in California and he credits a scholarship he received at CU as making his dream of becoming a physician come true. He practiced as an internist. After losing a patient due to a disconnected IV line, he made a commitment to prevent such accidents from happening again. He invented a device to lock an IV into place and turned that invention into a successful company, ICU Medical, which made products that have saved thousands of lives. We are extremely grateful to Doc for his generosity to the School of Medicine and we look forward to greeting the students who will attend our school because of his gift.
Have a good week,
John J. Reilly, Jr., MD
Richard D. Krugman Endowed Chair
Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs and
Dean, School of Medicine