Dean's Weekly Message

March 23, 2020

Dear colleague: 

Match Day results for our Class of 2020 were livestreamed on You Tube on Friday, March 20, from the comfy confines of Associate Dean for Student Life Brian Dwinnell, MD’s dining room table. It’s not the ballroom of the Hyatt, which is where we were expecting to celebrate our class getting the news of their next stop in their medical education. Many members of the Class of 2020 will be heading across the country – Stanford, Yale, the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, Baylor, Minnesota, Massachusetts General, Oregon, Albert Einstein, UCLA, Johns Hopkins, among others – while several others from the class are staying here in Colorado. We are so impressed and proud of your achievements and we look forward to the contributions you will be making.

I want to thank the Match Day committee, who hustled to put together a meaningful way to celebrate online by creating the Match Day 2020 site where you can find photos, songs, and videos that were made as part of the celebration. A particularly impressive performance of a composition to the tune of “Come On Eileen” by Dexys Midnight Runners – “COVID-19, You’re a virus so mean, all these emails, changing everything, COVID-19 Match Day virtually, we’ll still be there, via live streaming” – is worth a look. Also, check out Mark Deutchman, MD, serenading with “Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys” with the lyric, “Let’em be doctors, and lawyers, and such.” The Matchelor video offers a funny take on the pressures of choosing a specialty.

In addition to thanking Brian Dwinnell, I want to recognize other members of the education leadership team – Senior Associate Dean for Education Shanta Zimmer, MD, Assistant Dean for Admissions and Student Affairs Nichole Zehnder, MD, and Assistant Dean for Student Affairs Jeff Druck, MD – and the staff, particularly Hailey Herman from the Office of Student Life team, for organizing a way to honor the Class of 2020.

Due to the ongoing efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus causing COVID-19, two difficult decisions were made last week: Closure of campus buildings, including those with research laboratories, and the cancellation of in-person commencement ceremonies in late May. These are wrenching, but unfortunately necessary, choices. We understand that the disruption to experiments in the labs delays discoveries, and the loss of an on-campus graduation celebration cannot be undone. Nevertheless, the exposure risks are too high for us to wish them away and carry on with business as usual. The consequences of failure to mitigate the spread of this coronavirus are profound.  A report by researchers at the Imperial College London found that “optimal mitigation policies (combining home isolation of suspect cases, home quarantine of those living in the same household as suspect cases, and social distancing of the elderly and others at most risk of severe disease) might reduce peak healthcare demand by 2/3 and deaths by half.”

The CU Anschutz Medical Campus is collecting personal protective equipment and other supplies to aid our clinical partners who are facing shortages. Supplies that are being collected include RNA extraction kits, nasal swabs, and personal protective equipment, including face shields, N-95 masks, gloves, disposable coats and gowns. A full list of reagents and supplies is posted online. Each day this week, from 10 a.m. until noon, donations of personal protective equipment can be dropped at Research Complex II at the loading dock. All items can also be dropped at the Environmental Health and Safety Building at the loading dock on the south side at 19th and Victor. The drop-off sites are highlighted on this map. If you have questions, contact

Working remotely to follow social distancing recommendations of public health experts does not mean we should disconnect from one another. While technology has improved our ability to talk to one another as a group from multiple remote locations, it can still feel isolating to work alone when you are used to daily in-person encounters at work. It is important to your health to reach out for support for the stress or anxiety you may be feeling. The Department of Psychiatry, with the help of more than 100 volunteers, has set up a Well-Being Support Line (303-724-2500) to provide support, guidance, and education to students, faculty, and staff on the Anschutz Medical Campus. The support line is available every day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Department has also posted a COVID-19 Support webpage for a list of resources. Residents and students who need support can also consult the Student and Resident Mental Health website  for information about the Free Online Support Group for Students and Residents.

There have been several websites that offer resources and updates and you should check them to keep up-to-date on campus news and for broader coverage of COVID-19:

The CU Anschutz Medical Campus website is

The School of Medicine has established its own website for faculty, staff, and students at This site is password-protected, so you’ll need your log-in credentials to access the information.

The School of Medicine Division of Infectious Diseases has posted a collection of resources from public health organizations at

The Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment’s website for state information about COVID-19 is

With schools closing for children in metro Denver, many of our providers find they have urgent child care needs at the same time that there is an increased need for those providers to be at hospitals and in clinics. The Colorado Emergency Child Care Collaborative has been set up to serve the children of employees who are essential to containing and treating the virus and protecting our community. The collaborative is intended to match families with care providers.

Our students have shown extraordinary compassion in the face of disappointment and hardship last week. Amid cancellation of the Match Day festivities and graduation, some 100 of our students have stepped up to help as volunteers in responding to this public health crisis. Fourth-year students Halea Meese, Jacob Fox, and Loree Thornton were all featured in a Fox31 report about ways that our medical students have volunteered to screen hospital visitors, safeguard protective equipment, and assist with hospital-centered phone calls. “(I’m) impressed and humbled by the people that have responded. I think that it really shows the dedication of our future health professionals,” Halea said.

Their focus on caring for others amid the personal sacrifices they’ve been forced to make is a shining example for all. Last week, in an interview with The New York Times, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave a stark assessment of what’s ahead for the country, especially if people don’t engage in social distancing and other mitigation efforts, and offered some advice on facing the adversity: “Extend your imagination in a way you never thought, extend your ambition beyond yourself because it’s not about you, it’s about us, it’s about the collective, it’s about society…. Save as many lives as you can. Be responsible. Be civic-minded. Be kind. Be considerate. Think of one another. Yes, we’re going to have an inconvenient period for a few months. We are. Deal with it and deal with it gracefully and deal with it with kindness and intelligence.”

The School of Medicine Clinical Effectiveness and Patient Safety Small Grants Program is extending the deadline for proposals for the 2020-2021 grant cycle. The CEPS Small Grants Program funds initiatives that put evidence into practice, implement innovative process improvements and improve patient safety, and/or enhance the quality and cost-effectiveness of health care delivery. Eligibility is open to School of Medicine faculty, residents, and fellows. Letters of Intent will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, April 19. Note that the deadline for the School of Medicine Clinical, Operational Effectiveness, and Patient Safety Small Grant program remains, Sunday, March 29 at 11:59 p.m. Visit the LOI application page to apply.  Email questions to Maggie Sommers,

The Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology has been notified that it has been selected as winners of the 2019 Roy M. Pitkin Award, which honors departments of obstetrics and gynecology that promote and demonstrate excellence in research. The winning article, “Intrauterine Device Use and Ovarian Cancer Risk: A Systemic Review and Meta-analysis,” was published in October 2019 in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology. The authors are Lindsay J. Wheeler; MD, Kristen Desanto, MSLS; Stephanie B. Teal, MD; Jeanelle Sheeder, PhD; and Saketh R. Guntupalli, MD.

The Office of Advancement last week announced a $1 million gift from the Gary Sinise Foundation to support the Marcus Institute for Brain Health (MIBH) at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. The Gary Sinise Foundation MIBH Program Fund will allow MIBH to expand care to additional military veterans with traumatic brain injuries. Since fall 2017, the MIBH has treated more than 349 service members and their families. We are grateful for the Gary Sinise Foundation’s generous support.

The U.S. News and World Report rankings were released on Tuesday, March 17, with the School of Medicine ranking No. 9 on the magazine’s list of best medical schools for primary care and No. 31 on its list of medical schools for research. Three of our departments were listed among the best in the country: Family Medicine, No. 7; Pediatrics, No. 8, and Internal Medicine, No. 27. Our Physical Therapy program is ranked No. 13 in the country.

As I have previously noted in discussing such rankings, we are gratified to be recognized, but it is not the reason we are here. The rankings are a fine recognition, but they are not the validation that matters most. We have chosen to become health care professionals – physicians and scientists, physical therapists and all types of providers – because we care about improving the lives of others. Lists like these are a mix of objective measures, such as NIH research activity, median MCAT scores, percentage of students entering primary care residencies – with a set of subjective criteria, such as quality assessments by leaders at medical schools and surveys of residency directors. As a result, rankings are indicators that are ever-changing and subject to momentary opinions. We work in a world where data matters and guides us toward the best solutions we can find. Here’s what I know: We have faculty, students, and staff who are working together, facing obstacles together, and chasing hypotheses together, for the purposes of finding cures, teaching others, providing comfort, and helping people. I want to thank everyone on the faculty and staff who work hard every day to ensure that we are a school that excels in these missions. You are making notable contributions to science and society and are nobly serving others.

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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