Dean's Weekly Message

March 30, 2020

Dear colleague: 

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to consume the energy and attention of our campus and the rest of the world. The challenges to the health of our neighbors and communities, the business operations of our School and partners on campus, and to the nation’s economy are as profound as any we have ever experienced. Although the efforts to deal with the consequences of this coronavirus are imposing significant restrictions on all of us, I am proud of the way members of the University community have rallied to support one another through this crisis.

The medical residents are front-line providers who are coming face-to-face with patients presenting with COVID-19. These young physicians are showing great courage that matches their compassion. Haley Desjardins, MD, a resident in our Department of Surgery, described in a news report seeing younger patients who are affected by COVID-19. Haley and her fellow residents are a precious resource to our clinical system, so give them your support.

I want to commend clinicians who are stepping up to prepare to work in the hospital. Our Division of Hospital Medicine has been working with providers who practice in outpatient settings to prepare them to work in the hospital in anticipation of increasing patient volumes. Thank you to Tyler Anstett, DO, assistant professor of medicine, and Kasey Bowden, MSN, FNP, assistant professor of medicine and associate clinical director of hospital medicine, for their efforts to develop that programming, and to all the providers who are participating.

The work of our medical students to participate in volunteer opportunities was featured in an article in The New York Times: “I was supposed to start a palliative care rotation on Monday, and I can’t, and I won’t get those skills,” said Jake Fox, a fourth-year medical student who helped coordinate the effort, and who will start his residency at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston in June. “That said, what we are doing is very purposeful. Doing something meaningful now supersedes that disappointment.” Thank you to Erik Wallace, MD, associate dean for the Colorado Springs branch, for working with the students on their initiatives. In addition to Jake, kudos to his classmates Halea Meese and Loree Thornton for their leadership.

Our colleagues in the School of Dental Medicine donated seven pallets of masks, gloves, and other useful gear. Thanks to them and to all others on campus who donated any surplus personal protective equipment during last week’s drive to collect items that our providers need. As of Friday, March 27, 36,600 masks, 47,500 disposable lab gowns, 245,000 pairs of gloves, and 50 cases of disinfectant wipes had been collected.

Our research community has been rallying too, even as the campus has had to close laboratories during this period of social distancing. Thomas Campbell, MD, professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases, last week was able to begin enrolling patients in a clinical trial to evaluate a possible treatment. Already five patients at the University of Colorado Hospital have been enrolled. The trial is testing the efficacy of sarilumab, which is an antibody that inhibits the interleukin-6 pathway. Our campus is one of 50 sites in the United States evaluating sarilumab for COVID-19 patients.  Our gratitude to the administrators in regulatory compliance for their efforts in helping Tom bring that trial forward here. Tom also praised the work of the nurses caring for patients as “real heroes.”

Brian Smith, senior associate dean for administration and finance, and Chris Smith, associate dean for administration and finance, have been organizing daily meetings for the business administrators of School of Medicine departments and units, to share information when we have it, while fielding scores of questions and chasing down answers to the many, many questions about staffing, travel, and operations. If you have questions, please check the School of Medicine’s COVID-19 webpage.  A special thank you to Chris for taking the lead in getting that valuable resource set up for the entire School community.

There are many more examples of talent and compassion in the University community and we will continue to celebrate them as we address and defeat this unexpected and difficult assignment.

Other resources are available:

For updates from the campus, check

The Department of Psychiatry has created a free online support group for students, residents, fellows and faculty on clinical rotation. Details are posted online.

State updates are available from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment at

The School of Medicine sent an email survey last week to faculty to assess the interest in arranging for hotel rooms and nearby showering facilities for clinicians who are concerned about returning home where they may have higher-risk family members. To understand the interest in these options, faculty should please complete this survey by 5 p.m. today, Monday, March 30. We need your response in order to negotiate the lowest possible rate for those who choose to stay in a hotel.

The Department of Medicine Grand Rounds on Wednesday, April 1, will feature four campus experts discussing “COVID-19: Challenges, Opportunities, and Unknowns”: Jonathan Samet, MD, MS, dean of the Colorado School of Public Health; Eric Poeschla, MD, head of the Division of Infectious Diseases; Steven Johnson, MD professor of medicine; and Thomas Campbell, MD, professor of medicine. The livestream link for the discussion is

As we have shifted to reliance on online forums to communicate with one another, we have also seen a flurry social media by our School of Medicine community. A couple of reminders about computer access to records and social media use. Try not to stoke the fear that’s already out there and remember you are representing all of us even when you think you’re speaking just for yourself. Most importantly, always, always, always protect patient privacy. The University Office of Regulatory Compliance has posted information about protecting patient privacy, with a special HIPAA and Coronavirus FAQ. If you have questions about use of social media, you can consult the CU Social Media Guidelines.

There have been some social media postings that offered hope and inspiration. Jonathan Radin, MBA, director of clinical strategy and program development for the Department of Surgery and photographer extraordinaire, snapped some shots of chalk art on the sidewalk outside University of Colorado Hospital. Medical student Priya Krishnan posted a link to performances of two pieces for violin and piano as a way to “spread joy and comfort during this trying time.”

The National Institutes of Health has announced that all grant applications submitted late for due dates between March 9, 2020, and May 1, 2020, will be accepted through May 1, 2020.  The notice applies to all funding opportunity announcements, including those that indicate that no late applications will be accepted. In addition, institutions will not need to request advance permission to submit late. The NIH has posted a Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Information for NIH Applicants and Recipients website that it is updating frequently.

The American Nurses Credentialing Center has designated University of Colorado Hospital as a Magnet facility for the fifth consecutive time. The Magnet Recognition Program designates organizations worldwide where nursing leaders successfully align their nursing strategic goals to improve the organization’s patient outcomes. To nurses, Magnet Recognition means education and development through every career stage, which leads to greater autonomy at the bedside. To patients, it means the best care, delivered by nurses who are supported in ways that allow them to excel. This designation recognizes UCH’s nurses and providers for their commitment to improving lives through high-quality, patient-centered care. There are few hospitals in the nation that have achieved this distinction five times in a row.

The current student members of the University of Colorado School of Medicine’s chapter of Alpha Omega Alpha (AOA), the national medical honor society, recently elected members of the junior medical school class. Based on their academic performance, community service, scholarship, and leadership, six students in the Class of 2020 were selected for AOA membership. Additionally, three faculty members and four house officers were selected. The names these members are posted on the AOA website.  A virtual induction ceremony is planned for May. Questions can be addressed to the AOA Councilor, James M. Beck, MD, professor of medicine,

Michelle Marks, PhD, has been named chancellor of University of Colorado Denver, succeeding Dorothy Horrell, who will retire in June after serving as chancellor for nearly five years. Michelle is vice president for academic innovation and new ventures at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. In that role, she oversees educational initiatives and leads strategic partnerships designed to deliver online programming. She previously served as vice provost for academic affairs and associate provost for graduate education at Mason. Her selection was announced by CU President Mark Kennedy on Thursday, March 26, and is pending contract approval by the CU Board of Regents at its April 2 meeting.


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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