Dean's Weekly Message

November 16, 2020

Dear colleague:

The wave of COVID-19 cases has risen to levels surpassing last spring’s peak and public health officials are recommending significant restrictions to contain the spread. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted guidance for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday: “The safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is to celebrate with people in your household. If you do plan to spend Thanksgiving with people outside your household, take steps to make your celebration safer.”

For members of the Anschutz Medical Campus community, the protocols we have been following continue to be in effect. The campus is working with local public health officials to ensure that we can maintain the restricted levels of operations in our research laboratories. I would remind everyone to abide by campus protocols. All work that can be done at home should be done at home, keep your distance when around others, wear a mask. For those who have been invited to be on campus, there is a daily health questionnaire that must be completed accurately. If you have any symptoms, do not come to campus and expose others. While on campus, you must maintain social distancing, stay close to your designated workspace, and wear a mask. Listen to the experts, make informed decisions, and show concern for those around you. Thanks to the thoughtfully designed and carefully implemented plans for bringing some researchers back to the laboratories, we have been able to open our research towers and keep them open. Compliance with our campus protocols by those allowed to return has been and will continue to be key to our success in keeping those laboratories occupied. Working with local health officials, we plan to keep the research operations open. Please continue to follow all the protocols because they have been successful in allowing critical work to be done in our laboratories.

Jason Stoneback, MD, associate professor of orthopedics, and the CU Limb Restoration Program at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital were featured in a segment on the CBS Sunday Morning on November 8. The broadcast described osseointegration surgery and its impact on the life of Donna Thornburg, whose right leg was amputated after a car accident in 2017. Jason and the limb restoration team inserted a titanium rod that integrates into the bone in Donna’s leg. A special prosthesis connects to a part of the rod that extends from Donna’s leg. The news report shows Donna taking her first steps on her new prosthesis. “I’m blown away right now," she said. “I’m kind of speechless. It’s beyond what I ever even hoped for, thought, or imagined. I don’t even know what to say. It’s crazy different. It feels like a part of me.” Donna’s care is a shining example of how the work on our campus improves lives and demonstrates how academic medicine contributes to advances in care. Jason is the only surgeon in the United States to successfully complete bi-lateral transfemoral and transtibial press fit osseointegration.

The Center for Women’s Health Research hosted its 2020 Annual Community Event on Wednesday, November 11, to celebrate and rally support for research and researchers working on issues of women’s health and sex differences. This annual event brings together hundreds of supporters to hear from the center’s leader, Judith G. Regensteiner, PhD, professor of medicine, researchers who have been supported, and a keynote speaker. Though this year’s event was livestreamed, the gathering was again a powerful showcase of the center’s important work and attracted well over 1,000 participants. A new group of funded scholars were named, and Vijay Ramakrishnan, MD, associate professor of otolaryngology, discussed his work to better understand sex and gender differences in chronic rhinosinusitis. Keynote speaker Laurie R. Santos, PhD, professor of psychology at Yale University, provided an overview of her popular course, “The Science of Well-Being.” She offered eight insights into the science of happiness that are good at any time, but are particularly useful in 2020. I encourage you to watch the event if you weren’t able to attend last week. It is time well spent.

Rod Nairn, PhD, provost for CU Denver and CU Anschutz Medical Campus, will transition to a new role as executive vice chancellor for academic and student affairs for the Anschutz Medical Campus effective July 1, 2021. Rod has been a tireless leader and steady guardian of the academic mission of our combined campuses for the past 14 years and he has overseen a team that has accomplished significant work for the faculty, students, and staff. CU Anschutz Chancellor Don Elliman and CU Denver Chancellor Michelle Marks announced the change last week. In the announcement, they said the campuses share common missions of education, research, and service, and we will continue to have many shared academic programs and services. We will be fortunate to have Rod’s focused effort on the academic activities of our campus.

Chancellor Don Elliman will deliver the State of the Campus Address at 10 a.m. Wednesday, November 18. All faculty, staff, and students are invited to join virtually for this year’s prerecorded address. The video will also be posted online after the initial videocast.

Michelle Barron, MD, professor of medicine, is featured in the CU Anschutz 360 podcast discussing her experiences caring for patients and coping with stress during the pandemic. A profile article of Michelle was published in the fall issue of CU Medicine Today magazine. Scheduled for future podcasts are Steven Berkowitz, MD, professor of psychiatry; Sean O’Leary, MD, professor of pediatrics; Matthew Wynia, MD, MPH, director of the Center of Bioethics and Humanities; Jonathan Samet, MD, dean of the Colorado School of Public Health; and Glen Mays, PhD, chair of the Department of Health Systems, Management & Policy in the School of Public Health. and the campus office of human resources last week held a webinar to talk about the Care@Work family care subscription program and answer questions. You can watch a recording of the webinar if you were unable to attend. Additional details about Care@Work by are posted online.

The Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies is not allowed to award the contract for physician peer-counseling services without consulting the Colorado Medical Board, according to a ruling last week from the state Office of Administrative Courts. This is an important decision on a matter that many on our campus and in the Colorado medical community have been following. Earlier this year, the contract was switched from the Colorado Physician Health Program (CPHP) to another provider. The new contract removed confidentiality protections that encouraged physicians, residents, and medical students to seek mental health care. The new contract would require those seeking care from the new provider to sign a waiver that allowed their records be “released to the State.” According to a statement by the Colorado Medical Society, which is monitoring the contracting process: “The Medical Board will need to begin the procurement process again. We still strongly believe that the board must pass new policy to eliminate any uncertainty in the future and formally ensure physician confidentiality for voluntary peer assistance services. That policy must then be used in the next procurement process.” The Colorado Medical Board is expected to discuss the matter at its next meeting on November 19.

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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