Dean's Weekly Message

November 23, 2020

Dear colleague:

Carol Rumack, MD, professor of radiology and associate dean for Graduate Medical Education, and Wendy Kohrt, PhD, professor of medicine in the Division of Geriatric Medicine and the Nancy Anschutz Chair in Women’s Health Research, have been named Distinguished Professors of the University. The CU Board of Regents approved the honor at its meeting on Thursday, November 12. The title Distinguished Professor is the highest honor that CU bestows on its own faculty members. Since 1977, only 118 faculty members have received the honor. A formal recognition ceremony by the CU System and the Board of Regents is planned for February. Carol and Wendy are highly deserving of this rare designation. According to the CU System list of Distinguished Professors, there have been 27 School of Medicine professors to receive the honor, and only three women among them. Carol holds the distinction of being the first woman with an MD from our School to be named a Distinguished Professor; previous female recipients have had PhDs. Carol and Wendy  are exemplary leaders whose contributions to medical science and education merit this extraordinary recognition. We are fortunate to have their expertise on our faculty. Thanks also to those who led efforts to nominate our worthy colleagues.

Chancellor Don Elliman delivered his annual State of the Campus Address via video last Wednesday morning. The remarks offered praise for the outstanding work by all on this campus who have demonstrated compassion and resilience as we face the challenges of COVID-19, racial inequality and disparities, and economic uncertainty. “If we have learned anything from this year - it is this simple truth: Our mission – what each of you do every single day – is more important now than ever before,” he said. “Indeed, our dedication to care, healing, and hope ​matters​. Our commitment to learning, discovery, and collaboration ​matters.” The chancellor acknowledged that we have had difficult days ahead, but he also expressed confidence that we have the resolve to bear the burdens and to succeed. What has been fractured in 2020 will be repaired in the weeks, months, and years ahead. We will never stop pursuing our goals because what we do matters. Thank you for all you have done and will do to make our community and our world a better place.

During the CU Medicine annual meeting last Tuesday, November 17, Executive Director Brian Smith reported that our faculty practice plan recorded increased earnings for the year ending June 30, 2020. The results are a notable achievement during a year of unprecedented challenges and a tribute to the skill and resilience of our faculty and the staff at our faculty practice plan. As our community struggled with the pandemic and economic uncertainty, our faculty and staff stepped forward to help. When in-person clinic visits were suspended due to the coronavirus, our team provided care through telehealth. When our hospital partners experienced a surge in cases, our faculty provided the care that saved lives and promoted healing. Our School is strong because of you. I would like to thank our faculty for your dedicated service to our patients and I also express gratitude to the leaders of our faculty practice plan for their careful management.

One of the highlights of the CU Medicine annual meeting was the presentation of a branding initiative that aims to help our neighbors know us better. Our faculty practice is an engine that powers our School, yet it is not widely recognized for its role in our success. With this branding effort, we want to raise awareness of the remarkable clinical care of the School of Medicine faculty. We want people in the community to better understand that we are focused on our patients and that we have the best expertise to provide their care. The “We CU” campaign is set to launch in 2021, complete with billboards, radio spots, and digital advertising. There will be variations on the theme, including “We CU as our #1 priority,” “We CU living a healthier life,” and “We CU feeling better.” There will be lab coats and uniforms that also show our pride to be part of CU Medicine. I am proud of the achievements our outstanding faculty and I am confident that this effort helps us recognize that we are working together for the health of our patients and community.

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) hosted its annual Learn Serve Lead conference virtually last week, leading off with speakers who addressed the science and public health questions around the COVID pandemic. The leadoff keynote speakers, Francis Collins, MD, PhD, director of the National Institutes of Health, and Anne Schuchat, MD, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, expressed optimism about promising vaccine trials and concern about the continuing rise in the number of cases. Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, described how this coronavirus infects the body, celebrated news about vaccine trials, and urged everyone to strictly follow prevention measures. One of the highlights of the AAMC meeting was the plenary session featuring Ibram X. Kendi, PhD, professor of history at Boston University and author of “How to Be an Anti-Racist,” and Nikole Hannah-Jones, investigative reporter for the New York Times Magazine and creator of the 1619 Project.

In a separate talk, David J. Skorton, MD, president and CEO of the AAMC, emphasized the need for academic medical centers to do more than be committed to diversity. Our institutions need to be anti-racist, he said, to recognize how systems have not provided fair access and equal treatment to everyone in the communities we serve. The process requires thorough evaluation, recognition, and most importantly action.

The University of Colorado School of Medicine is committed to taking action. During this year’s AAMC meeting, I was one of four medical school deans invited to discuss the topic “Amplifying Value of Community-Centered Care,” and I focused on our partnership with Salud Family Health Centers to develop the Aurora Community Health Commons. Together, we opened a new federally qualified health center, currently at 562 Sable Boulevard, to improve access to primary care in the neighborhoods surrounding the Anschutz Medical Campus. An analysis of three ZIP codes – 80010, 80011, and 80012 – found that an estimated 48,000 people near our campus did not have primary care providers. Working with Salud, we aim to make the clinic the centerpiece of a larger development that serves the health needs of the community. On 27 acres, we will focus on clinical care, workforce training, education, housing, and food. These needs were identified after engagement with community members about what they wanted and needed. Our partners interviewed 1,500 people in door-to-door surveys, conducted 58 interviews with community leaders and 42 interviews with local agencies, held listening sessions with 80 people at faith-based institutions and with 200 participants at resident meetings. We believe the health commons will make a significant contribution to the health and well-being of our community and we are proud to be working on this meaningful project.

Kurt Stenmark, MD, professor of pediatrics, has received the 2020 Dickinson W. Richards Memorial Lecture award from the American Heart Association (AHA). The award is presented annually at the AHA’s Scientific Sessions, which this year were held November 13-17. This summer, Kurt was notified that his program project grant had been funded by the National, Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, providing nearly $14 million for the study “Complement Mediated Remodeling in Pulmonary Vascular Disease.” Congratulations.

Andrea Steck, MD, associate professor of pediatrics affiliated with the Barbara Davis Center for Diabetes, is one of the co-authors of an article published last week in The New England Journal of Medicine. Andrea and her co-authors evaluated the effectiveness of golimumab, an immunosuppressive drug, among children and young adults with newly diagnosed overt type 1 diabetes. In this study, they found that golumumab resulted in better endogenous insulin production and less exogenous insulin use than placebo.

Sam Gary, a successful oil entrepreneur, dedicated civic leader, and generous philanthropist, died on Monday, November 16, at age 94. Sam and Nancy, his wife of 67 years, have been steadfast supporters of many important community endeavors, including work by our faculty. In 1976, they established The Piton Foundation to support the state’s most vulnerable children and families. They were instrumental in establishing and incubating some of Denver’s most influential and impactful nonprofits, including the Urban Land Conservancy, Denver Preschool Program, and the Colorado Children’s Campaign. Nancy’s strong belief in the importance of health care access for all children also led them to support the Children’s Medical Center, which is an urban pediatric practice for low-income children, and the creation of the Colorado Children’s Healthcare Access Program, which was instrumental in getting children enrolled in Medicaid. In addition, Sam and Nancy have been longtime supporters of Children’s Hospital Colorado. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the family has requested privacy, while welcoming thoughts, prayers, and notes. All condolences may be sent to

The Global Down Syndrome Foundation held its Be Beautiful Be Yourself Fashion Show virtually on Saturday, November 14. The show is the world’s largest fundraiser for Down syndrome and has raised a total of $22 million in its 12 years. This year, the event raised more than $1.9 million. The foundation raises funds to support affiliates on our campus: the Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome, CU Alzheimer’s and Cognition Center, and the Sie Center for Down Syndrome at Children’s Hospital Colorado. We are grateful for their generous support.

Children’s Hospital Colorado announced that it has again received the highest international recognition for excellence in nursing from the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s (ANCC) Magnet Recognition Program. It is the fourth time Children’s Colorado has achieved Magnet recognition. Children’s Colorado is among the ranks of fewer than 100 hospitals worldwide that have achieved Magnet re-designation for the fourth time.

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday, November 19, offered some stark advice for this year’s Thanksgiving: Don’t travel and don’t gather with anyone outside your household. As reported by MedPage Today: “When asked by a reporter what was at stake if people chose not to follow the CDC’s advice, the agency’s COVID-19 Incident Manager Henry Walke, MD, did not mince words: ‘An increased chance of your loved ones being sick or hospitalized and dying.’” The CDC has posted guidance for hosting or attending a gathering. Heed it.

Our campus leadership endorses that CDC advice and strongly discourages personal travel during this holiday season to protect yourself and others from the spread of the virus, and to do your part in helping avoid another full closure of campus facilities. Our campus protective measures have been successful in returning some workers to campus with almost no outbreaks attributed to exposure on campus. Please continue to follow those protocols. Working with local health officials, we plan to keep our research operations open at current levels. Please continue to follow all the protocols because they have been successful in allowing critical work to be done in our laboratories.

CU Anschutz employees, students, and members of their households have access to free COVID-19 testing until December 31. Details are posted on the COVID-19 & the CU Anschutz Community website.

This year has been filled with reminders of the need to make sacrifices for the good of others. I want to thank everyone in the CU School of Medicine community for the dedication you have shown through this difficult year. You have led the way in patient care, research, education, and service to our community, fulfilling the missions of our School in a ways that will inspire future generations. Keep in mind our colleagues who will be working through this Thanksgiving weekend. For all who are part of our School, I wish you a peaceful holiday. Take time to rejuvenate. We are in a long-term effort to address this pandemic and we need your hard work and energy in the days ahead.

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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