The 2020 election results signaled changes ahead. While the tally of ballots for U.S. President is being contested by the incumbent, we have clarity about matters in Colorado. Voters selected former Gov. John Hickenlooper to replace Sen. Cory Gardner, elected a majority of Democrats to the CU Board of Regents for the first time since 1980, and approved a tobacco tax increase and a new nicotine tax. Both candidates for the U.S. Senate have been guests on our campus and have offered support for various initiatives important to the School over the years. Senator-elect Hickenlooper appeared in a video in 2016 for the CU Cancer Center’s grant renewal and he was the guest speaker at our medical school commencement ceremony in 2017. Sen. Gardner has often visited our campus, participating in a patient simulation exercise at the Center for Advancing Professional Excellence in 2016, celebrating the opening of Bioscience 3 building in the Fitzsimons Innovation Community in 2018, and receiving briefings about cancer care, rural health, and the Marcus Institute for Brain Health. We thank Sen. Gardner for his attention to our campus and we look forward to working with Senator-elect Hickenlooper.
During a campaign rally in late October, President Trump accused physicians of attributing deaths to COVID-19 in order to make a profit. An article in the New York Times reported his comments: “‘You know our doctors get more money if somebody dies from Covid,’ he said, adding that in Germany and other countries, deaths were characterized differently if there appeared to be multiple causes. ‘With us, when in doubt, choose Covid,’ he said.” This malicious insult is an obvious lie. Without evidence, he questioned the motivations of physicians and health professionals who have been essential front line workers during this dreadful pandemic. So far, more than 237,500 people in the United States have died, accounting for 19 percent of all COVID-19 deaths worldwide, according to data posted at the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. The devastating human toll is being tracked by @FacesOfCOVID.
Ignorance is not an acceptable excuse for such baseless accusations. Shouting calumnies is simply being loud and wrong. It is also offensive to all who are putting their lives and their health on the line to provide care and to do everything they can to save each patient’s life and to discover the mechanisms of this coronavirus. For proof of that courage and compassion in the health care professions, just look to the “Lost On The Frontline” series published by The Guardian and Kaiser Health News, which includes a database of 1,361 U.S. health care workers who have died fighting COVID-19.
We also witnessed contempt for experts during a separate campaign rally the day before the election when the president encouraged crowds chanting “Fire Fauci,” with the suggestion that he would consider the advice after the election. We would not tolerate such behavior from toddlers and we should not accept it from those charged with the duty of leading our great nation. Anthony Fauci, MD, is one of our country’s foremost and revered public health officials. He has led the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984 and he has consistently acted with integrity. This summer, when this administration disparaged Dr. Fauci, I addressed the need to show respect. I know you need no reminding of this, but what I wrote then bears repeating now: At the Anschutz Medical Campus, we are committed to the pursuit of evidence, the gathering of data, and the application of that knowledge to lead us to improved understanding of human health and better care for all.
I commend everyone in the Anschutz Medical Campus and CU School of Medicine communities for the courage and compassion you have demonstrated for these long months of 2020. I know several of you have had COVID-19 and some still endure lingering symptoms. We have all felt the impacts of this pandemic in our daily lives and in the disruption of our work schedules and travel plans. In the face of daunting risks and challenges, you have done exemplary work and we are proud of your extraordinary contributions. Unfortunately, we are a long way from the finish line and we face obstacles to our progress and a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases nationally and in Colorado. Make sure you are tending to your own well-being as you strive to care for others. Show kindness, listen carefully, act intentionally. We will get through these difficult times by supporting one another. If you need help addressing the stress of these anxiety-inducing times, the campus has many campus mental health resources for faculty, students, and staff.
Dr. Fauci spoke with University of Colorado Boulder Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano on October 31 in a video conversation for CU Boulder’s “Health, Society and Wellness in COVID-19 Times” course for college students. His advice for students – wear masks, keep physical distance, avoid crowds, especially in indoor settings, wash your hands – applies to everyone. Protecting yourself protects your friends, which protects their families, which in turns protects their colleagues, and on and on. It’s about caring for others. “I think compassion and empathy for those who are ill and those who are suffering is a very important part of one’s character in the sense of the motivation of why you do the things you do to protect society,” Dr. Fauci said. “I think you just mentioned this idea of the herd, of protecting the vulnerable in the herd. That’s something that we need to do and . . . you can express and reflect your compassion by assuming a societal responsibility to protect yourselves and therefore protecting others. Because we’re all in this together and that’s all part of compassion and empathy.”
Christina Towers, PhD, postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Pharmacology, is featured in a Voices column, “On Being Black in the Ivory Tower,” published in the October 29 issue of the journal Cell. Christina is one of five scientists who describe their experiences working in laboratories and who explain why it is important to recruit more black scientists into academic medicine. Christina studies autophagy in cancer cells and is the author of multiple journal articles, yet she describes a feeling of “imposter syndrome” caused by a long-ago insult by a fellow graduate student, a white male, who told her that she didn’t earn her own career recognition, but rather she was benefiting from “an institutionalized effort to promote people of color.” Such obvious nonsense still scars. Ten years later, as Christina interviews for professorships across the country, she says she wonders whether her 15 published manuscripts and successful grant applications were based on merit or “just part of affirmative action.” Words can wound, and Christina deserves admiration for sharing her painful experience for all of us to learn. But even more than that, Christina has earned respect through hard work and intelligence, and she has the evidence to prove it.
Mark Deutchman, MD, professor of family medicine and associate dean for rural health, is featured in “Profiles of Rural Medical Educators,” a book of conversations with leading experts about addressing ways to reverse physician shortages in rural communities. Mark is one of 16 medical educators discussing the challenges and strategies of improving care and attracting physicians to rural communities. Mark has been a successful program builder and he is a conscientious and persistent advocate for our School’s rural track, which is one of the best in the country. Mark’s thoughtful answers to the questions are worth reading, particularly this advice: “My values are guided by these principles of the Jewish faith that I was born into: We are born pure and free to choose our own actions and are personally responsible for them. We must participate in completing the task of creation; this means that we should leave the earth better than it was when we entered it. We should treat others as we would like to be treated.”
The Academy of Medical Educators (AME) has announced a call for proposals for the Rymer Small Grants Program. This year, program organizers are specifically seeking projects focused on Integrated Science Courses. General proposals that do not address the Integrated Science Courses will not be considered. All applications must be submitted using the online application. Applications open on Monday, November 16, and all proposals are due by Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021.
The deadline for nominations for the 2020 Steven Fadul Award is Monday, November 16. The award honors contributions of outstanding professional research assistants or staff in comparable positions in the School of Medicine. Nominees should show initiative in expanding the scope of their work and by mentoring trainees. Nominations should be sent to Fadul.Award@ucdenver.edu. Additional information is available at the award’s website.
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 senior medical school class. After evaluating academic performance, community service, scholarship, and leadership for each eligible applicant, 21 students in the Class of 2021 were selected for AOA membership, joining six students who were selected as juniors. The names of current junior and senior members are posted on the AOA website. Questions can be addressed to the AOA Councilor, Jeff SooHoo, MD, associate professor of ophthalmology.
The Center for Women’s Health Research will host its Annual Community Event on Wednesday, November 11. Due to COVID-19, this year’s event will be virtual and you can register online. This year’s featured speaker is Laurie Santos, PhD, professor of psychology at Yale University.
Thomas Flaig, MD, vice chancellor of research, is scheduled to present the inaugural State of Research Address at noon Tuesday, December 8. Register online.
Condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Stephen Irwin Goodman, MD, Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics, who died on Friday, October 30. Steve earned his medical degree from McGill University in 1963 and moved to Denver in 1965 for a fellowship at CU in metabolism. He fell in love with the mountains and the southwest, and remained at the University of Colorado for his entire professional career, with his wife, Patricia, and daughters Michelle and Karen, and their families. He was named a Distinguished Professor of the University in 2011. Steve led the section of Genetics and Metabolism in the Department of Pediatrics for many years, directed a National Institutes of Health-funded research center, and founded the Biochemical Genetics Laboratory at Children’s Hospital Colorado. His family has created memorial website where friends can share memories, stories and photos.
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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