Dean's Weekly Message

October 12, 2020

Dear colleague:

In the past week, we have had several cases of COVID-19 among students attending learning activities on our campus. Contact tracing has identified others who may have had interaction with these students and have advised them to quarantine and arranged for follow-up testing. This experience highlights the need to adhere to the policies of social distancing, mask use, and accurate reporting of symptoms when visiting the campus. For anyone who has been invited and approved to be on campus, please review the Return to Campus Protocols

Jay Hesselberth, PhD, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics, last week was named one of the recipients of the NIH Director’s Transformative Research Awards. Jay’s group developed a new breakthrough method to directly measure enzymatic activities in thousands to millions of single cells. To date, researchers in the field have relied on methods that measure differences in gene expression, chromatin accessibility, and protein levels across thousands to millions of cells to understand developmental trajectories of tissues, tumors, and whole organisms. From those measurements, investigators infer functional status. Jay’s group has developed functional assays that enable investigators to directly quantify enzymatic activities in single cells. Jay’s award is a significant achievement. The National Institutes of Health granted only 85 awards through its High-Risk, High Reward Program to fund highly innovative and unusually impactful biomedical or behavioral research. Congratulations. 

Tolulope Falaiye, MD, MSCI, assistant professor of pediatrics in the section of GI, hepatology, and nutrition, will receive the Vision of Hope 2020 Distinction Award for Excellence in Clinical Care from the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation Rocky Mountain chapter. The award recognizes Tolu, who is based in Colorado Springs, for clinical excellence. She will receive the award at the chapter’s virtual event on Thursday, October 29.  Congratulations. 

Kenneth Finn, MD, clinical instructor of physical medicine and rehabilitation based in Colorado Springs, is editor of the recently published book, “Cannabis in Medicine: An Evidence-Based Approach.” The book includes chapters dedicated to separate fields in medicine. The book offers a general overview of the neurobiology and pharmacology of cannabis. It also covers medical concerns of other specific disciplines of medicine such as psychiatry, cardiology, gastrointestinal, and neurology. Several faculty of the School of Medicine are chapter authors. 

Each year, board-certified physicians in the ranked specialties are eligible to participate in voting for the top hospitals and specialties for the “U.S. News & World Report Best Hospitals” rankings. To be eligible to participate in the 2021 rankings calculations, you must be a registered member of Doximity by Nov. 1, 2020. Voting for the best hospitals rankings will open in February 2021. The School of Medicine has posted online more information about the U.S. News hospital ranking process. 

The Fall 2020 issue of CU Medicine Today has been posted on the School of Medicine website and print copies are on the way. This issue includes an article about Carlos Franco-Paredes, MD, associate professor of medicine, who has been working to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus in detention facilities. Also featured are Carey Candrian, PhD, assistant professor of medicine, who is researching ways to improve end-of-life care for LGBTQ individuals; Sarah Rowan, MD, associate professor of medicine, who organized an online portrait gallery of women physicians of color who are providing care during the pandemic; and Sean O’Leary, MD, professor of pediatrics, who has been a leading national voice on how to safely reopen schools. 

Damon Tweedy, MD, author of the book “Black Man in a White Coat,” will be speaking Monday, October 19, at noon. The talk is co-sponsored by the CU Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education and the CU Center for Bioethics and Humanities. It’s not too late to register. One Book One Campus is also coordinating book clubs. Asynchronous discussion boards open today, Monday, October 12 through Friday, October 30. Register for the Canvas course. Virtual book clubs on Zoom will also be held. Register for Monday, October 26, 12 noon-1 p.m., or register for Monday, November 9, 12 noon-1 p.m. 

The Office of Advancement announced last week that it has established the Marsico Chair for Excellence in the Division of Pulmonary Sciences and Critical Care Medicine. The inaugural holder of the chair is Abigail Lara, MD, associate professor of medicine and co-director of the Office of Professional Excellence. We are grateful to Tom Marsico, who has been a longstanding philanthropic partner of the University. 

The University of Colorado system announced last Thursday that sponsored research funding totaled $1.41 billion for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2020. It was the fourth consecutive year that sponsored research funding and gifts to the University totaled more than $1 billion. The Anschutz Medical Campus accounted for $762.2 million of the total for the year, while CU Boulder totaled $613.9 million. University of Colorado Colorado Springs attracted $18.3 million and University of Colorado Denver $18 million. In the announcement, CU President Mark Kennedy said, “The research funding our prolific faculty bring in has a tremendous economic ripple effect on our state, but more important, it allows them to continue their excellent work addressing some of society’s most pressing issues in energy, health care, climate change, space, cybersecurity and more.” 

Joel Levine, MD, who served on the School of Medicine faculty for 42 years and as the Senior Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs from 1992 to 2011, died Friday, October 2. We offer our condolences to Joel’s family, friends, and colleagues. Joel’s service and achievements are remarkable. He joined the School of Medicine in 1978 after completing his gastroenterology fellowship at the University of Colorado. He directed the fellowship program from 1982 to 1988, and then he became a Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellow in Washington, D.C., from 1988 to 1989. He held many other leadership roles at the School, in professional associations, and at our partner hospitals. In 2011, he moved to Denver Health, where he became chief of gastroenterology and focused on expanding access to preventive services for the uninsured and underinsured. Ed Havranek, MD, professor of medicine and director of Denver Health’s Department of Medicine, offered this remembrance: “We should remember his demonstration that a leader should care genuinely for those he leads, his deep sense of humanity, and his unwavering commitment to excellence. As many of you will remember from his participation in our department meetings, there was something of the Old Testament prophets in his messaging. He joined a division head meeting by phone in May and spent some time with us summarizing his philosophy. From my notes: ‘Fix the healthcare system to work for all.’ ‘Invest in your people.’ ‘Push, push for change.’ . . .  We’ll all now need to pick up and carry the torch he has set down.”

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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