Dean's Weekly Message

September 14, 2020

Dear colleague:

The pandemic’s disruptions have been felt at work and at home, so the School of Medicine and the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus have recently taken a couple of actions that I hope will alleviate a couple of major concerns.

Earlier this month, I notified all department chairs that the promotion clocks for all assistant professors have been extended by one year. We hope that this automatic extension offers relief to our junior faculty whose teaching, research, clinical work, leadership and service have been disrupted this year. While the clock extension is automatic, it is not mandatory. Any assistant professors who want to submit a dossier for promotion may do so if they are ready. The School’s action formalizes the extension authorization in May by Provost Roderick Nairn, PhD. Under that plan as originally announced, assistant professors needed to confirm acceptance of the extension offer. The School’s assistant professors now automatically have the extension while also having the ability to move forward now if they are ready.

Later this month, our campus is adding a new benefit intended to help faculty, staff, and students who have needs for child, elder, or other family care services. All employees and full-time students will be eligible to enroll in a digital platform that provides a simple solution for finding child care, senior care, special needs care, pet care, housekeepers and tutors. Final signatures on the University’s contract with the vendor for this service were still being collected last week, but the senior human resources administration for our campus said they are aiming to have the service available no later than September 28.

Access to this membership will be provided at no cost to faculty, staff, and full-time students. Without University support, access to this service costs an individual about $150 per year. The vendor provides a self-service tool that allows members to browse local caregivers, post a job, set up interviews with prospective providers, and then pay for services. Services include nannies and sitters, tutors, special needs caregivers, dog walkers, house cleaners and more. Benefit-eligible employees – those who are 0.5 full time equivalents and above – and residents and post-doctoral fellows, will also have access to a service providing background-checked, temporary, University-subsidized back-up care on short notice. The service can be used up to a maximum of 10 days per year for in-home care for children at a cost of $6 per hour and for center care for children at $20 per day. I commend the University administration for working to add this critically needed benefit.

The return to campus for our colleagues who have been allowed back has been successful, in large part because of the mutual concern we have shown for one another by complying with on-campus guidelines that have been established to ensure safety for all. Unfortunately, there has been recent behavior by a few individuals who exposed colleagues to unnecessary risk. These cases involved filing false attestations about experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19 and failure to report extended close and unprotected contact with symptomatic individuals. Some of these people worked together on a Saturday in an attempt to circumvent our campus social distancing and attestation requirements. These cases have been investigated and they resulted in disciplinary action for those involved.

Consider this message a reminder that your compliance with our on-campus guidelines is not voluntary. It is a requirement. If you are on campus, you must follow the rules. We cannot afford to let our guard down during this pandemic to satisfy cases of individual convenience. Such irresponsible behavior helps the coronavirus spread. Show your concern for others by adhering to the processes that have been put in place for your protection, for the well-being of your colleagues, and for the best opportunity to move forward with our vital work.

For perspective about how fast this virus spreads, I note that in my August 17 message, when I last discussed return-to-campus protocols, there were 5.4 million infected people in the United States and more than 165,000 who had died from COVID-19.  As of this morning, according to the tracking information posted at the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, there have been 6.5 million confirmed cases in the United States and 194,084 deaths attributed to COVID-19.

Here again are the Return to Campus Protocols. Before returning, you must be invited and approved by campus leadership, and you must take the CU: COVID-19 Return to Campus - CU Denver | Anschutz Skillsoft training. When you are on campus, you must complete the health questionnaire, show your attestation confirmation email at a designated check-in point, get a temperature check, wear your CU Anschutz badge and a face covering, and pick up your wristband to wear that day. While on campus, you must maintain social distancing, wear your masks, and stay close to your designated workspace. You can review the details at this website: Be smart and do your part.

The Barbara Davis Center is offering a test for COVID-19 antibodies as part of its Autoimmunity Screening for Kids (ASK) Program, which already provides free testing to Colorado children for type 1 diabetes and celiac disease autoantibodies. Since 2017, ASK has screened more than 25,000 Coloradans under age 18. The COVID-19 antibodies test was created in the lab of Liping Yu, MD, associate research professor of pediatrics. Marian Rewers, MD, PhD, executive director of the Barbara Davis Center, said it’s important to understand whether infection with SARS-CoV-2 might trigger the onset of type 1 diabetes. He said the number of new-onset type 1 diabetes cases increased in May and June during the pandemic compared to the same months a year ago and most are presenting with potentially fatal diabetic ketoacidosis. One of the strengths of our campus is our ability to identify such trends and apply research talents from laboratory and clinical settings to collect data, evaluate the evidence, and translate it into solutions.

Tell Bennett, MD, associate professor of pediatrics and informatics director for the Colorado Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute, is a co-lead of the clinical scenarios and analytics team of the National COVID Cohort Collaborative (N3C). The collaborative is an initiative of the National Institutes of Health that is focused on analyzing patient-level data from many clinical centers to reveal patterns in COVID-19 patients. N3C will contain data from hospitals across the country, providing the largest database of COVID-19 affected patients in the nation. Our campus clinical sites, UCHealth and Children’s Hospital Colorado, are included. CU has signed a data use agreement with the N3C that will ensure CCTSI researchers may access the data with relative ease. N3C has a support desk website and is offering office hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10 a.m.-11 a.m. Mountain Time. For questions about our campus participation, contact

The University of Colorado has been awarded a five-year P30 Diabetes Research Center grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Lori Sussel, PhD, professor of pediatrics and cell and developmental biology and director of basic and translational research at the Barbara Davis Center, is the program director and Jane Reusch, MD, professor of medicine is the co-director. The $6.7 million award will subsidize diabetes research across the CU campuses by providing state-of-the-art core facilities, offering enrichment programs, and establishing pilot and feasibility (P&F) grant opportunities. The School of Medicine has pledged additional support to the P&F programs to maximize opportunities for early-stage and established investigators who want to initiate novel areas of diabetes research. For more information or to apply for membership please visit the Diabetes Research Center website or contact the DRC Program Manager Michelle Guney at

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner visited the Anschutz Medical Campus on Thursday, September 3, to learn about COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials. Thanks to Thomas Campbell, MD, professor of medicine and assistant dean for adult health research for the School of Medicine and chief clinical research officer for UCHealth, for describing the effort to him.

The Child Health Research Enterprise August newsletter has been posted. If you are unable to open the link, contact

UCHealth Cherry Creek Medical Center officially opened last week with an ambulatory surgery center, cancer care with infusion and radiation therapy, extensive outpatient lab services, and a pharmacy open to the public. The Cheery Creek Medical Center, at 100 Cook St., is a five-story building that also has more than 20 key medical specialties including cardiology, oncology, urology, neurology, rheumatology, and dermatology. About 70 providers from UCHealth and from the School of Medicine will be practicing at the site.

Congratulations to Nanette Santoro, MD, chair of obstetrics and gynecology, who has been selected to receive the 2020 ASRM Distinguished Research Award from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. The award recognizes an ASRM member who has made outstanding contributions to clinical or basic research in reproduction published during the previous 10 years. The award is scheduled to be presented during the ASRM Gala at the ASRM 2020 virtual congress in October.

Congratulations to Josten R. Overall, a fourth-year medical student and MPH candidate, who received the Joseph W. St. Geme, Jr., MD, Medical Student Award on Friday, September 11. The award each year recognizes a fourth-year medical student who has demonstrated outstanding research and is interested in pursuing a career in academic pediatrics. Josten is a medical student at the Colorado Springs branch. She worked with mentor, Caroline Rowlands, MD, to implement anxiety and depression screening in patients ages 12 to 18. The award was presented at the Joseph W. St. Geme, Jr., MD Lectureship at Pediatric Grand Rounds. Dr. St. Geme was the 15th dean of the School of Medicine. He was appointed in January 1985 and served until he died at age 55 in October 1986. In honor of Dr. St. Geme, in 1987, his family established the lectureship and a memorial endowment. This year’s lecture was presented by Nancy M. Bonini, PhD, professor of biology at the University of Pennsylvania.

A lifelong learner award should be given to Olivia Rissland, PhD, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics, who was featured last week in a profile in Nature Index for her commitment to reading research papers to expand her range of knowledge. The article reports that Olivia has read one paper per day since January 1, 2018. As of June 17, 2020, she had posted on Twitter that she had read 899 papers in 899 days. She reads a wide range of papers, noting that her favorite paper is “The Mundanity of Excellence” a sociology paper about competitive swimmers, which gave her insight into her own scientific pursuits and running her lab. “I loved the exercise of learning something new every day and seeing how that opened up ideas in my own research,” she said.

Lia Gore, MD, professor of pediatrics and head of the section of pediatric hematology/oncology and bone marrow transplantation, is one of the stars recently highlighted the Amazon blog Day One. Lia’s work to improve access to genetic and molecular testing for all patients is the focus of the article. With support from the CU Cancer Center, uninsured and underinsured patients will gain access to such testing. The effort is described in an article on Colorado Cancer Blogs. The feature on Lia on the Amazon blog describes the company’s “go gold” initiative. Since 2017, Amazon customers have received shipments in gold boxes throughout September as part of an effort intended to raise awareness about childhood cancer. Children’s Hospital Colorado is featured this year as one of the eight Amazon Goes Gold partners.

And finally, kudos to School of Medicine Diversity and Inclusion Professional Christy Angerhofer, who celebrated one more reason to wear a mask on those snowy days of late summer in Colorado.

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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