Dean's Weekly Message

December 20, 2021

Dear colleague:

Last week, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported that more than 10,000 people have died from COVID-19 in Colorado. The state crossed that threshold on the one-year anniversary of the first shipment of Pfizer vaccine arriving in Colorado. The vaccines protect from severe infection and death, and nearly 69% of eligible Coloradoans are fully vaccinated. Still, too many in the community have chosen not to get these lifesaving shots. The Denver Post reported last week that that the state passed 2,500 deaths due to COVID-19 in November 2020; 5,000 in February; and 7,500 in early September. Nearly three-quarters of Colorado’s COVID-19 deaths in October 2021, the most recent month with full data available, came from the unvaccinated minority of people in Colorado. 

Consider this a reminder to get your booster shot if it has been six months since you received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or if it has been two months since receiving the Johnson & Johnson shot. Vaccination remains our best way to protect ourselves and others as we face the pandemic. I encourage you to schedule your booster when eligible, either through UCHealth My Health Connection or any vaccine provider

Tom Gronow, EdD, MHA, has been named president and CEO of University of Colorado Hospital. He has been serving as interim CEO since August while continuing to fill the role as the hospital’s chief operating officer and president of UCHealth diversified services. Tom has been with UCHealth since 2014. Tom will be partnering with Anschutz Medical Campus leaders to help educate and train medical professionals and he will be focusing on the completion of the hospital’s third tower, which is currently under construction and scheduled to open in 2023. 

We celebrated the graduation of School of Medicine physical therapists and anesthesiologist assistants over the weekend. On Friday, our Physical Therapy Program, which is one of the best in the country, hosted a convocation program where Professor Paul Mintken, PT, DPT, received the Cerasoli Award for Outstanding Contributions to Physical Therapy Education, and Assistant Professor Robyn Gisbert, PT, DPT, received the CU PT Excellence in Teaching Award. We can all take pride in the dedication of our graduates and the commitment and resourcefulness of our faculty and staff in helping the graduates succeed during the challenges of a global pandemic. 

The Fall 2021 Commencement Ceremony, which was held Saturday afternoon at the Colorado Convention Center, was the first in-person commencement for our campus since December 2019, so it was an opportunity to personally recognize honorees from 2020 who had been awarded honorary degrees and awards. The honorees are 

  • Richard Monfort, owner and chairman of the Colorado Rockies and chair of the board of UCHealth, received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.
  • Joanne Posner-Mayer, PT ’73 , founder of Ball Dynamic International Inc. and creator of the first endowed chair in physical therapy for our school, received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.
  • Margaret Neville, PhD, professor emerita of physiology and biophysics, received the University Medal.
  • Amy Davis was awarded the distinguished service award posthumously for her support of the CU Cancer Center and the Barbara Davis Center for Diabetes.
  • BK Kleinschmidt-DeMasters, MD, professor of pathology, received the Forence Rena Sabin Award in recognition of her dedication to the University of Colorado School of Medicine and the larger community.
  • Cordelia Robinson Rosenberg, PhD, RN, longtime director of JFK Partners, received the Joseph Addison Sewall Award honoring exceptional contributions of leadership and vision to the health sciences at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus.
  • Terri Richardson MD, an internal medicine physician retired from Colorado Permanente Group, who led efforts for the Mile High Medical Society to raise funds to support establishing the Charles J. Blackwood, MD, Endowed Memorial Scholarship at the CU School of Medicine to provide scholarships to black medical students and others seeking to provide care to underserved communities.

 Congratulations to our graduates and honorees. 

The CU system Office of Advancement has released its annual Impact Report to Donors. Each year, the online report features financial information and stories of philanthropic impact across CU’s four campuses. For the most recent fiscal year, 29,793 donors made 54,543 gifts for a total of $371.2 million. Carolyn Lefkowits, MD, MPH, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology, and some of her patients are featured in this year’s report. 

Kristen Nadeau, MD, professor of pediatrics, and Petter Bjornstad, MD, were awarded major national awards by the board of directors of JDRF at the JDRF Mission Summit in Palm Beach, Fla., earlier this month. Kristen received the 2021 Mary Tyler Moore and S. Robert Levine, M.D., Excellence in Clinical Research Award, and Petter received the Dr. Robert Goldstein Award, which is presented to a promising investigator in the field of type 1 diabetes research. 

Jeffrey S. Kieft, PhD, professor and vice chair of biochemistry and molecular genetics is the corresponding author of an article published last month the journal Science. The study highlights the power of cryo-electron microscopy to illustrate dynamic processes involving small structured RNAs and RNA-protein complexes. Jeff’s co-authors from the School of Medicine are Postdoctoral fellows Steve L. Bonilla, PhD, and Madeline E. Sherlock, PhD, and Professional Research Assistant Andrea MacFadden. 

V. Michael Holers, MD, professor of medicine in the Division of Rheumatology, was named president of the Rheumatology Research Foundation, which is the largest private funding source for rheumatology research and training in the United States, and serves as the grant and programmatic funding arm of the American College of Rheumatology. Each year, the foundation provides about $15 million in research and educational support to individuals and programs in rheumatology. 

The Gates Center for Regenerative Medicine has announced four recipients of funding through its Gates Grubstake Fund, which provides translational research funding for projects and teams affiliated with the center. The annual awardees receive up to $350,000 each to support their work. The 2021 Grubstake recipients and their projects are

  • Traci Lyons, PhD, associate professor of medicine in the Division of Medical Oncology: “A Novel Therapeutic for Breast Cancer”
  • Michael Verneris, MD, professor of pediatrics: “Therapeutic Development of Innate Lymphoid Cells”
  • Chaitanya Puranik, PhD, MDS, clinical assistant professor of pediatric dentistry, CU School of Dental Medicine: “Dental Filling for Regeneration of Dental Pulp”
  • Nicholas Jacobson, research associate, Inworks Innovation Initiative: “Voxel Printed Microstructures with Cells for Patient Specific Coronary Stents”

 The Colorado Area Health Education Center (COAHEC) program is seeking volunteers from the Anschutz Medical Campus to help provide free health screenings for people attending the National Western Stock Show from January 8-23. These screenings allow health professions students, faculty, and staff to work together at the largest interprofessional event COAHEC holds each year. Volunteers hail from every school. The health screenings include blood pressure, glucose, vision, balance, weight and height, and helping attendees find primary care providers when needed.  To learn more or to register as a volunteer, visit the COAHEC at the National Western Stock Show website or contact Patti Wagner at

The Institute for Healthcare Quality, Safety and Efficiency (IHQSE) has posted schedules for its winter and spring programs. The IHQSE achieves its goals by improving clinical care processes and developing the skills of frontline clinicians to lead the needed changes. IHQSE programming includes half-day workshops to year-long trainings focused on quality and process improvement, patient safety, leadership, and team development. 

Each winter, Children’s Hospital Colorado and the Colorado Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute host a Pediatric Research Poster session. In pandemic times, the event has been online, but it still provides an excellent opportunity for investigators to present their research and network with colleagues. Today is the deadline to sign up to present your research. Consider doing so and sharing this information with your peers. 

With the year-end holidays here, please stay safe and healthy. Continue best practices – masks, testing, moving activities outdoors when possible – to protect yourself, family, friends, and colleagues. Even as the recent surge of COVID-19 cases and the spread of the Omicron variant keep us on alert, we should not forget how much progress we have made since the beginning of the pandemic: millions are vaccinated, countless lives have been saved, schools have reopened, and many connections reestablished. Our School of Medicine has made significant contributions to these efforts in our community. 

May the season bring peace and meaningful connection to the people you care for. Many thanks to all for the dedication and resilience you have shown through 2021 and special thanks to everyone on duty at our partner hospitals and keeping our campus safe and productive during the holidays. The Dean’s Message is taking a two-week break and will resume Monday, January 10.

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.  See the UCH-Insider →


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