Dean's Weekly Message

July 26, 2021

Dear colleague: 

The medical students in the Class of 2025 gathered on the Anschutz Medical Campus last Friday for orientation to medical school. This Friday, we will welcome them with white coats and stethoscopes at the matriculation ceremony. The Class of 2025 is the first group of medical students who will be fully immersed in a newly designed curriculum that is intended to enhance the leadership, curiosity, and commitment of our students and prepare them to achieve excellence in their professional lives. This class joins us at a time when our work is as vital as ever. We can be proud of our school’s contributions in the fight against COVID-19, but we still have much work to do, and we welcome our new students on our mission. 

Thanks to all members of the University of Colorado School of Medicine community who have been vaccinated against COVID-19. These shots are necessary to protect our coworkers, patients, families, and friends, and the Anschutz Medical Campus is requiring members of the university community be fully vaccinated by September 1. According to a list compiled by the Chronicle of Higher Education, 590 campuses across the country have implemented similar requirements. The Association of American Medical Colleges released a statement earlier this month that affirms vaccination mandates at academic medical centers. In addition, courts are recognizing that such requirements are legal. Last week, a federal judge blocked a challenge to Indiana University’s requirement that students get vaccinated before returning to campus. Here at the Anschutz Medical Campus, we have committed our lives and careers to the pursuit of knowledge to improve the health of individuals and communities. The evidence is abundant and clear that vaccinations reduce the threat of COVID-19.  

The Colorado Medical Board voted unanimously last Tuesday to continue the services of the Colorado Physician Health Program, which has provided confidential peer assistance to individuals who have medical, emotional, or psychological conditions that could affect the clinical care they provide. The decision by the Colorado Medical Board is a welcome decision that ensures that a program with a 35-year record of success continues to serve all Coloradans. Last year, state officials sought to end the contract with CPHP and hire another provider. The contract with the new provider included a provision that required those seeking help to sign a release that removed confidentiality protection. That change almost certainly would discourage those needing help from seeking it. I would like to thank the Faculty Senate, the Office of Faculty Affairs, the Graduate Medical Education program, and CU lobbyist Jerry Johnson for calling attention to the vital need to have a safe place for medical providers and trainees to seek assistance. CPHP is a widely used resource for health care providers in Colorado. According to its annual report, CPHP in 2020 provided service to 689 clients, including physicians, physician assistants, and trainees, with 40 percent of those clients coming from outside metro Denver. 

Allison Kempe, MD, MPH, professor of pediatrics and director of the Adult and Child Consortium for Health Outcomes Research and Delivery Science (ACCORDS), has been awarded a $2.5 million grant to establish the new ACCORDS Primary Care Research Fellowship. The HRSA Ruth L. Kirschstein Institutional National Research Service Award provides funding to train post-doctoral professionals to become primary research leaders addressing the nation’s primary care health delivery challenges. The training program is a partnership between the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, Kaiser Permanente Colorado, and Denver Health. Over the next five years, ACCORDS plans to recruit eight fellows, who will focus research on areas deemed high priority by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Health Resources and Services Administration, such as maternal mortality, opioid use disorder, and mental health access and care. 

PhD graduate student Evan Morrison and his mentor, Olivia Rissland, PhD, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics, have been selected for the 2021 Class of Gilliam Fellows, a program of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Only 50 adviser-student pairs were selected, representing 38 schools across the country. The Gilliam Fellowships for Advanced Study are awarded to graduate students conducting outstanding research in their scientific fields and to their advisers, who are committed to building a more inclusive scientific ecosystem. For up to three years, each adviser-student pair will receive an annual award totaling $50,000. Evan and Olivia are members of the School of Medicine’s RNA Bioscience Initiative

Abigail Lara, MD, associate professor of medicine, has been named medical director for health equity for UCHealth. In that role, Abbey will support the execution of UCHealth’s efforts to establish and promote equity in health care for patients and communities. She continues as co-director of the School of Medicine’s Office of Professional Excellence, which provides a resource for assessment, education, conflict resolution, and remediation regarding professionalism in the teaching, clinical, and research environment of our school. 

Family and friends of Humphrey Petersen-Jones gathered Thursday, July 22, to support for one another and to honor Humphrey, a kind and remarkable young man who was well-loved and will be missed. His college friend Ryan Crane described Humphrey’s support when Ryan was applying to medical school. Ryan later similarly helped someone else, who in turn is now helping another person. That kindness, Ryan said, keeps Humphrey’s spirit alive and pays forward the kindness he gave. We join Humphrey’s friends and family in keeping his memory alive and encourage everyone to do so. Humphrey’s parents have expressed gratitude for the compassionate support they have received from the Anschutz Medical Campus community and they have graciously established the Humphrey Petersen-Jones Fund for Neuroscience Research in honor of their son. Humphrey was a treasured member of our community.

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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