Dean's Weekly Message

May 17, 2021

Dear colleague: 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced last week that Americans who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus may stop wearing masks or maintaining social distance in most indoor and outdoor settings, regardless of size. This is a momentous shift in the guidance from the CDC. As of this morning, more than 123 million people in the country are fully vaccinated. The relaxation of the masking and distancing guidelines should serve as an extra incentive for those who have not yet received their shots. The CDC said vaccinated Americans should still follow existing state and local regulations and local rules for businesses and workplaces. For our campus rules, monitor the Anschutz Medical Campus website, which has posted the protocols for our phased return to campus beginning June 1. 

As a result of the new CDC guidance and in anticipation of expected changes by local public health authorities, the School of Medicine will now allow graduating medical students the option of inviting two vaccinated guests per graduate to attend commencement festivities on May 28. The School of Medicine also plans to maintain the livestream and video options for those who cannot attend in person. While we understand that this announcement may be late for many who would like to attend, we are making these arrangements as timely as possible. At the time of planning our graduation ceremony, there was no guarantee that we would be able to invite vaccinated guests. One of the important lessons of this pandemic has been the reminder that we often need to adapt to circumstances that are outside of our control. This is a case where the circumstances give us better-than-expected news, and we are happy to share it. We are hopeful that guests will be able to join us in celebrating the achievements of this remarkable Class of 2021. 

University of Colorado President Mark Kennedy announced last week that he and the Board of Regents are discussing a transition of the presidency of the university in the coming months. He cited the new makeup on the Board of Regents, which has led to changes in its focus and philosophy. Our school thanks President Kennedy for his support during his tenure as president, particularly his generous support of the Charles J. Blackwood Endowed Memorial Scholarship. Earlier this year, the School of Medicine announced that he had authorized $1 million in support the endowment, which provides scholarships for medical students from backgrounds underrepresented in medicine. This funding is a valuable contribution to our goal of ensuring that our school has the resources necessary to remain competitive in the efforts to recruit the best students. 

The new MD program curriculum launches this July with the incoming class of 2025. Congratulations and thank you to the team of faculty, students, staff, and community members who have worked tirelessly over the past four years to design and implement this innovative curriculum around the values of leadership, curiosity, and commitment. More than 500 people have been involved at various stages of the curriculum design, leading to true integration of basic medical sciences with clinical and health systems sciences. The process has been arduous, especially during this final year of work due to the added stress caused by the pandemic. This fall, 184 incoming students will begin their preclerkship phase – known as the Plains in the lingo of the Trek curriculum – featuring a newly designed series of courses to prepare them to enter the longitudinally integrated clerkships the following August. Students at the Anschutz Medical Campus and the Fort Collins branch campus will be supported by longitudinal faculty guides and clinical skills coaches who have been selected through a competitive search process this winter. We seek additional volunteer faculty teachers from all departments for small group, team teaching, lectures, research mentorship, and preceptorship experiences. Please see the latest newsletter about these opportunities with a link to sign up. Additionally, we encourage you to use the link to sign up for one of two half-day sessions led by the reform team to learn about the Trek curriculum in more detail. We are grateful to all faculty, students, staff, and community partners who have participated in this exciting planning and building process. 

Angie Ribera, PhD, chair of physiology and biophysics, has been appointed to the newly created position of associate dean for research education for the School of Medicine. This position will lead the effort to bring the leadership and administration of the Graduate PhD programs into the Office of Medical Education in our school. Our campus PhD programs offer training in a range of biomedical research areas, and Angie will be a key leader as we strengthen and grow these programs, with robust attention to recruitment and mentorship of highly talented and diverse applicants, students, and graduates. Congratulations to Angie on this new role and thank you to the members of the search committee chaired by David Schwartz, MD. 

CU Medicine and Salud Family Health Inc. have signed a joint venture agreement to develop the Aurora Community Health Commons on land at the southeast corner of North Airport Boulevard and East Colfax Avenue. The site will be the future home of the federally qualified health center that our partnership already runs at 562 Sable Boulevard. In addition to the clinic, the Aurora Community Health Commons will be developed to include other resources to help residents lead healthier lives. This partnership is an interprofessional model of care for our community and aims to improve the health of vulnerable populations. We will be creating a model of care that expands access to integrated primary and specialty care and that provides services that address social determinants of health. We have also agreed to increase the educational capacity of the health professions schools and programs of the Anschutz Medical Campus by developing education and training resources in conjunction with Salud. We will also be partnering with other organizations to develop career pipeline opportunities in health and non-health industries. We look forward to strengthening our partnership with Salud and with our community. 

A study by researchers at the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome and others from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus is featured as an example of how collaboration fostered by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences is helping launch clinical studies quickly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their study examined the immune system’s molecular mechanisms in response to SARS-CoV-2 infection and was described in an article published in March by eLife. The researchers tracked the body’s response to infection in hospitalized COVID-19 patients, beginning with the innate immune system’s initial response and progressing to the point of seroconversion — when the body develops high levels of antibodies to the virus. The researchers analyzed which immune system cells were more prevalent or less prevalent during each stage of infection, and they mapped the cell combinations associated with those stages. The resulting biosignature data could help clinicians use the stage of a patient’s immune system reaction to infection to determine the optimal treatment approach for patients hospitalized with COVID-19. 

The School of Medicine Office of Medical Education is seeking applicants for an associate director of ultrasound to develop and deliver the point-of-care ultrasound curriculum for the MD program. Applicants for this 0.05 FTE position must have an MD or DO degree, a current CU School of Medicine appointment, and experience in clinical medicine. A full job description and application information are posted on CU Careers. For questions, contact Juliana Wilson

The School of Medicine Office of Medical Education in the School of Medicine is also seeking applicants to serve as associate director for preceptorship for the Developing our Clinical Skills course. The associate director will develop and administer the preceptorship curriculum for all pre-clinical medical students, recruit and support faculty preceptors, and align assessment of clinical skills with the curriculum delivered. Applicants for this 0.2 FTE position must have an MD or DO degree and a current appointment in the CU School of Medicine. A full job description and application information are posted on CU Careers. For questions contact David Ecker

The University of Colorado School of Medicine’s chapter of Alpha Omega Alpha, the national medical honor society, held a virtual induction ceremony on Wednesday, May 12, for its new members, who are selected on the basis of academic performance, community service, scholarship, and leadership. Congratulations to all. Questions can be addressed to the AOA Councilor, Jeffrey SooHoo, MD, associate professor of ophthalmology and assistant dean of admissions. 

The CU Medical Alumni Association is accepting nominations for two new awards celebrating our recent alumni. These awards will honor School of Medicine MD alumni who have graduated within the past 15 years. The Recent Graduate Humanitarian Award will honor an alum who has made significant impact through humanitarian service. The Recent Graduate Achievement Award with recognize an alum who has demonstrated outstanding achievements benefiting their communities, the practice of medicine, and the provision of healthcare. Nominations are due by Monday, May 31.

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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