Colorado is facing a sustained increase in COVID cases and our state’s hospitals are filling up. Last week, more than 90% of acute care beds statewide were in use. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, 82% of those currently hospitalized are unvaccinated. Hospitalization rates of COVID cases are projected to increase from these already high levels. As a result, we are seeing hospitals postpone surgeries to preserve beds for COVID patients. Our resident physicians are again being asked to make sacrifices to their schedules, disrupting their lives, learning, and work assignments, to be available to provide care to the COVID patients. And our faculty and hospital colleagues are also giving maximum effort to handle the surge in COVID patients requiring hospital care. As weary as many of us are, current conditions do not allow us to ease our level of effort. Our resolve must remain as strong as our commitment to provide excellent care. Please remember to take care of yourselves and to ask others to help. We will get through this surge by relying on one another.
At the CU Medicine annual meeting last week, our faculty practice plan reported achievements and results that demonstrate the remarkable resilience and boundless capacity of our clinical faculty members. We should all be proud of our faculty and the CU Medicine team’s ability to maintain a strong and vibrant operation in the face of the relentless challenge of the pandemic. CU Medicine leaders reported that our faculty practice clinical revenues grew last year, despite the disruptions caused by the pandemic. The demands of providing outstanding care during the pandemic have been extreme, and your response has been extraordinary. The success of our faculty practice is because of your hard work, dedication, thoughtfulness, and commitment to excellence. Thank you.
The measures of our accomplishments extend far beyond the ledgers of the practice plan. Our success is measured by the improved quality of life we make possible for our patients, their families, and our community. At this year’s annual meeting of CU Medicine, it was particularly gratifying to hear the presentation by Tina Finlayson, MD, medical director for CU Medicine, on the care made possible with funding we receive through the Medicaid supplemental program. Our School of Medicine qualifies for this extra support on the condition that we use it to extend care to more people in our state who depend on Medicaid. Last year, more than 150,000 people received care thanks to the investments we’ve made with that supplemental Medicaid funding. In fiscal year 2021, we invested in 102 programs that provide access to primary and specialty care to people throughout Colorado. Among investments that Tina described in the meeting: mental health care for parents with children in the neonatal intensive care unit, new tobacco cessation efforts, and the assistive technology clinic that provides adaptive equipment for people with disabilities.
An article in the School of Medicine newsroom last week noted a recent milestone moment for our campus: Earlier in November was the first time women cardiothoracic surgeons performed a heart transplant and a lung transplant at the same time in operating rooms down the hall from one another. Jessica Rove, MD, assistant professor of surgery, performed the heart transplant, while Simran Randhawa, MBBS, assistant professor of surgery, handled the lung transplant. After the surgeries, the pair celebrated by posing together for a photo. “The other surgeons were accusing me of doing a victory lap,” Jessica said with a laugh. “And I said, ‘No, I’m not doing a victory lap, but actually this is kind of historic.’ Before Simran got here, we never even had the opportunity for two transplants to be happening simultaneously in thoracic, being done by two women.” Nationally, the number of women in thoracic surgery is low. In 2019, only 8 percent of thoracic surgeons in the United States were women, according to a tally included in the 2020 Physician Specialty Data Report.
The Global Down Syndrome Foundation announced last week that the 2021 Be Beautiful Be Yourself Fashion Show raised $1.9 million and attracted 2,500 viewers from 40 states and 14 countries. The foundation is a powerful and generous supporter of the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome, CU Alzheimer’s and Cognition Center, and the Sie Center for Down Syndrome at Children’s Hospital Colorado on the Anschutz Medical Campus. We are grateful for the Global Down Syndrome Foundation’s steadfast support.
The School of Medicine’s Academy of Medical Educators has announced a call for proposals for the Rymer Innovation Awards. This year, program organizers are seeking projects specifically focused on Advanced Integrated Science Courses. General proposals will also be considered. All applications must be submitted using the online application. Applications are now open. Proposals are due by Monday, January 10, 2022.
Condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Nancy Nelson, MD ’59, who died November 13. Nancy was a clinical professor of pediatrics from 1988 through June 2002, served as associate dean of student affairs, was a generous supporter of our school, and held a faculty appointment in the College of Nursing. She also was the first woman to serve as president of the Denver Medical Society. With her brother, Nancy established the Nancy Nelson, MD, Endowed Award, which provides financial support for medical students pursuing careers in pediatrics, family practice, or internal medicine. When that award was established, Dean Emeritus Richard Krugman, MD, said it recognizes “one of the most important figures in the institution’s history – one who nurtured generations of children as a pediatrician, and generations of medical students as an associate dean in our medical school.” In lieu of flowers or gifts, the Nelson Family requests contributions to the Nelson Award Endowed Fund.
There will be no message on November 29. Have a safe Thanksgiving holiday.
Have a good week,
John J. Reilly, Jr., MD
Richard D. Krugman Endowed Chair
Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs and
Dean, School of Medicine