Dean's Weekly Message

October 11, 2021

Dear colleague:

In an opinion column in the New York Times last week, Daniela J. Lamas, MD, a pulmonary and critical-care physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, described the regret she felt for bluntly telling a patient who had previously refused care that he was going to die soon. Frustrated by her patient’s demeanor and behavior, she responded in a way that she described as adding to her patient’s pain in the last hours of his life. While her reaction to his stubbornness is understandable, she reminds us to guard against such responses. “When I told him that he had only a few hours to live, I allowed my frustration to obscure the reality of his suffering,” she wrote. “And I caused harm as a result.” 

It’s a striking confession. It’s also powerful reminder during these trying times. We have seen many reports of people refusing to protect themselves during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In some cases, we’ve even seen people harassing others who are taking precautions. While we may recognize that those personal choices have harmful consequences for themselves and others, we should not let lapse our compassion. All this frustration can lead to empathy fatigue, but we must not yield to those feelings. We must rely on the compassion for others that drew us to this profession. Compassion is core to the work we do – caring for patients, researching in labs, teaching and mentoring, creating an environment in which others can thrive. This concern for others is a central and essential feature that unites and motivates us. Our achievements are best measured in the contributions we make to the improvement of other people’s lives. 

So, remember to listen, ask others for help when you need it, and be grateful. Thank you to all members of the School of Medicine community who have continued to approach their work with the compassion that others deserve.

 “Eye to Eye: Portraits of Pride, Strength, Beauty”is a photography exhibit on display in the gallery at the Fulginiti Pavilion. The photographs were taken by Carey Candrian, PhD, associate professor of medicine, as part of her work advancing health equity for older LGBTQ communities. Carey describes her work in an article in the School of Medicine newsroom. She interviewed nearly three dozen older LGBTQ women during the first year of COVID-19 to understand their health needs and the challenges they face as they age. Carey describes her motivation: “I did this exhibit because I wanted more people to meet these women. To look in their eyes. To be in the same room and wonder, how many other older adults we know might be silent about this fundamental part of their lives?” An exhibit opening and discussion will be held from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, October 14. Due to COVID precautions, in-person attendance is limited and an RSVP is required. Zoom will also be available. 

The School of Medicine newsroom includes several other articles that are worth your time. This article about Kathryn Mayer shows how our school fosters collaboration that leads to higher-quality care. She received care for a rare ocular inflammatory disease from Alan Palestine, MD, professor of ophthalmology, and Jason Kolfenbach, MD, associate professor in the Division of Rheumatology. Another article features Bhargavi Chekuri, MD, a fellow in our Climate & Health Program who describes how the program is helping her prepare for a career combining advocacy and medical science. 

The Children’s Diabetes Foundation hosted its Carousel Ball on Saturday, October 2, to support the Barbara Davis Center for Diabetes. Pandemic precautions – masks, proof of vaccination – didn’t prevent a successful gala or a roaring show by REO Speedwagon. The gala at the Hyatt Regency Denver raised $1.6 million. We are grateful to the foundation and all who support the outstanding work of the team at the Barbara Davis Center. 

Last week, 63 School of Medicine faculty and residents conducted mock interview sessions with our graduating fourth-year medical students to help them prepare for those real interviews in the weeks ahead. The residency application process is stressful, so offering these practice sessions is one more important way our faculty and residents can help our future colleagues. Learning doesn’t just happen in the classrooms and clinics. Many thanks to the team in the Office of Student Life for coordinating the practice sessions and to the scores of faculty members and residents who take time out of their busy schedules to participate. Working together makes us all better. 

Lilia Cervantes, MD, associate professor of medicine, has received the 2021 Dr. Virgilio Licona Community Health Leadership Award from the Colorado Health Foundation. The award recognizes community health leaders who have made an impact by advancing social justice and health improvements. The foundation cited Lily’s efforts to change a Medicaid payment rule to allow undocumented patients with kidney failure access live-saving maintenance dialysis. 

As a part of the Open CU Initiative, the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus has received an award from the Colorado Department of Education to encourage the adoption of Open Educational Resources on campus. The Strauss Health Sciences Library is overseeing a grant program that will pay up to $2,000 to faculty members who create or adopt Open Educational Resources.Open Educational Resourcesare digital, openly licensed teaching and learning resources that are free of copyright concerns and cost-free to students. These resources can include online courses, digital textbooks, images, videos, and assessment items. The library has posted online an adoption application and a creation application. Funding decisions are made on a rolling basis. Contact Ellie Svoboda at ellie.svoboda@cuanschutz.edufor additional support.

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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