Dean's Weekly Message

April 18, 2022

Dear colleague:

The CU Board of Regents voted 9-0 on Tuesday, April 12, to advance Todd Saliman as the sole finalist for the position of president of the CU System. Todd has been serving as president on an interim basis since Mark Kennedy left the position last year. Todd is a former state lawmaker and senior budget official for two Colorado governors and has been overseeing the CU budget operations for more than a decade. He is expected to visit our campus April 21 for an open house with members of our campus community. The regents have previously announced that they intend to vote on hiring a president by April 29. 

U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper visited our campus last Thursday to hear about pandemic response and preparedness. He toured the Colorado Center for Personalized Medicine in the new Anschutz Health Sciences Building, and then heard from faculty, administrative leaders, and our partners at UCHealth on how we addressed COVID-19. Our campus has been a leader in providing care, developing tests, giving vaccinations, and educating our community. In a time of great need, everyone on our campus rallied and has risen to the challenges to help our community recover. We appreciate that Sen. Hickenlooper took time to hear from us about what we learned and how that can help our country deal with future crises. 

Many thanks to Kristy Crooks, PhD, assistant professor of pathology, for leading the tour and to others who participated in the conversation: David Beckham, MD, associate professor of medicine; Thomas Flaig, MD, vice chancellor for research; Melissa Haendel, PhD, chief research informatics officer; Ross Kedl, PhD, professor of immunology and microbiology; and Richard Zane, MD, chair of emergency medicine. In addition to faculty members from the School of Medicine, the senator heard from Liz Concordia, president and CEO of UCHealth; Tom Gronow, EdD, MHA, president and CEO of UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital; and Jon Samet, MD, dean of the Colorado School of Public Health. 

The Lown Institute last week released a report that evaluates community investments by nonprofit hospital systems. The report reviews whether nonprofit hospital systems give more in charity care and community investment than they get in tax breaks. The institute quantifies whether hospital systems contribute their fair share to the community. UCHealth, which includes UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital, ranked No. 8 on the list of hospital systems with the largest “fair share surpluses,” meaning that its spending on charity care and community investment exceeds the value of its tax exemption. For UCHealth, that total surplus is $62 million. UCHealth is the only Colorado-based institution listed in the top 25 of institutions providing a net benefit to their community, and it makes up almost all of the total amount – $75 million – in benefit that is provided by nonprofit systems in the state of Colorado. This report, by a national health care think tank, provides valuable context missing from other reports used by some policymakers when they evaluate support health care providers give to their communities. 

The spring issue of CU Medicine Today magazine has been published and you can read it online. The cover articles are about the School of Medicine’s investment in the RNA Bioscience Initiative, including features of two faculty recruits, Olivia Rissland, DPhil, and Sujatha Jagannathan, PhD. They and the rest of the RNA Bioscience Initiative will be speakers at the Transforming Healthcare event, “The Promise (and Proof) of RNA Research,” on Tuesday, April 26, in the new Anschutz Health Sciences Building. 

Judy Regensteiner, PhD, director of the Ludeman Family Center for Women’s Health Research and Distinguished Professor of Medicine, and Jane E.B. Reusch, MD, associate director of the center and professor of medicine, are authors of an article published this month in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. The article calls for a better understanding of sex differences in studying obesity, hypertension, and diabetes, noting that biological sex differences such as genetic predisposition, gene expression, and hormone levels likely have a powerful and understudied impact on the presentation of the conditions. 

Josina Romero O’Connell, MD ’09, assistant professor of family medicine and executive director of the Colorado Area Health Education Center, has been named 2022 Remarkable Woman of Denver by Fox31, which organizes the honor to recognize women for their influence on public policy, social progress, and quality of life. Jo practices at Denver Health and she became director of AHEC in January 2019. 

Kjell Lindgren, MD ’02, is returning to the International Space Station on a mission that is scheduled to launch no earlier than April 23. In 2015, Kjell logged 141 days in space and participated in two space walks totaling more than 15 hours. He also conducted hundreds of experiments. This time, he’s the commander of the SpaceX Crew-4 and will be on a six-month mission. We have been fortunate to host Kjell on visits to campus after his first mission to space, and we wish him a safe journey and return on this one. 

The University of Colorado Diabetes Research Center has announced the 2022 awardees in its competitive pilot and feasibility grant program: Emily Bates, PhD, associate professor of pediatrics; Kathleen Woulfe, PhD, assistant professor of medicine; Nikki Farnsworth, PhD, assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering at the Colorado School of Mines; and Jefferson Knight, PhD, associate professor of chemistry at CU Denver. Details about their projects are on the center’s website

Levi Watson, PhD, instructor of obstetrics and gynecology in the Division of Reproductive Sciences, and his family were in a devastating motor vehicle accident on Friday, April 8, when a drunk driver crashed into them. Levi’s wife, Maggie, and their 6-year-old daughter, Mira, died due to their injuries. Levi has been in the ICU following surgeries, and their 10-year-old son, Emmett, is recovering in the hospital from injuries he sustained. Friends and colleagues are rallying to provide comfort and support and have set up a CaringBridge account and a GoFundMe page to help the family with medical and funeral expenses. Our condolences to Levi and his family. 

The University of Colorado open enrollment period for health insurance and other benefits begins today, April 18, and runs through May 6. Details and links to register for webinars are posted on the Open Enrollment webpage. 

The School of Medicine is seeking nominations for the 2022 Medical Alumni Association Awards. Each year, the association recognizes alumni for service and commitment to the practice of medicine with the Silver and Gold Award, Distinguished Achievement Award, Humanitarian Award, Richard Krugman Award for Distinguished Service, Recent Graduate Humanitarian Award, and the Recent Graduate Achievement Award. Submit nominations and find more information on the Medical Alumni Association Awards webpage or contact the Office of Alumni Relations at Nominations are due Saturday, April 30.

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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