Dean's Weekly Message

August 1, 2022

Dear colleague:

We welcomed the Class of 2026 medical students to our School of Medicine at the Matriculation Ceremony on Friday, July 29, on the Boettcher Commons. Our newest students celebrated with families and friends, heard words of pride and encouragement, received white coats, stethoscopes, and gratitude journals, and witnessed the induction of the latest senior student members of the Gold Humanism Honor Society. Shanta Zimmer, MD, senior associate dean for education and associate dean for diversity and inclusion, thanked family and friends of our new students for the lifetime of support they’ve given the students. She also talked about how we are here to provide a foundation of knowledge, but our success depends on making sure that our students see each person we care for in the context of their whole life rather than simply as patients with problems. Amira del Pino-Jones, MD, assistant dean for student affairs, offered keynote remarks, noting how our stories become interconnected: “You will listen to your patients’ hopes and fears and help them articulate how they wish to live the rest of their lives. With each patient encounter, you will become a part of their story and they a part of yours. You will learn about love, joy, grief, humility, and humanity.” 

This year’s class of 184 students was selected from 10,897 primary applicants, with our admissions team interviewing 723 candidates for the class. The class is 54% women and 46% men or non-binary, 17% are first-generation students, and 27% are from backgrounds underrepresented in medicine. The range of ages is 21 years old to 37 years old. Ninety-four of our students are Colorado residents, and 28 states are represented among our class members. Twenty-two of our students were born outside the United States. The overwhelming majority – 85% – were science majors as undergraduates and the average GPA is 3.73. 

The class, as usual, is filled with high achievers. As impressive as their accomplishments are, we know they have great expectations ahead of them and important responsibilities we must fulfill. As Brian Dwinnell, MD, associate dean of student life, said: “Our goal is to send the message that in your careers, you need to realize that a truly competent physician is one who balances excellence in science and clinical skills with compassionate patient care for all of the individuals in our communities.” We look forward to the many contributions our new students will make, and we thank the generous alumni and friends who make it possible to give each student a stethoscope. 

Congratulations to PhD students Katia Niño and Eric Stokes, who have been awarded Gilliam Fellowships by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). The awards were announced last Thursday.  HHMI created the Gilliam Fellowships for Advanced Study in 2004, and since then it has supported 401 fellows. The program provides awards to pairs of dissertation advisers and their graduate students based on what HHMI values and considers essential components of the environment, particularly the institution and adviser’s commitment to creating a healthy academic ecosystem and the student’s potential for scientific leadership. Eric is a member of the Aoto Lab, working with Jason Aoto, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology, investigating synaptic physiology and animal behavior. Katia is a member of the Pietras Lab of where she focuses on how chronic inflammation drives hematologic malignancies with Eric Pietras, PhD, associate professor of medicine in the Division of Hematology. 

Twelve Aurora Community College students have participated in the SEA-PHAGES internship at the School of Medicine this summer. SEA-PHAGES – Science Education Alliance-Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science – is an internship program hosted between the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) and academic institutions around the world. The program is featured in an article in the School of Medicine newsroom. The eight-week program takes students through the steps of the scientific process, beginning with lab safety and guidelines for working with bacteria, through the fundamentals of bacteriophages. Students in the program are from a broad range of learning experiences, some with intentions of pursuing careers in medicine while others, like Kevin Ruiz, an economics and philosophy major, are interested in science and working on his critical thinking skills. 

The School of Medicine has joined with the Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences at CU Boulder to offer a new MD-MS degree program. The first class launches in fall 2023 and the program will begin accepting applications this fall. The program is designed by Ben Easter, MD, assistant professor of emergency medicine, and Allie Anderson, PhD, assistant professor of aerospace engineering at CU Boulder. To support the program, Ben and Allie received a CU Next Award, which is a grant that helps faculty members working on intercampus collaborations. The goal is to prepare trainees to understand the engineering and spacecraft systems, and to understand human health and interactions with those systems. 

An article published July 22 by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that variants of SARS-CoV-2 are evolving to evade human interferon response, raising concerns about the possibility of increased transmission and lethality of the virus that causes COVID-19. The corresponding authors are Mario Santiago, PhD, associate professor of medicine, and Eric Poeschla, MD, professor of medicine and head of the Division of Infectious Diseases. Five additional scientists from the Anschutz Medical Campus are listed as authors. This study is significant in showing the virus is evolving to evade human innate immunity and an impressive example of the collaborations we have on our campus. 

UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital (UCH) ranked as the No. 1 hospital in Colorado for the 11th year in a row in the U.S. News & World Report rankings of hospitals, which were released last week. In specialty categories, UCH was nationally ranked in five categories: Diabetes and Endocrinology, No. 34; Ear, Nose and Throat, No. 47; Gastroenterology and GI Surgery, No. 43; Pulmonology and Lung Surgery (ranked jointly with National Jewish Health), No. 2; and Rheumatology, No. 11. 

Forty-one students in the University of Colorado Cancer Center’s Cancer Research Experience for Undergraduates (CREU) program will be presenting posters of their work from 10 a.m. until noon Thursday, August 4, in Krugman Conference Hall, on the second floor of Research Complex 2. The CREU program brings undergraduates to our campus to perform cancer research for 10 weeks each summer. The program is in its 35th year and has educated thousands of students from nearly every state in the country.


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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