Dean's Weekly Message

January 24, 2022

Dear colleague: 

The School of Medicine had planned to celebrate our Class of 2024’s transition to clerkships with a ceremony like the White Coat Ceremony we host each summer to welcome new classes to our school. Unfortunately, the surge in COVID cases from the Omicron variant prevented us from holding that event earlier this month. Still, we should celebrate this class and all who are contributing to their education. Through the extraordinary hardship of the pandemic, this class and those who are training them have shown remarkable resilience. Our school communications team profiled four medical students in the Class of 2024 and their stories are examples of how dedication and compassion are sources of strength and purpose. I encourage you to read about Ava Swenson, who connects care and history and art to inform her approach; Rebecca Henkind, co-founder of CU Street Medicine, which provides care to those experiencing homelessness; Jasmin Torres, a first-generation college graduate who has helped administer 300 vaccinations in underserved communities in metro Denver; and Amira Otmane, who plans to provide mentorship to aspiring medical students from underrepresented communities. 

A key feature of our newly redesigned medical school curriculum is the longitudinal integrated clerkship (LIC) model, which pairs students with specialty preceptors throughout the clerkship year. In a new videoabout our LICs, Assistant Dean Jennifer Adams, MD, professor of medicine, says, “Students receive better feedback, better coaching, better teaching from faculty that they work with continuously throughout the year, so we just feel we can do medical education better in the LIC model.” Medical student Eman Mesgina and Denver Health pediatrics preceptor Yosuke Nomura, MD, instructor of pediatrics, offer an example of the benefits of working together for an extended time. “After a couple of weeks working with Dr. Nomura, he was able to understand my weaknesses and my strengths, and throughout the year he could decide what learning points we wanted to cover, the patients that he wanted me to see that would personalize my learning,” Eman says. With thanks to the Kettering Family Foundation for funding support, I would encourage everyone in the School of Medicine community to watch this video because it offers many examples of why we should be proud of the work we do and of the talented medical students who come to train here. 

Christine Baugh, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of medicine, is the 2022 recipient of the Early-Stage Investigator Lecture award from the National Institutes of Health Office of Disease Prevention. This award is given to an early-career prevention scientist who has made significant research contributions, but who has not yet successfully competed for an R01 or R01-equivalent NIH research grant. The selection is highly competitive and recognizes innovative and significant research accomplishments in applied prevention research. Christine is a member of the Center for Bioethics and Humanities and much of her work has focused the acute and chronic health implications of repetitive brain injury from sports. 

Jillian Ramos, PhD,a postdoctoral fellow and RNA scientist on our campus, has received the RNA Society/Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press Award for Research Excellence by an Underrepresented Scientist. The award recognizes exceptional contributions to RNA science. Jillian joined the laboratory of Jeffrey Kieft, PhD, professor and vice chair of biochemistry and molecular genetics, in September 2020. For her PhD at the University of Rochester, Jillian studied how mutations to tRNA modifying enzymes contribute to human disease. In Jeff’s lab, she’s using RNA elements found in viral RNAs to develop new RNA-based technologies to manipulate mRNA stability. 

The Department of Family Medicine is planning to host a virtual celebration next month for Frank deGruy, MD, the longtime chair who stepped down in June 2021. Frank’s vision and energy helped the department grow during his 22 years as chair. To join the party on February 24, from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., use the Zoom link In the meantime, the department is collecting memories on this Kudoboard. Friends and colleagues are invited to share posts, and those with examples of Frank’s fashion are especially invited to share. 

Daniel Pastula, MD, MHS, associate professor of neurology, has been reappointed to the Colorado State Board of Health, which advises on matters related to public health. His term expires in March 2025. 

The Faculty Senate last week voted to approve a request from the Department of Radiation Oncology to create a Division of Medical Physics. The School of Medicine Executive Committee gave its approval in December. New divisions are a way for departments to recognize the teaching, scholarship, and clinical care provided by a unit within a department. According to the department’s request to create a Division of Medical Physics, it said the unit has 10 faculty members who are board-certified by the American Board of Radiology, two medical physics residents, four postdoctoral fellows and an information technology specialist. In addition to its teaching accomplishments, the group has a strong record of grant-funded research, peer-reviewed publications, applied technology development. 

The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus has joined the Age-Friendly University Global Network, an alliance of institutions of higher education that have committed to become more age-friendly in their programs and policies. Participants in the network adopt 10 principles that respond to the interests and needs of an aging population. More than 80 universities have joined the network since its launch in 2012. 

Our campus has launched FindHelpNow, an online tool that matches members of our campus community with services and resources that provide help in times of need. FindHelpNow connects students, faculty, and staff with assistance for handling stresses ranging from health, finances, relationships, or academics. The service is anonymous and does not collect or store personal information. Bookmark FindHelpNow ( in your browser for easier access to this valuable resource. For additional information, contact Craig Wimmer, director of student health promotion. 

Denver Health announced earlier this month that Robin Wittenstein, EdD, chief executive officer since 2017, plans to retire this summer. The Denver Health Board of Directors has created a six-person executive search committee and engaged with an executive search firm to identify a successor. Patricia Dean, chair of the board, commended Robin for her leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic, her efforts to address health disparities and inequities, and her contributions to ensuring Denver Health is recognized as an anchor institution in the community. 

The School of Medicine is seeking faculty judges for the upcoming capstone presentations by our fourth-year medical students. These presentations are the culminating scholarly projects for graduating medical students. We need virtual judges to rank the top posters. There are three hourlong sessions on Friday, March 4, at 1 p.m., 2 p.m., and 3 p.m. You can sign up for one, two, or all three sessions. Poster topic areas include: Basic Science; Bioethics, Humanities, Arts, and Education; Clinical Science; Global Health; Public Health and Epidemiology. Please do your part and join us in celebrating the work of our students. Thecall for judges is posted online. If you have questions, email

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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