Dean's Weekly Message

June 20, 2022

Dear colleague:

Christina Finlayson, MD, professor of surgery and associate dean for clinical affairs, adult health, for the School of Medicine and senior medical director for CU Medicine, begins phased retirement July 1. Tina has been a valued colleague who built trust with state officials in recent years as we’ve expanded the care we provide across Colorado. Tina earned many accolades throughout her career, including several teaching and clinical awards. We are fortunate that Tina is phasing into retirement, which means we will still benefit from her contributions in her role with population health. 

Scott Laker, MD, associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation, will succeed Tina as the School’s associate dean for clinical affairs, adult health, and CU Medicine’s senior medical director. In addition, Pete Smith, MD, associate professor and associate vice chair for clinical affairs for family medicine, has been named medical director for primary care, as he assumes oversight responsibilities for primary care that was handled by Tina. Pete will continue with his current responsibilities as medical director, hospital-based outpatient department practice, and assistant dean for clinical affairs. 

The Hemophilia and Thrombosis Center (HTC) announced a leadership transition last Friday. Co-Director Marilyn Manco-Johnson, MD, professor of pediatrics, is stepping down and Co-Director Michael Wang, MD, professor of pediatrics, will assume the leadership responsibilities. The HTC was founded in 1973 to provide a permanent research and treatment facility for patients with bleeding and clotting disorders, and it now serves nearly 2,000 patients in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and surrounding states. Marilyn received the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2021 from the National Hemophilia Foundation for her contributions to the field. 

Children’s Hospital Colorado was ranked No. 7 in the country, according to listings published last week by U.S. News & World Report. To compile the rankings, U.S. News evaluates hospitals in three broad categories: clinical outcomes, efficient coordination of care, and providing care-related resources. U.S. News also ranks hospitals in 10 specialty categories, with Children’s Hospital Colorado’s programs each receiving high scores:

  • Diabetes and Endocrinology – No. 4
  • Gastroenterology and GI Surgery – No. 4
  • Pulmonology and Lung Surgery – No. 6
  • Urology – No. 7
  • Cancer – No. 8
  • Neurology and Neurosurgery – No. 12
  • Orthopedics – No. 12
  • Cardiology and Heart Surgery – No. 14
  • Neonatology – No. 19
  • Nephrology – No. 22 

The Department of Surgery has posted an article in its newsroom about a collaboration with Rwanda’s only cardiothoracic surgeon, Maurice Musoni, MD, who recently came to our campus to work with colleagues here for a week. Yihan Lin, MD, MPH, a recently graduated cardiothoracic surgery fellow in the department, met and became friends with Maurice while completing a two-year Paul Farmer Global Surgery Research fellowship in Rwanda through Harvard Medical School. Inspired by their collaboration in Rwanda, Yihan began working with colleagues in the CU Department of Surgery to establish a two-way knowledge- and skill-sharing relationship between clinicians in Colorado and Rwanda. To support the effort, Yihan and about 65 colleagues from the CU Department of Surgery ran a marathon to establish a fund that would support Rwandan clinicians visiting Colorado. The article is an excellent example of how our work here can help change lives around the world. 

Another article posted in the Department of Surgery newsroom last week is worth your time, too. It’s a tale of hard work and good luck. Mario Carrasco, a Delta resident who experienced sudden liver failure in August 2020, was unable to get on the transplant list because he didn’t have health insurance. Monica Grafals, MD, associate professor of clinical practice of medicine, worked with colleagues to help Mario enroll in the Denver Health Medical Plan’s Elevate Exchange. Less than an hour after the paperwork was completed, a deceased donor liver that was a match for Mario became available. “It was like hitting the lottery,” said Elizabeth Pomfret, MD, PhD, chief of transplant surgery. “He was almost out of time when I got the call about this liver. I said, ‘Great, we’ll take it,’ and within an hour of him getting on the list, we were heading into surgery.” 

The CU Medical Alumni Association is hosting a “Day at the Rockies” on Saturday, July 16, when the Colorado Rockies take on the Pittsburgh Pirates at Coors Field. Alumni, housestaff, and students can register for tickets until Thursday, June 30. Ticket includes access to a pre-game reception with food and beverages prior to the game. 

Applications for the 2022 Gates Grubstake Fund awards are now being accepted. The Gates Center for Regenerative Medicine and CU Innovations annually make multiple awards of up to $350,000 to investigators who are researching and developing regenerative medicine-related technologies, including therapeutics, diagnostics, devices, manufacturing, and platforms. Applications are due Wednesday, August 31. To apply, visit for more information, contact the Gates Center’s Entrepreneur in Residence and CU Innovations Director of Licensing Heather Callahan at 

Condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of David Lewerenz, OD, assistant professor of ophthalmology, who died May 31. Dave was an optometrist in private practice for more than 30 years in Kansas. In 2016, he joined the faculty of the University of Colorado School of Medicine. In addition to providing patient care, Dave was committed to training optometry specialists in Guatemala, Honduras, India, and Africa. Dave’s family is planning a memorial service and will post information on the David Lewerenz page on 

Condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Robert Sakata, who with his wife Joanna, built Sakata Farms into a powerful force in American agriculture. Bob died June 7. During World War II, Bob was one of 120,000 Japanese-Americans held in internment camps. After his release, he worked on a dairy farm in Brighton, and then bought 40 acres that he and Joanna grew to a 3,000-acre farm producing sweet corn and other vegetables. As a young man, Bob was injured in a farming accident that burned 80% of his body and resulted in a yearlong stay in the hospital. Bob was a strong supporter of rural health care, helping raise local funding in 1959 to help build the community’s first hospital. In recent years, he and his wife Joanna, generously supported our rural health program and scholarships for rural students. A memorial service to celebrate Bob will be held at Brighton Presbyterian Church at 2 p.m. Tuesday, June 21.

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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