Dean's Weekly Message

June 6, 2022

Dear colleague:

This year’s graduation festivities – held in late May before the Memorial Day weekend – celebrated exceptional classes of medical students and physician assistants. In addition to their academic training, this year’s graduates were tested outside the classrooms and clinical settings by pandemic protocols and societal strife. We see tremendous promise in these graduates, and we are impressed by their determination to overcome obstacles and make life better for their patients and our communities.

 Commencement activities recognize years of hard work by our students and by our faculty, staff, and clinical partners, but the events also open a new chapter in the lives of these graduates. We are passing the baton. We have focused on training students who can provide the highest-quality care with compassion, and we have provided our graduates a foundation of knowledge for a lifetime of learning. Our education never ends. We must continuously learn so that we can improve the care we provide. 

The pandemic reminded us that much of what determines a person’s health lies outside the traditional practice of medicine. These factors are sometimes called the social determinants of health. We talk a lot about the promise of personalized medicine, but the sad and undeniable reality is that your ZIP code is more predictive of your health and longevity than your genetic code. As a result, medical professionals have an obligation to speak up for our patients. Though it is popular for some to tell us to stay in our lane when talking about social issues, I would answer that we as a profession have an obligation to address all factors affecting the health of our patients whether they fall under the traditional definition of medical practice. 

The Hooding and Oath Ceremony for the Class of 2022 medical students was recorded and is posted on the School of Medicine’s YouTube channel. I’d encourage you to check out the talks. Troy Kincaid, MD ’22, gave an outstanding speech about caring, and guest speaker Will Flanary, MD, aka Dr. Glaucomflecken, was equally inspiring. A summary of the ceremony is available in the School of Medicine newsroom. 

As we said farewell to the Class of 2022, we said hello to our new physical therapy students. The Professional Oath Ceremony for the Class of 2024 was held on Thursday, June 2. More than 70 new students pledged to strive for excellence, perform their studies and work in an ethical manner, and provide care with compassion, encouragement, respect, and patience. We are pleased to welcome these new students to our School of Medicine. 

Four members of the CU School of Medicine faculty have been named 2022 Boettcher Investigators. Each Boettcher Investigator receives a $235,000 grant to support up to three years of biomedical research. The awardees from the School of Medicine: Martin W. Breuss, PhD, assistant professor of pediatrics; Shanlee Davis, MD, PhD, assistant professor of pediatrics; Michael S. Leibowitz, MD, PhD, assistant professor of pediatrics; and Andrew C. Smith, DPT, PhD, assistant professor of physical therapy. 

The Academy of Medical Educators has announced the 2022 recipients of the Rymer Innovation Awards, which support efforts to create, implement, and evaluate innovative medical education programs and to develop scholarship in medical education. We are grateful to Robert Rymer, MD, and Marilyn Rymer, MD, and their support for the Rymer Family Endowment, for their generosity. The award recipients are:

  • Aaron Carlson, MD – Novel Integration of Neuroradiology and Pathology in the Advanced Neuroscience Course with BAR Lab Sessions and 3-D Printed Anatomical Specimens
  • John Cunningham, MD – The “ECG of the Week”: Utilizing Spaced Repetition to Improve Medical Student ECG Interpretation Skills in a Longitudinal Integrated Clerkship
  • Christina Reimer, MD – Public Health Advanced Integrated Science Course
  • Christina Reimer, MD, and Suzanne Brandenburg, MD – Animal and Human Translational Medicine Integrated Science Course
  • Ali Hakimi, MS4 – Implementation of Handheld Ultrasound Curriculum in the Trek Longitudinal Integrated Clerkships 

The School of Medicine Mentored Scholarly Activity team is hosting a mentor breakfast at 8 a.m. Wednesday, June 22, in the Anschutz Health Sciences Building. The event is to thank mentors and to invite faculty interested in participating in the program. The mentored scholarly activity is a four-year longitudinal course requirement for all students, aimed at fostering self-directed, life-long learning. RSVP to attend. 

Colorado Area Health Education Center is seeking health professions students to serve as counselors for HOPE Institute, a health care career exploration camp for rural and other underrepresented Colorado high school students. Counselors must be available to stay in residence halls at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs the week of July 10. Apply by emailing a CV and short cover letter to 

Karen Chacko, MD, professor of medicine and medical director for virtual health, has received a grant from the Federal Communications Commission to increase our telemedicine capability. The grant provides funding for telehealth equipment, including laptops for faculty members who do clinical work that involves telehealth, particularly with outreach to rural and frontier counties in Colorado. You may be eligible for one of these laptops. To find out whether you qualify, complete this surveyby June 17. 

Ankita Arora, PhD, postdoctoral research fellow, is one of 10 delegates selected for the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s Advocacy Training Program. The three-month program provides science policy and advocacy training and experience. On our campus, Ankita works to decipher rules that govern RNA transport in brain cells.

 Randall Meacham, MD, professor and executive vice chair of surgery and chief of the Division of Urology, has been named president-elect of the American Urological Association. He will become president next year. 

Condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of William Marine, MD,who died May 3. Bill was chairman of the Department of Preventive Medicine from 1975 to 1979, and he retired as professor emeritus in 2000. During his career, Bill worked with state public health officials to develop a surveillance system for occupational injuries, documented the effectiveness of seat belts and child seats in auto crashes, and studied DUI enforcement and the use of ignition interlocks to promote sober driving. Memorial contributions may be made to the University of Colorado Foundation for the William M. Marine Endowment for the Preventive Medicine Residency. 


We grieve for the lives lost in the past three weeks in Buffalo, Uvalde, and Tulsa. In too many American communities, including in Colorado, mass shootings have inflicted pain that will never fully heal. We owe the families affected by these senseless crimes respectful consideration of ways to prevent such crimes from ever happening again. To address the crisis of rampant gun violence in our country, we should apply the same focus that we use to help our patients and communities address other health concerns. In our work in the labs, clinics, and classrooms, we examine causes and outcomes. We gather facts and we look for what works to improve our conditions. We apply our knowledge. We should look at experiences that we can learn from. 

First, we should consider some facts. 

  • Firearms are now the leading cause of death for children and adolescents in the United States. The New England Journal of Medicine reportedon May 19 that firearm-related injuries account for 6 deaths per 100,000 children and adolescents. The second-leading cause of death is motor vehicle crashes, and third is drug overdose and poisoning. 
  • Among 64 high-income countries and territories, the United States ranks eighth for homicides by firearm. When focusing on high-income countries and territories with populations of 10 million or more, the United States ranks first, with 4.12 homicides per 100,000 population. Chile is No. 2 with 1.82 per 100,000. 
  • The United States has more guns than people. For every 100 Americans, there are 120 guns. 

We then should consider studies and data that can help us look for solutions. 

  • A studypublished in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2018 reviews the impact of gun-safety measures and buyback programs in Australia after a mass shooting there in 1996. It shows that 13 mass shootings occurred in the 18 years preceding the safety measures, and that none occurred in the 22 years after adopting the measures. 
  • In another study, published in 2020 in Criminology & Public Policy, researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health reported that laws requiring firearm purchasers be licensed through a background check process supported by fingerprints and laws banning large capacity magazines are the most effective gun policies for reducing fatal mass shootings. 
  • Data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention point to a similar conclusion. California’s rate of firearm mortality is among the nation’s lowest, with 8.5 gun deaths per 100,000 people in 2020, compared with 13.7 per 100,000 nationally and 14.2 per 100,000 in Texas. Garen Wintemute, MD, MPH, who directs the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis, Medical Center, discussed California’s laws in a recent New York Times interview

Unfortunately, the pattern that has emerged after mass shootings in the United States is for partisans to argue and retreat with recriminations that lead to no response at all. The result of such an approach is predictable. With no changes, more people will die from gun-related violence. 

We’ve already witnessed what happened with a failure to act. In recent years, shoppers, worshippers, students, concertgoers, and others were killed in attacks. In the past month, Black grocery shoppers in Buffalo, schoolchildren and teachers in Uvalde, physicians and others in Tulsa have been killed. To assert that gun-safety laws are not worth doing because they will not prevent all future crimes is to give up without trying. Our families, friends, and neighbors deserve better.

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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