Dean's Weekly Message

May 2, 2022

Dear colleague:

The University of Colorado Board of Regents voted 9-0 last Wednesday, April 27, to make Todd Saliman president of the CU System, a position that he has held on an interim basis for nearly a year. During the meeting, which was held on our campus, several speakers offered testimonials for Todd that match our experience working with him: He’s a good listener who asks questions, he’s thoughtful and methodical in addressing concerns, and he has deep expertise in budget and policy. We look forward to continuing our work with him and we congratulate him on unanimous support from the regents. 

Lotte Dyrbye, MD, MHPE, joined the School of Medicine last Wednesday as Senior Associate Dean of Faculty and Chief Well-being Officer. In this newly created position, Lotte will oversee faculty affairs, faculty and leadership development programs, and diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, and she will lead initiatives that reduce burnout among physicians, residents, and medical students. Lotte joined us from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., where she had been since 2001. Lotte is one the country’s leading experts on clinician well-being, a widely published scholar, and developer of tools that address burnout concerns. Please join me in welcoming Lotte to the School of Medicine and the Anschutz Medical Campus. 

Nancy Krebs, MD, professor of pediatrics, has been awarded the Agnes Higgins Award by the March of Dimes in recognition of her pioneering research on nutrition for mothers and infants. Nancy’s work demonstrated that complementary feedings including micronutrients like zinc, iron, and copper should be introduced to breastfed infants by six months of age to maintain nutrient sufficiency and preserve organ development, particularly brain development. 

We celebrated our School of Medicine students and generous benefactors who support scholarships at a luncheon last Friday, April 29. During the past several years, commitments to scholarships by donors have increased, and we now have more than 200 funds supporting students at all phases of their education. Since our most recent luncheon in 2020, 23 new scholarship and awards have been created in the School of Medicine. This year’s event included students in the MD program, as well as those in our Child Health Associate/Physician Assistant (CHA/PA) and the Physical Therapy programs. Speakers Laura Meimari from the medical school, Abigail Seipel from the Physical Therapy program, and Sahran Al Busaidy from CHA/PA explained how these extraordinary scholarship gifts changed their lives. We are fortunate to have them as students and we are grateful to the donors who support their scholarships. 

Earlier in the week, on Wednesday, April 27, the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus held its annual Benefactor Recognition Dinner. About 400 people attended the event at the Seawell Ballroom at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. This year’s gathering included a videofeaturing patients talking about lifesaving work by Richard Schulick, MD, MBA, chair of surgery and director of the CU Cancer Center, and Daniel Pollyea, MD, associate professor of medicine and clinical director of leukemia services. 

The Office of Medical Education in the School of Medicine is seeking candidates to be co-director of the Teaching Scholars Program for the Academy of Medical Educators. This 18-month certificate program for health professions faculty and selected post-graduate trainees aims to enhance knowledge and skills in curriculum development, educational scholarship, and medical education leadership. Candidates for this 0.2 FTE position must have a professional level degree, such as an MD, DO, or PhD, and a current appointment in the CU School of Medicine. Details and application instructions are posted on the School of Medicine intranet. Application review begins on May 16. For questions, contact 

Congratulations to School of Medicine faculty members who have been honored with the annual faculty awards. Therese “Tess” Jones, PhD, professor of medicine and associate director of the Center for Bioethics and Humanities, has been named an honoree for the President’s Excellence in Teaching Award, which is selected by graduating students. For the Chancellor’s Teaching Recognition Award, which is selected by a committee of students, faculty, and administrators, there are two School of Medicine faculty members receiving the honor: Maurice Scott, MD, assistant professor of medicine, and Joseph Brzezinski IV, PhD, associate professor of ophthalmology, who is the honoree in the Graduate School. Faculty award winners will be recognized at the campus commencement ceremony on May 27.

Congratulations to Christy Angerhofer, health equity education and training program manager for the Anschutz Medical Campus Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Community Engagement, for being selected to receive the 2021-22 President’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Award. The annual awards recognize outstanding commitment and significant contributions to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion within the University of Colorado community. Before joining the campus office, Christy worked for the School of Medicine’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. 

Last week, my colleagues on the Council of Deans of the Association of American Medical Colleges had a letter published in the Wall Street Journal that explained why medical schools must include an understanding of the social, economic, and environmental factors that affect our patients’ health. Our letter was a response to a column published by the paper earlier in April, in which the author claimed that the quality of medical education in America is compromised by teaching medical students to consider the social circumstances of our patients. Without evidence, the author claimed, “Medical schools increasingly are preparing physicians for social activism at the expense of medical science.” The author further claimed that it is racially biased to teach medical students to consider those circumstances. It “is a corruption of medical science in service to political ideology,” he wrote. 

I disagree. So do my colleagues on the Council of Deans and in leadership at the AAMC who signed the letter. Our medical school graduates are better prepared to care for our communities if they know the science of human health, the professional standards of practice, and the social, economic, and environmental conditions of the lives of our patients. Excluding knowledge of those conditions ignores significant context that creates health disparities. It is a failure when we don’t teach medical students to recognize those factors. As we stated in our letter of response to the column: “Cause and effect can’t be ignored. Just as poor sanitation causes cholera, racism and exclusion cause poor health outcomes. A lack of understanding of a patient’s social environment can also lead to diagnostic errors, maternal mortality, poor pain management and more.” I am proud of our school’s efforts to provide our students the framework to be better doctors. Maintaining status quo teaching standards, as advocated by the column’s author, promises more of the same disparate health outcomes we’ve been treating for generations. We can only improve the health of our patients when we have a better understanding of the roots of their health conditions. We are not sacrificing medical education when we consider the social causes of poor health. Instead, we are improving the quality of the care we and future physicians can provide. Better understanding of our patients’ lives promises improved health outcomes for more people.

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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