Dean's Weekly Message

May 23, 2022

Dear colleague:

Heide Ford, PhD, professor of pharmacology and associate director of basic research at the University of Colorado Cancer Center, has been named chair of the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, effective June 15. Heide joined the CU School of Medicine in 2001, after completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, and she has been a valued colleague and productive researcher and educator. She also has been actively involved in leadership searches and other activities in service to our school. Please welcome her in this new role. 

Thanks to former chair Andrew Thorburn, DPhil, for his years of leadership, and Mark Dell’Acqua, PhD, for serving as the department’s interim chair. Thanks also to Wendy Macklin, PhD, Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, for chairing the search committee, and to all who participated in the search process. With Heide’s appointment, 11 of our School of Medicine’s 23 departments, or 48%, are chaired by women. compared with the national average of 27%, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. In the AAMC’s most recent summary of data related to department chairs at U.S. medical schools, for the year ending Dec. 31, 2021, there were 630 chairs who are women out of 2,922 total permanent chairs. 

Congratulations to Mark Johnston, PhD, professor emeritus and former chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, on his election to National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Sciences is a private, non-profit society of distinguished scholars. Established by an Act of Congress signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, the society is charged with providing independent, objective advice to the nation on matters related to science and technology. Mark joins Kurt Beam, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Physiology and Biophysics, and Charles Dinarello, MD, Distinguished Professor of Medicine, as School of Medicine faculty who are members of this illustrious group. 

Rituals related to commencement began last Wednesday, May 18, with the Alpha Omega Alpha banquet where 33 members of the Class of 2022 were inducted into the national medical honor society.  Commencement activitiesare scheduled to be held on campus on Thursday, May 26, and Friday, May 27. Due to a recent increase in the number of COVID cases, the campus is asking all students, employees, and campus visitors to wear masks when indoorsduring those two days. Ceremonies will be held outdoors, and livestreams will be available. 

The Child Health Associate/Physician Assistant Program ceremony is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday, May 26, on the Library Commons, north of the Fitzsimons Building. The main commencement ceremony for all campus will be at 8:30 a.m. Friday, May 27, on Boettcher Commons, south of the Fulginiti Pavilion for Bioethics and Humanities. The School of Medicine hooding and oath ceremony will be at 10:15 a.m. Friday on Boettcher Commons. 

The School of Medicine communications team has posted profilesof four of our graduates – Kiyomi Daoud, Zaid Al Bahrani, Dottie Stearns, and Josh Abolarin – and videos of two more graduates – Christine Krentz and William Mundo. We are proud of our graduates’ accomplishments, and we look forward to their continuing contributions as our colleagues working to protect the health of our neighbors and communities. This year’s graduating class has proved resilience beyond compare through these pandemic years. By achieving so much in such extraordinary circumstances, these graduates have demonstrated adaptability and leadership skills that are markers of future success. 

Congratulations to Fernando Holguin, MD, professor of medicine, for receiving the Scientific Achievement Award from the Assembly on Allergy, Immunology & Inflammation at the American Thoracic Society meeting earlier this month. 

Benjamin Easter, MD, MBA, assistant professor of emergency medicine, has been notified that he is a recipient of a 2022 CU Next Award, which provides support to faculty who face funding barriers related to course or program development. Ben, who is also a deputy element scientist for exploration medical capability at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, is working with Allison Anderson, PhD, assistant professor of aerospace engineering sciences at CU Boulder, on the proposal, “Merging Engineering & Medicine by Integrating Technology into Immersive, Hands-On Human Spaceflight Courses.” 

A study, published last week by The Lancet Digital Health, described a machine-learning approach to analyzing electronic health records to identify potential patients with long COVID. The study relied on data collected in the National COVID Cohort Collaborative (N3C)’s electronic health record repository. A news release from the National Institutes of Health says Melissa Haendel, PhD, chief research informatics officer for the Anschutz Medical Campus and her fellow authors, examined patient demographics, health care use, diagnoses, and medications in the health records of 97,995 adult COVID-19 patients in the N3C. In addition to Melissa, the study lists seven additional authors from the Anschutz Medial Campus. 

Lotte Dyrbye, MD, MHPE, senior associate dean of faculty and chief well-being officer, is co-author of an article published last week by JAMA Network Open that quantifies mistreatment and discrimination that physicians experience from patients, patients’ families, and visitors. In a survey of 6,500 physicians from across the United States, nearly 30% said they faced discrimination and mistreatment, and 20% said they had times when patients, families, or visitors have refused care because of the physician’s race, ethnicity, or gender. The level of abuse reported is unacceptable and requires action. While health care organizations must do more by implementing policies and procedures to address such behavior, we also must expect better from others. As Lotte said in this news report about her study, “Everyone has a role in addressing prejudice, harassment and mistreatment, including the government, the press, medical institutions, healthcare workers and the public.” Lotte’s Twitter thread offers an overview and links to resources. 

Members of the Consortium for Fibrosis Research & Translation have discovered an enzyme that regulates heart stiffness and they describe their research in a May 16 article in The Journal of Clinical Investigation. Researchers Timothy McKinsey, PhD, professor of medicine, and Kathleen Woulfe, PhD, assistant professor of medicine, both in the Division of Cardiology, and their fellow authors describe how the enzyme histone deacetylase 6 modulates stiffness and diastolic function, which offers a potential target for treating cardiac diseases. The consortium is one of the five transformational research projects that received major investment from the School of Medicine six years ago. 

The Patient Access Collaborativeheld its annual symposiumin Denver earlier this month, hosted by UCHealth and CU Medicine. About 200 professionals from 72 of the nation’s largest and most prestigious health systems gathered to participate in workshops focused on access-related issues, such as scheduling optimization and call center management. Brian Smith, senior associate dean of administration and finance for the School of Medicine and executive director of CU Medicine, moderated an executive roundtable discussion, and Naresh Mandava, MD, chair of ophthalmology, and colleagues led a tour of the UCHealth Sue Anschutz-Rodgers Eye Center on our campus. Gary Henry, vice president of UCHealth Patient Line, led a program about call center management. Many thanks to all who helped organize and attended this event, which showcased the impressive clinical operations on our campus. 

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. 

Jeffrey Druck, MD, professor of emergency medicine, has been elected vice chair of the Western Group on Student Affairs, a branch of the Association of American Medical Colleges. After two years in the role of vice chair, Jeff will become chair of the committee. Jeff will continue as the group’s Committee on Student Affairs Representative through November. 

There will be no message on Monday, May 30. Enjoy the Memorial Day weekend.

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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