Dean's Weekly Message

November 14, 2022

Dear colleague:

CU Medicine posted another impressive year clinically and financially in results that were presented last Tuesday morning at the faculty practice plan’s annual meeting. Our faculty provide care for more people than any other medical practice in the state. For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2022, we took care of 693,401 unique patients in nearly 4 million patient visits. The practice reported that revenues increased 6% for the year. Being Colorado’s provider of choice creates special pressure that we must address. We have an increasing number of patients seeking our care, creating undesirably long waits to get into our clinics while adding to the work our faculty are asked to do. We must address these issues of patient access while also ensuring the professional satisfaction among our faculty, staff, and colleagues. Our goal is to create an environment where you can provide the best care, train others to do the same, and give you time to pursue the life you want outside of work. 

Toward that goal, we hosted a town hall meeting Tuesday afternoon with leaders from UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital (UCH) to hear from our clinical faculty about their concerns and to let you know that we are taking steps to help us achieve our goal. Among the efforts are process improvements that can make a difference in workload and reduce hassles. Each department has a designated well-being leader, supported by the school and the department, to lead efforts to identify and help address system-level factors hindering faculty well-being and professional fulfillment. Our clinical department chairs will be evaluated on their effectiveness in delivering high-quality, safe care for patients and a professionally fulfilling workplace for our faculty and staff. 

It's important to emphasize that these efforts are not one-and-done solutions. We will work continuously to make lives better, for our patients, for our colleagues, and for ourselves. That means we will test efforts and scale them when they work and phase them out when they don’t. These solutions can’t be imposed from one side. We get better at what we do by learning from one another, sharing our knowledge, and working together. That means we need everyone to be involved, to share our commitment, and to engage respectfully and productively. And it means we – the School of Medicine and UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital – are aligned in making these changes. Lotte Dyrbye, MD, MHPE, senior associate dean for faculty and chief well-being officer, Jean Kutner, MD, MPH, chief medical officer for UCH, and Pradipta Komanduri, MHA, chief operating officer for UCH, were presenting at the town hall, but we are all responsible for participating in these activities. 

The initiatives that we are initially targeting are specific to issues that were identified last spring in a survey of faculty credentialed to practice at UCHealth. This fall, Lotte and Elizabeth Harry, MD, senior medical director of well-being at UCHealth and assistant dean of faculty well-being at the School of Medicine, have been sharing these survey results with department leaders, whom we have asked to share the survey results with their faculty. Efforts are underway to survey faculty at Children’s Hospital Colorado about their experiences and well-being. Jenny Reese, MD, medical director of provider well-being at Children’s Hospital Colorado and assistant dean of faculty well-being at the school, is leading that work and we are partnering to optimize the work environment for our pediatricians and pediatric subspecialists. It is our intent to synchronize and broaden our efforts, including our basic science faculty and PhDs in clinical departments, in future surveys and response. 

We launch these initiatives in a competitive marketplace that poses its own challenges. Brian Smith, MHA, executive director of CU Medicine, during the CU Medicine annual meeting, and Tom Gronow, EdD, MHA, president and CEO of UCH, at the town hall, explained that we face market pressures, including rising costs that affect our budgets. In addition, other employers offer fulfilling job opportunities too, so we must consider those factors when we are recruiting and retaining faculty and staff. To make our campus an employer of choice, we must provide the resources talented faculty and staff expect so that they can have an impact. Thanks to everyone in the School of Medicine community and our colleagues for your dedication and commitment to excellence in care, education, research, innovation, and service. 

At the annual conference of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) this past weekend in Nashville, we heard from colleagues across the country that they also are facing similar challenges: staffing shortages, higher costs, and added stress to those struggling to keep up with the ongoing demands of our profession. During the acute phase of the COVID pandemic, we worked in common cause during an emergency to heal and relieve suffering. Now, almost three years later, we continue to face suffering wrought by the pandemic and we must work together to care for one another. It’s no consolation that other academic medical centers face these same struggles. As we work for solutions on our campus, we will also be connecting with our colleagues at other institutions to learn from them and to adopt best practices. 

At the opening plenary of the AAMC Learn Serve Lead conference on Saturday, Robert George, JD, DPhil, of Princeton University, and Cornel West, PhD,of Union Theological Seminary in New York, discussed civil communication with others who have different points of view, and their message applies to most endeavors where we strive to improve lives. “Civil discourse is not simply listening to each other politely,” George said. “Civil discourse consists of talking, and above all listening, to another person with a different point of view in a truth-seeking spirit with a willingness to learn.” To do that, “you have to cultivate the capacity to be courageous enough to be vulnerable,” West said. 

Ronald J. Sokol, MD, professor of pediatrics, head of the gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition section, and director of the Colorado Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CCTSI), has been named a Distinguished Professor of the University. This is a well-deserved honor for Ron, who joined the CU community in 1979 as an instructor in pediatrics. Ron’s contributions to the university and our community have been distinguished in research, clinical care, mentorship, and administrative leadership. He directed the Digestive Health Institute from 2006 to 2022, a clinical care program at Children’s Hospital Colorado ranked No. 1 in the country by U.S. News and World Report in 2020 and 2021. His work also has led to the creation of the CCTSI, which he has led since 2008. At the CCTSI, Sokol and his team have been responsible for overseeing the implementation of programming supported by more than $187 million in National Institutes of Health funding. And he’s not done yet. Earlier this year, Ron was namedchief scientific officer, child health, for the Anschutz Medical Campus. Congratulations Ron. 

CU Medicine leaders have prepared a video a bout the Colorado Springs High Risk Asthma Program, which provides support to children with high-risk asthma and their families. The program gives children care and support so that they can avoid frequent visits to emergency rooms and urgent care. “We will come up with a plan that works at every level for every need, and we do that for every patient every time,” said Scott Rucker, LCSW, social worker with Children’s Hospital Colorado in Colorado Springs. “It’s amazing.” The program reaches more children and their families in southern Colorado with supplemental Medicaid funding that we receive to expand care in the state. It’s one of nearly 100 programs we have supported with these supplemental Medicaid funds. 

The Class of 2024 finally got their official welcome to the medical profession on Friday, November 4, after two previous events were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Usually, incoming classes gather for a White Coat Ceremony, but in summer 2020 that wasn’t possible. Then, a makeup ceremony in early 2021 was derailed due to a spike in COVID cases. Because the class already had their white coats, we had a “pinning ceremony” that recognized this resilient group in the middle of their third year of medical school. While some of the members of the class have joked that they are the “forgotten class,” we can already see that this is a class to remember. 

The Colorado Chapter of the ARCS Foundation hosted a luncheon on our campus on November 3 to recognize and celebrate the Achievement Rewards for College Scientists Foundation scholarship winners. ARCS is an outstanding nonprofit started and run by women who boost American leadership and aid advancement in science and technology. To address the country’s need for new scientists and engineers, the foundation provides unrestricted funding to help the country’s brightest graduate and undergraduate students create new knowledge and innovative technologies. At the luncheon, we celebrated 11 ARCS scholars on our campus: medical students Shreyaas (Shrey) Aravindan, Elijah Hale, Rebecca Henkind, Michael Kwong, Anna Lee, Alec McCranie, Gabrielle Montalbano, and Ani Oganesyan, dental medicine student Maxim Kondratenko, and PhD candidates Haider Manzer and Thi-Tina Nguyen. 

Anuradha Paranjape, MD, MPH, has been named the next director of service for the Department of Medicine at Denver Health. She currently serves as vice chair for clinical affairs and professor of medicine at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University in Philadelphia. She received her MD and MBBS from University of Pune, India and completed her internship and residency in internal medicine at University of Rochester in 1998. Her clinical interests are in women’s health, prevention, and epidemiology. Her research interests are in health outcomes related to family violence, screening for intimate partner violence, HIV in older women, and data science. Anuradha’s first day will be May 22, 2023. 

The University of Colorado Board of Regents earlier this month reviewed progress on the four CU campuses toward goals set in the 2021-2026 strategic plan. While the other campuses reported on freshman retention, the Anschutz Medical Campus reported on the number of patients served by our clinical faculty. The campus clinical faculty reported serving 696,282 patients in FY 2022, up from 606,802 the previous year. The report shows that our campus achieved the annual progress goal set in the strategic plan. 

The School of Medicine’s new Administrative Fellowship Program has selected Megan Ormsby and Kristina Eddy to be the inaugural fellows beginning next summer. Megan has worked at Seattle Children’s Hospital for the chair of pediatrics at the University of Washington and then at the Seattle Children’s Research Institute. In 2022, she began pursuing a Master of Health Administration degree at the George Washington University and interned with Kaiser Permanente. Kristina is a first-generation Colombian-American with an undergraduate degree in political science from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). She will graduate in December 2022 with a Master of Healthcare Administration degree from UNLV. During graduate school, she completed an administrative internship at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center, an 834-bed hospital in Las Vegas. We look forward to Megan and Kristina joining us. The fellowship is described in this article in the School of Medicine newsroom. 

The Tattered Cover Book Store will feature Mayra Bueno Guerrero and Lucas Blecker, PhD students in the Neuroscience Program and members of the Neuroscience Outreach Group, at 6 p.m. Thursday, November 17. Mayra and Lucas will lead a session, “Your Brain on Drugs: How Psychedelics Affect Your Brain,” at the store at 2526 E. Colfax Ave. 

Vice Chancellor for Research Thomas Flaig, MD, will present the CU Anschutz State of Research Address at noon Tuesday, December 6. Register to attend this virtual event.

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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