Dean's Weekly Message

September 12, 2022

Dear colleague:

Congratulations to Valeria Canto-Soler, PhD, associate professor of ophthalmology, and Natalia Vergara, PhD, assistant professor of ophthalmology, and their CellSight research teams for winning the top two awards in phase three of the National Eye Institute’s 3D Retinal Organoid Challenge. Val’s research group created a three-dimensional retinal model that recreates pathological features of age-related macular degeneration, and Natalia’s group evaluated the effects of drug toxicities on the retina and developed a first-of-its-kind organoid model of Alzheimer’s disease retinopathy. Together, they were awarded $750,000 in prize money, which they will use to advance their work developing novel stem cell-based therapeutics for patients with blinding diseases.​ 

Jay Lemery, MD, professor of emergency medicine, has been named the inaugural Endowed Chair in Climate Medicine for the School of Medicine. The endowed chair, which is the first of its kind in the country, will provide resources to support teaching and research that prepares physicians to be leaders in climate and health; to understand energy policy, climate resilient policies, and environmental justice; and to seek out and lead on opportunities to decarbonize health systems. Jay, who was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2021, is a co-author of “Enviromedics: The Impact of Climate Change on Human Health,” published in 2017. 

Michael Harris-Love, PT, DSc, associate dean and program director of the Physical Therapy program, has been recognized as a 2022 Catherine Worthingham Fellow of the American Physical Therapy Association. The fellow designation is the association’s highest membership category, which is awarded to physical therapists whose careers demonstrate leadership within the profession and sustained contributions in the areas of education, practice, research, and advocacy.

Jeffrey Druck, MD, professor of emergency medicine and associate dean for student affairs, has announced that he has accepted an appointment at the University of Utah School of Medicine Department of Emergency Medicine as vice chair for faculty advancement, well-being, and diversity, equity, and inclusion, effective November 1. Jeff has been a valued colleague in the Office of Student Life, leading many initiatives to support students and for the benefit the School of Medicine. He’ll be missed and we wish him continued success. 

The Department of Anesthesiology has established the Robert Friesen, MD Endowed Chair in Anesthesiology, named in honor of Robert H. Friesen, MD, professor emeritus of anesthesiology. During 41 years as a faculty member practicing at Children’s Hospital Colorado, Robert made a substantial and enduring impact. In announcing the endowment, Vesna Jevtovic-Todorovic, MD, PhD, MBA, wrote: “In the operating room he displayed a patient and unflappable bedside teaching style bringing calm to critical clinical situations, allowing learners to focus and absorb the teachings of the day. Through clinical research and scholarly writing, he was also able to reach a national and international audience with his teaching.” An inaugural holder has not yet been selected. 

A recent article in UCHealth Today profiles the care and recovery of Louk Thomas, a 15-year-old from Farmington, New Mexico, who suffered second- and third-degree burns over 30% of his body. The specialized care that Louk could receive at the UCHealth Burn and Frostbite Center led to his referral to the Anschutz Medical Campus by doctors at the hospital near his home. Arek Wiktor, MD, associate professor of surgery and director of the burn center, describes a skin-restoration technology that was used as part of Louk’s care. In addition to the outstanding surgical treatment, the hospital also extended help that goes beyond the physical for the young cowboy. Staff also connected with country music star Tim McGraw, who recorded a short video to support Louk’s recovery. 

The Strategic Infrastructure for Research Committee (SIRC) is accepting applications for its pilot grant program, called Across the Finish Line. Two to three grants up to $100,000 are available to support investigators who are generating pilot data to support grant submissions for R01s or equivalents. Applications must include a biosketch, a description of the specific aims and identified gaps in preliminary data, and a letter from the applicant’s unit head confirming on-going salary and infrastructure support. Additional details are available on the SIRC website. Applications should be submitted to Senior Associate Dean Peter Buttrick, MD. Deadline is Thursday, September 22.

The Tattered Cover Book Store is collaborating with our Office of Research Education to provide short talks by experts on topics featured in recently published books. The first event, at 6 p.m. Wednesday, September 14, at the store on 2526 E. Colfax Ave. features Olivia Rissland, DPhil, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics and core member of the RNA Bioscience Initiative, and Deviyani Rao, a PhD graduate student in the molecular biology program, speaking on RNA biology and mRNA vaccines. 

The annual end-of-summer Anschutz Medical Campus Block Party is set for Wednesday, September 14, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Bonfils Circle south of the Fitzsimons Building. There will be food trucks, music, and more than 140 exhibition booths.

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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