Dean's Weekly Message

December 11, 2023

Dear colleague:

Our work as educators at the School of Medicine may appear to some to reach its fulfillment when learners graduate from our programs, but in fact that is the moment when what we teach is put to the test. Graduation is the beginning. Hundreds of our trainees launch careers of service, care, and commitment based on skills and knowledge earned through years of hard work and study.

While our School of Medicine should be proud of what we’ve achieved here on our campus, events like the annual Silver & Gold Alumni Banquet give us a moment to appreciate how our work as medical educators translates into accomplishments across the country and around the world. Our institutional legacy is a work constantly in progress, built by the actions of thousands of graduates contributing to our common cause of improving life for others.

On Friday, December 8, at the 2023 Silver & Gold Alumni Banquet, we recognized five graduates from our programs who have helped make our world a better place. They have served their communities and our school with distinction and it is a privilege to represent our school community in bestowing these honors.

The 2023 awards and honorees are:

Silver & Gold – Jack Cochran, MD ’73

Jack has had a distinguished 50-year career as a plastic surgeon and executive. He was regional president of the Colorado Permanente Medical Group for nine years and then executive director of the national Permanente Federation of Kaiser’s 21,000 physicians. He has volunteered in Central America and Asia, and for the past 30 years he has supported clinical care and the construction of two hospitals in eastern Africa.

Richard Krugman Distinguished Service Award – Audrey Corson, MD ’82

Audrey is an internal medicine physician and clinical professor of medicine at George Washington University School of Medicine. She served as a leader of the Montgomery County Medical Society and chair of the operations committee for the Maryland Medical Society. She also has been a board member of the CU Medical Alumni Association for a decade.

Distinguished Achievement Award – Reginald Washington, MD ’75

Reggie also completed his residency and post-graduate training with CU. He joined the Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children’s pediatric cardiology department in 1990 and became its medical director. He has published 70 articles in peer-reviewed publications. His professional service has included terms on the American Heart Association board of directors and as chair of the Committee on Sports Medicine and Fitness for the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Humanitarian Award – Stephen Berman, MD, Residency 1975

Steve became the youngest section head of General Academic Pediatrics in 1981 at the age of 34. He led the section twice during his career, from 1981 to 1989 and again in 1998 to 2007. He also was president of the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2000. Steve became director of the Center for Global Health in 2011 and was a longtime professor of epidemiology in the Colorado School of Public Health. Steve died in January 2023.

Recent Graduate Achievement Award – Cleveland Piggott, MD, MPH, Residency 2018

Cleveland is an associate professor of family medicine, residency advisor, and the department’s inaugural vice chair for diversity, equity, and inclusion. He is president of the Colorado Academy of Family Physicians and serves on task forces with the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine. He volunteers with the DAWN Clinic.

More than 120 attendees gathered for this year’s banquet. Many thanks to Taylor Triolo, MD ’13, assistant professor of pediatrics and president of the CU Medical Alumni Association, the alumni association board of directors, and Vanessa Duran, director of alumni relations and advancement, for organizing this year’s special event.

Faculty Updates 
Jay Lemery, MD, professor of emergency medicine and director of the Climate and Health Program, is featured in a report by CNN about the need to train exerts in climate medicine. The report highlights our school’s Diploma in Climate Medicine , which provides training in climate and health science policy, environmental justice, health care system decarbonization and resiliency, workforce training, and climate and health research and dissemination. “It’s specifically designed for working clinicians who are seeking a ‘heavyweight’ credential,” Jay says in the report. “We wanted to build a program that has real gravitas.” Our school is recognized as a leader in this critically important discipline. Earlier this year, we were invited to discuss our program at a National Academy of Medicine meeting.  

Shelley D. Miyamoto, MD, professor of pediatrics, has been named section head of pediatric cardiology, effective December 1. Shelley completed her pediatric cardiology fellowship at the University of Colorado in 2005. She is director of the cardiomyopathy program and her research has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health. She also serves as the co-chair of the pediatrics promotion committee. Shelley succeeds Dunbar Ivy, MD, who has been section head since 2003.

Prem Subramanian, MD, PhD, professor of ophthalmology and chief of neuro-ophthalmology, has been elected chair of the American Academy of Ophthalmology Council. Prem’s career in ophthalmology began with residency in the U.S. Army at Walter Reed Army Medical Center followed by a neuro-ophthalmology fellowship at the Wilmer Eye Institute. With 32,000 medical doctors, the American Academy of Ophthalmology is the world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons.

Faculty from the Department of Ophthalmology’s Cellsight research team are co-authors of a research article published last week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that expands understading of how oxidative stress contributes to the development age-related macular degeneration. Miguel Flores-Bellver, PhD, assistant professor of ophthalmology, and Valeria Canto-Soler, PhD, associate professor of ophthalmology and Cellsight director, describe the work in an article in the Department of Ophthalmology newsroom.

Sean T. O’Leary, MD, MPH, professor of pediatrics and an investigator at the Adult & Child Center for Outcomes Research & Delivery Science (ACCORDS), is corresponding author of an article recently published in Pediatrics about parental attitudes toward childhood vaccines in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. ACCORDS research fellow David Higgins, MD, MPH, is lead author. The study concludes that the pandemic was not associated with changes in parental vaccine hesitancy overall, although there were changes in trust about vaccine information and a polarization of vaccination attitudes. Sean discusses the research in an article in the School of Medicine newsroom.

Lotte Dyrbye, MD, MHPE, is a co-author of an article assessing physicians’ career plans at the end of 2021 relative to 2011 and 2014, published in the November issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings. Two in five physicians – 40.3% of the 1,344 doctors surveyed – told researchers that it was “likely” or “definite” that they would reduce clinical work hours in the next 12 months. That is more than double previous rates. The authors note that the findings have potentially profound implications for the adequacy of a U.S. physician workforce already facing substantial shortages. The American Medical Association called attention to the study in a news report last week.

John Michael Taormina, MD, obesity medicine fellow, and Jacinda Nicklas, MD, MPH, associate professor of medicine, are quoted in a news article about the annual ObesityWeek conference that was published last week by JAMA. John discusses the effectiveness of antiobesity drugs and questions raised about the role of intensive diet and exercise changes and frequent behavioral counseling. Jacinda discusses past research showing that females often respond better to newer antiobesity medications than males.

Mónica Muñoz-Torres, PhD, associate professor of biomedical informatics, has been named co-lead of the Clinical & Phenotypic Data Capture Work Stream of the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health. The alliance is an international group formed in 2013 to build technical standards and policy frameworks and tools to expand secure use of genomic and related health data.

Student Honor
Heami Yi, a fourth-year medical student, has been awarded a 2024 STFM Foundation Student Scholarship from the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine (STFM) to participate in the 2024 STFM Conference on Medical Student Education. The competitive scholarship award recognizes Heami’s commitment to academic family medicine through scholastic, volunteer, and leadership pursuits. Only 23 awards were given for 2024. Heami will present a poster, “Emergency Contraception Access in a Historic Southern City: Mystery Caller Study in Birmingham, Alabama,” at the conference.

State of Research Address 
Thomas Flaig, MD, vice chancellor for research and professor of medicine, will deliver the 2023 State of Research Address at noon Tuesday, December 12, on Zoom. Register online to attend.

Ironman Patient
When Alex Cooper turned 52 in 2014, he decided to move from shorter triathlons to the Ironman distance: a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride, and a 26.2-mile run. He aimed to complete one Ironman per year for 10 years. He completed his goal in nine years, finishing his 10th Ironman in September 2022.

In January 2023, Alex was diagnosed with glioblastoma, and he began receiving his care from the team at the CU Cancer Center and our faculty members: D. Ryan Ormond, MD, PhD, associate professor of neurosurgery, Timothy Waxweiler, MD, assistant professor of radiation oncology, and Douglas Ney, MD, professor of neurology.

In an article posted last week in the CU Cancer Center newsroom, Alex describes the confidence he felt when he met Ryan. Alex says the surgeon “shook my hand and my wife’s hand, looked us in the eye, got to know us, and that meant everything to me. He treated me as a human being.”

Turns out that Alex is a human being with super strength and endurance, and he focused that vast energy on his cancer care in ways that inspired those caring for him. Alex describes staying awake through his surgery to communicate with the surgical team. He went through six weeks of daily radiation treatments, chemotherapy, maintenance therapy, speech and occupational therapy.

In the meantime, he resumed his exercise routine. He walked three miles on his first day home from the hospital, was back on a stationary trainer after two weeks, and was skiing after six weeks. Sometimes Alex would go skiing on Friday mornings before his afternoon radiation session.

“He’s always so stoked and amped about life,” says Timothy. “He’s insanely impressive. He's gotten half our staff to run races with him or sign up for races, myself included. He brings everybody up around him and motivates us as much as we're helping him. He’s certainly motivated me.”

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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