Dean's Weekly Message

December 4, 2023

Dear colleague:

Our patients and our students. That’s who we are here to serve. When we are challenged by constant distractions and dilemmas in our world and by the pressures of our day-to-day duties, it can be helpful to pause and remind ourselves of what inspires our work.

Jim Page, a former Olympian and avid outdoor adventurer, has had four more years of life that he credits to surgery to treat precancerous cysts in his pancreas. With those four years, Jim has continued skiing, hiking, mountain biking, golfing, and exploring the outdoors. He has also spent that time with his wife, Ginny, and his children and grandkids.

That surgery was performed in 2019 by Marco Del Chiaro, MD, PhD, chief of surgical oncology in the Department of Surgery and member of the CU Cancer Center. In this article in the Cancer Center newsroom, Marco describes the surgery as “very complex and aggressive,” but without it the cysts in the duct system of Jim’s pancreas could have led to cancer.

Jim is filled with gratitude, and at age 82, remains very active, describing recent plans for a long bike ride, a visit to the gym, and a ski run within days of one another. The article includes a photo of Marco and Jim together at the City Park 5K and 1 Mile Run/Walk of Hope for Pancreatic Research on Nov. 4, 2023.

The lives we improve with the excellence of the clinical care we provide is a powerful source of inspiration. Another is how we offer a learning environment that prepares our students to provide outstanding care for others while leading fulfilling lives of their own.

In this article in the School of Medicine newsroom, Michael Nocek, a second-year medical student in our rural program, describes how he recreated legendary ski runs by Robb Gaffney, MD ’99, a School of Medicine graduate featured in the cult classic ski film “1999.”

Mike spent the 2023 ski season recreating Robb’s “1999” segment on Berthoud Pass, recapturing exact scenes on the mountain, using the same music, and hitting the Winter Park Pub with friends like Robb does in the film. Nearly every Friday afternoon and Saturday morning from March through May, Mike trekked to Berthoud Pass with two fellow medical students and his fiancé to make his goal a rea

Mike connected with Robb in May and shared his recreation edit of Robb’s “1999” segment. (That video is a must-watch.) Robb, 52, died in September, four years after he was diagnosed with myelodysplastic disorder, which typically leads to leukemia.

Mike’s not done with his ski runs. From Gunnison, where he’s doing his clerkship year, he’s pursuing the five Colorado lines featured in the book Fifty Classic Ski Descents of North America. “I’ve skied three of the five already, and the last two of the Colorado classics are close to me out here in Gunnison,” he says. “It helps me stay human and follow my passion outside of medicine. Even when I’m busy and stressed with training, I can look to people like Robb and know that you don’t have to give up a big part of who you are to have a career in medicine, and that’s important.”

Faculty Updates 
Larry Allen, MD, chief of the Division of Cardiology and professor of medicine, has been awarded $7 million in funding by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute for a clinical trial that aims to determine how to easily put electronic tools into the work flow at any clinic and test how well they improve prescribing of heart failure drugs. A team of researchers, health care providers, and patients from five health systems across the United States will participate. Larry describes the project in an article posted last week in the Department of Medicine newsroom.

Brooke French, MD, associate professor of surgery, is a co-author with colleagues from the Colorado School of Public Health of an article published in Scientific Reports on November 23 that describes cranial suture growth in children. The authors present the first data-driven pediatric model that explains cranial bone expansion and displacement as a consequence of sutural growth. The model could improve care for craniosynostosis, a condition in which bones in a baby’s skull join together before the brain is fully formed.

Jeffrey G. Jacot, PhD, associate professor of bioengineering, is corresponding author of an article published in the December 2023 edition of Materials Today that describes work to create a biodegradable patch that could be used to correct congenital heart defects in infants. Currently, patch materials are exclusively non-living and non-degradable. As a result, they do not grow with the patient and are prone to fail. Jeffrey’s work seeks to develop a full-thickness, tissue-engineered myocardial patch from biodegradable components. He describes his work in an article in the campus newsroom.

Jacinda M. Nicklas, MD, MPH, associate professor of medicine, is a co-author of a review article, “Obesity Management in Adults,” published last week in JAMA. Obesity affects about 42% of adults in the United States, increases risk for other health concerns and premature death, and is estimated to add about $173 billion in medical costs annually. The review is an analysis of 126 high-impact articles since 2018 on obesity and anti-obesity medications and discusses a range of evidence-based treatment options.

Joseph P. Schacht, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry, is a co-author of a comment article published November 24 in Nature Medicine that calls for more study of new weight-loss drugs before drawing conclusions about their effect on patients with alcohol use disorder. The authors recommend this approach because of media reports and public attention that the drugs may curb the urge for alcohol. Joseph and his co-authors offer the always-good advice that clinicians and patients should “be prudent and avoid placing supposition before science.”

Angelo D’Alessandro, PhD, professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics, is a co-author of a study published last week in the journal Cell Stem Cell. The international team of researchers show that the injection of a type of stem cell into the brains of patients living with progressive multiple sclerosis is safe, well-tolerated, and has a long-lasting effect that appears to protect the brain from further damage. Angelo discusses the work in an article in the campus newsroom.

Emmy Betz, MD, MPH, professor of emergency medicine, is the first author of an original investigation on state reporting practices on mental health prohibitions for firearm possession that was published November 17 by JAMA Health Forum. The study examines state statutes for reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Thirty-nine states required and five allowed reporting to NICS for court-ordered, involuntary psychiatric hospitalization. Five states and the District of Columbia had no legislation explicitly requiring or allowing NICS reporting in potential scenarios evaluated by the authors.

Miriam Post, MD, has been named assistant dean of faculty affairs, effective December 1. She will plan and implement programs for our more than 5,000 faculty members. She also will lead the development of an onboarding process for faculty who are new-in-practice or new to the university, implement an educational transition initiative for retiring faculty, and assist with other missions in the office. Miriam has been on faculty at CU since 2008, with a primary appointment in pathology and a secondary appointment in obstetrics and gynecology.

Mandy A. Allison, MD, MSPH, associate professor of pediatrics, has been named director of the Prevention Research Center for Family and Child Health (PRC). Mandy succeeds David Olds, PhD, professor of pediatrics, who founded the PRC when he was recruited to our school from the University of Rochester in 1993. The center has become a leader in developing and testing a program of prenatal and infancy home visits by nurses for low-income mothers and their children. Mandy is principal investigator on two NIH grants related to effectiveness of home-visiting programs.

Barry Rumack, MD, professor emeritus of pediatrics and emergency medicine, has been named recipient of the Prince Mahidol Award 2023 in the field of public health. The award was established in 1992 to honor a Thai prince regarded as the father of medicine and public health in Thailand. The award announcement recognizes Barry for “his passion for science, and his innovative spirit, combined with his unwavering commitment to deliver the best treatment possible for patients have helped save lives, improve treatment outcomes, and inspire countless physicians to strive for the betterment of their own patients.” A presentation ceremony in Bangkok is scheduled for January.

The Center for Advancing Professional Excellence hosted sessions last month for students and residents to get training on handling racism, mistrust, stereotyping, and other scenarios they likely will encounter in their work as health care professionals. Julie Venci, MD, associate professor of medicine and director of the Med-Peds Residency Program, and Jacqueline Ward-Gaines, MD, assistant professor of emergency medicine, said the training is an opportunity to learn how to handle these difficult situations before they happen in a hospital or clinic. An article in our school newsroom describes the sessions, and a local news report covered it too.

The Department of Ophthalmology published its 2022-2023 annual report, Bringing Sight to Life. The department reports 105 publications in 2022, more than $16 million in sponsored research grants in fiscal years 2021 through 2023, 30 active clinical trials, and 13 technologies licensed between fiscal years 2019 and 2023. The department faculty served more than 166,800 unique patient visits and conducted more than 9,600 surgeries in fiscal 2023. The report includes several articles featuring work by faculty members in telemedicine, artificial intelligence, research, and commercializing innovation.

Lieutenant Governor Visit
Sarah Jolley, MD, associate professor of medicine, gave Colorado Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera a tour of the UCHealth Long COVID Multidisciplinary Clinic last Wednesday, followed by a roundtable discussion with providers and patients. State officials received an update on efforts to improve care to patients across the state, including a recent award from the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality that aims to support clinical practices with continued education and streamlined care. As noted in this Denver Post article, Colorado has only three clinics focused on caring for patients with long COVID. In addition to the clinic on our campus, representatives from National Jewish Health and the Family Health West clinic in Fruita participated in the conversation.

Many thanks to Wendy Meyer, director of communications and marketing at the Colorado Clinical & Translational Sciences Institute (CCTSI) for working with Sarah and colleagues at University of Colorado Hospital to organize an informative presentation for the Lieutenant Governor and her staff. Wendy wrote 
an article  for the CCTSI newsroom about the visit. CCTSI has been a major contributor to our work on long COVID, leading the Colorado portion of the NIH-funded study known as RECOVERKristine Erlandson, MD, associate professor of medicine, and Ronald Sokol, MD, Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics and director of CCTSI, are principal investigators on our campus of the RECOVER study. The RECOVER study has multiple investigations, including an observational study and newly launched clinical trials that are occurring at the CCTSI’s Clinical Translational Research Centers.

Global Down Syndrome Fundraiser
The Global Down Syndrome Foundation raised $2.5 million at the Be Beautiful Be Yourself Fashion Show in downtown Denver on Saturday, November 18. The foundation is a vital supporter of work on our campus by the Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome, the Sie Center for Down Syndrome, and the University of Colorado Alzheimer’s and Cognition Center. The fashion show, now in its 15th year, has raised $28 million since its inception. This year’s event was dedicated to Anna Sie, who made a lifelong cause of raising funds to ensure that all people with Down syndrome, including her granddaughter, Sophia, have a brighter future.

Nominations Due
The deadline for nominations for the 2023 Steven Fadul Award has been extended until Friday, December 8. The award honors the contributions of outstanding professional research assistants or staff in comparable positions in the School of Medicine. Nominees should show initiative in expanding the scope of their work and by mentoring trainees. More information is available at the award’s website. The award is named in honor of Steven Fadul, who had a 30-year career as a researcher at the School of Medicine. Nominations should be sent to

Art Exhibit
“We are All Artists” is a new exhibit that is on view through January 19 at the Hamilton Art Gallery in the lobby of Children’s Hospital Colorado. The artwork was produced by health care workers who participated in the creative arts therapy program Colorado Resiliency Arts Lab (CORAL). Funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, the goal of CORAL and the theme of the exhibit is to help health care workers process trauma and other difficulties inherent in their jobs, and develop healthy coping skills through music, art, writing, and dance. The artwork will tour Colorado and the United States after the exhibit closes next month.

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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