Dean's Weekly Message

July 31, 2023

Dear colleague: 

The Class of 2027 officially joined our School of Medicine in the Matriculation Ceremony last Friday, when our new medical students received white coats, stethoscopes, and supportive cheers from family and friends. We have attracted another impressive class of talented, compassionate, intelligent, and ambitious students, and we look forward to training them to become outstanding physicians. We are grateful to our faculty, staff, and affiliate partners who have established our school as one of the best in the country. For a summary of the event, check out this article in the School of Medicine newsroom.

According to our Office of Admissions, we received 9,852 primary applications and interviewed 718 candidates to fill the 184 seats in our first-year class. This year’s class is 57% women and 43% men. Students range in age from 21 to 41 years old. Thirty-four states are represented in the class. Fifteen students were born outside of the United States. There are 78 Colorado residents in the class. Twenty-two of our students are the first in their families to graduate from college. Most of our students – 85% – were science majors.

Our School of Medicine newsroom includes an article featuring new medical student Jack Drummond, who was once an aspiring professional boxer. After his father was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension, Jack helped his parents navigate the health care system. The experience inspired him to pursue a career in medicine, completing an undergraduate degree in biology at Boston University and working as a cancer researcher at University of Pennsylvania and volunteering at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. We welcome Jack and his classmates to our school, and we look forward to their contributions to our community.

The Matriculation Ceremony includes the induction of current students who are recognized as exemplars of humanistic patient care into the Gold Humanism Honor Society. In addition, Matthew Wynia, MD, MPH, professor of medicine and director of the Center for Bioethics and Humanities, received the 16th annual Faculty Professionalism Award. These honors are presented at matriculation so that our new class can see role models and the high standards that we share at our School of Medicine. Congratulations to Matt and to this year’s 20 inductees into the honor society, who are listed in the ceremony program.

Faculty and Student Updates 
Jane E. Reusch, MD, professor of medicine, is the author of an editorial published July 27 by The New England Journal of Medicine. She notes that fewer than 50% of the people who would benefit from insulin therapy will receive it. “The reasons,” Jane writes, “are many and challenging: prohibitive cost, distress and stigma from the diagnosis of diabetes, fear of hypoglycemia, lack of access to care and other systemic barriers, plus patient and provider inertia.” Despite the daunting array of reasons, she reminds us that we must do better.

Leslie Barnard, MPH, who is pursuing her doctorate at the Colorado School of Public Health, is an author of a research letter published last week by JAMA Open Network that characterizes mass shootings by state from 2014 through 2022. Leslie and her co-authors analyzed data from 4,011 mass shootings in the United States, in which 21,006 people were injured or killed. A summary of the study is described in an article in the Department of Emergency Medicine’s newsroom. Leslie conducted the research working with our School of Medicine’s Firearm Injury Prevention Initiative. Leslie’s co-authors are Emmy Betz, MD, MPH, director of the initiative and professor of emergency medicine; Erin Wright-Kelly, DrPH, director of research and evaluation for the initiative; and Ashley Brooks-Russell, PhD, MPH, associate professor at the Colorado School of Public Health.

The Office of Advancement hosted a ceremony last Tuesday evening in the Anschutz Health Sciences Building to celebrate the appointment of Vikas Patel, MD, professor of orthopedics, as the inaugural Endowed Chair in Orthopedic Spinal Innovation. Vikas is a productive contributor to our School of Medicine in all its missions and we are pleased to recognize his accomplishments with this honor.

The National MD-PhD Student Conference was held  earlier this month at the Copper Mountain resort. This annual conference, funded with support from the National Institutes of Health, is largely run and organized by a group of MD/PhD students from our school’s Medical Scientist Training Program. The conference attracted more than 200 attendees from more than 60 institutions from across the country. Manu Platt, PhD, director of the NIH’s Center for Biomedical Engineering Technology Acceleration, was one of the keynote speakers. Many thanks to conference co-chairs Shanawaj “Roy” Khair and Austin Jolly for leading the student planning committee that organized this impressive event.

The Think Like a Scientist program hosted an event at the Central Library in Aurora on July 25 to give children in our community a hands-on, family-oriented way to learn science. More than 60 participants were issued science passports when they entered the event, and then earned stamps for those passports as they worked their way around four activity tables. Thanks to Aimee Bernard, PhD, assistant professor of immunology and microbiology and the lead guide for the Think Like a Scientist program, and to the team of volunteer scientists and students who participated in this fun community outreach program.

Kudos from the National Cancer Institute
The University of Colorado Cancer Center recently received national attention from the leadership of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) for aligning our efforts with the National Cancer Plan.

Monica Bertagnolli, MD, director of the NCI, highlighted the work of the CU Cancer Center during the NCI’s Clinical Trials and Translational Research Advisory Committee on July 19. “I want to give out a call of thanks to the University of Colorado who have presented to us already a really wonderful outline of how this cancer center is embracing the plan and what is going on at the University of Colorado specific to the goals listed here,” she said. You can hear her remarks at the 20:57 mark of this video.

The CU Cancer Center also features prominently in the NCI’s National Cancer Plan Updates: July 2023 newsletter. “We are encouraged by those who have supported the National Cancer Plan and viewed their work through the lens of its eight goals. One of those is the University of Colorado Cancer Center, which has posted articles to its website that align its work with the eight goals of the plan.” After specifically noting how the CU Cancer Center ties its work to four goals, the newsletter directs readers, “Check out the news section of their webpage to read about what they’re doing under other goals.”

Here’s the extended excerpt of how our CU Cancer Center’s work is featured in the newsletter:

  • To Prevent Cancer (Goal 1), the University of Colorado Cancer Center collaborates with nine counties in southeast Colorado to promote a smartphone app that helps people reduce tobacco use and vaping. The center also offers patient navigation to educate parents of adolescents and young adults about the HPV vaccine and provides free colon cancer and radon screening kits at health fairs.
  • To Detect Cancer Early (Goal 2), Colorado  partners with hospitals that serve low-income patients regardless of their insurance coverage to offer free colorectal cancer screening and patient navigation services for people who need it.
  • To Develop Effective Treatments (Goal 3), the cancer center hosts events like a Pancreatic Cancer Retreat to educate researchers across the United States on new early detection methods, local clinical trials on immunotherapy for pancreatic cancer, and new technology to better visualize cell types that make up pancreatic tumors.
  • Eliminating Inequities (Goal 4) is highlighted as a  crosscutting theme across Colorado’s initiatives. Ongoing work includes a Rural Cancer Advisory Board that advises the center’s researchers and a set of five studies addressing disparities in care and outcomes for Black and Hispanic communities related to head and neck cancers, lung cancer, and genetic cancer screening.

It’s an impressive array of programs that are delivering better care for patients and their families. We commend the CU Cancer Center leaders and team for serving as an example touted by the National Cancer Institute.

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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