Dean's Weekly Message

June 12, 2023

Dear colleague: 

The Anschutz Foundation is giving $50 million to our campus to conduct a research competition for faculty who are working on medical treatments that can have direct patient impact within five years. The Anschutz Acceleration Initiative will provide awards ranging from $5 million to $15 million to support faculty to develop medical treatments and preventive care, drive innovation in patient care, and transform health care delivery. Interested faculty should submit letters of intent by July 14. Selected applicants will then be invited on August 8 to submit full proposals, which are due on October 18. Read the request for applications for more detail about the submission process. This opportunity is possible due to the extraordinary generosity of The Anschutz Foundation, which has helped us establish one of the premier academic medical centers in the country. We have made many advances here because of the foundation’s strong support. We are grateful for the confidence they have shown in our work, and we are confident that we can fulfill their great expectations for breakthroughs that will improve patient care.

Investing in Research

Gifts like this are vital to the future of our campus, essential to the success of the investigators here, and critical to our efforts to improve human health. As I said in an article in the Denver Gazette about this remarkable gift, it will provide scientists the funding to “move initiatives forward more rapidly and make an immediate impact in medicine.” The gift is a major advance for our campus and helps us build on the array of investments that we have made to nurture scientific innovation and support our faculty’s work.

The School of Medicine’s Program to Advance Physician Scientists and Translational Research is an important example of those investments we make in research programs. Our school provides support to that program, led by David Schwartz, MD, Distinguished Professor of Medicine, to advance careers of physician-scientists. The program aims to augment the training, number, career satisfaction, and retention of physician-scientists on our campus. To that end, the program has announced awardees for its CU ASPIRE (CU Anschutz SOM Programmatic Incubator for Research) program, which is designed to support collaborative research groups with up to $100,000 per year for up to two years. These teams include faculty from seven departments across the School of Medicine. Team leaders of the 2023 awardees and their projects are:

  • Brianne Bettcher, PhD, associate professor of neurology, immune dysfunction and Alzheimer’s disease-related pathology impacting cognitive decline in late life.
  • Craig Jordan, PhD, chief of hematology, targeting the metabolic features of malignant stem cells to improve therapeutic outcomes.
  • Traci Lyons, PhD, associate professor of medicine, reducing breast cancer-related deaths by targeting mechanisms of therapeutic resistance in estrogen receptor-positive breast cancers.
  • Carmen “Kika” Sucharov, PhD, professor of medicine, effect of organ injury on heart mitochondrial and cardiac function.

In addition to the CU ASPIRE awardees, the Program to Advance Physician Scientists and Translational Research also announced its Translational Research Scholars awards. The Translational Research Scholars Program fosters research among outstanding early career faculty, providing each scholar up to $300,000 for their research over a four-year period. These awards support the scholars’ innovative translational research, allowing them to expand the scope of their research into new lines of exploration. The 2023 scholars are:

  • Shaikh Atif, PhD, assistant professor of medicine, immunopathology of granulomatous lung diseases, such as chronic beryllium disease and sarcoidosis.
  • Ian Cartwright, PhD, assistant professor of medicine, understanding how neutrophil/epithelial cell interactions mold the inflammatory microenvironment.
  • Seth Creasy, PhD, assistant professor of medicine, examining time-dependent benefits of aerobic exercise.
  • Nathan Dahl, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics, epigenetic regulation of chromatin and transcription in childhood brain tumors.
  • Edward Lau, PhD, assistant professor of medicine, proteomics and bioinformatics methods for studying how the function of proteins is regulated by their spatial and temporal dynamics.
  • Fredrick Rosario-Joseph, PhD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology, cellular and molecular mechanisms regulating placental nutrient transport.
  • Fan Zhang, PhD, assistant professor of medicine, artificial intelligence methods for computational omics and systems immunology to study inflammatory disease pathogenesis.

The AB Nexus program has announced its sixth round of grant awards to researchers from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and the University of Colorado Boulder. AB Nexus aims to foster collaborations between CU Anschutz and CU Boulder researchers. Since its launch nearly three years ago, AB Nexus and its co-sponsors have awarded more than $3 million in grant funding to 48 intercampus teams. Spring 2023 awardees and their projects include many of our colleagues from the School of Medicine.

Faculty Updates

Cathy J. Bradley, PhD, MPA, has been named dean of the Colorado School of Public Health, effective August 1. Cathy has served as deputy director of the University of Colorado Cancer Center and associate dean for research in the Colorado School of Public Health for the past five years. She joined our campus in 2015 as professor and Paul A. Bunn, Jr. Endowed Chair in Cancer Research. Cathy succeeds Jonathan Samet, MD, MS, who became dean in 2017.

Joaquin Espinosa, PhD, professor of pharmacology and executive director of the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome, and Kelly Sullivan, PhD, assistant professor of pediatrics, are co-corresponding authors of an article published last week in Nature Genetics that describes how genes involved in controlling the immune system are critical to the development of multiple hallmarks of Down syndrome, or trisomy 21. The findings contribute to a growing body of research on the immune system’s important role in the appearance and severity of some of the negative health effects of trisomy 21, supporting the idea that restoring immune balance could help improve the quality of life of people with the condition.

Jacinda Nicklas, MD, MPH, associate professor of medicine, is co-author an article published last week by The Lancet Infectious Diseases that found that metformin, a drug commonly used to treat diabetes, reduces the risk of long COVID. The study, called COVID-OUT, investigated whether early outpatient COVID-19 treatment with metformin, ivermectin, or fluvoxamine could prevent long COVID. Jacinda was the CU lead for this nationwide study. For participants who started metformin less than four days after their COVID symptoms started, metformin decreased the risk of long COVID by 63%. Ivermectin and fluvoxamine did not prevent long COVID.

Matthew DeCamp, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine and member of the Center for Bioethics and Humanities, is corresponding author of an article published last week in the Annals of Internal Medicine, that challenges researchers and health care professionals to closely examine chatbots through a health equity lens and investigate whether the technology truly improves patient outcomes. In 2021, the Greenwall Foundation granted Matthew and his team of researchers funds to investigate ethical questions surrounding chatbots.

Matthew Wynia, MD, MPH, professor of medicine and director of the Center for Bioethics and Humanities, has been named co-chair of the Truth, Reconciliation, Healing and Transformation Task Force of the American Medical Association (AMA). The task force will guide organizational transformation within and beyond the AMA toward restorative justice to promote truth, reconciliation, and healing in medicine and medical education.

Elizabeth Pomfret, MD, PhD, professor of surgery and chief of transplant surgery, became president of the American Society of Transplant Surgeons Council during the society’s town hall meeting earlier this month. She has served as the group’s president-elect during the past year.

Shale Wong, MD, MSPH, professor of pediatrics and family medicine, describes working with Michelle Obama in an article posted in the School of Medicine newsroom. In May, the former first lady announced that she is co-founder of PLEZi Nutrition, which aims to market healthy and tasty food and beverages for kids. Shale went to Washington, D.C., in 2009 on a mid-career fellowship as a health policy fellow with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the National Academy of Medicine. She was placed in Mrs. Obama’s office, and then continued for another year as her health policy adviser. Shale is one of the nutrition experts on PLEZi Nutrition’s “kitchen cabinet” advisory committee.

Frank deGruy III, MD, professor and former chair of family medicine, is a panelist on an Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) webinar about integrated behavioral health that will be held tomorrow, Tuesday, June 13. The AAMC has been exploring ways that academic health centers can address the need for mental health care in our country. Access to care has been a significant problem, and a solution is behavioral health care integrated into primary care settings. Frank will be presenting a successful system developed here between our family medicine and psychiatry departments. The live web event is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.

The Ludeman Family Center for Women’s Health Research hosted 50 students for Girls Career Day, last Tuesday, June 6, encouraging these young people to pursue careers in science. This annual event partners with several high schools in Aurora and Denver. At the Center for Surgical Innovation, students learned how to suture and had an anatomy lesson. Students also participated in laboratory research at the UCHealth Sue Anschutz-Rodgers Eye Center, toured the hospital’s emergency department, visited the hospital's helicopter pad, and heard from leaders at UCHealth about their professional journeys.

Preparing for Reaccreditation

Our work for the reaccreditation process for our School of Medicine is well underway. In 2025, our school is up for its review by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME). The reaccreditation process is a comprehensive analysis of our programs to ensure all graduates are appropriately trained to fulfill their professional responsibilities and that they have the foundation for lifelong learning and proficient medical care. While we must meet those reaccreditation standards, we want to be more than appropriate, competent, and proficient. We are striving for excellence. Our students, our patients, our communities deserve an environment where we are setting standards that other programs aspire to achieve.

To prepare for reaccreditation, we have had scores of colleagues on faculty and staff spend many hours this spring completing the first phase of our self-study. They have completed a “SWOT” analysis that outlines strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to our reaccreditation. In July, we will have a virtual visit by our consultants to provide a gap analysis. In August, we will have a formal kick-off event. Our medical students also have a key role in the process. While they are here to learn and train, we are also learning from them. Their insights will inform our programs. Our medical students have developed an organizational structure to conduct an independent analysis that is a critical part of the LCME reaccreditation process. Many thanks to all who have contributed to this effort so far, and a reminder to do your part when you are asked to participate. We make an outstanding medical school by working together.


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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