Dean's Weekly Message

June 19, 2023

Dear colleague: 

The Colorado Capital Conference assembled 100 Colorado residents in Washington, D.C., last week to hear from U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper and many other elected and administrative officials who work for us in our nation’s capital. Chancellor Don Elliman and I had the privilege of representing our school and the Anschutz Medical Campus in meetings with the teams of our congressional delegation, including Rep. Jason Crow, who represents the district that includes our campus. We were able to share with them the many successes of our school and how we make the support we receive work for everyone who depends on our training programs, our research breakthroughs, and our clinical expertise. Your dedication to our community and your consistent delivery of high-quality results shows officials in D.C. that their trust in you and our campus is well-placed. This year’s conference several impressive speakers, including Gen. David Thompson, vice chief of space operations for the U.S. Space Force, Laurie Locascio, PhD, director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and Charles Tahan, PhD, director of the National Quantum Coordination Office in the White House.

Welcome New Interns, Residents, and Fellows

Our Office of Graduate Medical Education welcomed nearly 300 new interns last Friday and will be welcoming 100 residents and fellows on July 5. We are pleased to have these talented physicians at the School of Medicine in our graduate medical education programs. The energy, compassion, and intelligence they bring to caring for patients are major contributions to our campus life and our hospital partners. As the 2023-2024 academic year begins, please make them feel welcome. We also offer our congratulations to the nearly 400 graduating residents and fellows who have completed their training and are now moving to the next phase of their medical careers.

Faculty Updates

Matthew Greenhawt, MD, MBA, MSc, professor of pediatrics, is the corresponding author of a May 11 article in The New England Journal of Medicine about a patch called Viaskin Peanut for addressing peanut allergies in children. The patch delivers a small dose of peanut protein that is carried through the bloodstream and helps children better tolerate peanuts. Since its publication, the study has been featured in national news reports. Matthew talked about his research and what it means for children with peanut allergies in this Q&A in the School of Medicine newsroom.

Olivia Rissland, PhD, and Srinivas Ramachandran, PhD, describe their work as founders and facilitators of the MSU/Anschutz Program for Meaningful Undergraduate Research Experiences, also known as MAP Scholars, in an article in the School of Medicine newsroom. Olivia and Srinivas, respectively associate and assistant professors of biochemistry and molecular genetics, bring undergraduates from Metropolitan State University of Denver to our campus to gain valuable experience. These opportunities give undergraduates an important pathway to our campus. They also serve as inspiration for us. “They’re doing these things that we think are just standard, everyday things, but when they do it for the first time, it’s so exciting for them,” Olivia says. “Having somebody experience it for the first time and seeing them realize how cool it is that we’re looking at molecules in cells — it brings huge energy to a lab.” 

Thomas Flaig, MD, vice chancellor for research and professor of medicine, is featured in an article in the University of Colorado Cancer Center’s newsroom that discusses his work with African oncologists in setting treatment guidelines, done in conjunction with the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN). Tom began this work while serving as chair of the NCCN Guidelines Panel for Bladder Cancer, a role he has held since 2017. The CU Cancer Center joined the NCCN, an alliance of 33 leading cancer centers, in 2013.

Katherine Rizzolo, MD, an advanced nephrology fellow, and Lilia Cervantes, MD, associate professor of medicine, are the corresponding and senior authors, respectively, of a research article in print tomorrow in the Annals of Internal Medicine that catalogues state-by-state the access to health insurance for kidney replacement therapy for undocumented immigrants. According to the study, 20 states and Washington, D.C., now have policies covering outpatient hemodialysis for undocumented persons. Providing outpatient hemodialysis saves lives and reduces costs because immigrants aren’t forced to wait for emergency care. Lily’s previous research has contributed to these state policy changes. Colorado expanded coverage to allow maintenance hemodialysis for undocumented immigrants in February 2019, and since then, six states have expanded their coverage to provide outpatient dialysis in these cases.

Jarratt Pytell, MD, MHS, assistant professor of medicine, was a guest last week on the podcast of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, discussing his study of why patients discontinue methadone treatment for opioid use disorder. In the study, Jarratt, Ashish Thakrar, MD, from the University of Pennsylvania, who also was on the podcast, and their co-authors describe a range of reasons that patients discontinue methadone in an article in the July issue of the Journal of Substance Use and Addiction Treatment.

Paul Maclean, PhD, professor of medicine, is senior author of an article in Academic Medicine describing outcomes of a Colorado Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute program for early-career faculty and postdoctoral fellows. The program is designed to help those faculty and fellows and their mentors with applications for career-development awards. There were 212 participants in the program between 2014 and 2021. Reviewing outcome data for 194 grant applications, 71 were awarded. Seven of Paul’s colleagues are listed as co-authors.

Juneteenth and Our Commitment 

Today, on Juneteenth, we should pause to consider how much more we need to do to fulfill the promises made by emancipation. For enslaved people in Texas, the announcement of freedom came on June 19, 1865, two and a half years after President Lincoln announced the Emancipation Proclamation. That delay deprived more than 250,000 people of their freedom. To be a just society, we must act whenever inequities prevent our neighbors from living their lives to their fullest potential.

For us in health care professions, that means focused attention on conditions that create health inequities, and it means ensuring that we provide exceptional care to everyone without bias. It also means allowing for career advancement and educational opportunity so that we can ask better questions and consider life contexts that are different than our own. As we know from multiple studies and from our own experiences, we are not there yet. Last week, this article about the safety of drinking water in Jackson, Miss., in The New England Journal of Medicine reminds us of how far we need to go. As we recognize the historic importance of Juneteenth, we commit to ensuring that all get to enjoy that promise of freedom and we recognize that there are still many barriers to overcome.

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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