Dean's Weekly Message

March 27, 2023

Dear colleague:

A committee of Colorado lawmakers on Friday approved an amended bill that would restrict hospitals from charging facility fees, but the bill still would have significant consequences on our campus operations if it becomes law. Chancellor Don Elliman and I, along with all of the clinical chairs of the School of Medicine, outlined those dire risks in an opinion column published last week in the Denver Post. I had the privilege of representing our campus in testimony before the committee, where I talked about the outstanding care our faculty provided for nearly 4 million patient visits last year, and how our programs are improving patient access to care in our state by training outstanding new physicians and by expanding the size of our faculty by 600 physicians since 2017. 

House Bill 23-1215, as introduced, seeks to prohibit clinics from covering the costs of paying essential workers, such as nurses and social workers, by eliminating charges known as facility fees. These charges cover costs directly related to providing care. The amended bill approved by the committee would still prohibit the charges for patients receiving primary and preventive care services, and when patients access medical services via telehealth. As a result, the bill remains extremely problematic. 

It was encouraging that the committee added an amendment that calls for a study to gather more information about facility fees. While some lawmakers accused hospitals of padding bills, only anecdotes were offered as evidence. As my colleagues have heard me say many times, the plural of anecdote is not data. We support an independent study that can determine what these charges cover, what would happen if the fees were not collected, and how patients can be better informed about potential costs of the care they receive. Such transparency is a fair request. Not only will that clarity help people understand how health care systems work, such a report can help consumers better understand how insurance companies have shifted more medical costs to them in the form of higher deductibles. 

The next step for this bill is for it to be considered by the House Appropriations Committee. As for the other bill that is critical to our school’s future, House Bill 23-1243, it is scheduled for a committee hearing on Wednesday, March 29. I plan to attend and testify about the importance of our clinical partners and their support for research, education, and training programs at the school. Their support for these programs have allowed us to provide advanced life-saving care through clinical trials, to open a branch campus in Colorado Springs, and to expand the number of resident physicians we train here. We are asking state lawmakers to allow their important contributions to continue to count as community benefit contributions, just as the federal authorities allow them. 

Syd Staggs, a valued contributor to our campus and a member of the School of Medicine community, died Saturday, March 18. Syd was a research assistant for Assistant Professor of Pediatrics Natalie Nokoff, MD, a volunteer at the DAWN (Dedicated to Aurora’s Wellness and Needs) Clinic, and a 2022 graduate of the Master of Public Health program in Maternal and Child Health at the Colorado School of Public Health. Syd was a passionate advocate the LGBTQ+ community, and in 2021, Syd was awarded the Graduate School Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Award on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. Syd died by suicide and their family asks that we all recommit ourselves to Syd’s beliefs in LGBTQ+ and Neurodivergent rights and advancement of quality of life. A memorial service is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday, March 31, at Quebec Place at Fairmount, 430 S. Quebec St., Denver. A reception will follow. 

Our metro Denver community endured another act of school violence last Wednesday when a troubled student shot two administrators at East High School. We stand in support of East’s students, families, teachers, and administrators, and we offer gratitude to the heroes who ran to help the wounded and with the caregivers who aided the wounded administrators. We also rightfully expect people who are responsible for the safety of our schools, our children, and our communities to do something constructive to make our communities safer. 

With these sad events, we remind everyone in our campus community to take time to care for themselves and to be conscious of the needs of others. Take time to listen, offer to help, be mindful of the struggles of those you interact with. You are not alone here. Our greatest successes result from working together for the benefit of others. We must depend on one another, especially when the challenges seem too heavy to bear. For anyone struggling with how they are feeling, our campus offers ways to get help. Student and Resident Mental Health offers grief counseling and support. If you want to talk with someone, contact Julie Wolfe or Stephanie Lehto for assistance with scheduling. Staff and faculty have many available options as well. The campus has posted a webpage with links to many valuable resources. Use them. 

Our Office of Research Education is continuing its partnership with the Tattered Cover Book Store to provide talks on current books that feature basic science. The third event, at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 30, will feature Mayra Bueno Guerrero and Lucas Blecker, who are PhD students in the Neuroscience Program and members of the Neuroscience Outreach Group. “Your Brain On Drugs: How Psychedelics Affect Your Brain” will include a primer on the science, and questions and a discussion with the audience. Many thanks to the Tattered Cover for hosting the event at their store at 2526 E. Colfax Ave., Denver. Also, thanks to the Office of Research Education for working to create this new collaboration with one of Denver’s leading cultural institutions. 

Kerri Thurmon, MD, associate professor of surgery, has been selected to receive the 2023 Young Urologist of the Year Award from the American Urological Association.  The award was presented annually to recognize early-career association members for their efforts and commitment to advancing the development of fellow young urologists. Kerri practices at Denver Health. She mentors medical students and physicians in life management to prevent burnout. 

Researchers at the Barbara Davis Center for Diabetes published articles in the past month that report the results of three randomized clinical trials:

  • Paul Wadwa, MD, professor of pediatrics, and Gregory Forlenza, MD, associate professor of pediatrics, and colleagues reported in The New England Journal of Medicine on the efficacy and safety of closed-loop control systems of insulin delivery for young children with type 1 diabetes.
  • In one article in JAMA in late February, Greg and Laurel Messer, PhD, MPH, RN, assistant clinical professor of pediatrics, were among the authors considering whether once-daily oral verapamil preserves pancreatic beta cell function in children and adolescents with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes.
  • In another JAMA article in late February, Greg, Laurel, and their co-authors considered whether near normalization of glucose levels preserve pancreatic beta cell function in youth with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes. 

The Think Like a Scientist community science program hosted an event at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Library in Aurora on Saturday, March 18. Most of the volunteers were medical students, so many thanks to all who participated, including the power behind this program, Aimee Bernard, PhD, assistant professor of immunology and microbiology, and executive director of the Human Immunology and Immunotherapy Initiative. Aimee reports that nearly 60 people attended, and that our volunteers bestowed young scientist passports to those who participated in the activities. Someday, maybe we’ll see some of these young scientists at our school as students, and later as faculty getting published in major journals. Thanks to Aimee for organizing this outstanding program.

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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