Dean's Weekly Message

October 16, 2023

Dear colleague: 

As medical professionals, we often deal with the victims of violence and mistreatment and are witnesses to the impact it has. It has been with profound sadness that we witness the toll of recent events in Israel that involved the indiscriminate injury and killing of civilians. While the politics of the Middle East are complicated and there are strongly held views among different groups, it is not complicated to state that the terrorist attacks we witnessed must be condemned. CU President Todd Saliman, CU Anschutz Medical Campus Chancellor Don Elliman, and the chancellors of CU’s other campuses issued a joint statement last week about the Hamas terrorist attacks on Israel. “Our hearts weigh heavy for all those who have been impacted by the conflict and the killing and wounding of so many,” they write. “We have students, faculty and staff on our campuses who are intimately connected to many experiencing these horrors. We share our heartbreak with you.” The statement also provides links for campus resources.

Personal Announcement
I announced earlier this month that I will retire as Dean of the School of Medicine and Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs for the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, effective when my successor is hired. Chancellor Don Elliman will immediately begin a national search. Since becoming Dean of our medical school on April 1, 2015, I have had the privilege of working with thousands of faculty and staff members who are dedicated to our common cause of improving the health for our patients, their families, and our communities. We do that by educating and training talented young people to carry our efforts forward. We do that in our clinics and at our partner hospitals, where we meet people who need our help and we provide care regardless of the person’s background. We do that in our laboratories and through clinical trials, bringing scientific breakthroughs to the lives of our neighbors.

Together, we have achieved remarkable success amid the challenging circumstances of a global pandemic, a turbulent economy, and fractured bonds of trust in our governmental institutions. Even as we work directly with patients to relieve their suffering and to heal their ailments, we must do our part to lead our society toward better days. When we encounter one another, we should listen with care and respect. When we act, we must do so thoughtfully and with regard for the impact we have on others.

Our medical school curriculum has been designed to emphasize these goals, training students in longitudinal integrated clerkships so they participate in comprehensive care of patients over time. We also emphasize leadership and teamwork training. Many thanks to Senior Associate Dean for Education Shanta Zimmer, MD, her team in medical education, and the hundreds of faculty and staff who have implemented our new curriculum.

Our research enterprise has grown to nearly $600 million annually, compared to $347 million in 2015, by encouraging collaboration on grants and scholarship. The announcement last month that the National Institutes of Health has approved a $54 million, seven-year grant for our Colorado Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute is a recent example. The renewal of the University of Colorado Cancer Center grant by the National Cancer Institute in 2022 is another.

Our academic structure has adapted to meet current needs. In 2022, we established our first new department in 14 years: the Department of Biomedical Informatics. The faculty and staff there keep showing how sharing data unlocks useful information that benefits our health. Our thanks to Casey Greene, PhD, founding chair of the department, for leading that effort. Another example is the development of our Climate and Health Program by Jay Lemery, MD, professor of emergency medicine, and Rosemary Rochford, PhD, professor of immunology and microbiology. The National Academy of Medicine invited us to discuss our program on a panel earlier this year.

Our school has invested in improving the well-being of our faculty by recruiting Lotte Dyrbye, MD, MHPE, from Mayo Clinic last year to lead our efforts and empowering her to work with departments and affiliates for changes that relieve burdens and eliminate impediments to providing the best care. This is a growing need because we now have 5,500 faculty members, compared with 3,200 in 2015.

During the past eight-and-a-half years, we have recruited 14 new department chairs, and we have boosted our school into the nation’s leading ranks of women in leadership positions. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, 22% of academic departments at medical schools were led by women at the end of 2022. Today, 50% of our 24 departments are led by women.

I have had the privilege of working with all of you to make our School of Medicine, our neighborhoods, our country, and our world a better place. I am confident that you will continue to advance the values of our School of Medicine and that you will maintain our commitment to consistent excellence. I expect that we will have many opportunities to continue our discussion in the months ahead. There also will be time for us to celebrate what we’ve accomplished. In the meantime, I ask that you maintain your focus on the good work you do, to help others when asked, and to recognize your colleagues for their contributions and achievements.

Faculty Updates 
Emmy Betz, MD, MPH, professor of emergency medicine and founding director of the Firearm Injury Prevention Initiative, has been elected to the National Academy of Medicine (NAM). She was one of 100 new members elected to the academy, which is considered one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine and recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service. Emmy was recognized for her firearms and suicide prevention expertise and engagement with community members, including gun owners and retailers, in developing interventions to save lives from firearm injuries. She leads groundbreaking research in injury prevention and has been an expert for national organizations and three White House administrations. She discusses her work in this Q&A in the Department of Emergency Medicine newsroom. Emmy joins 10 members of our faculty on the NAM roster, including the two most recent inductees, Jay Lemery, MD, professor of emergency medicine, in 2021 and Nanette Santoro, MD, chair of obstetrics and gynecology, in 2018.

The National Institutes of Health’s All of Us Research Program has awarded $30 million to the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and its partners to establish the Center for Linkage and Acquisition of Data. The All of Us Research Program aims to securely acquire health care claims and mortality data, as well as initial environmental data. The goal is to enroll at least 1 million people who reflect the diversity of the country. Melissa Haendel, PhD, chief research informatics officer for our campus, is the principal investigator. Sub-awardees include Axle Informatics, Datavant, Emory University, Johns Hopkins University, Medical College of Wisconsin, OCHIN, Palantir Technologies, the University of Florida, the University of Iowa, the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, the University of Washington, and ZeroTrust. 

Tânia Reis, PhD, associate professor of medicine, has received the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award to support her work aiming to understand how energy imbalance, such as in obesity, perturbs neurodevelopment and cognitive functions. The award was announced on October 3 as part of the National Institutes of Health’s High-Risk, High-Reward Research program. An article in the School of Medicine newsroom reports that Tânia’s award is $3.5 million over the next five years. Tânia is one of 85 awardees to receive support for “visionary and broadly impactful behavioral and biomedical research projects.” The NIH’s High-Risk, High-Reward Research program supports investigators who propose innovative research projects that due to their inherent risk may struggle in the traditional NIH peer-review process.

Terry Fry, MD, professor of pediatrics and director of cancer immunotherapy, Sachin Wani, MD, professor of medicine and director of the Rady Center of Excellence, and Lilia Cervantes, MD, associate professor of medicine, are featured in the Office of Advancement’s 2023 publication Momentum. In the report posted online last week, the office reports $245 million in total philanthropy in fiscal year 2023 from 5,683 benefactors. This year’s report also includes an impressive roster of new endowed chairs . We are grateful for the generous support from our philanthropic partners.

Amy Grover, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics, Meghan Treitz, MD, associate professor of pediatrics, and Margie Rodgers, longitudinal integrated curriculum coordinator at Children’s Hospital Colorado, are featured in a recent Charting Pediatrics podcast by the hospital. The podcast offers an excellent overview of the reasons we’ve adopted an LIC model for teaching, and Amy offers this explanation, “LIC students have been found to experience lasting improvements in their patient centeredness, in their empathy, and also student satisfaction is higher.”

Emma Robinson, PhD, and Timothy McKinsey, PhD, are authors of an article published recently by The Journal of Clinical Investigation that reports on their study of an enzyme that has roles in controlling adipose tissue function. Their study finds that inhibiting the enzyme HDAC11 can have the beneficial impact of causing fat cells to expend energy. The study is described in a report in the School of Medicine newsroom. Tim is professor of medicine and co-director of the Consortium for Fibrosis Research & Translation and Emma is a senior postdoctoral fellow in his lab.

Barbara Davis Center members Satish K. Garg, MD, professor of pediatrics, and Sarit Polsky, MD, MPH, associate professor of pediatrics, are authors of an editorial in The New England Journal of Medicine published October 5 that addresses technology use and glycemic outcomes during pregnancy with type 1 diabetes. They discuss a trial that shows how a hybrid closed-loop system can be “safe and effective when customizable glucose targets within the pregnancy-specific target glucose range are used,” while noting that further study is needed.

The third video in The New England Journal of Medicine’s series “Type 2 Diabetes – Controlling the Epidemic” posted on Thursday, October 5. Jane E.B. Reusch, MD, professor of medicine, is a featured expert in the series. This episode focuses on partnering with patients to improve nutrition and increase physical activity.

Yoni K. Ashar, PhD, assistant professor of medicine, is first author of an original investigation published in late September by JAMA Network Open that assesses clinical trial data to understand patients’ beliefs about the underlying causes of their primary back pain. Yoni and his colleagues report that results suggest that patients’ pain attributions are often inaccurate, and that promoting mind- or brain-related attributions may support the effective treatment of primary chronic pain.

Tyra Fainstad, MD, associate professor of medicine, is corresponding author of an original investigation published on October 4 by JAMA Network Open that assesses the generalizability of a coaching program in a national sample of women physician trainees. Tyra and co-author Adrienne Mann, MD, assistant professor of medicine, created the web-based Better Together Physician Coaching Program at CU Anschutz with the goal of reducing burnout. Six co-authors are from our campus. An article in the campus newsroom describes the study. Senior Associate Dean of Faculty and Chief Well-being Officer Lotte Dyrbye, MD, MHPE, who is one of the co-authors, said the article highlights our commitment to improving resident and faculty well-being.

More than a dozen School of Medicine faculty presented at last week’s American Conference on Physician Health, a scientific conference in Palm Desert, Calif., sponsored by Stanford Medicine, the American Medical Association, and Mayo Clinic. Presentations include discussion of interventions and pilot projects deployed at Children’s Hospital Colorado and UCHealth that focus on coaching, peer support, mentorship, practice optimization, and staffing models aimed to improve faculty well-being. Senior Associate Dean of Faculty and Chief Well-being Officer Lotte Dyrbye, MD, MHPE,  delivered a plenary, “Building the Workforce of the Future,” focused on school-level strategies to optimize the work and learning environment. Among speakers from our campus are Robert Doolan, MD, associate professor of clinical practice of medicine, Alexandra Gallant, PA-C, assistant professor of medicine, and Jennifer Reese, MD, professor of pediatrics.

The Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery has announced that Ana Sanchez, a second-year student in CU Boulder’s audiology program, has been named the 2023/2024 recipient of the Richard D. Wyant Endowed Award in Audiology. Ana plans to offer education about hearing loss and provide clinical hearing screenings in diverse neighborhoods in Denver and along the Front Range. Ana will participate in a research project between CU Boulder and CU Anschutz offering eligible participants free hearing tests, cognitive screenings and hearing aids for a year. Her faculty mentors are Anu Sharma, PhD, professor of speech, language, and hearing sciences at CU Boulder, and Vinaya Manchaiah, AuD, PhD, professor and director of audiology in otolaryngology – head and neck surgery.

Economic Impact
The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus had a $5 billion economic impact on the state’s economy in fiscal year 2022-23, according to a report presented last week to the CU Board of Regents Finance Committee. Our campus partner hospitals – UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital and Children’s Hospital Colorado – contributed another $6.5 billion. According to the report, the economic impact of our campus and hospitals accounted for two-thirds of the total impact of $17.2 billion from all CU campuses and the hospitals. The study, which was presented in preliminary draft to the committee, was done by the Business Research Division of CU Boulder’s Leeds School of Business.

Our School of Medicine student chapter of White Coats for Black Lives organized a die-in service that was held on Thursday, October 12, on the research quad. The annual event calls attention to the suffering caused by racism. The persistent underrepresentation of Black and brown communities in health care professions perpetuates a cycle of neglect in providing care to communities who need and deserve better care. Keynote speaker Renee King, MD, MPH, associate professor of emergency medicine, said: “Having Black physicians and physicians of color increases access to preventive and primary care in communities of color. This leads to better health outcomes, including longer, healthier lives.” An article in the School of Medicine newsroom summarizes the event.

Our School of Medicine Physical Therapy Program celebrated its 75th anniversary on Friday, October 6, with an event in the Elliman Conference Center in the Anschutz Health Sciences Building. Roderick Nairn, PhD, executive vice chancellor for academic and student affairs, received the Lawrence Award, which is named after founding program director Mary S. Lawrence and recognizes an individual who has provided sustained, meaningful contributions to the program. Rod was instrumental in the program’s approval for a hybrid training program at University of Colorado Colorado Springs and in securing funds that support the early admissions program at CU Denver. Jandel Allen-Davis, MD, president and CEO of Craig Hospital, delivered the keynote address.

The Helen and Arthur E. Johnson Depression Center welcomed Michelle Williams from musical group Destiny’s Child as guest speaker at the center’s annual luncheon on Friday, October 13, at the Seawell Grand Ballroom at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. She is the author of a memoir, Checking In: How Getting Real about Depression Saved My Life — and Can Save Yours. The Johnson Depression Center works to improve the lives of people with depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and related disorders through clinical excellence, innovative care models, community engagement, research, and workforce development. Last year, the therapists and psychiatric providers at the center completed more than 12,000 patient visits.

Children’s Hospital Colorado hosted its gala on Saturday, October 7, at the Gaylord Rockies Resort. This year’s gala featured former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, PhD, as special guest speaker and Emmy award winner Andy Grammer as the featured performer. This year’s gala marks the 46th anniversary of the gala, which has raised more than $43 million to support care and research at the hospital.

Many thanks to the impressive roster of speakers from our School of Medicine who made presentations to attendees of the National Association of Science Writers meeting earlier this month. An article in the campus newsroom offers descriptions of many presentations.

Nominations Due 
Nominations for the 2023 Steven Fadul Award are being accepted through Thursday, November 30. 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. The award is named in honor of Steven Fadul, who had a 30-year career as a researcher at the School of Medicine, most of it in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics. Nominations should be sent to Additional nomination information is available at the award’s  website.

Nominations for the Anschutz Medical Campus Annual Research Awards are being accepted through Friday, November 17.  There are multiple award categories. Details are available on the nomination form webpage.

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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