Dean's Weekly Message

October 30, 2023

Dear colleague: 

The Mentorship Academy last Friday packed the Elliman Conference Center with faculty and staff who received excellent advice and practical information on how to become a better mentor and more effective mentee. Attendees and presenters also discussed how an institution’s leadership establishes a culture where these mentoring relationships are truly valued.

“The culture of an organization is critical,” said Vineet Chopra, MD, MSc, chair of medicine and one of the organizers of the academy. “That is determined by the leader. When we set the tone that is the expectation. We talk the talk, and we walk the walk.”

The academy, a one-day workshop on campus, was a case of talking the talk, giving examples of walking the walk. Vineet and several speakers made presentations and answered questions about how to be better mentors and mentees and how to establish a culture where these relationships are valued.

Sanjay Saint, MD, MPH, professor of medicine at University of Michigan School of Medicine and Vineet’s co-author on several articles and books, offered an introduction outlining advice for successful mentor-mentee relationships. Key points: Select the right mentors, be respectful of their time, communicate effectively, and be engaged and energizing. This Harvard Business Review article by Sanjay and Vineet is a good overview. They also wrote a book on the topic.

Throughout the day, speakers offered helpful advice. Vineet, for example, explained that mentees shouldn’t be put off when a mentor suggests edits to a paper. It means they are engaged with the work. It’s much easier for the mentor to simply say a paper is fine without comment. Christine Jones, MD, associate professor of medicine, reinforced the point in her presentation. “My academic love language is ‘track changes,’” she said. “That is evidence of my commitment to you.”

Keynote speaker Kimberly Manning, MD, professor of medicine at Emory School of Medicine, offered inspiration. Mentors and mentees aren’t your missing piece, she explained. “I don’t need you to complete me,” she said. “I need you to help me grow.” One of the compelling points she made was explaining how mentors themselves gain from helping others. She said she thinks about how the relationship will “fill my cup.” While mentors must make choices to protect their own time, Kimberly offered examples of how to do as much as you can without distracting from your own mission-critical goals.

The fundamental message of the day is one I endorse: People are our priority.

Faculty Updates 
The relationships we make in our careers make a difference in who we are and where we go. Neill Epperson, MD, chair of psychiatry, had the opportunity earlier this month to thank a mentor and show how his influence was an important part of her life and career. On October 20, Neill gave the George Heninger, MD, Annual Lecture at Yale University, and her mentor and the lecture namesake, now 93 years old, attended her talk, “Translational Neuroscience in Reproductive Psychiatry and Psychoneuroendocrinology.” Throughout his 56-year career as a physician-scientist and psychiatrist, George emphasized a biological and molecular focus in the field of psychiatry. That approach inspired Neill, who has established a thriving career of her own, promoting the centrality of the brain with respect to all areas of health. Moments like Neill’s talk are worth celebrating and serve as a reminder that the work we do has a lasting impact on our colleagues and mentees.

Jaime Baker, MD, assistant clinical professor of medicine, has been named assistant dean of the Colorado Springs Branch of our School of Medicine, effective December 1. Jaime has served as core faculty and preceptor for the longitudinal integrated clerkship since the branch was established more than seven years ago, and she has been a key contributor to the accreditation of the branch, its growth, and its continuous quality improvement processes. Jaime serves as chief of hospital medicine for the Colorado Permanente Medical Group-Southern Colorado. She is recognized as an outstanding educator in the classroom and at the bedside. Many thanks to Christie Reimer, MD, associate professor of medicine and assistant dean of the Fort Collins Branch, for chairing the search, and to Jennifer Adams, MD, professor of medicine and assistant dean for medical education, for serving as the interim leader of the branch since July 2022.

Carol Rumack, MD, Distinguished Professor of Radiology and associate dean for Graduate Medical Education, picked up her 2021 Distinguished Educator Award from the Society of Radiologists in Ultrasound at the group’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C., earlier this month. The honor was originally bestowed when the annual meeting was held online due to COVID restrictions and was formally presented to Carol at this year’s meeting.

Teri Hernandez, PhD, RN, associate dean of research and scholarship in the College of Nursing, has been inducted as a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing. Teri is also director of the Early Life Exposures Program in the Colorado Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute and a collaborator with faculty in our Department of Medicine’s Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism, and Diabetes. Fellows in the American Academy of Nursing are nursing leaders in education, management, practice, and research. Sharon Giarrizzo-Wilson, PhD, RN-BC, assistant professor at the College of Nursing, is also a member of the 2023 class of new fellows.

Gerald “Chip” Dodd, MD, professor and former chair of the Department of Radiology, was feted at a reception at the Benson Hotel on Thursday, October 26. Chip served as chair from 2008 until September 2023, when Ihab Kamel, MD, PhD, joined us. During Chip’s tenure, the department grew significantly and made key contributions to all our missions. We appreciate his dedicated service to our school and his extended tour as chair. In his post-chair life, Chip has been devoting extra time tending to barbecue endeavors. Please join me in wishing our colleague many happy returns as pitmaster.

Lab Clean-Up Honor 
The International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories (I2SL) has honored our school with the Lab Programs and Initiatives Award for Space Optimization . The award recognizes our team for conducting a clean-up of lab space in five buildings, improving efficiency while addressing environmental safety issues. After conducting a walk-through of 550,000  square feet of lab space, the team identified 44,000 square feet of underutilized or unused lab space. They also disposed over 3,000 pounds of unused chemicals and other hazardous waste. Other materials and property were salvaged, recycled, or re-distributed, and more than 4,000 items found new homes. This project helped our school free up space for new research and avoided the need to construct new lab spaces. This effort was a much-needed, long-considered, and major endeavor. We thank all the departments for working with our team and offer kudos to Suzann Staal, Cody Rester, and Vanessa Valesquez, and the rest of the facilities and planning team for completing this impactful work for our school.

In Memorium 
Condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Michele Doucette, PhD, who died October 18. Michele recently retired from our school, where she had served in several roles, including assistant dean of integrated curriculum. Michele had been a mechanical systems facility engineer for Lockheed Martin before returning to school and earning an undergraduate degree in nutrition and health sciences at Georgia State University in 1997 and her doctorate in biological and biomedical sciences from Emory University in 2003. Michele was an accomplished athlete, active photographer, avid gardener, and talented cook.

Caring for Colorado 
The work of EMS for Children Colorado is featured in an article last week in The Wall Street Journal . The program, which is overseen by our School of Medicine, helps small hospitals improve the quality of pediatric care in their emergency rooms. Grand River Health in Rifle is a 25-bed hospital that had scored 51 on a 100-point test measuring its readiness, placing it among the least prepared hospitals in the country. EMS for Children Colorado offers a voluntary recognition program, called Colorado Pediatric Preparedness for the Emergency Room, or COPPER, that helped the hospital earn a 97.5 score in June 2023. Thanks to Kathleen Adelgais, MD, MPH, professor of pediatrics and project director of the EMS for Children Colorado program, and Nicolena Mitchell, program manager, for their leadership. This is another outstanding example of how our school improves health care for all in Colorado.

UCHealth is ranked among the best hospitals in the country in the WebMD Patient Choice and Medscape Provider Choice awards, which is the only hospital recognition program based solely on the opinion of patients and health care providers. The awards were based on surveys of hospital preferences, and they indicate the commitment to clinical excellence that is shared by our school and our hospital partner. WebMD gave Elite Choice Awards to hospitals and systems that were preferred by patients and physicians 2 to 1 over competitors for a specialty in their local region. UCHealth received WebMD Elite Choice awards in all five categories: oncology, cardiology, orthopedics, neurology, and gastroenterology.

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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