Dean's Weekly Message

April 8, 2024

Dear colleague: 

The Transforming Healthcare lecture series presented Changing the Practice of Medicine with AI last Thursday evening in the Elliman Conference Center on our campus. The discussion for an invited audience of community leaders was a showcase of how our faculty are applying technology to improve medical care.

Casey Greene, PhD, founding chair of the Department of Biomedical Informatics, led the talk by presenting impressive data about how we have provided improved care for cancer patients by tailoring treatment in response to patients’ specific genetic characteristics.

CT Lin, MD, chief medical informatics officer at UCHealth and professor of medicine, outlined how the system’s virtual health center is improving care by more accurately identifying cases of sepsis risk. Refinements to early warning systems have helped eliminate false positive readings.

Jayashree Kalpathy-Cramer, PhD, professor of ophthalmology, discussed oculomics and efforts to use AI to analyze retinal images. Her work has been supported by a grant from The Michael J. Fox Foundation, as featured in this article in the Department of Ophthalmology’s newsroom.

Tell Bennett, MD, MS, professor of biomedical informatics, showed how he and a team of collaborators created a new data-driven scoring system to identify pediatric sepsis and septic shock, including in low-resource regions of the world. The work is described in an original investigation published by JAMA earlier this year and in an article in the department’s newsroom.

Matthew DeCamp, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine and member of the Center for Bioethics and Humanities, outlined ethical considerations for AI users providing care. Noting an oft-quoted aphorism used by his father – “You gotta have the right tool for the job” – Matt emphasized that medical professionals must keep their focus on the job, which is to provide excellent care.

One of the common threads throughout the talks was a statement that Casey made at the beginning of the presentation: “The standard of care should not be standardized care.” In other words, each patient comes first and they deserve the most personalized care possible. AI is a tool to help us achieve that goal and smart use of it can enhance the human touch.

As a bonus treat for the attendees, CT broke out his ukulele and serenaded the crowd with an AI-aided parody rendition of Taylor Swift’s Blank Space that he polished with Casey’s help. If you missed it, you can check out this previous performance by CT.

LCME Update
A panel of our medical students last Tuesday met with school leaders to present findings from the Independent Student Analysis (ISA) that is an important component of our school-reaccreditation process with the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME). The student survey of identifies how well our curriculum and clinical training are preparing our students for their careers. For many months, these student leaders have dedicated significant time and attention to ensuring that the quality of our educational programming is excellent and equitable. We thank them and their advisor, Nancy Asdigian, PhD, research assistant professor at the Colorado School of Public Health, for their work on the ISA.

Faculty Updates
Dan Pollyea, MD, MS, professor of medicine, and Christine McMahon, MD, assistant professor of medicine, discuss a clinical trial for treating leukemia in an article in the CU Cancer Center newsroom. Patient Matt Lubick, who is offensive coordinator for the University of Nevada football program and son of former Colorado State University football coach Sonny Lubick, describes the care he received at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital and his new perspective on life. The CU Cancer Center article is also featured in an article in the Fort Collins Coloradoan.

Jeffrey Bennett, MD, PhD, professor of ophthalmology and neurology, presented on new diagnostic criteria for myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein antibody disease (MOGAD) at the 2024 North American Neuro-Ophthalmology Society (NANOS) annual meeting in March. Jeffrey was part of an international panel of pediatric and adult neurologists, neuro-immunologists, and researchers that published new diagnosis criteria for MOGAD in The Lancet last year. Jeffrey describes the work in this article in the Department of Ophthalmology newsroom.

Arek Wiktor, MD, associate professor of surgery and medical director of the University of Colorado Burn and Frostbite Center, explains the importance of the center receiving verification from the American Burn Association (ABA) in an article posted in the Department of Surgery’s newsroom. The CU Burn Center is the first and longest-standing ABA-verified burn center in the Rocky Mountain region and one of only two in the state of Colorado. The ABA specifically commended the center’s quality improvement program, an internal program to continuously improve processes and patient care, and the center’s research programs, which have grown more robust in recent years. Arek has two active U.S. Department of Defense grants, and Burn Center member Elizabeth Kovacs, PhD, professor of surgery, conducts funded research as well.

Breck A. Duerkop, PhD, associate professor of immunology and microbiology, is corresponding author of an article published April 1 by Cell Host & Microbe that provides a resource to better understand the genomes of the microbiota. Breck and his co-authors establish a framework for studying insertion sequence elements within the microbiota. Insertion sequence elements are mobile genetic elements in bacterial genomes that support adaptation. The article offers a first step toward understanding how these elements contribute to the function of the microbiota impacting human health. PhD student Joshua M. Kirsch is a co-author of the study.

Christopher E. Knoepke, PhD, assistant professor of medicine, is corresponding author of an original investigation published April 1 by JAMA Network Open that analyzes the use of extreme risk protection orders, also known as red flag laws, in Colorado counties. Chris and his co-authors found that protection orders are less likely to come from law enforcement and are less likely to be granted in counties that declared themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries. Seven colleagues from our campus, including members of the Firearm Injury Prevention Initiative and the Adult and Child Center for Outcomes Research and Delivery Science, are co-authors. Chris discusses the study in an article in the Department of Emergency Medicine’s newsroom.

Trevor L. Nydam, MD, PhD, associate professor of surgery, is a co-author of an original investigation published April 3 by JAMA Surgery that describes a study of liver transplant outcomes from controlled donation after circulatory death donor livers after normothermic regional perfusion compared to standard super rapid recovery. The quality of organ preservation is critical to the outcome in transplantation, and normothermic regional perfusion is an alternative recovery method. The study findings suggest comparable patient and graft survival in liver transplant recipients. The study involved 17 U.S. transplant centers and a total of 242 controlled donation after circulatory death livers.

Adit Ginde, MD, MPH, professor of emergency medicine, and Amanda Martinez, MPH, research senior professional, are among the co-authors of an original investigation published April 4 by JAMA Network Open that compares the disease severity of RSV with COVID-19 and influenza. The study, which considered 7,998 hospitalized adults in 20 U.S. states during February 2022 to May 2023, finds that RSV disease severity was similar to unvaccinated patients hospitalized with COVID-19 or influenza, but substantially more severe than vaccinated patients hospitalized with COVID-19 or influenza disease.

Shanlee M. Davis, MD, PhD, associate professor of pediatrics, is corresponding author of an original investigation published March 29 by JAMA Network Open that considers the prevalence of an additional X or Y chromosome among men who served in the U.S. military. Shanlee and her co- authors conducted a cross-sectional study of 595,612 men in the VA’s Million Veteran Program, finding that 1 in 370 men had a sex chromosome aneuploidy, but only 14.2% were clinically diagnosed by the time they were 60 years old. Men with an extra X or Y chromosome have increased risk of delayed development, learning disabilities, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disorders.

Terry Fry, MD, executive director of the Gates Institute, and his colleagues present an array of accomplishments, honors, and awards in institute’s recently posted 2023 annual report. The institute connects researchers and clinicians with biomanufacturing capabilities to translate discoveries in cell and gene therapy for the benefit of patients.

Programs and Events
Nine of our faculty colleagues have received Rymer Innovation Awards from the Academy of Medical Educators. The awards support cutting-edge projects in medical education spanning topics of health equity, clerkship education, assessment, simulation, well-being, and faculty development. Among this year’s awardees are projects aimed at improving resident wellness, analyzing clerkship education across our clinical partners, and developing a procedure-specific competency-based curriculum that could serve as a model for others. We are grateful for the Rymer family’s support of our educational programs and the contributions to education science literature and the advancement of the academic careers of our school’s educators.

The Offices for the Faculty Experience are developing an onboarding initiative for faculty when they start employment with our school. To help create an effective program, we are asking faculty members who have joined since 2020 to complete this brief survey. The goal is to ensure that we welcome new faculty into our community by providing them with appropriate resources to launch and advance their careers. Miriam Post, MD, assistant dean for faculty affairs, is also available to meet with faculty to discuss this effort, and invites you to make an appointment through her Microsoft Bookings page.

The Office for Faculty Development has launched ThriveForward: A Mid-Career Faculty Women’s Leadership Development Program. This five-month professional development program will provide expert-led sessions covering negotiation, conflict management, health care business acumen, impactful leadership, and other important training for building a successful career. The program will also include a personalized 360-degree assessment and a one-on-one executive coach debriefing. ThriveForward is a continued commitment by our school to provide enhanced opportunities for faculty growth and to foster a culture of leadership excellence. Visit the ThriveForward website for additional detail, eligibility, and application. Applications are due Friday, May 3.

Dean's Distinguished Seminar
Rusty Gage, PhD, professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, will deliver the Dean’s Distinguished Seminar lecture at 4 p.m. Tuesday, April 9, in Hensel Phelps West Auditorium. A reception in the first-floor atrium will occur after the lecture. Gage’s work focuses on the plasticity, adaptability, and diversity observed in the brain. He showed that the creation of new neurons occurs in the adult human brain and that environmental enrichment and physical exercise can enhance this growth. His lab demonstrated that neural stem cells exist in the adult hippocampus and can give rise to neurons that are physiologically active. The Dean’s Distinguished Seminar Series brings notable scholars to campus to discuss their work. All are invited. You can find more information about this and other events on the  campus events calendar, where you can also sign up for event notifications.

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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