Dean's Weekly Message

February 12, 2024

Dear colleague: 

Geoffrey Connors, MD, associate professor of medicine in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, has been named associate dean for Graduate Medical Education (GME) and Designated Institutional Official (DIO) at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, effective May 15. Geoff brings substantial experience to this office that is so critical to our school’s success. He serves as director for the internal medicine residency training program, vice chair of education in the Department of Medicine, and chair of the program oversight committee for GME.

Geoff joined us in 2017 from Yale University, where he was an associate professor of medicine and a leader in its training programs. After earning his medical degree from Tulane University, Geoff did his internal medicine residency and chief medical residency at the University of Colorado and completed a fellowship in pulmonary and critical care medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Geoff will lead one of the largest GME programs in the country. Our GME Office oversees accreditation for some 150 programs with more than 1,300 residents and fellows. In addition, the office ensures high-quality education environments in multiple clinical settings and handles the administrative issues, payroll, and benefits for our trainees.

Geoff succeeds Carol Rumack, MD, Distinguished Professor of Radiology, who has served in the role since 1992. We thank Carol for her dedicated service and her commitment to the success of thousands of physicians who now provide compassionate care to patients and leadership of programs across the country. Carol will continue as the associate DIO to ensure a successful transition. Our GME programs make substantial contributions to our thriving academic medical center and provide a sturdy launching pad for careers of distinction. We look forward to Geoff’s leadership of GME.

Many thanks to Jeffrey SooHoo, MD, MBA, associate professor of ophthalmology and assistant dean of admissions and student life, for chairing the search and to the committee of residents, faculty, and residency staff who devoted their time to reviewing the pool of highly qualified applicants.

Clinical Excellence Society
The Department of Medicine hosted a ceremony last Thursday to induct the first class of faculty into the department’s new Clinical Excellence Society. The group of 21 are some of the brightest stars at our school and the creation of this society is a long-overdue recognition of their consistent dedication to excellence in care. “This is an evening where we celebrate our finest, the best of the best,” Department of Medicine Chair Vineet Chopra, MD, MSc, told the audience gathered for the event. “It’s a way to shower on them praise, elevation, and recognition.” The department’s newsroom has the full list of our honored colleagues with a photo of the group in crisp new white coats emblazoned with a special insignia recognizing their esteemed status. Congratulations to our colleagues and bravo to the department for paying tribute to their good work.

Offices for the Faculty Experience
Lotte Dyrbye, MD, MHPE, senior associate dean for faculty and chief well-being officer, is leading an effort to expand and focus programs that serve our faculty under a comprehensive strategy known as CU Thrive. To support CU Thrive, we are reorganizing and investing in the Offices of Faculty Affairs, Faculty Relations, and Faculty Development, along with the Work and Culture Optimization Collaborative. These offices are now under the umbrella of the Offices for the Faculty Experience, which is led by Lotte. Last year, we recruited Aimee Gardner, PhD, as associate dean of faculty development and named Miriam Post, MD, as assistant dean of faculty affairs. We are now seeking applicants for three positions that will have key roles implementing the CU Thrive strategy: Instructional DesignerAssociate Director for Faculty Relations, and Business Services Administrator. Interested faculty and staff are encouraged to apply.

Survey Reminder
A reminder for residents, fellows, and university-employed faculty of our school to complete the survey about our workplace and professional well-being before the survey closes on February 20. Last Monday, we reported that we had a survey response rate of 53%. As of last Thursday, we were at 57%. Watch your email for reminders or use the QR code to access the survey. It takes about 10-15 minutes to complete.

State Lawmakers Visit
CU Cancer Center leaders last Tuesday hosted state lawmakers for a dinner presentation about their efforts to save patients’ lives with clinical care powered by breakthrough research on our campus. One notable example was presented by Christopher Lieu, MD, associate professor of medicine and associate director for clinical research at the CU Cancer Center. He described a woman who had been diagnosed with stage IV metastatic liver cancer that had grown into a large abdominal mass. Her treatment at another center had failed, and she was given two weeks to live. Here, with a clinical trial of two drugs designed to teach her immune system to recognize the cancer, her treatment has resulted in no evidence of cancer. It was a powerful example of the extraordinary care we give. The lawmakers’ visit and the faculty presentations are described in an article in the CU Cancer Center newsroom.

Faculty Updates 
Matthew Wynia, MD, MPH, professor of medicine, and Eric G. Campbell, PhD, professor of medicine, are part of a team of investigators receiving $65.67 million in funding from the U.S. Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health to develop ingestible devices that may one day be used to treat diabetes, obesity, and other conditions through oral delivery of mRNA. Giovanni Traverso, PhD, MB BChir, associate professor of mechanical engineering at MIT and a gastroenterologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, is the principal investigator. Matt, director of the CU Center for Bioethics and Humanities, and Eric, the center’s director of research, will be focused on exploring the ethical dimensions and public perceptions of these types of biomedical interventions. MIT announced the award last week.

Maryam Asgari, MD, MPH, chair of dermatology, discusses her proposal to test a screening program for skin cancer in an article posted in the CU Cancer Center newsroom. Her project is one of the nine funded through the Anschutz Acceleration Initiative. In April 2023 in an editorial in JAMA , Maryam and a colleague addressed the need for an enhanced base of evidence to screen for skin cancer risk, calling for efforts that would identify high-risk subpopulations who would benefit from screening. With her funding from the initiative, Maryam plans to do just that. She will use a validated skin cancer risk prediction tool that combines genetic and clinical risk factors to identify individuals at high risk for skin cancer. “When I wrote that editorial, I had not imagined that I would actually have the resources to do the type of study I was proposing,” she says. “The fact that the Anschutz Acceleration award will enable what I had outlined as the necessary next step in changing skin cancer screening guidelines is a dream come true.”

Sujatha Jagannathan, PhD, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics, has received a $1.3 million award from the National Science Foundation to support research on RNA quality control and to engage 8th- and 9th-grade students from Aurora Science and Tech, a local school that primarily serves underprivileged and low-income populations in Aurora. Suja’s project builds on her work as part of the RNA Bioscience Initiative, leveraging evolutionary analysis, molecular biology, and genomics tools to identify and understand signals that could allow physiological RNAs that resemble aberrant RNAs to escape quality control. The 8th- and 9th-graders will learn from Suja’s lab team by engaging in hands-on research to facilitate their training and exposure to scientific research.

Sarah Stella, MD, associate professor of medicine, describes her efforts at Denver Health to provide appropriate care for patients experiencing homelessness in an article in the February 2024 issue of Health Affairs . In 2019, Denver Health entered a partnership with Denver Housing Authority to lease a floor of a downtown building for transitional housing for patients who are homeless. The article also mentions that Sarah reached out in 2017 to the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless to collaborate on a partnership development grant: a joint academic-community project funded by the Colorado Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute. The article outlines the scope of the issue – noting that in 2022, Denver Health treated 7,259 patients who were homeless; these patients had a total of 29,525 hospital visits. Sarah notes that treating patients requires addressing factors that contribute to their ailments. “Without that foundation of housing, it’s very difficult to help our patients heal. It’s as simple as that,” Sarah says.

Neelam Mistry, MD, assistant professor of medicine, is lead author of a brief report in the Journal of Hospital Medicine published in December, that recognizes homelessness is associated with increased acute health care utilization and poorer health outcomes. The study reports that about 30% of hospitalized patients surveyed at two major Colorado hospitals said they were experiencing homelessness or some other form of housing insecurity. The rate of homelessness among hospital patients was found to be more than 20 times higher than that of the general metro Denver population. Several of Neelam’s colleagues Division of Hospital Medicine are co-authors. Neelam discusses the study in an article was posted in our school’s newsroom last week.

Kevin Messacar, MD, PhD, associate professor of pediatrics, is the corresponding author of the main article in the Marrch 2024 Emerging Infectious Diseases, a monthly journal of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Kevin and his co-authors report on lessons learned from developing a multimodal surveillance program for enterovirus D68 and how they could be applicable to other emerging pathogens and their associated diseases. Kevin and his 12 co-authors are from our school, Children’s Hospital Colorado, and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Nanette Santoro, MD, chair of obstetrics and gynecology, is corresponding author of a January 2024 article in PNAS Nexus that confirms that gonadotropin secretion can be dysregulated in normal-weight, normally cycling women by a 1-month exposure to a high-fat diet. The finding implies that dietary factors may be responsible for the reproductive impairments observed in women with obesity. Seven campus colleagues are co-authors of the article.

Suchitra Rao, MBBS, MSCS, associate professor of pediatrics, is the corresponding author of a state-of-the-art review published February 7 by Pediatrics that provides a summary of current knowledge about long COVID in children. The article is a comprehensive discussion of the prevalence and epidemiology, risk factors, clinical characteristics, and outcomes. The article also seeks to inform future treatment and prevention efforts. Listed as co-authors are 21 colleagues from major academic medical centers across the country. The New York Times also quotes Suchitra in an article about the review.

Vik Bebarta, MD, professor of emergency medicine and director of the CU Center for Combat Medicine and Battlefield Research, is co-author of an opinion column about battlefield pain management that was published February 6 by Task & Purpose, an online publication that covers the U.S. Armed Forces and defense industry. Vik and his co-authors call for more funding and for the U.S. military to partner with academic researchers and the private sector to address pain after traumatic injuries. They write: “While significant advancements have been made in hemorrhage control, resuscitation, and surgical interventions, few battlefield pain management advances have been made since the Civil War.” 

Campus Activities
Mona Hanna-Attisha, MD, MPH, author of What the Eyes Don’t See, is scheduled to discuss her book about the contaminated water crisis in Flint, Mich., at noon, Thursday, February 29. The talk will be a hybrid presentation, in person at the Fulginiti Pavilion for Bioethics and Humanities and on Zoom. The book, which highlights social factors contributing to health inequity and the importance of interprofessional teamwork in providing care, was the selection for this year’s One Book One Campus, which is organized by the Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education. The talk had previously been scheduled for last fall. RSVP to attend.

Applications for the Certificate Training Program (CTP) and Clinical Effectiveness & Patient Safety (CEPS) Grant Program are due April 1. These programs are provided by the Institute for Healthcare Quality, Safety and Efficiency.  CTP is a year-long professional development program combining classroom sessions, coaching, and mentored enhancement of leadership teams charged with improving performance of care delivery systems. CEPS provides awards up to $25,000 for quality improvement initiatives aimed at improving health care value, implementing innovative process changes, and putting evidence into practice. Email questions to

Today marks the start of Housestaff Appreciation Week. Please join in thanking our many talented resident physicians for their hard work and dedication. In recognition of Housestaff Appreciation Week, residents and fellows can look forward to events, raffles, and treats throughout the week.

There will be no message next Monday, February 19, due to the Presidents’ Day holiday.

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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