Dean's Weekly Message

February 26, 2024

Dear colleague: 

Center for Health Equity Leader
Deborah Parra-Medina, PhD, MPH, has been named inaugural executive director of the Center for Health Equity for our campus. She served most recently as director of the Latino Research Institute at the University of Texas at Austin, where she also served as endowed chair and professor of Mexican American and Latina/o studies. Prior to that, she served as a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. The Center for Health Equity was founded in fall 2021 and was established to advance community health and well-being by addressing structural sources of inequity and creating opportunities through learning, service, research, and advocacy.

CU Cancer Center in New NIH Network
The University of Colorado Cancer Center is one of eight sites in a clinical trials network launched by the National Institutes of Health to evaluate emerging technologies for cancer screening. The NIH announced the Cancer Screening Research Network last week. This year, the network will launch a pilot study, known as the Vanguard Study on Multi-Cancer Detection, to address the feasibility of using multi-cancer detection tests in future randomized controlled trials. The study will enroll up to 24,000 people to inform the design of a much larger randomized controlled trial.

Faculty Updates
Anne Adema, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics, has been selected as an Emergency Medical Services for Children Scholar for 2024-2025. The program, part of the Health Resources and Services Administration, aims to enhance pediatric emergency care by reducing disability and death in children. Anne is one of five scholars selected for the honor. She previously worked as a pediatric hospitalist at the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage, Alaska, and her project aims to study and improve tools she created for teams caring for critically ill and injured children.

Steven Edmundowicz, MD, professor of medicine, in an article in the CU Cancer Center newsroom describes his project to improve the effectiveness of endoscopic surgery. The project was one of nine to be awarded major funding from the Anschutz Acceleration Initiative . Steven and his team are working in collaboration with Mark Rentschler, PhD, professor of biomechanical engineering at CU Boulder, to develop an overtube with a textured balloon. This then fits over a traditional endoscope to allow endoscopists a way to hold the gastrointestinal tract in place while they perform intraluminal surgery with small endoscopic instruments. 

Lori Sussel, PhD, professor of pediatrics and director of basic and translational research at the Barbara Davis Center, participated in a workshop “Curing Type 1 Diabetes: The Promise of Stem Cell Therapies” at the 2024 American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting held at the Colorado Convention Center earlier this month. The workshop discussed the progress of stem cell-based therapies for treating type 1 diabetes.

Brian H. Pitts, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics, is corresponding author of a review article published February 15 in Pediatrics that reviews and consolidates the available literature on suicide risk screening and brief intervention with youths in outpatient medical settings. Brian and his co-authors conclude that brief suicide interventions for youth in outpatient medical settings can increase identification of risk, increase access to behavioral health services, and for crisis interventions, can limit psychiatric hospitalizations. This is a critically important study because suicide is a leading cause of death in youth across the United States, with a recent survey reporting that 18.8% of students nationwide had seriously considered attempting suicide. Six colleagues from our campus are co-authors.

David A. Schwartz, MD, Distinguished Professor of Medicine, and Joyce S. Lee, MD, associate professor of medicine, are among the co-authors of an article published February 19 by Nature that considers demographic and clinical factors for an antibody response in COVID-19 vaccinated adults. Two colleagues from National Jewish Health, Russell P. Bowler, MD, and Barry J. Make, MD, both professors of medicine, are also among the co-authors. Age 65 and older, male sex, obesity, smoking history, diabetes, and COPD were associated with significantly lower antibody responses.

Jillian M. Cotter, MD, MSCS, assistant professor of pediatrics, is a corresponding author of a quality report published February 14 by Pediatrics that describes a quality improvement project aimed at reducing hospital-onset C. difficile infections while also eliminating unnecessary tests. The project, conducted from 2018 to 2020, included developing a clinical care pathway for testing and treatment for C. difficile, a clinical decision support tool to restrict testing, and targeted prevention efforts. Jillian and her co-authors conclude that such strategies can be used to decrease C. difficile and improve overall test utilization. Fourteen colleagues from our campus are co-authors.

Stacy M. Fischer, MD, professor of medicine, is corresponding author of an original investigation published February 12 by JAMA Internal Medicine considering whether bicultural, bilingual patient navigators improve palliative care outcomes for Hispanic patients with serious noncancer illness. The study enrolled patients from diverse outpatient settings across Colorado. The randomized trial of 209 patients concludes that a culturally tailored patient navigator intervention did not improve quality of life for patients, but did increase advance care planning engagement, advance directive documentation, and hospice utilization.

Mark L. Dell’Acqua, PhD, professor of pharmacology, is senior author, and Tyler P. Martinez, a student in the Pharmacology and Molecular Medicine PhD program, is first author of a research article published February 8 in eNeuro that describes how inhibiting a key protein can stop the destruction of synapses and dendritic spines commonly seen in Alzheimer’s disease. An article in the campus newsroom discusses the research.

Won Chan Oh, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology, is corresponding author of an article published February 16 in Nature Communications that examines the impact of fluoxetine on the developing prefrontal cortex. Five colleagues in pharmacology are listed as co-authors.

Supporting UCCS
We join our colleagues mourning recent deaths and injuries caused by gun violence. On February 16, two people were shot and killed in a dormitory at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. While the struggle to reduce the harm of gun violence is daunting, doing nothing is a worse option. When we encounter patients with health challenges, we don’t shrug and say the patient’s demise is inevitable. We advise our patients on options to prevent further harm and to relieve their suffering. Our society similarly should do everything possible to reduce gun violence plaguing our communities.

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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