Dean's Weekly Message

January 22, 2024

Dear colleague: 

The state of our school is strong. That’s the message I delivered earlier this month during the State of the School address. By most standard measures for academic medical centers, our School of Medicine is a leader.

Among public medical schools, we are in the top decile in total federal research grants and contracts, total practice plan revenue, total gift and endowment revenue, and total hospital support. Our sources of support are well diversified.

Benchmarked against all medical schools, we are in the top decile in total number of basic science and clinical faculty. Last year, we added 533 new faculty members. Our school employs 4,521 faculty members, and our affiliate partners employ another 982 faculty members.

We are one of the nation’s largest medical schools and we continue to grow.

We are growing because we are focused on what matters: delivering outstanding care to our patients, conducting advanced research to improve human health, and providing excellent training to talented physicians, scientists, physician assistants, physical therapists, and other care givers to succeed us.

I described examples of those efforts in the talk. Our multidisciplinary cancer clinics expedite care and improve outcomes. Our personalized care program in partnership at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital allows us to identify more effective care faster. With our Gates Institute, we are conducting early-phase clinical trials with adult and pediatric non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients.

Our school has also been a leader in providing health care for people throughout Colorado.

With funding we receive from the federal government for providing care to Medicaid beneficiaries, we have invested in programs for people with sickle cell disease, pediatric psychiatry access in rural communities, mental health care for refugees, and clinical education for primary care clinics throughout the state. To date, we have supported about 100 programs with $190 million.

There are additional examples of our commitment to our community. With the Cherry Creek School District, our Department of Psychiatry helped develop Traverse Academy, offering outpatient mental health care that is integrated with customized educational programming for students. We are working with Aurora Public Schools on a plan to develop a closed school as a community center.

Our school has many accomplishments that are a source of pride for CU, and importantly are a source of strength for our school’s future. Many thanks to all who have made contributions to our efforts in 2023 and who will be leading the way during the year ahead.

In previous years, we have posted a video of the State of the School address, but due to technical issues, we do not have a video this year. We plan to post an audio recording of the talk matched to the slide presentation with the article in the School of Medicine newsroom.

AAI Awardees 
During the State of the School address, I announced the recipients of funding support from the Anschutz Acceleration Initiative. The nine awardees and their projects are:

  • Maryam Asgari, MD, MPH, professor and chair of dermatology. Project title: Implementation of Personalized Skin Cancer Screening: Using Genetic and Clinical Risk Factors to Identify a High-Risk Subgroup.
  • Valeria Canto-Soler, PhD, associate professor of ophthalmology. Project title: Retinal Transplant to Restore Vision in Patients with Macular Degeneration.
  • Eduardo Davila, PhD, professor of medicine. Project Title: MyD88 Platform for Enhancing Cellular Cancer Immunotherapy.
  • Steven Edmundowicz, MD, professor of medicine. Project title: Transforming Gastrointestinal Cancer Care from Inpatient Surgery to Outpatient Endoscopy by Enabling Third Space Endoscopy.
  • Joaquin Espinosa, PhD, professor of pharmacology. Project title: Immunomodulatory Therapy for Down Syndrome.
  • Antonio Jimeno, MD, PhD, professor of medicine. Project title: Targeting Protein Translation Elongation to Treat Cancer Patients.
  • Jayashree Kalpathy-Cramer, PhD, professor of ophthalmology. Project title: Oculomics as a Biomarker for Comprehensive and Non-Invasive Patient Health Assessment.
  • Dan Matlock, MD, professor of medicine. Project title: Making Personalization the Standard Through Rapid Design, Implementation, Testing and Maintenance.
  • Jeffrey Stansbury, PhD, senior associate dean for research and professor of craniofacial biology in the School of Dental Medicine. Project title: Multi-material 3D Print Processing of Antimicrobial and Antifungal Dental Prosthetics.

Our goal with the Anschutz Acceleration Initiative is to support faculty-led health care innovations poised to have an impact for patients in three to five years. The initiative was established last summer with the announcement of a $50 million gift from The Anschutz Foundation. We then solicited project proposals from faculty. We received more than 160 letters of interest, and with the help of an independent panel of reviewers, evaluated 56 full applications.

Creating an environment where our faculty and staff can thrive and use their knowledge and hard work to benefit others is one of the most important responsibilities of leadership at our school and on our campus. We had so many worthy projects to consider that we still have work to do to attract support for them too. We build a stronger school by supporting one another. Thanks to all members of our community for everything you do to make us one of the country’s premier academic medical centers.

CU Medicine Endowed Chairs 
A virtue of our school’s success is that we can reinvest in faculty leadership to create a virtuous cycle. On Thursday, January 11, our school hosted a reception to honor inaugural recipients of CU Medicine Endowed Chairs who joined us since 2020:

  • Maryam Asgari, MD, MPH, University of Colorado Medicine Endowed Chair in Dermatology.
  • Julia Promisel Cooper, PhD, University of Colorado Medicine Endowed Chair in Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics.
  • David DiGregorio, PhD, University of Colorado Medicine Endowed Chair in Physiology and Biophysics.
  • Heide Ford, PhD, University of Colorado Medicine Endowed Chair in Pharmacology.

The event allowed us to thank our clinicians and administrative leaders at CU Medicine for their hard work and generous support, which allowed us to recruit Maryam from Harvard Medical School, Julie from the National Cancer Institute, David from the Pasteur Institute in Paris, and to retain Heide, who joined the CU School of Medicine faculty in 2001.

Research Scholar Awards 
Our school’s Program to Advance Physician Scientists & Translational Research has announced the scholars in its Stimulating Access to Research in Residency Program, which is funded by an award from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The scholars, projects, and the mentors are:

  • Caitlin Eason, MD, resident in surgery, studying the effect of microRNAs and extracellular vesicles on angiogenesis. Mentor: Chris Derderian, MD, assistant professor of surgery.
  • Lauren Maloney, MD, resident in pediatrics, studying age-specific differences in the immune response to obstructive cholestasis. Mentor: Sarah Taylor, MD, visiting associate professor of pediatrics.
  • Ryen Ormesher, MD, resident in medicine, studying biomarkers in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease predisposing to pulmonary hypertension. Mentor: Irina Petrache, MD, professor of medicine.
  • Bo Chang “Brian” Wu, MD, resident in surgery, studying the protective role of mitochondrial transplantation in an in vivo murine middle cerebral artery occlusion stroke model. Mentor: Brett Reece, MD, MBA, professor of surgery.

Faculty and Trainee Survey
A reminder to all faculty, residents, and fellows to complete the survey about our work environment and your professional well-being. As of January 19, the overall response rate is 34%. We want to hear from you. The survey is confidential. To ensure candid responses, we hired an independent company to conduct the survey; your personally identifiable information will not be shared with the leadership of the school or your local units. Individuals completing the survey can enter into a lottery to win Amazon gift cards, and departments with the highest response rates will receive funding for well-being programming. Currently, the Departments of Family Medicine, Radiology, and Dermatology are in the lead. The next email reminder to complete the survey will be sent January 23. Please look for it or use the QR code to complete the survey.

Faculty Updates 
Shikha Sundaram, MD, MSCI, professor of pediatrics, has been named medical director for child health for CU Medicine and associate dean for clinical affairs for the CU School of Medicine, effective February 1.

Navin Pinto, MD, professor of pediatrics, has been named medical lead at Gates Institute. In this role, he’ll work with the campus Investigational New Drug and Device Office to oversee Gates Institute-supported clinical trials. Navin specializes in the use of chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy in patients with relapsed and refractory cancer.

James A. Feinstein, MD, MPH, associate professor of pediatrics, is co-author of an article published January 4 in Pediatrics that considers drug-drug interaction exposure in pediatric outpatient settings. Using a database of Medicaid beneficiaries, the authors reviewed cases involving more than 780,000 children and found that 21.4% experienced major exposures, putting children at risk for negative health outcomes and adverse drug events.

David B. Bekelman, MD, MPH, professor of medicine and investigator with the VA’s Seattle-Denver Center of Innovation, is the corresponding author of an original investigation published January 16 in JAMA that evaluates the effect of a nurse and social worker palliative telecare team on the quality of life for some patients. There are 12 co-authors of the article, including faculty from the Department of Medicine and the Colorado School of Public Health.

Katie Raffel, MD, assistant professor of medicine, is co-author of an original investigation published January 8 by JAMA Internal Medicine that assesses diagnostic errors in hospitalized adults who were transferred to an intensive care unit or who died. The study of 2,428 patient records at 29 hospitals determined that diagnostic errors were common and associated with patient harm.

Sarah E. Brewer, PhD, MPA, assistant professor of family medicine and a member of the Adult & Child Center for Outcomes Research & Delivery Science, is corresponding author of an article published this month in the American Journal of Public Health that describes an approach for working with communities disproportionately affected by the pandemic to create messages to encourage vaccination. Fifteen members of the Anschutz Medical Campus are listed as authors of the article.

Lotte N. Dyrbye, MD, MHPE, senior associate dean for faculty and chief well-being officer, is co-author of an original investigation published January 12 by JAMA Network Open that reviews amount of vacation time taken by physicians, the amount of work by physicians while on vacation, and the association with burnout and professional fulfillment. The study of 3,024 physicians found that 59.6% took 3 weeks of vacation or less per year, and 70.4% worked while on vacation on a typical vacation day. Both findings were associated with higher rates of burnout. Full electronic health record inbox coverage was associated with lower rates of working while on vacation and with lower burnout.

Steven H. Abman, MD, professor of pediatrics, is a co-author of an article published January 13 in the Journal of Perinatology finding that transpyloric feeding is associated with adverse in-hospital outcomes in infants with severe bronchopulmonary dysplasia. Bronchopulmonary dysplasia affects 10,000 preterm infants annually in the United States and is the most common complication of preterm birth.

Legislative Briefings 
The Farley Health Policy Center will be offering monthly updates on the Colorado legislative session, beginning on Wednesday, January 31. The meetings will be at 2 p.m. on the last Wednesday of each month through May. To attend the updates, fill out the center’s legislative updates interest form.

Applications Due
The Strategic Infrastructure for Research Committee (SIRC) is accepting applications for the spring review. Letters of Intent (LOI) must be submitted by 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 7. If an LOI is approved, full applications are due by 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 21. SIRC funding is designed for broad multi-departmental facilities or programs to support infrastructure strategic to our school’s research mission. Addition information on eligibility and application requirements are on the Strategic Infrastructure for Research Committee webpage.

Across the Finish Line Grants applications are due by 5 p.m. Thursday, March 21. The Across the Finish Line Grants program is designed to help faculty who are moving into a new area of investigation. It is open to junior and established faculty members. Funds are to generate pilot data that can be used in a new R01-type grant submission. Potential awards are up to $100,000. Additional information, qualifications, and application criteria are available on the Across the Finish Line Grants webpage.

The School of Medicine Dean’s Office is accepting applications for its Bridge funding program. Bridge funding provides financial support to principal investigators while they re-apply for funding from the National Institutes of Health and other major funding organizations. Applications and chair letters of support are due Thursday, March 21. More information is available on the Bridge funding website. Please note that full-time faculty members focused on child health may be eligible for a child health bridge funding supplement. Information on the child health research bridge funding supplement is available on this website.

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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