Dean's Weekly Message

June 17, 2024

Dear Colleague: 

In August 2015, at my first matriculation ceremony as Dean of our medical school, I said: “I think the most important organ for physicians are the ears. We have an advantage over veterinarians. Our patients talk, and if you give them a chance, they will talk to you.

“The unfortunate reality is, when people have studied this, the average physician interrupts the patient 18 seconds into their story. Don’t be average. Listen. Your patient, if you know how to interpret what they are telling you, will tell you their story and will provide insights into the problems they have that are causing them to seek your attention.

“It is one of the richest joys of practicing medicine: interacting with people and hearing their stories. I would ask that when you engage with your patients, you listen to them and that you listen to them with undivided attention. They will be richer for it, as will you.”

As I enter my final weeks as Dean, that message remains as true today as it was then, so it was with great appreciation that I read this terrific article in the Department of Medicine newsroom about Bennett Parnes, MD, associate professor of medicine in the Division of Geriatric Medicine.

Bennett’s humility in accepting the honor of being named an inaugural member of the department’s Clinical Excellence Society is a trait that reflects how he acts as a physician and one that we should aspire to. Describing his approach to treating patients, Bennett says: “Listen carefully, because that’s really when things come out, when patients or families or caregivers talk about what’s going on. That helps me to solve the puzzle.”

Faculty Updates
Lilia Cervantes, MD, professor of medicine in the Division of Hospital Medicine and director of immigrant health, delivered her acceptance address on June 6 for the 2024 Bernard Lown Award for her exceptional work advancing health equity and expanding access to care for undocumented immigrants. She describes working with Hilda, a patient and friend who inspired Lily’s work. Hilda died because her access to timely dialysis for kidney failure was restricted by government policies. “After Hilda died, I faced a choice,” Lily said. “I chose to act. I did not know if I could make a difference, only believed that I had to try and that I needed to persist.”

Elizabeth Kovacs, PhD, professor of surgery in the Division of GI, Trauma, and Endocrine Surgery, has been awarded the 2024 Distinguished Service Award by the Shock Society. The award recognizes Liz for years of sustained commitment to the betterment of the society. The award was presented at the society's annual conference on June 4 and it is the second time she’s been recognized by the group. In 2017, she received the Shock Society’s Scientific Achievement Award.

Jeanette Waxmonsky, PhD, associate clinical professor of family medicine, has been named assistant director for community-engaged research for the Office of Community Outreach and Engagement at the CU Cancer Cetner. Jeanette is also an associate clinical professor in the Colorado School of Public Health. In her CU Cancer Center role, Jeanette will help to lead programmatic efforts to perform research relevant to the state of Colorado and to develop strategies for investigators to enhance accrual of diverse populations in their research.

Angela Wright, MD, assistant professor of emergency medicine, has been named medical director for the State Health Facilities and Emergency Medical and Trauma Services branch of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The new role complements her faculty and clinical roles on our campus. An article in the Department of Emergency Medicine newsroom includes additional details.

Adit Ginde, MD, MPH, professor of emergency medicine, is a co-author of an original article published June 13 by The New England Journal of Medicine that describes a multicenter, randomized trial to evaluate the effect of preoxygenation with noninvasive ventilation, as compared with preoxygenation with an oxygen mask, on the incidence of hypoxemia during tracheal intubation. Several colleagues from our school in emergency medicine, medicine, and anesthesiology, and CU Center for COMBAT Research, including its director Vik Bebarta, MD, professor of emergency medicine, are co-authors. An article in the Department of Emergency Medicine includes more information.

Julia Promisel Cooper, PhD, chair of biochemistry and molecular genetics, and Rishi Nageshan, PhD, research associate in the Cooper Laboratory, are corresponding authors of an article published June 3 in Nature Communications about the hazards that can occur during the final separation of chromosomes as proliferating cells divide. The ends of chromosomes, telomeres, are difficult to traverse by the DNA replication machinery. Paused telomeric replication forks can lead to entanglements between different chromosome ends, which cause mitotic catastrophe. Rishi found that resolution (or detangling) of these telomere entanglements is controlled by the timing of local nuclear pore complex disassembly and the resulting exposure of entanglements to the cytoplasm. This study has implications for formation of chromosome translocations that drive tumor formation.

William Turbyfill, MD, assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Hospital Medicine who practices at the VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System, is co-author of an article published online on June 5 by the American Journal of Medicine that charts the evolution of internal medicine chief residents over the past 20 years. The authors find that a consistent majority of chief residents pursue subspecialty training. The results also substantiate the assumption that chief residency is an effective stepping stone for a future career in academic medicine.

Benjamin Vipler, MD, assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Hospital Medicine, has been named to the first-ever digital media team established by the Journal of General Internal Medicine. Ben is an associate digital media editor for the journal. He is also corresponding author of an editorial published May 23 that outlines the team’s mission and vision. Ben discusses the work in an article in the School of Medicine newsroom.

Jarratt Pytell, MD, MHS, assistant professor of medicine in the Division of General Internal Medicine, is co-host of a three-part podcast series on managing opioid analgesics by the American Society of Addiction Medicine and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies program. The three 45-minute podcasts cover patient assessment, therapy initiation to modification, discontinuation, and patient counseling.

Melanie Everitt, MD, professor of pediatrics, is featured in an article in The Colorado Sun about the Children’s Hospital Colorado heart transplant program. The article tells the story of Lauren Sanford and her daughter, Willow, who has a rare genetic mutation potentially related to cardiomyopathy. Willow received a transplanted heart last August.

Meredith Tennis, PhD, associate professor of medicine in the Division of Pulmonary Sciences and Critical Care Medicine, in an article posted in the Department of Medicine newsroom, discusses educational activity kits she developed to help her colleagues make engaging presentations to elementary, middle school, and high school students. This spring, the division’s activity kits were used at eight career fairs in Aurora and Denver public schools, reaching hundreds of students. Meredith says the kits also were used at the CoorsTek Denver Metro Regional Science and Engineering Fair and last September’s CU Anschutz Block Party

Student Documentary
Members of the MD Class of 2024 are featured in a documentary, “Diversity & Inclusion in Medicine: The Journey,” that was made by four members of the class: Jeffrey Wong, MD, Ronald Yang, MD, Joy Huang, MD, and Weston Durland, MD. The filmmakers followed eight students from their first year through Match Day on March 15, checking in with them a few times each year to follow their progress. “Diversity & Inclusion in Medicine” includes footage of Halloween parties, club activities, and political protests. An article in the School of Medicine newsroom describes the process of making the film, which is featured in this trailer.

Administrative Showcase
The School of Medicine is hosting a showcase on Friday, June 21, for administrative staff to share best practices and innovative solutions that have streamlined their work and enhanced operational efficiency. The event, from 8 a.m. to noon, will allow administrators to learn from colleagues secrets, shortcuts, and other strategies to do their jobs better. Due to popular demand the event has been moved to Education 2 South Auditorium (L28-1102). There’s still time to register to attend. For questions, contact

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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