Dean's Weekly Message

June 24, 2024

Dear Colleague: 

This is my final message as Dean of our medical school, and I write today to say thank you.

Your hard work has helped us grow significantly. Your perseverance is an example for all who face challenging circumstances. Your commitment to excellence has raised the quality of our work in all of our mission areas. And your compassion has inspired others to set high standards in caring for others.

My time as Dean has been rewarding and memorable because of our work together. We achieve more when we collaborate for the benefit of others. Our best accomplishments have been the result of cooperation, creativity, and dedication. By investing in people and programs, we are stronger today.

I am also grateful that our work now is widely recognized throughout our community and by our peers. Today, more people trust us with their care, with their training, and with their careers. We have an obligation to give them our best. It is a source of great pride for me that so many people tell me about the great care that you deliver, how impressive the work is that our researchers are doing, and their positive experiences with our students and residents.

That resulting cycle of growth obviously creates pressure to improve access for our patients, to find space for new labs and offices, and to secure the funding we need to sustain our work. While those growing pains can be a challenge, they are better than the alternative. At a time when many of our peers are cutting costs, we are fortunate to focus on managing growth.

We have worked hard to create an environment where all members of our school community can thrive. We have invested in equipment and support services, we have constructed new buildings and remodeled existing space, and we updated our curriculum. But most importantly, we have invested in colleagues who elevate our work.

Building a strong team has given us resilience to rise to the surprises we encountered. Contending with a global health pandemic and its aftermath was not part of our plan, but our school performed impressively through it and came away stronger because we were reminded how much we could depend on one another.

Of course, we didn’t get here alone. Our predecessors at our school established the strong foundations we have built on and they deserve credit for their foresight, smart decisions, and hard work to create the Anschutz Medical Campus.

Despite my wishes to step away without fanfare, Chancellor Don Elliman and Shanta Zimmer, MD, senior associate dean for education, conspired to host an open house earlier this month where I was given an opportunity to thank many friends and colleagues. I appreciate Don’s trust and confidence during my tenure. His direction, advice, and support have been crucial to our school’s success. Thanks also to Brian Smith, MHA, senior associate dean for administration and finance and executive director of CU Medicine, for coordinating a fond farewell at last week’s CU Medicine board meeting. Importantly, I want to thank Patti Balodis, who has had the thankless task of managing my calendar for the past nine years and trying to keep me on schedule. 

My farewell message would not be complete without recognizing the important role that philanthropy has had in fueling our trajectory over the past decade. Colleagues in the CU Foundation team here on the campus have partnered with many around the campus to foster relationships and present opportunities to supporters who share our vision of being one of the premier academic medical centers in the United States. Their efforts, coupled with the generosity of our community, have brought more than $2 billion of investment to our campus during my time here. It is impossible to recognize all of these donors in this space but I do want to express my appreciation to The Anschutz Foundation, led by Philip Anschutz and his family, and the Gates Family Foundation, led by Diane Gates Wallach and her late brother John Gates, for their generous and consistent partnership that has been an important component in fueling our success.

Our work together will endure. We have set an example to guide those who join our school in the future. We have insisted on data for decision-making, we have been committed to continuous improvement, and we have encouraged one another as we do our work. This approach has created an academic medical center that will serve caregivers, patients, educators, learners, and researchers for years to come. I wish all of you continued success. I am confident that your relationship with our next Dean, John Sampson, MD, PhD, MBA, will be as rewarding for our school and for him as it was for me.

Welcome Interns, Residents, and Fellows
Our Office of Graduate Medical Education welcomed more than 200 new interns earlier this month and will be welcoming 175 new residents and fellows this academic year. The energy, compassion, and intelligence these new trainees bring to caring for patients contribute to our vibrant campus life and hospital partners. Please make them feel welcome as they join us. We also congratulate the nearly 400 graduating residents and fellows who completed their training this year and are now moving to the next phase of their medical careers.

Progress Notes
Abraham M. Nussbaum, MD, professor of psychiatry and chief education officer at Denver Health, is author of Progress Notes: One Year in the Future of Medicine, a book that follows seven of our students through their training, particularly through the longitudinal integrated clerkship (LIC) structure that forms the basis for our new curriculum. Jennifer Adams, MD, professor of medicine and assistant dean for the clerkship curriculum, makes a star turn throughout the book, demonstrating the commitment and compassion it takes to care for our patients. Shanta Zimmer, MD, senior associate dean for education, is also recognized for her work leading the curriculum change.

Abraham also offers a clear explanation of how we aim to teach our students to become better physicians: “The new curriculum will begin with a year of basic sciences but will be organized around clinical complaints. Hence, instead of learning the anatomy of the heart as its own topic, students will learn it in the context of a patient presenting with chest pain. They will learn about the anatomy of the heart in relationship to the physical examination, to available medications and procedures, and to social determinants of health. They will learn the textbook of the body, Zimmer hopes, while learning the textbook of the community.”

As if overhauling the traditional curriculum isn’t a tall enough task, Abraham offers important context for the work undertaken by Shanta, Jennifer, and many others at our school: “[Zimmer] will have to recruit and train 1,100 faculty members so that all students’ second year can be an LIC year. Students will be split into sixteen cohorts spread across the state…. All the faculty must do is redesign all the curricular material and retrain a couple thousand faculty members to teach differently. During a pandemic.”

This book tells the compelling story of how to become a physician, serve our patients and our community, and pursue a fulfilling life. It’s well worth your time. The book is available from its publisher, Johns Hopkins University Press.

Rep. Crow Visits Campus
U.S. Rep. Jason Crow visited our campus last Friday so that we could thank him for sponsoring $402,785 in congressionally directed funding to support rural outreach through the eConsults service provided by our school’s Peer Mentored Care Collaborative (PMCC)John “Fred” Thomas, PhD, professor of pediatrics and executive director of PMCC, and colleagues gave an overview of how it works, and explained how it’s better for patients and their communities because we can provide appropriate specialty care support that allows people to stay closer to home. Congressman Crow has been a great supporter and it’s always nice when he comes to present a big check. We thank him and our senators for supporting this funding.

Separately, Rep. Crow presented me with with a folio of remarks that he made earlier this month to the Congressional Record recognizing my retirement as Dean. The comments were entered into the record between a tribute to President George H.W. Bush that commemorates his 100th birthday and a celebration of Chicago Cubs Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg. It was an unexpected honor and, as I mentioned to the CU lobbying team, it’s one of the few announcements that I actually sent to my mother.

Regents Vote on Weapons Policy
The CU Board of Regents voted on Friday on scaled-back changes to its weapons control policy. A proposal offered earlier this year by Regent Wanda James had called for banning concealed carry firearms on campuses. On Friday, the regents took a more limited action, leaving most of its existing policy language in place. Four regents opposed and five voted in favor of an amendment that stated that the university “will comply with all state concealed carry laws that prohibit carrying a weapon on university property pursuant to a valid concealed carry permit.” In May, Gov. Jared Polis signed into law Senate Bill 24-131 , which prohibits concealed carry firearms in “sensitive spaces,” including university campuses. I thank state lawmakers for making our campus safer. This change will allow our university to have the same policies as our partner hospitals on our campus.

Faculty Updates
Caitlin Rublee, MD, MPH, assistant professor of emergency medicine, has been elected to the Council on Foreign Relations Stephen M. Kellen Term Member Program. Each year, a new class of term members is elected to serve a fixed five-year membership term. Participants are early career individuals who demonstrate outstanding intellectual attainment and expertise; current involvement in international affairs or in other areas affecting international affairs; and promise of future achievement and service in foreign relations. Caitlin’s work within our Climate and Health Program as well as her tenure as the ABEM Fellow at the National Academy of Medicine have given her a well-earned reputation as an emerging thought leader in global climate and health science policy, placing people at the center of climate action.

Mark J. Kissler, MD, assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Hospital Medicine, is corresponding author of an article published June 18 in the Annals of Internal Medicine that evaluates medical literature on the role of attention in the clinical environment. Five colleagues from our campus are co-authors.

David Schwartz, MD, Distinguished Professor of Medicine, is a co-author of an original investigation published June 17 by JAMA Network Open that seeks to determine time to recovery following SARS-CoV-2 infection. The cohort study of 4,708 participants with self-reported SARS-CoV-2 infection found that more than 1 in 5 adults did not recover within three months. Recovery within three months was less likely in women and those with pre-existing cardiovascular disease. Recovery was more likely in those with COVID-19 vaccination or infection during the Omicron variant wave. Three colleagues from our campus are co-authors.

Marco Del Chiaro, MD, PhD, professor of surgery and chief of the Division of Surgical Oncology, is senior author of an original investigation published June 18 in JAMA Network Open that describes a cohort study of the incidence, outcome, and associated factors of pathological complete response (pCR) in patients with resected pancreatic adenocarcinoma after chemo(radio)therapy. The article lists 11 co-authors affiliated with our campus. Marco discusses the study in this article.

Yo Nishihara, MBBS, fourth-year fellow in the neonatal-perinatal medicine fellowship, is corresponding author of an article published June 20 in the Journal of Perinatology that sets out to establish the time to positivity of blood cultures in a Level IV NICU population, the most frequently identified organisms, and ascertain whether there were specific differences in population sub-groups. Jeanne Zenge, MD, associate professor of clinical practice of pediatrics and program director of the neonatal fellowship, and seven other colleagues from campus are co-authors.

Christy Smith-Anderson, MD, associate professor of pediatrics, has been appointed to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Panel on Antiretroviral Therapy and Medical Management of Children Living with HIV, a working group of the Office of AIDS Research Advisory Council for a three-year term, effective June 28.

David Keller, MD, professor of pediatrics and vice chair of clinical strategy and transformation, has been selected as the chair of the Pediatric Policy Council, effective Jan. 1, 2025. The council is a public policy advocacy initiative that advocates for legislation and federal government policies to improve the health of children and support academic pediatricians.

Amanda Piquet, MD, associate professor of neurology, has been named the inaugural Céline Dion Foundation Endowed Chair in Autoimmune Neurology, made possible by a $2 million donation from the Céline Dion Foundation. The singer is getting treatment at our campus for stiff person syndrome, a rare, chronic, and progressive autoimmune neurological disease that causes muscle stiffness, painful spasms, and difficulty walking.

CU Medicine Leadership
Gail Albertson, MD, vice president and chief operating officer for CU Medicine and associate professor of medicine, announced that she is retiring, effective August 1. Gail joined the Department of Medicine faculty in 1995, and with a passion for leadership she has served in many roles with CU Medicine. She’s been in her current role since 2006. An advocate for provider billing and documentation education, Gail has made many meaningful contributions to the success of our faculty practice plan. She has been a vital member of our team, and we will miss her.

Kimberly Davis, MBA, has been promoted to vice president and chief revenue officer, effective July 1, in anticipation of Gail Albertson’s retirement. Kim joined CU Medicine in May 2007 as Senior Manager, Patient Accounting, and has progressively expanded her leadership within the organization. She now leads the organization’s professional billing operation, serving over 4,000 School of Medicine physicians and advance practice professionals with annual collections of $1 billion. We congratulate Kim on her new role.

Mark Young, MBA, has been named associate dean of community practice and vice president of community practice for CU Medicine, effective July 8. Mark most recently served as vice president of oncology services at Swedish Medical Center, where he led efforts to expand patient access and the opening of the outpatient cancer pavilion. Prior to his role at Swedish, he was director of practice operations for Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers. Mark began his career in health care as a physical therapist, earning his Master of Science in Physical Therapy from the University of Colorado PT program. In addition, he holds an undergraduate degree in biology and an MBA, with a concentration in operations management, from the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.

Colorado Child Health Research Institute
Children’s Hospital Colorado announced last Tuesday the launch of the Colorado Child Health Research Institute in partnership with University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. The institute functions will include research strategy and administration, research operations administration, research education, regulatory affairs, research business services, internal grant awards, clinical research contracting, and research informatics and data science. The Colorado Child Health Research Institute intends to work with research teams from dozens of specialties, programs, and centers on campus.

Promotions Task Force
The Promotions Task Force has presented recommendations intended to address concerns that the process is onerous for faculty candidates and for those who are responsible for reviewing promotion dossiers. Issues include redundancy of information requested throughout the dossier and inefficiencies in the review process, particularly for new faculty hires coming to our school at the same rank they hold at their previous institutions. The Offices for the Faculty Experience has posted the task force recommendations, and a summary and a presentation with responses that were presented last week to the School of Medicine Executive Committee. Many thanks to Sunita Sharma, MD, associate professor of medicine who chaired the task force, and to all the members of the committee for their work on this important matter.

Administrative Showcase
The School of Medicine hosted a showcase last Friday for administrative staff to share best practices and innovative solutions for improving their workflow. The event was such a rousing success, with 240 registrants signing up to hear 23 presentations, that we’re planning to turn it into an annual event. Thanks to all for participating and sharing their knowledge and experience with colleagues, and to Jill Quinn, MBA, administrative director for urology and vascular surgery, for her leadership in coordinating the event.

CU Celebrates!
Starting July 1, CU Celebrates!, our School of Medicine’s recognition program, launches the next phase of the project, adding the “Gold Stars” program. This program allows managers in participating departments to award points to staff for giving extra effort in their work. Also starting July 1 is the Service Awards program, which will recognize milestone events, such as 5-, 10-, 15-year anniversaries, and award additional points to staff in participating departments. Staff in those participating departments can redeem their points for gift cards, Amazon items, experiences and more. Thanks to the 3,000+ faculty and staff who have logged in over 5,000 times since April 1. Additional information is available on the CU Celebrates! resources page on our school’s intranet.

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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