Dean's Weekly Message

March 18, 2024

Dear colleague: 

We celebrated Match Day with the Class of 2024 last Friday. Despite the previous day’s snowfall, we were able to gather our Class of 2024 and their loved ones in the atrium of the Anschutz Health Sciences Building for the annual envelope-opening ritual. Friends and family joined school leaders and faculty in recognizing the class for their dedication and hard work that led to this significant achievement.

This class was tested at the outset of their time in medical school, joining us in 2020 when pandemic restrictions required online learning. Their orientation to medical school that summer was entirely remote. Brian Dwinnell, MD, associate dean for student life, recalled that an outdoor movie night on campus in May 2021 was the first time the group was able to gather.

This class proved its perseverance and resilience time and again and their results have been impressive. Brian noted that for our school this class recorded the highest-ever pass rate for Step 1 exams and the highest average score for Step 2 exams. They weren’t about to let a little snow this week slow down their progress.

More than 150 students in the Class of 2024 found out where they will be resident physicians in the years ahead. Forty-seven members of the class are staying in Colorado. Others are heading to well-regarded programs across the country. Among the institutions are Massachusetts General Hospital, Yale, Johns Hopkins, Cedars-Sinai, University of Washington, University of Michigan, Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, Mayo Clinic in Rochester, and many other outstanding programs.

For more about Match Day, see our Match Day 2024 website, where you can read features about four members of the class – Folake Adegboye, Austin Almand, Thy Nguyen, and Anthony Smyth. This article in the School of Medicine newsroom includes more detail about the festivities and talks.

We are proud of the Class of 2024 and look forward to their continuing contributions to the practice of medicine. As I said at the ceremony: “Match Day is a big deal. All of our graduating medical students are about to enter what is arguably the most intense and most influential era of their career.”

Poster Day at the Capitol
Graduate students from our school’s biomedical PhD programs made an impressive showing at the statehouse last week. Each year, members of Project Bridge Colorado organize a STEM Poster Day at the Capitol. This year, nearly 50 young scientists stood next to their posters, chatting about science with anyone who would stop to talk. An article in the School of Medicine newsroom offers details:

“Laura Leaton, a graduate student in immunology, spoke to a passerby of finding ‘what might be a previously unknown mechanism of keeping inflammation low in the gut.’ Obed Nyarko, a graduate student in integrated physiology and an MD from Ghana, talked about studying proteins in the blood that promote heart failure in children. And Bridget Alexander, also an immunology grad student, explained how understanding the role of a gene in Type-1 diabetes could be a step on the path to future treatments.”

The goal is to make presentations that are relatable and easier-to-understand than what might be in a scholarly journal. As a result, presenters have a little more room to express themselves. For example, anatomy grad students Abigail Wohlfert and Brendan Hinckley titled their poster: “The TotalSegmentator Artificial Intelligence tool is Totally Awesome at Automatic Organ Modeling for Education.” Anesthesiology research assistant Genevieve Hunn’s poster featured cartoon figures of smiling immune cells.

Thanks to Laurie Lyon and Madeline Akbari, both microbiology doctoral candidates and Project Bridge Colorado members, for helping organize the Capitol event. Thanks also to Mark Harden, writer on our school’s communications team, for the words and pictures telling the story.

Faculty Updates
Frank deGruy, MD,
 Distinguished Professor of Family Medicine, was the guest of honor at a celebration hosted last Tuesday evening by the department he led from 1999 to 2021. Throughout his career, Frank has concentrated on transforming primary care by integrating behavioral health care, partnering with community health and public health resources, and engaging patients and their families in the care process. He was elected to the Institute of Medicine, now the National Academy of Medicine, in 2008. He continues to be a force for good in the field and it was a pleasure to celebrate him with so many friends and colleagues.

Casey Greene, PhD, chair of biomedical informatics, Sean Davis, MD, PhD, professor of biomedical informatics, and Katrina Claw, PhD, assistant professor of biomedical informatics, have received a five-year grant totaling $9.5 million from the Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health to advance the Common Fund Data Ecosystem , which was created to revolutionize data sharing, integration, and innovation across research communities. They will collaborate with faculty from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of California, Los Angeles to establish a national integration and coordination center for the CFDE. Our colleagues will lead the Evaluation Core, which aims to help program leaders rapidly translate successful strategies across the entire ecosystem. An article in the Department of Biomedical Informatics newsroom offers additional information about the grant.

Katrina Claw, PhD, assistant professor of biomedical informatics, is one of 11 researchers in a career feature in Nature on March 12 explaining what motivates their academic lives. “My dad was a heavy-equipment operator for more than 40 years, and in our tribe’s traditional ceremonies, he always prayed for me to have a job in which I would stay clean all day and have an office,” Katrina says. “I not only have an office with views of the Rocky Mountains, I also have a laboratory full of pristine equipment and lead a successful research programme that trains students and collaborates with Native American communities on pharmacogenomics and the cultural, ethical, legal and social implications of genomics research.”

Christopher Lieu, MD, associate professor of medicine and associate director of clinical research at the CU Cancer Center, is one of the subject matter experts quoted in a March 13 news feature in Nature about the rising number of cases of young people getting cancer.

Marian Rewers, MD, PhD, professor of pediatrics and executive director of the Barbara Davis Center for Diabetes, is one of the experts quoted in an article published last week in Science that discusses whether all children should be screened for type 1 diabetes. The article refers to a study led by Marian, called Autoimmunity Screening for Kids, or ASK, that aims to reduce health risks of delayed diagnosis of diabetes and celiac disease.

Halis Akturk, MD, associate professor of pediatrics at the Barbara Davis Center for Diabetes, has been selected to receive the AACE Rising Star in Endocrinology Award from the American Association of Clinical Endocrinology at the association’s annual meeting in May in New Orleans. Earlier this year, Halis was named co-chair of the American Diabetes Association’s Scientific Sessions Meeting Planning Committee for New Technology. He has been the principal investigator on many clinical trials assessing diabetes technologies and therapeutics such as hybrid closed loop pumps and continuous glucose monitors.

Benjamin Vipler, MD, assistant professor of medicine, is author of a perspective article in the March 16 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine that discusses the potentially adverse effects of rapid release of test results directly to patients. Federal law requires electronic release of patient results without delay, but often patients receive news they don’t understand and without their physicians there to help them. It’s an unintended consequence of a well-intentioned effort to empower patients. Ben advises further study of the practice on patients and on the clinicians who care for them.

Angelo D’Alessandro, PhD, professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics, is a co-author of an article published March 13 in Nature that describes a molecular signature that plays a pivotal role in sustaining the activation of immune cells in chronic neurological diseases, including progressive multiple sclerosis. Angelo’s laboratory was part of an international team contributing to the article.

Casey S. Greene, PhD, chair of biomedical informatics, is corresponding author of an article published February 27 in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association that evaluates whether user-provided photographs influence the breed ancestry predictions of direct-to-consumer genetic tests for dogs. Halie M. Rando, PhD, assistant professor of computer science at Smith College in Northampton, Mass., and formerly a postdoctoral researcher in Casey’s lab, is first author. The article was the journal’s top-trending article last week. A feature about this study was the most-read article in the Department of Biomedical Informatics newsroom last year.

Yiqun G. Shellman, PhD, associate professor of dermatology, and Richard P. Tobin, PhD, assistant research professor of surgery, are corresponding authors of an article published March 8 in Cell Death and Disease that describes a proof-of-concept study showing strong evidence for a novel use of an MCL1 inhibitor to enhance the efficacy of immunotherapies against melanoma.

Jennifer L. Wiler, MD, MBA, professor of emergency medicine, is corresponding author of an article published March 12 by Annals of Internal Medicine that addresses challenges of integrating specialty care into population-based total cost of care payment models. Barriers include a lack of meaningful financial incentives, intolerable or unpredictable risk, infrastructure costs, patient engagement, voluntary participation, and operational complexity. The topic matters because the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Innovation Center has set a goal that 100% of traditional Medicare beneficiaries be part of an accountable care relationship by 2030.

James A. Feinstein, MD, MPH, associate professor of pediatrics and investigator with the Adult and Child Center for Outcomes Research and Delivery Science, is a co-author of an original investigation published March 15 in JAMA Network Open that explores recurrent intensive care episodes and mortality among children with severe neurologic impairment.

Edward Lau, PhD, assistant professor of medicine, is corresponding author of an article published March 11 by Nature Communications that demonstrates a method to examine protein homeostasis regulations in stress and drug response. The strategy, which measures protein turnover rates and subcellular localization in the same experiment, is called Simultaneous Proteome Localizations and Turnover, or SPLAT. Seven co-authors from our school are listed, including Maggie P.Y. Lam, PhD, associate professor of medicine and biochemistry and molecular genetics. Edward and Maggie are members of the Consortium for Fibrosis Research and Translation, one of the translational research funding projects that received funding in my first year as Dean.

John C. Cambier, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Immunology and Microbiology, has been named the 2024 recipient of the AAI-BioLegend Herzenberg Award by the American Association of Immunologists. The award recognizes an investigator who has made outstanding contributions to the field of immunology in B cell biology. John is former chair of the Department of Immunology and Microbiology and was the inaugural leader of the Human Immunology and Immunotherapy Initiative , also one of our school’s translational research funding projects.

Frances Lorenzi, PA-C, assistant professor of medicine, has been named PA of the year, Kate LaPorta, PA-C, assistant professor of pediatrics, has been named PA educator of the year, and the Department of Medicine Division of Hospital Medicine was named employer of the year by the Colorado Academy of PAs. Congratulations to the award recipients.

Joshua Barocas, MD, associate professor of medicine, has been appointed to the Board of Scientific Counselors of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Board provides advice concerning strategies, goals, and priorities for the programs and research within the national centers and monitors the overall strategic direction and focus of CDC’s infectious disease programs and centers. Josh discusses his role in this Q&A in the Department of Medicine newsroom. Also, last week, Josh was one of the experts featured in an Infectious Diseases Society of America media briefing, “Measles and Misinformation: The Impact on Public Health.”

Cari Levy, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and head of the Division of Geriatric Medicine, has been named a new member of the National Advisory Council for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The 20-member council provides advice and recommendations to AHRQ’s director and to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on priorities for a national health services research agenda. Mary Beth Flynn Makic, PhD, professor in the CU College of Nursing, was also named to the council.

Laura Vargas, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry, has been named to an issue advisory council that is advising the Ad Council on a new gun violence prevention initiative that was announced at the 5th Annual Gun Violence Prevention Forum. The Ad Council will lead development of a new campaign funded by the National Health Care CEO Council on Gun Violence Prevention and Safety. The Ad Council and its partners have been the creative force behind some of our country’s most iconic social impact campaigns – Smokey Bear, A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste, Love Has No Labels, and Tear the Paper Ceiling.

Stephen R. Daniels, MD, PhD, chair of pediatrics, has been elected president of the American Pediatric Society (APS). Steve has been an APS member since 1994. The APS is nonprofit founded in 1888 as the first pediatric society in North America. It has more than 1,800 members.


The Eugene S. Farley, Jr. Health Policy Center is hosting an open house from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 20. The center provides expertise in designing and conducting policy-relevant research and translating research outcomes for non-health care audiences. The open house will be in the center’s office on the fourth floor of the Anschutz Health Sciences Building.

Due to last Thursday’s snowstorm, the opening reception for two new exhibits in the Fulginiti Pavilion was postponed until Thursday, March 28, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. The first exhibition, Raw Material, includes narrative quilts by NedRa Bonds. The second exhibition,  7,000 Babies, highlights the legacy of Justina Ford, MD (1871-1952), the first licensed Black female physician in Colorado. The Art Gallery in Fulginiti Pavilion is open to the public Monday through Friday 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. CU Anschutz-badged students, faculty and staff can access those days beginning at 9 a.m.

The Center for Advancing Professional Excellence (CAPE) is considering a new training course in cardiopulmonary resuscitation/basic life support. To design the course, CAPE is inviting community members to complete a survey.

The School of Medicine Dean’s Office and the Offices for the Faculty Experience are sponsoring a free bagel and coffee for all School of Medicine faculty physicians and scientists in recognition of National Doctors’ Day (March 30) and National Scientists’ Day (March 14). Beginning March 25, faculty physicians and scientists may go to the WoodGrain Bagels, Tstreet Cafe, Root & Sprig in the Fitzsimons Building, and Dazbog Coffee at the outpatient kiosk in the University of Colorado Hospital for a bagel and coffee, or other store offerings, up to a $7 value. One offer per faculty member, redeemable at the register. Faculty members must show their School of Medicine faculty ID badge. The offer ends March 29, or when 1,000 faculty members redeem the offer, whichever comes first.

Health Workforce Well-Being Day
Today has been declared Health Workforce Well-Being Day by the Clinician Well-Being Collaborative of the National Academy of Medicine. The purpose is to sustain our health system and ensure quality patient care by recognizing the importance of protecting health workers’ well-being. The day is a call to learn from one another on how to support health worker well-being, and to expand evidence-informed solutions to make system-wide changes to improve health worker well-being and transform cultures. Our school is contributing to these efforts through scholarship and in practice. A couple of examples:

  • Jennifer Caragol, MD, assistant professor of family medicine and the department’s well-being leader, and her colleagues have been implementing a series of initiatives in response to the faculty survey conducted in 2022. Their “Project Thrive” included testing . Jennifer and her colleagues also reduced in-basket burden by hiring advanced practice professionals to work 50% in the clinic and 50% on in-basket coverage to handle electronic medical record tasks, creating a reliable way to get coverage when clinician colleagues are on vacation.
  • Daniel Heppe, MD, associate professor of medicine, is corresponding author an original investigation published February 28 in JAMA Network Open that considers the effect of block schedules on resident wellness, burnout, self-reported professional engagement, and clinical preparedness. This study is an important work that builds an evidence-based approach to addressing resident well-being. Daniel and his colleagues surveyed 216 internal medicine resident physicians and found that that schedules with additional outpatient weeks following a four-week inpatient rotation may be associated with substantial improvement in resident burnout. Nine colleagues from our school are co-authors.

Our school conducted a faculty and resident survey earlier this year and I want to thank all of you who responded. The overall response rate was above 70%, the highest response rate we’ve recorded on a well-being survey. Lotte Dyrbye, MD, MHPE, senior associate dean for faculty and chief well-being officer, and her team are sharing the results with department leaders, and we expect them to share the reports within their departments soon. We will be discussing the survey at the monthly meeting of the School of Medicine Executive Committee tomorrow and we are setting a date this spring for a town hall presentation to all members of the school community. Stay tuned and stay in touch.

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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