Dean's Weekly Message

March 4, 2024

Dear colleague: 

Celebrating AAI Awardees
Our Office of Advancement hosted a celebration meeting last Monday evening to thank The Anschutz Foundation for its support of the Anschutz Acceleration Initiative, a program that is providing funding to speed the development of advanced medical treatments by faculty on our campus. The event also allowed us to recognize the nine awardees who are offering an impressive range of work that will transform care for patients. We share a vision with The Anschutz Foundation that a vibrant environment for entrepreneurship has contributed to our growth into one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers with a premier medical school and preeminent clinical partners. We thank the foundation for its generous and steadfast support.

Antonio Jimeno, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and one of the AAI awardees, describes his work involving the use of a synthetic small molecule called SVC112 in an article in the CU Cancer Center newsroom. That molecule has been shown to effectively target cancer stem cells in head and neck cancer, the primary focus of Antonio’s lab. SVC112 was originally synthesized by SuviCa Inc., a Boulder-based biotechnology company co-founded by Antonio’s AAI project co-leader Tin Tin Su, PhD, professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology at CU Boulder. The molecule is based on the chemical bouvardin, found in the firecracker bush, Bouvardia ternifolia, a red-flowering plant that grows in the Southwest and Mexico. The discovery in Su’s research lab at CU Boulder of bouvardin’s remarkable ability to prevent regeneration of cancer cells in the fruit fly led to the current studies.

This project exemplifies the power of collaboration and the promise of a potential cancer therapy that, as Antonio says, “was discovered in Colorado, and will use Colorado funds from a Colorado donor to help Colorado patients.”

Faculty Updates
A research team from our school’s RNA Bioscience Initiative has been awarded funding by the U.S. National Science Foundation to use recent developments in RNA sequencing technology to create a model capable of predicting protein output from a messenger RNA. The team – Jay Hesselberth, PhD, Laura White, PhD, Olivia Rissland, DPhil, and Matthew Taliaferro, PhD, all members of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics – is one of nine teams nationally to receive awards between $1 million to $1.65 million for projects that develop RNA-based methods for biotech innovations. The funding is from the Molecular Foundations for Biotechnology program, a partnership between NSF and the National Institutes of Health’s National Human Genome Research Institute.

Sonia C. Flores, PhD, professor of medicine, Ivana Yang, PhD, professor of biomedical informatics, and Matthew DeCamp, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine, have received a $1.8 million, five-year award from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) to offer summer institutes on our campus for junior investigators and transitioning postdoctoral scientists. The summer institutes will focus on ethical use of artificial intelligence and machine learning in data sciences and omics of cardiovascular and lung diseases. The NHLBI’s Programs for Inclusion and Diversity Among Individuals Engaged in Health-Related Research (PRIDE) seek to enhance the diversity of the biomedical workforce through mentored programs. Our school is one of nine in the PRIDE program. Details about the programs and applications are available on the PRIDE website. For questions contact Jill Penafiel or Sonia Flores.

Lilia Cervantes, MD, MSCS, associate professor of medicine, is a co-author of an article published February 29 in JAMA Network Open about the transplant experience for individuals of undocumented immigration status with kidney failure who previously received emergency hemodialysis and for their caregivers. Katherine Rizzolo, MD, clinical instructor of nephrology at Boston University who completed her renal fellowship last year at our school, is corresponding author. The article, based on interviews with 15 transplant recipients and 10 caregivers, found that individuals formerly receiving emergency dialysis are excluded from education and access to transplant, and peer support throughout the transplant process helped with education and motivation to pursue transplant.

Nancy Krebs, MD, professor of pediatrics, is corresponding author of an article published in January by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that describes a case of a six-year-old male with undernutrition and acute COVID-19 infection. The child had a complicated medical history that included a seizure disorder managed in part by a ketogenic diet. Stephanie Waldrop, MD, a pediatric nutrition fellow, is co-author of the article. Nancy is serving as associate editor of the journal’s new series, called “Nutrition for the Clinician.” An article in the School of Medicine newsroom offers more detail about the series.

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. The study’s survey of 216 internal medicine resident physicians suggests that schedules with additional outpatient weeks may be associated with substantial improvement in resident burnout. Nine colleagues from our school are co-authors.

Sana D. Karam, MD, PhD, professor of radiation oncology and member of the CU Cancer Center, is the corresponding author of an article published February 28 in Med that investigates how sensory nerves modulate the adaptive immune system. Using RNA sequencing analysis from human tumor tissue, Sana and the research team found that sensory nerves helped accelerate tumor growth by acting on the immune system to decrease specific T-cells, which fight disease, within the tumor microenvironment. The campus newsroom includes an article describing the study.

Rosemary Rochford, PhD, professor emerita of immunology and microbiology, has been chosen as the 2024 recipient of the Henle Award from the Board of the International Association for Research on Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and Associated Diseases. This award recognizes internationally renowned scientists that have made major contributions to the understanding and treatment of EBV and associated diseases. As the Henle Award winner, Rosemary is invited to deliver a prize lecture at the International Symposium on EBV & KSHV & Related Agents and Diseases – 3rd Joint Meeting in Boston, June 29-July 3.

Vineet Chopra, MD, MSc, chair of medicine, has been elected a councilor of the APM Council of the Alliance for Academic Internal Medicine. Founded in 1954, Association of Professors of Medicine (APM) is the organization of departments of internal medicine represented by chairs and appointed leaders at medical schools and affiliated teaching hospitals in the United States and Canada; the association represents department chairs of internal medicine at medical schools, vice chairs, chairs at affiliated teaching hospitals, and other departmental leaders who are full professors of medicine.

The Office of Vice Chancellor for Research hosted its CU Anschutz Research Awards Ceremony last Tuesday, honoring more than a dozen of our colleagues for excellence, mentorship, research, and several other contributions. The full list is available in the event announcement.

AAMC Recognition
Brian T. Smith, MHA, senior associate dean for administration and finance for our school and executive director and chief executive officer of CU Medicine, was honored by the Association of American Medical Colleges’ Group on Faculty Practice (GFP) last week for his service as the chair of the group’s steering committee. Brian has been a member of the GFP since 1997 and has served on the group's steering committee from 2003 to 2009 and again since 2017. Due to the pandemic and retirements, Brian has served as chair for three years rather than the typical one-year term. He was honored by his peers at the group's spring meeting in Denver.

Events and Programs
Carol A. Lange, PhD, professor of medicine and pharmacology at the University of Minnesota, will deliver the Dean’s Distinguished Seminar lecture at 4 p.m. Tuesday, March 12 , in Hensel Phelps West Auditorium. She holds the Tickle Family Land Grant Endowed Chair of Breast Cancer Research at the University of Minnesota. She received her PhD from the University of Colorado School of Pharmacy in 1991. The Dean’s Distinguished Seminar Series brings notable scholars to campus to discuss their work. All are invited. You can find more information about this and other events on the campus events calendar, where you can also sign up for event notifications.

The Scholarship in Education & Innovation (ScEI) Club is a monthly lunchtime brown bag session to network with colleagues, learn about education topics, and present educational scholarship. ScEI Club will meet the first Thursday of every month beginning March 7 in the Fitzsimons Building Room E1340. Learn more and submit your requests here: Scholarship in Education & Innovation (ScEI) Club.

iTeach, which is a peer observation program directed by our school’s Academy of Medical Educators, is now accepting requests for observation and feedback sessions. To learn more about the program and to receive valuable feedback on your teaching endeavors, sign up today at iTeach website.

Call for Nominations
The School of Medicine invites nominations for its 2nd annual Distinguished Clinician Awards and 17th annual Distinguished Faculty Professionalism Awards . Nominations are due by Friday, March 29. The Distinguished Clinician Awards recognize exceptional physicians and advanced practice professionals and promote a patient-centered culture, while the Distinguished Faculty Professionalism Awards honor faculty members who embody professionalism and contribute to academic and institutional citizenship. Recipients will be honored at a special dinner on Wednesday, May 15, and their names will be memorialized on a plaque in the Dean’s office. 

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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