Dean's Weekly Message

May 13, 2024

Dear Colleague: 

Our campus commencement ceremonies are scheduled for next Monday, May 20. The University Commencement Ceremony is set to begin at 8:30 a.m. on Boettcher Commons south of the Fulginiti Pavilion. The School of Medicine’s convocation for MD graduates is set for 10:15 a.m. on Boettcher Commons and the Child Health Associate/Physician Assistant Program convocation is at 10:30 a.m. at the Central Green Amphitheater, which is northwest of the Strauss Library on the north side of Montview Boulevard. Details about the ceremonies and links to the livestreams can be found on the University Commencement Ceremony webpage.

Faculty Updates
Joaquin Espinosa, PhD, professor of pharmacology and executive director of the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome, is featured in a front-page article of The Washington Post published Sunday, May 12. The article describes Down syndrome regression disorder (DSRD), a condition that affects between 1 to 5 percent of people with Down syndrome and that was not officially named until 2022. When someone with Down syndrome regresses, their decline can be precipitous and dramatic, with patients losing function in days or weeks, including their ability to talk, move, or take care of themselves. Some enter a catatonic state or suffer from hallucination and depersonalization. The article describes Joaquin’s collaboration with Jonathan D. Santoro, MD, a pediatric neurologist at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Together, with Elise Sannar, MD, associate professor of psychiatry, they established in 2023 the first randomized control clinical trial of potential treatments for DSRD. The article shows how collaboration between scientists and clinicians, patients, families, and caregivers, and philanthropic partners, such as Global Down Syndrome Foundation, works to improve lives.

Shanta Zimmer, MD, senior associate dean for education and professor of medicine, is quoted in a report on Colorado Public Radio about the Black Men in White Coats Youth Summit that was held on our campus on May 4. The goal of the summit is to offer role models in medical professions for children who might not otherwise see themselves represented. In the report, Leticia Nesby, who brought her two sons to the event, says: “As parents, we expose them to people who look like them, who think like them, and who are from the same kind of backgrounds. I think that expands your success exponentially.”

Our faculty colleagues offered expert commentary on an array of health-related topics in several media reports last week:

  • Melanie Cree, MD, PhD, associate professor of pediatrics, is quoted in a CNN report about “Ozempic babies” born to women on GLP-1 receptor agonist drugs that are being prescribed for weight loss.
  • Christopher Lieu, MD, associate professor of medicine, discusses the rising prevalence of colorectal cancer among young people in an NBC News report.
  • Jenna Guthmiller, PhD, assistant professor of immunology and microbiology, comments on the discovery of the H5N1 bird flu in cows in Colorado in an article in The Denver Post.
  • Andrew Monte, MD, PhD, professor of emergency medicine and associate director of Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Safety, notes on NPR that the government’s rescheduling cannabis as a less dangerous drug does not mean that using it has no health risks.
  • Daniel Pastula, MD, MHS, associate professor of neurology, in a Q&A with The New York Times, helps readers understand the effect of brain parasites and how to avoid them.

James A. Feinstein, MD, MPH, associate professor of pediatrics, offers a heartfelt tribute to the late Steve Berman, MD, in a perspective essay published May 11 by The New England Journal of Medicine. Steve, who became the youngest section head of General Academic Pediatrics and later became director of the Center for Global Health, influenced countless others as a physician, advisor, mentor, and friend. In the essay, “Learning to Say Goodbye,” Jamie describes how Steve showed him that caring for patients involves more than dispassionately diagnosing and treating them. Compassionate care means you make a personal connection. Jamie completes the circle when he says goodbye to Steve in this profound essay.

Michelle Knees, DO, assistant professor of medicine, and Katie E. Raffel, MD, assistant professor of medicine, who are both faculty with our school’s Institute for Healthcare Quality, Safety and Efficiency, are co-authors of an issue brief funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The brief seeks to better understand how cognitive load affects diagnostic accuracy and how to optimize cognition to decrease diagnostic error-related morbidity and mortality. Co-authors from the Department of Medicine’s Division of Hospital Medicine are Mark Kissler, MD, assistant professor; Marisha Burden, MD, MBA, professor and division head; and Samuel Porter, MD, assistant professor.

Romana Hasnain-Wynia, PhD, professor of medicine and chief of academic affairs at Denver Health, is co-author of an original investigation published May 3 by JAMA Health Forum, finding that participation in the 340B Drug Pricing Program enables public but not nonprofit hospitals to sustain unprofitable service lines, such as psychiatric services. The study sample comprised a total of 2,152 hospitals, 1,074 newly participating and 1,078 not participating in the 340B program. Co-authors include three faculty from the Colorado School of Public Health and one from University of Colorado Denver.

Miguel Flores-Bellver, PhD, assistant professor of ophthalmology, has received the Dr. Joe G. Hollyfield New Investigator Award for Macular Degeneration Research from the BrightFocus Foundation. The award was announced last week at the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology in Seattle. BrightFocus Foundation, a nonprofit that funds research on Alzheimer’s disease, macular degeneration, and glaucoma, currently has $43 million invested in 157 active neuroscience research projects and $30 million in 119 active vision research projects. 

Malik Y. Kahook, MD, professor of ophthalmology, has been named to the Ophthalmologist Power List 2024, a ranking of individuals whose work and influence have earned them recognition as global leaders and highlights their groundbreaking contributions to medicine. The list is published annually by The Ophthalmologist.

Academy of Medical Educators
The Academy of Medical Educators is accepting new members. The Academy offers three tracks: Teaching, Curriculum Development & Instructional Design, and Educational Leadership. There are four levels of membership: Associate, Fellow, Senior Fellow, Legacy. All faculty members are welcome to apply on the improved streamlined application process. This round of applications closes June 15 with a celebration of new and existing members set for September 4. Details are available on the Academy of Medical Educators’ website.

Matthew W. Wilson, MD, professor and chair of ophthalmology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and director of the Hamilton Eye Institute, will deliver the Dean’s Distinguished Seminar lecture , “Retinoblastoma: Longitudinal Outcomes,” at 4 p.m. Tuesday, May 14, in Hensel Phelps West Auditorium. A reception in the first-floor atrium follows. The Dean’s Distinguished Seminar Series brings notable scholars to campus. All are invited. You can find more information about this lecture and other events on the campus events calendar, where you can also  sign up for event notifications.

The Office of Research Education continues its partnership with the Tattered Cover Book Store with its series of talks about biomedical research topics. Distinguished Professor Wendy Macklin, PhD, chair of cell and developmental biology, and Graham Peet, PhD student in the neuroscience program, will lead a session about Multiple Sclerosis: Current Biology. The event will be at 6 p.m., Tuesday, May 21, at 2526 E. Colfax Ave., Denver.

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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