Dean's Weekly Message

Jan. 22, 2018


Dear colleague: 


Thanks to everyone who turned out for the State of the School address on Wednesday, January 10. As I discussed in my talk, our School is fortunate to have so many talented people working together for the improved quality of human life and we are as strong as we’ve ever been. During the talk, I said: “We’re in an amazing time here at the School of Medicine. Our clinical practice is growing gangbusters, we’re successful in competing for scientific and clinical talent, we are getting great medical students, we are getting strong residents, our hospital partners are financially healthy. This is, in many senses, as good as it gets in medicine.” With this good fortune comes great responsibility. We must be thoughtful about our future and ensuring that we are making investments that will sustain and improve the quality of the School. If you weren’t able to attend, a summary of the address, the slides that were presented and a video of the talk are posted on the School’s website. 

Robert Eckel, MD, has been named interim vice chancellor for research, filling the role that had been held by Richard Traystman, PhD, who died last October. Bob has been at CU for nearly 40 years as a physician and researcher studying lipid and lipoprotein metabolism, with the goals of reducing obesity and preventing heart disease. He is a professor of medicine, physiology and biophysics, and directs the Lipid Clinic at the University of Colorado Hospital. He is also past president of the American Heart Association. A 2015 profile of Bob offers an overview of his career. We thank him for taking on this important role. The Chancellor’s Office plans to announce a search process for a permanent selection for this position. 

The School of Medicine’s Research Advisory Committee (RAC) is conducting a survey about human specimen biobanks on campus. Any investigators who have or manage a human specimen biobank are requested to respond to a brief survey. The goal is to assist investigators with biobank organization and to address the needs for increased freezer space. With information collected in the survey, the School can better shepherd resources for software database assistance, additional freezer space, and other needs. Mary Weiser-Evans, PhD, chair of the RAC, said the effort should boost research efficiency and productivity by increasing multidisciplinary collaborations and elevating research capacity. The link for the survey:

I would like to express my gratitude to Carol Rumack, MD, and Barry Rumack, MD, who have generously committed $1 million in their estate to establish the Rumack Endowed Fund for Medical Education to provide scholarships to underrepresented medical students. Carol, professor of radiology and pediatrics and associate dean for graduate medical education, and Barry, professor emeritus of pediatrics and emergency medicine, completed their residencies at CU in the 1970s and joined the faculty after that. Previously, they have contributed annually to the Mile High Medical Society Scholarship, and supported the construction of the Fitzsimons Early Learning Center, the purchase of outdoor furniture at ED2, among other initiatives. Their gift bestows a CU medical education to future generations of physicians. 

The School of Medicine has launched an initiative that is designed to encourage giving to new or existing endowed funds. The School of Medicine Acceleration Program allows for donors to make gifts that will benefit our School in the future and unlock resources for it now. To do that, the School will contribute the estimated endowment distribution during the first five years of a gift or pledge so that the donor-established endowment can build value through investment by the CU Foundation. With those five years of compounded growth, the endowment will increase in value and provide a greater resource in the future. Endowment gifts from $100,000 to $2 million are eligible for the School of Medicine Acceleration Program. Those gifts must be dedicated to one of four campus goals: advancing discovery by bringing life-changing treatments into practice; transforming patient care by fostering person-centered health and wellbeing; driving innovation by building a hub of creativity and entrepreneurship; and training future leaders by educating tomorrow’s health care workforce. Questions about the program should be sent to Nicole Rodriguez,, in the Office of Advancement. 

Today has been declared “CU School of Medicine Rural Track Day” by Gov. John Hickenlooper and a delegation of our Rural Track faculty and students are at the state capital today to attend floor hearings with legislators and to present to the Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Energy Committee. The track has good news to report. With 27 medical and 10 physicians assistant students, the Class of 2017 was its largest cohort. 

Mike Jonen will join the Department of Pediatrics as director of finance and administration, effective February 1. Mike has more than 20 years of experience in operations management, strategic planning, budget and finance administration and organizational development at academic medical centers, most recently as senior associate vice president for finance and strategy for the University of Arizona Health Sciences. 

Stephen J. Wolf, MD, has been named director of service for the Department of Emergency Medicine at Denver Health. Stephen is a former member of the CU School of Medicine faculty and Denver Health team, serving from 2003 to 2014, first as program director and director of education within the Denver Health Department of Emergency Medicine, then as an assistant and associate dean with the School of Medicine. Since 2014, Stephen has been associate professor and vice chair for academic affairs at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, where he earned his MD in 1998. 

Congratulations to Maria Valeria Canto-Soler, PhD, associate professor of ophthalmology, Martin Zamora, MD, professor of medicine, and Karin A. Payne, PhD, assistant professor of orthopedics, on being awarded $350,000 each by the Gates Center for Regenerative Medicine to support research on development of new therapies or devices. The funding comes from the Gates Grubstake Fund, a nonprofit foundation that provides translational research funding for projects and teams affiliated with the Gates Center. Special thanks to CU Innovations for coordinating the application and grant selection process. 

Congratulations to Muhammad Aftab, MD, assistant professor of surgery, who has been initiated as a fellow to the American College of Surgeons and is recipient of the Graham Surgical Investigator Award by the American Association of Thoracic Surgery (AATS). This award provides funding for research for two years. Muhammad’s research work is focused on better understanding of the mechanism of spinal cord ischemia after extensive aortic repairs and on developing new techniques to promote pre-emptive spinal cord pre-collateralization. He’ll be acknowledged at the 2018 AATS Annual Meeting this spring in San Diego.

A going-away party for Robert Feinstein, MD, professor of psychiatry and former senior associate dean for education, will be held Tuesday, January 23, from noon to 2 p.m. on the Student Community Bridge in Education 2 South. Rob, who has been at CU for 12 years, is joining the Dell Medical School at the University of Texas in Austin as associate chair of education in the Department of Psychiatry. 

Congratulations to the University of Colorado College of Nursing for its ranking on the Best Online Graduate Nursing Programs by U.S. News & World Report. In the latest listing, which was released last week, the College of Nursing moved up the list and now ranks fourth in the nation. 

The School of Medicine’s Teaching Scholars Program is accepting applications for the cohort that will begin the program in September 2018. The Teaching Scholars Program is an 18-month certificate program designed to enhance knowledge and skills, and develop future leaders in healthcare education with a focus on core components of educational scholarship and curriculum development. The program consists of twice-monthly seminars held on the Anschutz Medical Campus during the 2018-2019 academic year, a curriculum development and/or education scholarship project, and faculty mentorship/guidance. Additional information is available on the Academy of Medical Educators website. Applications are due March 19. 

I would like to encourage faculty to participate in the Mentored Scholarly Activity Capstone event for the School of Medicine Class of 2018 on March 1. The MSA program is seeking volunteers to assist as judges for the sessions that day. There are three sessions: Session 1:  1 p.m. to 2 p.m.; Session 2:  2:15 p.m. to 3:15 p.m.; and Session 3:  3:35 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sign up through this link to participate as a judge in one or all sessions. For additional information, visit the website. If you have any questions, please email Faculty participation is key to its success and fosters an appreciation of life-long learning in our medical students. 

Condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of James Maller, PhD, professor emeritus of pharmacology, who died last week after a car accident in Arizona. Jim’s wife, Penny, was also in the vehicle and is recovering. Jim joined the School of Medicine faculty in 1978, rising to professor in 1988. He was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator from 1990 until his retirement in 2010. Jim was a talented scientist who raised the prestige of our Department of Pharmacology. His laboratory studied the cell cycle and his work is considered an important contribution understanding how checkpoint decisions are regulated. In tribute to Jim, Andrew Thorburn, D Phil, chair of the Department of Pharmacology, wrote: “At Jim’s retirement symposium in 2011, I remember saying that it was hard for me to imagine how anyone could have been a greater contributor to our department through his science, teaching and mentoring and service. What I don’t think I said clearly enough at that event was that this statement doesn’t mention his greatest impact on me and many of us, which was as an extraordinarily generous and thoughtful friend.” 

The false-alarm warning of a ballistic missile attack on Hawaii on Saturday, Jan. 13, was an alarming experience for Dan Theodorescu, MD, PhD, director of the CU Cancer Center. Dan was in Hawaii to assist the University of Hawaii Cancer Center as it prepared for a Cancer Center Support Grant competitive renewal visit by the National Cancer Institute. As Dan was preparing for breakfast with colleagues, the alert crossed his phone. “I thought I was going to die,” Dan said. “I called my wife to tell her I love her.” Fortunately, the warning had been mistakenly sent, but for about 40 minutes people worried about an imminent attack. “I have been a physician and a cancer researcher for 30 years,” Dan said. “I have been with patients and their families as they consider serious, end-of-life decisions. But I hadn’t really thought about how I would talk to my own family if my time seemed short.” 



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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