Dean's Weekly Message

Sept. 24, 2018


Dear colleague: 


The School of Medicine Executive Committee on Tuesday, September 18, received a report on the Faculty Climate Survey conducted in June by the Office of Professional Excellence. This year’s survey was a follow-up to the one conducted in 2016. The goal is to improve our understanding of the workplace conditions for faculty of the University of Colorado School of Medicine and to spur improvements that ensure we have an environment that is respectful, productive, and promotes collaboration. 

The overview report aggregates responses for the whole school and it shows that strong majorities of our faculty are proud to work for their departments, believe that their department maintains high ethical and professional standards, and agree that their leadership provides a positive and inclusive environment. There are also areas for improvement. There are significant numbers of faculty who don’t know where to turn when they feel stressed, burned out, or depressed, and 63 percent of respondents said their work environment is stressful. 

The School of Medicine is committed to making this the best possible place for our faculty to excel and we will work with department leaders on specific areas where changes should be made to improve. Each department chair has been provided a report on the survey responses related to their departments. In addition, chairs of the departments of Medicine, Pediatrics, Radiology, and Surgery have received reports on divisions within their departments. As with the 2016 faculty climate survey, I expect chairs to evaluate the department-level results and prepare action plans to address areas that need to improve. I encourage the department chairs to share the department survey results with their faculty so that a meaningful dialogue can occur. 

I would like to thank Abigail Lara, MD, and Jeffrey Druck, MD, co-directors of the Office of Professional Excellence, for leading the process of conducting the survey and assembling the reports that have been provided to department chairs. More than 40 percent of the 4,242 full time faculty responded to the survey, with the responses equally divided between men and women and covering all ranks of faculty. 

There has been increased attention to the issue of physician burnout in recent years and last week JAMA published two studies on the topic. Those studies attracted national media attention, including a National Public Radio report, “Doctors Today May Be Miserable, But Are They ‘Burnt Out?’” 

The first JAMA article, by a team of authors led by a physician from Harvard Medical School, determines that that there is no consensus definition or standard measurement tools to assess the effects of chronic occupational stress among physicians. The authors of the article reviewed 182 studies involving 109,628 individuals in 45 countries, published between 1991 and 2018. The prevalence of burnout according to those studies ranged from 0 percent to 80.5 percent. The authors conclude: Without good data, it’s hard to craft good solutions. 

The second JAMA article reviews whether clinical specialty is associated with rates of burnout and career choice regret among resident physicians. This study, by a team led by a physician from Mayo Clinic, asked resident physicians to report the frequency of experiencing various emotions, their degree of empathy, and the type of support available to them. The study found 1,615 of the 3,574 resident physicians reported symptoms of burnout, while 502 of 3,571 resident physicians had career choice regret. Training in urology, neurology, emergency medicine, and general surgery were associated with higher relative risks of reported symptoms of burnout compared to training in internal medicine. 

While both articles recommend further study, we have an obligation to our patients and to each other to address such concerns sooner rather than later. While the care of others is inherently stressful because of the degree of responsibility we take, we have roles that are filled with meaning and consequence and that offer bountiful rewards. Many aspects of our jobs are not easy. They should not be. Life’s complexity poses never-ending challenges and new opportunities to explore and improve. We have a duty to do our best to prepare to meet those challenges. It is necessary sometimes to step back and consider where we have been and where we are to make better choices when deciding where we want to go. If you feel you need help, be sure to ask. We are surrounded here by people who want to help and there are many resources available

This year’s One Book One Campus program is focused on “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life in Death” by Jean-Dominique Bauby. The book was written by Bauby after he suffered a stroke and emerged from a coma with “locked-in syndrome.” He was alert and conscious, but quadriplegic and unable to speak. He wrote the book by blinking his left eye in response to reading of the alphabet, which was transcribed letter-by-letter by a friend. A book reviewer in the New England Journal of Medicine wrote, “Every sentence of this arduously written book is a jewel burnished by a rare disease and still rarer intelligence.” 


There will be several campus activities related to the book. 


  • The patient view will be discussed by Jim Cohen, who suffered a stroke and who endured a similar “locked-in” experience, on Monday, October 8, noon to 1 p.m., in Education 1 Room 3500S. Jim was featured in an article in UCHealth Today. Jim’s friend, Ben Honigman, MD, professor of emergency medicine who recently retired, will join this discussion. 


  • A book club will meet on Wednesday, October 10, noon to 1 p.m., Health Sciences Library, Teaching Labs 1 and 2. 


  • A screening of the movie, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” will be Thursday, October 25, 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Gossard Forum, Fulginiti Pavilion for Bioethics and Humanities. 


  • A panel discussion on the ethical challenges for health professionals when family and friends are patients facing life and death conditions, on Monday, October 29, noon to 1 p.m., Education 1, Room 1400. The panelists are Jim Cohen, an MD family member, and Jim’s friend, Ben Honigman, MD. 

The One Book One Campus program organized by the CU Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education (CU CIPE). This year’s program is themed Strengthening Ourselves through Awareness and Resilience (SOAR). Registration details for the One Book One Campus events and for other programming offered by the CU CIPE Interprofessional Open Campus Program are available online

The School of Medicine last Thursday celebrated the retirement of Frederick Grover, MD, former chair of surgery, with the establishment of the Frederick and Carol Grover Endowed Chair in Surgery, which was created with contributions of more than 120 donors, including 40 faculty and staff. The gifts are a fitting tribute to Fred, an accomplished and respected cardiothoracic surgeon and mentor, who led the Department of Surgery from 2002 to 2012. We were joined at the ceremony in Krugman Conference Hall by many of Fred’s colleagues and friends, including Congresswoman Diana DeGette, who last Monday filed an extension of remarks to the Congressional Record honoring Fred. In those remarks she concluded: “Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise today to honor my friend Fred Grover for his dedication to patients, his compassion and his significant participation in the civic life of Colorado. It is an honor to celebrate his service.” 

The VA Research Days are scheduled for Thursday, October 4, and Friday, October 5, in the auditorium of the new Rocky Mountain Region VA Medical Center (RMRVAMC). Posters will go on view beginning Thursday, October 4, and opening remarks are scheduled for 1 p.m. Speakers on the first day will include Sallie Houser-Hanfelder, director of the VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System, and Robert Eckel, MD, interim vice chancellor for research for the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. On October 5, posters are open for viewing beginning at 11 p.m. and several speakers who are on the School of Medicine faculty will speak at 1 p.m. Those speakers include Kenneth Tyler, MD, chair of neurology, James Beck, MD, professor of medicine and chief of medicine for the VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System, and Jane E.B. Reusch, MD, professor of medicine and president of medicine and science for the American Diabetes Association. All are invited. 

Denver Health broke ground last Thursday on its new $157 million Outpatient Medical Center, which is expected to be completed in 2020 and will consolidate clinics under one roof on Denver Health’s main campus. About half the cost of the project is being supported by a citywide bond measure approved by voters last fall. By consolidating clinics, Denver Health will be able to boost primary care services, increase the number of inpatient psychiatric beds and expand operating rooms. As a valued partner to the School of Medicine, our faculty at Denver Health provide training to help meet the health care needs of our growing community. 

The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus has issued a call for judges for the 33rd Annual Student Research Forum. The Forum is a research showcase for students from all schools on campus. The research forum poster presentations are Tuesday, December 11, in Education 2 North and South. Registration for the event begins at noon. Session one is at 1 p.m. and the second session begins at 2:15 p.m. Faculty judges can sign up on the online call for judges. Questions should be sent to

Congratulations to Ellen Mangione, MD, MPH, chief of staff at the VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System, on her retirement. At Tuesday’s meeting of the Executive Committee of the School of Medicine, Ellen announced that it was her final time to attend the meeting as the local VA chief of staff. Harold “Corky” Dillon, MD, MBA, who has been deputy chief of staff, for the past two years, will succeed her in that role and Clifford Lee Parmley, MD, formerly a professor of anesthesiology at Vanderbilt University and chief of staff at Vanderbilt University Hospital, joins the VA as deputy chief of staff. 

Children’s Hospital Colorado and the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus are engaged in a process to evaluate our Child Health Research Enterprise and to conduct strategic planning for the future. Related to that effort, a faculty survey was distributed by email from the School of Medicine’s Office of Faculty Affairs on Friday, September 21. This survey will be open through Wednesday, October 3. If you did not receive the email and you conduct child health research, please contact so that you can receive the link to the survey. Your participation in this survey is crucial to the process and valued by the team working on this project. 

The School of Medicine Office of Diversity and Inclusion hosted its third annual Toast to Diversity and Call to Action on Thursday evening at the Hyatt Regency Aurora-Denver Conference Center near the Anschutz Medical Campus. The event offers an opportunity to recognize and encourage efforts to include in our community people from all backgrounds, especially those whose perspectives and experiences have been overlooked or excluded in the past. Our efforts to serve a diverse population with care sensitive to their cultures, to teach students from varied backgrounds, and to research healthcare dilemmas from a perspective of equity are more likely to succeed if we are a community that values, promotes, and welcomes individuals from diverse backgrounds who will work together for the benefit of all. Kamal Henderson, MD, and MS2 student diversity council representatives Max Cabrera and Stephanie Nwagwu inspired attendees with their reflections on the personal nature of mentorship, diversity, inclusion, and equity in their lives and on our campus. Thanks to the nearly 200 people who joined in the celebration and specifically those who organized the event, including Stephanie Flores, MA, diversity and inclusion professional and coordinator of our BA/BS-MD Program, Regina Richards, MSW, director of diversity and inclusion and Shanta Zimmer, MD, associate dean for diversity and inclusion and senior associate dean for education. 


Have a good week,

John J. Reilly, Jr., MD
Richard D. Krugman Endowed Chair
Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs and
Dean, School of Medicine 


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