Dean's Weekly Message

August 29, 2016


Dear colleague: 

Last Thursday, on behalf of the School of Medicine, I offered profound gratitude to Donald Bennallack, MD ’50,whose generous estate bequest is creating a scholarship fund for our medical students. The Office of Advancement and Denver pediatrician Jody Mathie, MD, hosted an event to pay tribute to Don, who is a retired obstetrician. Don helped deliver more than 3,000 babies during his 36-year career – so many that in some cases he delivered “second-generation babies,” the children of children he delivered decades earlier. Don’s gift is the largest contribution to medical scholarships that our School has ever received from an individual donor and it will assure that deserving students for generations to come are able to pursue their dreams of a medical degree. 

The School’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion held “A Toast to Diversity” on Friday, Aug. 26, as a way to show our support for and dedication to creating opportunities for all to learn, teach, research, and provide care to others. The School and its leadership are committed to establishing an environment that recognizes that our different backgrounds are a source of strength and will help us better serve our community. While we have achievements to celebrate, we can and must do more to engage, involve and prepare physicians, physician assistants, physical therapists and scientists to address the needs of our ever-changing world. We were fortunate to have many excellent speakers at the event, including Brenda J. Allen, PhD, vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion, who addressed the 200 attendees via a recorded message; Amira del Pino-Jones, MD, assistant professor of medicine; Meha Semwal, MD candidate in our Class of 2019; Johnny Johnson, MD, president of the Mile High Medical Society; and Nia Mitchell, MD, MS, MPH, formerly of the School of Medicine who is now at Duke University. Thanks to Shanta Zimmer, MD, associate dean for diversity and inclusion, and Regina Richards, MSW, director of diversity and inclusion, for organizing the event. 

I am pleased to announce that Alison Heru, MD, has agreed to serve as interim chair of the Department of Psychiatry while the School conducts a search for a successor to Robert Freedman, MD, who is retiring effective Aug. 31. Alison is professor of psychiatry and has been on the University of Colorado School of Medicine faculty since 2007. Alison has distinguished herself at CU as a researcher, educator and administrator on our faculty, winning the Teacher Scholar Award from the University, giving dozens of invited extramural lectures and presentations and writing or editing several articles and books. Alison earned her medical degree from Glasgow University and completed residency and internship training at the University of Edinburgh and Brown University. Before joining CU, Alison was on the Brown University faculty as a clinical associate professor. 

I also want to thank Bob Freedman for his dedicated service to the School of Medicine. Bob joined the University of Colorado faculty in 1978 as assistant professor of psychiatry and pharmacology and he became chair of psychiatry in 2000. Last October, he was awarded the Lieber Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Schizophrenia Research by the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation for “pioneering research that examines the convergence between physiology and genetics in schizophrenia.” In 2012, his book “The Madness Within Us: Schizophrenia as a Neuronal Process,” was published by the Oxford University Press. Bob will continue as the editor of the American Journal of Psychiatry, the most esteemed psychiatric journal worldwide. We wish him a happy and healthy retirement. 

CU Anschutz Today has an article about the outstanding care received by Denver City Council President and former CU Buffaloes football player Albus Brooks. This summer, at 37 years old, Albus was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, chondrosarcoma. Among the team who provided Albus care were Victor Villalobos, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine, Ana Gleisner, MD, PhD, assistant professor of surgery, and Evalina Burger, MD, professor of orthopedics. Albus described Ana as a “rock star” and he offered high praise for the personalized care he received from Eva. Albus’ father died from cardiac complications just hours before one of Albus’ own surgeries. “Dr. Burger came in and saw that I had tears in my eyes and – not knowing about my father – she said, ‘I just want to hug you.’ It was one of the most incredible experiences I’ve had. It’s just amazing: The relational aspect and the expertise at CU Anschutz – it’s all second to none.” 

The National Science Foundation has awarded an $800,000 grant to researchers from the CU Anschutz Medical Campus and CU Boulder to support their efforts to reconnect neural communication in parts of the brain where it has been severed. The team of neuroscientists and engineers will use a special lightweight microscope that they designed to peer into and control the living brain of a mouse as they try to reconnect parts of the brain that no longer communicate with each other. Diego Restrepo, PhD, professor of cell and developmental biology and director of the Center for NeuroScience at the School of Medicine, and Emily Gibson, PhD, assistant professor of bioengineering, are among the researchers working on the project. 

An exhibit opening for “Potions, Poisons, and Panaceas,” a display of medicinal and pharmacological botanical illustrations, will be held from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 8, in the gallery at the Fulginiti Pavilion for Bioethics and Humanities. The program will include a conversation with Simon Zalkind, curator, Mervi Hjelmroos-Koski, PhD, DSc, director of the Denver Botanic Gardens School of Botanic Illustration, and Monika Nuffer, PharmD, senior instructor of clinical pharmacy in the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. The illustrations will be on display through Nov. 10. 

Faculty volunteers are still needed for a Foundations of Doctoring session on Oct. 11 to facilitate guiding our Phase II students with their Subjective Objective Assessment Plan notes and oral presentations. There will be a similar session for Phase I students focusing on the History and Physical Note in the spring (tentative date is April 20) and faculty volunteers are needed for that session too. These sessions involve a faculty development orientation with lunch provided from noon-1 p.m., then a short large-group session with facilitators and students from 1 p.m.-1:30 p.m., with small groups from 1:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m. If interested, please contact Meleah Himber at or Todd Guth at

Mini Med School II The Clinical Years, a community service provided by the School of Medicine and our faculty, begins its weekly lectures at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 7. CU Mini Med School is a free eight-week program that offers lectures to the public by School of Medicine faculty on scientific and medical topics. This year’s line-up includes lectures and question-and-answer sessions on rural medicine, medical history, care of hospitalized patients, medical ethics, palliative care, and glimpses into the life of an orthopedic surgeon, emergency medicine physician, and rheumatologist. The weekly lectures are held on the Anschutz Medical Campus and are available by live feed to other sites across the state. To attend, registration is required. 

The School of Medicine’s Clinical Effectiveness and Patient Safety Small Grants Program has announced the grant awardees for the 2016 award cycle. This grant program, now in its tenth cycle, funds quality improvement initiatives with goals of improving patient safety and/or enhancing the quality and cost-effectiveness of health care delivery.  This program is available to faculty at CHCOUCH as well as to our UCH Residents and Fellows and the awardees are listed at the preceding links to the program websites.  

Condolences to the friends, family and colleagues of Donald Gilden, MD, professor of neurology, who was the Department’s second and the longest-serving chair. Don died Monday, Aug. 22, after a long illness. Don was an undergraduate at Dartmouth College, received his medical degree from the University of Maryland, and then trained in neurology at the University of Chicago.  He was a professor of neurology at the Wistar Institute and the University of Pennsylvania when he was recruited in 1985 to become the chair of the University of Colorado’s Department of Neurology.  He was an outstanding teacher, astute clinician, and extraordinary scientist, author on more than 420 papers, and he remained the Principal Investigator on both a National Institutes of Health Program Project Grant and an R01 until his death. He will be sorely missed by his many students, trainees, friends and colleagues and by his wife Audrey, sons Daniel, Adam and Paul and their families. Memorial services were held last Thursday. Contributions may be made to Congregation Rodef Shalom or Hadassah Medical Organization. 


There will be no Dean’s Weekly Message on Monday, Sept. 5, due to the Labor Day holiday.


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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