Dean's Weekly Message

February 1, 2016


Dear colleague: 

Thank you to all who attended the State of the School address on Wednesday where I was pleased to report that the state of the school is very good. We’re in a great place and the problems we have are the problems of success. We have a great faculty.  We have a great environment. People here are working very hard both subjectively and objectively and doing really good things. We deliver high-quality clinical care and will continue to do so. We’re doing really good science here and we have the opportunity to build on that and do even better science going forward. I hope that all of this combines to make us the place where young people going into medicine want to come. We want the most talented young medical students and science trainees to come and participate with us on the Anschutz Medical Campus. 

The problems we face are related to growth and change in the marketplace. For patients, we need to do more to address population health and we need to be closer to them. We moved east to come out here to establish this wonderful campus. Now it’s time to look west. Over the upcoming year, for reasons of practicality in terms of facilities and more importantly for reasons of patient access and population coverage, we must have a clinical presence outside the Anschutz Medical Campus. The School’s leadership will be working with our partners to extend the reach of our primary care service into the community and to address the need to improve population health strategies as value-based payment systems become the norm. 

On our campus, research space is at a premium, but by most measures we have capacity to add space in our current facilities. That means we need to reallocate research space in a rational matter. After a year of study and review of multiple options, a committee is set to offer a recommendation soon. It is imperative to organize space in ways that allow investigators to work together and share equipment efficiently. The hard part is talking about implementation and how to move all the jigsaw pieces, but this is an absolutely fundamental requirement for us to tackle if we are going to begin to take advantage of the investments the School is making in research. To bring new talent to this campus and to bring new programs means we have to put them in first-class space, so that’s going to be a priority. 


At the State of the School, I announced the five proposals selected to receive Transformational Research Funding. They are:

  • Patient-Integrated Value and Organizational Transformation and Data Sciences for Health (PIVOT/DASH), which aims to build infrastructure, develop methods and establish implementation pathways to prepare for population health.
  • The GI and Liver Innate Immune Center, which aims to diagnose, treat and understand gastrointestinal and liver disease in children and adults.
  • The Center for Human Immune Innovation, which will build on existing strengths in immunology to capture the next wave of development in the field, treating and, in many cases curing, diseases by interventions that target immunological functions.
  • The RNA Bioscience Center, which will focus on developments in understanding of RNA biology, including its biogenesis and structure, the identification of functions for various classes of RNAs, establishing the role of RNA in disease and exploring RNA-based and RNA-targeted therapies.
  • The Center for Fibrosis Research and Translation, which will impact human health through discoveries of fundamental mechanisms of fibrosis, and to use this knowledge as a platform for developing transformative therapies to treat fibrotic disease, covering multiple organs. The center will also address organ regeneration, inflammation and epigenetics.

As I said during the address, we were very fortunate to have so many strong projects submitted and I want to express my appreciation to everyone who worked so hard on their proposals. I now have the job of identifying resources to capitalize on those other opportunities. 

Earlier in the day of the State of the School address, I attended the School of Medicine Scholarship luncheon. At that gathering, we recognized student scholars and thanked donors. These scholarships are critical to the students and we are grateful to all donors who make contributions to the scholarship program. University Physicians, Inc., is one of the most generous contributors to these scholarships, providing about $350,000 a year. Thanks to all who attended.

The 3rd Annual Second Look for Minority Scholars in Medicine dinner will occur on Friday, Feb. 5, at the History Colorado Center bringing together more than 25 prospective residency applicants, School of Medicine faculty and community leaders. This program has been effective in previous years in helping the Department of Emergency Medicine attract residency candidates for interviews and it is now expanded to include many other departments on campus. The dinner is a culmination of two days of events, including a mixer at the Blair-Caldwell African-American Research Library in Denver where the students will meet community leaders. Joining us at Friday’s dinner as a guest speaker will be Elbra Wedgeworth, chief government and community relations officer for Denver Health.

Eva Aagaard, MD, professor of medicine and associate dean for educational strategy, and Mona Abaza, MD, associate professor and residency program director for the Department of Otolaryngology, are authors of a perspective article, “The Residency Application Process – Burden and Consequences,” in the current issue of The New England Journal of Medicine. They make the case that the process of preparing for and applying to residency programs has become overly burdensome and makes it difficult to maximize the potential – or to consider eliminating – the fourth year of medical school.

On Monday, Feb. 1, Illumina Inc. of San Diego announced four biobanking deals, including one with the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. The agreement calls for the team led by Kathleen Barnes, PhD, head of the Division of Biomedical Informatics and Personalized Medicine in the Department of Medicine, to genotype 30,000 samples on the Illumina MEGA EX BeadChip with analysis of 2,000 samples on the new DNA Methylation EPIC chip. Upon completion of a pilot study, and with ongoing patient sample collection, this new biobank expects to analyze hundreds of thousands of samples per year over the next several years.

The Biomedical Informatics and Personalized Medicine (BIPM) Center is developing a high-density genotyping biobank array that will be optimized for human population studies.  Approximately 350,000 SNPs can be added as custom content to the 1.8 million SNPs currently available on the Illumina MEGAEX  array. The goal of the custom SNP content is to build research opportunities that take advantage of expertise within the University of Colorado. In addition to the genotyping of all biobank samples within BIPM, the customized MEGAEX array can be available for genotyping on general research samples, provided they meet certain regulatory conditions.  If you have proposed gene or set of genes for consideration for including on the array or have questions regarding general research samples, please contact Tzu Phang, PhD, ( by Sunday, Feb. 14, to participate in this effort. 


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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