Dean's Weekly Message

May 23, 2016


Dear colleague: 

Commencement activities are the highlight of this week with multiple ceremonies. The campuswide graduation ceremony is at 8:30 a.m. Friday, May 27, on Boettcher Commons, south of the Fulginiti Pavilion for Bioethics and Humanities. The School of Medicine Hooding and Oath Ceremony is set to begin at 10:15 a.m., also on Boettcher Commons. The backup site in case of inclement weather is the Crowne Plaza Denver Airport Convention Center.  For the Physical Therapy Program, the convocation will be at 10 a.m. Friday, May 27, in Bonfils Circle. The Child Health Associate/Physician Assistant Program graduation ceremony will be 10 a.m. Thursday, May 26, on the Library Commons. In case of inclement weather, the ceremony will move to Education 2 South, Auditorium Room 1102. Congratulations to all of our graduates. 

Peter Buttrick, MD, senior associate dean for academic affairs, led the School of Medicine Executive Committee meeting last Tuesday because I was at the American Thoracic Society’s annual meeting in San Francisco. Two of the programs that received Transformational Research Funding made presentations at the Executive Committee meeting and both made reports of progress in establishing programs that are going to make a difference on the Anschutz Medical Campus. 

Sean Colgan, PhD, Levine-Kern Professor of Medicine and Immunology and director of the Mucosal Inflammation Program, discussed the GI and Liver Innate Immune Program. He explained that program aims to expand expertise already here at the Anschutz Medical Campus with education, recruitment and pilot grants to support promising research projects. On Monday, May 16, this program issued a request for applications for two types of grants – pilot/feasibility one-year projects and high-impact research grants. The goal is to promote research aimed at understanding how the innate immune system molds the gastrointestinal and hepatic environment and how these processes influence organ function, mucosal immunity, innate host defense, acute and chronic inflammation and microbial pathogenesis. Letters of intent are due Wednesday, June 1, and full applications are due Friday, July 15. 

Tim McKinsey, PhD, associate professor of medicine, offered an overview of the Consortium for Fibrosis Research and Translation (CFReT), which aims to integrate work by researchers in the molecular mechanisms and treatment of fibrotic diseases across organ systems. As these programs take shape, one of the important steps is to recruit talented colleagues to campus. Tim announced last Tuesday that CFReT has already recruited a new leader to campus: Keith Koch, PhD, has been hired as the director of CFReT’s Fibrosis Innovation Group, which is modeled after similar units at biotechnology companies and nonprofit research institutes. Keith earned a PhD in biochemistry from the University of Michigan and did postdoctoral work at University of California-Berkeley. His experience has included research and leadership roles at Triad Therapeutics, Gilead and Cytoskeleton. 

For those interested in following the progress of these and the other Transformational Research Funding projects, the Dean’s Office has created a webpage dedicated to the specific projects. We plan to update as these projects progress. The projects are also creating their own webpages where you can find more information. For example, the RNA Bioscience Initiative has created its own webpage where you can find details about that program. 

Also at Tuesday’s School of Medicine Executive Committee, members of the committee approved the creation of a new Division of Hospital Medicine to be part of the Department of Medicine. This growing discipline focuses on inpatient care and related clinical systems. The functions of the new division will include designing clinical care systems that facilitate quality improvement, patient safety, patient experience and cost-effective care delivery. The Division also will run the Hospitalist Training Program within the Internal Medicine Residency and will continue to provide teaching through the inpatient services at University of Colorado Hospital. Read Pierce, MD, assistant professor of medicine, will serve as interim division head while a national search for a permanent division head is underway. 

Because I was traveling last week, we interrupted the usual schedule of the so-called Super Tuesday meetings. We held the School of Medicine Executive Committee meeting last week because it was important for the committee to approve the MD graduates who will be receiving their degrees on Friday, May 27. But other key meetings usually held on Super Tuesday were postponed a week. Those meetings – the University Physicians, Inc., (UPI) Executive Committee and the UPI Board – will be held tomorrow, Tuesday, May 24. The UPI Executive Committee will be at 7:30 a.m. in Research 2, Room 6105. The UPI Board Meeting will be at 8:30 a.m. in the Krugman Conference Hall. 

Children’s Hospital Colorado’s Center for Innovation is holding a launch celebration on Wednesday, June 1, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the 2nd Floor Conference Center of the hospital. The center aims to establish a clear path for venture development through education, incubation and acceleration for faculty, staff and administrators. Steven Krien, co-founder and CEO of entrepreneurship-development company, StartUp Health, will give a keynote speech. 

On Friday, the American Heart Association announced four centers, including the University of Colorado School of Medicine, had been selected to be part of the AHA’s Heart Failure Research Network. The others are Duke University Medical Center, Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of Utah. The University of Colorado School of Medicine research team is structured to address knowledge gaps in the treatment of heart failure across the discovery continuum, from basic science to clinical care to population health, and will specifically focus on novel drug discovery, pharmacogenomics and patient engagement. Peter Buttrick, MD, senior associate dean for academic affairs and head of the Division of Cardiology, will be the center director. The other members of the CU team are Timothy McKinsey, PhD, associate professor of medicine and associate division head for translational research, Michael Bristow, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and co-founder of the University of Colorado Cardiovascular Institute, and Larry Allen, MD, MHSc, associate professor of medicine and medical director of advanced heart failure and transplantation. 

Congratulations to Abigail Person, PhD, assistant professor of physiology and biophysics, who was one of six neuroscientists selected to receive a 2016 McKnight Scholar Award. The Board of Directors of The McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience announced the awards last week. A McKnight Scholar Award is one of the most prestigious early-career honors that a young neuroscientist can receive. There were 51 applicants for this year’s awards. Abigail’s work explores how the brain makes movements precise. Using a variety of physiological, optogenetic, anatomical and behavioral techniques, her research aims to untangle the mix of signals in the cerebellar nuclei to interpret how it contributes to motor control. Abigail anticipates that her research may offer clinicians insight into therapeutic strategies for people with cerebellar disease, and could potentially contribute to the class of technologies that use neural signals to control prosthetic limbs. 

Congratulations to Joy L. Hawkins, MD, professor and vice chair of education in the Department of Anesthesiology, who received the Society of Obstetric Anesthesia and Perinatology Distinguished Service award at the group’s annual meeting in Boston last week. The award recognizes exceptional service to the specialty of obstetric anesthesia and for contributions to the Society, such as serving on the board of directors and society committees and presenting at annual meetings. 

Congratulations to Brian Graham, MD, associate professor of medicine in the Division of Pulmonary Sciences and Critical Care, on receiving the Parker B. Francis Jo Rae Wright Award for Scientific Excellence at the American Thoracic Society annual meeting last week. The award is bestowed annually to recent graduates of the Parker B. Francis Fellowship Program whose research shows exceptional creativity and promise and who has demonstrated outstanding mentoring and professional leadership qualities. 

Congratulations to Thad Vickery, a member of the class of 2017, on receiving the Carolyn L. Kuckein Student Research Fellowship from the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society. Thad is one of 53 recipients of the prestigious fellowship this year. Thad’s project is titled “Mouse Model of Pyocyanin-Induced Chronic Rhinosinusitis” and his mentor is Vijay R. Ramakrishnan, MD, assistant professor of otolaryngology. 

Last week, the Office of Advancement announced a special gift from Donald Bennallack, MD ’50, who is leaving his estate in support of the Donald A. Bennallack, MD, Scholarship Endowment. In this video, Donald explains that he is making this gift in part because he wants to help students who face financial hardship. He recalled a classmate who dropped out of medical school for financial reasons and he says, “I thought, maybe I could help someone like that.” He will be helping many students in the years ahead. We are grateful for Donald’s generous support. 

The inaugural cohort of faculty in the Leadership in Education Administration Program is requesting help with its survey regarding how teaching is valued across the School of Medicine system and affiliate hospitals. A link to the survey was emailed via Faculty Affairs and, for your convenience, we are providing it here The survey closes on Monday, May 30. 

The Junior Faculty Career Promotion Retreat is Thursday, June 2, beginning at 8 a.m. I’ll be offering a keynote lecture and then throughout the morning faculty colleagues will lead workshops aimed at giving sound advice on advancing toward promotion and tenure, building interdisciplinary collaborations, improving grant submissions and translating discoveries into patents and licenses. Those events will be held in the Shore Family Forum of the Nighthorse Campbell Native Health Building. Then, in the afternoon, from noon until 3 p.m. in the Krugman Conference Hall of Research 2, there will be lunch, roundtable topic discussions and resource booths. To attend, fill out the online registration

The Department of Pediatrics and the School of Medicine Dean’s Office are hosting a special symposium to commemorate the illustrious career of Richard Johnston, MD, on Monday, June 6. Dick served as the School’s associate dean for research development and professor of pediatrics, and established himself as a world leader in immunology and inflammation research, a field he helped to launch while chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at National Jewish Health. In addition, he was instrumental in shaping the direction of the March of Dimes Foundation. The daylong event begins at 8 a.m. in the Mt. Oxford Auditorium in the Children’s Hospital Colorado second floor Conference Center. Mentees and colleagues will speak about Dick’s influence. Special guest Max D. Cooper, MD, from Emory University School of Medicine’s Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, will give pediatric grand rounds, “How Did Our Adaptive Immune System Evolve,” at 12:30 p.m. 


There will be no Dean’s Weekly Message on Memorial Day, Monday, May 30. Have a safe and happy holiday.


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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