Dean's Weekly Message

September 26, 2016


Dear colleague: 

On Wednesday evening, we celebrated the Presidential Scholars at a reception at the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center. CU President Bruce Benson joined us to recognize the achievements of the School of Medicine students who have received substantial financial aid from a scholarship program funded by the University of Colorado President’s Office. Since it was established in 2010, the Presidential Scholars program has provided scholarships to 119 students and it has helped in our efforts to recruit a more diverse class of students. In the four years prior to the scholarships, about 12 percent of the students per class on average were from backgrounds underrepresented in medicine; now we average around 30 percent for each entering class. The Presidential Scholars funding has also prompted other donors to contribute scholarship funds. Since the scholarships were established, 40 new named scholarships have been created and substantial gifts from alumni, faculty and donors have increased the money available for scholarships and programs that help prepare students from diverse backgrounds for medical school. 

The impact of these scholarships is dramatic. According to the Office of Student Life, the scholarships help significantly reduce the burden of student loans. While the average estimated student loan debt for all students is about $170,000, the Presidential Scholars have an average estimated debt of $100,000. The scholars explain, though, that the scholarships mean more than reducing the amount of money they borrow to go to school. Zachary Blea, who is in the MD class of 2020, told the Office of Student Life: “This scholarship means more to us than just a reduction in loans I will need to accept; it was truly the difference that allowed me to attend school with financial confidence. It allows my family to pursue our dreams without doubt and fear.” We presented to President Benson a book of thank you messages from the student scholars as a memento of our gratitude. 

Our faculty increased their commitment to student scholarships last week when the board of University Physicians, Inc. (UPI), on Tuesday increased the UPI Scholarship fund to $750,000 from the current $500,000. It is the second year in a row that the UPI board has voted to increase the amount it provides for scholarships to students in the medical school. It is because of the dedicated hard work of our faculty and the success of our physician practice plan that UPI is able to invest in the next generation of physicians, physician assistants and physical therapists here at our School. By supporting these scholarships, we are creating a virtuous cycle, extending the success of our faculty and staff to cultivate a new generation of health care leaders. 

A critical priority facing the Anschutz Medical Campus is the need to more efficiently use the research space allocated to our investigators. When this process began more than a year ago, we explained this need – there is no funding for a new research building and there are unused and underutilized benches in laboratories in the buildings we already have. We asked administrative leaders in the departments and other units with lab space to submit realistic space utilization plans by Sept. 1. Of the 30 units identified, to date only 16 have responded. Based on estimates generated by university leadership, there are approximately 90,000 square feet of wet lab space considered underutilized. The 16 units that responded are responsible for about 60 percent of that square footage and leaders of those units have identified only 7,000 square feet of available space. 

There are numerous reasons why space identified as underutilized might not be available for new recruits. However, in order to bring new researchers to the campus, we need to work together to identify space opportunities. Going forward, I hope that we will all acknowledge this imperative and that we will work together to optimally utilize the limited space available. I have asked Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Peter Buttrick, MD, to continue the discussions, but I also made clear that I expect the conversations to progress toward solutions. 

University of Colorado Cancer Center consortium member Colorado State University and its Flint Animal Cancer Center are featured in a documentary called “The Answer to Cancer May Be Walking Right Beside Us.”  The program, which airs at 9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29, explores how the similarities in human and canine cancers may be key in making advances in the fight against the disease. The documentary will be seen in 30 cities across the United States and it features our faculty members Dan Theodorescu, MD, PhD, director of the CU Cancer Center, and Lia Gore, professor of pediatrics and director for the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children's Hospital Colorado. 

The inaugural presentation in the Bernie Karshmer, PhD Annual Program in Ethics and Humanities will be Wednesday, Sept. 28, in the Gossard Forum of the Fulginiti Pavilion for Bioethics and Humanities. Matthew Wynia, MD, MPH, director of the CU Anschutz Center for Bioethics and Humanities, will discuss “Transdisciplinary Professionalism: What it means, why we need it and how we can create it in health care.” The events begin at 5 p.m. with refreshments in the foyer and the presentation at 5:30 p.m.  The topic is a fitting tribute to Bernie, a professor of applied dentistry in the School of Dental Medicine and associate faculty in the Center for Bioethics and Humanities, who died in February 2016. Bernie was passionate about teaching ethics and was integral in creating and implementing the interprofessional ethics course on our campus. 

Last week, the Aspen Program for Ethical Healthcare Leadership provided courses with real-world scenarios, research-tested best practices and effective leadership techniques for its attendees. The program, presented by the CU Anschutz Medical Campus Center for Bioethics and Humanities in collaboration with the University of Denver, Institute for Enterprise Ethics and Colorado Law at the University of Colorado, offered some leading authorities including Anne Beal, MD, MPH, chief patient officer of Sanofi, and James Block, MD, former president and CEO of Johns Hopkins Health System and the Johns Hopkins Hospital. The conversations and coursework offered attendees, like Brian Adams, an MS1 student, excellent learning experiences outside the classrooms on our campus. Brian wrote me a note that said, “Experiences like personal discussions with leaders in the pharmaceutical industry and dinners with major governmental healthcare policy leaders transformed my understanding of ethical questions we’ll face in the 21st Century and made me even more passionate about addressing these issues.” He added that “it was an utterly transformative experience and I can’t wait to bring these discussions on the future of healthcare back to campus.” 


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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