Dean's Weekly Message

September 30, 2019

Dear colleague:

The National Institutes of Health announced last week that it has awarded about $35 million in new grants to advance research on Down syndrome through the Investigation of Co-occuring Conditions Across the Lifespan to Understand Down Syndrome (INCLUDE) project. The announcement is a major breakthrough in funding research for people with Down syndrome and many investigators on our campus will be receiving support for their work through this project. CU researchers led by the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome on the Anschutz Medical Campus received 12 awards for about $9 million over the next two years. Among the announcements are two new RO1 grants – one to Joaquin Espinosa, PhD, professor of pharmacology and one to David Bentley, PhD, professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics. In announcing the funding, NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, explained the value of the INCLUDE projects: “Individuals with Down syndrome are both affected by and protected against many of the conditions that afflict the general population. By improving our understanding of the basic biological mechanisms of Down syndrome, and making clinical trials more accessible and specifically tailored to individuals with Down Syndrome, we expect that research from the INCLUDE project will benefit everyone.” 

That message has been made for many years by scientists at CU who have been involved in this research and who are part of the outreach and lobbying efforts to the NIH and Congress, which have been led by Michelle Sie Whitten, president and CEO of the Global Down Syndrome Foundation (Global). Through Global, Whitten helped to establish and continues to support our School’s Crnic Institute and the Sie Center for Down Syndrome at Children’s Hospital Colorado. We are the beneficiaries of Michelle’s passionate and tireless dedication to the cause and we are grateful for her work. Her advocacy with federal officials has been essential to heightening the NIH leadership’s awareness of the need to support this research and our faculty have been leaders in making the discoveries and connections that have encouraged this investment by the NIH. CU researchers received more grants than any other institution in this round of INCLUDE funding. The announcement of these grants is proof that persistence pays off, both in laboratories on our campus and in the corridors of Washington, D.C. 

Michael E. Wechsler, MD, MMSc, professor of medicine in the Division of Pulmonary Sciences and Critical Care and director of the National Jewish Health Cohen Family Asthma Institute, is the first author of an original article published last week in The New England Journal of Medicine that explains the results of a study of care for black children and adults with poorly controlled asthma. Previous studies have not included enough black patients to support treatment recommendations, so the findings of this study, funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, are important for improving care for black patients with asthma. The authors conclude that in black children with asthma in need of step-up therapy to achieve adequate disease control, almost half respond better to increasing the dose of inhaled glucocorticoid and almost another half respond better to adding a long-acting beta-agonist. These findings differentiate their treatment responses from those observed in white children and in black adolescents and adults. Co-authors from the University of Colorado School of Medicine include Stanley J. Szefler, MD, Ronina Covar, MD, Fernando Holguin, MD, MPH, and J. Tod Olin, MD. 

Fernando Holguin, MD, MPH, professor of medicine and director of Asthma Clinical and Research Programs, also is the first author of an article, “Management of Severe Asthma: a European Respiratory Society/American Thoracic Society Guideline,” published this month by the European Respiratory Journal. The work for the current guideline began in 2017 and was necessitated by the rapid introduction of new treatments and the published document provides clinical recommendations for the management of severe asthma. Fernando was a co-chair of the task force that wrote the report. The task force, which included 23 clinicians and researchers with experience in severe asthma and two severe asthma patient representatives, is a comprehensive review of care standards and a major contribution. 

Congratulations to Amos Bailey, MD, professor of medicine, on his selection to receive the 2020 Palliative Medicine National Leadership Award from the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Care’s Project on Death in America. The award recognizes Amos for his efforts to advance the field of palliative care by educating the next generation of palliative care leaders. It also recognizes him for serving as a role model for other health professionals engaged in improving care of the dying. Amos is an innovative leader in education who joined CU in 2014 to develop online programs to bring palliative care to health care providers. Most recently, Amos has led the way in developing the first-in-the-nation non-residential fellowship program to train practicing physicians in hospice and palliative care. Beginning in the summer 2020, six mid-career physicians will begin training in the new Hospice and Palliative Medicine Fellowship demonstration project. 

Maureen Leehey, MD, professor of neurology, has been appointed to the newly created Institute of Cannabis Research Governing Board, which was created by the Colorado state legislature this year. The board is tasked with advising any Colorado institution of higher education that is developing cannabis-related curriculum. The board also provide input to the Colorado Commission on Higher Education before it approves any cannabis related degrees or certifications. Maureen, who is director of the Department of Neurology’s Movement Disorders Division and who has worked with Parkinson’s patients for more than 30 years, is conducting research on whether cannabidiol provides relief for patients. 

The Association of American Medical Colleges Group on Women in Medicine and Science recently featured Lilly Marks, vice president for health affairs for the University of Colorado, as part of its celebration of Women in Medicine Month. Each week in the month of September, the group compiled articles, journals, and lessons from women in physician, scientist, educator, and leader roles. Lilly’s foundational contributions to the financial health of our School are extraordinary and our ability to invest and grow stems from her leadership roles and in particular her leadership of our faculty practice. Lilly is currently chair of the AAMC’s board of directors and she is featured with other women who serve on the board. 

The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus last Friday celebrated the career and accomplishments of Margaret Schenkman, PT, PhD, who recently stepped down from her role as the director of the School of Medicine Physical Therapy Program. Margaret guided the program through its 70th anniversary celebration in 2017, helped attract substantial financial support for scholarships for students, and built and maintained a program that is consistently ranked as one of the nation’s best. The gathering attracted friends, graduates, and colleagues from across our campus to give Margaret the highly deserved recognition for a job well done.

 Pursuing research opportunities with the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) will be the focus of the upcoming Know Your Agency Lunch on Friday, October 4, from noon to 2 p.m. in Education 2 North, Room 1102. The event will feature an overview of DOD funding opportunities in biomedical and health research from consultants with SMI, Inc., as well as a panel of outstanding School of Medicine faculty who have been supported by funding agencies within DOD. The panel will include Vik Bebarta, MD, professor of emergency medicine and director of the Center for Combat and Battlefield Research; Rosemary Rochford, PhD, professor of immunology and microbiology; and David Beckham, associate professor medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases. RSVP at this link to attend. A limited number of one-on-one meetings with the consultants are also available. Faculty who would like to attend a one-on-one session should contact Kent Springfield, associate vice president for federal policy in the CU Office of Government Relations at kent.springfield@cu.edu

The Center for Women’s Health Research (CWHR) held its 2019 Annual Community Luncheon on Monday, September 23, with featured speaker Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD, DPhil, assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer,” gave a thought-provoking and engaging keynote talk about women, genomics, and the future of medicine to a sold-out audience of 800 people at the Seawall Ballroom at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. CWHR researcher Liz Wellberg, PhD, assistant professor of pathology, also presented her work on the effects of breast cancer treatment on diabetes. CWHR Co-Founder and Director Judy Regensteiner, PhD, awarded 10 new seed grants to School of Medicine faculty in the areas of cardiovascular disease and diabetes as well as the intersection of mental and physical health. We are fortunate to have a productive center with so many supporters in the community. 

The Office of Advancement announced last week the establishment of the Charles Elliot Morris Endowed Chair in Neurology at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, made possible with a commitment of nearly $2 million from the estate of CU School of Medicine alumni Charles Morris, MD ’55, and Naomi Minner Morris, MD ’55. John R. Corboy, MD, professor and executive vice chair of the Department of Neurology and co-chief of the Neuroimmunology Section, has been named the inaugural Morris Endowed Chair. Charles Elliot Morris and Naomi Carolyn Minner met as teenagers and were the first married couple admitted to the CU School of Medicine. After graduation from the CU School of Medicine in 1955, they interned at Los Angeles County General Hospital and both received further training in Boston. After Chuck served two years in the U.S. Navy, the couple joined the University of North Carolina faculty. The Morrises raised two sons, Jonathan and David, who became physicians. We are grateful for their generous support. 

“Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic,” by Sam Quinones is this year’s One Book One Campus selection. Readers can choose from several book club formats. The online book club starts on Tuesday, October 1. The in-person book club will be on Friday, October 18. The round-robin version, with the key characters featured in the book portrayed by CU Anschutz Medical Campus faculty and staff, is scheduled for Thursday, November 14. Related activities include a film series featuring “CAKE” and “Recovery Boys,” an interactive overview of medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder, a narrative medicine workshop, and a presentation, “The Opioid Crisis: Patient-Centered Care & Public Health Consideration.” Register here. 

Foundations of Doctoring is recruiting clinical educators for our first-year medical students. The longitudinal preceptorship program allows students to participate in patient care, gain exposure to various medical fields, and apply knowledge from medical school didactics under the supervision and guidance of practicing physicians. Students work with their preceptor two to three afternoons per month during the School term. All medical specialties are welcome to participate in the preceptorship program. We are in particular need of primary care preceptors. Preceptors will receive regular evaluations from their students for their promotion dossier. Preceptors are also invited to the annual Golden Stethoscope banquet and eligible for student-nominated awards. This is an excellent opportunity to contribute to the education of our students and I encourage faculty to participate. The preceptor application is online. More information is available on the Foundations of Doctoring website or can be requested at Foundations.Doctoring@ucdenver.edu

The American Medical Association (AMA) announced last week that the CU School of Medicine is an inaugural recipient of the AMA’s Joy in Medicine Recognition. There were nearly two dozen health care organizations so honored for outstanding efforts to address system causes of physician burnout. Organizations were evaluated on their commitment, assessment, leadership, efficiency of practice environment, teamwork, and support.

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.  For clinical news and patient stories from UCHealth, please visit UCHealth Today

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