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History of Falling Increases Crash Risk by 40 Percent

Older drivers with a history of falling are 40 percent more likely to be involved in crashes than their peers, according to a new study released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Falls limit an older drivers’ ability to function behind the wheel and can make driving risky for themselves and others on the road. These findings are important since annually a record 12 million older adults will experience a fall.

“Drivers age 60 and older are involved in more than 400,000 crashes each year, and it’s important that we find ways to keep them and others safe on the road.” said Peter Kissinger, President and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “This research is critical because it shows that we can now use an older driver’s fall history to identify if they are at greater risk for a crash.”

The report, Associations Between Falls and Driving Outcomes in Older Adults, is the latest research released in the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s Longitudinal Research on Aging Drivers (LongROAD) project. Researchers from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus along with the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety say that falls can increase crash risk in two ways:

  • Falls can result in a loss of functional ability (i.e. wrist fractures or a broken leg), which can make it difficult for older drivers to steer or brake to avoid a crash.
  • Falls can increase an individual’s fear of falling, which can lead to a decrease in physical activity that weakens driving skills.

“When it comes to physical health, you either use it or lose it,” said Jake Nelson, AAA’s Director of Traffic Safety and Advocacy. “Falls often scare people into being less active, but decreasing physical activity can weaken muscles and coordination and make someone more likely to be in a crash.”

The research suggests that seniors and their families should view falls as a possible early indicator of declining physical fitness.  Addressing the health issues that originally led to the fall such as lower body weakness, poor balance, slow reaction time, certain medications, dizziness, or vision problems, can help older drivers strengthen their functional ability and lower their risk for crashing or experiencing another fall in the future.

“Older drivers should find activities that enhance balance, strengthen muscles and promote flexibility,” continued Nelson.  “Even a low impact fitness training program or driver improvement course can help safely extend an older driver’s years on the road.”

Fall prevention is a great way for older drivers to keep themselves and others safe while on the road.  Those concerned about a parent or other older driver should help them monitor risk factors that address health concerns or household dangers. AAA recommends a series of exercises and stretches to improve neck, shoulder, trunk, back and overall body flexibility, which can help a driver who has suffered from a recent fall.  As a leading advocate for senior driver safety, AAA also offers a variety of programs and resources to help older drivers improve their driving performance and avoid crashes.

Recognizing that lifestyle changes, along with innovative technologies and medical advancements, will have a significant impact on the driving experiences of the baby boomer generation, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has launched a multi-year research program to more fully understand the driving patterns and trends of older drivers in the United States. The LongROAD (Longitudinal Research on Aging Drivers) Study is designed to generate the largest and most comprehensive data base about senior drivers in existence and will support in-depth studies of senior driving and mobility to better understand risks and develop effective countermeasures.

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Center focuses on innovative mental health strategies

Matt Vogl pays attention to swings. He’s a baseball fan, so he follows batters at the plate, especially his beloved St. Louis Cardinals. But his greater passion is seeing swings in behavioral health, especially those that move people toward happier, more productive lives.

Vogl knows that if not for one such serendipitous swing – a neighbor stepping in and transforming his own thoughts from utter despair to something approaching hope – he wouldn’t be here today. Now he stands on the cusp of the most satisfying opportunity of his career: Vogl, MPH, is executive director of the new National Behavioral Health Innovation Center (NBHIC) at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

The center will harness behavioral health assets that currently exist in Colorado and across the country to help implement innovative programs for schools, workplaces, courts, health care facilities, and anywhere else they’re needed.

NBHIC at CU Anschutz

The National Behavioral Health Innovation Center recently opened on the second floor of the University Physicians building at CU Anschutz.

The NBHIC will operate out of the Office of the Chancellor. “This center will bring together behavioral health experts and community resources to produce new strategies that advance care in Colorado and across the nation,” said CU Anschutz Chancellor Don Elliman. “With the generous support of The Anschutz Foundation, the expertise available at CU Anschutz, and Matt Vogl’s vision and leadership, the National Behavioral Health Innovation Center will help implement innovative behavioral health programs wherever they’re needed in our society.”

Vogl said the field is set for something big, possibly a home run or two, to advance behavioral health. Although Colorado has struggled with mental health issues – occasional mass shootings, a high suicide rate and the nation’s lowest psychiatric bed capacity – the state now aims to lead in mental health services, he said. A few recent swings in momentum:

  • The State Innovation Model, which touches every aspect of the state’s health system, including mental health.
  • John Hickenlooper’s award of $18 million for crisis centers and a statewide crisis line.
  • A state Suicide Prevention Board, relatively uncommon nationally.
  • The Helen and Arthur E. Johnson Depression Center at CU Anschutz, which recently received an investment of $10 million from the Helen K. and Arthur E. Johnson Foundation.
  • And now the NBHIC, which occupies 4,000 square feet on the second floor of University Physicians, Inc., 13199 E. Montview Blvd.

The center was made possible through a $10 million investment from The Anschutz Foundation. “When we met with The Anschutz Foundation, we said we wanted to be known as the state where innovation happens, where solutions are found,” Vogl said. “We plan to engage people across the spectrum of society.”

‘I wasn’t getting treatment’

Matt Vogl of the NHBI

Matt Vogl is executive director of the National Behavioral Health Innovation Center.

When Vogl moves to the new state-of-the-art space, a floor below the Helen and Arthur E. Johnson Depression Center, where he worked since 2008 (becoming deputy director in 2010), he plans to prominently display a bat signed by Jimmy Piersall, a Major League centerfielder in the 1950s and ‘60s. Piersall is a kindred spirit – he loves baseball and he has bipolar disorder.

Vogl nearly succumbed to his mental illness 13 years ago. He was headed to the basement to end his life when a neighbor, who had received training in suicide prevention, noticed his distressed condition as he got out of his car. She asked about his state of mind, then inquired if he’d been contemplating suicide. The floodgates opened.

“I came this close to dying from suicide (he shows a tiny space between thumb and forefinger) when my oldest son was a newborn. I wasn’t taking care of myself, wasn’t getting treatment. I sort of ignored it,” he said. “Now, I’m really fueled by my passion for mental behavioral services.”

Since that fateful day, Vogl has been treated and his condition is under control. Driving his desire for advancements in mental health are his two sons; he’s well aware that bipolar disorder has a genetic component. “If I can do the work now and make life a little easier for them if they develop (bipolar disorder), maybe they’ll come into a world where there’s less stigma and treatments are better,” he said. “And then they don’t have to get to a point like I did before they decide to take care of it.”

Vogl said it’s easy for people to keep their conditions hidden, which only reinforces the stigma around mental illness. That’s partly why he is open about his own condition. “Unless we come forward and show how we are taking care of ourselves,” he said, “how will people know what better looks like, or if better is even possible?”

‘All hands on deck’

One of Vogl’s favorite movie scenes comes from “Apollo 13” where the astronauts must quickly improvise, using the limited resources they have on hand, to fix CO2 scrubbers in the lunar module. Similarly, he said, today’s climate of lean resources makes it imperative to use what is currently available and build from it.

NBHIC at CU Anschutz

The new National Behavioral Health Innovation Center features plentiful meeting space.

Mental health issues cost the U.S. economy $210 billion a year (Journal of Clinical Psychiatry) and are one of the main drivers of health care expenses for employers. Improving integrated health care, facilitating mental health court programs (similar to drug courts), and training the next generation of professionals to be aware of mental health issues are just a few of the collaborative projects that NBHIC will advance.

“Why not take advantage of the fact we work for the largest university system in the state?” said Vogl, noting that instruction on behavioral health could be integrated across many disciplines. “And why stop there? Let’s engage other universities and get other schools to integrate mental health education into their curriculums. Let’s make this the norm. If we’re going to have an impact and solve this stuff, it’s all hands on deck.”

The NBHIC will be a national focal point where ideas will be exchanged with an eye toward getting effective projects off the ground quickly, Vogl said. The initial grant will fund the NBHIC through its first five years; after that, the center is committed to being self-sustainable.

“The goal for our shop is to develop real solutions that are up and running in the community to impact people’s lives,” he added.

‘What a gift’

Vogl said Anschutz Foundation resources, strong support from the chancellor and a “dream team of thinkers” are combining to, quite literally, load the bases.

Toss in his personal passion for behavioral health, and the NBHIC appears ready to take on one of the nation’s most pressing health concerns.

“It’s hands-down the most exciting thing I’ve ever done professionally – and terrifying all at once,” Vogl said. “You don’t get a lot of opportunities like this in life, so I’m keenly aware of what a gift this is. And that’s going to help me ensure that I’m successful.”

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$10 million pledge creates National Behavioral Health Innovation Center at CU Anschutz

Colorado’s newest center dedicated to improving mental and behavioral health has been established with a $10 million five-year commitment from The Anschutz Foundation, one of the largest program pledges in the history of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

The National Behavioral Health Innovation Center is housed at CU Anschutz in Aurora, but is designed as a “virtual center” to serve people in Colorado and across the nation, by identifying and implementing behavioral health solutions, making connections to national experts, and providing resources to build connections among community leaders across the state.

Matt Vogl

Matt Vogl is the executive director of the new National Behavioral Health Innovation Center

“There are few areas of health care more important and less understood than mental and behavioral health,” says CU President Bruce Benson. “By investing in a center with a focus on finding innovative approaches to prevention, identification and treatment through intensive collaboration with partners all across our state, The Anschutz Foundation is investing in a brighter future for all people who suffer from a behavioral health condition. We couldn’t be more grateful for their continued philanthropic partnership.”

“With this commitment, The Anschutz Foundation is hoping to help bring together resources and expertise to rapidly move the needle for mental and behavioral health in meaningful ways,” says Executive Director of The Anschutz Foundation Ted Harms. “We want to see the NBHIC become an example of what is possible when great minds band together to effect change, and, ultimately, to become a model for fostering the implementation of new and innovative approaches to behavioral health care across the country.”

Matt Vogl, MPH, has been named NBHIC executive director, reporting jointly to CU Anschutz Chancellor Don Elliman and to an NBHIC board of directors made up of prominent community, business, philanthropy and health care leaders who will guide the NBHIC’s work and ensure its relevance and sustainability into the future.

The NBHIC will engage the best minds across diverse industries in Colorado and nationally to help identify high-value focus areas for behavioral health innovation, identify subject matter experts, and assist in building community and organizational partnerships.

“Our vision for the NBHIC is to build a model for how people who suffer from mental illness or substance abuse should be treated as part of the health care continuum,” Vogl says. “To do so, we will work to become a state where stigma is absent, early identification and care is the norm, high-quality treatment is accessible to people in every community, and those in recovery get the support they need to return to a full and vital life.”

The NBHIC’s leadership is reaching out to community leaders to inform the center’s priorities and identify areas in which communities have developed innovative behavioral health solutions that warrant further exploration and possible expansion. Early interest is emerging in the design of employer-driven health promotion and coverage models, and in introducing the relevance of behavioral health to students entering diverse professions in business, education and other non-health care fields.

“The ongoing leadership of The Anschutz Foundation in the mental and behavioral health arena is inspiring,” says CU Anschutz Medical Campus Chancellor Don Elliman. “Our hope is that the NBHIC will help unite disparate efforts across our state and our region, and help accelerate progress by convening leaders and facilitating knowledge sharing. Together, we will usher in a new era of innovation in behavioral health.”

CU has some 61,000 degree-seeking students across its four campuses and another 8,000 taking courses for credit. The university graduates more students than any university in Colorado, about 14,000 last year. CU is well-positioned to lead efforts to integrate mental and behavioral wellness into the workplace and the classroom, and to share knowledge gained with others interested in following suit.

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Antibiotics before age 2 increase obesity risk

While early antibiotic use has been associated with a number of rare long-term health consequences, new research links antibiotics to one of the most important and growing public health problems worldwide — obesity. A study published online in Gastroenterology, the official journal of the American Gastroenterological Association, found that administration of three or more courses of antibiotics before children reach an age of 2 years is associated with an increased risk of early childhood obesity.

“Antibiotics have been used to promote weight gain in livestock for several decades, and our research confirms that antibiotics have the same effect in humans,” said Frank Irving Scott, MD, MSCE, assistant professor of medicine at University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, and adjunct scholar, Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. “Our results do not imply that antibiotics should not be used when necessary, but rather encourage both physicians and parents to think twice about antibiotic usage in infants in the absence of well-established indications.”

The researchers performed a large population-representative cohort study in the United Kingdom to assess the association between antibiotic exposure before age 2 years and obesity at age 4 years. Children with antibiotic exposure had a 1.2 percent absolute and 25 percent relative increase in the risk of early childhood obesity. Risk is strongest when considering repeat exposures to antibiotics, particularly with three or more courses.

“Our work supports the theory that antibiotics may progressively alter the composition and function of the gut microbiome, thereby predisposing children to obesity as is seen in livestock and animal models,” added Dr. Scott.

Antibiotics are prescribed during an estimated 49 million pediatric outpatient visits per year in the U.S. A large portion of these prescriptions (more than 10 million annually) are written for children without clear indication, despite increased awareness of the societal risks of antibiotic resistance, as well as other tangible risks, including dermatologic, allergic and infectious complications; inflammatory bowel disease; and autoimmune conditions.

Further research is required to assess whether these findings remain into adolescence and young adulthood, as well as to determine if early antibiotic usage leads to later-onset obesity. Research should also examine whether specific classes of antibiotics are more strongly associated with subsequent obesity.

The American Gastroenterological Association, through its Center for Gut Microbiome Research and Education, will continue to promote and share research related to antibiotics and obesity, and their relation to the gut microbiome.

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Only about half of suicidal patients asked if they have access to firearms

Despite national guidelines urging emergency department doctors to ask suicidal patients if they have access to firearms or other lethal implements, only about half actually do, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

The researchers interviewed 1,358 patients from eight emergency departments (EDs) in seven states who had either attempted suicide or were thinking about it.

“We asked the patients about their access to firearms and then reviewed their charts,” said the study’s lead author Emmy Betz, MD, MPH, from the University of Colorado School of Medicine.  “We found in about 50 percent of cases there is no documentation by the doctor that anyone asked the patients about firearms access. That means there is a large group of patients we are missing a chance to intervene for.”

Some 25 percent of potentially suicidal patients who said they had guns at home kept at least one  of them loaded and unlocked. Half of them had easy access to guns which put them at risk for future suicides.

According to the study, published in the latest edition of `Depression and Anxiety,’ emergency departments are a key setting for suicide prevention with 8 percent of patients admitted for either attempting suicide or having `suicidal ideation’ or thoughts of ending their own lives.

“Multiple ED visits appear to be a risk factor for suicide and many suicide victims are seen in the ED shortly before death,” the study said. “Based on models using national suicide statistics, ED-based interventions might help decrease suicide deaths by 20 percent annually.”

Still, previous studies suggest that ED doctors are skeptical about the effectiveness of such intervention and do not ask or counsel patients about their access to lethal means of ending their lives once they leave the hospital.

This study seems to confirm that.

“This rate of assessment falls short of national guidelines recommending that all suicidal patients receive counseling about reducing access to firearms and other lethal means,” Betz said. “Lethal means assessment is important for both overall risk assessment and for safety planning for patients being discharged.”

While it is difficult to control access to sharp objects, supplies for hanging and medication given their widespread availability, patients with easy access to guns are at an especially high risk.

Those who commit suicide often do so minutes after making the decision. And approximately 90 percent of firearm suicides are fatal compared to 2 percent of medication overdoses.

Betz said doctors could make a plan with the families of these patients. They could ask them to lock up firearms or remove them from the house for a period of time.

Some doctors are reluctant to ask patients about this because they don’t know if they should and if they do, what to do with the information.

“It is legal and appropriate to ask about this when it is relevant as it is in the case of suicide attempts or suicidal ideation,” Betz said. “Do it in a respectful, non-judgmental way and it will usually be well-received. Still, there isn’t a lot of training on this. As a result, we are missing the chance to save a lot of lives.”

The study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.

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Proposals sought for fully online degree program

The chancellors and provosts of the University of Colorado invite faculty and staff to submit proposals for the development of a new, fully online undergraduate degree program to launch in fall 2018. Proposals will be accepted from now through July 15th.

The grant program provides funds to plan and develop a comprehensive, intercampus, online undergraduate degree that improves student access to the University of Colorado’s educational opportunities.

Faculty selected for the grant will receive a $15,000 stipend. A staff person will be selected for each team to support the logistics of course development, and will receive a $5,000 stipend. Each grant proposal will have $200,000 for course development. Currently, there is enough funding to mount three new degree programs.

Click here for the full degree program proposal guidelines

Some salient criteria are:

  • Courses must be delivered by faculty from no fewer than two campuses. Faculty members who may ultimately deliver the courses do not have to be the same faculty as those participating in the grant offering and design of the online degree program.
  • All courses must be delivered online.
  • Enrollment estimates must be provided by residency type with a strongly defended rationale as to the demands of the program and support for meeting enrollment estimates. In estimating enrollments, consideration must be given to retention as well as student migration from an existing program to the new program.
  • Identification and estimate of extraordinary expenses (outside of normal operating and instructional costs) that may be required.
  • Provide justification that demonstrates the degree is in a subject area that is in high demand in Colorado and will have high marketability outside of Colorado.
  • Provide justification that demonstrates the degree program will allow completion from freshman year to graduation in three years, which may include summer and interim courses.

Special attention will be given to proposals that:

  • Include faculty participation from three campuses for both development and delivery of the program.
  • Include a partnership with Colorado business, not-for-profit organizations, and/or governmental agencies.

Grants will be awarded by Sept. 30; final program development is due March 31, 2017. Online course development will take place during academic year 2017-18 and the initial courses will launch no later than fall 2018.

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2016 Donor Dinner honors Helen K. and Arthur E. Johnson Foundation

Helen K. and Arthur E. Johnson Foundation

With a broad impact and countless community partners, the Helen K. and Arthur E. Johnson Foundation has left an indelible mark on the University of Colorado and the Rocky Mountain region. Their transformational gift to the CU Depression Center supports researchers and clinicians providing high-quality patient care and conducting leading-edge mental health research. The Johnson Foundation’s partnership is elevating the conversation around mental health in Colorado and helping reduce harmful stigma. You too can support the efforts of the Helen and Arthur E. Johnson Depression Center.

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School of Medicine students get lesson in crisis response

A dangerous virus wasn’t the only thing quickly spreading when an outbreak of avian flu swamped the hospitals and clinics of Mountain City and High Plains City.

Tension sometimes flared as public health officials responded to the crisis. Stress often centered around dissemination of accurate information, so as not to touch off undue panic about the pandemic.

It was all part of this week’s preparedness drill on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus – an annual tabletop exercise in the Integrated Clinicians Course for University of Colorado School of Medicine (SOM) students. Two fictional cities in Colorado were dealing with the “outbreak,” and the responders were about 150 fourth-year students representing all disciplines within the SOM. Leading each student team were actual professionals representing health agencies, cities, hospitals, clinics and the media.

‘Critical decisions’

CU School of Medicine students act as media team

Students on the Metro News team discuss a story to pursue during the emergency preparedness drill. Tyler Anderson, center, a fourth-year psychiatry student, acted as the team’s editor.

Students went into the exercise knowing only they’d face a health crisis of some kind. “This tabletop is going to cram a pandemic of six to eight weeks … into about 90 minutes,” said Charlie Little, DO, associate professor of Emergency Medicine in the SOM. “There are really no right or wrong answers,” Little told the group before students broke into 16 teams representing health agencies, city and state offices, hospitals and clinics, media and an ethics group. “It’s designed to help you work cooperatively in a group. The key thing is you’re going to have to make critical decisions with limited information, and that’s what happens in emergency management.”

A key part of the exercise was seeing how public health emergency response unfolds and how various agencies coordinate to best manage a crisis, Little said. “The goal is to have the students work through the issues under time pressure like they would in a real-life event,” he said. “That usually gets them a little stressed.”

Metro News, the media outlet in the drill, became a source of irritation for a few agencies and government offices scrambling to contain the pandemic as well as release timely and accurate information.

‘Difficult balance’

Tyler Anderson, a fourth-year psychiatry student, volunteered to be editor of Metro News. He enjoyed the exercise, but found it quite challenging. “It’s kind of a difficult balance” to be both quick and accurate in news reports, he said. “I understood better the reporters’ need for information – like why they push so hard and why it can be annoying to people. But it really helps get information to the public.”

At one point, as Metro News reporters fanned out to press for information, a hospital representative stepped into the “newsroom” and threatened to sue the outlet for an alleged libelous tweet (see video below). Metro News stood by its story.

Anderson said the drill brought to light some comforting insights as well, such as learning about actual strategic medication supplies. “We as medical students aren’t the only ones being trained in what emergency response looks like,” he said. “It’s something that’s being thought about at many levels – city and national government, as well as public health agencies. It’s good to know that it’s being considered and thought about, so something won’t hit us completely off guard.”

Shilo Smith, a fourth-year neurology student, said she has received incident-command training and knows just how quickly things can come unglued in an emergency. “I can tell you it is a challenge to make sure that people have the supplies they need,” she said.

CU School of Medicine students discuss response to health crisis

A public health team discusses how to respond to an avian flu pandemic during the emergency preparedness exercise.

Jeffrey Druck, MD, associate professor of Emergency Medicine and director of the Integrated Clinicians Course, spoke to the full group at the exercise debriefing. Students said the fast-paced drill was at times stressful, but also informative as to the enormous coordination required to manage a public health emergency.

“We hope this brings home to you how important it is to get involved in disaster planning early as opposed to later,” Druck said. “As you can see from this exercise, if you are behind the 8-ball it can be much worse than if you are in front of the 8-ball.”

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Researchers study marijuana use in pregnant mothers

Researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus are studying the detection of prenatal marijuana use in a legalized environment. The study of marijuana use in pregnancy is only possible in a few states.

Although physicians tell women they should not use marijuana in pregnancy, it is difficult to provide them with data to support the recommendation. The need for data-supported information grows as marijuana laws change nationwide.

The Colorado Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute recently awarded a Child and Maternal Health Pilot Grant to Assistant Professor Torri Metz, MD, to develop a questionnaire for new mothers about marijuana use during their pregnancy.

“If you look at the literature now, you find very mixed results,” Metz said. “About half of the studies say there is an association between marijuana use and adverse outcomes; about half say there is no association.”

As a high-risk obstetrician and maternal-fetal medicine specialist, Metz provides care for pregnant mothers and delivers babies at University of Colorado Hospital.

“I am seeing more and more self-reported marijuana use in the clinic,” Metz said. “I don’t know if this is a reflection of women using more marijuana or of the women being more willing to tell us about their use.”

The study will enable Metz and her colleagues to develop a survey tool for new mothers to ascertain self-reported marijuana use. With the patients’ consent, researchers will administer a survey to the new mothers and, upon delivery, take a sample of the umbilical cord to determine if the mother did use marijuana through pregnancy and to what extent. Researchers will compare the self-report with the umbilical cord sample, allowing researchers to determine the best way to collect information about marijuana use during pregnancy for future studies.

Further study is needed on the association between marijuana use and fetal growth restriction, hypertension in pregnant mothers, stillbirth, spontaneous preterm birth and other conditions.

“These are the obstetric issues we face every day and we don’t understand the impact of marijuana use on these outcomes,” Metz said. “I want to change that.”

Child and Maternal Health Pilot Program grants are provided to young investigators whose work will ultimately improve child and maternal health and prevent diseases that begin early in life. The program is funded by Children’s Hospital Colorado’s Research Institute.

The Colorado Clinical & Translational Sciences Institute (CCTSI) is the academic home to help transform the clinical and translational research and training efforts at the University of Colorado Anschutz and affiliated institutions. The CCTSI was created in 2008 with funding from the Clinical and Translational Science Award initiative of the National Institutes of Health. The CCTSI includes the University of Colorado Denver, the University of Colorado Boulder, Colorado State University, six major hospitals and health care organizations and local communities.

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Call center serving CU Anschutz and CU Denver launched

The next time your phone rings, the caller could be a student bound for CU Anschutz. The launch of a new call center in downtown Denver, dedicated to serving CU Denver and CU Anschutz constituents, is providing new opportunities for students to engage alumni, parents and friends of both campuses.

Scott Arthur

Scott Arthur, vice chancellor of advancement for CU Anschutz, emphasized the important role student callers play in increasing support for the university.

The call center, which officially began operating on January 26, is staffed by 22 students from CU Denver. The student callers have already contacted more than 3,071 CU Denver and CU Anschutz constituents—efforts that have resulted in pledges of over $42,000.

“The role of external funding is becoming more and more critical,” said Dorothy Horrell, chancellor of CU Denver. “Many students know that the cost of education can be a real burden for individuals and families. Engaging people who believe in what we are doing and want to help us do more of it are vital to our future.”

At an event celebrating the launch of the call center, Scott Arthur, vice chancellor of Advancement at CU Anschutz, told student callers that they play an important part in increasing donor support for the two campuses and that the gifts pledged by the people they call may be the start of even greater support.

“No one starts their gift at a million dollars,” Arthur said. “Benefactors start with gifts like the ones you are receiving on the phone. You making these connections with alumni is absolutely critical.”

Golden opportunity for students

Staffing the call center with students allows the alumni, parents and campus partners receiving the call to connect with someone who shares their affinity for the campus. Of course, the call center affords more than a job on campus for students. They are able to share their enthusiasm for CU Denver and CU Anschutz with constituents and also benefit from learning about their time as students.

“Meeting people who have such amazing lives and careers after graduating from the school that I’m at is so astonishing,” said Tori Melendrez, a freshman caller majoring in management and finance. “I was in the precollegiate

Ariana Talaie

As a student caller bound for medical school, Ariana Talaie has been gaining valuable career insights from her conversations with CU Anschutz alums.

program before I came here, so I’ve always loved this school and always loved this campus. Hearing from alumni who also love this campus is just great.”

Students are also able to connect with alumni in their own fields of study. Ariana Talaie, a freshman public health major in the premed track, hopes to enroll at CU Anschutz after completing her studies at CU Denver. She has gained valuable career and life advice from her conversations with CU Anschutz alumni.

“I love calling CU Anschutz alumni,” Talaie said. “Some of the people I am talking to have paved the way for how medicine is currently practiced. Even though I ultimately want to raise money for CU, a more personal goal is to get advice. It is an opportunity to accumulate knowledge.”

Learn more about the call center and annual giving by contacting Alessa Kane, assistant director of annual giving, at alessa.kane@ucdenver.edu.

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