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Alumni earn prestigious science policy fellowships

Two University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus alumni have earned prestigious AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowships. They are among the latest class of policy fellows – 280 scientists and engineers – who will spend a year serving professionally in federal agencies and congressional offices.

Mark Lucera and Juliette Petersen won the fellowships, which are operated as part of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) mandate to “advance science and serve society.” Petersen graduated in December 2016 with her PhD from the CU Anschutz Molecular Biology Program, while Lucera is a CU Anschutz postdoc and finished his doctoral work in the Molecular Virology program at Case Western Reserve University in January 2016.

Application deadline

The application deadline for the 2018-19 AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowship class is fast approaching – Nov. 1. For more information about the fellowships, visit the AAAS website. Information is also available through the Postdoctoral & Career Development Office in the CU Denver | Anschutz Graduate School.

Since the program’s inception in 1973, over 3,600 AAAS fellows have supported congressional offices, executive branch agencies and departments and the judicial branch, seeding virtually every corner of Washington, D.C., and beyond with a high caliber of scientific know-how.

Following is a Q&A with Lucera and Petersen about how they became interested in the AAAS Fellowship, how their training at CU Anschutz prepared them for the program, and what they’re hoping to achieve in their career. 

Juliette Petersen

When did you get interested in this program?

I first got interested in the AAAS STPF in 2006 when I was volunteering on Bill Ritter’s gubernatorial campaign in Colorado. I had left a doctoral program in synthetic organic chemistry in 2005, but I knew that science was in my blood. During the campaign I was discovering a love of policy, too. At one of the campaign planning meetings, I met a PhD scientist who was working as a science advisor to someone at the national level, and he told me about AAAS STPF. I don’t even remember his name or who he worked for, but I went home and started researching the fellowship program and realized that it was exactly what I was looking for – an opportunity to meld my love of science with my desire to be involved in policymaking. With that in mind, I went back for my PhD in molecular biology (which I found much more gratifying than organic chemistry!) and the rest is history!

What are you hoping to do career-wise?

CU Anschutz graduate Juliette Petersen
Juliette Petersen

The crazy thing is that after working toward this fellowship for over 10 years, I never planned beyond the fellowship. Actually, it’s not as crazy as it sounds – everyone who has been a Fellow talks about how the experience is life-changing, and how you will meet so many people and open doors through the fellowship that you didn’t even know existed. I know that I have a strong interest in global health and I would like to explore that and food sustainability during my fellowship. After that? Well, I know I want to continue to work at the intersection of science and policymaking and to continue to bring scientific thinking into the policymaking conversation.

How did your training at CU Denver / Anschutz prepare you for this program?

Honestly, it was mostly my activities outside of my “training” at CU Anschutz that prepared me for this program, though of course you need to have a solid scientific training in order to bring scientific reasoning and thinking to the table. I was active in the Careers in Science Club (www.careersinscienceclub.com) for almost all of my time at CU Anschutz, including when we were asked to change the name from “Alternatives in Science” to something that more closely reflected the fact that non-academia career tracks are no longer “alternative.” I participated in various CU Advocacy Days at the State Capitol, and got involved in additional advocacy through the March of Dimes. I participated in as many outreach opportunities as I could, including Young Hands in Science, which brought real scientists into elementary schools to teach various science modules. I also took advantage of numerous opportunities offered by the NIH BEST grant. Basically, I did as many “extracurricular” activities as I possibly could without sacrificing my lab work.

What advice would you have for others who might want to consider this path?

Get out of the lab. Seriously. What are you passionate about? Start a club or get involved in a pre-existing one. Seek out leadership opportunities. Take advantage of the numerous outreach opportunities available through CU Anschutz or find/create your own. I know you don’t have a lot of free time in grad school, but it’s worth it for your sanity to have something outside of lab. No matter what career path you choose, you need to work on communicating clearly and concisely (without science jargon), so you might want to start thinking about that, too. You don’t have to be doing advocacy or policymaking – the Fellowship will provide you with numerous professional development opportunities to build those skills – but you DO need to be involved in something beyond your own research.  

Mark Lucera

When did you get interested in this program?

I first learned about the AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowship while I was a PhD student in the Molecular Virology program at Case Western Reserve University. I was in a “career exploration” phase toward the end of my training and I saw the AAAS fellowship as a unique opportunity to combine my interests. I almost applied back then but decided instead to expand my expertise in a postdoctoral fellowship. I wanted to learn from a mentor whose role as a physician lends strong appreciation for public health, so I chose to come to CU Anschutz to train within the Division of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Medicine. My experience as a postdoc taught me a number of skills but it also reignited my drive to apply for the AAAS fellowship.

What are you hoping to do careerwise?

CU Anschutz postdoc Mark Lucera
Mark Lucera

I thrive when I’m given opportunities to communicate, so combining my passion for science in a policy setting is a really good fit.  My training up to this point has largely been studying infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS in the laboratory. As an AAAS fellow, I’ll be approaching my field from a different perspective, working on international health and biodefense policy. I can see myself staying in the global health realm after my fellowship, whether in government, specialized agency or NGO.

How did your training at CU Denver / Anschutz prepare you for this program?

My postdoc helped me in a number of ways. In the lab, I continued research on HIV/AIDS while also branching out to study additional viruses.  I also had the opportunity to collaborate with global health folks studying disease burden in Central America. This was shortly after the wave of Zika virus, and being involved gave me a newfound appreciation for the international relationships required to combat epidemics.

Outside of the lab, I was very active in our Postdoctoral Association. I chaired of our Engagement Committee, tasked with developing programs that enriched social and professional relationships amongst postdocs.  I also helped start a scientific advocacy initiative called Project Bridge and gained direct experience building relationships with Colorado policymakers and our local community. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of these leadership roles in growing my communication skills. They’ve also been a lot of fun and I’m really grateful.

What advice would you have for others who might want to consider this path?

Two things.  First, invest time in assembling your “professional development toolbox”. Build your communication skills, get involved with advocacy or outreach, practice writing to diverse audiences, participate in the Postdoctoral Association. Your technical expertise will be a strong engine, but these other skills will actually allow you to drive the car.

Second, remain flexible. The AAAS fellowship attracts folks from many backgrounds, and placement opportunities are just as diverse. The common thread is that we’re all expert problem solvers. While I’m staying roughly in the same field, there are fellows who use this experience to explore new areas at the intersection of science and policy.

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Researchers say climate change may accelerate infectious disease outbreaks

Aside from inflicting devastating natural disasters on often vulnerable communities, climate change can also spur outbreaks of infectious diseases like Zika , malaria and dengue fever, according to a new study by researchers at the University of  Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

“Climate change presents complex and wide-reaching threats to human health,” said Cecilia Sorensen, MD, lead author of the study and the Living Closer Foundation Fellow in Climate and Health Policy at CU Anschutz. “It can amplify and unmask ecological and socio-political weaknesses and increase the risk of adverse health outcomes in socially vulnerable regions.”

When natural disasters strike such places, she said, the climatic conditions may make the public health crisis significantly worse.

Dr. Cecilia Sorensen, lead author of the study and the Living Closer Foundation Fellow in Climate and Health Policy at CU Anschutz.
Dr. Cecilia Sorensen, lead author of the study and the Living Closer Foundation Fellow in Climate and Health Policy at CU Anschutz.

The researchers said these vulnerabilities can happen anywhere. After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, cases of West Nile disease doubled the next year. Climate change in Africa appears to be increasing cases of malaria. And the recent destruction in Houston, Florida and Puerto Rico due to hurricanes may usher in more infectious diseases in the years ahead.

The study focused specifically on a magnitude 7.7 earthquake that struck coastal Ecuador in April 2016, coinciding with an exceptionally strong El Niño event. El Niños are associated with heavy rainfall and warmer air temperatures. They are also linked to outbreaks of dengue fever.

Sorensen, a clinical instructor in emergency medicine at CU Anschutz, was in Ecuador with her co-authors working with the Walking Palms Global Initiative. They were operating a mobile health clinic after the disaster.

“We were seeing all of these viral symptoms in the wake of the quake,” she said. “We noticed a huge spike in Zika cases where the earthquake occurred. Prior to this, there were only a handful of Zika cases in the whole country.”

In fact, the researchers found the number of Zika cases had increased 12-fold in the quake zone.

Zika virus is transmitted by mosquitos. Symptoms are usually mild but the infection can cause major abnormalities and even death in a developing fetus.

Warmer temperatures and increased rainfall from the El Niño, along with a devastated infrastructure and an influx of people into larger cities, likely caused the spike in Zika cases, Sorensen said.

Natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina can spur outbreaks of infectious disease.
Natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina can spur outbreaks of infectious disease.

“We saw so many people affected by the earthquake that were sleeping outside without any shelter from mosquitoes, so we were worrying that the region’s changing climate could facilitate the spread of diseases,” she said. “Natural disasters can create a niche for emerging diseases to come out and affect more people.”

Sorensen’s team reviewed the existing research on the link between short-term climate changes and disease transmission. They applied those findings to explain the role of the earthquake and El Niño in the Zika outbreak.

They suggest El Niño created ideal conditions for Zika-carrying mosquitos to breed and make more copies of the Zika virus. The warmer temperatures and increased rainfall from El Niño have previously been associated with a higher likelihood of dengue outbreaks. Warmer temperatures can also accelerate viral replication in mosquitoes and influence mosquitos’ development and breeding habits.

At the same time, the El Niño event brought warmer sea-surface temperatures, which have been shown to correlate with outbreaks of mosquito-transmitted diseases. Estimates from remote sensing data in coastal Ecuador show that sea-surface temperatures were higher than average from 2014-2016.

The team also believes an increase in water scarcity after the earthquake indirectly benefited mosquito development. The quake damaged municipal water systems, forcing people to store water in open containers outside their homes. These served as additional habitats for mosquito larvae.

The new findings could be used by governments to identify and protect vulnerable communities before natural disasters happen, Sorensen said.

“One idea is to develop disease models that can use existing climate models to predict where these vectors will show up due to climate variability,” she said. “Applying these new models to areas that have pre-existing social vulnerabilities could identify susceptible regions, allowing us to direct healthcare resources there ahead of time.”

The study was published October 12 in GeoHealth, a publication of the American Geophysical Union.

The co-authors of the study from CU Anschutz include Emilie Calvello-Hynes, MD, assistant professor of emergency medicine and Jay Lemery, MD, associate professor of emergency medicine and chief of wilderness and environmental medicine.

The other co-authors include: Mercy J. Borbor-Cordova, Faculty of Naval Engineering, Oceanic Sciences and Natural Resources, Escuela Superior Politecnica del Litoral, Guayaquil, Ecuador; Avriel Diaz, Dept. of Evolution, Ecology and Environmental Biology, Columbia University; Anna M. Stewart-Ibarra, Department of Public Health and Preventative Medicine, SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, NY.

This paper is a collaboration of the University of Colorado Consortium for Climate Change and Health.

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Health Sciences Library opens spacious and welcoming study zone

With more than 4,000 students on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, there is stiff competition for study space. The Health Sciences Library envisioned creating a new, inviting space for studying, and on Oct. 9 it became a reality.

“In 2014, we talked about doing a full building renovation,” said Melissa De Santis, director of the CU Health Sciences Library. “The library has had money in the reserve funds that were earmarked for renovation and had built up over many years. Our original project fell through, so we needed to find a new way to benefit our students.”

They took suggestions from the students about what they wanted and needed out of the library. They got a variety of ideas, all which revolved around the fundamental need for more study space.

“We didn’t want to create a space with a bunch of cubicle offices,” said De Santis. “We wanted to create more of a welcoming environment. So, we chose a nice mix of furniture.”

Features

The colorful 5,000-square-foot study zone is designed around natural lighting.

Sleep pods in CU Anschutz library
The futuristic sleep pods offer soothing music and adjustable lights.

“It features over 24 rooms, including 13 doubles and 11 singles for individuals,” said Douglas Stehle, department head of access services and librarian. “There are also individual study cubicles, and work areas for over 100 people — like restaurant-style seating, booths and lounge areas.”

If students stayed up too late studying the night before, the study zone has them covered with two state-of-the-art sleep pods. These futuristic pods feature soothing tunes and adjustable lounge and light settings.

Library staff in CU Health Sciences Library
CU Health Sciences Library Director Melissa De Santis and Department Head of Access Services Douglas Stehle lounge in the new student study zone.

“I’m very excited to have a new study space,” said Christophe Langouet-Astrie, a student in the Graduate School. “When I’m tired of studying, I’m looking forward to taking a nap in one of the new sleeping pods!”

Oct. 19 celebration

The study zone will have an official ribbon cutting Oct. 19 to celebrate its opening, and self-guided tours will be available.

“Although we are very excited about the study zone, this isn’t the end,” said De Santis. “We want feedback from the students so we can continue provide the essentials they need to be successful.”

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New service offers fast, standardized results for eating disorder experts

Eating disorder researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus have developed a new procedure that takes detailed patient questionnaires and generates a fast, standardized score for mental health professionals.

The service is available free to doctors, psychologists and other health professionals working with patients who have eating disorders.

Dr. Guido Frank, associate professor of psychiatry, is an expert in eating disorders

“Despite all the research, the fact is we still have limited treatments available in the field of eating disorders,” said Guido Frank, MD, eating disorder expert and associate professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. “But if we clinicians use similar validated assessments across disciplines and providers, the field of eating disorders will be more cohesive and more evidence-based.”

Frank and his fellow researchers, developed a web-based service where therapists can sign in patients. The patients fill out questionnaires developed for those with disorders like anorexia nervosa, bulimia and binge eating. Using a computer program, the questionnaire is automatically scored with a number that health care providers can use to understand the nature of the illness. The scoring process keeps the patients anonymous.

“The therapist receives the results and can discuss them with the patient,” Frank said. “It is purely a free service in the hopes that it will help.”

Frank said the system is unique in offering a standardized scoring method while bringing the latest science to practitioners in the field.

“Sometimes the work we do is hard to translate into the real world so we trying to close that research gap,” he said. “This shared knowledge, I believe, will help us  personalize treatment and provide evidence-based interventions that are tailored to individual needs.”

Here is the general /primary link to the service portal: Know Your Client/Know Your Patient

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Send a thank you card to our veterans

Sometimes saying thank you to our veterans seems so small when their service is anything but that. So let’s make it more personal!

The CU Heroes Clinic at the School of Dental Medicine and the Office of Veteran & Military Student Services invite you to say thank you to our military veterans enrolled at CU Anschutz and CU Denver. It won’t cost you a dime, and it will help show our gratitude for those who have bravely served our country.

Click the link below to pick a card design and a special thank you message, or write your own message. Our CU military veterans will receive your card just in time for Veterans Day on Nov. 11!

Don’t wait – the deadline to send your card is Friday, Oct. 27.

Send a card!

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Training cells as cancer killers

With the August approval by the Food and Drug Administration of a new therapy to treat young patients with a form of leukemia, the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus is positioned to contribute to a revolution in patient care.

The therapy, from Novartis, carries an exotic name that is bound to become more familiar in the days ahead: chimeric antigen receptor T cell, or CAR-T. It’s not a drug or radiation, but rather a new line of attack that relies on reengineering a patient’s own cells to recognize, attack and kill cancer cells. The target in the Novartis therapy is acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), the most common form of cancer in children.

The trial of the therapy, called Kymriah, targeted ALL patients 25 years or younger with high-risk leukemia who relapsed after standard therapy, including bone marrow transplants and chemotherapy, or whose disease was resistant to treatment. More than 80 percent achieved remission within one month of therapy.  The longest TCAR treated patient is more than five years from treatment and she remains in remission.

“It’s a tremendous leap forward,” said Lia Gore, MD, head of Pediatric Hematology, Oncology and BMT at Children’s Hospital Colorado. “It’s a landmark change in how we will treat disease, in this case cancer.”

Children’s Colorado is one of 30 or so hospitals nationwide approved to administer the Kymriah therapy. Treatment will not be available outside an approved center.

Seek and destroy

Gore is principal investigator in a separate trial of a similar immunotherapy from Kite Pharmaceutical. Like Kymriah, the Kite therapy takes a page from nature’s book to turn the tables on cancer.  Both treatments target a protein called CD19 that ALL cells commonly express. Clinicians harvest T-cells, key building blocks of the body’s immune system, from the patient then send them to a facility where they are genetically modified, grown, and expanded in the lab under special conditions. In effect, the T-cells are retrained to seek, identify and destroy an enemy – in this case the cancer cells marked by CD19.

The manufacturing facility grows the reengineered cells by the millions, then ships them back to hospital clinicians, who infuse them back into the patient in a process similar to a blood transfusion. The cells grow and expand in the patient, and the immune system uses its newly weaponized T-cells to not only fight the cancer but in an encouraging number of cases rid itself of it.

“It works somewhat like a vaccine, in that the body mounts an immune response to the cancer cells,” Gore said.

Promising as it may be, don’t look for immunotherapy clinics to sprout in strip malls. Nor is the treatment, or the body’s response to it, akin to routine vaccination.

“It requires a high level of expertise,” Gore said, including teams to collect the blood cells, equipment to store and ship them, a dedicated lab to generate the cells and return them to clinicians to infuse the reengineered cells, and expertise to manage patients who receive the therapy – which is not without risks of its own.

One serious side effect of the therapy, for example, is cytokine release syndrome, a reaction to the specialized T-cells that can drive dangerously high fevers, low blood pressure, fluid retention, and neurologic problems, Gore said. The reaction is “evidence that the immune system has been activated to try to fight the cancer cells,” she added – a good thing – but it will frequently require intensive care.

Patients who receive the therapy also require extensive follow-up care, noted Kelly Maloney, MD,  program leader for Leukemia/Lymphoma at Children’s Colorado. Maloney manages follow-up care for several patients who participated in the Novartis trial at other hospitals. The follow-up includes monitoring blood counts as well as liver and kidney function, and providing follow-up reports to the trial-site hospitals. Patients also require lifetime immunoglobulin infusion therapy to replace healthy infection-fighting cells that are killed along with cancer cells by the CAR T-cells, Maloney explained.

New hope

While the complexities make for a clinical challenge, the selection of Children’s Hospital Colorado as an approved site for the Kymriah therapy is an exciting prospect for young patients and their families, Maloney said. Kymriah has produced remarkable remission numbers in kids who have frequently relapsed, leaving them with slim hopes of recovery, she said.

“For years and years, we’ve seen kids relapse after their first remissions,” said Maloney, who finished her fellowship training in 1998. These tough cases have required bone marrow transplants and multiple, increased doses of chemotherapy in attempts to turn the tide.

“In the past, with these multiply relapsed patients, there was nothing left for us to offer,” Maloney said. “It’s easier to have glimmers of hope now for families. The therapy is likely to move earlier in therapy in some patients so it’s not going to come with second and third and fourth relapses. It’s going to move up to a targeted, first-relapse therapy.”

Growing Cells
Cells in a biosafety hood in the Verneris Lab. The flasks contain T cells and natural killer cells that have been growing in the laboratory under various conditions for two or three weeks.

“The future is very bright for these patients,” agreed Michael Verneris, MD, program leader of BMT and Cellular Therapy at Children’s Colorado. Verneris was the local principal investigator for the Novartis trial at the University of Minnesota before moving to Colorado late last year.

The 80-plus-percent remission rates for the trial patients are especially notable because their conditions were so grave, Verneris said. “Kids enrolled in this trial had life spans that we measured in weeks and months,” he said.

Home-grown, natural-born killers

The Anschutz Medical Campus is poised to become a bigger player in the burgeoning immunotherapy field, Verneris said. For example, it’s home not only to the researchers and clinicians who will drive new therapies forward but also to the biotechnology facilities capable of growing the massive stocks of blood cells necessary to administer the therapies.

Those players include Children’s Hospital Colorado – and, on the adult side, UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital – the University of Colorado School of Medicine; Clinimmune Labs, a massive blood collection, processing and storage facility owned by CU; and the Gates Center for Regenerative Medicine, which is supported by the CU, UCHealth, and Children’s Hospital Colorado. The center conducts the stem cell research and biomanufacturing that helps to drive the development of immunotherapies and other cell-based approaches to treating disease.

The search for the next-generation of cancer therapies is also underway in Verneris’s lab on the fourth floor of Research Complex 1 North on the CU Anschutz campus. He and his colleagues are working to transform simple skin cells into cancer-fighting warriors. The technology, developed about a decade ago, involves genetically reprogramming the cells to return them to their embryonic state. At this point, these induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), as they’re called, are blank slates awaiting an identity through genetic prodding.

Jessica Lake, MD
Jessica Lake, MD, a pediatric hematology/oncology/bone marrow transplant fellow at CU, counts natural killer cells before an experiment in the Verneris Lab.

Verneris is working to create white blood cells called natural killers (NKs) from iPSCs.  In the body, NK cells live up to their name. Their mission is to seek out and destroy invaders that attack healthy cells. In the lab, Verneris and his team are growing their own NKs from iPSCs and testing their cancer-killing power. The goal: create a potent weapon that can be mass-manufactured and infused in patients – an “off-the-shelf” therapy, as he describes it.

“Companies are charging toward this,” Verneris said. “It’s an incredibly exciting time.”

Wide application – and more questions

For Gore, the immunotherapy approach has great power because it can be broadly applied. Researchers are already looking at using it to fight acute myeloid leukemia, a form more aggressive than ALL, with a lower survival rate, she said. It’s being investigated to treat brain tumors, sarcomas and other cancers. Kymriah focused on CD19 because the protein is common in this type of leukemia, and therefore a good therapeutic target, Gore said, “but there are antigens on the surface of every cell.” Many of them could one day find themselves in the crosshairs of a patient’s newly charged immune system.

For now, however, a central question and challenge from the Novartis trial remains. Why did the Kymriah therapy work much better for some patients than others? It turns out, Verneris said, that in some, the CAR T-cells did not “persist.” That is, they worked well initially in killing the cancer cells, but then diminished in number, allowing cancer cells to reclaim the battlefield.

“The question is, where did they go in the body?” Verneris said. “We want them to stay in the blood.”

For that reason, Kymriah cannot be called a cure for everyone, Gore added. It’s a problem that requires ongoing research. One possible confounding factor, Gore said, is leukemia and other cancer cells’ ability to mutate and develop their own resistance mechanisms to fight off the CAR T-cells.

Because of these uncertainties and the quest for new knowledge about the disease and the people it strikes, clinicians and researchers will monitor Kymriah patients for at least 15 years, Gore said. “We need to evaluate its long-term effects.”

Paying the price

Another uncertainty and source of controversy is the cost of the therapy, pegged at $475,000 to hospitals directly.  This charge does not represent the total cost to patients and insurers for receiving this therapy, Gore said, although Novartis has said the charge will be dropped if it doesn’t work in the first month.

Maloney acknowledged the issue of cost will be a point of contention but emphasized that it plays no role in her clinical decision making.

“My job as a physician is to provide the best therapy for my patients,” she said. “I can’t put the decision on a cost-benefit ratio. All my patients’ lives are precious and they all deserve the best chance of survival.”

A further complication is that some patients will require a bone marrow transplant after CAR-T therapy and some will not, Gore added. The cost of a transplant is roughly $150,000 to $200,000 at the low end, but complications and long-term care can drive that to $1 million and higher, she said. If, on the other hand, a patient doesn’t need a transplant after the CAR-T therapy, “the overall cost [of the therapy] is probably going to be less over a lifetime.”

For Verneris, that points to the need to identify as accurately as possible which CAR T-cell therapy patients will likely also need a transplant.

“We know that some patients have been in remission up to five years with CAR-T. They are probably cured,” he said. But for patients who had shorter remissions, the “door opens to BMT,” he added. “The challenge is figuring out who needs the transplant and who doesn’t.”

These questions don’t dampen the excitement that immunotherapy is generating in the pediatric hematology world at large or, especially, at Children’s Hospital Colorado, Maloney said.

“Having more access [to CAR T-cell therapy] and having a family able to stay local is super-important for the psycho-social part – having people around them who can support them for what can be a tough therapy at times,” she said.

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New Donor Walls Showcase Generosity and Vision of CU Anschutz Philanthropic Community

Over the summer, the Office of Advancement installed two new recognition displays to celebrate the support and vision of our benefactors. Located in Research II North and Education II South, these walls showcase the tremendous generosity of philanthropic benefactors who have established or significantly contributed to funds supporting CU.

Over 280 plaques are displayed on these walls. Every school and college on campus benefits from the support of these generous individuals, families and organizations. Countless researchers and students have received funding through seed grants, programmatic funds and scholarships, and will continue to benefit well into the future.

Scott Arthur, vice chancellor of advancement, said, “This is a visual reminder of the incredible generosity of our benefactors over the years.” CU Anschutz has witnessed record breaking fundraising totals for the past three years because of the dedication and passion from the community. This incredible philanthropic support is inspired by the innovative work of faculty, staff and students. Benefactors are investing in the people on this campus, betting that these game changers will make a positive impact in the world.

“It is important for us to recognize and celebrate our benefactors. They are helping to fuel innovative research, education and patient care, and making our campus what it is today,” said Arthur. In addition to the physical installations on campus, an online directory enables alumni, benefactors and campus visitors to easily locate specific plaques. To explore benefactor recognition at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, visit cuanschutzrecognition.org.

 

Benefactor recognition wall located in the Research I North building.

Education benefactor recognition wall located in Education II South building.

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Exhibit to showcase Rembrandt’s most celebrated work

The Art Gallery at the Fulginiti Pavilion at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus will host another one-of-a-kind fine art exhibit which opens to the public this Friday.  Drs. Tobia and Morton Mower have once again shared works from their extensive private collection with the CU Center for Bioethics and Humanities to give the public a rare opportunity to see the intricately detailed etchings for which Rembrandt was most renowned and revered during his life.

Priya Krishnan Medical Student

Rembrandt revolutionized a technique previously used primarily by printmakers to galvanize the art world of 17th century Europe with a new medium.  His work left a lasting impression and legacy for generations of accomplished artists who followed.  Centuries later, fellow Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh expressed a deep reverence for the work of Rembrandt, writing that “Rembrandt is so deeply mysterious that he says things for which there are no words in any language.”

Curator Simon Zalkind and Gallery Director Tess Jones, PhD, are thrilled to collaborate again with the Mowers.  “It may come as a surprise to many that during his lifetime, Rembrandt was most famous and sought after for his etchings, not his paintings,” explains Jones.  “It is an honor to have over 50 of these celebrated and influential works on display.”

CU Center for Bioethics and Humanities Director Matt Wynia, MD, also adds his appreciation to the Mowers for their generosity in sharing great works of art with the campus community and the public.  An exhibit of celebrated paintings by Monet, Renoir and Degas, among others titled, Masterworks, was on exhibit in The Art Gallery last spring. 

Friday’s opening is from 3:00 – 7:00 PM.  The exhibit will close on Friday, December 1Gallery hours are 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM, Monday – Friday.  The gallery is free and open to the public.  The exhibit is supported in part with funding from Fine Arts Foundation of Colorado.

Dr. Mower, an adjunct distinguished professor of cardiology at CU Anschutz, is co-inventor of the automatic implantable cardioverter defibrillator. His wife Tobia has been a nurse for 25 years and a vocal advocate for substance abuse treatment. She is also a noted philanthropist who has helped establish residential recovery homes for those battling drug and alcohol addiction.  Their daughter, Robin, is a clinical oncology pharmacist and a graduate of the CU Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.  The School’s Dean Ralph Altiere and Dean Emeritus Lou Diamond, along with the Office of the Chancellor, Office of Risk Management, CU Police Department, Office of Advancement, and Department of Medicine have all been instrumental in supporting both of the exhibits provided by the Mowers.

Since opening in 2012, the Art Gallery at the Fulginiti Pavilion has opened 16 major exhibits and welcomed over 40,000 visitors.  Funded through private gifts, the gallery is free and open to the public five days a week.  As a place to exchange ideas, inspire collaboration, foster compassion, fuel imagination, and transcend boundaries, the Art Gallery realizes the universal appeal of the arts and their power to connect student and teacher, patient and professional, citizen and artist, benefactor and institution.

The CU Center for Bioethics and Humanities, located on the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, engages today’s and tomorrow’s health professionals and the community in substantive, interdisciplinary dialogue about ethical issues confronting patients, professionals and society.

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Program on ethics revives ‘special relationship’ with Aspen

The University of Colorado School of Medicine once had a lively presence in Aspen. Beginning in the 1970s, the school held academic conferences and programs for the best and the brightest medical professionals at the Given Institute in Aspen, a building owned and operated by CU. Unfortunately, the Given Institute was demolished in 2011, and CU’s connection to Aspen dissipated without it.

However, the CU Center for Bioethics and Humanities on the Anschutz Medical Campus is determined to revitalize CU’s relationship with Aspen.

“The long history of CU in Aspen is special,” said Matthew Wynia, MD, MPH, FACP, director of the Center for Bioethics and Humanities. “The loss of the Given Institute caused a serious void in the community, and we think it’s important to revive that special relationship.”

Wynia, with the help of Ira Bedzow, PhD, a senior scholar at the Aspen Center for Social Values, decided to create sustainable programming that could be held annually in Aspen.

And thus, the Aspen Ethical Leadership Program, or AELP, was born in 2016.

Discussion at AELP
Many discussions about health care and ethics took place at the Aspen Ethical Leadership Program. Seated at the far table in the black sports coat is Matthew Wynia, director of the CU Center for Bioethics and Humanities.

“We decided to implement a different kind of ethics programming than what had been traditionally held by CU in Aspen,” said Wynia. “Ira and I thought there would be a strong audience for ethical leadership training, especially if it could be more inclusive to other members of the health-care community, including students, administrators, health-care lawyers and other leaders.”

Meleah Himber, the community outreach coordinator for the Center for Bioethics and Humanities, also helped organize this year’s programming.

“People at the management level have a real opportunity to elevate their company’s values and ethics,” said Himber. “We hope the training will help with their future decisions in health-care settings.”

Back in Aspen

The second year of the AELP took place Sept. 11-13 and attracted about 50 participants from Aurora to Australia. It was held in downtown Aspen at the state-of-the-art Aspen Jewish Community Center.

AELP Discussion
A group of attendees at the Aspen Ethical Leadership Program engage in a discussion.

Alongside various highly esteemed health-care leaders, seven CU Anschutz students participated in three days of ethical discussions, plenary discussions and training.

“I feel like I’m better equipped to be a physician now,” said Meagan Criswell, MD/PhD candidate at CU School of Medicine. “I know that I will face these kinds of situations. I’m not sure I could have gained this information anywhere else. These training exercises and experiences will help me make more informed decisions for my future patients.”

Although academics were the focus, the beauty of Aspen was not lost on the attendees. Picturesque mountains surround the Aspen Jewish Community Center, and many participants opted to spend time outside in the pleasant 70-degree weather during the conference’s off hours. A few  even hiked through Maroon Bells, a stunning area known for its colorful scenery.

“Aspen wasn’t what I thought it would be,” said Mary Accomando, third-year PharmD candidate at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. “It is much more quaint and homey than I imagined. I’m really thankful this program brought me here.”

Looking Forward

Wynia, Bedzow, Himber and the entire Center for Bioethics and Humanities are enthusiastic about the program’s direction, and hope to increase enrollment next year.

“This is just the beginning,” said Bedzow.  “Not only do we hope that the attendees can use the training and skills learned at this conference, but we hope to be able to provide more future programming. We are truly glad to work with CU Anschutz Center for Bioethics and Humanities to bring this great opportunity to Aspen.”

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Researchers study patient-centered model for diabetes group care

Dr. Bethany Kwan

A team of investigators from the University of Colorado School of Medicine Adult & Child Consortium for Health Outcomes Research & Delivery Science (ACCORDS), Jefferson Center for Mental Health, Denver Health & Hospital Authority and Case Western Reserve University/University Hospitals of Cleveland has been approved for a $4.76 million award by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to study diabetes shared medical appointments, also called group visits.

A trial in twenty primary care and community mental health centers throughout Colorado, this study will compare the effectiveness of two models of shared medical appointments for people with Type II Diabetes. Diabetes is a highly prevalent chronic disease requiring daily self-care, managing distress and navigating the health care system.

Dr. Bethany Kwan, Principal Investigator and Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine, said, “This award is the product of the hard work and dedication of many people. We are delighted to have the opportunity to test research questions that matter to people with diabetes and their family members. It is our hope that this study will inform key principles for diabetes group visits that patients want to attend and that

improve health.”

Dr. Jeanette Waxmonsky

Dr. Jeanette Waxmonsky, Co-Principal Investigator, Director of Research Innovation at Jefferson Center for Mental Health and an Associate Clinical Professor in the Department of Family Medicine, said, “We are excited that we are testing this intervention across a variety of integrated primary and mental health care clinics.”

This project emerged from a multi-year effort to engage multiple stakeholders – patients, caregivers, clinicians and staff from integrated behavioral health and primary care clinics – and researchers in improving diabetes care using a stakeholder engagement process developed at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus called Boot Camp Translation.

Stakeholders endorsed a model of shared medical appointments involving multidisciplinary care teams, including diabetes peer mentors and a curriculum with physical and mental health education and skills building content. Cohorts of patients could select preferred topics – a patient-driven model. This model will be compared to a model with the same curriculum delivered by health educators only. Patients do not select topics – a standardized model.

Dr. Allison Kempe, Professor of Pediatrics and Director of ACCORDS, said, “This project is a wonderful example of how research in real-world settings can provide important answers that will directly impact the quality of patient care.”

Dr. Don Bechtold, Vice President of Healthcare and Integration, and Medical Director of Jefferson Center for Mental Health, said, “Using the highly prevalent condition of Type II diabetes, this study has the potential to demonstrate the value of integration of mental and physical health and peer support that may also generalize to other disease states and conditions.”

PCORI Executive Director Joe Selby, MD, MPH, said, “This project was selected for PCORI funding not only for its scientific merit and commitment to engaging patients and other stakeholders, but also for its potential to fill an important gap in our health knowledge and give people information to help them weigh the effectiveness of their care options. We look forward to following the study’s progress and working with Drs. Kwan and Waxmonsky to share the results.”

The study was selected for PCORI funding through a highly competitive review process in which patients, clinicians and other stakeholders joined clinical scientists to evaluate the proposals. Applications were assessed for scientific merit, how well they will engage patients and other stakeholders and their methodological rigor among other criteria.

The award has been approved pending completion of a business and programmatic review by PCORI staff and issuance of a formal award contract.

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