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CU School of Medicine Physician Receives Top Honor

Michael Holers, MD, the Scoville Professor of Rheumatology in the University of Colorado School of Medicine, was honored with the designation of Master by the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) during the 2017 ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting in San Diego. Recognition as a Master is one of the highest honors that the ACR bestows on its distinguished members.

Dr. Michael Holers
Dr. Michael Holers

The designation of Master is conferred on senior ACR members who have made outstanding contributions to the field of rheumatology through scholarly achievement and/or service to their patients, students, and the rheumatology profession. Honorees have devoted their careers to furthering rheumatology research and improving clinical standards in the treatment of rheumatic diseases.

“It’s an honor to be recognized for my commitment to advancing research in the field of rheumatology that is focused on improving treatment and developing novel prevention strategies,” said Dr. Holers. “I am truly humbled to receive this designation and join the ranks of my distinguished rheumatology colleagues.”

ACR Masters must be highly accomplished individuals. Evidence of their achievements can come from many types of endeavors and honors, such as research, education, health care initiatives, volunteerism, and administrative positions. The Master must be distinguished by the excellence and significance of his or her contributions to the science and art of rheumatology.

Holers began his academic career at Purdue University and then continued as a medical student in the School of Medicine of Washington University in St. Louis. Following medical school, he was an intern and resident at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis and then a Rheumatology Fellow for two years at the University of Colorado. There he got his first research experience, discovering and publishing on the presence of nuclear antigens on the surfaces of activated cells. Following this introduction to research, Holers sought an intensive research training experience and undertook a wet bench postdoctoral fellowship at Washington University. Following successful conclusion of that position, he began his independent research career there as an Assistant Professor of Medicine and Howard Hughes Assistant Investigator.

After Holers achieved the academic level of Associate Professor with tenure, he was recruited in 1993 by Drs. Robert Schrier and Bill Arend to the University of Colorado as the first Smyth Professor of Rheumatology. Holers was subsequently promoted to Professor of Medicine and Immunology. In 2000, he was named the Division Head of Rheumatology and then in 2008 the Scoville Professor of Rheumatology, positions which he has held to the current period.

For more information on each of these awards, and to view past recipients, please visit www.rheumatology.org/Get-Involved/Awards.

 

 

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CU Anschutz students prepare Thanksgiving meals for community

Jennifer Jones packed a turkey into a donation box and looked out over the assembly line of over 200 volunteers, including about 20 students from the CU Anschutz Medical Campus.

CU Anschutz student volunteers
A group of CU Anschutz students are excited to pitch in at the meal-preparation event.

The students were all smiles as they took time out of their busy schedules to help feed the community at the The Epworth Foundation event. The CU Anschutz Student Senate organized the service day.

‘Very rewarding’

“I had never done anything like this before,” said Jones, a PhD candidate in the Graduate School. “I had no idea what a huge event this was. There were so many volunteers. It was very rewarding to see how just a little bit of time can be used to help so many people and families.”

CU Anschutz student Rebecca Kretschmer
CU Anschutz student Rebecca Kretschmer empties a box of food.

The annual event commemorates the memory of longtime Denver resident Bruce Randolph, who led a tradition of feeding Denver’s neediest families over Thanksgiving for several decades. More than 6,000 frozen turkeys, boxes of macaroni and cheese, cans of cranberry sauce and many other Thanksgiving staples sat on palettes ready to be redistributed to families in need of a holiday meal.

‘This is amazing’

Like a well-oiled machine, empty boxes were transformed into a full Thanksgiving meal for families in need.

“This is amazing,” said Jillian Milke, a student in the Physical Therapy program in the School of Medicine. “As chair of the philanthropy committee in the Student Senate, I’m so happy with the turnout of students.”

When the event ran out of boxes to pack the meals in, CU Anschutz students sprang into action and used their problem-solving skills. They suggested a new packing method by repurposing unused cardboard boxes, and the volunteering was able to continue.

“It was great to work with students from different schools on campus,” said Jones. “I’ll definitely be back next year. Hopefully we can have even more students join us!”

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Top global expert on air pollution and tobacco control takes reins of ColoradoSPH

The newest dean on campus has a lot to boast about. A recent invitation to the Vatican. An award presented by a king. But after 40 years in a career that landed him many top-level posts and prominent international recognition, the dean of the Colorado School of Public Health (ColoradoSPH) remains straight-forward and modest.

Unless the conversation turns to grandchildren, of course.

Distinguished Professor Jonathan Samet, MD, MS, who took over his new desk on the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus before making his pontifical stop, came from the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, where he was chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine.

Considered a top global expert on air pollution and tobacco control, Samet’s accolades include a National Academy of Medicine election, a National Cancer Advisory Board appointment, two Surgeon General’s Medallions and the Prince Mahidol Award for Global Health presented by the King of Thailand.

Samet recently sat down with CU Anschutz Today to discuss his career highlights and outlook for the ColoradoSPH.

Jonathan Samet in front of painting of Pope Francis at the Vatican
Jonathan Samet, the new dean of the Colorado School of Public Health, relaxes during a workshop break at the Vatican.

Today: How did you earn an invitation to such an exclusive Vatican event?

Samet: For decades, I have focused on air pollution and air quality, and I’ve been involved in many related issues. I chaired the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, and I’ve been involved with the World Health Organization and the Surgeon General’s office and written extensively on this issue.

Today: At the Vatican, you spoke on the disease burden of air pollution. Tell us about your message.

Samet: Outdoor air pollution causes 5 million premature deaths a year. Then there are a billion and a half people or so who are exposed to smoke indoors from biomass fuels (wood, dung, charcoal) that they use for heating and cooking. This occurs mainly in other countries and is a rising problem. Nationally, things have improved. For instance, 30 years ago, Denver was famous for its dense brown cloud. Thankfully, it’s not what it used to be. But in the rest of the world  ̶  India, China, parts of Asia, parts of Africa  ̶  air pollution levels are back up to what killed people in the past. It remains a serious global health problem.

Outlook on change

Today: What were the driving factors behind your decision to take this position?

Samet: The real professional attraction was to take the leadership of a school that I think has tremendous opportunity to have impact on public health here in Colorado and the region. I’ve always been interested in taking research and doing something with it: If there is one thing that has defined my career, it’s probably that. I want to make sure we’re taking what we learn and moving it into action. On the personal side, my son and grandchildren are here. My son came to the University of Colorado in Boulder years ago for the reason any young man would go there: to rock climb. And he stayed.

Today: What are your chief goals for the school and community?

Samet: The school is special in that it crosses three universities: the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Colorado State University and the University of Northern Colorado. We have good programs at each and complementary strengths across the three campuses. That’s something to build on. Just as an example, by drawing on CSU’s long-standing strengths at the veterinary school, we can look at the issue of antibiotic resistance. A lot of the drive behind increasing resistance is the use of antibiotics in animals.

And Colorado has a number of issues that need to be studied or addressed. Right now, there is a unique experiment going on with the legalization of marijuana. We’re in the forefront there, and we need to understand any potential consequences. There’s also rapid growth in the state and what comes with that, such as housing issues, environmental changes. These are all things in which I think the school should be involved.

Taking on challenges

Today: You’ve written a bit about the public’s losing trust in science and medical experts. Can you tell us how that works against you and your colleagues?

Samet: For those of us in public health, our research may have important consequences. As an example, showing that smoking causes lung cancer demands action. These kinds of findings may bump up against powerful interests. We know as the science unfolded on smoking and disease, the tobacco industry was always there trying to undermine the findings and their public health impact, creating doubt about the evidence. This has spread, for instance, with climate change and with vaccinations. People are, in a sense, making belief equivalent to evidence as a foundation for decision-making. For instance, a parent says: I believe childhood vaccinations cause autism, which is well discredited. Therefore, I will not vaccinate my child. At some point, this becomes a problem.

Jonathan Samet at his desk
Jonathan Samet brings an expert background in air pollution and tobacco control to the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

Today: How would you describe progress in your other main focus area: tobacco control?

Samet: If you look nationally at the rates of cigarette smoking at the peak in 1960 or so, the majority of men were smokers. If you look now, we are down to about 17 percent of adults smoking daily. There’s tremendous progress but with new challenges. The world of tobacco control has changed really quickly with the arrival of various products that are not combustible cigarettes. We are at another turning point.

Today: You recently accepted a top award in your field from the American Public Health Association’s Epidemiology Section. You are no stranger to awards. Was there anything particularly special about this one?

Samet: This was the Wade Hampton Frost (1880–1938) award. He was essentially the first academic epidemiologist. He founded the Department of Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. I was in the line of chairs who came after him, so that was an honor for me, and I enjoyed the opportunity to talk with colleagues.

Today: What is one misperception people have about you?

Samet: Probably a workaholic perception. I do work hard,  but I have many interests outside of work. For instance, I’m passionate about jazz (and his 3- and 6-year-old grandsons). The one who just turned 6 has been riding his bike to the bike park without training wheels since he was 3. So I definitely will be cycling with them. And they are, of course, rock-climbers already. So I’m really looking forward to the outdoor activities and spending time with family.

Photo at top: Jonathan Samet recently received a top award in his field from the American Public Health Association at a ceremony in Atlanta.

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University of Colorado School of Medicine Physician Receives Top Honor

Dr. Michael Holers, the Scoville Professor of Rheumatology in the University of Colorado School of Medicine, was honored with the designation of Master by the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) during the 2017 ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting in San Diego. Recognition as a Master is one of the highest honors that the ACR bestows on its distinguished members.

Dr. Michael Holers
Dr. Michael Holers

The designation of Master is conferred on senior ACR members who have made outstanding contributions to the field of rheumatology through scholarly achievement and/or service to their patients, students, and the rheumatology profession. Honorees have devoted their careers to furthering rheumatology research and improving clinical standards in the treatment of rheumatic diseases.

“It’s an honor to be recognized for my commitment to advancing research in the field of rheumatology that is focused on improving treatment and developing novel prevention strategies,” said Dr. Holers. “I am truly humbled to receive this designation and join the ranks of my distinguished rheumatology colleagues.”

ACR Masters must be highly accomplished individuals. Evidence of their achievements can come from many types of endeavors and honors, such as research, education, health care initiatives, volunteerism, and administrative positions. The Master must be distinguished by the excellence and significance of his or her contributions to the science and art of rheumatology.

Dr. Holers began his academic career at Purdue University and then continued as a medical student in the School of Medicine of Washington University in St. Louis. Following medical school, he was an intern and resident at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis and then a Rheumatology Fellow for two years at the University of Colorado. There he got his first research experience, discovering and publishing on the presence of nuclear antigens on the surfaces of activated cells. Following this introduction to research, Dr. Holers sought an intensive research training experience and undertook a wet bench postdoctoral fellowship at Washington University. Following successful conclusion of that position, he began his independent research career there as an Assistant Professor of Medicine and Howard Hughes Assistant Investigator. After Dr. Holers achieved the academic level of Associate Professor with tenure, he was recruited in 1993 by Drs. Robert Schrier and Bill Arend to the University of Colorado as the first Smyth Professor of Rheumatology. Dr. Holers was subsequently promoted to Professor of Medicine and Immunology. In 2000, he was named the Division Head of Rheumatology and then in 2008 the Scoville Professor of Rheumatology, positions which he has held to the current period.

For more information on each of these awards, and to view past recipients, please visit www.rheumatology.org/Get-Involved/Awards.

 

 

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Students devise strategies to combat prevalence of suicide

The fifth Rocky Mountain Region Public Health Case Competition was held at the Health Science Library at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus earlier this month.

Fifteen teams received a realistic case-study about suicide prevalence, a public health issue especially relevant to Colorado. Each team had approximately 24 hours to analyze the case, create a public health solution and present it to a panel of judges.

First-place team in Public Health case competition
The first-place winning team in this year’s competition focused on veteran suicide prevention. Team members are, from left, Sujeith Barraza, Kacy Lorber, Phuong Banh, Elizabeth Ko and Morgan Nestingen. Photo by Katie Brumfield, Colorado School of Public Health.

The prizes for the top three teams were varying amounts of scholarship money up to $1,000. Three teams were chosen as the people’s choice recipients, with each member receiving $100.

The teams were specifically chosen to include different disciplines surrounding healthcare, including the Colorado School of Public Health (Colorado SPH), the CU School of Medicine, College of NursingCollege of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of Public Affairs, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Graduate School.

“Public health stretches across all disciplines,” said Tonya Ewers, director of communications and alumni relations for the ColoradoSPH. “This is a great practice-learning opportunity for these students to learn to work together to solve health problems.”

This year’s winning team included three graduate public health students from the ColoradoSPH — two from its program at CU Anschutz and one student from their program at the University of Northern Colorado — as well a graduate student in pharmacy and another in nursing. Fitting for Veterans Day, their focus was on veteran suicide prevention with a project title of “Serve and Support: You Stood for Us, Now Let Us Stand for You.” Their project included media outreach ads and posters with grabbing headlines like “It’s Okay to Not Be Okay” and a peer navigation program that enrolls veterans at the time of discharge. Their case competition plan also included a mobile app and social media outreach to stay top of mind for veteran health.

First-place team member, Kacy Lorber (ColoradoSPH) posted photos of her experience on Instagram and said: “I got to present to so many important people but specifically two House Representatives in Colorado! The highlight was when state Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet told us that she got bill ideas from our presentations. I am so grateful for this experience.”

Judges panel at public health case competition
Judges in the final round of the case competition are, from left, Carol Runyan, PhD, director of PIPER in the ColoradoSPH; state Rep. Kim Ransom; state Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet; Larry Wolk, MD; and Jon Samet, MD. Photo by Katie Brumfield, Colorado School of Public Health.

Diana Ir, current president of the case competition planning committee and student in the ColoradoSPH, participated in the competition last year.

“I had such a great experience,” said Ir. “I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to be a part of putting it together this year. I encourage everyone to participate in the future. Between the potential scholarship money and the awesome collaborative environment, you shouldn’t miss it!”

RESULTS – Rocky Mountain Regional Case Competition 

1st Place ($1,000 each student scholarship)

“Serve and Support

You Stood for Us, Now Let Us Stand with You!

Comprehensive Veteran Suicide Prevention”

Team Members and Affiliations

Sujeith Barraza, ColoradoSPH (UNC home campus)

Phuong Banh, ColoradoSPH

Elizabeth Ko, Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Science

Kacy Lorber, ColoradoSPH

Morgan Nestingen, College of Nursing

2nd Place ($500 scholarship to each student):

“PACT: Patience Assistance Continuing Treatment: Expanding CDPHE’s Warm Handoff

Team Members and Affiliations

Angie Kim, Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Science

Alison Hoffman, ColoradoSPH

Cheryl A. Jones, ColoradoSPH (UNC home campus)

Randy Xun, ColoradoSPH

3rd Place ($250 scholarship to each student):

“PRIDE ALIVE”

Team Members and Affiliations

Charlotte Whitney, School of Public Affairs

Naga Srinija Gummadi, ColoradoSPH

Johnny Williams, ColoradoSPH

Vikasini Mahalingam, School of Medicine

Three teams received People’s Choice Awards ($100 scholarship to each student):

People’s Choice

“Hometown Platoon: A Mobile Mentorship Program”

Team Members and Affiliations

Heather Hergert, ColoradoSPH (CSU home campus)

Hailee Griffin, Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Science

Isaiah Francis, ColoradoSPH

Hannah LaDow, ColoradoSPH

Scott Cao, School of Medicine

People’s Choice ($100 scholarship to each student):

“Welcome to My Life: CO Health Care Workers’ Wellness Program”

Team Members and Affiliations

Jenny Duong, ColoradoSPH

Heather Marshall, ColoradoSPH (CSU home campus)

Meena Mattamana, Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Science

Hailey Hyde, ColoradoSPH

People’s Choice ($100 scholarship to each student):

“It’s Okay, To Not Be Okay”

Team Members and Affiliations

Madeline Huey, School of Medicine

Victoria Laskey, School of Public Affairs

Allison Seidel, ColoradoSPH

Katie Schweber, ColoradoSPH

Mackenzie Wilderman, College of Engineering and Applied Science (Bioengineering)

Editor’s note: Tonya Ewers, director of communications and alumni relations for the Colorado School of Public Health, contributed to this report. 

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Advocacy center at CU Anschutz ending abuse – one ‘flag’ at a time

Although it can feel overwhelming at times, with allegations of sexual abuse running rampant from Hollywood to Capitol Hill and numerous college campuses in between, victim advocates now at both CU Denver and the CU Anschutz Medical Campus are tackling the issue  ̶  one person and one red flag at a time.

“It’s a large social problem that’s impacting people across the country,” said Megan Alpert, director of the Phoenix Center, which recently opened a sister center at CU Anschutz to complement its Auraria Campus location. “I think: How are we ever going to fix this problem? How am I possibly helping?” The answer: One person at a time, Alpert said.

Although the red flags once dotting the grounds in front of Building 500 are down, the problem of interpersonal violence, especially on college campuses, prevails. By continuing awareness projects, such as the Red Flag Campaign, the new CU Anschutz office aims to halt abuse while fulfilling its chief role as a much-needed advocacy center, said Victim Services Coordinator Kalyn Stroik.

A potential breeding ground

The 4,000 flags set up for the October event represented the statistical number of victims on campus. Nationwide, more than one third of women have or will have experienced some form of interpersonal violence, an umbrella term for all interpersonal abuse, including stalking, voyeurism and relationship and sexual violence (from harassment to rape), Stroik said. For men, the numbers are one in four, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and estimates reach as high as 50 percent for transgender individuals.

Factor college life into the equation, and the numbers rise significantly. Women in college, ages 18 to 24, are three times more at risk of interpersonal violence than their non-college peers, according to the Bureau of Justice. College men are 78 percent more likely to experience some form of sexual assault than their non-collegiate counterparts.

“Sexual violence is a prevalent problem on college campuses,” Stroik said. The environment can provide an arena for predators looking to exploit someone in a position of vulnerability. “For example, you have a lot of young people who are experiencing freedom for the first time and exploring sexuality, identity and substance use. This can create a culture perpetrators can take advantage of through no fault of a survivor’s own.”

More information

Phoenix Center at Anschutz

Education 2 North Room 5232
Appointments: 303-724-9120
24/7 Helpline: 303-556-CALL (2255)

Facebook
Website


Phoenix Center at Auraria

Tivoli Student Union, Suite 259
Appointments: 303-556-6011
24/7 Helpline: 303-556-CALL (2255)

Facebook 
Website

A crucial campus resource

The new center, which opened in August, provides CU Anschutz students, faculty and staff who have experienced interpersonal violence of any kind, or who know someone who has, free professional and confidential support, including crisis intervention, resources, referrals and education.

Last academic year, more than 160 CU community members turned to the Phoenix Center at Auraria, and more than 200 people called the advocacy center’s 24/7 hotline.

The Phoenix Center at CU Anschutz is such an important resource for our campus,” said CU Anschutz Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Jan Gascoigne, PhD. Funded by grants and the administration, the center is largely the result of a 2015 Anschutz Student Senate effort, which surveyed students and found a dire need. “The students’ advocacy and support along with that of university leadership made this possible,” Gascoigne said.

Scars from interpersonal violence run deep, affecting survivors and the entire community, Stroik said. It can ruin a young person’s college experience, gravely threaten their well-being, stifle academic success and halt career goals, all of which can reduce retention, she said.

“We see headlines in the media and awareness campaigns on social media, but we often forget it is also an issue within our own homes and communities that impacts us or people we know,” Stroik said. “It affects every Anschutz community member, directly or indirectly, and is an issue that requires our continued attention, dedication and hard work.”

Photo: Volunteers helped place 4,000 red flags on campus to raise awareness about interpersonal violence and a new advocacy center at CU Anschutz. Student volunteers, who play a key role in the Phoenix Center and gain valuable experience for social-justice-related careers, are needed.

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Performance explores Beethoven’s mental, physical struggles

On Nov. 9, the Arts and Humanities in Healthcare Program at the Center for Bioethics and Humanities at CU Anschutz welcomed Richard Kogan, MD, to discuss Beethoven’s deafness through musical performance and historical lecture.

Kogan was trained in the piano at The Juilliard School, and received his MD at Harvard Medical School. He uses his exceptional skillset to combine healing, medicine and the arts.

In three iterations, he alternated between masterfully performing pieces composed by Beethoven, and speaking about the deterioration of Beethoven’s mental health due to hearing loss.

Medical students visit with Dr. Richard Kogan at CU Anschutz
Second-year medical students Josten Overall and Priya Krishnan chat with Richard Kogan, MD, during his visit to the CU Anschutz Medical Campus.

“The performance was amazing,” said Danielle Sansone-Poe, student in the Graduate School. “I brought my whole family to this performance. The passion and diversity of pieces was captured beautifully by Dr. Kogan. The transitions between playfulness and rage were especially captivating.”

Kogan previously presented and performed Gershwin at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus in spring 2013, and he has promised to return in September 2019.

“During his last visit, Dr. Kogan inspired us to create a Music and Medicine Initiative,” said Therese Jones, PhD, associate director for the Center of Bioethics and Humanities.  “He oversees the Music and Medicine program at Cornell, and we wanted something similar on in the CU system.”

This initiative hopes to assist patients with healing though music, offer musical performances to the community, and educate the community about the benefits of music in healthcare. It includes the CU Anschutz Campus Choir and CU Anschutz Campus Orchestra. There is also a new partnership with the College Music at CU Boulder.

“Music has an extraordinary capacity to reduce pain, to soothe anxiety, and to lift spirits,” said Kogan. “In order provide the best care, we shouldn’t overlook these unique capabilities. The humanities deserve to have a role in the medical community.”

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Memorial remembers Traystman as a respected scientist, cherished friend

Although his office now sits empty, a rarity during his 10 years with the University of Colorado, Richard “Dick” Traystman, PhD, lives on through his legacy. He built a successful research program, guided countless colleagues and mentored students toward greatness.

Richard Traystman memorial
Richard Traystman, PhD, where he spent countless hours – at his desk.

Such was the message delivered during a “Celebration of Life” on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus for the distinguished professor and vice chancellor for research, who passed away Oct. 19 at 75.

More than 250 campus community members, welcomed by CU Anschutz Chancellor Don Elliman, gathered on Nov. 7 to reminisce about a man whose colleagues say led with both fortitude and compassion, serving as a revered mentor and a treasured friend to many.

When people leave this earth, they leave a lot of holes in other people’s lives, said Professor Robert Damrauer, associate vice chancellor for research housed at CU Denver, after sharing his and Traystman’s love of opera.  “There are going to be holes in all kinds of people’s lives.”

‘We can do more’

Richard Traystman in the kitchen
Traystman was remembered as a consummate team leader. Here, he pitched in cooking a meal.

CU Denver Chancellor Dorothy Horrell recalled her first meeting with Traystman, PhD, and being struck by his “booming” voice and straight-forward demands for high standards. “But I found that once Dick took you into his fold, he became an ardent advocate, a trusted confidant, a sage resource and a cherished friend.”

Well-loved for his wit and generosity, Traystman also bolstered colleagues and students in their own careers by modeling passion and strong work ethic, his friends said, noting that he was always the first to come and last to leave the office and was a fixture on Saturdays.

“I asked him once when he usually leaves,” said Vesna Jevtovic-Todorovic, MD, PhD, a colleague in the Department of Anesthesiology. “And his response was that Suzann (Lupton), his devoted and very supportive wife, made that decision for him.”

His work ethic stemmed, at least in part, from his sheer love of his job, his colleagues said. “He worked extremely hard, but it was never work to him as he enjoyed it all too much,” said Alison Lakin, RN, PhD, associate vice chancellor for regulatory compliance.

“But most importantly of all, he created not a team but a family that supported each other and could have fun,” Lakin said, choking back tears. “We all know the most important role we can play is to make sure the research keeps moving forward. Thanks to his great leadership and legacy, I know that it will.”

‘We can do better’

Traystman had a talent for spotting human potential and motivating colleagues and students, for whom he had a special affection, Horrell said. “He would engage so deeply with students, ask thoughtful questions, and always leave them with an encouraging word.”

Portrait of Richard Traystman
Richard “Dick” Traystman, PhD

CU wanted him for his science, his ability to bring people together and for his personality, which it really needed at the time, said former School of Medicine Dean Richard Krugman, MD. When Traystman was recruited, the campus was moving to Aurora from central Denver and facing other struggles.

“It looked to me that Dick was being recruited for an impossible job,” Krugman said. But he gathered a terrific group of people and overcame the struggles, all while he kept up his own lab and research funding and traveled the world earning a Lifetime Achievement Award, Krugman said. “No one person could ever do this,” he said.

Traystman’s dedication never waned, not even at the end, his colleagues said. “During my final visit with him at the hospital, I thanked him for all he had done, the way he had touched so many lives, for his support of CU Denver, and for his belief in me,” Horrell said. “True to form, he had something to say: that our work wasn’t yet done. We can do more,” he told her. “We can do better.”

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Celebrating the President’s Scholars, Enhancing Diversity

It was a special night as University of Colorado President Bruce Benson addressed a crowd of more than 100 scholarship benefactors, students and faculty November 1 at the Denver Country Club. The occasion was a celebration of the President’s Scholarship Initiative–started in 2010, the effort was designed to provide crucial financial support for students of diverse backgrounds who otherwise would have been unable to attend the medical school.

“This program enabled us to attract the best, brightest, most diverse group of medical students possible,” said President Benson, who thanked alumni and friends for contributing to the program. “The President’s Scholarship has been critical to recruitment in the CU School of Medicine, and it has made a huge difference.”

Since President Benson’s office made its original $10 million investment in the program, more than 50 alumni and faculty supporters have established new named scholarships, expanding the school’s ability to reach more students from around the country. He noted that average student debt at graduation is more than $200,000, and while this program has made a difference for many students, there is still more to do to lower that debt load.

These prestigious four-year awards have supported 115 students pursuing their medical degrees, including second-year medical student Zachary Blea. With a wife and a 9-year-old daughter, scholarship support takes some of the worry about debt out of the picture and lets him fully experience medical school. “I think that more people are afraid of getting an education because of the cost, and from a societal standpoint, that is a sad thing,” he said.

For first-year student Jahmel Jordon, a first-generation American born to a Jamaican single mother, the Battock Presidential Scholarship is enabling him to fulfill a lifelong goal. “I have always dreamed of becoming a physician,” he said, “and the Battocks’ leadership and philanthropy have given me the wonderful opportunity to attend my number one medical school.”

CU School of Medicine Dean John J. Reilly, Jr., MD, congratulated the Class of 2021 and all of the President’s Scholars in attendance. “You should be proud,” he said. “We’re proud to have you here.” With the help of generous benefactors, the School of Medicine has invested more than $20 million into the program, and another $8.5 million in diversity pipeline programs, all to help CU Anschutz attract and retain a more diverse and highly qualified student body.

“We aren’t doing this out of obligation,” said Dean Reilly, “but out of aspiration.” He noted that the School of Medicine is dedicated to recruiting the best students from across the country, and diversity scholarships have been an important factor in its ability to do so. Since the program’s inception, diversity among the student body has grown from 11 percent to 32 percent today.

“Take a walk down the School of Medicine hallway and look at the photos of each class of medical students,” he said, “and you’ll see how far we’ve come.”

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Physicians’ book ‘Enviromedics’ explores link between climate change and human health

The adverse impacts to human health from global warming are undeniable and on track to worsen, without significant interventions, in the coming decades.

Jay Lemery, MD, of CU Anschutz
Jay Lemery, MD

This is the view of Jay Lemery, MD, associate professor of medicine in the CU School of Medicine, and the wider scientific community. Lemery co-authored a recently published book, “Enviromedics: The Impact of Climate Change on Human Health” with Paul Auerbach, MD, professor of emergency medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine.

Lemery, who is also section chief of the Wilderness and Environmental Medicine Section in the SOM’s Department of Emergency Medicine, has a strong interest in the interplay of the environment and human health.

Asked why he and Auerbach wrote the book, Lemery said, “It’s clear there’s been a conspicuous absence of physicians and health care providers engaging in the dialogue on climate change and its impact on human health. We also felt the science was being politicized and risk assessments for most Americans were skewed. So we wanted to take a step back and weigh in from the physicians’ point of view, essentially saying, ‘We know sickness – this is what we do every day,’ and point to what we see coming down the pike.”

The book takes the reader to the bedside, providing vignettes of the sicknesses physicians are seeing across the globe. The book’s message is clear: Climate change is and will be a driver to make these health problems worse.

‘Changes in vector-borne diseases’

Lemery chatted with Today about “Enviromedics” and the dire prognosis for the planet and its inhabitants if climate change continues unchecked.

Today: What are the effects of climate when it comes to human biology? What are physicians seeing in that regard?

Lemery:

  • Extreme heat events are real and becoming more prevalent and intense. We’re seeing heat illness, heat stress – acute conditions – but we also see things like chronic kidney disease spiking in vulnerable places, like among field workers in central America and south Asia. We’re seeing pre-existing health conditions – diabetes, heart disease, congestive heart failure – all exacerbated by extreme heat. In general, we’re seeing exacerbations of chronic disease with vulnerable populations – the very old, the very sick, the very young.
  • We’re also seeing changes in vector-borne diseases – infectious diseases like malaria, dengue, even Zika – and the range of these diseases is increasing in altitude and latitude. Also, the life cycles of the vectors – the mosquitoes and ticks that carry the diseases – are being altered by climate change.
  • After extreme weather events, we see not only the trauma from flooding and extreme damage to infrastructure – causing hundreds of deaths like this summer with the hurricanes – but also the breakouts of water-borne disease. This happens after the fact, when water supplies, sewage systems and food-growth areas are all mixed and spread out after these weather events.
  • We’re seeing degraded air quality over huge swaths; even in the U.S., huge swaths of the American West have been affected all summer from wildfires, which are now more intense and long-lasting than anytime in the historical record.
  • For people who suffer from allergies, the aero-allergen seasons are longer and the pollen counts are higher than we’ve ever seen.
  • From the sea-level rise caused by global warming, we’re seeing higher storm surges, and there’s been a slow erosion, particularly of low-lying areas in the low-lying nations in the Pacific and Indian oceans. These are communities, and in some cases nations, that are looking at the best science and saying, ‘We probably won’t have a home in 100 years.’ So we are now actually seeing migrations of people who are resettling in places like Australia and New Zealand.
  • There are also force multipliers. Food security is affected by extreme weather; extreme precipitation events, extreme drought events and extreme heat events all disrupt food supply. In poverty-stricken areas, when the food supply is disrupted, food insecurity and the consequential malnutrition or even starvation becomes more at risk than it was previously.

‘We know this is coming’

Today: Someone may say, “Even though you’re a scientist, you’re not a climatologist, you’re not a meteorologist. Why should we listen to you on the subject of climate change?” If someone were to say that to you, what would be your response?

Book "Enviromedics"
Jay Lemery, MD, associate professor of medicine in the CU School of Medicine, co-authored “Eviromedics: The Impact of Climate Change on Human Health.”

Lemery: That’s exactly right. It’s time that we as physicians, as health care providers, as the people who deal with injury and sickness and even death, step forward and say, ‘This is the same thing. What we’re seeing and what we can anticipate as drivers of morbidity and mortality, we know this is coming.’ So it’s important to hear it from your doctor, from those of us who wear the metaphorical white coat, and say, ‘This is a big deal.’ We’ve spent a lot of time delivering altruistic-oriented messages – ‘Save the whales’ or ‘Love mother Earth’ – or abstract messages – like ‘There’s 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere’ – but I don’t think those messages have worked.

We need to bring it back to a simple message: This is about the health of your parents, your kids’ risk of asthma and other health issues that affect the people you love. This comes down to the very basic health issues of humanity – and if that’s not a fulcrum for change, I’m not sure what is. That’s why we wrote the book.

Today: Where does the science stand on the direct link to these kinds of health issues right now?

Lemery: The science is pretty clear, and frankly no one is really debating this anymore: Human-caused climate change is driving a lot of these health issues. Now, some of them are direct, but many more are indirect. So, where public health was tenuous as first, force multipliers are making the situation worse. I think it’s important to understand that the data is clear, and the people who spend their careers studying this across all spectrums of environmental earth science have been saying the same thing: This is real; the change is real; and the historical record has never shown anything near this. It’s beyond historical fluctuations.

‘Trajectories going up across all metrics’

 Today: Will climate change affect people in the next five or 10 years, or the next 50 years? How fast will these effects get worse?

Also written by Dr. Lemery

In 2015, Jay Lemery, MD, co-authored “Global Climate Change and Human Health” with George Luber, PhD.

Lemery: We’re seeing the effects now. This summer has seen some of the strongest storms on record in the Atlantic basin. In the last few years, we’ve seen absolutely the most extreme storms on record. We know that the heat waves we’re seeing now are all beyond historical precedent. The majority of the warmest years on record have been in the last 10 to 20 years. Meanwhile, the Arctic sea ice is at its lowest point on average than has ever been recorded.

The fact that these effects are cumulative is very worrisome. We know that the data tell us that if we stop producing carbon now, it will be a long, long time before the Earth equalizes. And of course we’re not stopping carbon production, so I think the trends we’re seeing are going to worsen and last centuries into the future. To what degree will be the trajectory? I think that’s being postulated as varied, but, unfortunately, the trajectories are going up across all metrics.

Editor’s note: Matthew Kaskavitch, digital engagement strategist, contributed to this report. 

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