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Diverse cohorts immerse in pediatric psychiatry as part of PURPLE

Undergraduates are rarely exposed to a mentored research experience where they interact with patients. Yet that is exactly what a group of students enjoy each summer in a select program rich in opportunity.

PURPLE — Pediatric Psychiatry Undergraduate Research Program and Learning Experience — is shaded in several unique qualities. It is the only program at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus that provides: 1) clinical research mentorship, 2) to undergraduate students and 3) with a focus on pediatric mental health.

The program typically receives an average of 50 to 60 student applicants with a 10 percent acceptance rate. Students who are accepted into the cohort are paired with faculty to work on a range of real-life clinical research projects. This year’s group of six students were immersed in projects looking at topics in pediatric psychiatry and psychology such as:

  • Dental care for patients with autism;
  • Eating disorders;
  • Pregnancy-related depression;
  • Family’s influence on pediatric obesity.

Diverse cohorts

2018 PURPLE cohort
2018 PURPLE cohort: top row (from left): Robert Evans (coordinator), Emmaly Perks (co-director), Kristen Torres and Austin Chavez. Bottom row (from left): Haley Dellinger, Maria Torres-Dominguez, Merlin Ariefdjohan (co-director), Eve Delao and Brianna Barkocy.

The applicants represent universities nationwide and have a diverse background (e.g., first-generation college students, underrepresented ethnic minorities, DACA recipients and others).

“Within a span of 12 weeks, we also provide in-class sessions on scientific communication, professional development (writing resumes and cover letters, interviewing, etc.) and sessions on clinical observation,” said Merlin Ariefdjohan, PhD, MPH, one of the co-directors of PURPLE and assistant professor, Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine (SOM). “On the research side, it’s a clinical experience where the students are supervised and mentored to collect data from patients and databases, rather than conducting experiments in a laboratory setting.”

Emmaly Perks, MA, co-director of PURPLE and Innovations Center Research Education and Training Manager in the psychiatry department, said it’s “pretty unheard of” for undergraduates to get this kind of contact with patients and their families along with mentoring and professional development. An undergraduate research project typically means working through experiments in a basic science-oriented lab with informal guidance from faculty.

Multifaceted experience

In PURPLE, “students are getting a multifaceted look at pediatric mental health so they can make a more informed decision of the kind of career they would like to pursue after graduation,” Perks said.

The program takes place at Children’s Hospital Colorado, but is housed within the Department of Psychiatry in the SOM. The students get access to the CU Anschutz Health Sciences Library as well as opportunities to shadow their mentors on rounds at Children’s. “All of our faculty are clinicians in an academic medical setting. They see patients but do research on the side,” said Ariefdjohan, who is also director of the Pediatric Mental Health Institute’s (PMHI) Innovations Center within the Child and Adolescent Division of the psychiatry department.

Thanks to donors, students also receive a bit of green — a stipend — during PURPLE, which hosted its third cohort this summer. Organizers cobble together funding sources, including donations from the Colorado Clinical & Translational Sciences Institute, private donors and the chair of the PMHI, and are hopeful to establish a more sustainable funding system. Such a scenario would allow PURPLE to offer more student positions each summer, especially to students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds and who might not otherwise be able to afford attendance in the program.

Building a pipeline

“Every year we get a lot more deserving applicants than spaces, so funding has always been a bit of limiting factor for us,” Ariefdjohan said.

Efficiencies are part of PURPLE, starting with the faculty and staff who donate their time to the program. They get rewarded, though, when they see students’ eyes light up from new discoveries. This year, two-thirds of the cohort will continue to contribute to CU, staying on campus into the school year with jobs as research interns. “We want this to be a pipeline,” Perks said. “We hope they’ll come into our department eventually as psychiatrists, psychologists, research assistants or others who care for children’s mental health.”

Added Ariefdjohan, “The ultimate goal of this program is to inspire and build skills in students who wouldn’t have the means to do this otherwise. If we can somehow enable that, we find that to be the true reward of what we do.”

PURPLE comments

Alexandra Malek (student, 2016 cohort): “This was an invaluable experience for me as it provided a safe and supportive environment for me to develop my skills as a researcher, scientist and young professional in the healthcare field.”

Ayelet Talmi, PhD (faculty mentor, 2016-18): “Even more remarkable was the camaraderie and community the PURPLE program created among students, faculty mentors and past participants. You are truly creating a pipeline to engage students in possible careers in pediatric mental health and provide them with an opportunity to contribute their perspectives to the field early in their professional development.”

Kristen Torres (student, 2018 cohort): “PURPLE was really great and gave me a lot of real-world and hands-on experience that you don’t normally get in a classroom. It was so eye opening to work with patients and their families and it reaffirmed my decision to pursue a career in pediatric psychology. The experiences also led me to be more confident in my qualifications when applying for graduate school.”

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A Celebration of Giving

On August 28, Chancellor Elliman delivered a message of gratitude and an update on the latest campus developments with nearly 150 alumni, friends, faculty and staff who gathered on campus for the third annual Loyal Benefactor Celebration. The special event, held on campus, honors those who make regular annual gifts to support the university, those who have included CU Anschutz in their estate plans, and faculty and staff who give through monthly payroll deduction.

Chancellor Elliman shared the story of alumni Ann and Doug Jones, who were in attendance at the evening’s event. The couple has been making gifts to CU for nearly 40 years, supporting a range of programs and facilities from the Center for Women’s Health Research to the Physician Assistant Program. They have deep ties to CU. Doug joined the university as a pediatric resident in the 1960s and today serves as a professor of pediatrics at the CU School of Medicine as well as seeing patients at Children’s Hospital Colorado and UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital. Ann is a two-time CU alum who earned a master’s at CU Boulder and doctorate at CU Denver, both in political science. In 2011, Ann and Doug joined with their daughter, Monica Jones Federico, and son-in-law, Steven Federico, both of whom are pediatric physicians, to establish the Jones/Federico Scholarship to support students throughout their four years in medical school. Most recently, the couple shared plans to establish an endowed professorship in medical education – a fitting way to carry forward their legacy of generosity and impact into the decades ahead.


“We are building tremendous momentum at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus because of people like Ann and Doug Jones, and each of you here tonight,” said Chancellor Elliman. “While we may not know with certainty what our future holds in a quickly evolving health care landscape, we do know that with a generous and dedicated community of support like this one by our side, there’s no limit to what we can accomplish.”

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Sarcoma team delivers best in world care

In an article he wrote after a second bout with a rare form of cancer, Denver City Councilman Albus Brooks observed, “The great paradox of my experience with cancer is that it gave me temporary weakness and permanent strength.”

In those moments of weakness — the first arriving in 2016 and the second in 2018 — Brooks took comfort in the “still hands and clear minds” of his medical team, which is based at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and is, in Brooks’ words, “the best in the world.”

Just as in summer 2016, when an international cast of physicians helped him beat a 15-pound sarcoma, Brooks this spring was cared for by the same group of doctors: There was Victor Villalobos, MD, PhD, an oncologist specializing in sarcomas (Mexican-American); Evalina Burger, MD, a specialist in orthopedic surgery (native of South Africa); and Ana Gleisner, MD, PhD, who performs surgeries on many cancers, including sarcomas (hailing from Brazil). C.J. Kleck, MD, an orthopedic spine specialist, assisted on the May 1 surgery at the University of Colorado Hospital to remove the growth.

Innovative treatments

Albus Brooks' physician team at CU Anschutz
The physician team that cared for Councilman Brooks was (clockwise from top left) Drs. Evalina Burger, Victor Villalobos, Ana Gleisner and C.J. Kleck.

This time the tumor was the size of a grape, not a cantaloupe. Brooks’ first tumor sat on his pelvis, lodged between vertebrae in his lower back. The latest mass, a small chondrosarcoma, grew very slowly in the psoas muscle — part of the hip flexor — and was closely monitored by Villalobos during regular checkups.

Villalobos said the tumor appeared to be a residual disease. “I’m happy with how Albus is doing,” he said. “We’re getting more treatments developed for sarcomas.”

Like many other cancer treatments, immunotherapies are a growing focus in chondrosarcoma care. For a subset of chondrosarcomas, Villalobos said, a drug has been developed that targets a genetic mutation in the mass and essentially turns the tumor off. Some patients’ previously fast-growing tumors have responded to the pill, showing no growth for a few years.

Sarcoma Medical Oncology in the CU Cancer Center is the largest sarcoma center in the region (next-closest is in St. Louis). The center operates in a one-stop-shop, multidisciplinary fashion for patients: they see specialists in oncology, radiology, pathology, general surgery, orthopedic surgery and other disciplines all at once, rather than having multiple appointments.

Patient visits continue to climb, with close to 400 new patient visits in the past year. “It’s been growing by leaps and bounds,” Villalobos said.

‘Magical’ collaboration

Brooks recovering at UCH
After his May 1 surgery, Denver Councilman Albus Brooks walks with two of his children — Kaya and Makai — at University of Colorado Hospital.

Burger, an orthopedic surgeon who has twice operated on Brooks, said the weekly sarcoma multidisciplinary meetings help create life-changing outcomes. “We try to get the best decision as a group for each patient. It’s really magical because of the collaboration and exchange of knowledge,” she said. “It’s a meeting of the minds, and it’s the best way to address problems.”

She noted that the international mix of physicians isn’t happenstance. It’s part and parcel of how the CU Anschutz Medical Campus delivers world-class clinical care. “Diversity is one of the strengths of this university and this School of Medicine,” Burger said. “In every department, there are people from all over the world. They bring different experiences and different approaches to problems.”

Passion for life

Health problems are already the furthest thing from Brooks’ mind. The former linebacker and safety for the CU Buffaloes said he’s feeling back to full strength and is even thinking about competing in a triathlon.

‘It’s really magical …a meeting of the minds, and it’s the best way to address problems.’ — Evalina Burger, MD, on multidisciplinary collaboration at CU Anschutz

As for his care team at CU Anschutz, “They’re incredible. I talked about it in my Medium article. They prove it time and time again, especially with sarcoma,” Brooks said. “Drs. Villalobos, Gleisner and Burger are the best in the world — they’re internationally renowned.”

In the online essay, Brooks mentioned a complication after the May surgery. With the surgery requiring a 10-inch incision in his abdomen, he ended up developing an ileus, which is essentially a lack of movement in the intestines. It can occur as a side effect after a particularly invasive surgery. The condition was treated with a tube inserted through his nose for about 50 hours, removing bile from his system.

During that time, Brooks reflected on life. Among his observations: “Don’t run from your weakness, for that is where you will find your greatest strength.”

That’s one of the many things Brooks’ physicians love about him — the way he turns a negative into a positive. He continues to make quarterly visits to CU Anschutz for checkups.

Burger said Brooks is “truly unselfish and a great family man.” The Councilman, who serves a downtown district, has a wife and three children — Makai, Kenya and Kaya. “He has a passion for life, and I think people like that will make a success of anything you put in front of them.”

Race to Cure Sarcoma 5k

Since his first bout with sarcoma, Albus Brooks has been a regular participant at Denver’s annual Race to Cure Sarcoma 5K Run/Walk. This year’s event takes place Sept. 15 at Cherry Creek High School. Brooks served as run/walk chairman for the 2016 debut event, which raised $40,400 for the University of Colorado Foundation.


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A passion for improving cancer detection

A first-generation college student who lost her grandmother to ovarian cancer, Jazmyn Mosqueda aspires to become a cancer researcher. She took a big step in that direction this summer as one of 37 applicants chosen for the prestigious Cancer Research Summer Fellowship (CRSF) program through the University of Colorado Cancer Center.

Founded in 1987, the CRSF program pairs young scientists with more than 50 faculty preceptors at the CU Anschutz and CU Boulder campuses, as well as National Jewish Health and the Veteran Affairs Medical Center. Fellows are chosen through stringent selection by a panel of 18 faculty members. For 2018, only 37 fellows were chosen out of 221 applications, a success rate of only 17 percent. When it comes to choosing fellows, Jill Penafiel, education manager, cautioned that good grades alone won’t make the cut. She elaborated that work ethic, character references, and passion for cancer research are key for successful applications.

Within the first week, fellows attend orientation and submit written project goals. The remainder of the 10-week fellowship is devoted to research, with weekly events and faculty lectures including different cancer sites and personalized medicine.

For her research project, Mosqueda worked under the mentorship of Matthew Sikora, PhD, in the Department of Pathology. The Sikora lab studies lobular breast cancer, a relatively rare type of the disease. “Lobular breast cancer has good biomarkers but generally poor outcomes — this research may improve treatment options for lobular breast cancer patients,” said Mosqueda, a senior majoring in biology and Spanish at the University of Northern Colorado.

Matthew Sikora and Jazmyn Mosqueda evaluate data
Matthew Sikora, PhD, assistant professor in pathology, looks on as Cancer Research Summer Fellow Jazmyn Mosqueda evaluates her data.

Invigorates project

Sikora said the Cancer Research Summer Fellows infuse additional energy into the research taking place on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. “It has been great having Jazmyn in the lab,” he said. “I love getting young scientists excited about research. It helps us, too, since the energy and new questions that undergraduates bring can really invigorate a project.”

Mosqueda’s summer research has centered on understanding new roles for a protein called int/Wingless 4 (Wnt4) that enables breast cancer cell growth and survival. Although she expressed that research in general is hard, Mosqueda focused instead on the satisfaction that comes the first time an experiment is successful. Having lost her paternal grandmother to ovarian cancer before she was born, Mosqueda said her family history inspired a passion for improving early cancer detection. She hopes to attend graduate school in cancer biology after she graduates in May.

As a first-generation college student, Mosqueda talked about her project with her family, which has improved her science communication skills. “I think it’s important to be able to explain to someone who doesn’t have a scientific background or isn’t educated in the hard sciences, because that’s ideally what physicians should be able to do for their patients,” noted Mosqueda. As the first time away from her native Greeley, Mosqueda continued, “I think my family is proud. But my mom misses me.”

Stepping stone

Mosqueda feels that the summer fellowship makes her a more competitive candidate when applying to grad school. Penafiel echoes this sentiment and said, “The fellowship is a great stepping stone for aspiring medical students or grad students.” Penafiel expressed the gratification that she gets from the success stories, adding, “It’s wonderful to see students go on to do great things.”

Mosqueda added, “I’m grateful and thankful for the opportunity to experience something like this.”

The nationwide fellowship program ended in early August with a public poster session where many fellows’ families were in attendance. The CRSF program is managed by John Tentler, PhD, associate director for education, and Jill Penafiel.

Guest Contributor: Shawna Matthews, a postdoc at CU Anschutz.

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University of Colorado announces new dean to lead the College of Nursing

The University of Colorado Board of Regents approved the Sept. 1 appointment of Elias Provencio-Vasquez, RN, PhD, as the new dean of the CU College of Nursing at the Anschutz Medical Campus.

Elias Provencio-Vasquez, RN, PhD, new dean of the CU College of Nursing.
Elias Provencio-Vasquez, RN, PhD, new dean of the CU College of Nursing.

Provencio-Vasquez becomes the 11th dean and the second male dean in the history of the College, which is celebrating 120 years of educating nurses throughout Colorado. He is also the first Latino male to earn a doctorate in nursing and to head a nursing school in the U.S.

“We are thrilled that Dr. Provencio-Vasquez will be leading the College of Nursing,” said CU Anschutz Chancellor Don Elliman. “Not only is he a highly experienced nurse educator, eminent researcher and proven administrator, he’s the son of immigrants who was the first in his family to attend college. He is uniquely qualified to lead the College into the next phase of its history.”

Provencio-Vasquez got his start in the healthcare industry more than 40 years ago as a teenager organizing food trays in a Phoenix hospital. That experience helped inspire him to pursue a career in nursing. After receiving his associate’s and bachelor’s degrees, he went on to earn a doctorate.

“I know personally the power of education and appreciate the University of Colorado’s commitment to student access and diversity,” he said. “I never thought that having faculty or people that look like you would make a difference, but it does. If you see faculty whom you can identify with, that does make a difference.”

During his career, he has served as a clinical nurse, a nurse researcher, a nurse educator, school administrator, and a pediatric and neonatal nurse practitioner. He is internationally renowned for his pioneering work in neonatal and pediatric care and in women’s health. Provencio-Vasquez is also a Robert Wood Johnson Executive Nurse Fellow alumnus, a Robert H. Hoy III Distinguished Professor in Health Sciences and serves on several community and editorial boards.

Prior to his current position, Provencio-Vasquez served as dean of the nursing school at the University of Texas El Paso, associate dean at the University of Miami and director of the Neonatal Nurse Practitioner program at the University of Texas at Houston and the University of Maryland.

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Grad reflects on academic journey

Moving to Colorado for graduate school was a no-brainer for me. Originally from Mississippi, I embarked on my first higher-education experience to the east — Alabama. While I enjoyed my four years there (2010 to 2014), the school’s undergraduate enrollment was massive; it was just over 30,000. For graduate school, I wanted something more intimate, and, as a lifelong Southerner, I was ready to explore another part of the country.

When I heard of the Biomedical Sciences and Biotechnology master’s program in the Graduate School at CU Anschutz, I knew it was the right fit. So, I packed my bags and, most importantly, my dog and headed out west.

Brand-new campus

Walking onto the gleaming CU Anschutz Medical Campus for the first time, I thought to myself “Wow, look at this place.” The buildings were enormous and brand new, and all the windows glittered in the sunlight. The campus was abuzz with academic talks, debates and lectures. Having such a high concentration of likeminded people was fascinating.

The first semester consisted of a few different classes, including statistics and Core. It was incredibly challenging, and I am pretty sure it gave me a few gray hairs and maybe a wrinkle or two. Fortunately, I had some incredible classmates who helped me along the way and somehow I made it through.

Next stop: an exciting career

I gained much more than an education at CU Anschutz; I had some amazing practical work experiences, from ruining countless experiments in the lab and learning how to code to ultimately writing for CU Anschutz Today. I had remarkable mentors who were incredibly patient, kind and caring. Thank you Robert Dellavalle, MD, PhD; Cory Dunnick, MD; and Today editors Chris Casey and Deb Melani; you guys are the best.

A mere four days after graduating in May, I started a job with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment working in the division of Workers’ Compensation. Combining my biomedical sciences background with my journalism experience, I currently help edit medical treatment guidelines and plan provider education. Without my valuable combination of education and practical experience, I never would be where I am today.

Graduation was a great day full of celebrations.

Some advice for new students:

• Find near-and-dear friends in your classmates; they will be your future co-workers and industry leaders.

• Enjoy all the beauty Colorado has to offer. Go skiing, take that hike and make the trek to Telluride.
• Never think you’ve overstudied (because you haven’t).
• Get to know your professors. They’ve been there, done that and probably wrote the textbook.
• Get involved on campus! You’ll get to know all kinds of students in a variety of programs; it will definitely give you some perspective.

CU Anschutz gave me the wonderful opportunity to first experience Colorado, and now it is affording the opportunity to stay. I am forever thankful.

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$120 million gift from The Anschutz Foundation fuels research and innovation

The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus has received a $120 million gift, the largest private philanthropic commitment in its history, to further elevate its stature as one of the country’s top medical destinations.

The Anschutz Foundation and its founder and chair, Philip Anschutz, made the unprecedented commitment to accelerate the campus’s growth and development as one of the newest and most prominent academic medical campuses in the United States, the only one in the Rocky Mountain region, and the largest from Chicago to the West Coast. This gift brings The Anschutz Foundation’s total investment in the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus to nearly $300 million since 2000.

Anschutz gift fuels innovation

The gift will support strategic faculty recruitment and retention, innovative research efforts, industry partnerships and technology transfer, and a new 390,000-square-foot interdisciplinary Anschutz Health Sciences Building. The university will break ground later this year on the new building, which will house faculty leaders in mental and behavioral health including the CU Department of Psychiatry, as well as the Colorado Center for Personalized Medicine, the Colorado Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute, classrooms, exhibit space and more.

Anschutz Health Sciences Building
The gift will support strategic faculty recruitment and retention, innovative research efforts, industry partnerships and technology transfer, and a new 390,000-square-foot interdisciplinary Anschutz Health Sciences Building. The university will break ground later this year on the new building.

“We are proud partners in the development of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and share an ambitious vision for further elevating it among the country’s top medical destinations,” said Mr. Anschutz. “The campus stands as a Colorado landmark and a hub of leading-edge research, innovation and education – and, perhaps most importantly, as the place to go for the highest-quality health care delivered by the best minds in medicine.”

“With this commitment, Mr. Anschutz and the leadership of The Anschutz Foundation are excited to help rapidly transform medicine and health care, not only in Colorado but across the region and beyond,” said Executive Director of The Anschutz Foundation Ted Harms. “We have a shared vision for propelling the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus even higher among the best medical campuses in the United States, and by investing in key strategic areas, we will make that vision a reality.”

Transforms health care

“Philip Anschutz and The Anschutz Foundation are helping lead a visionary transformation of health care in Colorado and beyond,” said CU President Bruce D. Benson. “This gift, combined with their previous commitments, goes a long way toward ensuring the CU Anschutz Medical Campus is one of the leading medical care, research and education facilities in the world.”

University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus Chancellor Donald M. Elliman Jr. said the commitment from The Anschutz Foundation “enables us to fully capitalize on the momentum we have seen on this campus since our beginnings here just 17 years ago.”

“Our growth has been exponential and shows no signs of slowing, due in large part to The Anschutz Foundation’s longstanding partnership and this new commitment,” Elliman said.

“Among our initial opportunities are attracting and retaining top talent in key areas including personalized medicine, novel therapeutics and immunotherapy, and mental and behavioral health,” said CU School of Medicine Dean and Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs John J. Reilly Jr., MD.

Advances personalized medicine

UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital President and CEO Will Cook said he is particularly hopeful about the impact this gift will have on recruiting and retaining top faculty who help deliver excellent patient care. “UCHealth and University of Colorado Hospital partner with the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus to leverage research and innovative treatments like immunotherapy to transform the future of health care. This historic donation will enable the nationally recognized physicians from the CU School of Medicine to continue inventing the health care treatments of tomorrow, helping deliver the very best outcomes for patients throughout the Rocky Mountain region.”

“New discoveries in the realm of personalized medicine and novel therapeutics are rapidly changing the pediatric health care landscape,” said Children’s Hospital Colorado President and CEO Jena Hausmann. “This generous gift infuses valuable resources into that work and will translate into more effective, highly tailored treatments for children battling a range of illnesses and diseases.”

In addition to funding bright minds in research, education and clinical care, the campus will dedicate philanthropic funds to invest in CU Innovations, a new approach to technology transfer launched in 2016 to facilitate the translation of science and innovation into marketable products and services that improve lives.

“Our proud history of innovation has led to important new discoveries, and through CU Innovations, we are capitalizing on our deeply rooted entrepreneurial spirit by connecting University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus inventors with innovators and industry partners who can take their breakthroughs to market,” said Elliman.

About the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus is the only comprehensive academic health sciences center in Colorado, the largest academic health center in the Rocky Mountain region and one of the newest education, research and patient care facilities in the world. Home to 21,000 employees, more than 4,300 degree-seeking students and two nationally ranked hospitals, the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus trains the health sciences workforce of the future and fuels the economy, with more than $3.9 billion in annual economic impact. Skilled physicians and providers at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital and Children’s Hospital Colorado see 2 million patient visits each year, caring for people and families of all ages from across the state of Colorado and around the region. Children’s Hospital Colorado is one of the top 10 children’s hospitals in the U.S., and University of Colorado Hospital is ranked among the top 25 in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report.

About UCHealth

UCHealth is an innovative, nonprofit health system that delivers the highest quality medical care with an excellent patient experience. UCHealth combines Longs Peak Hospital, Memorial Hospital, Poudre Valley HospitalMedical Center of the RockiesUCHealth Medical GroupBroomfield HospitalGrandview Hospital, Yampa Valley Medical Center, Pikes Peak Regional Hospital and University of Colorado Hospital into an organization dedicated to health and providing unmatched patient care in the Rocky Mountain West. With more than 100 clinic locations, UCHealth pushes the boundaries of medicine, providing advanced treatments and clinical trials and improving health through innovation.

About Children’s Hospital Colorado
Children’s Hospital Colorado is a leading pediatric network 100 percent dedicated to the health and well-being of children, adolescents and young adults. Consistently acknowledged as one of the nation’s top pediatric hospitals by U.S. News & World Report, Children’s Colorado is recognized nationally and internationally for its medical, research, education and advocacy programs. It is at the forefront of research in childhood disease and pioneering treatments that are shaping the future of pediatrics, as well as offering everyday care for kids throughout Colorado and surrounding states. Founded in 1908, Children’s Colorado offers a full spectrum of family-centered care at its urgent, emergency and specialty care locations throughout Metro Denver and Southern Colorado, including its location on the Anschutz Medical Campus. Scheduled to open in Spring 2019, the new Children’s Hospital Colorado, Colorado Springs will be the first pediatric-only hospital in southern Colorado. For more information, visit, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

More about the CU Anschutz Medical Campus:

Learn more about the history of the CU Anschutz Medical Campus here.

For the media:

If you’re looking for photos or videos to use in your report, please click here.

Guest Contributor: This report was written by Trisha Kendall, director of communications, Office of Advancement.

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CU Pharmacy earns national awards for community service, excellence in assessment

The University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences was recently recognized with two national awards at the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy’s (AACP) annual meeting.

“I am very happy that we were recognized on a national stage for the good work we and our students do at our school and in our community,” said Dean Ralph Altiere.

The school received the 2017 Lawrence C. Weaver Transformative Community Service Award along with the AACP Award for Excellence in Assessment.

Transformative Community Service Award

The Transformative Community Service Award is presented annually to a school of pharmacy that demonstrates a commitment to addressing unmet community needs through education, practice, and research. This should be demonstrated through the development of exceptional programs that go beyond the traditional service role of academic pharmacy.

During a site visit with AACP, CU Pharmacy showcased several programs, they refer to as their Colorado Commitment, including prescription drug abuse prevention and the combatting the opioid epidemic, rural health programs, commitment to community health centers and Federally Qualified Health Centers through faculty positions, student rotations, and scholarly work, the Aurora Elementary Schools Nutrition Program – in which over 1,500 pharmacy students and 8,000 elementary students have participated since program inception, and finally their work with the Community Campus Partnership and the work of Robert McGranaghan, MPH.

CU Pharmacy faculty member, Gina Moore, PharmD, gathered all the elements needed for the award submission, “Thanks to Dr. Moore’s commitment and persistence over the years in preparing our award application and arranging our site visits and the great work of our faculty and students,” said Dean Altiere.

“Gina and everyone at the School of Pharmacy – congratulations! The School of Pharmacy has been a great champion and leader on the campus for community engagement and this award gives further evidence of that,” added Robert McGranaghan.

The award consists of a commemorative sculpture honoring the institution’s extraordinary social commitment and $5,000 to distribute to community partners to support continuation or expansion of their collaboration.

Excellence in Assessment

The school received the AACP Award for Excellence in Assessment thanks to work by faculty members Eric Gilliam, PharmD, Jason Brunner, PhD, Wesley Nuffer, PharmD, Toral Patel, PharmD and Megan Thompson, PharmD.

The award recognizes outstanding Doctor of Pharmacy assessment programs for their progress in developing and applying evidence of outcomes as part of the ongoing evaluation and improvement of pharmacy professional education. The manuscript CU Pharmacy faculty submitted was titled: Unique Assessments for Unique Experiences: Content Validation of Three Assessment Tools for Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience Rotations.

“The Experiential Education Committee at CU Pharmacy used a data-driven validation and assessment plan to guide the design, testing, and implementation of five high-stakes advanced pharmacy practice experience (APPE) student assessments,” explained Jason Brunner, PhD.

The use of a four-year validation plan to guide the design, testing, and implementation of new final APPE student performance evaluations resulted in significant and positive changes to the experiential education program.

“Students must demonstrate a readiness to practice pharmacy prior to graduation, and we are now better able to document each student’s level of skill during each experiential program. Compared to our prior performance evaluations, the value of the feedback to the student has much improved. We trust when a preceptor indicates a student is ready to practice, that the student truly is ready to advance in their career,” said Eric Gilliam, PharmD.

Ultimately, the five new APPE assessment tools, each unique to its own practice setting and designed by input of active preceptors,  have proven to be effective in providing reliable and meaningful feedback for students.

Congratulations to the CU Skaggs School of Pharmacy on both awards and the national recognition!

Guest contributor: This story was written by Stephanie Carlson, content producer, Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

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Are pet owners abusing animals to get opioids?

Dog will opioids

Veterinarians in Colorado are concerned that some of their clients may have intentionally hurt their pets in the hopes of receiving prescription painkillers, according to a recent survey conducted by the Center for Health, Work & Environment at the Colorado School of Public Health and a local veterinary association.

Although veterinarians can prescribe powerful drugs, their role in curbing the opioid epidemic has been largely overlooked. Researchers are calling for improved surveillance, more research, and better training in an editorial published in the American Journal of Public Health.

Lee Newman, MD, MA, Director, Center for Health, Work & Environment and Mountain & Plains Education and Research Center
Lee Newman, MD, MA, Director, Center for Health, Work & Environment and Mountain & Plains Education and Research Center

“The role veterinarians play in helping reduce opioid abuse hasn’t been thoroughly examined,” said Lili Tenney, one of the lead investigators of the survey and the deputy director of the Center for Health, Work & Environment. “Our results indicate that we should be paying more attention to how opioid abusers are seeking their drugs — including through veterinary clinics. We want to see health people and healthy pets.”

Opioid diversion and misuse is a problem affecting everyone in the veterinary clinic — from staff to pet owners to pets themselves. Of the 189 veterinarians surveyed, 13% reported that they had seen a client who they believed had purposefully injured a pet, made them ill, or made them appear to be unwell. Close to 45% of those surveyed knew of a pet owner or member of their team who was abusing opioids; 12% acknowledged that were aware of a staff member diverting opioids or abusing them.

The Center for Health, Work & Environment team and the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention are working to address opioid misuse and animal abuse by educating veterinarians and their staff. Together, they designed an online training that focuses on opioid prescription guidelines and best practices for veterinarians.

Click here to read the editorial.



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Drug prices not always aligned with value, CU Anschutz researchers say

In many countries, health care reimbursements for drugs are directly related to their value or net health benefits in treating disease.

But a new study by researchers at the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences , in collaboration with a group of international clinical and economic experts, shows that’s not the case in the U.S.

Jon Campbell, PhD, of the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences is senior author of the study
Jon Campbell, PhD, associate professor at Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, is lead author of the study.

The study was published Monday in the August issue of the journal Health Affairs.

“In the United Kingdom, for example, cost effectiveness is a driver of decisions to pay for, or decline to pay for, health interventions,” said the study’s lead author Jon Campbell, PhD, associate professor of pharmacy. “They generally do not pay more than £30,000 to £40,000 per quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) for new medical interventions, thus signaling to manufacturers and other innovators what their country is willing to pay for additional health improvements.”

Melanie Whittington, PhD
Melanie Whittington, PhD, research faculty at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, is-co-author of the study.

QALY is used to measure one year of perfect health.

In the U.S., there is no formally agreed-upon cost-effectiveness threshold, due mostly to its fragmented health care system.

Using a forecasting model, they calculated the cost-effectiveness for commonly reimbursed cardiovascular drugs by estimating the cost per health outcome achieved. They wanted to see if the U.S. had an observed payment threshold, if even implicitly.

Instead they found a wide spectrum of cost-effectiveness, suggesting that drug prices are not consistently associated with what they produce in terms of health gains. Prices were, in short, not consistently aligned with value.

“When we purchase a medical treatment, we expect to get something in return, such as living a longer life or having fewer symptoms,” said study co-author Melanie Whittington, PhD, research faculty at the CU School of Pharmacy. “The results of our study show the amount insurance providers pay to get one more unit of health, such as one additional year of life in perfect health, varies considerably and can exceed what is considered good value in other parts of the world. This contributes to higher-priced medical treatments.”

She noted that the study used data from 1985-2011 and that in recent years health care leaders have been talking more about value-driven health care.

Campbell said the U.S. pays up to twice as much for branded drugs and health care services compared to other wealthy nations.

The reason, he said, may be due to the difference in price paid with little difference in the quantity of drugs or health services actually used.

“The U.S. gets very little in terms of additional health outcomes for this added price paid,” said Campbell, director of the pharmaceutical outcomes research graduate track at the Center for Pharmaceutical Outcomes Research at CU Anschutz. “In the pharmaceutical space, the U.S. has done a poor job at signaling to manufacturers what we are willing to pay for improvements in health and what improvements in health we care about.”

He and Whittington hope the study will stimulate more debate in this country about what constitutes an acceptable cost per unit of health gained for drugs and how to achieve value-driven health care delivery in the U.S.

“Solutions toward fair drug pricing include the U.S. sending more signals about what we value in health and U.S. decision makers being willing and able to walk away from unfair pricing,” Campbell said.

The study co-authors include Vasily Belozeroff, health economist at Amgen Inc., Thousand Oaks, Calif.; Robert Rubin, distinguished professor of medicine at Georgetown University in Washington D.C.; Paolo Raggi, professor of medicine at the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute and the University of Alberta in Edmonton; Andrew Briggs, professor of health economics at the University of Glasgow in Scotland and visiting investigator at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, N.Y.

The study can be found here: Prices for common cardiovascular drugs in the U.S. are not consistently aligned with value






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