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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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The U.S. has experienced a spike in violent and unintentional injuries

The U.S. has experienced a disturbing increase in violent and unintentional injuries over the last few years, reversing positive gains made in the 1980s and 1990s, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and Denver Health Medical Center.

The study, published Wednesday in JAMA Surgery, examined the period between 2000 and 2016 and found that injury remains a leading cause of death in the nation.

“All injuries from gunshot wounds to car accidents have been going up,” said the study’s senior author Dr. Angela Sauaia, MD, PhD, of the Colorado School of Public Health at CU Anschutz and CU School of Medicine. “We saw a distinct spike between 2014 and 2016 that we can’t explain.”

Dr. Angela Sauaia, MD, PhD, is the senior author of the study
Dr. Angela Sauaia, MD, PhD, is the senior author of the study.

Using a Centers for Disease Control data base known as WISQARS (Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System) the researchers showed that the jump in overall injuries from 2014-2016 reduced survival gains observed since 2001.

“Black non-Latinos retained the highest rate of homicide fatality rates across the entire period, and suffered the highest increase of all racial/ethnic groups during the 2014-2016 period,” the study said. “Similar patterns were observed for unintentional injuries and homicides.”

According to Sauaia, suicides appeared to increase steadily for white non-Latinos and black non-Latinos with a small but significant acceleration beginning in 2006. In comparison, white Latinos experienced a larger, significant increase in suicides starting in 2013. About half of suicides were firearm-related and those jumped from 2006 to 2016 after a six year decline.

Two-thirds of homicides were firearm-related.

“This subgroup observed the largest increase in the 2014-2016 period compared to all other injury mechanisms,” the study said.

Meanwhile, motor vehicle accidents also saw a serious increase from 2014-2016 following a decade of major declines. Overall, unintentional injuries spiked after 2014 for most age groups, except those 16 and younger.

Sauaia, a professor of public health and surgery, said the reasons behind all of this defy easy explanation. She noted that 2014 saw significant civil unrest in the U.S., including violent demonstrations over racial issues. Questions also surround the role social media plays in distracting drivers and causing more accidents, she said.

“What is disturbing to me is that we are talking about a major cause of death in our society and we have so little funding to do research for causes and solutions,” she said.

That doesn’t mean nothing can be done.

“There are some solutions we can start implementing. Regardless of where you stand on guns everyone agrees that children should not have access to loaded firearms,” Sauaia said. “And why not include as part of primary care, educating patients on firearm safety?”

As for motor vehicle accidents, she suggested that technology could be employed to make it more difficult to text and drive.

“These growing rates warrant concerted, decisive efforts by academia, society and policy-makers to support trauma-focused research,” the study concluded.

The study’s co-authors include Ryan Lawless, MD, of Denver Health Medical Center; Ernest Moore, MD, of the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Denver Health; Mitchell Cohen, MD, of the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Denver Health and Hunter Moore, MD, PhD, of the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

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