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History center provides window into nursing’s past

Tucked down a quiet hallway on the fourth floor of Education 2 North, a room nearly overflows with vintage artifacts. Starched, floor-length uniforms that look more like gowns highlight the assortment of nursing relics, from 19th-century class pins and yearbooks to antiquated textbooks and medical instruments.

Inside, intern Brittany Huner scours through boxes of documents, photos and other memorabilia, keeping the artifacts preserved and exhibits updated. For her, the “hidden gem” on the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus serves as a stepping stone. But for visitors, the Nursing History Center provides an invaluable connection to an impressive past.

Nursing uniform in History Center
Traditional nursing uniforms are part of the many items on display in the Nursing History Center.

“I didn’t know how big of a deal the CU nursing school was,” said Huner, a recent CU Denver history graduate (MA, ’18) who has maintained the center for more than a year.  The collaborative internship through the CU Denver Public History and Preservation program provides a unique experience for her and an important resource for the College of Nursing (CU Nursing), she said.

Connecting to the past

“It’s good for the modern students to understand how much their field has changed and where it comes from,” Huner said, noting the pioneering efforts of alumni standouts such as Loretta (Lee) Ford (EdD, ’61) and Jean Watson (PhD, ’73), whose work at CU evolved into the profession-changing nurse practitioner model  and “Theory of Human Caring,” respectively.

Through tours, now offered on a walk-in basis on Fridays, the center also draws alumni back, Huner said. “They’ll say: ‘Oh, I remember wearing these uniforms, or I remember using these tools.’ It gives them that real solid connection with the school.”

Many courageous women helped trail blaze the profession from the halls of CU, including former Dean Henrietta Loughran, her work part of Huner’s favorite exhibit. After Pearl Harbor, Loughran leveraged connections and quietly transferred U.S.-born nursing students of Japanese immigrants (Nisei) to CU to finish their education and avoid internment.

“That is a really unique part of the school’s history,” said Huner, who also helps callers find information and old photos for projects. “We actually have some scrapbooks from several of the Nisei students.”

CU pioneers reshape nursing

In 1964, after she and fellow public health nurses found themselves serving the mountain towns and rural areas of Colorado alone without appropriate training, Ford began developing a nurse practitioner model. “There were no other health professionals in these rural areas,” said Ford, 97.

Displays at Nursing History Center
Items on display in the Nursing History Center include garments, documents, photos, artifacts and other memorabilia.

“The goal was to test out a more clinical nursing role and then integrate it into the major curriculum,” she said. Until then, master’s-prepared nurses served only in “functional roles,” such as supervisory, teaching or administrative, Ford said. “We were preparing clinical specialists in our particular areas of expertise.”

Despite fierce resistance on many fronts, Ford, with the “energy of the students” and the “enthusiasm of the patients,” persevered, her model now a standard practice in many specialties worldwide.

Past lessons ‘set stage’ for future

Social and political barriers also confronted Watson in her efforts a decade later to reshape the profession. “My challenges were really to give voice and language to nursing, which is often invisible, particularly in an academic major medical center,” said Watson, 78, whose research at CU led to the caring theory now used in teaching hospitals and medical centers worldwide.

Watson, who served as dean, established the Center for Human Caring and helped establish the first doctoral program and clinical doctorate while at CU. “She’s one of our biggest alumni names,” Huner said, adding that the center has boxes of Watson’s papers and awards from around the world.

As CU Nursing celebrates its 120th anniversary this year, Huner hopes more people will take advantage of the center, especially students. “There’s a lot of neat stuff that I don’t think students really know or get to learn about showing just how much the field has changed,” she said. “I think it sets the stage for future improvements in the field.”

The Nursing History Center is in Education 2 North, Room 4104. Walk-in tours are available from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Fridays or by appointment through Dana Brandorff at 303-724-1698.

120 years of nursing excellence

The University of Colorado College of Nursing began in 1898 in Boulder as the University of Colorado Training School for Nurses. During its 120-year history, the college has experienced many firsts including the birthplace of the nurse practitioner and the Centers for Nursing Research and Human Caring, as well as innovative nurse-led clinical practice sites.

In order to truly experience the rich history of the college, we encourage you to take a tour of the Nursing History Center, which is housed at the Anschutz Medical Campus and includes numerous items highlighting the profession of nursing, as well as the unique history of CU Nursing.

“From an original recording of Florence Nightingale to capes, caps and pins to photos and papers from some of the ‘greats’ in nursing education, the center is worth the trip,” said Levi Jensen, an enthusiastic visitor and BSN student from lake Superior State University.

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Collaborative effort creates campus food pantry

Jennifer Huynh noticed how a food pantry fills a vital need at the University of Colorado of Denver, so she wondered why, after becoming a student at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, a similar pantry wasn’t available here.

That changed earlier this month.

“We all worked together and I’m just really happy to see this,” Huynh said, standing outside the new pantry stocked with canned goods and other items. “My assumption was that there is a need here; it’s just an unspoken need. I often see classmates and other students being frugal with their lunches.”

When Huynh shared her observation with Jan Gascoigne, PhD, assistant vice chancellor for Student Affairs at CU Anschutz, Gascoigne didn’t hesitate. She connected Huynh to Dora Safoh, case manager, Office of Case Management and the CARE Team, and the collaborative food pantry effort got rolling.

Safoh coordinated a needs survey that circulated among CU Anschutz students earlier this year, after the idea of a food pantry received strong support from students in a previous survey conducted through the Office of Student Health Promotion. The survey questions allowed students to provide input on what they would like to see in a food pantry on campus.

Food pantry inventory
Checking out the inventory of the new campus food pantry are, from left, Dora Safoh, Jennifer Huynh and Kara Garr.

“When asked if a food pantry would fill a need at CU Anschutz, students showed overwhelming support — with a little over 50 percent of respondents agreeing — so the need definitely exists,” Safoh said.

Huynh, a graduate student in the Colorado School of Public Health, said people often have a stigma about food insecurity. Even though they may have a genuine need for basic provisions, they tend to think otherwise out of an assumption that someone else needs them more. “But that’s not what it’s all about,” Huynh said. “We’re trying to encourage students to use this service and not be embarrassed by it.”

Birth of a food pantry

The CU Anschutz Food Pantry launched Oct. 1 and is housed inside the University Police headquarters, Building 407, 12454 E. 19th Place, on the northwest side of campus. So far, the pantry is stocked with nonperishable foods including canned vegetables, beans, fruits and some pasta. These initial items were collected through a food drive collaboration with UCHealth earlier this year.

Kara Garr, student services coordinator at CU Anschutz, helped with the pantry launch and is monitoring the inventory. She said she attempted to launch a food pantry effort at her previous employer, a community college, but the project bogged down in bureaucracy and budget wrangling.

Mission statement

The mission of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus food pantry is to eliminate food insecurity on the Anschutz Medical Campus by providing students with adequate nutritious food, promote the value of nutrition, and increase food distribution and support services to those in need. As servant leaders and partners for social change, we believe that access to wholesome food is a basic human right.

“Here, the process was easy and really refreshing. Everyone was so eager and there was amazing support,” Garr said. “And the willingness of the campus police to house it was awesome. The idea is to make the pantry easy to get to, controlled and confidential.”

Police Chief Randy Repola credited the Division of Student Affairs staff for handling most of the work, noting that his department is happy to provide additional pantry support. “This is something that people sometimes overlook,” he said. “We’re here to provide a safe and secure environment, and this pantry is helping to take care of a basic need for our students.”

The food pantry is specifically for CU Anschutz students, and they can access the free service at any time; only a student ID is needed. Outside normal police headquarters hours, students can still access the pantry by pushing the dispatch button outside the main door. If a student checks a “willing-to-be-contacted” box at sign-in, he or she will be reached for their thoughts about the service and what may be needed. “We’re really excited to get some data back,” Garr said.

Hygiene and another food drive

The consensus so far, at least among the organizers, is that the pantry inventory should expand in some areas. So, a hygiene drive will be held next month in conjunction with peer mentors in the College of Nursing, followed by a supplemental food drive. “All our drives from here on out will be based on our inventory rather than just general food drives,” Garr said. “I really hope to keep our inventory relevant to students’ needs — things they can actually use.”

Safoh said Gascoigne was instrumental in responding quickly to Huynh’s suggestion and helping find a path forward, through collaborations with various campus partners, for the food pantry. Pantry organizers are also pleased that CU Anschutz launched the pantry — and will continue its operations — through donations; it gets no support from student fees.

“I think it’s really neat that we’re able to launch a food pantry with all donations and continue to run it through the generosity of our campus,” Garr said.

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Nanette Santoro elected to National Academy of Medicine

Nanette Santoro, MD, professor and E. Stewart Taylor Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, has been elected into the National Academy of Medicine, one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine.

The election recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service. The National Academy elected 75 regular members and 10 international members during its annual meeting earlier this week.

Nanette Santoro, MD
Nanette Santoro, MD

“This distinguished and diverse class of new members is a truly remarkable set of scholars and leaders whose impressive work has advanced science, improved health, and made the world a better place for everyone,” said National Academy of Medicine President Victor J. Dzau, MD. “Their expertise in science, medicine, health, and policy in the U.S. and around the globe will help our organization address today’s most pressing health challenges and inform the future of health and health care. It is my privilege to welcome these esteemed individuals to the National Academy of Medicine.”

In its announcement, the National Academy said Santoro is being honored for “research discoveries in health predictors of midlife women, participation in cutting-edge clinical trial design and execution.”

Santoro’s research projects have included the Kronos Early Estrogen Prevention Study (KEEPS), which has tested the effect of estrogen, when given within three years of menopause, on carotid artery thickness and coronary calcium scores, as well as cognition. She is also a co-Investigator on the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation, a seven-center study of 3,000 women of five different ethnicities who have traversed the menopause. SWAN is examining a variety of outcomes and risk factors for health and disease in this representative cohort of US women.

She has also been involved in clinical trials that have examined the role of hormone therapy and alternative treatments in menopausal women’s health. Her research has also considered how obesity in women interferes with fertility and reproductive hormone production.

She serves as Chair the Steering Committee of the National Institute of Health’s Reproductive Medicine Network, a clinical trials network that performs cutting-edge research in infertility and reproduction. I have also had a longstanding research interest in premature ovarian failure. She is also lead investigator on three mentored research NIH grant awards.

Santoro joined the University of Colorado School of Medicine as chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2009. Prior to joining CU, she held faculty appointments at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New Jersey Medical School and Harvard Medical School.

Santoro earned her medical degree from Albany Medical College of Union University and completed a postdoctoral residency at Beth Israel Medical Center and a fellowship in the Departments of Gynecology and Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

Guest contributor: CU School of Medicine

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‘Very exciting’ time for regenerative medicine

The pace of progress in cell-based therapies and regenerative medicine is unprecedented, and the development of disease therapies, and possibly cures, will only accelerate in the near future.

That was the message of panelists in “The Future of Regenerative Medicine,” a discussion capping a national Zoobiquity Colorado conference that explored health care advances emerging from the intersection of human medicine and veterinary medicine. The “future” session, which included experts from conference co-hosts CU Anschutz Medical Campus and Colorado State University, wrapped up two days of tours, poster sessions and discussions last weekend.

Dr. Dennis Roop of CU Anschutz
Dennis Roop, PhD, director of the Gates Center for Regenerative Medicine and professor of dermatology at CU Anschutz, answers a question during a panel discussion about the future of regenerative medicine.

Panelists included Dennis Roop, PhD, director of the Gates Center for Regenerative Medicine and professor of dermatology at CU Anschutz; Ryan Crisman, PhD, interim facility director of the Gates Biomanufacturing Facility; Michael Perry, DVM, PhD, chief executive officer of Avita Medical and adjunct professor at the Gates Center; and Sue VandeWoude, DVM, professor of comparative medicine and associate dean for research, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at CSU.

Max Gomez, PhD, a CBS News medical correspondent, moderated the discussion. Gomez kicked things off by asking panelists about recent developments in regenerative medicine.

‘Super-exciting time’

Regenerative medicine research projects began over the last decade at CSU, VandeWoude said, and have “really accelerated in the last several years. It’s a signal that this is a therapy that is really at the forefront of potentially transforming how we practice veterinary medicine.”

Perry, whose medical device company provides skin regeneration solutions, said, “This is a fantastic time for regenerative medicine and cellular therapies, and it’s moving extraordinarily quickly. The science, the biology and the potential to not just be treating symptoms of disease — to be curing disease in humans and in our companion animals — is very exciting.”

Crowd at Zoobiquity at CU Anschutz
The “Zoobiquity Colorado” conference attracted a large audience for events at CU Anschutz and Colorado State University.

Crisman said the number of companies working to commercialize production of CAR T cells for personalized immunotherapy treatments has soared in recent years thanks to advances in equipment, technology and raw materials that were not even available five years ago. “It has exponentially grown; it is a super-exciting time.”

Roop explained how the Gates Center for Regenerative Medicine is working to develop a permanent corrective stem cell-based therapy for Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB), a severe skin-blistering disease. He said the center’s breakthrough in developing a highly-efficient reprogramming method, which avoids the use of viral vectors, may allow his team to receive Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for one of the first induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC)-based clinical trials in the United States.

CU Anschutz is part of a three-institution consortium, along with Stanford University and Columbia University, which has received several sizeable grants to help push the EB technology forward.

Alliance of scientists

“Zoobiquity,” a book by Barbara Natterson-Horowitz, has challenged scientists to bridge the gulf between veterinary medicine and human medicine and inspired a series of conferences.

VandeWoude cited the One Health Alliance as being a consortium at the forefront of integrating veterinary colleges with medical schools. She said she is encouraged by the progress made in recent years to forge collaborations through events such as Zoobiquity, as well as the CSU veterinary college’s relationship with CU Anschutz and the Colorado Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CCTSI). She said veterinarians can play an important role in developing therapies that are applicable to both animals and humans, and “I’m looking forward to more opportunities for mixing the disciplines where there is overlap between veterinarians and medical doctors.”

Gomez asked if the panelists foresee opportunities for private industry to help fund future discoveries.

Perry said private involvement “is moving exponentially” as fund managers see opportunities to change the face of medicine. However, he said, big pharmaceutical firms are less inclined and often less well-equipped to conduct very early basic research. Their position ought to be to leave these early research studies to academic institutions and smaller companies. “Big pharma’s place, I think, is really to conduct the larger clinical trials that often require many tens or hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said.

Other discussion topics included the advantages between naturally-occurring and induced animal models; the regulatory environment for manufacturing cell-based therapies; and the evolution of technology in the cell-based therapy and regenerative medicine space.

‘Sky is the limit’

Roop said the FDA has concerns about improving reprogramming efficiency of patient-specific iPSCs. “After we prove the safety there, I think the sky is the limit regarding the types of applications of the technology, especially for diseases where you know the genetic basis,” he said.

‘I think we can have a huge impact therapeutically for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.’ — Ryan Crisman, interim facility director of the Gates Biomanufacturing Facility

The future of regenerative medicine rests on carefully controlled clinical trials and measurable outcomes, according to Roop. A significant part of that future hinges on the way manufacturing facilities such as the Gates Biomanufacturing Facility, which recently manufactured its first clinical trial-grade product for direct infusion into patients, can successfully compete with the proliferation of “mom and pop stem cell shops” that can only show anecdotal evidence for their treatments. “If you do the studies and trials the safe way,” Roop said, “then you will provide a benefit and will deliver efficacious results.”

Crisman said he believes cell-based therapy and regenerative medicine will especially impact neuro-degenerative disease over the next five to 10 years. “I think we can have a huge impact therapeutically for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia,” he said.

Perry said advances in regenerative medicine combined with the fast-growing field of analyzing big data makes for a bright future. The result will be research targeted toward cures as opposed to developing lifelong medications for ailments. “Those two combined will probably take us beyond what we can imagine in this forum,” he said.

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New College of Nursing dean sees boundless potential

Growing up in a large family, especially as the middle child, tends to enhance a person’s powers of observation.

So it was for Elias Provencio-Vasquez, PhD, RN, FAAN, FAANP, new dean of the CU College of Nursing, who grew up as the only boy in a family of seven children. His parents were Mexican immigrants living in Phoenix. Their life was geared toward day-to-day survival, tending to daily chores and family functions, so notions about higher education didn’t enter the picture. Still, Provencio-Vasquez knew there was a better way, and he became the only member of his family to go to college (several of his nieces and nephews have since graduated from college).

Stepping out of his comfort zone and becoming “the first” would emerge as a theme in Provencio-Vasquez’s life. He became the first Latino male to earn a doctorate in nursing and head a nursing school in the United States.

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.

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.

As he looks ahead, Provencio-Vasquez sees incredible opportunities in the College of Nursing — building on the college’s many successes and creating bridges to new opportunities in the future. “With my career, I’ve saved the best for last,” he says with a warm and ever-present smile. “This is where I plan to stay and finish my career.”

What made you want to pursue nursing and academia?

CON Dean Elias Provencio-Vasquez
Early exposure to hospitals and nurses inspired Provencio-Vasquez to pursue a career in nursing.

Initially I thought I wanted to be psychologist. In college, I worked as a unit clerk in an emergency room in Phoenix, and I saw what the nurses did and how they took care of patients. I found that nursing and health care were what I wanted to focus on. Before that, in high school, I worked as a dishwasher in a hospital kitchen. That was my first exposure to nurses, and it definitely piqued my interest. But it was especially the nurses I worked with during college, in the hospital ER unit, who were very supportive and encouraging.

You are a first-generation college graduate of Mexican immigrants, and you come from a large family. How did your childhood influence where you are today?  

I was the only boy, the middle child, and I had six sisters. My dad had a very strong work ethic; he was a bricklayer in Phoenix. As you know, it gets very hot there in the summer. He’d take me to work with him and I remember being so miserable, laying bricks in the heat. I realized at a young age that my ticket for getting out of manual labor was to go to college. With my dad working hard to support a family of seven kids, college and education were not part of the agenda of our lives. But I knew I needed to get educated and work toward a profession.

Growing up with sisters had a real impact on me. It translated into the strong respect I have for women and how I enjoy working with them to this day. I think it also positioned me to be a very caring nurse.

What drew you to academia?

I was a nurse for 15 years – first an ER nurse and then a neonatal nurse working with babies. I received my PhD from the University of Arizona in 1992 and I was recruited by the University of Texas Medical Center in Houston to direct its neonatal nurse practitioner program. I spent 10 years as a program director, learning how to navigate academia and how to be a faculty member as opposed to a clinician; they are two very different things. While there, I satisfied my love of patient care by running a clinic for drug- and HIV-exposed infants.

During that time, I got exposed to teaching nursing students, and I really enjoyed it. My specialty was maternal health, and I mostly taught undergraduate students in pediatrics and OB/GYN. I discovered that I really enjoyed academia, so I stuck with it.

What got you interested in reducing maternal risk of substance abuse, HIV exposure and intimate partner violence during and after pregnancy?

In Houston in the early ’90s I worked in a clinic specifically for HIV- and drug- and alcohol-exposed infants. It was during the crack cocaine era, and a lot of babies born were exposed to cocaine and alcohol. I got to know the mothers by taking care of these infants and children. It was an ‘a-ha’ moment. I realized I should focus on taking care of the mothers because they are the gatekeepers of their children’s health. I wanted to give them the skills and tools needed to be good mothers.

Your doctoral dissertation tracked premature babies and their families after they were discharged from the hospital. Did your clinical work in Houston help you decide how to focus your research?

Nursing Dean Elias Provencio-Vasquez
Elias Provencio-Vasquez, PhD, RN, FAAN, started as dean of the College of Nursing in early September.

Back then, welfare services would take kids from mothers who tested positive for cocaine. I would go to the mothers’ homes and give them skills to help them get their children back. So my research focus went toward women and particularly those at risk for health issues and violence. My research helped create an intervention for nurses to help parents of premature infants transition from hospital to their homes. I wanted to help them realize how powerful they were as women and mothers and assist in giving them the tools to be great mothers.

To what do you attribute your success?

Fortunately, I had people along the way who encouraged and mentored me. My mentors were women who really supported and encouraged me to go for that next degree, that next position. They encouraged me to stretch and challenge myself. I believe there is no such thing as luck; it’s what you do with an opportunity that is given to you. I have had many doors opened to me, and I really attribute that to my success and where I am today.

I am at the point in my career where I want to pay it forward and help mentor the next generation of nurses and nurse scientists, because it really had an impact on me.

What does it mean to you to be the first Latino male to earn a doctorate in nursing and head a nursing school in the U.S.?

In terms of being a male in nursing, it is still a very small percentage. There are 3.1 million nurses in the United States and only 9 percent are male. Being a male in nursing in the ’70s and ’80s was a challenge and an opportunity. I look back now and I see that the University of Arizona was proud of the fact that I was the first Latino male to earn a PhD in nursing. I was proud, too, but now I look back and think, ‘Well, it was about time.’ It should have happened well before I came along. Being first is a good feeling because it opened the doors for others to follow.

What excites you about CU and the College of Nursing?

The CU College of Nursing has an amazing history and has made some incredible contributions to health care and nursing. This is where the nurse practitioner field was invented, which has made major contributions to health care in the U.S. Another amazing thing is the many clinics we have in the community providing health care to underserved communities. Our 120-year history is very rich and something to build upon. And the faculty and staff who support this college are really impressive.

‘Our faculty want to continue to see the college succeed and make history. They have made a commitment not only to nursing and research, but to the community as well.’ — Nursing Dean Provencio-Vasquez

The commitment and longevity of the faculty here speaks for itself. They want to continue to see the college succeed and make history. We have faculty who have made a commitment not only to nursing and research, but to the community as well. I am very impressed with our clinics that serve parts of our community that have challenges in health care.

I am excited about our past, but want to make our own history. In 10 years we’re going to say, ‘Look what we did as a College of Nursing.’

Do you view the College of Nursing’s location at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus as a plus?

When your college is part of a larger medical campus it affords many different types of opportunities in terms of clinical practice, research and collaborating with other colleges. There are a lot of opportunities to build bridges with other schools and colleges as well as the hospitals on campus.

You have undoubtedly noticed a campus-wide emphasis on fostering a diverse and inclusive culture. How will you promote diversity within the College of Nursing?

I am impressed by the effort and strategies CU has implemented and focused on to promote diversity within the student population as well as the faculty and staff. There are deliberate reasons to do this, to look like the community we serve. I have talked to faculty members who want to start the conversation and see what we can do to increase diversity among students, faculty and staff. We also need to implement strategies and initiatives that create the desired outcome — that by increasing diversity, we make it more likely for everyone to be successful within the institution.

I think we have a lot of work ahead of us. But I already feel the commitment from the faculty and staff to make that happen, which is refreshing to me.

This interview is taking place early — just your second day on the job. What are your final thoughts about all that is yet to come?

The potential this college has to move forward and to the next level — whatever we decide that to be — is exciting to me. There are untapped possibilities we will all discover. It’s all about building bridges.

In the News: Telemundo, Oct. 3, 2018: Hispano hace su sueño realidad

Editor’s note: Video at top courtesy of the College of Nursing.

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Opioid education day focuses on solutions to crisis

The Physical Therapy Program in the University of Colorado School of Medicine recently held an educational day titled, “Pain & Healthcare in Society: Changing Attitudes, Behaviors and Health Systems to Address the Opioid Crisis.” The event drew 250 students, alumni and community members from various disciplines.

The event was focused on improving pain management through a better knowledge of systems-level barriers to achieving effective collaboration, a deeper understanding of pain management across health care disciplines and examples of innovative approaches to pain management and collaboration.

Opioid educational day
On stage from left, Anthony Delitto, PT, PhD, of the University of Pittsburgh, and Robert Saper, MD, MPH, of Boston University, address the audience at the recent opioid educational day on campus.

“The scope of the opioid crisis and the challenges of caring for people with pain are sometimes overwhelming,” noted Andrew Kittleson, PT, DPT, PhD, core faculty, Physical Therapy Program. “This event showcased so many brilliant and compassionate people — both nationally and right here in our community — who are working to make a difference.”

CU welcomed speakers from other areas of the University, including Venu Akuthota, MD, chair of the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation; Rob Valuck, PhD, of  the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences; and Daniel Goldberg, JD, PhD, of the Center for Bioethics and Humanities. Participants from other institutions included Colorado Rep. Chris Kennedy (D-Denver) and national thought leaders Anthony Delitto, PT, PhD, FAPTA, dean of rehabilitation science, the University of Pittsburgh; Alice Bell, PT, DPT, of the American Physical Therapy Association; and Robert Saper, MD, MPH, from Boston University.

Areas of discussion were focused on the history and scope of the opioid crisis, barriers and opportunities for inter-professional collaboration and examples of innovative solutions and ideas for managing pain holistically, equitably and effectively.

Not just a day of presentations, a core group of professionals met following the event to brainstorm action items for the Physical Therapy Program, UCHealth and the CU Anschutz campus community.

Event sponsors were RehabVisions, Aegis Therapies and New Health.

Guest contributor: Natalie Ianniciello, communications & relations specialist, Physical Therapy Program.

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Cancer survivors’ party celebrates hope

A decade ago, Ellen Smith went through the “traditional three” therapies for her lung cancer — radiation, surgery and chemotherapy — but still her cancer progressed to Stage IV and the prognosis was bleak. Her physician said he’d done all he could do.

Her three adult children did some online research and found the website for the CU Cancer Center at the Anschutz Medical Campus. Also, a former co-worker who performed research at CU Anschutz strongly suggested Smith visit the CU Cancer Center. “She probably suggested it five times, and that saved my life,” Smith said. “I say the Lord and CU Anschutz are a good combo, because they saved my life.”

Smith and many other multi-year survivors of lung cancer recently gathered with friends and family for a celebration at the CU Anschutz Health and Wellness Center. D. Ross Camidge, MD, PhD, director of Thoracic Oncology in the CU School of Medicine’s Division of Medical Oncology, said the Cancer Center recognized it had reason to celebrate — plus a compelling story to tell.

‘Hope is real’

Dr. Camidge at cancer survivor party
D. Ross Camidge, MD, PhD, at left, is pictured with longtime lung cancer survivor Ellen Smith and her husband, Ben, at the inaugural cancer survivors celebration.

After survivors and their family enjoyed appetizers, dinner and cake — decorated with “And Many More” — along with appearances by the Rockies’ and Avs’ mascots, Camidge addressed the gathering. “We are celebrating the proof, demonstrated by all of you here, that long-term survival after a diagnosis of lung cancer is possible,” he said. “We are all here to show people that hope is real. It has a face and friends and family and a plan for next week and next month and next year.”

Survivors at the party had survived at least five years beyond their initial cancer diagnosis, but several had reached 10 years and a few even more. Others congratulating the group included Tom Gronow, chief operating officer at UCHealth; John Mitchell, MD, UCHealth’s chief of thoracic surgery; and Brian Kavanagh, MD, MPH, chair of radiation oncology.

The CU Cancer Center is the only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center in the state of Colorado. It is known for its personalized cancer treatments and its robust and diverse clinical research and clinical trials program.

Expert care

Ben Smith said the treatment options, including clinical trials, made all the difference for his wife. “Early on, Dr. Camidge said it in the best, clearest and gentlest way: ‘If we proceed and work together on this, we’ll do everything we can do to put it to sleep. And when it wakes up we’ll do everything we can to put it to sleep again.’ He’s done it five different times; five different strategies.”

cake at cancer survivors party
A cake offers an uplifting message for the many longtime lung cancer survivors at the party.

Gronow called the CU Cancer Center a gem that remains under-utilized in Colorado. “We have people who leave the state to seek care elsewhere, and I know in talking with many of you that you probably couldn’t fathom that, based on the experience you’ve had with the great team here,” he said. “It’s based on the foundation of Drs. Camidge, Mitchell and Kavanagh and a lot of other wonderful scientists who support the trials we do, the research we do, so that we can hopefully one day completely defeat cancer.”

Camidge said the lung cancer program’s success at the Cancer Center is attributable to:

  • Its relatively small size, allowing patients to receive very personalized and responsive care.
  • An outstanding track record in determining which clinical trials to pursue. Camidge estimates he turns down about five trials a week, waiting to choose the “pick of the litter … We do pretty good at picking those winners.”
  • A track record of putting about 40 percent of its patients on clinical trials, which is about double the next-best cancer center and about 10 times the national average.
  • A patient catchment area that is much larger than Colorado. Of all the programs at the Cancer Center, the lung cancer program has the highest proportion of patients, about 20 percent, from out of state. It now offers a remote second-opinion program, allowing patients to call and speak directly to an expert physician in the program from anywhere in the United States or the world.

Leader in major discoveries

Camidge said the Cancer Center has helped to either lead or contribute to “pretty much every major discovery in lung cancer disease in the last 10 years.” Given all the success Ellen Smith has had with her treatments — now a 10-year survivor (nine of those at the Cancer Center) — Camidge jokes, “Ellen has almost as many publications as I do.”

Hank Baskett from Clovis, N.M., a seven-year survivor, was the featured speaker and his story and life-affirming message left the room with nary a dry eye. Baskett said he loves everyone at CU Anschutz. “I’m just saying that from day one, the staff, the hospital, the center — from top to bottom — everyone here I’ve met has been beautiful,” he said. “I love the people; I’m blessed.”

Baskett said the keys to fighting cancer, besides the incredible health care offered by the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, is to fight and keep living, to not bow to the diagnosis. He concluded his remarks by saying: “To the Cancer Center staff, just keep on doing what you’re doing. And to all you survivors, keep living. You’ve got all that life that’s left to be lived!”

One miracle at a time

Between bites of cake and chats with patients they’ve treated for many years, Camidge, Mitchell and Kavanagh took in the festive scene that, as they said, is “really inspiring and keeps us going.”

Camidge expects that such longtime survivor gatherings of CU Cancer Center patients will become commonplace in future years. He ended his speech with this message:

“To be clear: no one is pretending that we have beaten this disease …. But together — the whole clinical team, the hospital, the university and the patients and their families — we are changing the world, doing things that no one thought possible, making hope possible one person, one little miracle at a time.”

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Nursing alumna paves way for future nursing leaders through scholarships

At the age of 91, and with more than five decades’ experience in the field of nursing, Chiyoko Furukawa, PhD, MS, RN, has demonstrated a profound dedication to her life’s work and a commitment to advancing the careers of nursing students. The CU Nursing alumna was the featured guest speaker at the 2018 College of Nursing Scholarship Luncheon held on Sept. 19. The occasion celebrates student scholarship recipients and honors benefactors whose generous gifts support them.

Among students, faculty and benefactors, Furukawa shared her thoughts about her career, her perseverance as the daughter of immigrants, and what her CU education means to her.

A challenging childhood

Furukawa was born to Japanese parents who came to the United States in the 1920s to raise a family of six – two sons and four daughters. They lived in Venice, Calif., until her mother relocated the family to Brigham City, Utah, to escape xenophobic attitudes and policies during WWII. Her father, however, was unable to follow, as his involvement in creating a school to assist Japanese children in learning the Japanese language landed him in an internment camp.

Life was difficult for the family. Her mother and siblings – ages 3 to 18 – managed to survive by attending school and working summers picking fruits and vegetables for income.

Although she faced incredible challenges during her youth, Furukawa never let them get in the way of her education and plans to pursue a nursing degree. After graduating high school, she completed pre-nursing courses at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. When she moved with her late husband, Paul, to Boulder, she took the opportunity to pursue a bachelor’s degree in nursing at the then-named CU School of Nursing in the early 1960s.

“I was amazed and inspired to learn about the various scientific advances that impacted the nursing practice,” recalled Furukawa, who graduated in 1965. “This new knowledge was lacking in my previous education, and was a challenge to incorporate, yet greatly prepared me to become a future leader in nursing.”

A distinguished career

After completing her bachelor’s degree, she accepted a position in home health care with the Boulder County Health Department, and began providing nursing services for homebound elders. She would later pursue a master’s degree in nursing sciences at the CU School of Nursing in 1972.  Following this career choice, she decided to rejoin the academic community. She went on to teach graduate and undergraduate nursing students at Wright State University College of Nursing and Health in Dayton, Ohio, and then at the University of New Mexico College of Nursing.

Throughout her career, Furukawa was aware of the lack of geriatric nursing curriculum and the great need for geriatric nurses, despite vast experience among nurses in caring for the elderly. In response, she became a certified clinical nurse specialist in gerontology, and established a master’s degree program in geriatrics at the University Of New Mexico College Of Nursing. There, she also created the Center on Aging, which provided geriatric education to health professionals statewide.

Giving back to CU Nursing

Motivated by a desire to pay her success forward, Furukawa continues to guide aspiring nurses into careers that care for older adults through the Chiyoko Furukawa, PhD Scholarship Fund at the CU College of Nursing. “I am grateful for my CU education, which provided the foundation for a satisfying career in nursing,” said Furukawa. “It gives me great pleasure to be a small part of students’ successful futures as nurses. Hopefully these students will experience the joy of learning and soon a career in which they can help those who need a nurse’s care and expertise.”

One recipient of her generosity is Marissa Yoder, a nursing student who will graduate in December 2018 with a master’s degree in adult gerontology primary care.

“I am honored to have received this scholarship and overwhelmed with gratitude for this generous gift toward my education,” said Yoder. “I have been able to spend more time focusing on my future role as a nurse practitioner without worrying about finances. One day I hope to be able to pass along the encouragement that Dr. Furukawa has provided me.”

Guest contributor: Courtney Keener, communications specialist, Office of Advancement

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Students map career paths at Pre-Health Day

While their college careers are just beginning, freshmen twins Christina and Danielle Gonzalez, aspiring to be an oncologist and orthopedic surgeon, respectively, can foresee a day when they possibly operate a clinic together. The journey is certain to present some challenges, but the name will be easy — Gonzalez & Gonzalez.

Students at Pre-Health Day
From left, Danielle Gonzalez, Aden Martinez and Christina Gonzalez — all pre-med undergraduates at Colorado State University-Pueblo — are impressed by the breadth of academic programs available at CU Anschutz.

To get started on this road, the sisters took advantage of the fourth annual CU Pre-Health Day at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. The event drew more than 350 undergraduate and high school students who spent a recent Saturday at CU Anschutz learning about health care professions.

Attractive campus

The Gonzalezes were joined by fellow Colorado State University-Pueblo classmate Aden Martinez. Martinez, who said it’s never too soon to consider career options. “We like to get exposed to health careers early while we can and maybe in later years come back and learn more about what the campus here has to offer,” said Martinez, who is eyeing the chiropractic field. The trio started the day attending a session about preparing for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).

“I wasn’t really sure what to expect of Colorado,” said Danielle Gonzalez, who grew up in Florida. “I expected this to be a smaller campus, but it’s actually very big and it looks very professional. It looks like everybody here knows exactly what they want to do.”

Pre-Health Day showcased nine professional and translational research fields — dental medicine, public health, biomedical research, nursing, pharmacy, physician assistant, anesthesiologist assistant, physical therapy and medicine — and educated students about the admission and application process, how to prepare for entrance exams and exposed them to current students and alumni who had made the transition to health care careers.

Valuable advice

“It’s days like this where students can actually speak with representatives on campus and get some one-on-one face time,” said Justin Rowe, senior recruiting specialist in the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Web sites are great for providing information, he said, but “it’s events like this where you can ask questions and get information directly from experts who are qualified to give you valuable advice.”

Tyler Carpenter at CU Anschutz
Tyler Carpenter, a freshman at Falcon High School near Colorado Springs, joined the hundreds of high school students from across Colorado at Pre-Health Day.

The groups split between sessions in the Education 2 Building (undergraduates) and Education 1 (high school students). Tyler Carpenter, a freshman at Falcon High School near Colorado Springs, traveled to Aurora with his family. “I want to explore all the health stuff,” said Carpenter, who is especially interested in forensic pathology.

Carl Johnson, director of student engagement at CU Anschutz, said the aspiring health students heard not only practical advice from current CU Anschutz students and alums, but also inspiring messages about bettering society as a whole. He said representatives from all seven CU Anschutz schools and colleges — School of Dental Medicine, Graduate School, School of Medicine, College of Nursing, Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and the Colorado School of Public Health — took turns describing their disciplines to a room full of hundreds of students.

Sense of camaraderie

“It was amazing how that sense of camaraderie came through about the importance of the health sciences field in general, and how they’re all looking at ways to give back,” Johnson said. “That’s what this event is about — just to celebrate and honor what CU Anschutz is. Here, it’s not just about one particular school or college, but how all the disciplines interact and how significantly they impact health care — hospitals, clinics and rural medicine — in Colorado and around the world.”

This global message of the importance of health care resonated with the student participants, including the Gonzalezes from Pueblo. Both sisters were impressed by CU Anschutz and the quality of its many educational, clinical and research offerings. “It’s definitely something I’m going to look into,” Danielle said. Christina added, “I’m definitely planning on applying here.”

Editor’s note: The video was produced by Stephanie Carlson, content producer, Marketing & Communications, Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

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First-ever event showcases research

More than 200 community members learned about healthy lifestyle habits as well as the many research studies taking place on the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus at the first-ever 9Health Research Fair.

The half-day event took place Sept. 29 at the CU Anschutz Health and Wellness Center. The goal was to educate the community about the research being done at CU Anschutz, encourage healthier living, attract new research subjects and enhance ties between CU Anschutz and the community.

Kevin Deane, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine in the CU School of Medicine, who helped organize the event, called it a great success. “We are planning to hold the Research Fair again in 2019, with participation from even more research projects as well as increased numbers of community participants,” he said.

Spotlight on research

Culinary demonstration
From left, Lisa Wingrove, a registered dietician, and Hannah Van Ark, a dietetic intern, provide healthy cooking tips at the 9Health Research Fair.

Attendees chatted with some 50 researchers and 45 volunteers — learning about more than 35 research studies — and also received health screenings. Delicious and healthy dishes were prepared — and free samples handed out — during cooking demonstrations.

Areas of study the attendees learned about included asthma research, healthy aging, Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis, appetite regulation and physical activity.

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