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New name for the Health Sciences Library: Strauss

The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus has named the Health Sciences Library in honor of 1951 pharmacy alumnus and philanthropist Henry L. Strauss, a significant supporter of the library and the university more broadly. The honorary naming of the Strauss Health Sciences Library is a testament to Henry Strauss’s long history of partnership, advocacy and philanthropy, and will carry forward his legacy through the education of future health leaders, and their impact on the surrounding community.

Strauss earned his bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from the CU School of Pharmacy in Boulder in 1951, and worked as a pharmacist for four years until making a career change. At 91 years young, Strauss has enjoyed a distinguished career in business and government, as a real estate investor and developer, and an active politician in Colorado.

Henry and Joan Strauss
Henry Strauss and his wife, Joan, have collected many books on integrative medicine from their travels around the world.

Throughout his life, Strauss has fostered a strong connection to CU Anschutz through service and philanthropy. He has held a number of volunteer leadership roles at the library, the alumni association and the CU Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Strauss’s philanthropic investments in special collections at the Health Sciences Library have impacted students, faculty and visitors for more than two decades.

Love of medical books

In 1995, Strauss established the Florence G. Strauss Indigenous and Integrative Medicine Collection at the Health Sciences Library in memory of his first wife, Florence. Leonard A. Wisneski joined Strauss in these efforts, and has been an integral partner in maintaining and expanding the collection. Strauss later renamed the resource the Florence G. Strauss-Leonard A. Wisneski Indigenous and Integrative Medicine Collection.

Since its inception, the collection has grown from 30 print books to thousands of books and other materials related to complementary health practices and indigenous therapies from around the world. Henry and his wife, Joan, collected many of these books throughout their travels around the world.

“It is vital to our country that we study and adapt indigenous and alternative medicine practices,” said Strauss, who was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Colorado for his dedication to and support for the field of integrative medicine. “In many cases, [these practices] are much more affordable and will keep our medical system from going bankrupt.”

In addition to establishing the collection, Strauss’s philanthropy has also enabled expansion of the popular four-part, Strauss-Wisneski Lecture Series on a variety of integrative medicine topics, with speakers including health care practitioners from all fields of integrative medicine. As a volunteer and member of the collections committee, Strauss has helped ensure that the both the special collection and the lecture series remain robust resources for years to come.

Immeasurable impact

“As our health care system shifts,” said Strauss Health Sciences Library Director Melissa DeSantis, “opportunities arise for investigating the best evidence – knowledge found in books, journals and databases – in support of an integrative approach to health care. The Florence G. Strauss-Leonard A. Wisneski Indigenous and Integrative Medicine Collection plays a large role in making that knowledge accessible to our students and faculty, and across the state and our nation because of our partnership with other universities. For that reason, Henry’s impact has been immeasurable.”

CU Anschutz Medical Campus Chancellor Donald M. Elliman, Jr., said, “Through his partnership, Henry Strauss has helped enrich the educational experience of future health care leaders who go on to serve individuals and communities across Colorado and beyond. We are pleased to recognize Henry in this way, and to see his name associated with the library for generations.”

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

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Teeth restoration delivers beautiful smile, and confidence, for teen girl

A pair of words — beautiful smile — are heard all the time in dental and orthodontic clinics. These days, it’s practically an expectation for teenagers to, after wearing braces, end up with sparkling and picture-perfect teeth.

This wasn’t the case for Courtney Caudill. Whenever the Thornton teenager looked in the mirror, two other words came to mind: shark teeth.

Courtney's teeth starting high school
This photo of Courtney’s teeth was taken at another Denver-area dental clinic about five years ago, when she was starting high school.

“During my entire high school career, I barely found any photos of me showing my teeth,” she said. “It was a little sad and depressing that I was so embarrassed. You know, there was nothing I could do about it.”

Rare condition

She was born with ectodermal dysplasia, a condition that affects teeth, skin, hair, fingernails and eyes. In the mouth, the condition manifests in misshapen and often-missing teeth. Courtney’s permanent teeth didn’t come in until age 11 and her smile betrayed gaps where teeth should be. Many of the teeth that came in as permanents were conical-shaped — resembling those of a shark.

The condition left Courtney reluctant to smile much of her life, telling peers at every opportunity why she lacked “normal teeth.” Fortunately, teasing was kept to a minimum, mainly because her parents taught Courtney to be proud of herself and went out of their way to explain her condition to teachers and classmates. Entering college — she is currently a sophomore at CU Boulder studying psychology — the late-teen resigned herself to possibly no end in sight to this “very, very long journey” and “lifetime struggle.”

CU Dental School a ‘godsend’

Her mother, however, did some research and found the CU School of Dental Medicine and its Adolescent Dental Clinic, operated by Rick Mediavilla, DDS. After Mediavilla saw Courtney in June 2016, he carefully selected Kevin Moore, DDS, who at the time was a third-year dental student, to complete her care. Mediavilla saw a gentle chairside manner and excellent care standards in Moore, who immediately clicked with Courtney and began plotting her course toward a perfect smile.

Her father, Christopher, calls Moore a “godsend.” “When we first came and met Kevin, I just knew God had sent him to us. It was divine intervention.”

Christopher is made of strong stuff — he’s an Army veteran who has done two hitches in the Middle East — but he’s been reduced to tears — once when Courtney got crowns on her bottom teeth in May, and again when she received upper crowns in mid-October. Both procedures were performed by Moore, who is now in the general practice residency program at the CU Dental School, and overseen by Mediavilla and David Gozalo, DDS, a prosthodontist who specializes in replacement and dental implants.

Always smiling

Kevin Moore, DDS, places crowns
Kevin Moore, DDS, places a customized crowns — multiple-teeth bridges — in Courtney’s mouth during the Oct. 19 procedure.

After the latest crowns were placed, Courtney sat still in the dental chair, staring out the window and letting the profound change in her appearance soak in. The teen may have reflected on how, about two years ago, when a different Denver dentist suggested implants, at an out-of-pocket cost of $35,000 (the provider didn’t take her family’s insurance), she weighed the options and declined. Courtney knew that without sufficient upper-shelf bone, which was the case in her mouth, implants can fail.

Undoubtedly, the many disappointments she had endured over the years flooded her mind.

Christopher, meanwhile, stood nearby with reddened eyes. He could see the relief in his daughter’s expression. “We’ve noticed her whole demeanor has perked up incredibly,” he said. “She’s never let it bother her much, but now she’s persevered and she’s always smiling.”

Cutting-edge dentistry

model of Courtney's new smile
A model of Courtney’s new smile was created using a state-of-the-art software program and a 3D printer.

The story of this cutting-edge care in the CU Dental School includes a generous donation from Peebles Prosthetics, Inc., which supplies “removables” — dentures and arches — as well as “fixed appliances” — multiple-teeth bridges — to the CU Dental School. For Courtney’s upper mouth, she received a pair of three-unit bridges, which were fabricated by Peebles in consultation with the CU dentists. Company owner Rick Peebles watched the two fixed appliances — a donation valued at about $1,100 — transform Courtney’s smile at the Oct. 19 appointment.

“Kevin told us about Courtney’s case and asked us about (a donation),” Peebles said. “We thought it was a great cause, and we like what he does as both a person and a dentist. A lot of the kudos should go to Dr. Moore for being a champion for Courtney.”

Emotional and impactful

Moore credited Peebles and his firm, because without their donation the dental work might not have been financially feasible for Courtney’s family. Lonnie Johnson, DDS, senior associate dean of clinics and professional practice in the dental school, ensured completion of the project by covering costs not met by Peebles and the family.

Dental team and Courtney Caudill
Courtney Caudill, center, had a top-flight team working on her case: From left, Rick Mediavilla, DDS; David Gozalo, DDS; Rick Peebles, owner of Peebles Prosthetics; and Kevin Moore, DDS.

Moore had performed a similar procedure on an 86-year-old patient, but Courtney’s case was profoundly different. “This is definitely rewarding,” he said. “With a teenage girl, giving her a smile is pretty emotional and impactful.”

The final product of Courtney’s crowns started with the dental school’s Trios scanner, which makes an oral impression by scanning teeth digitally, allowing them to be designed to the patient’s specifications. A model of her new smile was also created — the analog way — using a state-of-the-art software program and a 3D printer. Lastly, both the model and the digital imaging were sent to Peebles Prosthetics, which fabricated Courtney’s crowns using technology that further improves the design and quality of dental restorations.

‘Loving my teeth’

“Restored” couldn’t be a more apropos term. The journey that has stretched over a dozen years, and taken the Caudills to multiple dentists, has at long last come to an end. Courtney finally has a complete and picture-perfect smile.

‘This is definitely rewarding. With a teenage girl, giving her a smile is pretty emotional and impactful.’ — Kevin Moore, DDS

Christopher said, “I’m just so absolutely grateful. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to repay everyone for everything.” He looks to the CU Dental School to perform a similar miracle on his 13-year-old son, who suffers from an even more severe case of ectodermal dysplasia. “One down, one to go,” he said.

Courtney, meanwhile, finds herself shedding the occasional tear of happiness. Mostly though, she’s flexing those smile muscles that she has restrained for so many years.

“I’m loving my teeth,” she said, after living with her new crowns for a couple weeks. “I don’t think I’ve ever smiled this much in my life!”

Editor’s note: Ryan Nisogi, senior director of digital marketing strategy, Office of Communications, contributed photography and video, while Matt Kaskavitch, director of digital strategy, contributed video packaging to this report. 

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Former First Lady Laura Bush urges more health research

In keynote remarks delivered last week during the Annual Community Luncheon for the Center for Women’s Health Research, former First Lady Laura Bush encouraged the 800 attendees at the sold-out event to continue supporting and advocating to fill the gaping hole in women’s health research.

Noting that a high percent of Alzheimer’s research is focused on men even as women are affected by the disease at much higher rates, Bush remarked, “As we improve other aspects of health and live longer lives, the number of people who suffer from dementia is likely to increase.” Calling the disease a “sad, slow goodbye” that affected her late father and is now suffered by her 99-year-old mother, she said, “this research needs to be done.”

Laura Bush at community luncheon
More than 800 people attended the Annual Community Luncheon in Denver to hear former First Lady Laura Bush talk about the importance of women’s health research.

Bush also urged women to become informed health consumers, emphasizing that limited research on women’s health and sex differences means not all health care providers are familiar with how symptoms of heart disease and other health conditions may present differently in women than in men. “With increasing amounts of information at our fingertips, we need to educate ourselves and educate others,” Bush said, “and don’t let doctors dismiss your health concerns.” This is especially important, she said, as “women make a lot of health decisions for their families, and we often take care of others before taking care of ourselves.”

Like the Center for Women’s Health Research at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center is dedicated to supporting research on women’s health and sex differences. The conversation with the former First Lady was moderated by Marjorie Jenkins, MD, who serves as chief scientific officer for Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health.

“Having Mrs. Bush share her passion for women’s health with us today was a true inspiration,” said CWHR Director Judy Regensteiner, PhD. “Her enduring commitment and prominence on the world stage are helping us to close the gap in women’s health research.”

Regensteiner also announced seven new seed grants from the CWHR for MD and PhD researchers at the Anschutz Medical Campus, bringing support for young scientists who are helping to grow the field of women’s health and sex differences to nearly 70.

Learn more about the Center for Women’s Health Research at cwhr.org and @CWHR_CUAnschutz.

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The Center for Women’s Health Research at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus performs cutting-edge research on women’s health and sex differences with a focus on cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and the intersection of mental and physical health in those diseases. The Center provides women, their families and healthcare providers with the information they need to make informed health decisions and is developing scientists and attracting new minds to the field of women’s health and sex differences.

Guest contributor: Nan Oudet, program manager, Center for Women’s Health Research, CU School of Medicine

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Among heart attack survivors, drug reduces chances of second heart attack or stroke

In a clinical trial involving 18,924 patients from 57 countries who had suffered a recent heart attack or threatened heart attack, researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and fellow scientists around the world have found that the cholesterol-lowering drug alirocumab reduced the chance of having additional heart problems or stroke.

The study was published today in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Gregory Schwartz MD, PhD, professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
Gregory Schwartz MD, PhD, co-author of the study and professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

Alirocumab is in the class of drugs called PCSK9 antibodies.

“It works by increasing receptors on the liver that attract particles of LDL cholesterol from the blood and break them down. The result is that blood levels of LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol decrease by approximately 50 percent, even when patients are already taking a statin,” explained Gregory Schwartz MD, PhD, co-author of the study and professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

The trial looked at patients who were at least 40-years-old, had been hospitalized with a heart attack or threatened heart attack (unstable angina), and had levels of LDL cholesterol of at least 70 mg per deciliter despite taking high doses of statins.

Half of the patients received alirocumab by self-injection under the skin every two weeks, and the other half received placebo injections. The patients were followed for an average of nearly three years. During that time, LDL cholesterol levels averaged 40 to 66 mg per deciliter in patients given alirocumab, compared with 93 to 103 mg per deciliter with placebo. Death from coronary heart disease, another heart attack or episode of unstable angina, or a stroke occurred in 903 patients given alirocumab, compared with 1052 patients given the placebo, corresponding to a 15% reduction in risk.

“Statins have been the main cholesterol-lowering drugs for heart patients for more than 30 years, and they are very effective,” Schwartz said. “Now we know that we can improve the outcomes after a heart attack by adding alirocumab to statins in selected patients.”

In the trial, alirocumab was safe and generally well-tolerated. The only common side effect with alirocumab was itching, redness, or swelling at the injection site which was usually mild. It occurred in 3.8 percent of those given alirocumab, compared with 2.1 percent of patients who received the placebo.

Alirocumab was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2015 as a treatment for high cholesterol, but it has only now been shown to also reduce the risk of heart disease events and stroke.

The study was funded by Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. Dr. Schwartz co-chaired the study with Philippe Gabriel Steg, MD, from Hôpital Bichat, Assistance Publique Hôpitaux de Paris in Paris, France.

 

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Crisis management and recovery focus of Public Health Case Competition

A flash flood that left a community with contaminated water and facing other public health emergencies was the dilemma given to over a dozen teams at this year’s Rocky Mountain Region Public Health Case Competition.

The sixth annual event took place at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus last weekend. The event, hosted by the Colorado School of Public Health (ColoradoSPH), provides students from all the schools at CU Anschutz and selected disciplines from the CU Denver and CU Boulder campuses, an opportunity to work in collaborative teams to develop innovative solutions to a real-world health problem.

Second place team public health case competition
The second-place team in the competition, along with ColoradoSPH Dean Jonathan Samet: From left: Kathy Pang, Amber Vaughn, Ronald Truong and Hannah Parris.

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

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

The teams each spent 24 hours analyzing the case of the Many Forks flood disaster as well as creating a public health solution. They presented their solutions to a panel of judges.

third-place team public health case competition
The third-place team in the competition, along with Dean Jonathan Samet: From left: Jenny Yoo, Katherine Myers, Hannah Marinoff and Riley Stanton.

The teams came up with holistic, collaborative and far-reaching plans to address the emergency as well as increase the town’s capacity for full recovery. The winning team, whose plan was titled “Many Forks, One Community,” offered a multifaceted response that included the launch of a community-led resource center to act as both an emergency gathering site as well as a resource for mental health services, such as group counseling and social events. It also included neighborhood-tailored recovery plans and a disaster preparation initiative that set up a town-wide disaster alert system (flood siren) to reach residents who don’t own a mobile phone.

The second-place team focused on how the community, in the wake of a crisis, could best respond to the needs of children and youth, who make up 20 percent of the town’s population. The third-place team devised a solution focused on ensuring that community members have access, both immediately and for the long term, to clean drinking water.

Here are the results of the 2018 Rocky Mountain Regional Case Competition

First place ($1,000 scholarship each):

“Many Forks, One Community”

Team members and affiliations

  • Tamara Akers, ColoradoSPH
  • Robert Harr, ColoradoSPH
  • Jennifer Schulte, ColoradoSPH (Colorado State University home campus)
  • Jessica Stubblefield, ColoradoSPH

Second place, ($500 scholarship each)

“Learn, Empower, Action, Progress (LEAP): Many Forks’ Youth Program Helping Our Kids Leap Forward”

Team members and affiliations

  • Kathy Pang, ColoradoSPH
  • Ronald Truong, School of Medicine
  • Hannah Parris, ColoradoSPH
  • Amber Vaughn, ColoradoSPH

Third place ($250 scholarship each)

“Many Forks Clean WARS: Water. Access. Restoration. Sustainability.”

Team members and affiliations

Two teams received People’s Choice Awards ($100 scholarship each)

“Guidelines for Flood Disasters: A Plan for Prevention and What to Expect in the Moment of Crisis”

Team members and affiliations

  • Abdulrahman Alyamani, ColoradoSPH
  • Ann Giesenhagen, ColoradoSPH
  • Alexis Krause, ColoradoSPH
  • Simona Senovaityte, Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences

“Flying Toward Better Solutions: Drones as the Future of Emergency Response”

Team members and affiliations

  • Sara Azimi, Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences
  • Yuli Chen, ColoradoSPH
  • Leila Diab, ColoradoSPH
  • Elizabeth Kim, ColoradoSPH (CSU home campus)
  • William Windsor, ColoradoSPH

Editor’s note: Katie Brumfield, career services and practicum specialist, Colorado School of Public Health, contributed to this report.

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Gov. Hickenlooper signs executive order recognizing Vape-Free November

Gov. John Hickenlooper joined leading health organizations, including the University of Colorado Cancer Center and Children’s Hospital Colorado, in calling for a reduced tobacco use and vaping among youth — an urgent issue given a recent report that Colorado leads the nation in teen vaping.

In a press conference at Children’s Hospital Colorado on Nov. 2, Hickenlooper signed both a proclamation recognizing “Vape-Free November” in Colorado and an executive order that takes steps to curb vaping. Also speaking were Amy Sass, MD, associate professor of pediatrics-adolescent medicine in the CU School of Medicine and a Children’s Hospital Colorado physician; and Tista Ghosh, MD, interim chief medical officer for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).

Youth vaping graphic
This graphic shows the rate of e-cigarette use among youth in Colorado counties in 2017.

The health leaders called the youth use of vapor products, known as vape or e-cigarettes, an “epidemic of nicotine addiction,” leaving teens at risk for long-lasting effects of exposing their developing brains to nicotine. The risks include nicotine addiction, mood disorders and decreased impulse control.

Sass said she sees firsthand evidence of vaping among her youth patients, and notes that even children in elementary school are reporting experimenting with vaping. She said misconceptions abound that vaping products are not as harmful as cigarette smoking.

One in four teens vape

“The aerosols in many of these electronic nicotine devices are equally harmful, both to the user and bystanders who are exposed to the vapors,” she said. “These are pollutants and can contain harmful chemicals including carcinogens and heavy metals.”

TOBACCO PREVENTION BLUEPRINT

The executive order also makes suggestions for the Legislature to consider, including:

  • Raise the minimum sales age for tobacco and e-cigarette products to 21. Coloradans must be 21 to buy alcohol or marijuana, but only 18 to purchase tobacco and vaping products.
  • Prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco and vaping products in Colorado.
  • Require all retailers of tobacco products, e-cigarettes and vaping products to be licensed.
  • Extend the excise tax on tobacco products to e-cigarettes, vaping devices and liquids.

Sass said it’s important for health care providers, as well as parents, to talk with youth and their families about the health risks of vaping. Colorado has made great strides in curbing cigarette use in Colorado, she said, and “it’s going to take a similar multifaceted approach to address the issue of vaping.”

Ghosh said more than one in four of Colorado high school students use vaping products and almost half have experimented with them. “When our kids experiment with vaping, they think they are just using flavored water,” she said. “What they don’t realize is that almost all vapor products sold in convenience stores contain nicotine.”

Risky behavior

Studies indicate that vaping might be an indicator for other high-risk behaviors, Ghosh said. “Teens in Colorado who vape are more likely to binge drink, use marijuana, use prescription pain not prescribed to them, and engage in other risky behavior,” she said.

Hickenlooper said the nation-leading rate of teen vaping is not a distinction Colorado wants to have. “I think it would be foolhardy and irresponsible if we didn’t address this … Like so many challenges we’re trying to address with a holistic approach, we need to educated family members, friends and make sure policy makers and the whole community understands what this means.”

Immediate actions

The executive order:

  • Directs the Department of Revenue to double its compliance checks of tobacco and e-cigarette retailers to ensure they are not selling to underage persons.
  • Extends the current prohibition on smoking in state buildings to e-cigarettes and vaping. It also extends prohibitions on smoking and vaping to the grounds of state buildings, not just the buildings themselves.
  • Directs CDPHE to issue a health advisory on e-cigarettes and vaping.
  • Directs CDPHE to investigate the association between vaping and other risky behavior and identify programs to prevent those behaviors.

Hickenlooper said, “We want to say with one voice: Put down the pods; trash the pens; and live a little.”

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Nerdfest: Halloween by the numbers

It’s no secret that data powers much of the work done here at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. But one staffer, self-proclaimed data nerd and Halloween enthusiast Matt Kaskavitch, also applies his analytics expertise to preparations for hosting a robust, efficient – and most of all, fun! – trick-or-treating experience at his Green Valley Ranch home.

A little crazy

“My wife thinks I’m a little crazy for the amount of data I use in our Halloween festivities,” says Kaskavitch, director of digital engagement for the Office of Communications. “Using data allows me to have fun while having the best house on the block for the neighborhood children…and ensure that we don’t run out of candy.”

In addition to being fully candy-ready (Kaskavitch and his wife purchased 50 pounds of sweet treats this year based on data sets from last year’s attendance), he also tracks candy disbursement by amount and type (categories include chocolate-based, sugar gelatin-based, and caramel blends), and the number of trick-or-treaters and their arrival times. “When I started doing this I really wanted to understand when I needed to be home from work and when I could begin handing out more candy at just the right pace,” Kaskavitch says. “And we used data from last year to help us purchase more of the treats our neighborhood kids like best,” he adds. (By far, gummy bears out-paced other candies as the ‘hood favorite.)

Spook quotient

Kaskavitch added another pertinent category to his data mining of Halloween 2018: How many kids dressed up in medical-themed costumes. “Sadly, we didn’t have one nurse, doctor, scientist or scrubs-wearing trick-or-treater this year,” Kaskavitch reports. “By far, the most popular costume was a scary clown. And Frozen-inspired wardrobe continues to dominate the Halloween landscape.”

total trick-or-treaters Halloween
This chart shows the total number of trick-or-treaters who visited Kaskavitch’s home in 2018 and 2017.

Kaskavitch takes great care to ensure that his own landscape is decked out to maximum “Spook Quotient” effect, and he counts how many children are too frightened by his array of chilling adornments to ask for a treat. “Parents often say ‘Nice job on the decorations; my kid was too scared to come to the door by herself,’” he says proudly.

As of this writing, Kaskavitch is already looking ahead to Halloween 2019.  “Sure, I could plan data-driven holiday parties for my family and friends, but that’s not nearly as fun as crunching the numbers to create a super sweet Halloween experience for the kids in our neighborhood,” he says. “I just love using data to make Halloween at our home the best it can be for the children in Green Valley Ranch. I can’t wait to see the look on the goblins’ faces next year.”

Costumes chart Halloween
This chart shows the variety of costumes worn by trick-or-treaters visiting the Kaskavitch home in Green Valley Ranch.
spook quotient Kaskavitch
This chart shows the number of children who were too scared to approach Kaskavitch’s doorstep without being accompanied by a parent.

 

 

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Chancellor Elliman Recognizes Endowed Chair Benefactors and Holders

On October 25, Chancellor Don Elliman welcomed more than 90 guests to the second annual Endowed Chair Celebration at the Brown Palace in Denver to celebrate benefactors and endowed chair holders.

Guest speakers included Ned Calonge, MD, MPH, from The Colorado Trust and Director of the Centers for American Indian and Alaska Native Health Spero Manson, PhD. Dr. Manson is the second eldest of 67 first cousins from his maternal grandmother’s side. Only half of them graduated from high school and nearly 60 percent are no longer alive — their lives shortened by health issues such as diabetes and heart disease. American Indian health is close to Dr. Manson’s heart and something he is dedicated to improving.

“This notion of investment is very familiar to me and the expectations that go along with that. What I’m about personally is almost indistinguishable from what I’m about professionally. I see my role as figuring out how to span the boundaries between the personal and professional to bring solutions to people,” said Dr. Manson. “I believe we are capable of addressing those challenges if we are provided with the opportunities to step forward, acquire the skills to address those issues and arrive at solutions that help people.”

Dr. Calonge, director of The Colorado Trust, holds academic appointments in both the Colorado School of Public Health and the CU School of Medicine. His passion is health equity. To continue this work, Dr. Calonge spearheaded efforts to create The Colorado Trust Chair in American Indian Health at the Centers for American Indian and Alaska Native Health in the Colorado School of Public Health. “Aside from government and business and academia, there is a great freedom in philanthropy for taking risks that really doesn’t exist as strongly in other sectors. We have the most flexible funding available in the United States. These are the dollars that should be spent on innovation,” said Dr. Calonge.

This endowed chair accelerates the work happening at the Centers for American Indian and Alaska Native Health under Dr. Manson’s leadership. The four central focus areas include: mentoring and educational opportunities for individuals who wish to work as health care professionals in their tribal communities; programs promoting prevention and health lifestyles; integration of diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation and health promotion services that improve access and quality of patient care; and the acquisition of data to inform decisions and policies to improve program success in Native communities.

 

“Our mission is driven by one thing and one thing only and that is our talented professionals. Recruiting and retaining the best talent is simply the metric by which we will succeed,” said Chancellor Elliman. “Having endowed chairs through philanthropy is an integral part of that process.”

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State of the Campus: ‘Unmatched trajectory’

With a nod to the visionaries who came before him, those who dreamed of what the former Fitzsimons Army medical site could become, University of Colorado Anschutz Chancellor Don Elliman said in his State of the Campus address that the campus is on a grand journey, one closer to its beginning than its end.

State of the Campus Elliman
Chancellor Elliman said in his address: “The task now is to imagine the course for the next 20 years.”

And the key is imagination.

In an address that honored the past, noted recent accomplishments and mostly invoked the future — “imagine” was a central theme — the chancellor asked the full auditorium to pause, take stock and do a bit of daydreaming.

“The task now is to imagine the course for the next 20 years,” he said. About 250 faculty, staff and students listened to Elliman’s address Tuesday in the Hensel Phelps West Auditorium.

Through data, visual graphics and a description of our mission, the chancellor explained the qualities that distinguish the CU Anschutz Medical Campus from other academic medical centers, most notably in how the campus has become a major health care destination as well as an economic engine for Colorado and the entire Rocky Mountain region.

He said the campus’s trifold mission remains steadfast: “To provide the finest medical care in the world, to push the science behind that care to new horizons, to train those who will deliver that care in the future.”

Stellar numbers

The keys to reaching these goals, he said, are to work even harder at attracting and retaining the best talent and to continue driving innovation.

State of the Campus audience
Audience members listen attentively to the State of the Campus address in Hensel Phelps West Auditorium.

Elliman said the campus’s greatest strength is intellectual entrepreneurship; our nimbleness, dedication and innovation has pushed the institution to world-class status. He cited rising figures in various performance areas over the past five years:

  • university revenues climbed 67 percent (an average of 11 percent a year);
  • clinical revenues, which account for half of the university revenues, have grown even faster;
  • outpatient visits are now over 2 million a year (up 76 percent from 2013);
  • enrollment of underrepresented minority students has grown by 44 percent;
  • total research awards crested over $500 million this year for the first time (up 32 percent from 2013); and
  • unprecedented gains in philanthropy (up 93 percent from 2013).

“Taken all together the picture is a trajectory that is probably unmatched by any other academic medical campus in North America,” he said. “As I said, it’s only the beginning.”

He outlined a number of the priorities for the future:

  1. Invest in clinical excellence.

Elliman said CU Anschutz greatly benefits from having highly ranked pediatric and adult hospitals right on campus — an asset that needs to be leveraged. After listing the many accolades received by both University of Colorado Hospital and Children’s Hospital Colorado, the chancellor said, “There is no magic here. The story is people. Recruiting and retaining the best of the best is the game we are in, and our success will define our future.”

State of the Campus Ted Harms
The audience gives Ted Harms, executive director of The Anschutz Foundation, a round of applause after Chancellor Elliman recognizes the foundation’s recent $120 million gift to the CU Anschutz Medical Campus.

He noted that the talent-recruitment effort received two major boosts this year: The $47 million in program support from UCHealth to the Cancer Center with Rich Schulick, MD, as its new director, matched by a similar investment from the School of Medicine; and The Anschutz Foundation gift.

The latter was a $120 million gift, the largest in campus history and in cash terms the largest in the history of all of CU; 60 percent of the gift will go to talent recruitment. The audience gave Ted Harms, executive director of the foundation, strong applause.

  1. Increase and diversify research funding.

CU Anschutz’s research enterprise, one that is redefining the future of health care, sets the campus apart from our regional health care competitors, Elliman said. Congress is poised to increase National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding by about $2 billion next year — the NIH supplies about 42 percent of our total research funding — and the campus continues to diversify its research portfolio from other sources.

‘The story is people. Recruiting and retaining the best of the best is the game we are in, and our success will define our future.’ — Chancellor Don Elliman

A focal point is the Colorado Center for Personalized Medicine, which is gaining major traction in integrating bio specimens with data from electronic health records and other sources to power bioinformatics for research and precisely tailored treatment.

Also, CU Anschutz is making strides in streamlining its processes to support research grants.

  1. Invest in innovation.

With the arrival of CU Innovations in 2015, “we’ve totally re-engineered the innovation development process, created real clinical validation programs with both UCHealth and Colorado Children’s Hospital, and built new corporate partnerships with the likes of Eli Lilly and GSK, and others,” he said. “Over 200 companies visited us in the last year alone, and what we’ve built has become a true national model. And it’s just beginning.”

State of the Campus Elliman
Chancellor Elliman visits with attendees before his State of the Campus address.

Internal invention disclosures have increased over the past three years, from 70 per year to more than 200 annually.

  1. Significantly escalate our work in mental health and wellness.

The National Mental Health Innovation Center continues to employ new ideas and methods, including virtual reality, to break barriers in mental health care. The center complements the expanded work of the Helen and Arthur E. Depression Center; the Marcus Institute for Brain Health; and the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic.

While progress has been made on campus in support of mental wellness, more than doubling our investment in student services, the support of all campus constituencies — students, faculty and staff — needs to be increased. Elliman noted these efforts will be boosted by The Anschutz Foundation gift.

  1. Increase regional and national marketing efforts.

The chancellor reported steps have been taken to establish a communications and marketing team that is focused on elevating the CU Anschutz profile regionally and nationwide. The team will oversee the rollout of our brand identity, a newly redesigned CU Anschutz website, and more robust content sharing across campus platforms and channels.

State of the Campus 2018

Watch and read the complete address here.

Further boosting the branding and identity of CU Anschutz will be the long-awaited shift to a domain name of “cuanschutz.edu” early next year. “It’s time — past time — we start telling the world about the specialists of this institution,” he said.

The year ahead

The year ahead teems with possibilities and breakthroughs, Elliman said, highlighted by our research enterprise further gaining momentum via:

  • immunotherapy advances that will see us start to deliver clinical trials in more than minimally manipulated cells to patients in our partner hospitals;
  • the Gates Biomanufacturing Facility’s ability to handle the development of these cells — a major competitive advantage;
  • a retooling of the Office of Research to lead in connecting researchers with complementary interests and promoting more collaboration; and
  • the continued development of a comprehensive plan to define our position and role in addressing the mental health crisis in our region and our nation.

He highlighted accomplishments and innovations occurring within each of our schools and colleges; said a world-class-asset is in the makings with the continued expansion of our bioengineering program; underscored the record-breaking work of the Advancement team, including its role in supporting the much-needed Anschutz Health Sciences building (groundbreaking in January); and said two new commercialization reserves will be coming out of CU Innovations — one supporting early stage, proof-of-concept development and the other investing in commercial IP.

Challenges on the horizon

Bumpy roads ahead in the health care marketplace are presaged by a triumvirate of “possibles”:

  • the possible reduction of reimbursements at the federal level;
  • the possible reductions in population coverage; and
  • depending on who our next governor is, the possible overhaul of Colorado’s health system.

“Any of these changes would have huge impacts on us and our affiliates,” Elliman said. “The one thing we do know is that the cost of health care cannot continue to rise; it’s not fiscally sustainable. We have to be partners in finding ways to reduce the cost of care. We ignore that at our peril.”

State of the Campus chatting
After his address, Chancellor Elliman chats with Richard Schulick, MD, director of the CU Cancer Center, left, and Gerald Dodd, MD, professor of radiology.

On the flip side, he said, while our counterparts are dealing with stagnation, CU Anschutz faces enviable problems from growth, especially in terms of parking and infrastructure.

Other key challenges include retaining top talent and maintaining support levels required to fuel innovation. In all of these areas, The Anschutz Foundation gift will be a major asset.

Huge momentum

“In short, we have built huge momentum, and we have many unique strengths,” Elliman said. “The most important of these is the fact that we have, on one unified campus, six wonderful schools and colleges and two highly ranked hospitals.”

How to best leverage all of these assets brought the chancellor back to the start of his address — imagination, and the fact that all the work done at CU Anschutz comes down to people.

It is people, he said, who will scan the horizon for fresh ways to imagine the future, even if it is something currently beyond the confines of our current imagination.

He closed the address by showing a stirring video that tells the story of the exemplary care provided to a cancer patient — essentially why we do what we do. “These are the stories we’re going to be sharing to promote the great work of the people in this room and on this campus,” Elliman said. “Your stories. And we can’t wait to tell them.”

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Pancreatic cancer patient featured in State of the Campus video

When Karen Possehl was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer that had spread to her liver, she went to the Mayo Clinic for a consultation that ended in heartbreak and disappointment. Then Possehl came to the University of Colorado Cancer Center to meet with Richard Schulick, MD. Watch the video to find out what happened next.

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