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Dental medicine students and faculty provide free screenings at Boys & Girls Club

For many kids, a trip to the dentist is an exercise in apprehension and fear. Not so for a group of Boys & Girls Club members who had their teeth examined by CU School of Dental Medicine (SDM) students on a recent evening.

The children smiled, giggled and opened wide for the dozen dental medicine students who volunteered at the free screening at the Vickers Club at the Nancy P. Anschutz Center in northeast Denver. Students and residents from both the SDM and the Children’s Hospital Colorado Pediatric Dental Center provided the service, along with oral health education and entertainment. Several SDM professors also participated in the outreach program that served about 50 children over a few hours.

CU Dental Medicine free screening

Dental Medicine student Hayley Quartuccio examines a boy’s teeth during the free screening at the Vickers Boys & Girls Club in northeast Denver.

“I think it’s great for the School of Dental Medicine to be involved in the community and to stress the importance of good oral health,” said Assistant Professor Elizabeth Shick, DDS. “This partnership is a great way to reach children, especially if the children may not have access to a dentist.”

The volunteer screeners made care referrals if a child’s family didn’t have access to a primary dentist. Shick said clinical care, with flexible insurance acceptance, is available through both the SDM and Children’s Hospital Colorado Healthy Smiles Clinic. Also, the SDM regularly offers no-appointment-necessary free screenings to obtain patients for upcoming licensure exams for senior dental students.

CU School of Dental Medicine outreach free screening

Dental Medicine student Nikki Kumor, right, examines a boy’s teeth along with SDM faculty member Dr. Chelsea Shellhart at the free screening event.

The SDM also provides dental care to underserved communities by hosting the annual Colorado Dental Association Give Kids a Smile event on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus.

Shick said mobile screenings, such as the visit to the Boys & Girls Club, are important because they reach kids in their community environs. “It’s great to have dental school students here because they get to learn a lot about community outreach,” she said. “We hope it’s something they continue in their careers.”

Third-year dental student Nikki Kumor couldn’t imagine a better way to spend her time. She loves kids and hopes to become an orthodontist specializing in adolescents. “This screening allows us to see a lot of patients and interact with a large group,” she said. “The kids are lots of fun.”

CU School of Dental Medicine students volunteer at free screening.

School of Dental Medicine students wore costumes as they gave entertaining oral-health information to children at the free screening. Pictured from left are Adam Pink, Felisa Velasco, Libby Paulsen and Francis Babaran.

In dental school, students do a three-week pediatric rotation. Kumor’s rotation took place a year ago, so she jumped at the chance to examine children’s teeth.

“Kids don’t really know they have cavities; they don’t feel them or know what to look for. So here, it’s good to tell them,” Kumor said. “Also, this screening service is nice because we don’t often get to work with faculty members outside of school.”

Ken Durgans, Ed.D venta online viagra., Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, said the SDM, recognizing the importance of serving the surrounding community, is ramping up its outreach efforts. He said the SDM plans to add partnerships with other Boys & Girls Clubs in the Denver-Aurora area. Besides the screenings, the dental providers entertained the kids by dressing in tooth, toothpaste and tooth fairy costumes. They dispensed dental-care goodies as well as information about oral health preventative-care habits.

They also explained in an engaging way how the kids, if they so aspired, could someday become dentists.

“The kids see good oral-health habits from this fun, interactive perspective,” Durgans said. “The stars of the show are our (SDM) students and professors, because this is all after-hours and they don’t have to do this. They just want to help the community.”

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Hyatt Regency announces foundation to benefit CU Anschutz

William Butler

William Butler, chairman and CEO of Corporex, announces the creation of the Fitzsimons Aurora Medical Campus Foundation, Inc. alongside Lilly Marks, vice president for health affairs for the University of Colorado and Anschutz Medical Campus.

Hyatt Regency Aurora-Denver Conference Center has opened across the street from the CU Anschutz campus, and the university will be benefiting from more than new spaces for accommodations and events. Corporex Companies, LLC, which owns the conference center, has formed the Fitzsimons Aurora Medical Campus Foundation, Inc. to support programs related to patient care, research and education for areas on campus that do not have consistent sources of funding.

The establishment of the foundation was announced by William Butler, chairman and CEO of Corporex, in conjunction with the grand opening of the new conference center. Corporex contributed $25,000 to the foundation and plans to provide additional funds through a portion of the hotel’s revenue, which is projected to collect up to $1.5 million over the next 10 years.

Hyatt Regency Aurora-Denver Conference Center features 249 non-smoking guestrooms and suite accommodations, as well as 15 meeting rooms, which include 20,000 square feet of traditional meeting space, an 11,750-square-foot Grand Ballroom and 8,100 square feet of meeting space that holds the elite accreditation from the International Association of Conference Centers (IACC).

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CU Anschutz and Regis University academics behind new patient care law

A coalition of doctors and ethicists, including two from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and another from Regis University, are behind a new law signed Wednesday allowing doctors to take better care of the most vulnerable patients in hospitals and emergency rooms.

The `Medical Decision Making for Unrepresented Patients’ law was signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper at a ceremony at the Northern Colorado Medical Center in Greeley. The measure will allow physicians to act as proxies for patients unable to provide consent or with no other proxy available.

Jackie Glover, PhD, professor of pediatrics at CU School of Medicine and Center for Bioethics and Humanities.

“This is a national problem that has been discussed for decades,” said Jackie Glover, PhD, professor of pediatrics who teaches ethics at the Center for Bioethics and Humanities at CU Anschutz. “If you are a patient without family or friends you are appointed a guardian but that’s an awful long process in Colorado.”

Glover along with CU Anschutz Professor of Medicine Jean Abbott, MD, MH and Debra Bennett-Woods, EdU, FACHE, and professor of health services education at Regis University, collaborated with a coalition of ethics committees under the umbrella of the Colorado Health Care Ethics Forum or CHEF to draft the legislation.

“This bill is a matter of social justice,” said Bennet-Woods, “HB16-11101 will enable the care team to provide the right treatment, at the right time and in the right setting.”

Glover said unrepresented patients in hospitals and long-term care facilities can’t speak for themselves and have no family or close friends to speak for them. By one estimate more than 16 percent of patients admitted to ICUs today are unrepresented and the number is growing. By 2020, more than 2 million Americans will have outlived friends and family.

Jean Abbott, MD, MH, professor emerita CU School of Medicine and Center for Bioethics and Humanities.

The group found willing partners in Rep. David Young and Sen. Kevin Lundberg who introduced the measure in the state Legislature.

The law will allow a second doctor, who is not the patient’s attending physician, to serve as a proxy of last resort when a patient is unable to provide consent and no proxy can be found. The hospital ethics committee must oversee this process, ensuring that all reasonable efforts to find a proxy have been made.

But the law will not require physicians to act as proxies. It also won’t replace volunteer guardianship programs, nor will it provide funding for a public guardianship program.

Glover said her group got together, examined what other states do and drafted the legislation. They were surprised at how quickly it advanced through the political process.

Bennet-Woods agreed.

“The process brought together a novel set of stakeholders and has the potential to keep them at the table as best practices are developed and rolled out,” she said.

But the law is only the beginning.

“The hard work is yet to come,” Glover said. “We now have to develop best practices going forward.”



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Cerebral palsy doesn’t stop her from dancing

Sarah Cauley

Sarah Cauley, a previous patient of the Gait Lab, is helping researchers understand how adults with cerebral palsy transition to adulthood. Sarah’s goal is to one day perform on Dancing with the Stars “to show anything is possible.”

Even though learning to waltz had been a lifelong dream for Sarah Cauley, she cancelled just one day before her first lesson. She was unable to open her hand enough for someone to hold it, and was afraid no one would want to try.

“The words ‘graceful’ and ‘cerebral palsy’ are two words that are not typically used in the same sentence,” explained Sarah, an individual with spastic cerebral palsy.

Watch Sarah dance today and you would describe her as graceful. Not only has Sarah become a competitive ballroom dancer, she is helping CU Anschutz researchers explore how cerebral palsy impacts health and mobility in adults.

Following a dream

Sarah was first inspired to follow her dream after seeing a news report about a blind individual who was able to learn ballroom dancing. She knew the challenges were different from her own, but thought there might be a way for her to learn. She called the dance studio, Colorado Dancesport, and explained her situation. They told her to come in for a lesson—the lesson that she ultimately cancelled.

Things were different six months later when she rescheduled for the eve of her 29th birthday. Despite still being nervous, she was resolved to pursue her dream.

“I stood across from my instructor, held out my hand, and I said, ‘Hello my name is Sarah, I’m 29 years old, and I would like to learn how to waltz.’”

Even though learning to dance proved more difficult than she first thought, Sarah eventually had the dance down. Five months later she and her instructor were performing a tango routine in front of a live audience. After that she entered her first ballroom dance competition.

“I dance because I love it,” said Sarah. “I hope when I dance people see that.”

People do see it. They see it when Sarah talks about dancing. They see it when she steps onto the dance floor. They see a lot that can be learned from Sarah’s determination, perseverance and courage.

Learning from Sarah

Jim Carollo, director of the Center for Gait and Movement Analysis at Children’s Hospital, also thinks much can be learned from Sarah’s active lifestyle, which is why he invited her to participate in the Cerebral Palsy Adult Transition (CPAT) study.

The CPAT study is designed to understand how the walking abilities of individuals with cerebral palsy changes during the transition from childhood to adulthood. Carollo, along with coinvestigator Amy Bodkin, are analyzing 70 former Gait Lab patients to see how their gait and other variables compare to data collected when they were children.

“Some people with cerebral palsy assume that they will have to stop walking at some point,” Carollo said. “However there’s no evidence to suggest that. What is important, is to avoid falling into a sedentary lifestyle, because there is evidence that that can lead to secondary health conditions, especially in patients with a pediatric condition.”

Sarah Cauley

A series of sensors track Sarah Cauley’s movements in the Gait Lab.

Carollo theorizes that maintaining an active lifestyle can help to maintain gait and walking ability—ultimately allowing individuals to stave off secondary conditions that accompany a sedentary lifestyle.

The hours Cauley spends practicing and performing her dance routines could also be helping her to maintain overall health. Cauley was eager to participate in the study since she knew there is little research on adults with cerebral palsy.

“I was excited to learn they were doing research to help people over 18 with cerebral palsy,” Sarah said. “There aren’t a lot of resources for that, and the condition doesn’t go away just because you’ve turned 18.”

This is a significant problem, according to Bodkin, who noted that the CPAT study is hoping to begin bridging the gap between patients lost during the transition from pediatric care to adult care.

Jim Carollo and Sarah Cauley

Jim Carollo chats with Sarah Cauley about the study. He will present her with a Health Passport at the end of the study outlining how her gait has changed over time and recommendations for the future.

“CP patients tend to get lost between 18-21 years old,” Bodkin said. “This happens to many adults with pediatric conditions. It is a combination of a lack of specialists and lack of insurance, as well as limited access to the healthcare system.”

Passport to health

Seeking to provide an additional resource for CPAT study participants, Carollo and Bodkin have created an individualized “health passport” for every participant. The health passport incorporates data collected from the gait analysis as well as lipid and insulin panels, quality of life assessments and other tests to give guidance on how they can live a healthy lifestyle. The passport is presented at a conference with the participant and their family.

“The health passport has been a strong motivator for patients to participate,” Carollo said. “The passport is valuable to them since it provides input on how they might maintain or improve movement going forward.”

Carollo and Bodkin plan to conclude the data collection phase of the study by the end of summer 2016. They hope that once analyzed, the data will shed light on adults with cerebral palsy and offer new ideas on how improve overall health and avoid secondary conditions.

“As a person who values measurements, I value being able to test previous patients not as an evaluation of the past, but as a roadmap for the future,” Carollo said.

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Middle school students see the future at Gates Biomanufacturing Facility

The future of medicine is happening at the Gates Biomanufacturing Facility (GBF), and engineers are already working to hand it down to the next generation. The GBF hosted 30 seventh and eighth graders from Bell Middle School (BMS) to introduce them to drug treatments and cellular therapies produced through research in regenerative medicine and stem cell biology.

Patrick Gaines

Patrick Gaines addresses a group of seventh and eighth graders from Bell Middle School.

A field trip to a cutting-edge facility that translates the discoveries of clinical and commercial investigators into clinical-grade products might sound a bit advanced for middle school students. However, Patrick Gaines, executive director of the Gates Center for Regenerative Medicine, knew they would be able to understand the basic concepts and could use the trip to potentially inspire careers in science.

“By seventh and eighth grade kids have been exposed to the basics of biology,” Gaines said. “They’ve learned what a cell is and the function in a living organism. Middle school students are a terrific group to bring in since they understand the principles. This is our chance to show them a glimpse into the future.”

The trip they chose

The trip, which was arranged by BMS STEM science teachers Shanna Atzmiller and Nicole King, built on curriculum students had completed on cellular function and structure.

“Our STEM programs are career based, so we are scheduling career exploration field trips so students can apply the skills and knowledge they have gained in class,” Atzmiller said. “All of the students here chose this trip specifically because they were very interested in cells and stem cell research.”

Seventh grader Connor Logan jumped at the opportunity to tour the facility. He is so interested in the implications of cell research that the GBF even won out over other field trip options, which included the zoo and a nuclear reactor.

“I thought it was fascinating to see the lab,” Logan said. “It’s the type of thing you see in the newspaper or in videos, but I never thought I’d actually be looking at one in person.”

Even before leaving the lab, Logan was already coming up with ideas on how stem cell research could be taken further, including applying the technology to plants to synthesize chloroplasts that photosynthesize all day and start cellular respiration at night—thus potentially creating an everlasting lifeform.

Gabe Orosco, Grace Searls, Connor Logan

Gabe Orosco’s knowledge was put to the test by students like Grace Searls and Connor Logan.

Eighth grader Grace Searls chose to visit the GBF because she has witnessed several family members with genetic conditions. She was particularly curious what the limitations are of cell therapy and how far it will advance in the future.

“I enjoy research science, and I hope cell therapy is one of the ways we could help fix some of the diseases in my family,” Searls said.

Touring the future

The tour included a preliminary discussion about the facility led by Lead Engineer and Director of Quality Assurance Gabe Orosco. Orosco discussed the work being done at the GBF and rapid growth of the field. He also emphasized how the students were already preparing for potential careers as researchers and scientists.

“Science isn’t just about the facts, it’s about the people who do it,” Orosco said. “Your ability to solve problems, ask questions, collaborate with your classmates and imagine new ideas is prepping you for actual scientific knowledge and for being able to do what I do.”

The tour included clean rooms, a “miniature hospital,” and development facilities and equipment such as microbial cell fermenters. Along the way Orosco and Gaines took questions about the current uses of stem cells and discussed the implications of their growing prominence in medicine.

“Manipulating adult stem cells and returning them to their embryonic-like state is a great power,” said Gaines. “It is important that these kids understand the potential uses and leave with a broad imagination about the kind of problems they can solve one day.”

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National Public Health Week


To recognize National Public Health Week, students at the Colorado School of Public Health have organized events at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus so that everyone can engage in and support key public health issues.

During the first full week of April each year, the American Public Health Association brings communities together across the United States to recognize the contributions of public health and highlight issues that are important to improving our nation.

Here is a listing of events held at CU Anschutz:

Saturday, April 2, 2016:


Monday, April 4, 2016: 


Tuesday, April 5, 2016: 


Wednesday, April 6, 2016:


Thursday, April 7, 2016:


Friday, April 8, 2016:


 Sunday, April 10, 2016:



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Everyday Colorado online health survey tool launches statewide


Students at the Colorado School of Public Health are launching an interactive, online community engagement tool April 4 during National Public Health Week called Everyday Colorado.

Everyday Colorado is investigating the intersection of the environment, public health and community development. The public engagement tool aims to generate knowledge from communities around the state about local environmental concerns, values, experiences and successes. It’s a statewide initiative involving the Colorado School of Public Health, Colorado State University, Tri-County Health Department and public health professionals throughout Colorado.

Tom Butts, project co-director and Deputy Director of Tri-County Health Department, said: “The success of this project relies on people sharing their stories with us to inform how we do business. We want to know about the everyday concerns and priorities of people in the diverse communities of Colorado, from Denver to Silverton to Sterling and everywhere in between.”

The project explores both the everyday and emerging environmental health issues across Colorado’s varied and changing landscapes. Professor Jill Litt teaches Environmental Health Policy & Practice at the Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and is a project co-director.

“Student involvement, through community engagement and developing content about environmental policies and action steps, is a critical component of this community-based learning project,” Litt said.

Jennifer Peel of the Colorado School of Public Health at Colorado State University and co-director of this project, said: “The ‘Everyday Colorado interactive online tool asks participants to identify values and rank concerns and offers the opportunity to learn more about emerging issues that may affect the health and well-being of Colorado communities.”

After obtaining stories from Colorado residents that are shared online, Everyday Colorado will publish a comprehensive results report later this year, highlighting local and professional perspectives about Coloradans’ values and necessary action steps to prepare the state for emerging challenges.

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Wilderness Medicine Series draws huge interest

A packed house. People interested in the outdoors – as well as staying safe when they venture into the wild – showed up in force for the launch of a Wilderness Medicine Series at the Liniger Building at CU South Denver.

Wilderness Medicine launch at CU South Denver

A large crowd turned out for the Wilderness Medicine Series launch event at CU South Denver.

In front of a crowd of 200, Jay Lemery, MD, associate professor of emergency medicine in the CU School of Medicine, and wilderness medicine instructor Todd Miner, Ed.D., recently gave a snapshot of the innovative series that starts this spring. The program includes three courses at CU South Denver, as well as evening film events and educational travel experiences.

‘Energy and enthusiasm’

Wilderness Medicine program at CU South Denver

Participants in the Wilderness Medicine Series will learn important skills on how to stay safe when venturing into remote areas.

“There was a lot of energy and enthusiasm,” said Lemery, who is also section chief of of the Wilderness and Environmental Medicine Section (WEM) in the SOM’s Department of Emergency Medicine. “It was clear we hit the right demographic group. Now it’s a matter of building a successful program.”

Natural fit for wilderness programming

The Liniger Building at CU South Denver houses a unique wildlife museum, and the architectural design and materials used in the building enhance and support a sense of the great outdoors.

The location is perfect for wilderness medicine programming. “You walk in that building and outdoors stewardship and education is all over the place,” said Jay Lemery, MD, CU School of Medicine. “The stuff we do is very accessible to the public, and it fits with the Liniger Building’s theme (of outdoor education), so it was a natural fit. We’re there to run a great series of courses and to think what else could work there.”

The community events portion of the Wilderness Medicine Series features two film screenings, each with featured speakers. The films are “Tales from a High Altitude Doctor” on March 15, and “Climate Change & Human Health” on May 4. For more information, click here. For information about the adventure/educational trips being offered, click here.

“The launch of the Wilderness Medicine Series,” said Joann Brennan, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs at CU South Denver, “points to the possibility that CU South Denver could be a location that propels educational innovation and collaboration – contributing in a unique way to the excellence of CU.”

Already, there is a class for almost everyone – both healthcare professionals looking to better apply their skills in the backcountry, or people wanting to learn winter survival basics and first aid, or seeking a primer on safe practices in remote places and developing nations.

Miner, education director for WEM, said programs like this bring the medical world to the outdoors in an evidence-based way. “Whether it’s a family going camping in the Rockies or somebody doing an expedition in the Himalayas, we’re excited about making the bridge between medicine and wilderness,” Miner said.

The non-degree Wilderness Medicine Series:

In each class, students will receive a SOM certificate and, in the case of Advanced Wilderness Life Support, they will also earn continuing medical education (CME) credit hours accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education. All classes take place over three days and are taught by expert medical faculty from the CU Anschutz Medical Campus.

“We picked courses we thought were good for all learners,” Lemery said. “They’re a way to learn how to mitigate risk in the outdoors, and they’re fun.”

Also, a Polar & Mountain Medicine course is going to be run at 11,000 feet on Chicago Ridge, outside of Leadville.

‘Practice pure medicine’

Lemery and Miner have always gravitated to the outdoors – a place they get to combine two of their biggest passions. “I call it the art and science of taking care of people in remote and austere places,” Lemery said. “I’ve always thought it’s a very exciting way to be true to medicine.”

While health care in the United States has become technology dependent, Lemery said, most places across the globe don’t have access to similar levels of technology. “Wilderness medicine gives us a way to practice pure medicine – the way it’s done in the majority of the world. Also, it’s an outstanding vehicle for education. It has its hands in wilderness, global health and disaster response. It’s very creative. You have to teach people to think beyond the algorithm, outside the box.”

Creative collaboration

WEM at CU Anschutz offers destination trips

The Wilderness & Environmental Section in the Department of Emergency Medicine offers adventure trips to some of the planet’s most spectacular destinations.

Joann Brennan, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs at CU South Denver, said the student-centered program emerged from a creative collaboration between Lemery and Miner’s team and CU South Denver. “The program was designed for learners of all ages and skill sets, with multiple entry points – courses, community events, and travel study experiences,” she said. “In addition, we wanted to leverage the unique assets of the Liniger Building – outdoor spaces, classrooms and movie theatre – into program offerings.”

Lemery said the Wilderness Medicine Series will help measure demand in South Denver for new programming as well as cross-promote wilderness medicine and educational travel opportunities already offered by WEM. WEM currently offers CME trips for all comers looking to combine medical education with travel to some of the planet’s most spectacular destinations – including Costa Rica, Patagonia, the Colorado Rockies and Greenland. The latter, the site of an Introduction to Polar Medicine course this August, is one of its newest offerings, the result of WEM being awarded a prestigious subcontract grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation to provide field health care services in Greenland.

The collaboration will continue as Lemery and Miner’s team works with the CU South Denver team to develop a K-12 wilderness and environmental medicine curriculum that could integrate into the outdoor and K-12 educational programs currently offered at the Liniger Building. This kind of programming is a perfect fit for CU South Denver, as the Liniger Building is a four-campus location that provides educational opportunities for the entire learning lifecycle.

“It just goes to show how outdoor-oriented Coloradans are,” Miner said of the excitement generated by the Wilderness Medicine Series. “They recognize these are important skills. If you’re going to play outside, you want to have the ability to take care of yourself and family so you can come back in one piece and go out and do it again.”

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Regional science fair brings Denver’s brightest to campus

Emhyr Subramanian, an eighth-grader at Challenge Middle School, wants to find a way to clean polluted water. He won’t be satisfied with solving the issue of oil spills in the ocean. He wants to clean up organic waste spilled in any body of water, large or small. He decided this problem would be the perfect topic for his project in the Cardel Homes Regional Science Fair (CHRSF)-Denver metro area, hosted on the CU Denver campus, with judges from both CU Denver and CU Anschutz.

Emhyr Subramanian

Emhyr Subramanian, an eighth-grader at Challenge Middle School, won Best in Show for his project, Chitosanic Change.

“Over the summer I was reading about all of the problems with waste,” Subramanian said. “I wanted to broaden my focus not just on oil, but any sort of organic waste, and not just in the sea, but also in lakes, rivers and even on land. That’s how I came across super-absorbent polymers (SAP).”

Sophia Callender

Sophia Callender, a seventh-grader at Stanley British Primary School, tracked evaporation in five vessels over 48 hours to see how exposed surface area affected evaporation. She found that increased surface area increases evaporation, proving her hypothesis.

Subramanian wanted to make sure that SAPs could be used to remove organic waste in water in an environmentally friendly and effective manner. He watched a 35-video course to learn the basics of organic chemistry and interviewed researchers in the field. Not only did he test a variety of SAPs to measure their effectiveness, he even developed his own SAP, which is biodegradable and does not leave residue. Subramanian’s project won Best in Show for the junior division.

A gateway to science

More than 460 middle and high school students from the Denver metro area showed off their ideas and experiments at the CHRSF. CU Denver and CU Anschutz faculty as well as outside professionals served as expert judges for high school and middle school projects, covering topics from technology to environmental issues.

Jennifer Hellier, director of the CHRSF, assistant professor in Family Medicine and Cell and Developmental Biology at CU Anschutz, and associate director of pre-professional education at the Colorado Area Health Education Program Office, knows that the fair is more than one day of projects. It can be the gateway to a career in the STEM fields. In fact, Hellier attributes her own career in sciences to her participation in the science fair during seventh and eighth grade.

“I have a passion for the science fair because it’s a great place for students to start their scientific inquiries and interest in science,” Hellier said.

Hellier has continued to watch student projects grow more complex and ambitious. She has been seeing students taking on more projects in energy, engineering and plant biology. One of the most memorable projects for her was a student who grew a fuel cell right under her bed.

For Hellier, nurturing interests in STEM topics is important for students and for Colorado.

“CU Denver and CU Anschutz are focused on making Colorado one of the best states for science and engineering,” Hellier said. “This science fair is our opportunity to highlight what is available at our campuses and also encourage students to continue on through STEM.”

Students get hands-on with science

boa constrictor

Students got hand-on with a boa constrictor from Madagascar brought in from the Denver Zoo.

While the afternoon was spent showing off their own experiments and research, the morning was spent with hands-on activities such as using DNA “scissors” to cut DNA, touching a live boa constrictor from Madagascar and watching the dissection of cow eyeballs, pig kidneys and sheep brains with the CU Denver Biology Club.

Michael Ferrara, associate professor in the Department of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences at CU Denver, coordinated the hands-on activities for the fair. He rallied volunteers from CU Denver and CU Anschutz and the community to not only engage students, but also to give them a taste of some of the opportunities offered at CU Denver.

“This is a great opportunity to show them some things they haven’t seen and get them to think about some things they haven’t thought about,” said Ferrara. “This is also a tremendous opportunity for CU Denver. We had 460 brilliant kids here. Wouldn’t it be great if they had a really positive STEM-infused experience right here?”

Sharing their passions for science and math with middle and high school students was also an opportunity for student volunteers from CU Denver, as communication in STEM disciplines is becoming increasingly necessary.

CU Denver Biology Club

Students from the CU Denver Biology Club dissected dissection of cow eyeballs, pig kidneys and sheep brains in a hands-on session.

“One of the big barriers we face as scientists is the ability to communicate science to the general public,” Ferrara said. “Talking to a middle schooler really makes you think about the best way to explain your science.”

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High school students get look at health care careers

CU Anschutz researcher Tamara Terzian

Tamara Terzian, PhD, a Gates Center for Regenerative Medicine and CU Cancer Center researcher, assists high school students with their DNA extraction as part of a shadow day at CU Anschutz.

Eyes widened among the high school students when Neil Box, PhD, an assistant professor of dermatology in the CU School of Medicine, held up ultraviolet (UV) images of faces – their faces – that showed sunburn damage lurking under the surface of their skin.

A lot of dark splotches indicated a history of intense sun exposure to the skin. Faces with few splotches indicated that the student has practiced good sun safety – i.e. faithfully applying sunscreen.

Twenty-two high schoolers from the Career Education Center (CEC), a high school in Denver Public Schools, visited the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus on Thursday for a shadow day that offered close-up insight into research and healthcare-related fields. A group of 20 other CEC students enjoyed a CU Anschutz field trip earlier in the month.

CU Anschutz Assistant Professor Neil Box

Neil Box, PhD, an assistant professor of dermatology, explains his research team’s study into genes involved in predisposing a person to melanoma during a shadow day at CU Anschutz.

Box and Tamara Terzian, PhD, who are investigators in the Gates Center for Regenerative Medicine and the CU Cancer Center, along with support from Christian Valtierra, assistant director in the Office of Inclusion and Outreach, led the tours on both occasions.

‘Genuine sense’ of lab work

Before the students broke into two groups – touring separately, each group visited the Box and Terzian melanoma research labs in Research 1 North as well as the Gates Center for Regenerative Medicine – Box explained that they would see actual cutting-edge research being performed. “We want to give you a genuine sense of what it’s like to work in a research lab,” he said. “A lot of the things you are going to see today have provided the evidence basis for the current standard of practice in much of the health care field.”

One of the students, Jose, said he had no idea that this level of research took place at CU Anschutz. “I just thought it was a normal school on this campus,” he said. “I like how they look at your DNA and try to figure out if you have any diseases.”

He was in the group that made its first stop in the DNA extraction and UV activity laboratory. The students donned lab coats then learned how to perform their own cheek swab. They each produced a research-ready DNA sample and had their facial picture taken by the UV imager.

High school students visit CU Anschutz lab

Students from the Career Education Center sit for ultraviolet images of their faces in a melanoma research lab at CU Anschutz as part of shadow day.

Subjects for a current Box-led study into molecular signatures of lifetime UV exposure went through a similar process. The research has determined which genes are involved in predisposing a person to skin disease, such as melanoma. “Your history of sun exposure and your DNA determines your damage score (or predisposition level),” Box said. “What the students are seeing here for their career experience is within the context of our real, ongoing research. This study isn’t even published yet. We’re working on the analysis and getting it finalized for publication right now.”

‘This experience is relevant’

The CEC students are in a biomedical class and recently completed a unit on DNA, including extraction of DNA from a strawberry. But the CU Anschutz tour took their understanding of genetic coding to another level – a very visual level.

“Health care careers hinge on what goes on in the research lab, so we think having this experience is relevant to them in a lot of ways,” said Box, who also recently spoke at CEC. “Hopefully, today’s shadow day will inform them when it comes to making their own career decisions.

“Also, by coupling the research with our sun safety message, we hope to inform them about good, healthy behaviors,” he said.

Jose said the tour was “cool” as well as eye-opening. “I’m interested in doing autopsies and forensic research,” he said.

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