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Talent behind the lab coats

“Ni hao.” “Namaste.” “As-Salaam-Alaikum.” “M’bolani.” “What’s up?”

At the recent Talent and Attire Show hosted by the Association of International Researchers (AIR), these were only a few of the responses to Ranjitha Dhanasekaran, PhD, president of AIR, who opened the show by directing the audience: “Say hello in your native tongue.”

The show in the Krugman Conference Hall, complete with international banquet catered by local restaurants, was the culmination of the nationwide International Education Week (IEW). “IEW is hosted by the State Department of the United States to recognize the importance of international education and cultural exchange,” said Michelle Larson-Krieg, JD, director of the International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) with the Office of International Affairs at the CU Anschutz and CU Denver campuses.

One of the many volunteers who made the event possible, Daniela Santos, MD, said the annual event fosters both a sense of belonging and acceptance among international researchers on campus as well as an avenue to show pride in their heritage. “It’s a two-way exchange of ideas,” she said. For example, Santos elaborated, it changed her perspective seeing a Nigerian lab mate, who typically wears U.S. street clothes, donning traditional Nigerian apparel for the attire show. “It’s a way to learn about who he is and where he came from.”

Humor a theme of the night

Talent show Ironic
Jennifer Major, PhD, and her 6-year-old daughter Roxy perform a Canadian music tribute vis-à-vis Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic.”

Canada-born Jennifer Major, PhD, and Scotland-born John Peacock, PhD, postdoctoral fellows at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, served as hosts and comedic relief for the event. “What’s the difference between the United States and Canada?” Peacock quipped to the audience. “The U.S. has a nice neighbor.” Off-stage, a more serious Peacock explained that as a scientist, it’s important to have interests other than science, and the event brings much-needed art and culture to the medical campus, which he feels can be a bit sterile at times. “There are many diversely talented people working here, and unless they have such a platform to show off these talents, few people will know this.”

In contrast to Peacock’s droll humor, Major, AIR’s vice president of communications, performed a Canadian music tribute while her 6-year-old daughter Roxy danced in accompaniment. While not intended as a comedy routine, Major’s rendition of Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic” was affected by a few sound glitches, causing her to improvise with an a cappella performance and lending some levity amidst the technical problems.

Global talent on a local stage

Talent show international
From left: Daniela Santos, 10-month-old Emmalina Sayem, Nabanita Mukherjee, PhD, and Ranjitha Dhanasekaran, PhD, president of the International Student and Scholar Services at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. All women participated in the attire show.

The two-part talent show took a break for dinner, followed by the attire show. Over 100 international and domestic faculty, staff and students were in attendance, many with their children. Talents on display included singing, dancing, folklore and short comedy readings. “People embrace the opportunity to share their background, culture and talents,” said Larson-Krieg. “You can see the enthusiasm for the event in the volunteers, the people who participate, and the performers.”

Marveling at the diversity of the campus international community, director of the Postdoctoral Office and Career Development Office Bruce Mandt, PhD, joked, “Who knew there was so much talent hiding behind lab coats?” Mandt said events such as the talent show are important career-development opportunities. “Science is global,” Mandt insisted. “Our trainees need opportunities to understand that science transcends borders and at some point, regardless of whether they remain in academia or move into other industries, they will work with people from all over the world.”

Nabanita Mukherjee, PhD, wearing traditional ceremonial attire including a reed crown, performed Odissi, one of the oldest surviving Indian classical dance forms. Mukherjee explained that her performance began with a tribute to Mother Earth, then to the Almighty, to the Teacher/Guru and finally to the audience. In the past, Mukherjee frequently performed public dance routines; however, she took a break from dancing following the birth of her child. “It felt great to me personally to realize I can continue dancing,” she said.

One of the most striking performances of the night came when the song “The End of the World,” most notably performed by Skeeter Davis and featured in movies such as “Girl, Interrupted” and TV shows including “Mad Men” and “Lost,” was performed at the event by Yao Ke, PhD, who alternated singing in English and Mandarin Chinese. Given the familiarity of the tune, many in the audience sang in their native language, serving as a reminder that though songs may be translated into other languages, the melody remains the same. Likewise, at CU Anschutz, a community of researchers from diverse cultures and backgrounds are united by their passion for science.

Dhanasekaran added, “The Association for International Researchers is here to promote inclusivity and diversity.” Further elaborating, she quoted thought leader Verna Myers: “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.”

Guest contributor: Story written by Shawna Matthews, a postdoc at CU Anschutz. Photos by Eseosa Enabulele, MPH

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Terrific Tuesday is all about doughnuts for students

Mark your calendar: another Terrific Tuesday is around the corner!

University Police and Student Services will pass out doughnuts and fruit to students as they enter Education 2 North from 7:15 – 8 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 11. They also offered the goodies on Dec. 4, and it proved extremely popular with CU Anschutz students.

It’s just a little extra support for our students during final exams.

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Gone in 180 seconds: Scarves and cocoa hot items at debut of First Snow

Students excitedly stood in line, waiting for a warm cup of hot chocolate, an afternoon caffeine jolt and a special-edition CU Anschutz First Snow scarf on Monday.

“We were here right at 12 and there was already a line,” said first-year pharmacy student Jordan Burkdoll. In fact, by 12:03 p.m., all 200 scarves were handed out from tables set up at the Research and Education quads. Student Senate and the Office of Campus Student Services sponsored “First Snow,” a new annual tradition on campus that commemorates the first snowfall of the season with free hot cocoa, coffee and unique CU Anschutz black-and-gold scarves.

Carl Johnson, student engagement director, said, “We just want to celebrate what makes Colorado so special and capture how you feel when the first flakes begin to fall.” The goal is to foster a sense of community, school spirit and camaraderie across campus.

It’s safe to say this tradition will be sticking around (unlike the first snowfall!). Advice for next year? “More hot chocolate!” said pharmacy student Ashley Moe.

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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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Gender identity, sexual orientation and pronouns

Starting this academic year, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus students can now choose to provide the university with their gender identity and sexual orientation information through their UCDAccess Student Portal. This wraps up an identity management project by the University of Colorado System that began last year when students were first able to choose a preferred name. The project continued in the spring when students were given the option to add the pronouns with which they identify to their university student record.

It’s totally optional for the student to provide the university with their selected pronouns, gender identity or sexual orientation information. The intention of the new options is to offer students a new way to express their identity.

Respect and inclusion

“I’m proud of our latest step toward enhancing diversity, respect, inclusion and compassion,” said Brenda J. Allen, PhD, vice chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion. “This feels like a turning point for us, a memorable moment. Identity matters to every member of our campus community, and the more we can do to respect that, the more supportive and inclusive we will become.”

Identity and orientation

With the newest options, students can self-select and indicate their sexual orientation, such as heterosexual, and gender identity, such as transgender. The information students submit will help CU Anschutz better understand and serve its population.

“We know that these dimensions of diversity matter and that we as a university are committed to supporting them. However, we need a sense of who’s among us in order to serve them well,” said Allen. “This measure of our student community will help provide that guidance.”

Pronoun selection

Students choosing to select pronouns to reflect their gender identity may choose from five options in their UCDAccess Student Portal — she/her/hers, he/him/his, they/them/theirs, ze/zir/zirs and xe/xer/xers. University faculty and staff are able to access a student’s selected pronoun information so they can be sure to identify the student correctly when they address them or refer to them, by using the right pronoun.


The Women & Gender Center identity management resource webpage can help answer your questions about the new gender identity and sexual orientation options as well as about choosing and using personally-selected pronouns. Additionally, training sessions are planned to assist all members of our campus community understand how it all works and why it’s important.

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New sunscreen dispensers

Colorado has one of the highest death rates in the United States from melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. In hopes of reducing the numbers within its community, the CU Anschutz Medical Campus is spreading the word about sunscreen protection, offering both the message and the means.

Just in time for May’s Melanoma Awareness Month, three bright-yellow sunscreen dispensers now dot the campus, providing students, faculty and staff free sunscreen that they can slather on throughout the day.

“Many people forget to apply sunscreen in the morning, or they apply it only once,” said Nazanin Kalani, fourth-year student in the CU School of Medicine (SOM). “When free sunscreen is provided, you give people the opportunity to apply, or reapply, before they spend time outdoors.”

Spreading a message

Spearheaded by Robert Dellavalle, MD, PhD, and his dermatology/public health lab, with the help of Cody Glickman, president of the CU Anschutz Student Senate, the dispensers were installed last week. They will be funded by the Defeat Melanoma-Jeff Dulude Melanoma Foundation for the next three years.

“Skin cancer is the number-one most-preventable cancer,” said Claudia Dulude, founder of the foundation. “By placing free sunscreen around campus, we are making strides to end melanoma.”

Dulude launched the foundation after losing her husband and father of their two children to melanoma when he was 37. A Boulder engineer, Jeff Dulude was an outdoor enthusiast who especially loved taking his kids skiing.

Defeat Melanoma has placed more than 100 dispensers across the country, including on school campuses and at trailheads.

Bright yellow sunscreen dispensers can now be found in three locations on campus.

Coloradans at higher risk

In Colorado, residents are at a higher risk for skin cancer partly due to higher elevation and active outdoor lifestyles, both of which increase exposure to cancer-causing ultraviolet rays. Skiing offers a double-whammy, with its high-elevation locales and UV-ray reflection off the snow.

Although the dispensers are a step in the right direction, there are other important steps to ensuring skin safety, Dellavalle said.

“It’s a common misconception that we only need sunscreen to protect ourselves,” he said. “You should also avoid the midday sun using shade, clothing and hats. If you need to be outside, try to complete these activities before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m.,” Dellavalle said.

“Having sunscreen on campus is a huge step in promoting sun safety and skin cancer prevention,” said Kalani. “Not only are we encouraging students to use sunscreen while on campus, but we are reminding them of the importance to educate their future patients.”

The CU Anschutz dispensers are in the north lobby of Education 2 North, the south lobby of Education 1 and the Etai lobby of Research 2.

“I hope that sunscreen dispensers at CU Anschutz encourages other campuses to push for sunscreen and shaded structures on their campuses,” said Kalani. “Hopefully, this push could trickle down to elementary and high schools as well. The earlier we can promote these habits, the better.”

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Coordinator Fontana facilitates access and equity

Lauren Fontana used to spend her days living in code. A graduate of the University of Michigan with a BSE in computer science in engineering, she designed programs for the health care industry. But in 2004, she felt compelled to take a different path. “As I was sitting in a cubicle, writing code every day,” she tells me, “here was this huge movement of people in 16 states voting on whether I could get married. And I kind of thought, ‘What am I doing?’”

Since 2004, Fontana has done quite a lot: she obtained a law degree, moved to Colorado, worked for the State Supreme Court, became a legal advocate for incarcerated people and became a civil rights attorney. Building off her work in individual litigation, Fontana now hopes to “look broader,” tackling the “big issues” of accessibility and discrimination in higher education.

As an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Affirmative Action coordinator, Fontana uses her flexible expertise to work with employees, supervisors and hiring committees across both campuses in order to ensure our work lives are more equitable. Fontana sat down with Today to tell us what justice means to her, and to explain how the University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus is working toward it. 

Could you describe what a day in the life of an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Affirmative Action (AA) compliance coordinator looks like?

Every day is different. On the ADA side, sometimes I’m talking to supervisors about working with employees to come up with accommodations that work for the employee, who needs the accommodation, and for the work that needs to be done. Sometimes I’m talking to employees who are requesting accommodations in the first place, learning more about what their needs are, and learning what we can do in order to actually accommodate them so that they can do the job.

Lauren Fontana speaks with CU Denver Today

What do conversations about employee accommodations typically involve?

We have a form that the employee takes to their doctor that asks a standard series of questions, essentially determining if the employee has a disability that’s covered by the ADA. The employee works with their doctor to figure out what might be the best possible solution, and then they bring that either to me or to their supervisor, and we figure out if what they’ve proposed works in terms of their business unit functioning.

It’s sort of a puzzle between the employee, the doctor, the supervisor and me figuring out what’s going to enable the employee to do their job in a way that works for the department and works for them.

Are there things about the ADA that you wish people understood better?

A lot of people view accommodation as “cheating,” whether accommodation means giving a student more time to take an exam, or giving an employee an extra break because of a medical condition. There’s pushback around the idea that accommodation isn’t fair.

“Equality” is giving everyone the same thing, no matter what. “Equity” is giving everybody what they need to have a fair shot, to level the playing field. I wish we could get away from this idea that giving someone an accommodation is like giving someone an unfair advantage; it’s not – it’s enabling them to do the same thing that someone who doesn’t need an accommodation can already do.

I know that you have a background in law, but how did you get started in ADA and AA work?

Before I came to CU I was a civil rights lawyer in private practice. I also taught in the civil rights clinic at the University of Denver’s law school for a couple of years. I got to the point where I didn’t want to litigate anymore, but I still wanted to use my civil rights and legal background, so I ended up here in a civil rights investigator position. That was a perfect transition.

What inspired you to work in equity and civil rights?

I was an engineer before I became a lawyer. I was a software engineer, and in the 2004 election, 16 states had anti-same-sex marriage state constitutional amendments on the ballot, including my home state of Ohio, and Michigan, where I was living at the time. As I was sitting in a cubicle, writing code every day, here was this huge movement of people voting on whether I could get married. And I kind of thought, “What am I doing? Nobody cares about this code that I’m writing.” So I decided to apply to law school.

I wanted to do gay rights policy work, but then I realized that was too close to home. So I ended up shifting toward advocating for people with other marginalized identities that I don’t necessarily have. I was more productive as an advocate for other folks.

Lauren Fontana speaks with Callie Rennison, Director of Equity and Title IX Coordinator

Around your civil rights and equity work, do you have a particular philosophy? Is there a quote you point to and say, “That’s the kind of justice that I’m working toward?”

The specific quote is so important to me that it’s tattooed on my arm – is “Silence is betrayal,” which is from a Martin Luther King, Jr. speech about the Vietnam War.

The gist of it, to me, is that if you’re not speaking out for other folks, you’re really not doing anyone any justice. And that can look like different things. So, if someone else doesn’t feel safe, or doesn’t have the emotional capacity, or just doesn’t feel like they should have to advocate for themselves, then that’s the time to step in.

Justice also, more importantly, involves amplifying other people’s voices. Particular marginalized communities can say all they want without being heard. So, if I can use my position of privilege – and I have lots of positions of privilege, even if I have marginalized identities too – to say, “Hey, let’s listen to this marginalized community,” then that’s also eliminating the silence.

What are the most common misconceptions around affirmative action?

I think the most common misconception is that affirmative action is a “quota system” –  it’s just not.

In the context of employment, the whole idea is that if we’re not discriminating against people, then the pool from which we’re selecting employees should look pretty similar to the people we select. That’s just probabilities. The reasoning behind having an affirmative action plan is that, absent discrimination, we should have a representative number of all marginalized groups.

This idea is that, historically, employees and students have been predominantly, if not all, white. If we keep doing what we’ve always done, that’s what we’re going to get, leaving out vast quantities of people who deserve to be here.


If you have questions or concerns about accessibility, Title IX, or harrassment, please reach out to the Office of Equity.
Lawrence Street Center, 12th Floor

If you weren’t an equity coordinator, what would you be?

I would be a farmer. I would grow all of the vegetables, and that’s what I would do all day. We’re working on expanding our garden at the moment, because the first year we planted, everything got killed by bindweed. So, we’re building raised beds – we have two of them, out of the 10 we plan to have. That’s what grounds me.

What gets you up every morning, and what keeps you up at night?

In the summer, I get up early to play in the garden before work. But really, what gets me up is being able to come up with creative ways to solve problems, and that process – particularly here. This whole office is very collaborative; I talk to my colleagues all the time. Having that sense of community around social justice issues is really motivating to me.

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Performance explores Beethoven’s mental, physical struggles

On Nov. 9, the Arts and Humanities in Healthcare Program at the Center for Bioethics and Humanities at CU Anschutz welcomed Richard Kogan, MD, to discuss Beethoven’s deafness through musical performance and historical lecture.

Kogan was trained in the piano at The Juilliard School, and received his MD at Harvard Medical School. He uses his exceptional skillset to combine healing, medicine and the arts.

In three iterations, he alternated between masterfully performing pieces composed by Beethoven, and speaking about the deterioration of Beethoven’s mental health due to hearing loss.

Medical students visit with Dr. Richard Kogan at CU Anschutz
Second-year medical students Josten Overall and Priya Krishnan chat with Richard Kogan, MD, during his visit to the CU Anschutz Medical Campus.

“The performance was amazing,” said Danielle Sansone-Poe, student in the Graduate School. “I brought my whole family to this performance. The passion and diversity of pieces was captured beautifully by Dr. Kogan. The transitions between playfulness and rage were especially captivating.”

Kogan previously presented and performed Gershwin at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus in spring 2013, and he has promised to return in September 2019.

“During his last visit, Dr. Kogan inspired us to create a Music and Medicine Initiative,” said Therese Jones, PhD, associate director for the Center of Bioethics and Humanities.  “He oversees the Music and Medicine program at Cornell, and we wanted something similar on in the CU system.”

This initiative hopes to assist patients with healing though music, offer musical performances to the community, and educate the community about the benefits of music in healthcare. It includes the CU Anschutz Campus Choir and CU Anschutz Campus Orchestra. There is also a new partnership with the College Music at CU Boulder.

“Music has an extraordinary capacity to reduce pain, to soothe anxiety, and to lift spirits,” said Kogan. “In order provide the best care, we shouldn’t overlook these unique capabilities. The humanities deserve to have a role in the medical community.”

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CU Anschutz welcomes women in STEM careers

Attendees at Women in STEM forum

The gender disparity in STEM-related careers has traditionally been staggering, with far more men going into science, technology, engineering and mathematics than women.

The Women in STEM club at CU Anschutz is determined to change this.

Building Confidence

In an effort to cultivate confidence among scientists, men and women alike, Women in Stem at CU Anschutz held its first annual Spring Symposium on April 24. Women from campus spoke about their scientific experiences and created an open environment for personal discussion.

“We decided to make the theme of our first event ‘Empowerment and Inspiration,’ because a lot of women in STEM feel disempowered,” said Abigail Armstrong, president of Women in Stem at CU Anschutz. “We wanted to light a fire under them to persevere despite the challenges they face.”

Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion Brenda J. Allen, PhD, delivered the keynote address. By encouraging participants to seek personal empowerment, this talk established the uplifting tone for the rest of the symposium.

After Allen, Kate Smith, an assistant professor in the CU School of Medicine, spoke about her journey to becoming a tenure-track professor while overcoming her self-doubts. Vanessa Carmean, an alumna of the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, talked about strengthening her voice and the voices of her female colleagues. “Though difficult, these experiences have taught me that I can take power over my own life,” Carmean said.

Jessica Ponder
Jessica Ponder

Following Carmean, four short, jargon-free talks by CU Anschutz female faculty and students highlighted a variety of difficult aspects of STEM that scientists struggle with. Although each speaker chose a different topic, all the segments held a positive underlying message of self-empowerment.

“Many scientists get buried in jargon during their talks,” said Armstrong. “We thought this would be an innovative and exciting way for scientists to talk about their passion to a broader audience.”

Jessica Ponder  

“How many of you consider yourselves phenomenal?” asked Jessica Ponder, a PhD student at CU School of Medicine. A few bashful attendees raised their hands. “Well, I have 10 minutes to change that. Let’s get started,” announced Ponder, speaking to those women who had not raised their hands.

Her words of encouragement resonated through the auditorium.  She highlighted her leadership in community involvement, and expressed her confidence in the capabilities of the women in attendance to lead projects. “Bring your voice and passions to the foreground,” said Ponder. “You, too, are phenomenal.”

Liz McCullagh
Liz McCullagh

Liz McCullagh 

Liz McCullagh, also a postdoctoral fellow in the CU School of Medicine, raised awareness of barriers encountered by young women interested in science, including some that are self-imposed. She asked everyone in the room to write down words to describe the ideal woman STEM candidate and the ideal male STEM candidate. To the surprise of everyone in the room, the words used to describe the men were about their achievements. The words used to describe the women were more about their social characteristics like “enthusiastic,” “fearless” and “confident.”

McCullagh emphasized the importance of mentor figures and advocated for self-confidence. “Let’s show girls they can become strong, STEM women,” said McCullagh. “Let’s be realistic. There are struggles, but we did it.” 

Allison Porman
Allison Porman

Allison Porman 

Allison Porman, a postdoctoral fellow in the CU School of Medicine, spoke about her unusual journey through various STEM careers. When she expressed her personal frustrations with science—which included competition among scientists for grants and authorship of research papers—sentiments of agreement echoed around the room. However, positive undertones remained. “You may feel disheartened, but science can help those around you,” said Porman in a closing statement. “We can improve the whole world.”

Christina Coughlan
Christina Coughlan

Christina Coughlan

Christina Coughlan, a CU Anschutz senior faculty research instructor, gave the final talk. In Ireland, where she grew up, pursuing a STEM career was not only abnormal, but discouraged. She gives credit for her success to the strong women who mentored her through her journey. Coughlan closed with a warm sentiment advocating for mentorship among women on campus and in the community.

The seminar closed with a discussion in which attendees shared tactics to improve self-confidence and empowerment. “Advocate for yourself,” said McCullagh. “Build a strong support network. Find mentors and mentor back. Let’s gain some power back.”


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Top 7 places you like to eat at CU Anschutz


We went in search of the CU Anschutz Medical Campus’s best restaurants, and you responded. Not surprisingly, when asked about on- and off-campus restaurants that offer delicious food, you expressed an eclectic range of dining tastes.

A campus hub for culinary freshness and conversation emerged as a solid favorite in our inaugural survey, while a flavorful mix of on- and off-campus dining spots rounded out the field. Several of the go-to restaurants for CU Anschutz faculty, staff and students are popular lunch destinations, while others are favorites for carry-out. All of the “best restaurant” choices serve up a combination of tasty-yet-healthy menu items, convenience and value. Thank you for participating in our survey, and bon appétit!

#7 Chai & Chai

Location: 12501 E. 17th St.


Chai & ChaiFresh, authentic Indian and Mediterranean food at reasonable prices right on campus. Falafels, chicken shawarma wraps, curry dishes, rice bowls – you’ll find these and more at this restaurant that targets the lunch crowd.

“Great, authentic Indian food with lots of variety for a very reasonable price.”  – Sharman Ball

#6 University of Colorado Hospital (UCH) Cafeteria

Location: First floor of UCH at 12605 E. 16th Ave.

UCH CafeteriaYou’ll find plenty of healthy and tasty options to select from at the University of Colorado Hospital Cafeteria. From a full breakfast menu and baked goods to sandwiches and salads, the restaurant is loaded with fresh and flavorful foods. The UCH Cafeteria draws customers from around campus for its quality fare that is both delicious and easy on the wallet.

#5 Nom Nom Asian Grill

Location: 13700 E. Colfax Ave., Suite 1

Nom Nom Asian Grill Nom Nom indeed. Vietnamese food takes on a create-it-yourself flair at this close-to-campus restaurant. Spring rolls, bowls and Banh Mi sandwiches are the house specialties, and – Chipotle-style – you get to choose marinated meat (or tofu) fillings, fresh toppings and homemade sauces. Pho is also available in a comfortable restaurant that, as respondent Dylan Verden noted, offers “large portions at a fair price, fast service, delicious food.”

#4 Top Pho

Location: 11697 E. Colfax Ave.

Chicken & noodle bowl. Photo by Yelp, Sarah W.

Holding down a busy corner on East Colfax, the restaurant looks rather modest from the outside. Don’t be fooled. As its name implies, Top Pho serves up some of the best Pho in the Denver metro area. The restaurant also offers an array of delectable Vietnamese specialties, egg rolls and combination plates. Bonuses: the service is fast and friendly and the price is right.

“Incredibly fresh and healthy with great flavor. Lots of food, so it’s great for next day re-heating, plus many menu choices.”
– Barb Hayes

#3 Thai Street Food

Location: 11650 Montview Blvd.

Thai Street FoodSitting on a nondescript corner of Montview Boulevard a few blocks west of campus, Thai Street Food is worth the trip, especially if you like your dishes on the spicy side. Take special care in choosing the spice level when ordering, however, because the “medium” is hotter than most Thai restaurants’ “Thai hot.” Thai Street Food is carry-out only and all dishes are made to order by, as a survey respondent noted, “one lady who cooks everything.”

“One lady cooks everything, and the taste of every dish is so complex and savory. Best Thai food in Denver hands down.”
– Alexis Zukowski

#2 Cedar Creek Pub

Location: 2100 N. Ursula St.

Cedar Creek Pub, Photo by

If you’re looking for a relaxed restaurant in which to unwind after work or meet up with the office gang, Cedar Creek Pub, just north of the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, is an excellent choice. Cedar Creek offers an assortment of pub fare such as bangers-and-mash, fish-and-chips and burgers, as well as steaks, tacos, appetizers and salads. It’s also home to a large selection of local beers, wines and cocktails.

“The environment and food has some originality, which make it more special than just the same-old pizza or sub sandwich.”
– Lauren Szymanski

#1 Etai’s at Anschutz

Location: First floor of Research 2

Etai’s at AnschutzThe standout winner in our survey, Etai’s has cultivated a loyal following with its wide-ranging menu and always-fresh coffee. Etai’s is located in a bright and airy space on the first floor of Research 2 – a central spot for on-the-go health care professionals and students. Besides being convenient, Etai’s freshly-made sandwiches, salads and soups – not to mention all-day breakfast selections – have clearly won the stomachs of many at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus.

“They always have excellent customer service, their coffee is fantastic, and they have many healthy lunch options.”
– Sara Marie Bottaro

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