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Collaboration brings new lodging facility to Guatemala clinic

In July, several leaders from Children’s Hospital Colorado, the University of Colorado School of Medicine, the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and the Colorado School of Public Health, the Center for Global Health, and the Centers for Disease Control traveled to Guatemala to celebrate the opening of the new lodging facility at the Trifinio Center for Human Development.

The facility was made possible in part thanks to the efforts of deans and chairs from the various schools and departments at CU Anschutz who were instrumental in raising the $100,000 needed to complete the project. As a result, up to 25 visiting students, residents, faculty members, pharmacists, nurses and community health workers now have a comfortable and safe place to stay while working on site in the community at the family medical clinic, the dental clinic or at the soon-to-be-opened birthing clinic.

Steve Berman of CU School of Medicine

Steve Berman, MD, FAAP, Professor of Pediatrics and Epidemiology at the CU Anschutz and Director, Center for Global Health, stands with community nurses at the Center for Human Development in Guatemala.

Several attendees expressed how impressed and inspired they were by the collaboration between AgroAmerica, the supporting hospitals and schools and the Trifinio Center for improving the lives of the children and families of those working in the banana and palm oil plantations AgroAmerica runs. Further, the quality of equipment and capabilities, including the pharmacy, made several attendees excited about how much this clinic facility can offer.

“It is exciting to think of the possibilities we have at Trifinio to improve the health not just of our community but also to create an innovative health model that can be replicated around the world,” said Stephen Daniels, MD, PhD, Professor and Chair of Pediatrics, School of Medicine at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and Pediatrician-in-Chief L. Joseph Butterfield Chair in Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

But it was the degree to which the local community members were involved with the direction and planning for the clinic and its programming that struck Jodie Malhotra, PharmD, International Affairs Coordinator and Assistant Professor at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. “I was able to truly witness the community’s support and engagement in the clinic. It was also very clear that the community leaders are very supportive of the clinic,” Dr. Malhotra shared. “We even had the opportunity to accompany the community nurses on a visit with a new mother at her home to see how they work with the mother and baby. Their means of assessing the baby and educating the mother were very inspiring.”

Spacious new lodging facility in Guatemala

The new lodging facility at the Trifino Center for Human Development will house students and medical professionals when they volunteer at the clinic.

Also during the trip, the Colorado contingent met four students from the CU Anschutz Medical Campus who were working in the clinic this summer. It was easy to see the effect that the experience would have not only on their careers, but also their professions. “This clinic provides a life-changing opportunity for health students to benefit from service learning,” said David Goff, MD, PhD, dean of the Colorado School of Public Health. “It was clear that we have at least as much to gain as we have to offer in this unique collaboration with the Trifinio community.”

Look for more news in the coming months celebrating the opening of the birthing center – a key step toward improving the area’s population health.

In addition to Drs. Daniels, Malhotra and Goff, attendees included:

  • Edwin Asturias, MD, Associate Professor of Pediatric Infectious Diseases and Epidemiology at CU Anschutz and Director of Latin American Projects, Center for Global Health
  • Steve Berman, MD, FAAP, Professor of Pediatrics and Epidemiology at the CU Anschutz and Director, Center for Global Health
  • Richard Johnston, MD, Emeritus Professor of Pediatrics, School of Medicine at the CU Anschutz
  • Jerrod Milton, Vice President of Operations, Children’s Hospital Colorado
  • Reina Turcios-Ruiz, MD, FIDSA, Director of the Central America Regional Office, Centers for Disease Control

Contributed by the Center for Global Health.

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CU Anschutz program increases number of grants won by researchers

While the lure of academic medicine careers often lies in the promise of finding life-saving cures and new medical treatments, many young faculty leave the field in frustration after failing to win grants to fund their research. As a result, the best and brightest recruits are often lost to academic medicine.

But a new study at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus demonstrates that a program pairing junior faculty members with seasoned mentors can result in significantly more grants.

The study, published recently in the journal Academic Medicine, shows participants in the Clinical Faculty Scholars Program (CFSP) at CU Anschutz won about four times as many grants as those who didn’t take the course.

Dr. Anne Libby, PhD, professor and vice-chair of academic affairs at CU Anschutz.

The innovative, faculty-led program began in 2004 but its impact is just now being studied.

“We are in perhaps the most challenging and competitive period of academic funding in history,” said Anne Libby, PhD, lead author of the study and professor and vice-chair for academic affairs of the Department of Emergency Medicine. “National Institutes of Health budgets have shrunk and there is a critical lack of state funding.”

That means researchers seeking funding must know how to write focused, understandable grant applications and remain persistent in the face of rejection.

“Thousands of junior faculty begin their appointments at academic health centers planning careers that will include externally funded research,” the study said. “Attrition in the early-career faculty ranks indicates that many talented and well-trained clinicians and scientists who seek these careers are not retained by academic health centers in part because of their inability to achieve external funding.”

The two-year CFSP program offers a research mentoring team to five junior faculty selected annually with the goal of teaching them how to win funding. Each scholar gets a primary senior mentor who they meet with regularly to develop targeted research plans. There are also group meetings and sessions with program directors to keep scholars on track.

Study co-author Adit Ginde, MD, MPH, a program alumnus and now co-director of CFSP, said this all happens during an intense time in a researcher’s career.

“There is only a two or three year period to become really successful in this field,” he said. “Without a robust environment and concentrated career mentorship, often very talented people who could or should have successful research careers will not succeed. We provide them the structure to make it through this critical period.”

Ginde, an associate professor of emergency medicine at CU Anschutz, said CFSP shows early professionals how to write grants, find mentors and collaborators and locate the right sponsors.

According to Libby, it’s a level of complexity few researchers have ever been taught.

Dr. Adit Ginde, MD, MPH, associate professor of emergency medicine at CU Anschutz.

“What you don’t want to happen is see good people working in isolated silos wither on the vine,” she said. “In the world of academic medicine, it’s sink or swim.”

The study shows the program is working.

Researchers looked at the number of grants won by the junior faculty before and after the training and also compared them to those who did not participate in the program.

They found that the mean annual dollars increased significantly for the CFSP participants compared to those who didn’t take the course. Those in the program won an average of $83,427 a year in grants vs. $27,343 for those who didn’t take part. They also wrote more grants as well.

“They are in there applying. They learn to understand rejection. In fact, we normalize rejection,” Libby said. “I tell them rejection is a rite of passage and if they aren’t getting rejected they aren’t submitting enough grants.”

She said the program is a proven and financially sustainable way to enhance the grant productivity of young faculty, especially important now as more and more senior faculty are set to retire.

“We have shown that with the right resources junior faculty from a wide range of disciplines can be trained for extramural grant success and that the resulting productivity is observable on average after one year of this training and grows over time,” the study said.

Ginde noted that the program taught him the value of persistence and collaboration in his own career as a clinical researcher.

“And it is now seen as the flagship research career development program on our campus,” he said.

The study co-authors include Patrick Hosokawa, MS, Diane Fairclough, DrPH, Allan Prochazka, MD and Pamela Jones, PhD, all of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.




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First nursing cohort at CU South Denver graduates

CU Denver nursing cohort at graduation

The first CU Denver nursing cohort gathered for a group photo at their recent graduation ceremony.

PARKER – Christina DeBello’s life was complicated when she decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree in nursing. She and her husband were busy raising four children, including their youngest, a daughter who has cerebral palsy and epilepsy as well as vision and hearing impairments.

DeBello says she’s always wanted to help people and initially she planned to become a physical therapist. But Ellainie’s health issues gave DeBello a new perspective – and a new calling.

As she became immersed in appointments for Ellainie – now 10 – she grew passionate about nursing. “I have been with Lainie as she went through her journey of multiple surgeries, trips to the ICU and ER and many other doctor visits,” she said. “I have met some wonderful nurses along the way that have shown me empathy and supported me in very difficult times.”

DeBello at CU College of Nursing graduation

Christina DeBello poses with her family at the College of Nursing commencement ceremony at CU Anschutz this spring.

DeBello found the perfect educational fit when the College of Nursing at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus expanded its B.S. in Nursing program to the CU South Denver location in summer 2014. DeBello lives in southwest metro Denver and CU South Denver is much closer to home than CU Anschutz in Aurora.

“It made it much easier for me to navigate the program,” she said of the location. “And I do like the idea of a smaller class.”

Thirty-six students made up the initial nursing cohort at CU South Denver, and nearly the entire group celebrated together this spring at the College of Nursing commencement ceremony at CU Anschutz. “It was a tight-knit group,” DeBello said. “We’d have potlucks and get together after class. I really enjoyed it.”

‘Exciting opportunity’

First cohort in nursing at CU South Denver

The first cohort in the nursing program at CU South Denver formed a tight-knit bond.

Sarah Thompson, PhD, RN, FAAN, dean of the College of Nursing, said the CU South Denver location allows the College of Nursing to prepare more graduates and thereby help fill a great workforce need for nurses. Also, the students benefit from clinical rotation placements at Centura Health facilities in the south-metro area as well as at Sky Ridge Medical Center in Lone Tree. “That’s an exciting opportunity on both sides: It allows the student to look at the hospital in terms of whether it’s a place they want to work and vice versa,” Thompson said. “It allows the students to develop relationships with the hospitals and nursing staff.”

Thompson also noticed the close-knit nature of the CU South Denver cohorts. “They seem to gel in terms of a community,” she said. “They’ve been very excited about that.”

The two subsequent nursing cohorts at CU South Denver are larger – they both have 48 students. Like the first cohort, they are enjoying the camaraderie of the group, the convenience of the classroom location to their homes and the simulation laboratory (just like the one at CU Anschutz), which offers exemplary opportunities in clinical education.

‘Neat mix’

Marcia Gilbert at CU South Denver

Marcia Gilbert, associate professor and director of the College of Nursing’s CU South Denver location, says the Liniger Building creates a unique setting for higher education.

Marcia Gilbert, DNP, APRN-BC, associate professor and director of the College of Nursing’s CU South Denver location, said the Liniger Building creates a unique setting for higher education with its natural history museum and large-screen movie theater. Both attract families as well as school field trips from the community. The blend of young kids, university students, parents and grandparents coming through the building makes it “kind of a neat mix,” Gilbert said. “You don’t see that in most places.”

‘Nurturing families’

Luella Chavez D’Angelo, vice chancellor for enterprise development, said the “cultural energy” of CU South Denver enhances the high-value academic experience for our students. Not only are they exposed to the cutting-edge technology that is used in their disciplines, they also enjoy a comfortable student lounge, spacious classrooms, a café, pleasant outdoor patios and excellent instruction from experts in their field. “They’ve got everything they need right here, plus this positive family environment,” D’Angelo said. “For nursing students, it reinforces one of the reasons they went into this field – they want to support their community by nurturing families.”

Simulation laboratory for CU College of Nursing students

CU South Denver offers nursing students all the amenities of the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, including a nursing simulation laboratory.

She called the first cohort of nursing students at CU South Denver “trailblazers,” as they willingly pioneered a new academic environment. “They helped us think about the space, what was needed in the space and what would make their experience even more comfortable,” D’Angelo said.

With their clinical rotations at south-metro hospitals – and some students getting hired at those hospitals after graduation – College of Nursing students are emblematic of the way CU South Denver fuels the state economy and engages the local community to improve Colorado’s quality of life.

D’Angelo said it’s not uncommon for members of the nursing cohorts to interact with young children who are visiting the museum. “They tell the kids what’s involved with becoming a nurse,” she said. “It matches up our CU students with younger attendees and getting them to think, ‘Maybe I could be a nurse someday.’ It’s just icing on the cake.”

For DeBello, who plans to be a pediatric nurse because of the perspective she’s developed as the parent of a chronically ill child, the icing on the cake came when her family saw her receive her diploma. Ellainie, who was her inspiration throughout school – “My daughter fights every day with a smile on her face; how can I give up when she never has?” – watched the ceremony with her customary beaming grin.

“She was excited for the graduation, but she was especially excited about the graduation party,” DeBello said with a laugh.

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Holocaust scholar to discuss medical legacy of the Nazis, political rhetoric

Celebrated bioethicist Arthur Caplan, author of a landmark book, `When Medicine Went Mad: Bioethics and The Holocaust,’ will visit Denver and Aurora next month to discuss the medical legacy of the Nazis and how today’s overheated political rhetoric often features comparisons to Hitler’s Germany.

Caplan will deliver two lectures on Monday, May 2, one on the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora and the other at the Wolf Theater in Denver.

The visit is sponsored by the CU Anschutz Center for Bioethics and Humanities as part of its Holocaust Genocide and Contemporary Bioethics (HGCB) program.

Dr. Matthew Wynia, director of the Center for Bioethics and Humanities at CU Anschutz.

Caplan, a well-known commentator on health care ethics, writes a regular column for and, according to The Hollywood Reporter, is the inspiration for a CBS TV pilot called `Austen’s Razor,’ about a “brilliant bioethicist who is called in at crisis moments to solve the most complicated, dynamic and confounding medical issues imaginable.”

His Denver lecture entitled, `The Use and Misuse of the Nazi Analogy in American Politics,’ will focus on the intended and unintended consequences of the increasingly common comparison of today’s politicians and political ideas to the Nazis. Is this ever appropriate? And when do such analogies simply shut down dialogue? Caplan is expected to address these and other questions during the lecture on Monday, May 2 at 7:00 p.m. at the Wolf Theater at 350 Dahlia St. in Denver.

He will also give a talk on Monday, May 2 at 12 noon at the CU Anschutz Fulginiti Pavilion for Bioethics and Humanities at 13080 E 19th Avenue in Aurora.

The Anschutz Campus lecture will focus on the legacy of the Holocaust and its impact on medical research ethics. It will include a panel discussion on why this legacy is not part of the curriculum at most health professional schools.

“Health professionals have special responsibilities to remember and to remain vigilant, because of the roles our respective disciplines played in creating and carrying out the Holocaust,” said Matthew Wynia, MD, director of the Center for Bioethics and Humanities at CU Anschutz.

This program builds on Wynia’s work with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum when he headed the Institute for Ethics at the American Medical Association in Chicago.

“While working with some incredibly knowledgeable museum staff, I learned how important the legacy of health professional involvement in the Holocaust is to modern medicine, and why remembrance must be a shared responsibility of all health professionals,” he said.

This year’s HGCB program also includes a gallery exhibit of `The Holocaust Series’ paintings by Geoffrey Laurence, entitled `ISWASWILLBE. The exhibit, co-sponsored by Denver’s Mizel Museum, opened April 3 and will run through August 4. The gallery is inside the CU Anschutz Fulginiti Pavilion at 13080 E 19th Avenue in Aurora.

The HGCB program began with a gift from Dr. William S. Silvers.

“The tragic fact of health professional involvement in the Holocaust has affected every aspect of modern bioethics,” he said. “Our program aims to build bridges and create collaborations to ensure these lessons are never forgotten.”

Both the CU Anschutz and Wolf Theater lectures are free and open to the public, though pre-registration is requested on the Center for Bioethics website at


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Only about half of suicidal patients asked if they have access to firearms

Despite national guidelines urging emergency department doctors to ask suicidal patients if they have access to firearms or other lethal implements, only about half actually do, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

The researchers interviewed 1,358 patients from eight emergency departments (EDs) in seven states who had either attempted suicide or were thinking about it.

“We asked the patients about their access to firearms and then reviewed their charts,” said the study’s lead author Emmy Betz, MD, MPH, from the University of Colorado School of Medicine.  “We found in about 50 percent of cases there is no documentation by the doctor that anyone asked the patients about firearms access. That means there is a large group of patients we are missing a chance to intervene for.”

Some 25 percent of potentially suicidal patients who said they had guns at home kept at least one  of them loaded and unlocked. Half of them had easy access to guns which put them at risk for future suicides.

According to the study, published in the latest edition of `Depression and Anxiety,’ emergency departments are a key setting for suicide prevention with 8 percent of patients admitted for either attempting suicide or having `suicidal ideation’ or thoughts of ending their own lives.

“Multiple ED visits appear to be a risk factor for suicide and many suicide victims are seen in the ED shortly before death,” the study said. “Based on models using national suicide statistics, ED-based interventions might help decrease suicide deaths by 20 percent annually.”

Still, previous studies suggest that ED doctors are skeptical about the effectiveness of such intervention and do not ask or counsel patients about their access to lethal means of ending their lives once they leave the hospital.

This study seems to confirm that.

“This rate of assessment falls short of national guidelines recommending that all suicidal patients receive counseling about reducing access to firearms and other lethal means,” Betz said. “Lethal means assessment is important for both overall risk assessment and for safety planning for patients being discharged.”

While it is difficult to control access to sharp objects, supplies for hanging and medication given their widespread availability, patients with easy access to guns are at an especially high risk.

Those who commit suicide often do so minutes after making the decision. And approximately 90 percent of firearm suicides are fatal compared to 2 percent of medication overdoses.

Betz said doctors could make a plan with the families of these patients. They could ask them to lock up firearms or remove them from the house for a period of time.

Some doctors are reluctant to ask patients about this because they don’t know if they should and if they do, what to do with the information.

“It is legal and appropriate to ask about this when it is relevant as it is in the case of suicide attempts or suicidal ideation,” Betz said. “Do it in a respectful, non-judgmental way and it will usually be well-received. Still, there isn’t a lot of training on this. As a result, we are missing the chance to save a lot of lives.”

The study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.



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School of Medicine students get lesson in crisis response

A dangerous virus wasn’t the only thing quickly spreading when an outbreak of avian flu swamped the hospitals and clinics of Mountain City and High Plains City.

Tension sometimes flared as public health officials responded to the crisis. Stress often centered around dissemination of accurate information, so as not to touch off undue panic about the pandemic.

It was all part of this week’s preparedness drill on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus – an annual tabletop exercise in the Integrated Clinicians Course for University of Colorado School of Medicine (SOM) students. Two fictional cities in Colorado were dealing with the “outbreak,” and the responders were about 150 fourth-year students representing all disciplines within the SOM. Leading each student team were actual professionals representing health agencies, cities, hospitals, clinics and the media.

‘Critical decisions’

CU School of Medicine students act as media team

Students on the Metro News team discuss a story to pursue during the emergency preparedness drill. Tyler Anderson, center, a fourth-year psychiatry student, acted as the team’s editor.

Students went into the exercise knowing only they’d face a health crisis of some kind. “This tabletop is going to cram a pandemic of six to eight weeks … into about 90 minutes,” said Charlie Little, DO, associate professor of Emergency Medicine in the SOM. “There are really no right or wrong answers,” Little told the group before students broke into 16 teams representing health agencies, city and state offices, hospitals and clinics, media and an ethics group. “It’s designed to help you work cooperatively in a group. The key thing is you’re going to have to make critical decisions with limited information, and that’s what happens in emergency management.”

A key part of the exercise was seeing how public health emergency response unfolds and how various agencies coordinate to best manage a crisis, Little said. “The goal is to have the students work through the issues under time pressure like they would in a real-life event,” he said. “That usually gets them a little stressed.”

Metro News, the media outlet in the drill, became a source of irritation for a few agencies and government offices scrambling to contain the pandemic as well as release timely and accurate information.

‘Difficult balance’

Tyler Anderson, a fourth-year psychiatry student, volunteered to be editor of Metro News. He enjoyed the exercise, but found it quite challenging. “It’s kind of a difficult balance” to be both quick and accurate in news reports, he said. “I understood better the reporters’ need for information – like why they push so hard and why it can be annoying to people. But it really helps get information to the public.”

At one point, as Metro News reporters fanned out to press for information, a hospital representative stepped into the “newsroom” and threatened to sue the outlet for an alleged libelous tweet (see video below). Metro News stood by its story.

Anderson said the drill brought to light some comforting insights as well, such as learning about actual strategic medication supplies. “We as medical students aren’t the only ones being trained in what emergency response looks like,” he said. “It’s something that’s being thought about at many levels – city and national government, as well as public health agencies. It’s good to know that it’s being considered and thought about, so something won’t hit us completely off guard.”

Shilo Smith, a fourth-year neurology student, said she has received incident-command training and knows just how quickly things can come unglued in an emergency. “I can tell you it is a challenge to make sure that people have the supplies they need,” she said.

CU School of Medicine students discuss response to health crisis

A public health team discusses how to respond to an avian flu pandemic during the emergency preparedness exercise.

Jeffrey Druck, MD, associate professor of Emergency Medicine and director of the Integrated Clinicians Course, spoke to the full group at the exercise debriefing. Students said the fast-paced drill was at times stressful, but also informative as to the enormous coordination required to manage a public health emergency.

“We hope this brings home to you how important it is to get involved in disaster planning early as opposed to later,” Druck said. “As you can see from this exercise, if you are behind the 8-ball it can be much worse than if you are in front of the 8-ball.”

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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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Donors celebrated for their passion and generosity

Donor generosity that touches every corner of Colorado and extends across the globe – from behavioral health services to new education programs in the South Denver area, from assistance to persons with disabilities to accelerated research on women’s health – took center stage at the Donor Recognition Dinner.

A crowd of 400 attended the ninth annual event, a celebration of the passionate people behind philanthropic gifts to CU Denver and the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, in the Seawall Ballroom in the Denver Performing Arts Complex on Feb. 11.

Bensons at CU Donor Dinner

CU President Bruce Benson and CU First Lady Marcy Benson welcome the crowd to the Ninth Annual CU Denver and CU Anschutz Donor Recognition Dinner (Photo by Glenn Asakawa/University of Colorado)

Students in spotlight

Taking the spotlight before dinner were examples of innovative student projects, and programmatic research and service. Physical Therapy students showed how they work with children to strengthen muscles; Bioengineering students demonstrated 3D printer technology that advances health care; Mechanical Engineering students presented their HyperLynx concept for high-speed travel; and the National Center for Media Forensics in the College of Arts & Media showcased technologies that have practical applications in everyday life.

Linigers at CU Denver Donor Dinner

Gail and Dave Liniger received special recognition at the Ninth Annual CU Denver and CU Denver Donor Recognition Dinner (Photo by Glenn Asakawa/University of Colorado)

The CU Denver Chamber Music Ensemble performed during the cocktail hour, followed by Lark, CU Denver’s all-women a cappella group. The award-winning group jazzed up the evening with rousing vocals and precision choreography.

CU President Bruce Benson and his wife, CU First Lady Marcy Benson, welcomed the huge gathering and thanked the university’s donors for their vital contributions. “Besides being our friends, all of you exemplify the powerful partnership that exists between donors and the University of Colorado,” Marcy Benson said. “Together, we make our community, state and country better places. We couldn’t do everything we do without you.”

This year’s honorees

Compelling video stories highlighted the special contributions of each donor recognized:

  • Real estate revolutionaries Gail and Dave Liniger, who made the largest real estate contribution in CU’s history, the Liniger Building at CU South Denver. The building, conveniently located where one-third of metro Denver’s population lives, offers courses in engineering, public health, nursing and business, with more programs planned.
    Campion at CU Donor Dinner

    Lynn Campion of the Helen K. and Arthur E. Johnson Foundation receives a donor recognition gift from CU Anschutz Chancellor Don Elliman at the Ninth Annual CU Denver and CU Anschutz Donor Recognition Dinner (Photo by Glenn Asakawa/University of Colorado)

  • The Helen K. and Arthur E. Johnson Foundation, which in 2015 made the largest programmatic gift in CU Anschutz history, investing $10 million in the University of Colorado Depression Center (renamed the Helen and Arthur E. Johnson Depression Center). The gift ensures that researchers and clinicians can provide the best patient care and conduct leading-edge mental health research in a state-of-the-art facility.
  • Judi and Joe Wagner, whose philanthropic interests at CU Anschutz include the Center for Women’s Health Research, the Barbara Davis Center for Diabetes and the CU Cancer Center. In 2013, the couple established the Judith and Joseph Wagner Endowed Chair in Women’s Health Research, which is helping accelerate women’s health and sex difference research, supporting mentorship of future researchers, and expanding educational programs for the public and health care providers.
  • Sara and Bill Caile, who are longtime donors to the University of Colorado. Their recent focus has been with Assistive Technology Partners (ATP), which is a part of both CU Anschutz and CU Denver, within the College of Engineering and Applied Science. Bill Caile is chair of the ATP Advisory Board, while the annual party the Cailes started 10 years ago, named Déjà vu Rendezvous, provides ongoing support for ATP. The Cailes were honored individually on behalf of the Déjà vu Rendezvous Steering Committee.

‘One of Denver’s top assets’

Wagners at CU Donor Dinner

Judi and Joe Wagner receive recognition at the Ninth Annual CU Denver and CU Anschutz Donor Recognition Dinner (Photo by Glenn Asakawa/University of Colorado)

CU Denver’s new leader, Chancellor Dorothy Horrell, PhD, said she’s been “amazed and inspired” by the tremendous outpouring of philanthropic support from the CU Denver community. Such generosity, she noted, allows the university to, among other things, spearhead important research and fund student scholarships – both essential to CU Denver’s goal of becoming a premier public urban research university.

“We want to be the university that is embraced as one of Denver’s top assets – one that both defines and is defined by the city we call home,” Horrell said. “The resources CU Denver has to offer – talent, research capability, advanced technologies, and understanding of local issues – all position us to do just that. … I look forward to getting to know other dedicated partners and benefactors like you who are absolutely essential to our ability to achieve ambitious goals.”

‘World-class leadership’

CU Anschutz Chancellor Don Elliman spoke of ambitious goals as well. “Simply put, the CU Anschutz Medical Campus seeks to provide world-class leadership in health and health care in Colorado, the Rocky Mountain region and across the globe,” he said. “The new discoveries and developments that your support makes possible accelerate the incredible progress and innovation that we see on our campus every day.”

Elliman listed a few of the medical breakthroughs that occurred at CU Anschutz over just the past year, including a bionic eye transplant (UCHealth Eye Center) as well as a double-lung and liver transplant (University of Colorado Hospital Transplant Center).

“Our faculty are truly at the leading edge. Last year alone, we were issued a campus-record 27 U.S. patents and spun off 10 startup companies,” Elliman said. “Each of you makes that work possible, and I can’t thank you enough.”

‘Incredible work’

Cailes at CU Donor Dinner

Bill and Sara Caile receive recognition at the Ninth Annual CU Denver and CU Anschutz Donor Recognition Dinner (Photo by Glenn Asakawa/University of Colorado)

The thankfulness was mutual, as the honored donors praised the work and service of CU Denver and CU Anschutz. Judi and Joe Wagners’ investment ensures the continued growth of the Center for Women’s Health Research, which was founded in 2004 to increase knowledge about the impacts of cardiovascular disease and diabetes on women. The Wagner Chair is the first chair in women’s health research at CU, and is one of only a handful in the world.

“We are so happy and grateful for the recognition, but we want to push it back to all of you, because you are the ones who are making this university work so well,” Judi Wagner said. “We are just so grateful to play a small part of that incredible work.”

Joe Wagner got choked up as he said, “What you do is very important. It affects the lives of a lot of people.”

Chancellors at CU Donor Dinner

CU Anschutz Chancellor Don Elliman and CU Denver Chancellor Dorothy Horrell thank generous donors at the Ninth Annual Donor Recognition Dinner. (Photo by Glenn Asakawa/University of Colorado)

Dave Liniger recounted how he and his wife, Gail, battled health issues that put both of them in the hospital for significant periods. “No matter how rich or powerful you are, if you end up in those circumstances you are weak … and you depend on the professionals that are trained by CU and other organizations to keep you alive and to give you hope for the future,” he said. “For me, it’s personally gratifying to see the CU College of Nursing training happening at (the Liniger Building at CU South Denver). I think that’s cool.”

Gail Liniger said she and Dave strongly support education and are gratified to see the Liniger Building now serve CU students in the fast-growing South Denver area. “What could be better than our affiliation now with CU?” she said.

‘Means so much’

The transformational commitment from the Johnson Foundation strengthens the Helen and Arthur E. Johnson Depression Center, and will help remove the stigma around mental health.

Lynn Campion, chairman of the foundation’s Board of Trustees, walked to the stage to accept the recognition along with her daughter, Berit Campion. “It means so much to us to be able to help with mental health and furthering research in this area,” Lynn Campion said. “It’s such a big issue in our country.”

Lark at CU Donor Dinner

Lark, an a cappella group at CU Denver, performs at the Ninth Annual CU Denver and CU Anschutz Donor Recognition Dinner. (Photo by Glenn Asakawa/University of Colorado)

Bill Caile explained that he and his wife, Sara, have long enjoyed supporting the University of Colorado, noting that Sara’s parents were “great supporters of the School of Medicine.” Bill talked about how he was personally touched by the incredible work of Assistive Technology Partners in helping persons with disabilities. The Cailes, along with colleagues in the construction industry, a decade ago launched the Déjà vu Rendezvous.

“To this day,” Bill Caile said, “we’ve raised over $1 million for Assistive Technology Partners just from Déjà vu Rendezvous, and we now have over 100 sponsors every year that provide money for the event.”

Also receiving recognition were members of the CU Heritage Society. In addition to the standing ovations that greeted each of the featured honorees, a lengthy round of applause was given to the many Heritage Society members who support the university in their estate plans.

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CU brings medical expertise to extreme outpost

Big House and Green House at Summit Station in Greenland

The Big House and the Green House (science laboratory) at Summit Station, Greenland. Photo by Ed Stockard.

The Wilderness and Environmental Medicine Section (WEM) in the CU School of Medicine’s Department of Emergency Medicine is taking its expertise in wilderness and austere medical care to one of the most extreme and remote places on Earth.

In December, WEM won a subcontract grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation to provide field health care services at Summit Station in Greenland. Summit Station is a global research facility perched at 10,500 feet atop the Greenland ice sheet.

Jay Lemery, MD, associate professor of emergency medicine and section chief of WEM, said providing medical services at Summit Station allows WEM to “think outside the box” in an unpredictable environment.

“It’s basically the art and science of taking care of people in remote and extreme environments,” he said. “It forces us to think in very creative ways. How do we take 21st century medicine and apply what we know to these places where you don’t have the technological tools to do what we do on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus?”

Researcher at Summit Station

A researcher releases a weather balloon at Summit Station. Photo by Kevin Hammonds.

WEM honed its expertise in remote medical services by holding the EMS medical directorship for the U.S. Antarctic Program for two years. In Greenland, the CU WEM bid was selected over various applicants, including private industry, for the subcontract, which lasts for a year with an option for renewal. Support at Summit Station is provided by CH2M HILL Polar Services, under contract to NSF.

Four services for Summit Station

In Greenland, WEM will be in charge of four phases of service:

  • Remote medical support services and supplies for Summit Station;
  • 24/7 telemedicine services;
  • First aid medical support services; and
  • Training in arctic first aid and wilderness first responder/aid.

Lemery said people are more frequently venturing to extreme places across the globe, and the expertise of WEM faculty – in altitude sickness, frostbite, hypothermia, trauma treatment and other wilderness care – uniquely positions WEM to serve these travelers, as well as advance remote-setting health care.

“We have that niche in the health-care world,” Lemery said. “Greenland is a robust place to test best practices in medicine – to see what works, what doesn’t work. We’re also training people to be outstanding clinicians anywhere in the world. Most of the planet doesn’t have the medical tools like we have at CU Anschutz. These are important lessons to bring home to our students and residents.”

David Twillman, RN, University of Colorado Hospital, will staff Summit Station during the high season of roughly April to August. During the winter months, WEM will provide medical services via telemedicine.

‘Quite a bit of altitude sickness’

Christopher Davis, MD, assistant professor of emergency medicine, led WEM’s application for the Greenland subcontract and will serve as medical director for the operation. He said adjusting to high altitude is the most common health complaint of the researchers, who spend weeks to months at a time at Summit Station. “Most researchers are coming from sea level and they fly directly to 11,000 feet, so you see quite a bit of altitude illness,” Davis said.

Davis, who is also medical director of Altitude and Mountain Medicine Consultants, a branch of the Travel, Expedition and Altitude Medicine Clinic, plans to visit the Summit Station this spring to ensure that the medical equipment is up to date. During the summer high season, about 50 researchers live and work at the station. In the winter, fewer than 10 people live at the facility, according to Davis. Much of the research conducted at the facility focuses on climate and weather.

The Big House at Summit Station Greenland

The Big House at Summit Station, Greenland. Photo by Ed Stockard.

Greenland’s polar environment and growing medical needs made Summit Station a perfect fit for WEM’s service-oriented approach to health care.

“Our department chair, Richard Zane, MD, has been very supportive of us being entrepreneurial and extending the reach of our medical expertise to far afield,” Davis said. “This is also in line with the university’s research mandate.”

Although no specific CU SOM Greenland-based research has yet been approved, Davis said, “there will be the opportunity for us to study altitude and also study health care systems and how and whether telemedicine support is effective in this type of extreme environment.”

Unprecedented course

Another opportunity that Summit Station provides: Teaching an unprecedented course in one of the most dramatic locations on the planet. Lemery and Davis together will teach “Introduction to Polar Medicine” over a week in August. Students will receive three hours of credit for the accredited course, as well as a Wilderness First Aid certificate.

“We’ll talk about climate change and health and provide wilderness medicine education,” said Lemery, who co-edited the book, “Global Climate Change and Human Health.” “It’s pretty unorthodox – nobody’s really done anything else like this.”

The course is designed for pre-health students and will take place in the town of Ilulissat, Greenland. “We think it’s going to be an awesome opportunity for students,” Lemery said. The deadline to register is March 15, 2016; click here to register or for more information.

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