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Emergency Medicine wins Outstanding Department Award

Emergency Medicine leadership

When it comes to promoting gender equality, diversity, opportunity and inclusion, the CU Department of Emergency Medicine is leading the way. The department, which is within the School of Medicine, recently received the Outstanding Department Award from the Academy for Women in Academic Emergency Medicine.

Richard Zane, MD, chair of the department, called the award “humbling” and credited his team for the accomplishment.

“This is the definition of a self-fulfilling prophecy. I like to take a lot of leadership lessons from a lot of different people and there’s almost nothing I won’t take credit for, but I can’t take credit for this,” he said. “Steve Jobs (the late CEO and co-founder of Apple Inc.), who is one of my heroes, said, ‘You don’t hire smart people to tell them what to do; you hire smart people so they tell you what to do.’ And that is exactly how this came about.”

Jennifer Wiler, MD, MBA, executive vice chair, said the Emergency Medicine department has excelled in promoting the best person for a role, “and if that happens to have gender and diversity acknowledgment, then that’s fantastic.”

The department has developed coaching and mentorship programs for all faculty, one of the key ingredients to making it a special place to work, Wiler said. Wiler is the lead author of a recent study into the gender-based salary gap among academic emergency medicine physicians.

“To Rich’s point, we have focused on building a spectacular faculty and we have a number of women who have just shined,” she said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to be able to acknowledge and develop their leadership potential in many different roles across our three mission areas, and we’re very proud of that.”

Zane and Wiler sat down for a CU Anschutz 360 podcast about the department’s innovations in the area of gender equality along with team members Becky McGowan, MBA, vice chair of finance and administration; John Kendall, MD, vice chair of education; Anne Libby, PhD, vice chair for academic affairs; Adit Ginde, MD, MPH, vice chair of research; and Kelly Bookman, MD, vice chair of operations.

Click the play button below to listen to the podcast:


Photo by Matt Kaskavitch, Office of Communications

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CU presidential finalist pledges to expand research

Mark Kennedy

Mark Kennedy, finalist for University of Colorado president, told an audience at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus Wednesday that his skills in running a large business, engaging stakeholders and his passion for academia make him the right candidate for the position.

The president of the University of North Dakota (UND) is spending the week holding open forums with faculty, staff and students across the four CU campuses. He was introduced to the nearly full auditorium by CU Anschutz Chancellor Don Elliman and Sue Sharkey, chair of the Board of Regents.

“In my 35 years in business and academia, I’ve always checked my values at the door,” said Kennedy, a former executive at major corporations and Republican member of Congress from 2001-07. He also held teaching and research posts at Johns Hopkins and George Washington University, where he directed the Graduate School of Political Management.

Crowd at presidential open forum
A large crowd attended the April 24 open forum in Education 2 South Room 1102.

Kennedy, a first-generation college graduate, underscored themes of unity, collaboration and diversity, as well as his hopes that every CU student have the opportunity “for their personal moonshot, no matter what their dream might be.”

Challenging questions

The audience questions, occasionally challenging, focused chiefly on his political views, especially his voting record as a Minnesota congressman and its impact were he chosen CU president (the Board of Regents will vote in May). He was asked about his stances on affirmative action, same-sex marriage, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), stem cell research, gender inequity, gun violence research, reproductive rights and climate change.

Asked why he’s changed his views on same-sex marriage — he voted against it while in Congress – Kennedy said he’s had multiple experiences that “have shown me that I need to have a bigger, broader view … and I’m committed to it.”

Under his leadership since 2016, he noted, UND has made more progress instituting LBGTQ-plus community protections and other services geared toward diversity than in the previous decade.

Inclusivity as a competitive advantage

“I’m not neutral on this subject. I am an advocate for making sure we’re reaching out to all communities, making them feel welcome,” he said. “… Inclusivity is a competitive advantage for the university.”

When pressed further, Kennedy said presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton also took stances against same-sex marriage at various times.

He said he should be judged by his university leadership track record, where “this never became an issue,” rather than his congressional voting record. However, when it came to votes on education or National Institutes of Health (NIH) resources, he said he always voted in favor of additional funding, including a vote to double NIH funding.

On affirmative action, Kennedy said, “It’s a combination of affirmative action applied whenever it makes sense to achieve the diversity you need in a university environment … as well as the financing to make sure we have the scholarships and outreach, which is a recruiting policy.”

Supports academic freedom

An online question noted that Kennedy voted against stem cell research while in Congress. Kennedy responded that he is not a micromanager, and he will not impose his values on the university.


“My values will be what’s in the best interest of our faculty, staff, students and the state,” he said. “You have great academic communities that decide what type of research should go on or not. Academic freedom protects that.”

He was then asked how he would prevent his personal beliefs from interfering with life-saving research, training and medical care provided at CU Anschutz surrounding women’s reproductive rights and abortion.

Kennedy stressed that it would be faculty alone who decide what and how they research. His focus would be to help attract top medical professionals, professors, staff and students to CU.

“I will also say as it relates to reproductive rights or as it relates to LGBTQ, whatever the federal government does … we’re not going backwards in terms of the protections we have here at the University of Colorado,” he said. “We’re going to go forward in terms of the protections we provide, the benefits we provide.”

Gun violence research; gender inequity

He said he strongly supports CU’s ongoing research into gun violence. He also said he would support an examination of gender inequities, noting that it’s “a systematic thing that needs to be dealt with comprehensively.”

As for college affordability, Kennedy said he would strive to keep students on the path toward a degree to ensure a full return on their investment, work on improving efficiencies and look for alternative revenue sources, including through online education.

The American Civil Liberties Union gave Kennedy’s congressional record a low rating on civil rights, another audience member said.

Kennedy responded that he has “a very strong” civil rights record, noting his UND efforts toward unprecedented LGBTQ protections, a first-ever campus-wide survey on inclusivity, and launch of strong protections against sexual violence. At George Washington, he led the campaign to offer the school’s first Spanish language degree. Also, he said, he led the university’s effort to celebrate Martin Luther King Day. At UND, his eight-member executive committee includes four women – split evenly between women he promoted and hired.

Plans CU as career capstone

With Kennedy having a relatively short tenure at UND, another attendee noted, how would the CU community know he is committed for the long haul?


Attendees of this week’s forums are encouraged to submit feedback to the Board of Regents via this online form. Sue Sharkey, chair of the Board of Regents, said the CU community could learn more about the regents’ process in selecting Kennedy as the finalist in a statement released earlier this week.

Kennedy said he views the CU presidency as the capstone to his academic career.

“This is where I want to be for an extended period of time because many of the goals I have in terms of outreach, expanding research, expanding the impact of the institution on Colorado, won’t be done in a year or two, and I want to be here for the long term.”

Asked if he supports CU’s efforts to be a leader on climate change and climate change research, Kennedy cited legislation he co-authored to bolster alternative energy funding.

“I am strongly supportive of the research being conducted on climate change here at the University of Colorado,” he said, “as well as promoting investments in research that will make our economy ever more energy efficient.”

Photos by David Kelly and Julia Milzer, Office of Communications

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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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New College of Nursing dean sees boundless potential

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

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

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

Prior to his current position, Provencio-Vasquez served as dean of the nursing school at the University of Texas El Paso, associate dean at the University of Miami and director of the Neonatal Nurse Practitioner program at the University of Texas at Houston and the University of Maryland.

During his career, he has served as a clinical nurse, a nurse researcher, a nurse educator, school administrator, and a pediatric and neonatal nurse practitioner. He is internationally renowned for his pioneering work in neonatal and pediatric care and in women’s health. Provencio-Vasquez is also a Robert Wood Johnson Executive Nurse Fellow alumnus, a Robert H. Hoy III Distinguished Professor in Health Sciences and serves on several community and editorial boards.

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

What made you want to pursue nursing and academia?

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

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

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

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

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

What drew you to academia?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To what do you attribute your success?

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

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

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

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

What excites you about CU and the College of Nursing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lack of diversity in medical studies can cost lives

Two welcome guests
Lina Cheuy, chair of PDRD and chief communications officer for the Postdoc Association, and Jennifer Major, member of this year’s PDRD planning committee and next year’s PDRD chair, welcome guests with a smile.

Before the 1980s, doctors overlooked heart attacks in women, sending them home, often to die, instead of rendering life-saving treatment. More recently, young African-American athletes were misdiagnosed during routine physical exams as being at-risk for a deadly heart defect, with some players placed on dangerous medications or referred for invasive pacemaker implants they didn’t need.

Those are just two examples of how bias in medical research can have dire consequences, a message echoed throughout the ninth annual Postdoc Research Day (PDRD) on the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. Held this summer, the event’s theme was “Mosaic: Representing All Elements” and included postdoctoral researchers from the CU Denver, CU Anschutz and CU Boulder campuses and National Jewish Health.

Postdocs with congresswoman
Left to right: Matthew Davidson, PDRD planning committee member and government relations chair for Project Bridge Colorado; Leslie Herod, state representative for House District 8; Lisbet Finseth, Project Bridge Colorado member; and Erin Golden, vice president of the Postdoc Association and president of Project Bridge Colorado.

“The bottom line of our mission is to improve the health and well-being of Colorado and the world,” Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion Brenda J. Allen, PhD, told the audience gathered in Hensel Phelps West for the keynote address. Meeting that mission demands inclusion of people traditionally excluded in scientific endeavors, Allen said.

Postdoctoral researchers also snacked, networked and delivered more than 80 oral and poster presentations depicting their work. The day-long event, organized entirely by postdocs and one of the largest in the country, attracted more than 300 people, including State Rep. Leslie Herod, who attended for the second year in a row through the Project Bridge Liaison Program.

Who is at the table?

Women in STEM table
Jessica Ponder and Allison Porman of Women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) represented just one of many student groups that took part in PDRD.

“You are here to do impactful research,” said Mónica Feliú-Mójer, PhD, keynote speaker and scientist-turned-communicator focused on making her field more accessible. “You want to solve difficult medical problems.” To do that, she said, requires diverse and multidisciplinary teams. “You have to ask the question: Who is at the table?”

Non-diverse research lacks perspective, she said, using the effect heart-disease guidelines written by white men and based on white-male studies had on women as an example. Because of research, death from heart attack in men began a steep decline in the ‘80s. For women, a similar drop in death rates didn’t occur until after 2000, when research finding gender-specific differences began catching up with medicine.

“When research is not representative of the society we seek to serve, it limits who is benefiting,” said Feliú-Mójer, pointing to the life-altering misdiagnoses of young African-American athletes. The players, whose gene frequencies differ from their white counterparts, were erroneously told after a biased genetic test that they suffered from a heart defect that could kill them instantly on the court or field.

Both sides of the microscope

Noting that fewer than 13 percent of racial minorities make up the workforce in science and engineering, Feliú-Mójer said that diversity must increase on both sides of the microscope and include multiple identities and disciplines in order for meaningful research to occur.

A 2016 report by leading researchers argued that multidisciplinary work was becoming critical for addressing the biggest challenges facing biomedical sciences, Feliú-Mójer said. And studies show that more diverse research teams have increased productivity, innovation and paper citations, she said.

Both Allen and Feliú-Mójer emphasized that inclusion and diversity, which is more about numbers, are not the same thing. “Inclusion,” Allen said, “refers to ways that, no matter who you are, you feel valued and respected and have a sense of belonging.” Ensuring inclusivity in the research enterprise falls on everyone involved, Feliú-Mójer said. “We all have that responsibility,” she said. “It will be challenging, but it will be worth it.”

Highlighting innovation

PDRD was conceived by postdocs nine years ago to showcase their work on campus and its imprint on the community. Other highlights of the day included:

“I was tearing up a few times during his talk,” said Allison Porman, a postdoctoral fellow in the School of Medicine. “He’s had to deal with a lot from birth (when he nearly died and was abandoned by his biological parents in the hospital)  to now. But to see him present what he’s gone through and accomplished is really inspirational to me.”

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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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University of Colorado announces new dean to lead the College of Nursing

The University of Colorado Board of Regents approved the Sept. 1 appointment of Elias Provencio-Vasquez, RN, PhD, as the new dean of the CU College of Nursing at the Anschutz Medical Campus.

Elias Provencio-Vasquez, RN, PhD, new dean of the CU College of Nursing.
Elias Provencio-Vasquez, RN, PhD, new dean of the CU College of Nursing.

Provencio-Vasquez becomes the 11th dean and the second male dean in the history of the College, which is celebrating 120 years of educating nurses throughout Colorado. He is also the first Latino male to earn a doctorate in nursing and to head a nursing school in the U.S.

“We are thrilled that Dr. Provencio-Vasquez will be leading the College of Nursing,” said CU Anschutz Chancellor Don Elliman. “Not only is he a highly experienced nurse educator, eminent researcher and proven administrator, he’s the son of immigrants who was the first in his family to attend college. He is uniquely qualified to lead the College into the next phase of its history.”

Provencio-Vasquez got his start in the healthcare industry more than 40 years ago as a teenager organizing food trays in a Phoenix hospital. That experience helped inspire him to pursue a career in nursing. After receiving his associate’s and bachelor’s degrees, he went on to earn a doctorate.

“I know personally the power of education and appreciate the University of Colorado’s commitment to student access and diversity,” he said. “I never thought that having faculty or people that look like you would make a difference, but it does. If you see faculty whom you can identify with, that does make a difference.”

During his career, he has served as a clinical nurse, a nurse researcher, a nurse educator, school administrator, and a pediatric and neonatal nurse practitioner. He is internationally renowned for his pioneering work in neonatal and pediatric care and in women’s health. Provencio-Vasquez is also a Robert Wood Johnson Executive Nurse Fellow alumnus, a Robert H. Hoy III Distinguished Professor in Health Sciences and serves on several community and editorial boards.

Prior to his current position, Provencio-Vasquez served as dean of the nursing school at the University of Texas El Paso, associate dean at the University of Miami and director of the Neonatal Nurse Practitioner program at the University of Texas at Houston and the University of Maryland.

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Celebrating variety: First-ever Diversity Showcase packs Krugman Hall

Once they’d hung up their lab coats and pushed in their chairs, an impressive cross-section of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus came together after work recently, filling the Krugman Conference Hall in what organizers called a dynamic show of dedication and celebration.

Visitors to the first-ever Chancellor’s Diversity Showcase on April 23 were greeted by upward of 30 booths displaying a variety of endeavors to foster inclusivity and enhance diversity within the university. Topics ranged from redacting practices in hiring to lactation needs on campus, and the audience teemed with everyone from deans to students.

Allen welcomes crowd
Brenda J. Allen, PhD, welcomes the large turnout for the first Chancellor’s Diversity Showcase on campus.

“I believe we exceeded our goals,” said Brenda J. Allen, PhD, vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion for both the CU Anschutz and CU Denver campuses. “Not only were there a lot of people packing both the interior and exterior of Krugman Hall, but the energy was so positive, and I saw so many different kinds of people interacting with one another.” Allen suspects the success will lead to an annual event.

Three aims, three checkmarks

Students at showcase
Many student organizations joined in the Diversity Showcase, including CU-SNPhA, an educational and service group that strives to improve health in underserved communities.

The goals of the event were three-fold. “One was to exhibit and celebrate the rich variety of programs, initiatives and projects that we are engaged in at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus to accomplish our diversity and inclusion goals,” Allen said.

All of the major schools and colleges at CU Anschutz were represented in the showcase, along with numerous organizations, from the Community-Campus Partnership to the Center for Women’s Health Research. Every category in the university’s framework for diversity was also embodied in some way, including race, ethnicity, gender, nationality, religion, ability, sexual orientation and veteran and socioeconomic status.


“It’s important to foster and develop empathy and sympathy for other people, because that’s what is going to make the world a more diverse and inclusive place.” – Amanda Beyer-Purvis, Anschutz Inclusivity Alliance

“We’ve gone from having about 20 percent diversity in our student population to 56 percent for this year’s entering class. And last year’s class was 63 percent women, which was a high for us. It’s just a very diverse class in the truest sense.” – Kenneth Durgans, School of Dental Medicine

“We do have a booth at recruitment where we advertise our resources for the LGBT community. We are also in the orientation materials, so we do let students know we are a safe place.” – Claire Gillette, PRISM Gay-Straight Alliance

“We are all about population health, so we have to be in the community eliminating population disparities and advancing equity. That’s what we are trying to do.” – Cerise Hunt, Colorado School of Public Health

“Another goal was to encourage interaction among the persons who are engaged in this work,” an aim seemingly met by the incessant buzz of voices among the 200-plus gatherers. “There were such a rich variety of the roles that represent our campus,” Allen said. “I was especially excited to see students interacting with each other in the section reserved for student groups that focus on diversity.”

Elliman at microphone
Chancellor Don Elliman takes part in an open-comment videotaping.

A third objective – to illuminate areas of possibility and encourage synergy and collaboration – was fueled by “idea walls,” which gathered a number of Post-its, and an opportunity to be videotaped, open to all participants for expressing experiences and thoughts surrounding diversity on campus. Both activities’ responses will become a part of a permanent webpage inspired by the event, Allen said.

A beginning, not an end

Looking out at the rows of booths lining the conference-room walls and stretching beyond the doors, Chancellor Don Elliman also indicated Allen’s team’s mission was accomplished. But it remains just a harbinger of what needs to come, he said.

“I had no idea that we would end up with what we have in front of us today: A graphic illustration of what we are trying to accomplish on this campus,” Elliman said. “I dearly wish that we didn’t have to have it. I wish that we were at a place today where people didn’t care what you looked like, what you thought, what your race or religion was,” he said.

Noting that he was inspired by the level of activity and the genuine enthusiasm in the room, Elliman said it was a great start. “But it’s by no means a finish line. I encourage you all to keep pushing.”

A push-start to more

Inclusivity booth
Participants have some fun at the Anschutz Inclusivity Alliance booth.

Much of the information shared by exhibitors and others will be posted on the new website, Allen said. “It will become one go-to place for people to have some sense of what’s going on at CU Anschutz in terms of diversity and inclusion.”

Many of the idea notes requested more training, particularly implicit bias programs, Allen said. And quite a few were centered on improved hiring and recruitment practices for diversifying faculty, student and staff populations. Allen, who said many people have asked her if she would organize a showcase again, assured that all suggestions would be taken seriously.

“It’s my mantra that we have to be systemic, strategic and sustainable in our efforts,” she said. “There is no magic pill or re-set button. It has to be something that really becomes part of who we are, embedded in our culture, and this type of event is a way to encourage and model that while also seeking guidance from those who care about these issues about what else we can do.”

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Bioengineering student overcomes learning disability to thrive academically

A simple goal motivates Kyle Adrian Kenyon: make his community healthier, smarter and more engaged. Kenyon, a bioengineering student, is a dynamo of academic and athletic activism – he mentors fellow students as well as youth soccer players – all while dealing with a host of personal challenges.

Kenyon struggled with test-taking anxiety while he earned bachelor’s degrees in biomedical engineering and molecular & cellular biology at the University of Arizona. However, it wasn’t until he arrived at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus as a bioengineering graduate student that he discovered he had a significant learning disability.

“I came here without knowing anyone and, working with Sherry (Holden) and Selim (Ozi) in Disability Resources and Services, I found out I’m dyslexic; I have a reading and writing learning disability,” Kenyon said. “Once diagnosed, I received accommodations and was able to demonstrate my knowledge.” Holden also referred Kenyon to Dominic Martinez, senior director of the CU Anschutz Office of Inclusion and Outreach, to assist him in the application process to the CU School of Medicine (SOM).

‘Finally know what a 4.0 feels like’

The diagnosis gave Kenyon a new perspective on some of his past challenges while opening the door to greater academic success. “I finally know what it feels like to get a 4.0 (GPA),” he said with a smile.

Kenyon is quick to credit others, specifically campus support services, for his achievements. With Martinez’s help, Kenyon, who expects to graduate with a master’s in bioengineering in spring 2017, is applying for the Medical Scientist Training Program in the SOM. “I’d like to combine the clinical, engineering and scientific research fields to be essentially a translational physician, doing bench-to-bedside work.”

Colorado Rapids youth outreach
Bioengineering student Kyle Adrian Kenyon is a youth coach and an organizer of Colorado Rapids outreach programs at schools in Denver and Aurora.

Performing a broad assortment of work suits Kenyon well. Besides being a full-time student, he works part-time as both a youth coach and organizer of Colorado Rapids outreach programs at schools in Aurora and Denver. Just as the Rapids professional club is on a roll this season – the team has advanced in the Major League Soccer playoffs – the club’s nonprofit youth-program arm provides after-school exercise for thousands of kids.

“We’re discussing the possibility of doing a public health study, related to the potential benefits of after-school exercise for kids, in collaboration with Elaine Belansky, PhD,” Kenyon said. Belansky is an associate professor in the Colorado School of Public Health (ColoradoSPH).

Also, the after-school programs, called Soccer for Success, have shown to help keep kids engaged in school, Kenyon said.

“What I like about the Rapids is the element of trying to make the community better,” he said. He’d like to expand his youth soccer work, as he sees “really big potential” in the development of a relationship with the ColoradoSPH at CU Anschutz.

Kenyon played soccer throughout his childhood and at the intramural level in college. He can be seen wearing his Colorado Rapids training jacket around campus.

Kyle Kenyon at CU Anschutz
Kyle Adrian Kenyon is active in both sports — he works part time for the Rapids youth division — and academics. He serves as vice president of the Biomedical Engineering Society, which encompasses students at CU Anschutz and CU Denver.

On the academic front, Kenyon is vice president of the Biomedical Engineering Society, which encompasses students at CU Anschutz and CU Denver. The group holds “pitch nights” where faculty from both campuses explain research projects with the hope of engaging student workers in their labs.

‘Like to build relationships’

In the future, Kenyon would like to hold “Engineering Clinics” where students in the Bioengineering Department (College of Engineering and Applied Science) offer basic engineering tutorials at area middle and high schools. “I like to build relationships and create things that help a great many people, all the while using my skills and knowledge in the most effective manner,” he said.

In just his second semester in the bioengineering graduate program, Kenyon saw his GPA vault to 3.9 (from 3.3). “There’s tangible improvement,” he said. “It’s been helped by those offices (Disability Resources and Inclusion and Outreach), and my new understanding of where my strengths and weaknesses are.”

Martinez said Kenyon has been an impressive mentor to undergraduate pre-health students on both campuses. For example, Kenyon used Microsoft Excel software to develop a GPA calculator that helps students track their progress while preparing for medical school and other graduate-level programs.

Martinez has been able to relate to Kenyon on many levels, including the dyslexia. “I had the same issue; I didn’t find out until graduate school that I was dyslexic,” he said. “The thing about Kyle is he’s risen to the occasion, and he doesn’t make excuses about it. He continues to move forward to be a better student and just to be a better person.”

Kenyon’s strong sense of empathy, balanced with a curious and analytic mind, is a prized characteristic in today’s sometimes impersonal world. His outgoing personality allows him to pivot with ease between a scientific environment – doing research in a lab – and various “soft skill” settings, such as communicating on the soccer field, in the classroom and in the lab.

“I feel I’ve been on a long, meaningful road,” he said. “It’s made me very flexible. Because of the struggles in my life, I feel I can understand and relate to people in many meaningful ways.”

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Student says CU at top of dental schools

By age 26, Brandon Powell was living the life he’d always envisioned for himself.

For four years, the 6-foot-3 point guard had been jetting around Europe, climbing the ranks of professional basketball teams in Germany and Austria. He got to travel to exciting places, play in front of adoring fans, and earn a decent living via a sport he’d loved since age 5. But one day on the court he began to feel a twinge of dissatisfaction. “I realized there is something more to me than just putting a ball in the hoop,” recalls Powell. “I wanted to give something back to my community.”

Brandon Powell
Brandon Powell

Five years later, at age 31, Powell is immersed in his second year at the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine, an institution he chose from an illustrious pool of offers for two main reasons: Its location, at a state-of-the art new medical campus rich with opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration; and its array of new initiatives aimed at boosting student diversity.

“I interviewed at some of the top dental schools in the country and would say the resources we have here are bar-none the best. No one can compete with this.”

Long path to dental school

Powell’s long path to dental school was neither easy nor conventional. With a father in the Air Force, he moved from Ohio to Alabama to Japan to Colorado as a kid, shooting hoops everywhere he went in hopes of someday getting a basketball scholarship. He did, at Loyola University in New Orleans. But he didn’t stop there. “I’m one of the few who can say he went to five colleges in five years,” jokes Powell. His college basketball career led him to schools in Louisiana, Kentucky, Colorado, and finally Missouri Baptist University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

After a stint playing exhibition ball in Las Vegas, he was off to Europe. Just hours after he stepped off the train in Graz, Austria, his prospective coach pitted him against another American player for a game of one-on-one. The winner got the job. He won. “People always glamorize professional sports but in reality they can be extremely cutthroat,” he recalls.

After four years, Powell had had enough. He returned to the states and – at the urging of a childhood friend who was a dentist – set his sights on dental school. But he had serious doubts. “I started to wonder ‘Am I too old? Have I wasted all this time playing basketball? Can I actually succeed in this?’” he recalls. “But I soon realized that my obsession with being the hardest-working, most-dedicated athlete could transfer straight into being a competitive student.”

A unique opportunity at CU

Powell spent two years completing science prerequisites at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs, and commuted to the CU Anschutz Medical Campus on Saturdays and every day during summer to participate in the Undergraduate Pre-Health Program. (The 13-month program aims to increase the number of underrepresented individuals in healthcare, by exposing undergraduate college students to courses, mentors, and internships on the campus.) When it was time to apply to dental school, Powell applied to Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Connecticut, and CU. With stellar grades and an impressive extracurricular portfolio he got into all four. But at CU he saw a unique opportunity.

“I felt like CU was moving in an exciting new direction in terms of diversity, and I really wanted to be a part of that movement.”

‘A role model for others’

In 2015, the School of Dental Medicine hired Kenneth Durgans, Ed.D., as its first-ever dedicated Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion. The school has also increased financial aid offerings for people with diverse backgrounds, ramped up outreach and recruitment from historically underrepresented regions, and boosted multicultural education of faculty members. In fall of 2016, 31 percent of incoming students were from diverse backgrounds and the school has doubled the number of diverse students coming in for interviews.

“The research is clear: It is imperative to the healthcare of the entire community that we have providers from diverse backgrounds,” says Durgans, noting that patients often feel more comfortable going to dentists who look like them, and young people interested in dentistry as a career can benefit from having mentors who share a cultural background. “Brandon is the kind of student we like to brag about. Once he gets out there and starts serving the community, he will be an important role model for others.”

Powell says he’s not sure quite when that day will come. He could be a practicing dentist after four years of school. But he’s strongly considering staying on to specialize in maxillofacial surgery, which would enable him to help patients who have been disfigured by trauma or cancer. His advice to others considering a career in dentistry? Use the strength you’ve gained from whatever you’ve been doing and use it to hunker down and work hard.

“It’s a serious commitment, but if you go after it relentlessly and stick with it, you have a great shot at success.”

Guest contributor: Lisa Marshall

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