“We have a tremendous story to tell: one of groundbreaking research, world-class faculty educating a talented student body, excellent clinical care and a bold vision for the future,” said CU Anschutz Chancellor Don Elliman Jr. “I am delighted to announce that today, with the appointment of Kathy Green as our new chief communications officer, we are one step closer to telling that story to the world.”
Green brings decades of experience in multi-disciplinary marketing and communications along with strategic planning and partnership development to the new job.
As communications director for Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, she handled media relations, strategic planning and successfully redesigned and rebuilt the office’s communications division, increasing national rankings on social media, boosting citizen engagement and increasing media exposure.
“Kathy’s consistent grace, wit and intelligence, which had such a positive effect on everybody at the governor’s office, will undoubtedly serve CU Anschutz well,” said Governor Hickenlooper. “It’s great to see someone so talented join an institution that’s doing so much to improve health throughout Colorado.”
Prior to her work in the governor’s office, Green served as strategic marketing and communications director for the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. Before that, she was communications director for various agencies within the City and County of Denver. She also worked in advertising and public relations and started her career with University Hospital in Chicago. Green is currently a communications consultant.
“I’m thrilled to be joining the CU Anschutz team and the dynamic campus at a time of tremendous growth in everything from medical advancements to philanthropic support,” said Green. “The campus continues to gain momentum, and I will focus on sharing this story locally, national and globally.”
Chancellor Elliman noted that with its ground-breaking research, strong enrollment and increasing innovation, CU Anschutz is making major strides in all the right directions.
“Kathy is the right person at the right time to help our growing campus continue to build its reputation, brand and visibility as a leading academic medical center: where anyone who needs it can get the finest care in the world, where the science of that care is being pushed to new horizons, and where we train and prepare the health workforce of the future,” he said.
Green will join CU Anschutz on July 16 in a part-time role while finishing work with her current clients. She will begin full-time on Sept. 1.
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.
“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
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.
IN THEIR WORDS:
“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.”
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
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.”
The Centers for Disease Control’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended new treatment practices Wednesday for shingles based on a vaccine initially developed at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, now the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.
Paul Tabor, Associate Director of CU Innovations at the University of Colorado Anschutz, said, “The Shingrix vaccine is an important advance in the prevention of a very painful disease that affects millions of people each year and disproportionally impacts patients over 50 years old.”
Shingrix received approval by The Food and Drug Administration last week and is the second vaccine approved to prevent Shingles. The existing drug treatment, Zostavax, also was developed at the University of Colorado and has been prescribed in the US since 2006.
According to the CDC, one in three people in the US will contract shingles during their lifetime. Shingles is caused by the Varicella Zoster virus, which also causes chicken pox. It presents as a painful, itchy rash that is particularly debilitating for the elderly and people with weak immune systems. It causes blisters that last for several weeks and cause shooting, burning pain.
The virus remains latent in the body, even if contracted as chicken pox in youth, to present as shingles later in life.
“We are proud that this breakthrough was initially discovered and developed at the University of Colorado,” said Kimberly Muller, Managing Director of CU Innovations. “It is a powerful example of how CU, CU Innovations and its partners translate cutting-edge research into products that significantly improve lives.”
Shingrix is a recombinant plasmid vaccine based upon a truncated Varicella-Zoster virus glycoprotein which is effective at immunizing humans against shingles. It stimulates an immune response that can be more powerful and longer lasting than current therapies. The technology was developed by former CU professor of neurology and microbiology Abbas Vafai in the 1980s.
“It was a long road to get here, but the obstacle was because it is a unique vaccine,” Vafai said. “The vaccine involves single-gene genetic engineering. The vaccine contains a single viral protein purified in the lab – not the whole virus.”
The CU Board of Regents was granted two patents related to Shingrix, both now assigned to a commercial partner.
Don Elliman, Chancellor of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, said, “The CU Anschutz Medical Campus has a history of rigorous research and innovation, as the development of these vaccines illustrates. The pace of these innovations is only quickening. Last year alone, more than 20 patents were granted, six more start-up companies were formed and invention disclosures increased by 125%. We’re continuing the CU Anschutz tradition of translating research into practice, leading to important discoveries that improve lives.”
Speaking to a very full house at this year’s State of the Campus address, CU Anschutz Chancellor Don Elliman shared his unwavering vision for the university: “to be the place where anyone who needs it can find the finest medical care in the world; where the science of that care is being pushed to new horizons and where the health care workforce of our future is being trained.”
About 250 faculty, staff and students came to the Hensel Phelps West Auditorium in the Research 1 North Building Wednesday afternoon to hear Elliman discuss university progress, strategies and goals. He began his speech with a memory of the 2016 CU Anschutz State of the Campus address, which took place one week before the U.S. presidential election.
“I think it’s fair to say that the last nine months have brought the potential for some very challenging changes in health research and health care,” he said. “With national uncertainty as a caveat though, the headline on the state of our campus and our institutions is that we are in good shape and growing stronger all the time.”
As a testament to the university’s ever-expanding and improving clinical care offerings, Elliman cited several U.S. News & World Report rankings, including University of Colorado Hospital rising five spots to No. 15 and the CU School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics achieving top 10 standing in five specialties.
“As we strive to be the best, these rankings need to continue to rise. What makes it happen is very simple: the recruitment and retention of great faculty. That is you.”
2. Boost NIH funding
Total research sponsorship funding at CU Anschutz increased by 8 percent last year to just over $490 million. About 42 percent of that total – 4 percent more than last year – came from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
“I believe our focus needs to be on increasing that stream. Most pundits opine that the number of serious players among academic medical centers in research is bound to decline. We have to be one of the winners.”
3. Diversify the university research portfolio
He was there:
“I’m pleased to hear that the campus is making an economic impact. It’s also good to see that
some grass roots initiatives now seem to be coming from the top down.”
Ryan Holland, Director of PreAward and Contracting Services
More than 200 companies from around the world have applied to come to this campus and engage in university partnerships that lead to diverse research and innovation projects. Elliman praised the recently established CU Innovations team for helping make this possible. To accommodate this increase in research enterprise initiatives, the Fitzsimons Redevelopment Authority Board approved the plan and design of a 120,000-square-foot Bioscience 3 Building – construction should begin in spring 2018.
“We are seeing success in research diversity with growing industry funding and clinical trial revenues. Invention disclosures and patent applications are both growing … We’ve become a test bed for commercial innovations.”
The university has commissioned a study to catalogue its activity in the area of mental and behavioral health to help connect clinicians and researchers in the field.
“I believe we have an obligation, because of our mission, to up our game in the area of mental health. We have done just that.”
5. Expand health care workforce training
The College of Nursing has expanded its psychiatric nursing education program. Project ECHO received a new $3 million grant to continue its specialty education for physicians, nurses and other providers. And the university has, for the first time, convened a team to explore more possibilities for digital education.
“We have an obligation, I believe, to try to enhance our capacity to educate the health care work force at all levels.”
6. Enhance marketing efforts
Elliman celebrated the press coverage generated within schools and colleges and the work of the Office of Advancement to inform donors of faculty accomplishments. He gave a promise to do more work to tell the university’s story to the world.
“Although much work has been done on developing an overarching message, we have not yet been able to bring that to fruition, and as such, we remain one of the better kept secrets in the region.”
7. Leverage co-location of schools and colleges with hospitals
She was there:
“Mr. Elliman brought good energy to the address. I like the message of trying to bridge the silos, and I think it’s exciting to hear the news of CU Anschutz building our own identity.”
Natalie Buys, Grants and Contracts Manager, Department of Family Medicine
While acknowledging efforts in this area, Elliman said we could take better advantage of the co-location of six schools and two hospital systems on one campus. The common success of CU Anschutz, UCHealth and Children’s Hospital Colorado depends on breaking down silos, building bridges, sharing information and nurturing the cross-pollination of ideas, he said.
“I would assess that, in spite of occasional and sometimes strong differences of opinion, those relationships are now either as good as or better than they have been in a long time, perhaps ever … [but] I can’t tell you how many times I hear the expression from faculty that goes something like, ‘I had no idea we were doing that.’”
8. Become more risk-tolerant
Elliman noted that he has signed more indemnification waivers in the last 12 months than he believes the university has ever granted before – and got a hearty laugh from the audience.
“The projects were all judged to be worth it on the risk/benefit ratio, and I am glad the regents delegated the authority to us.”
“I think it is clear that each school and college is establishing and pursuing its own priorities.”
The driving forces behind this strategic work, Elliman said, include clinical revenue, partnerships, innovation, philanthropy and technology.
“Our foot needs to stay on the accelerator,” he said.
From the details of the nine strategies, he moved on to updates on campus infrastructure and space, which include:
Aimco’s plans for a new hotel and food market near Fitzsimons Apartment Homes;
Approval for the university to plan the new $240 million home of the Colorado Center for Personalized Medicine just west of the Research 2 Building;
300 new parking permits issued in the past year; and
University plans for a new parking garage north of the Research 2 Building.
In light of the need for more space on campus, Elliman displayed a photograph of a construction crane and called it the “campus mascot.” Audience members laughed out loud.
Then, he addressed the matter of the university identity and announced plans for CU Anschutz to establish its own website URL, independent of CU Denver.
“I think identity is important, and we need our own: CU Anschutz,” he said. “We do not have a plan today that will get us there, but we will make one.”
Elliman concluded the address with praise and gratitude for the people at CU Anschutz.
“We are built on one simple ingredient: talent,” he said. “The quality of the faculty and staff are both the key to our success and the key to our future. You got us to where we are today. I hope you are as excited as I am, even given the challenges, of where we can be tomorrow.”
“Both campuses have important missions, but those missions are very different, and so is each campus’s business infrastructure,” he said. “At CU Anschutz, we need our own identity, and I promise that will happen.”
Another attendee raised a question about the growing need for vivarium space on campus. Elliman said a portion of the basement in the new building to be built next year has been earmarked for this purpose.
Continuing on the topic of campus space, the final questioner asked about plans for maintaining historic Building 500. The university has spent $8 million in the last two years on Building 500 renovations and has committed to renovating additional floors, as well, Elliman replied.
“It’s cheaper to build new than to renovate,” he said. “We know the need for more space exists, and we want to try to make better use of the space we have.”
Matt Vogl pays attention to swings. He’s a baseball fan, so he follows batters at the plate, especially his beloved St. Louis Cardinals. But his greater passion is seeing swings in behavioral health, especially those that move people toward happier, more productive lives.
Vogl knows that if not for one such serendipitous swing – a neighbor stepping in and transforming his own thoughts from utter despair to something approaching hope – he wouldn’t be here today. Now he stands on the cusp of the most satisfying opportunity of his career: Vogl, MPH, is executive director of the new National Behavioral Health Innovation Center (NBHIC) at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.
The center will harness behavioral health assets that currently exist in Colorado and across the country to help implement innovative programs for schools, workplaces, courts, health care facilities, and anywhere else they’re needed.
The National Behavioral Health Innovation Center recently opened on the second floor of the University Physicians building at CU Anschutz.
The NBHIC will operate out of the Office of the Chancellor. “This center will bring together behavioral health experts and community resources to produce new strategies that advance care in Colorado and across the nation,” said CU Anschutz Chancellor Don Elliman. “With the generous support of The Anschutz Foundation, the expertise available at CU Anschutz, and Matt Vogl’s vision and leadership, the National Behavioral Health Innovation Center will help implement innovative behavioral health programs wherever they’re needed in our society.”
Vogl said the field is set for something big, possibly a home run or two, to advance behavioral health. Although Colorado has struggled with mental health issues – occasional mass shootings, a high suicide rate and the nation’s lowest psychiatric bed capacity – the state now aims to lead in mental health services, he said. A few recent swings in momentum:
The State Innovation Model, which touches every aspect of the state’s health system, including mental health.
John Hickenlooper’s award of $18 million for crisis centers and a statewide crisis line.
A state Suicide Prevention Board, relatively uncommon nationally.
And now the NBHIC, which occupies 4,000 square feet on the second floor of University Physicians, Inc., 13199 E. Montview Blvd.
The center was made possible through a $10 million investment from The Anschutz Foundation. “When we met with The Anschutz Foundation, we said we wanted to be known as the state where innovation happens, where solutions are found,” Vogl said. “We plan to engage people across the spectrum of society.”
‘I wasn’t getting treatment’
Matt Vogl is executive director of the National Behavioral Health Innovation Center.
When Vogl moves to the new state-of-the-art space, a floor below the Helen and Arthur E. Johnson Depression Center, where he worked since 2008 (becoming deputy director in 2010), he plans to prominently display a bat signed by Jimmy Piersall, a Major League centerfielder in the 1950s and ‘60s. Piersall is a kindred spirit – he loves baseball and he has bipolar disorder.
Vogl nearly succumbed to his mental illness 13 years ago. He was headed to the basement to end his life when a neighbor, who had received training in suicide prevention, noticed his distressed condition as he got out of his car. She asked about his state of mind, then inquired if he’d been contemplating suicide. The floodgates opened.
“I came this close to dying from suicide (he shows a tiny space between thumb and forefinger) when my oldest son was a newborn. I wasn’t taking care of myself, wasn’t getting treatment. I sort of ignored it,” he said. “Now, I’m really fueled by my passion for mental behavioral services.”
Since that fateful day, Vogl has been treated and his condition is under control. Driving his desire for advancements in mental health are his two sons; he’s well aware that bipolar disorder has a genetic component. “If I can do the work now and make life a little easier for them if they develop (bipolar disorder), maybe they’ll come into a world where there’s less stigma and treatments are better,” he said. “And then they don’t have to get to a point like I did before they decide to take care of it.”
Vogl said it’s easy for people to keep their conditions hidden, which only reinforces the stigma around mental illness. That’s partly why he is open about his own condition. “Unless we come forward and show how we are taking care of ourselves,” he said, “how will people know what better looks like, or if better is even possible?”
‘All hands on deck’
One of Vogl’s favorite movie scenes comes from “Apollo 13” where the astronauts must quickly improvise, using the limited resources they have on hand, to fix CO2 scrubbers in the lunar module. Similarly, he said, today’s climate of lean resources makes it imperative to use what is currently available and build from it.
The new National Behavioral Health Innovation Center features plentiful meeting space.
Mental health issues cost the U.S. economy $210 billion a year (Journal of Clinical Psychiatry) and are one of the main drivers of health care expenses for employers. Improving integrated health care, facilitating mental health court programs (similar to drug courts), and training the next generation of professionals to be aware of mental health issues are just a few of the collaborative projects that NBHIC will advance.
“Why not take advantage of the fact we work for the largest university system in the state?” said Vogl, noting that instruction on behavioral health could be integrated across many disciplines. “And why stop there? Let’s engage other universities and get other schools to integrate mental health education into their curriculums. Let’s make this the norm. If we’re going to have an impact and solve this stuff, it’s all hands on deck.”
The NBHIC will be a national focal point where ideas will be exchanged with an eye toward getting effective projects off the ground quickly, Vogl said. The initial grant will fund the NBHIC through its first five years; after that, the center is committed to being self-sustainable.
“The goal for our shop is to develop real solutions that are up and running in the community to impact people’s lives,” he added.
‘What a gift’
Vogl said Anschutz Foundation resources, strong support from the chancellor and a “dream team of thinkers” are combining to, quite literally, load the bases.
Toss in his personal passion for behavioral health, and the NBHIC appears ready to take on one of the nation’s most pressing health concerns.
“It’s hands-down the most exciting thing I’ve ever done professionally – and terrifying all at once,” Vogl said. “You don’t get a lot of opportunities like this in life, so I’m keenly aware of what a gift this is. And that’s going to help me ensure that I’m successful.”