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NAFSA: The world comes to Denver

International education at the University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus took center stage in early June as 10,000 professionals poured into Denver for the NAFSA: Association of International Educators conference.

NAFSA last brought its annual conference to the Mile High City about 20 years ago, said Cecile Schoberle, director of marketing and communications, Office of International Affairs at CU Denver | Anschutz, so this was a major event and CU Denver | Anschutz took full advantage.

“It’s the biggest international educators conference of its kind in the world, and what better way to introduce them to Denver than to have this annual conference here,” Schoberle said of the week-long conference. “It’s tremendous having all these people – from Albania to Zimbabwe and everywhere else around the globe and the U.S. – in our backyard getting to see the beautiful CU Denver campus and learn about our many international education programs.”

The educators exchanged program information and ideas at the Colorado Convention Center (CCC), but also enjoyed several campus tours of nearby CU Denver, as well as an international film festival at the College of Arts & Media Community Theater in the Tivoli Student Union.

Sessions on inclusion, health, business

They also enjoyed these presentations at the CCC by our experts:

  • “Inclusion and Impact: Collaboration Between U.S. Diversity and International Offices” by John Sunnygard, executive director of CU Denver’s Office of International Affairs; and Brenda Allen, PhD, vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion, at the University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus.
  • “Managing International Risk: A Collaborative Approach” by Alana Jones, deputy director, Office of International Affairs, CU Denver International Education; Essi Ellis, emergency manager, University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus; Faith Perry, director, university risk management, University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus; and Chris Puckett, associate university counsel, University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus.
Madhavan Parthasarathy at CU Denver

Madhavan Parthasarathy, director of the CU Denver Business School’s entrepreneurship program and the Jake Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship, talks about high-impact global learning experiences at a CU Denver-hosted NAFSA global learning colloquia.

During the week, the Terrace Room at CU Denver’s Lawrence Street Center filled with scores of attendees for NAFSA Global Learning Colloquia on “Business Education: Strategic Partnerships for Student Global Learning” and “Health Professions: High-Impact Global Learning Experiences & Curricular Design.”

The health professions colloquia featured Madiha Abdel-Maksoud, MD, PhD, assistant professor of epidemiology and director of the Master of Public Health-Global Public Health Programs, Colorado School of Public Health; and Kari Franson, PharmD, PhD, associate dean for professional education, CU Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

The business education forum featured Madhavan Parthasarathy, PhD, director of the entrepreneurship program and the Jake Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship, and Manuel Serapio, PhD, faculty director of the Institute for International Business and the Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER).

CU Denver hosts one of 17 national CIBERS

Timothy Duvall, PhD, senior program officer for international and foreign language education, U.S. Department of Education, introduced the forum, highlighting the way the U.S. Department of Education is able to respond to security and economic challenges through programs that build capacity and expertise. One way is through the CIBER network of 17 universities – CU Denver is among that elite group, and the only CIBER in Colorado – that launch initiatives to increase U.S. global competitiveness.

In the panel discussion about “Strategic Partnerships for Student Global Learning,” Parthasarathy and Serapio explained how entrepreneurial and CIBER programs are strengthening collaborations in the community, especially at community colleges and minority-serving institutions, as well as increasing student global learning and research.

Heart of ‘entrepreneurial ecosystem’

“Just like Stanford University is at the heart of Silicon Valley, the Denver entrepreneurial ecosystem has at its heart the CU Denver Business School and the Jake Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship,” Parthasarathy said. He gave examples of how the center and the Business School are opening international education doors to both CU Denver students and community college students, including through a Certificate in Entrepreneurship with an International Entrepreneurship Badge.

Serapio explained how the Business School is working with the Community College of Denver to embed a cross-cultural business badge within CCD’s Introduction to Business course.

Lloyd Lewan, EdD, former chairman of Lewan & Associates and dean emeritus of Semester at Sea, delivered the session’s keynote on “To Be a Leader.” Lewan spoke about the importance of educating future leaders for the reality of global interdependence.

In addition, during the conference CU Denver’s Office of Global Education received an award for its work on Generation Study Abroad and the launch of a new study abroad program. The award was presented at an Institute of International Education breakfast reception.

Brittany Dunnigan of the CU Denver Business School contributed to this report.

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Research supports global switch to new polio vaccine strategy

A groundbreaking study released today shows that a single injectable dose of inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) along with bivalent oral polio vaccine could protect up to 90 percent of children from polio and strengthen community protection against the disease. The research, published in the latest edition of The Lancet, provides the evidence behind the worldwide switch to a new polio vaccine strategy by demonstrating that new schedules of the injectable vaccine with the bivalent oral vaccine protects kids much faster and is safer than oral vaccine alone.

“Although we are closer than ever in our fight to eradicate polio from the globe, there are still challenges in Pakistan and Afghanistan, especially in the war-torn or politically unstable areas of these countries,” said Dr. Edwin Asturias, lead researcher of the study at the Center for Global Health at the Colorado School of Public Health, and pediatric infectious disease physician at Children’s Hospital Colorado. “The study provides the scientific evidence for the recent switch to using a two-component (bivalent) oral polio vaccine and IPV in the worldwide effort to eradicate polio within the next year.”

This video of Dr. Asturias details the study’s findings.

Up until now, most low- and middle-income countries used only three-component (trivalent) oral polio vaccines given over multiple months and years. While extremely effective, poor health and sanitation have meant that many children needed multiple doses to achieve the necessary protection. The type 2 component in the trivalent oral vaccine has also been the source of most of the rare outbreaks of vaccine-derived polio, particularly in areas of poor immunization coverage.

Since the type 2 wild polio hasn’t been reported anywhere since 1999, all OPV-using countries switched to the bivalent oral polio vaccine, which doesn’t include the type 2 component, in April 2016. The bivalent form will be coupled with at least one dose of IPV in the primary immunization series, providing stronger and faster protection to children.

As long as polio remains endemic in any part of the world, the risk of importing the virus continues, particularly in countries with weak or inconsistent immunization programs and/or travel and trade connections to these countries,” added Dr. Asturias. “Making a single injectable vaccine available especially in these countries will accelerate the worldwide eradication of the crippling disease.”

The study, sponsored by FIDEC (Fighting Infectious Disease in Emerging Countries), and conducted over 12 months on more than 1,400 subjects in Guatemala, Colombia, Panama and the Dominican Republic, was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and was a collaboration among key stakeholders of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, including the CDC and several other globally-renowned public health experts. “The data from this study will strengthen the clinical evidence base on polio eradication endgame vaccination strategies,” said Dr. Ananda S. Bandyopadhyay, Senior Program Officer at the Gates Foundation and a co-author of The Lancet article.

The study has implications for routine immunization today, as well as polio outbreak response strategies in the future. It also confirms the importance of the polio vaccine switch strategy and the feasibility of achieving and sustaining a polio-free world.


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CU Anschutz and Regis University academics behind new patient care law

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bennet-Woods agreed.

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

But the law is only the beginning.

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



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Obese and anorexic individuals react differently to taste

Researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus have discovered that women suffering from anorexia nervosa and those who are obese respond differently to taste, a finding that could lead to new treatments for the eating disorders. 


“Taste is an important driver of food intake and invariably associated with distinct neuronal patters in the insula, the brain’s primary taste cortex,” said the study’s lead author Guido Frank, MD, a psychiatrist and associate professor at the CU School of Medicine.  


The study was recently published online in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.

Guido Frank, MD, associate professor of medicine and psychiatrist at the CU School of Medicine.


Frank and his team set out to find if abnormal eating patterns were associated with changes in the insula’s ability to classify taste stimuli. 


Some 106 women of similar age underwent brain imaging while tasting sugar water or a tasteless water solution. Researchers studied how well the insula could differentiate between the flavors.  


Individuals with anorexia nervosa or those who were obese, had difficulty distinguishing between ordinary water and sugar water, compared to control subjects and those who had recovered from anorexia nervosa.


“If you can’t differentiate between tastes, that could impact how much you eat,” Frank said. “That could also activate or not activate brain reward circuits.” 


These changes, he said, could occur on a variety of levels. For example, leptin and other hormones are altered in obesity and eating disorders, affecting how the brain responds to food. At the same time, the reduced ability of the insula to classify taste could be due to structural changes within this brain region or alternatively could result in altered taste signal processing in different pathways to the insula.


Research indicates that these problems diminish once a person reaches a healthy weight.


While more research is needed, Frank said one possible treatment could be to alter the taste of food. 


“Perhaps adjusting flavor intensity by reducing it for those with anorexia and enhancing it for those who are obese,” he said. “It’s something we need to examine more closely.” 

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The University of Colorado Anschutz Department of Orthopedics Becomes the Title Sponsor and Exclusive Healthcare Partner of the Colorado Storm Soccer Association

The Department of Orthopedics at the CU School of Medicine, in partnership with UCHealth, has become the title sponsor of the competitive Colorado Storm Soccer Association (CSSA). Colorado Storm is one of the oldest and largest soccer organizations in Colorado. Since its inception in 1967, Colorado Storm has coordinated soccer programs for girls and boys ages 3 through 18 within four regional clubs along the Front Range, processing more than 80,000 applications for both recreational and competitive programs.

This partnership comes at an ideal time as the Department of Orthopedics is experiencing a high rate of growth.“Adding this partnership to our portfolio positions the orthopedics department for a high level of exposure in the southern market and we look forward to strategically growing this relationship with Colorado Storm over the next five years”, said David Kaplan, Orthopedics Department Finance Administrator.

CU Orthopedics will provide an athletic trainer for side-line care to all Colorado Storm competitive teams. There are a number of benefits to having a fully integrated on-site trainer. Athletes will receive top-notch clinical oversight similar to a collegiate program. Colorado Storm athletes will receive faster intervention of injury during play, continuity of care from the moment of injury and access to the highly specialized providers from the CU Department of Orthopedics and the Sports Medicine Program encompassing Family Medicine, the Emergency Department and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

The partnership between Colorado Storm and CU Orthopedics will be a special one. Kaplan notes, “Becoming a sponsor uniquely positions us to focus on injury prevention with these young athletes and ultimately care for them at the appropriate location when an injury does occur.  The Sports Medicine team across the School of Medicine has the expertise and experience to take care of the Storm athletes similar to the way we cover Denver University and Colorado University Athletics.”

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Breast milk hormones found to impact bacteria in infants’ guts

A new University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus study finds that hormones in breast milk may impact the development of healthy bacteria in infants’ guts, potentially protecting them from intestinal inflammation, obesity and other diseases later in life.

The study, published Monday in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, examines the role of human milk hormones in the development of infants’ microbiome, a bacterial ecosystem in the digestive system that contributes to multiple facets of health.

“This is the first study of its kind to suggest that hormones in human milk may play an important role in shaping a healthy infant microbiome,” said Bridget Young, co-first author and assistant professor of pediatric nutrition at CU Anschutz. “We’ve known for a long time that breast milk contributes to infant intestinal maturation and healthy growth. This study suggests that hormones in milk may be partly responsible for this positive impact through interactions with the infant’s developing microbiome.”

Researchers found that levels of insulin and leptin in the breast milk were positively associated with greater microbial diversity and families of bacteria in the infants’ stool. Insulin and leptin were associated with bacterial functions that help the intestine develop as a barrier against harmful toxins, which help prevent intestinal inflammation. By promoting a stronger intestinal barrier early in life, these hormones also may protect children from chronic low-grade inflammation, which can lead to a host of additional digestive problems and diseases.

In addition, researchers found significant differences in the intestinal microbiome of breastfed infants who are born to mothers with obesity compared to those born to mothers of normal weight. Infants born to mothers with obesity showed a significant reduction in gammaproteobacteria, a pioneer species that aids in normal intestinal development and microbiome maturation.

Gammaproteobacteria have been shown in mice and newborn infants to cause a healthy amount inflammation in their intestines, protecting them from inflammatory and autoimmune disorders later in life. The 2-week-old infants born to obese mothers in this study had a reduced number of gammaproteobacteria in the infant gut microbiome.

“I eagerly anticipate our follow-up studies to know whether these early results will help us understand what factors help make up a healthier immune system in infants born to obese mothers over the first year of life,” said Jed Friedman, corresponding author and professor of pediatrics at CU Anschutz. “What happens if you restore these bacteria in the infant born to an obese mother remains an open question.”

To examine the role of breast milk hormones, leptin and insulin, researchers analyzed the bacteria present in stool samples from 30 two-week-old infants who were exclusively breastfed –18 infants born to normal weight mothers and 12 born to obese mothers. The researchers not only analyzed what bacteria were growing, but the metabolism of the bacteria that were active in the infants’ intestines.

“Just like children learn language and social cues as they grow, their digestive system learns how to regulate itself,” said co-first author Dominick Lemas, now an assistant professor at the University of Florida. “What we’ve found is that hormones in breast milk are linked to the development of infants’ microbiome, potentially having long-term effects on children’s intestinal and autoimmune health.”

Young and Lemas hypothesize that human milk hormones affect the microbiome by binding to specific receptors in the infants’ intestines. These hormones may stimulate the body to produce proteins, called anti-microbial peptides, which kill off certain types of bad bacteria and may stimulate infant intestinal cells to secrete molecules that allow good bacteria to flourish.

Funding for this study was provided by the American Diabetes Association and the National Institutes of Health. Funding for this study was provided by the American Diabetes Association and the National Institutes of Health. Additional authors include Peter R. Baker II, Angela C. Tomczik, Taylor K. Soderborg, Teri L. Hernandez, Becky A. de la Houssaye, Charles E. Robertson, Michael C. Rudolph, Diana Ir, Zachary W. Patinkin, Nancy F. Krebs, Stephanie A. Santorico, Tiffany L. Weir, Linda A. Barbour and Daniel N. Frank.


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Dr. Holly Wyatt of CU Anschutz Writes Forward to New Book

Dr. Holly Wyatt of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus has written the forward to a new book by JD Roth, producer of hit reality television programs including Extreme Weight Loss and The Biggest Loser.

Published by Readers Digest and now available, “The Big Fat Truth: Behind-the-Scenes Secrets to Losing Weight and Gaining the Inner Strength to Transform Your Life” explores mental and emotional awareness, and fortitude as the missing links in transformative weight loss. What makes someone top out at 500 pounds or more – or even carry an extra 20, 30 or 50 pounds – is on the inside, according to Roth. The book aims to get readers to address the real reasons they’re overweight through a combination of enthusiasm, empathy and a no-holds-barred style of what Roth calls “tough love.”

“It turns out JD has a true gift, a natural insight into what it really takes to help people lose weight and succeed in life,” says Wyatt, associate director of the CU Anschutz Health and Wellness Center and medical director for Seasons 4 and 5 of ABC’s “Extreme Weight Loss,” in her foreword. “This book is about the power of believing in yourself, the power of deciding you are not going to let the excuses you have used for so long stand in your way, the power to finally go and do it.”

“The Big Fat Truth” is presented in three sections that reflect Roth’s three-step solution to anything: 1) identify the problem; 2) make a list of things you need to do; and 3) now go do it! The book includes short, straight‑to‑the‑point chapters within each section that help readers identify their real issues and shake up their lives to do what they previously thought was impossible.

Roth says: “Looking good is great, but we have the opportunity to change our lives in a much more profound way—just like so many of the participants in our weight-loss shows have. As the producer and the behind-the-scenes guy in charge of inspiring, persuading and prodding contestants to stay committed to change, I have seen people overcome the most horrific obstacles to reshape their bodies and their lives.”

Included throughout the book are inspiring stories, advice and before‑and‑after photos from people Roth has helped to lose weight both on-camera and off. The book also includes tips to help readers stay accountable and a 30‑day plan to put this advice into action.

“The Big Fat Truth: Behind-the-Scenes Secrets to Losing Weight and Gaining the Inner Strength to Transform Your Life,” published by Reader’s Digest, is on sale April 12 at bookstores and

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Journey to space began at CU

Kjell Lindgren, MD ’02, has wanted to be an astronaut as long as he can remember. That dream became a reality in July 2015 when he blasted off from Kazakhstan in July as part of NASA’s Expedition 44/Expedition 45 to the International Space Station (ISS). During his 141 day mission, Lindgren completed two space walks and conducted experiments in physics, life sciences and fuel combustion.

Kjell Lindgren on International Space Station

Alumnus Kjell Lindgren spent 141 days on the International Space Station, a mission that included two space walks and a variety of research. (Photo courtesy of NASA)

“That was one short amazing leg of a really extraordinary journey,” Lindgren told a group of students during a visit to CU Anschutz in March. ”I spent a good deal of my journey at CU. That journey took me to NASA for two and a half years of training to be an astronaut, with two years of mission specific training for this mission, and then to Kazakhstan for launch.”

Changing the map

Lindgren’s journey to space has been decades in the making. However becoming a doctor was not originally a part of his plan.

Fascinated with space, Lindgren had read “The Right Stuff” and Chuck Yeager’s biography—using those books to create a map he could use to become an astronaut. That map told him he needed to become a test pilot. At age 11 he sent off for materials to apply for the Air Force Academy. He never got a response, but that did not deter Lindgren from his dream.

Lindgren continued to follow his map. He was eventually accepted into the Air Force Academy and was awarded a pilot slot, which Lindgren deferred to study at Colorado State University. After returning for pilot training, Lindgren, who describes his journey in terms of peaks and valleys, was diagnosed with a medical condition that not only washed him out of pilot training, but also the Air Force.

Kjell Lindgren gives child a NASA patch

After his return to Earth, Lindgren met with students on the Anschutz Medical Campus to talk about his journey. He presented one attendee with a NASA patch.

“That was pretty significant valley,” Lindgren said. “I wallowed in that for a little bit, but then I reworked my map and began climbing out of that valley.”

Lindgren’s new map brought him to the University of Colorado, where he earned his MD in 2002.

“I had the great fortune to get study here at CU,” Lindgren said. “I am profoundly grateful to be back on the CU campus. This is where I did my medical training. It was a significant and very important part of my career. It feels like I am coming full circle to be back here today talking about this incredible journey.”

Time at CU

Lindgren spoke with students about his own experience at CU, recalling long nights memorizing the names of bones, muscles and nerves for Gross Anatomy. He and his peers would sit in a classroom with a skeleton going from top to bottom, over and over, naming everything until they had memorized it to perfection.

“Whatever you’re doing you have to be a nerd in it, so we became anatomy nerds,” Lindgren said. “You have to bring it.”

It was not just Lindgren’s incredible work ethic that saw him through his medical training. He also employed outside-the-box methods to succeed. To ensure he would do well on a test identifying anatomy of cadavers, Lindgren analyzed answers from tests given in previous years into a histogram and frequency distribution, allowing him to see the answers most frequently sought on exams.

The work yet again paid off. Lindgren’s unorthodox test preparation showed that the thoracic duct appeared on most of the practicals. During the test, when he saw a pin placed in an unknown area of the cadaver, he made the assumption that it must be the thoracic duct. He was right.

“Work hard and enjoy your life along the way,” Lindgren said. “I’m grateful for my path. Even though I slipped into several valleys I was always able to climb my way out.”

Lindgren went on to become board certified in emergency medicine and aerospace medicine, before he was selected by NASA in 2009 to become an astronaut. To become one of the nine selected for training, Lindgren rose to top of a pool of 3,565 initial applicants—of which only 113 received an interview and only 48 became finalists.

‘An indescribable experience’

While Lindgren’s medical training helped him stand out among other applicants, his primary role during the mission was not as a physician. According to Lindgren, a physician is not always included on every flight as all astronauts are trained across all equipment, duties and responsibilities.

“Whether you are a test pilot, infectious disease researcher or a physician, we all get trained the same level on all of the equipment,” Lindgren said. “We can all repair equipment, do a spacewalk and respond to emergencies.”

Lindgren assisted in a variety of studies while aboard the ISS. Some of the research conducted included understanding how flames propagate and how fuel moves within a tank in space. He and his fellow astronauts also grew and ate lettuce—becoming the first astronauts to grow and consume a crop in space.

Perhaps the most significant moments for Lindgren were spent during his two spacewalks, each of which lasted more than seven hours.

“The first time you stick your head out of the hatch and see the full face of the Earth spinning below you, occupying your whole field of view, it is an indescribable experience,” Lindgren said. You gain a profound understanding when you’re out in space that it is just your little space suit and miniature space ship that is protecting you from the harsh conditions. If you get in trouble, it is just you and your buddy to figure it out.”

Achieving his dream of becoming an astronaut has not left Lindgren without purpose. Since returning to Earth, he has been speaking with the public about his experiences in space and is looking forward to analyzing data from his experiments in space and helping to train the next group of astronauts. Lindgren is open to a return trip to the ISS, but in the meantime is enjoying discussing his journey.

“There is no one path to becoming an astronaut,” Lindgren said. “That’s demonstrated in my career. Find a place where you are passionate and work to get to the top of your field. If you study what you think NASA wants you to study and you don’t like it, you won’t succeed. Choose what you have a passion for.”

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National Public Health Week


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

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

Here is a listing of events held at CU Anschutz:

Saturday, April 2, 2016:


Monday, April 4, 2016: 


Tuesday, April 5, 2016: 


Wednesday, April 6, 2016:


Thursday, April 7, 2016:


Friday, April 8, 2016:


 Sunday, April 10, 2016:



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History of Falling Increases Crash Risk by 40 Percent

Older drivers with a history of falling are 40 percent more likely to be involved in crashes than their peers, according to a new study released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Falls limit an older drivers’ ability to function behind the wheel and can make driving risky for themselves and others on the road. These findings are important since annually a record 12 million older adults will experience a fall.

“Drivers age 60 and older are involved in more than 400,000 crashes each year, and it’s important that we find ways to keep them and others safe on the road.” said Peter Kissinger, President and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “This research is critical because it shows that we can now use an older driver’s fall history to identify if they are at greater risk for a crash.”

The report, Associations Between Falls and Driving Outcomes in Older Adults, is the latest research released in the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s Longitudinal Research on Aging Drivers (LongROAD) project. Researchers from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus along with the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety say that falls can increase crash risk in two ways:

  • Falls can result in a loss of functional ability (i.e. wrist fractures or a broken leg), which can make it difficult for older drivers to steer or brake to avoid a crash.
  • Falls can increase an individual’s fear of falling, which can lead to a decrease in physical activity that weakens driving skills.

“When it comes to physical health, you either use it or lose it,” said Jake Nelson, AAA’s Director of Traffic Safety and Advocacy. “Falls often scare people into being less active, but decreasing physical activity can weaken muscles and coordination and make someone more likely to be in a crash.”

The research suggests that seniors and their families should view falls as a possible early indicator of declining physical fitness.  Addressing the health issues that originally led to the fall such as lower body weakness, poor balance, slow reaction time, certain medications, dizziness, or vision problems, can help older drivers strengthen their functional ability and lower their risk for crashing or experiencing another fall in the future.

“Older drivers should find activities that enhance balance, strengthen muscles and promote flexibility,” continued Nelson.  “Even a low impact fitness training program or driver improvement course can help safely extend an older driver’s years on the road.”

Fall prevention is a great way for older drivers to keep themselves and others safe while on the road.  Those concerned about a parent or other older driver should help them monitor risk factors that address health concerns or household dangers. AAA recommends a series of exercises and stretches to improve neck, shoulder, trunk, back and overall body flexibility, which can help a driver who has suffered from a recent fall.  As a leading advocate for senior driver safety, AAA also offers a variety of programs and resources to help older drivers improve their driving performance and avoid crashes.

Recognizing that lifestyle changes, along with innovative technologies and medical advancements, will have a significant impact on the driving experiences of the baby boomer generation, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has launched a multi-year research program to more fully understand the driving patterns and trends of older drivers in the United States. The LongROAD (Longitudinal Research on Aging Drivers) Study is designed to generate the largest and most comprehensive data base about senior drivers in existence and will support in-depth studies of senior driving and mobility to better understand risks and develop effective countermeasures.


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