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$10 million pledge creates National Behavioral Health Innovation Center at CU Anschutz

Colorado’s newest center dedicated to improving mental and behavioral health has been established with a $10 million five-year commitment from The Anschutz Foundation, one of the largest program pledges in the history of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

The National Behavioral Health Innovation Center is housed at CU Anschutz in Aurora, but is designed as a “virtual center” to serve people in Colorado and across the nation, by identifying and implementing behavioral health solutions, making connections to national experts, and providing resources to build connections among community leaders across the state.

Matt Vogl

Matt Vogl is the executive director of the new National Behavioral Health Innovation Center

“There are few areas of health care more important and less understood than mental and behavioral health,” says CU President Bruce Benson. “By investing in a center with a focus on finding innovative approaches to prevention, identification and treatment through intensive collaboration with partners all across our state, The Anschutz Foundation is investing in a brighter future for all people who suffer from a behavioral health condition. We couldn’t be more grateful for their continued philanthropic partnership.”

“With this commitment, The Anschutz Foundation is hoping to help bring together resources and expertise to rapidly move the needle for mental and behavioral health in meaningful ways,” says Executive Director of The Anschutz Foundation Ted Harms. “We want to see the NBHIC become an example of what is possible when great minds band together to effect change, and, ultimately, to become a model for fostering the implementation of new and innovative approaches to behavioral health care across the country.”

Matt Vogl, MPH, has been named NBHIC executive director, reporting jointly to CU Anschutz Chancellor Don Elliman and to an NBHIC board of directors made up of prominent community, business, philanthropy and health care leaders who will guide the NBHIC’s work and ensure its relevance and sustainability into the future.

The NBHIC will engage the best minds across diverse industries in Colorado and nationally to help identify high-value focus areas for behavioral health innovation, identify subject matter experts, and assist in building community and organizational partnerships.

“Our vision for the NBHIC is to build a model for how people who suffer from mental illness or substance abuse should be treated as part of the health care continuum,” Vogl says. “To do so, we will work to become a state where stigma is absent, early identification and care is the norm, high-quality treatment is accessible to people in every community, and those in recovery get the support they need to return to a full and vital life.”

The NBHIC’s leadership is reaching out to community leaders to inform the center’s priorities and identify areas in which communities have developed innovative behavioral health solutions that warrant further exploration and possible expansion. Early interest is emerging in the design of employer-driven health promotion and coverage models, and in introducing the relevance of behavioral health to students entering diverse professions in business, education and other non-health care fields.

“The ongoing leadership of The Anschutz Foundation in the mental and behavioral health arena is inspiring,” says CU Anschutz Medical Campus Chancellor Don Elliman. “Our hope is that the NBHIC will help unite disparate efforts across our state and our region, and help accelerate progress by convening leaders and facilitating knowledge sharing. Together, we will usher in a new era of innovation in behavioral health.”

CU has some 61,000 degree-seeking students across its four campuses and another 8,000 taking courses for credit. The university graduates more students than any university in Colorado, about 14,000 last year. CU is well-positioned to lead efforts to integrate mental and behavioral wellness into the workplace and the classroom, and to share knowledge gained with others interested in following suit.

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2016 Donor Dinner honors Helen K. and Arthur E. Johnson Foundation

Helen K. and Arthur E. Johnson Foundation

With a broad impact and countless community partners, the Helen K. and Arthur E. Johnson Foundation has left an indelible mark on the University of Colorado and the Rocky Mountain region. Their transformational gift to the CU Depression Center supports researchers and clinicians providing high-quality patient care and conducting leading-edge mental health research. The Johnson Foundation’s partnership is elevating the conversation around mental health in Colorado and helping reduce harmful stigma. You too can support the efforts of the Helen and Arthur E. Johnson Depression Center.

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2015-2016 Diversity and Excellence grants

Diversity & Excellence Grants fund innovative projects that promote inclusive excellence and diversity throughout the University of Colorado System.

Grants of up to $3,000 each are awarded to proposals that creatively advance the principles of diversity and inclusion in substantive ways.

Each of the four University of Colorado campuses forwards top proposals to a system-wide committee for review.

This year, the Diversity & Excellence Grants Advisory Board reviewed twenty-four proposals, with funding requests totaling $73,338. The Advisory Board recommended funding for fourteen proposals, three at CU Denver and five at the Anschutz Medical Campus.

CU Denver grants:

Proposal title: Indigenous Knowledge Series at the University of Colorado: Strengthening inclusive campuses through Indigenous research, perspectives, and pedagogies

Authors: Deborah Hunt & Mary Sommerville

Amount awarded: $3,000


Proposal title: Providing the Foundations for the ‘Colorado Organization for the Advancement of Diverse Scholars in Science – CU Denver’, Annual Seminar and Outreach Activities

Author:  Marino Resendiz

Amount awarded:  $3,000


Proposal title: Scholarship Funding for The Wildlife Experience at CU South  Denver

Authors: Erin Kendall and Samantha Moreno

Amount awarded:  $2,500


CU Anschutz grants:

Proposal title: health Professions opportunity day (hPod): Bridging Middle and High School Students to Health Careers

Authors: Abenicio Real & Vicky Saulsberry

Amount awarded:  $3,000


Proposal title: Improving Education on Diversity Issues in Public Health

Authors:  Carol Runyan, Jan Gascoigne and Carolyn DiGuiseppi

Amount awarded: $2,998


Proposal title: Leadership Education for Aspiring Doctors (LEAD): Creating the next generation of minority leaders in health systems management

Authors: Amira del Pino-Jones, Darlene Tad-Y, Emilie Keeton and Jeffrey Glasheen

Amount awarded: $3,000


Proposal title: MCAT Study Academy: A Collaborative Approach to MCAT Preparation

Authors: Beshoy Tawfik, Christian Valtierra and Kevin Kim

Amount awarded: $3,000


Proposal title: “Myrtle’s List:” Patient-Provider Empowerment Workshops

Authors: Janet Meredith and Margaret Brawley

Amount awarded:  $3,000



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2016 Donor Dinner Sara and Bill Caile


Sara and Bill Caile on behalf of the Déjà Vu Rendezvous Steering Committee

Longtime supporters of the University of Colorado, Sara and Bill Caile are actively involved in expanding Assistive Technology Partners (ATP). Their philanthropic leadership helps ATP serve thousands of people around the world and become a model for empowering patients with disabilities. Their signature annual event, Déjà Vu Rendezvous, continues to raise funds for ATP and the life-changing work happening at CU. You can support Assistive Technology Partners as well.

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George Boedecker and Boedecker Foundation support CU Anschutz


Back row, from left: Will Cook, president and CEO, University of Colorado Hospital; Liz Concordia, president and CEO, UCHealth; Don Elliman, chancellor, CU Anschutz. Front row, from left: Richard Zane, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine, SOM; George B. Boedecker, Jr.; John Reilly, MD, dean, CU School of Medicine

Thanks to a recent private gift, Professor and Chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine Richard D. Zane, MD, has a brand new title as the inaugural George B. Boedecker, Jr. and Boedecker Foundation Endowed Chair in Emergency Medicine.

“The incredibly generous support of George Boedecker and The Boedecker Foundation reaffirms the importance of emergency care,” says Dr. Zane, “and it will allow CU to recruit the best and brightest leaders for generations to come.”

The Boedecker family and foundation have been supporting the University of Colorado for nearly a decade. Three years ago, the family and foundation made a substantial commitment to the CU Anschutz Medical Campus supporting patient cardiac rehabilitation at University of Colorado Hospital (UCH) and research in the University of Colorado School of Medicine Division of Cardiology. The state-of-the-art Boedecker Foundation Cardiac Rehabilitation Gym at UCH bears the foundation’s name in recognition of their leadership support for improved cardiovascular health. 

“At the central and innermost framework of The Boedecker Foundation’s endowments are partnerships and enduring relationships with organizations like the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus that provide access to health care programs and create opportunities for the children, families and communities they serve,” said Mr. Boedecker. “It is such an honor and a privilege to be partnering with the Department of Emergency Medicine and Dr. Richard Zane.”

Created in 2009 by Denver-area entrepreneur and principal founder of Crocs, Inc. George B. Boedecker, Jr., The Boedecker Foundation is dedicated to improving lives worldwide by making philanthropic investments in initiatives and programs focused on education, health and wellness and community collaboration.

“This thoughtful investment from Mr. Boedecker and The Boedecker Foundation helps make it possible for us to attract and retain outstanding faculty who make a difference in the lives of our patients,” says CU School of Medicine Dean John J. Reilly, Jr., MD. “Private support for talented physician-scientists like Dr. Zane helps our campus develop and maintain a leading role at the forefront of medicine.”

Guest Contributor: Trisha Kendall, Senior Development Writer, Office of Advancement


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Physicians make historic visit to Cuba


A delegation from CU Anschutz and Children’s Hospital Colorado visited Cuba this month. They were the first group of pediatricians to visit the island since the U.S. normalized relations.

By David Kelly

AURORA, Colo. (Feb. 26, 2016) – When Dr. Stephen Berman stepped off a plane in Havana earlier this month, he wasn’t just leading a historic medical mission to Cuba, he was in many ways coming home.

Berman and his wife Elaine have been inextricably tied to the island nation for generations. Members of their family had fled the pogroms of Tsarist Russia for Cuba in the early 1900s.

They arrived penniless on a creaking ship, learned to sew and eventually started a successful retail business. An old black and white photo on Berman’s office wall shows Elaine’s grandfather, a leader of the Havana Jewish community, standing beside Albert Einstein during his visit to Cuba in 1930.

Over the years, Berman has gone back and forth to the Caribbean country but this was different.

This time the director of the Center for Global Health at the Colorado School of Public Health was leading the first delegation of pediatricians to visit Cuba co-sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Pan American Health Organization since the U.S. normalized relations. It was a historic trip, one aimed at reestablishing ties between medical professionals at a time when relations between the two nations seem to be thawing.

“They saw our arrival as a sign their world was changing,” he said. “And in a very real sense it is.”

Enduring legacy of trade embargo

Berman co-led the delegation with Dr. James Perrin of Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital. Both are past presidents of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The dozen or so travelers included top specialists from CU Anschutz and Children’s Hospital Colorado, eager to see how Cuba had been faring under a half-century trade embargo and what they could learn from each other.

What they found were like-minded professionals – proud and highly trained – making the best of what they had. Medications, blood pressure cuffs, monitors and microscopes were all in short supply, yet medical outcomes were in some cases similar to this country.

Local reporters, keenly aware of the significance of the visit, swiftly descended.

“They asked if the trade embargo would be lifted,” Berman said. “I said it would require an Act of Congress and during a contentious presidential election year that would be difficult.”

The embargo took effect in 1960 at a time of escalating tensions with the Marxist regime of Fidel Castro. The result has been an isolated and impoverished nation 50 miles from Miami Beach. Many, including Berman, consider the embargo a Cold War relic out of step in today’s world.

“The embargo is not in the best interests of either country,” he said.


An infant receiving treatment in a Cuban hospital.

Lectures and illustrations

The group traveled the island, getting a feel for Cuba’s overall health care system. They spent time at the William Soler Children’s Hospital in Havana, one of the best hospitals in Cuba. The daughter of Che Guevara, Castro’s late comrade and famed revolutionary, is a nurse there.

Dr. Frederic Deleyiannis, chief of pediatric plastic surgery at Children’s, was giving a presentation on treating cleft lip and palates when his Cuban colleagues asked if he could draw the procedures.

“I spent a fair amount of time drawing the operations on a chalkboard,” he said. “Their surgical techniques were similar and the questions they asked were very sophisticated. They were glad to hear that the way they do things is very much like the way we do things.”

Yet more complex craniofacial operations remain unavailable in Cuba, Deleyiannis said, and other methods of reconstruction, such as microvascular surgery, are hard if not impossible to come by.

But overall, he said, the Cuban doctors did extremely well under often difficult circumstances.

The CU Anschutz  physicians gave lectures on a range of subjects. Edward Goldson talked about delayed development in children. Amy Brooks-Kayal discussed treating epilepsy. Jim Todd held a session on staphylococcal infections. Stuart Cohen lectured on pertussis, Adam Rosenberg on care of preterm babies and Joe Wathen on emergency medicine. And there were plenty of others.

Cuban physicians told Dr. Kenny Chan, professor of otolaryngology and chair of the Department of Pediatric Otolaryngology at Children’s, that they did not have an operating microscope at the children’s hospital in Cienfuegos.

“That is like otolaryngology in 1940s America,” Chan said. “My heart goes out to them. Even though certain segments of their health care are really advanced, this brings home the fact that health care in Cuba outside of Havana may not up to par with developed Western countries.”

Cuba also lacked universal hearing screenings for infants, usually not testing a child until age three.

“If you wait until a child is three to test for hearing loss you will miss a lot of infants that could have been helped with hearing aids,” Chan said. “Dr. Berman and I spoke to pediatricians at William Soler Hospital about whether Cuba could adopt some sort of universal infant hearing screening. We would be happy to help them come up with a program if they are interested.”


A young patient in a Cuban hospital.

A commitment to children

Yet there were bright spots as well. Premature birth rates are low in Cuba due to universal prenatal care. There is one doctor for every 300 people, focusing specifically on caring for pregnant women. And health care is free.

“If problems develop in pregnancy the mother is sent to a maternity home and stays there until she gives birth,” Berman said.

While visiting an intensive care unit, the doctors saw babies with irreversible neurological damage on ventilators. The hospital planned to keep them on life support until they were old enough to go home where care would continue.

“I thought that was incredible,” Berman said. “They were ventilating these babies over the long term. With very few resources they were committing what they had to their children.”

He called the trip a `great first step’ and hopes someday for regular exchanges between Cuban and American doctors.

“We came away with a genuine admiration for what they were able to accomplish,” Berman said. “I think the trip really opened the eyes of both Cuban and American pediatricians.”

Dr. Berman will conduct a panel discussion March 23, 2016 entitled `Reflections on pediatric health care in Cuba’ at Ed 2 North, Room 1103.












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High school football helmets offer similar protections despite prices

Despite prices, promises and even ratings systems, all helmets approved for high school football players appear to offer similar protection against concussion, according to a new study from the Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus .

“All of the approved helmets evaluated in our study performed similarly,” said Dawn Comstock, PhD, senior author of the study and associate professor of epidemiology at the Program for Injury Prevention, Education and Research (PIPER) at the Colorado School of Public Health. “Increased cost does not necessarily translate to improved safety.”

The study, the first national football concussion research evaluating how helmets performed when worn by young athletes playing the game rather than how helmets performed in laboratory impact testing, also found that older, reconditioned helmets performed similarly to new helmets as long as the reconditioning was done in a timely manner.

The researchers examined high school football concussion and helmet data collected from 2008-2009 through 2012-2013 as part of the National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance System, High School RIO (Reporting Information Online), directed by Comstock.

They found that participating schools reported 2,900 football concussions per 3,528,790 `athletic exposures’ (AE) or one athlete participating in one practice or competition. That came out to an overall rate of 8.2 concussions per 10,000 AEs.

When comparing concussions sustained by athletes wearing different helmets, the researchers found the average number of concussion symptoms, symptom resolution time and time until the injured athlete was released to return to play were similar among football players wearing the most common make and model of helmet.

Dawn Comstock, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology at the Colorado School of Public Health at CU Anschutz

Helmets that were not new but which had been reconditioned within the 12 months prior to use, performed similarly to new helmets. But players wearing old helmets which had not been recently reconditioned suffered longer concussion symptoms than those wearing new helmets.

The data indicated that helmet rating scales may be somewhat misleading to parents or schools considering helmet purchases as higher ratings based on laboratory testing did not necessarily correlate to increased protection “on the field” for high school football players.

“We found helmets with high ratings performed similarly to helmets with lower ratings,” Comstock said. “At the same time, the most expensive helmet did not appear to provide significantly increased protection compared to less expensive helmets.”

The study found that as long as the helmets had a NOCSAE or National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment seal, a National Federation of State High School Association requirement for high school football, they provided similar protection.

Comstock said parents can play an active role in ensuring that the football helmets worn by their children are safe by asking how long it has been since a helmet issued to their child has been reconditioned.  Parents should insist that their schools are following the reconditioning guidelines of manufacturers.

“Many parents don’t think to ask if the helmet issued to their child is new or previously used or, if not new, when it was last reconditioned,” Comstock said.  “Parents should be asking questions and not assuming that the helmet assigned to their child is safe.”

The study was published online this week in the American Journal of Sports Medicine.



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Gail and Dave Liniger: A landmark gift

Known as revolutionaries in real estate, Gail and Dave Liniger co-founded the real estate giant RE/MAX International in 1973. A culture of philanthropy is built into both their business interests and personal lives as they support a number of causes around Colorado ranging from health care to military veteran support through Combat to Classroom scholarships. With the largest real estate gift in the University of Colorado’s history, Gail and Dave helped make CU South Denver a reality, expanding educational opportunities to students and communities in south metro Denver. See how you can support programs opening doors for military veterans and expand educational opportunities at CU South Denver.

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Give Kids a Smile event lives up to its name

Allie Robinson, Katelyn McClure and Eric Van Zytveld

Allie Robinson receives a dental cleaning and examination from Eric Van Zytveld, DDS and Katelyn McClure at Give Kids a Smile.

Eight-year-old Alexandra “Allie” Robinson loves going to the dentist. Not only that, she knows how important is.

“You have to have healthy teeth,” she explained. “I have class pictures coming up, and I have to have a good smile.”

Allie does have a great smile. She shows it while she chats with Eric Van Zytveld, DDS, a 1973 alumnus of the School of Dental Medicine and Katelyn McClure, a fourth-year dental student graduating in May. Van Zytveld gets laughs from Allie with jokes about elephants. McClure gets even more laughs while she cleans Allie’s teeth. The instruments tickle Allie, who also thinks the red solution applied to her teeth to show areas with plaque looks hilarious.

Big smiles from children are all part of the Colorado Dental Association’s Give Kids a Smile event (GKAS), hosted at the School of Dental Medicine (SDM) on the Anschutz Medical Campus on Feb. 5. GKAS offers children 17 and younger from low-income families the opportunity to receive free dental care.

From veterans to children

Seeing children fill the chairs in the SDM for a day is a change for GKAS Director Heidi Tyrrell, who runs the school’s Heroes Clinic, which serves more than 2,600 full-time veteran students from the University of Colorado.

Tyrrell staffs the event entirely with volunteers, including local dentists, hygienists, and SDM faculty and students. Throughout the day volunteers perform cleanings and fluoride treatments, and apply fillings, sealants, stainless steel crowns—whatever the children need.

“It’s a great day to do things for the community—particularly for kids who are uninsured or underinsured,” Tyrrell said. “This is one way we nurture that philanthropic spirit in our students.”

Lily and Waylon Walker

Lily Walker chats with the tooth fairy at Give Kids a Smile. Lily was brought to the event by her father, Waylon Walker, a CU Denver student veteran majoring in biology.

Senior students are able to work directly with patients under the supervision of faculty. Beginning students can still help out through skits, demonstrations and other activities to entertain kids in the waiting room. Some even dress as the tooth fairy and had out gifts to patients after their exams.

“Dentistry can produce anxiety in even the most rational person,” Tyrrell said. “But if we can create a happy, fun environment, that sets the tone for a lifetime.”

Volunteers give back and educate

That opportunity to educate and give back is what has made Van Zyteveld to volunteer for GKAS for more than 10 years.

“To me this is a big part of my practice giving back and helping those populations who are underserved and can’t get care,” Van Zytveld said. “It’s always touching to see kids who oftentimes haven’t had good experiences with dentists.”

McClure uses the event as an opportunity to not only work with kids but also to educate their parents on how to help prevent dental problems from occurring. Some of these preventative measures include the basics such as proper brushing and flossing techniques, as well as education on proper nutrition and dietary habits—all of which can affect oral health over time.

“Having a preventative plan is what we strive for,” McClure said. “We fix their teeth, but if there is a problem, we are really focused on preventative measures.

Patrick Robinson

Patrick Robinson is at ease in the hands of Give Kids a Smile volunteers.

A welcoming environment

Allie and her brother, Patrick, were brought by their mother, Amanda, after she heard about the service offered by GKAS. Amanda also thought that GKAS might be a bit better for 4-year-old Patrick, who did not share his sister’s enthusiasm for trips to the dentist.

“Everyone has been really nice and welcoming,” Amanda said. “Patrick is very nervous, so I am glad for it. A regular doctor might have been terrifying for him. I think he’s going to have a good experience with it.”

Amanda was right. At the end of their cleaning, Allie still wore a big smile, and Patrick was far more at ease. When asked what she thought of her visit, Allie offered one word: “Awesome!”

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Hot Spotters offers unique undergraduate internship


Scott Cao

During summer 2015, a patient walked into the Emergency Department at University of Colorado Hospital only to hear very bad news. This patient needed a 30-day supply of a medication immediately —not in two weeks or seven days—but immediately. The drug was very expensive and the patient, who didn’t have insurance, could not afford it.

Within 48 hours, the patient had the medication in hand, thanks to the intervention and quick action of CU Denver junior Scott Cao, a biology major in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The situation, which might have seemed hopeless at first glance, was business as usual for Cao in his summer internship working as a “Hot Spotter” at the hospital on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus.

“It was a fantastic experience,” Cao said. “It changed my perception of people who have chronic illnesses. I now look at them and realize many different factors could be affecting their health.”

The Hot Spotters

Hot Spotters is a summer experiential learning program developed by Roberta Capp, MD, MPH, assistant professor of Emergency Medicine. It teaches students from a variety of disciplines about the needs of underserved populations with the goals of improving access and quality of care for these patients and reducing their reliance on the Emergency Department for care. During summer 2015, the Hot Spotter program helped more than 3,500 patients address their health needs.

Cao found the internship through Charles Fergsuson, PhD, director of CU Denver’s Health Professions Programs. One of 19 Hot Spotters, Cao joined small Hot Spotter teams staffing the Emergency Department 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He was working side-by-side with students in medicine, nursing, pharmacy, public health and sociology. All were trained to identify resources available to high-risk patients who had come to the Emergency Department multiple times in a short period.

“Many patients come in with something manageable, like type 2 diabetes, but after they get discharged they don’t get the correct follow-up care,” said Cao, sounding more like a medical student than an undergrad. “They don’t have insurance, or they don’t have a pharmacy, or they do have Medicaid but they don’t have a primary care physician, or they don’t have transportation. Some are homeless.”

After these patients were treated, a physician or nurse would call in a Hot Spotter to help the patient navigate the health care system and receive follow-up care from a primary care physician. The students also assessed the patients’ barriers to accessing health care and provided resources to overcome those barriers, including health insurance enrollment, housing, transportation to appointments, medication and food pantry services.

“Our mission was to make sure we provided patients with enough resources and information that they did not have to come back to the Emergency Department unless they had life-threatening injuries,” Cao said. “We cut through red tape, sometimes making calls while the patient was still in bed.”

After Hot Spotters

In the months after his summer internship, Cao compiled and analyzed data he had collected from patients who had completed a medical screening survey. He turned his internship into a research project looking at the demographics of patients, their access to a car, whether they were homeless, had chronic illnesses, knew a primary care physician, could access prescription medication. He is hoping that the research could lead to the creation of more patient navigator programs like Hot Spotters.

He credits Capp with doing a “tremendous job” training the Hot Spotters to engage with patients. “She taught us to look at the big picture,” he said.

In the case of the patient who needed help paying for medication, Cao picked up the phone and reached an insurance enrollment specialist. Two days later, the patient was enrolled in an insurance plan that would cover the medication immediately—a singular example of how Hot Spotters, even when they are juniors in college, can change lives.

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