<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=799546403794687&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">
Dean John J. Reilly, Jr., MD | CU School of Medicine

John J. Reilly, Jr., MD, Led an Era of Remarkable Growth at CU School of Medicine

Reilly to step down on July 1 after nine years as Dean

Written by Mark Couch on June 7, 2024

When John J. Reilly, Jr., MD, steps down as dean of the University of Colorado School of Medicine on July 1, he will conclude a tenure that has elevated the school’s stature and strengthened its programs in every aspect of its academic mission: education, research, and clinical care.

Reilly arrived in April 2015 to a school that had a strong foundation on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. During the past nine years, his leadership has helped the school rise to the top tier in the nation. The CU School of Medicine expanded its programs to serve more people across the state and recruited a new generation of leaders to extend the school’s legacy for years to come.

“At my first State of the School address, I mentioned that we were the best-kept secret in Colorado,” Reilly said. “That’s no longer the case. The secret is out, and our school and the Anschutz Medical Campus are getting well-earned recognition.”

Chancellor Don Elliman said Reilly’s tenure has been “an era of remarkable growth for the CU School of Medicine at a vital time in our history as a campus.”

Measuring Success

“Dr. Reilly has led with tremendous vision and dedication, deepening the school’s many areas of strength while growing programs to meet the demands of an ever-changing health care landscape,” Elliman said. “He has drawn top experts in new and emerging fields and skillfully driven investments in research efforts that have been nothing short of transformational. John has been an exceptional colleague and partner, and our campus is far stronger by every measure due to his steady leadership.”

Among those measures:

  • The school’s research grant portfolio increased 67% between 2015 and 2023, from $359 million to $598 million.

  • The number of faculty members rose from 3,503 in 2017 to 5,067 in 2023, a 45% increase. The CU School of Medicine ranks in the top 10% in the United States among public medical schools in the number of faculty.

  • Applications to the medical school class of 184 students grew from nearly 7,000 in 2017 to now routinely more than 10,000 per year.

  • In 2017, CU School of Medicine clinicians provided care to 512,000 unique patients in 2.7 million inpatient and outpatient visits. In 2023, the school’s clinicians provided care to 727,000 unique patients in 4.2 million inpatient, outpatient, and telemedicine visits.

  • The school’s faculty practice repeatedly posted double-digit growth and ranks among the top 10% in the country in total practice plan revenue.

  • The school also offers care to an increasing number of Medicaid patients, serving 122,000 in 2017 and 181,000 in 2022, an increase of 48%.

  • Philanthropic support for the school between 2017 and 2023 totaled more than $1.2 billion. The number of endowed chairs increased from 89 in 2017 to 148 in 2023.

Reilly Crow Project Funding Event

Dean Reilly and U.S. Rep. Jason Crow during a February 2023 visit by the congressman to hear presentations from initiatives that received federal Community Funding Project funding that he sponsored.

Reilly attributes these accomplishments to building strong relationships, listening carefully to others, and working hard to achieve mutual goals.

“During his tenure, we have all come to recognize John Reilly’s outstanding leadership and dedication,” said benefactor Lyda Ludeman. “I am especially grateful for his guidance in helping to select what is now the Ludeman Family Center for Women’s Health Research. While I have always had a shared family interest in health care, Dean Reilly played a major role in my selection of the Anschutz Medical Campus with an emphasis on health care for women. He has always been generous with his time, and I thank him for his excellent advice and participation at the center’s events.”

“The members of our school community should be proud of our collective accomplishments,” Reilly said. “The numbers help us measure the impact of our work and they tell the story of a strong team. It’s important to understand that our achievements are particularly notable in matters that are not as easily quantified: the compassionate care we show to patients, the expanded knowledge and skills of our students and trainees, and the scientific breakthroughs of our researchers.”

Commitment to Education

Shanta Zimmer, MD, senior associate dean for education and professor of medicine, said Reilly’s commitment to the campus community is evident in the attention he gave to students and trainees of the CU School of Medicine.

“It is unusual for a medical school dean to meet regularly with medical students and to directly support and contribute to their education,” Zimmer said. “Dean Reilly is a role-model physician, researcher, administrator, and teacher. Our students are fortunate to benefit from these qualities in a personal way through direct teaching, small group meetings, town halls, and one-on-one meetings.

Each month, throughout his tenure, Reilly met with a group of 12 students for lunch. The agenda was simple and the objective clear: name, where did you grow up, where did you go to college, and finally, what questions do you have?

Distinguished Clinician 2023 Awards

Dean Reilly and Keri Halsema, RN, NP, MSN, senior instructor of medicine in the Division of Hematology, at the inaugural Distinguished Clinician Awards in March 2023.

“Access to his leadership style, vision, and honest advice created a sense of professionalism and belonging for the students who signed up for these meetings,” Zimmer said. “Etai’s box lunches may have been the draw for hungry students, but a personal conversation in which Dean Reilly’s blend of serious purpose, thoughtful perspective, and casual affability were the heart of the experience.”

Reilly’s leadership style focused on building teams and creating an environment where faculty and staff could thrive, said Vineet Chopra, MD, MSc, chair of the Department of Medicine. “One of Dean Reilly’s most important contributions has been fostering a culture of autonomy, collegiality, and trust among campus leaders. He is among one of the best leaders I have worked for.”

Investing for Future Success

Over the past nine years, the CU School of Medicine has invested in its programs in ways that recognize current needs and anticipate future opportunities.

Acknowledging the need for a more comprehensive approach to harnessing the power of data, the school created its first new academic department in more than a decade. In 2022, the Department of Biomedical Informatics was established as a home for scholarship and to offer training that is essential to the future of medicine.

With support from the Dean’s Office, the school established its Climate and Health Program to ensure that medical professionals are trained to deal with health consequences related to global climate change. The National Academy of Medicine has recognized this innovative program for filling a critical need.

To prepare medical students for productive and fulfilling careers, the school overhauled its curriculum. In clinical settings, students are now trained in longitudinally integrated clerkships, allowing them to focus closely on patients throughout the course of their care. Such training emphasizes compassionate and holistic patient care. It also improves student performance by matching advanced scientific learning directly to clinical experience and by better preparing students for licensing exams.

The CU School of Medicine extended the reach of its teaching programs across the state. A branch in Colorado Springs opened in 2016, and a branch in Fort Collins in partnership with Colorado State University opened in 2017. The school’s physical therapy program also developed an innovative partnership with the University of Colorado Colorado Springs to provide a hybrid training curriculum.

With major gifts from The Anschutz Foundation, Reilly oversaw competitive grant processes to support innovative faculty research programs. At the beginning of his tenure, $80 million was invested in five major initiatives through the Transformational Research Funding program. Earlier this year, nine proposals were awarded funding through the Anschutz Acceleration Initiative, which is committed to providing $50 million to projects poised to make direct patient impact within five years.

Over the past nine years, with directed support from the school, several programs vital to the campus received extramural funding. The National Cancer Institute in 2022 renewed the CU Cancer Center’s comprehensive designation with the best rating it has ever received. The National Institutes of Health in 2023 renewed grant support for the Colorado Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute, providing $54 million over seven years to fuel biomedical research and training across the state. A Diabetes Research Center was established with $6.7 million in NIH funding in 2020.

To address professional satisfaction among faculty members, Reilly led efforts to create a new leadership role, Chief Well-being Officer, and recruited Lotte Dyrbye, MD, MHPE, co-author of the National Academy of Medicine’s consensus study, “Taking Action Against Clinician Burnout: A Systems Approach to Professional Well-Being,” to serve as its senior associate dean with that responsibility.

To ensure that the school serves all, the school created and funded the Advancing Inclusion in Medicine program, which contributes support to departments in hiring faculty members from backgrounds underrepresented in medicine. Since its creation, the school has invested $7.9 million to support recruitment and retention of 63 faculty members.

Reilly’s commitment to equity is also reflected in the school’s leadership hiring practices. When he arrived the number of women serving as department chairs lagged national benchmarks. Today 12 of the school’s 24 departments are chaired by women, and nine of those 12 chairs were recruited since 2016. By comparison, only 23% of departments at medical schools across the country are led by women.

Dean Reilly at 2018 Commencement

Dean Reilly at the School of Medicine’s 2018 commencement ceremony.

At this year’s commencement ceremony, Reilly received the Joseph Addison Sewall Award for exceptional contributions of leadership and vision to the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. The proclamation concluded:

“With a commitment to excellence, fairness, and integrity and with an expectation that all members of the community collaborate on goals that serve the common good, Dr. Reilly sets a standard for all. By establishing a productive environment for thousands of faculty and staff, where millions of people receive outstanding care, and a generation of trainees have been prepared for exceptional careers, Dr. John J. Reilly, Jr., is a deserving recipient of the Sewall Award.”

In his final commencement address to graduates, Reilly called on graduates to serve others. He pointed toward the future with its promise of better care thanks to breakthrough research and compassionate care from the new physicians.

“An important consideration for you as you embark on your careers as physicians is to acknowledge the privilege you have of being a physician, and the responsibility that privilege brings,” he said. “In addition to advancing the science … be a voice to make sure that all in our society can gain access to it and reap its benefits.” 

Topics: Education, Community