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CU School of Medicine Top Stories of 2022

Revisit the top stories from throughout the year.

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Written by School of Medicine on December 16, 2022

We are closing out another newsworthy year for the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Our communications team in the Dean's Office has shared more than 100 stories spotlighting our incredible faculty, researchers, staff, trainees, and students.

This year, the School of Medicine highlighted our faculty's expertise on rare diseases that were at the forefront in Hollywood, welcomed Lotte N. Dyrbye, MD, MHPE, as senior associate dean of faculty and chief well-being officer, celebrated our graduating students at Match Day, helped to create a new MS-MD program for future space doctors, led the charge to increase awareness of monkeypox, spotlighted faculty who created new research partnerships during the COVID-19 pandemic, and recognized 193 faculty who were named 5280 Magazine's Top Doctors for 2022.

These are the top stories of 2022 for the School of Medicine:

Celine Dion - 12-8-22

What Does Celine Dion’s Stiff Person Syndrome Diagnosis Mean?

Canadian singer Celine Dion shocked the world in December when she revealed that she has been diagnosed with a rare neurological condition called stiff person syndrome (SPS), forcing her to postpone several upcoming tour dates in Europe.

Amanda Piquet, MD, associate professor of neurology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and and director of the Autoimmune Neurology Program at CU's Rocky Mountain MS Center, specializes in treating people with SPS, which she describes as a neurologic autoimmune disease.

We spoke to Piquet to learn more about SPS and how it’s diagnosed and treated.


Gilbert Gottfried - 4-20-22

The Rare Disease That Took Gilbert Gottfried’s Life  

Comedian Gilbert Gottfried, known for his brash standup act as well as providing the voice for the Aflac duck and the parrot Iago in Disney’s 1992 animated film “Aladdin,” died April 12 from complications of myotonic dystrophy type 2, an inherited muscular dystrophy that affects the muscles and other body systems. Gottfried was 67. 

We spoke with Matthew Wicklund, MD, a professor of neurology in the University of Colorado School of Medicine, about myotonic dystrophy type 2, its diagnosis and treatment.



Colorado Voted to Decriminalize ‘Magic Mushrooms’ —  What Happens Next?

Earlier this year, voters made Colorado the second state — after Oregon — to decriminalize psilocybin and psilocin, the psychedelic compounds found in so-called “magic mushrooms.”  

Stacy Fischer, MD, associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and program co-leader of cancer prevention and control at the CU Cancer Center, has studied the use of psilocybin in therapeutic settings as she and Jim Grigsby, PhD, a professor of psychology at CU Denver, prepare to launch a study of psilocybin-assisted therapy to treat psychiatric and existential distress in people with late-stage cancer. 

We talked with Fischer about the new legislation and what authorities need to watch out for as they work to enact it. 



Monkeypox Has Been Declared a National Health Emergency; Now What?

The worldwide outbreak of monkeypox that started in May 2022 grew to such a degree that on August 4, the Biden administration declared a public health emergency to raise awareness of the virus in the United States and to free up funding and resources for a more robust response. More than 6,600 probable or confirmed cases had by then been detected in the U.S., including in Colorado, with more than 28,000 confirmed cases worldwide. 

We talked with Daniel Pastula, MD, MHS, associate professor of neurology and infectious diseases at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and epidemiology at the Colorado School of Public Healthabout the latest developments with monkeypox.


MD-MS Program - 7-22-22

New MD-MS Program Prepares Medical Students for Careers in Human Spaceflight 

Space needs doctors, and a new joint MD-MS degree program between the University of Colorado School of Medicine and the Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences at CU Boulder is aimed at giving medical students the skills they need to advance human spaceflight.  

“The aerospace field is growing massively, especially in Colorado,” says Allie Anderson, PhD, assistant professor of aerospace engineering at CU Boulder. “The demand is definitely outpacing the supply. There are other engineering programs out there that include bioastronautics, but this new joint program puts a particular emphasis on creating a physician who's equipped with a medical degree as well as engineering knowledge.”  

Anderson and Ben Easter, MD, designed the new MD-MS program together, based on Easter’s experiences as an assistant professor of emergency medicine. The new program started accepting applications this fall and launches officially in fall 2023. 


JUNE 15, 2022_BieberIllness

The Rare Disorder That Paralyzed Half of Justin Bieber’s Face 

Pop singer Justin Bieber shocked fans in June when he posted a video on Instagram in which he explained he had been diagnosed with Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, a condition that causes paralysis on one side of the face. 

Ramsay Hunt Syndrome is a rare neurological disorder that affects five out of every 100,000 people in the United States each year, according to the National Organization for Rare Disorders. It is caused by the varicella zoster virus (VZV), the same virus that causes chickenpox and shingles, explains Maria Nagel, MD, a research professor of neurology and ophthalmology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. 

“More than 90% of the world population has VZV dormant in ganglionic neurons throughout their body,” Nagel says. “I consider it a stealth virus, because most people don’t know how common it is in the population and the wide range of disease it produces when it flares up.” 


Liselotte Dyrbye - 1-26-22

Lotte Dyrbye Joins CU School of Medicine to Lead Faculty Development Efforts

Lotte N. Dyrbye, MD, MHPE, in February was named senior associate dean of faculty and chief well-being officer for the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

Dyrbye is the first to hold this newly created position at the CU School of Medicine. In this role, she oversees faculty affairs, faculty and leadership development programs, and diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, and she will lead initiatives that reduce burnout among physicians, residents, and medical students. She will also hold an appointment as professor of medicine.


Zebra Fish - 9-14-22

CU Researchers Awarded $1.3 Million National Science Foundation Grant

Sometimes a scientific collaboration happens by coincidence, a happy accident that serendipitously pairs experts who wouldn’t have otherwise met.

And so it goes with a package of zebrafish embryos intended for Christian Mosimann’s group that ended up in Catherine Musselman’s lab during the pandemic lockdown of buildings on the Anschutz Medical Campus.

That misdelivered package led to a scientific partnership awarded with a $1.3 million National Science Foundation grant to support the scientists’ efforts over the next four years to better understand mechanisms of genome regulation.


Match Day 2022 - 3-18-22

Match Day Ceremony Reveals Residency Locations for Graduating Students at CU School of Medicine

After four often-grueling years of medical school, more than 150 fourth-year students from the University of Colorado School of Medicine took the next step in their medical journey in March.  

At the annual Match Day ceremony in the new Anschutz Health Sciences Building on CU Anschutz Medical Campus, the soon-to-be graduates learned of their residency placements and where they will train in their chosen specialties.  

Tears, cheers, and squeals of joy filled the atrium as students opened the envelopes that revealed their residency locations. Many were able to celebrate the moment with friends and family members who attended the Match Day in person and via livestream. 


5280 Top Docs - 8-1-22

193 CU Faculty Recognized as 5280 Magazine Top Doctors for 2022

Denver-area magazine 5280 published its list of top doctors for 2022 in August. On this year’s list, CU School of Medicine faculty members continue to be ranked among the best. We're proud to congratulate the 193 CU School of Medicine faculty members honored with the title "Top Doctor."

The list is compiled from a survey of Denver-area physicians asking them "whom they would trust to treat themselves or a loved one" in a variety of specialty-based categories. This year, the list includes 343 total doctors in 100 specialties.