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Rep. Crow Impressed by ‘Breadth and Depth’ of Global Health Work at CU Anschutz

Congressman learns about faculty research, training and service that spans the globe

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Written by Chris Casey on December 21, 2023
What You Need To Know

U.S. Rep. Jason Crow heard an overview of global health initiatives taking place at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, including work being done by the Center for Global Health and the Center for Combat Medicine and Battlefield (COMBAT) Research.

At a roundtable discussion on global health, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus faculty briefed U.S. Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.) on the many ways CU Anschutz is transforming trauma care in austere settings and training the next generation of healthcare providers in developing nations worldwide.

Chancellor Don Elliman welcomed the congressman on Dec. 20, noting that global health has always been a strength of the campus, but that the breadth of the work – including training providers and conducting research in different countries – expands every year.

John J. Reilly, Jr., MD, dean of the CU School of Medicine (SOM) and vice chancellor for health affairs, and Cathy Bradley, PhD, dean of the Colorado School of Public Health, shared how their schools are collaborating to advance health initiatives both globally and in rural domestic settings. Reilly said “there is a lot going on here” in terms of global health research programs and training, as well as an increasing focus on helping populations arriving in Colorado, including the recent waves of refugees, with healthcare needs.

Others joining the discussion included SOM faculty members Ali Musani, MD, professor of medicine and pulmonary sciences; Vik Bebarta, MD, professor of emergency medicine and director of the Center for Combat Medicine and Battlefield (COMBAT) Research; Nee-Kofi Mould-Millman, MD, associate professor of emergency medicine; and Corey Bills, MD, associate professor of emergency medicine. May Chu, PhD, clinical professor and interim director for the Center for Global Health, highlighted some of the global health initiatives at the Colorado School of Public Health.

Musani shared CU’s work in expanding surgical capacities in the developing world, including at the Center for Human Development Clinic in Trifinio, Guatemala.

‘Global public health leader’

Musani said CU Anschutz faculty provide surgical education in 26 developing nations. “Our vision is positioning the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus as the global public health leader in the country,” he said.

The clinical research and training facility in Guatemala is a collaboration with the Center for Global Health and governmental and non-governmental organizations. Musani said 17 million people die annually in the 50 most low-income nations due to a lack of qualified surgeons and that the need for surgical care is a “top-three motivator” for migrants to the United States.

Musani’s work in Guatemala includes a “train the trainer” program, which offers a bonus of also serving domestic rural healthcare initiatives. “We have all the ingredients here (on campus) – we have residents, fellows and junior faculty – who are training in global health. It will create a parallel system where global health fellows will also go to rural Colorado to serve as part of their training,” he said.

Improving PPEs, air quality, refugee health

Chu gave an overview of the Center for Global Health, noting that CU Anschutz faculty are conducting over 300 health projects in 80 countries, including 34 multi-country projects. “I think you can see our footprint is pretty large and impressive.”

She highlighted the center’s work to ensure personal protective equipment (PPE) for front-line healthcare workers during the COVID pandemic, as well as research into internal air quality in public buildings. The center, in collaboration with CU Boulder, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment, is conducting a three-year project to assess air-quality in K-12 schools. “We specifically want to know what we have to engineer in the future to have a clean and safe (indoor) environment,” Chu said.

The center is also working to establish a public health resource to support immigrant and refugee populations in Aurora and other Colorado communities.

COMBAT: Aligned with national defense strategy

Crow, a former Army Ranger, emphasizes his commitment to serving active and veteran military service members, so he took particular interest in hearing from Bebarta and two members of his COMBAT team. Bebarta, a colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, explained that the Center for COMBAT Research launched about four years ago with a very small staff and a handful of research projects. It has now grown to a full-time staff of almost 20 and about 100 affiliate investigators. “We align closely with national defense strategy,” he told the congressman.

Mould-Millman, who leads C3 Global Trauma Network: Cape-Colorado-Combat, thanked Crow for his ongoing support of U.S. Department of Defense medical research funding that the C3 initiative has been successful in being awarded, including how the congressman championed the study of prolonged casualty care as part of the  fiscal year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, an area the COMBAT center studies and is a national leader in.

“The mission of the C3 network is to try and transform trauma care in austere settings with direct, tangible benefits for our service members here stateside, in rural Colorado, but also internationally for patients who are victims of trauma,” Mould-Millman said.

Much of C3’s study of trauma care, prehospital care and prolonged casualty care takes place in South Africa, which has the highest incidence rates of trauma in the world, including the highest trauma mortality rate due to personal violence.

In research directed toward war-torn Ukraine, Adit Ginde, MD, professor of emergency medicine and lead of the CU ATLAS Research Program, along with Corey Bills, MD, associate professor of emergency medicine, and the COMBAT center team are engaged in efforts focused on improving acute care and trauma. Their efforts with their partners will develop medical solutions to improve the lives of Ukrainians and U.S. military members. 

‘Blown away by breadth, depth of work’

The discussion concluded with Crow reiterating his support for the innovative and globe-spanning initiatives taking place at CU Anschutz.

“I’m always blown away by the breadth and depth of the work that’s happening here,” the congressman said. “Every time we peel back a layer, there are more layers and more things going on. I’m just so proud to represent this campus because of the incredible work that you all do.”

The roundtable was planned in partnership with the CU System’s Office of Federal Relations.

Photo at top: Pictured from left to right (seated) include U.S. Rep. Jason Crow; Ali Musani, MD; Cathy Bradley, PhD, dean of the Colorado School of Public Health; Joe Miklosi; and John J. Reilly, Jr., MD, dean of the CU School of Medicine and vice chancellor for health affairs.