Chancellor Don Elliman delivered his annual State of the Campus Address on Nov. 16 to nearly 750 community members online and in-person, highlighting the campus’s strong stance at the forefront of innovation in health and medicine.
Record research awards, creative partnerships and life-altering patient stories marked a productive year for the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, which continues to stand out as a place that does the impossible, the chancellor told the audience in the Elliman Conference Center at the Anschutz Health Sciences Building.
“Frankly, I think we’ve built something pretty spectacular together. We have a dynamic and growing campus. We have a place that’s driven by bright minds crafting new solutions and changing lives. And we have a place where the future healthcare workforce trains to lead what’s next in modern medicine."
Driving innovation and embracing risk
Elliman highlighted increases in research awards, revenue and philanthropic support, including $867 million in sponsored research funding and gifts last year and $54 million from the National Institutes of Health to fund the Colorado Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute for the fourth consecutive time.
The chancellor noted that, with our partners Children’s Hospital Colorado and UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital, we had more than 2.1 million patient visits treating Coloradans from all 64 counties. Announcing last year’s revenue, Elliman drew an impressed whistle from the audience when he emphasized the “B” in $3 billion.
Chancellor Don Elliman poses with Sondus Alkadri, a dental student from Syria who graduates next month after an educational journey that has spanned continents.
On a more sober note, Elliman said that the two largest of the campus’s traditional revenue sources – support from our hospital partners and clinical revenues – are under significant pressures due to efforts to lower healthcare costs.
“What these realities point to, I believe, is the imperative of innovation,” Elliman said. Emphasizing the importance of science and revenue diversification as well as risk-taking, he used the rapidly growing startup OncoVerity as an example. The joint venture with UCHealth is bringing new therapeutic options to patients with acute myeloid leukemia.
Instilling innovation in every area of our mission
Elliman emphasized that innovation goes beyond pure science. “It’s in every element of our mission,” he said, offering examples in education, including:
- The curriculum redesign for the CU School of Medicine.
- New pathway programs in the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and in Physical Therapy.
- A partnership between the CU College of Nursing and Fort Lewis College.
- And a new state-of-the-art simulation hub at the School of Dental Medicine.
Elliman shared efforts to address health equity and diversity, including progress with the Aurora Wellness Community and naming of the inaugural executive director of the Center for Heath Equity, who will join the campus in January.
He highlighted initiatives aimed at improving access to mental and behavioral healthcare, including the newly opened Traverse Academy ‒ a first of its kind day-treatment facility serving kids in the Cherry Creek School District, created through a partnership with the Department of Psychiatry.
Embracing change and opportunity ahead
While the campus continues to grow, Elliman noted changes on the horizon including visionary new leadership in the Graduate School and Colorado School of Public Health, and a national search for a successor to John J. Reilly, Jr., MD, who recently announced his intention to retire as dean of the CU School of Medicine (SOM) and vice chancellor for health affairs.
Elliman recapped Reilly’s outstanding contributions to SOM, including boosting the school into the leading ranks of women in leadership, with half of its 24 departments now led by women (compared with a 22% national medical school average).
In introducing videotaped messages by Jena Hausmann and Elizabeth Concordia, the presidents and chief executive officers of Children’s and UCHealth, respectively, Elliman said: “As we move forward to the future together, we’ve got to remember that we will also rise and fall with our hospital partners."
Remembering our 'North Stars'
Elliman called on the audience to remember, as the campus moves forward into 2024, why they are all here, or “our North Stars” of educating the next generation, discovering and reinventing the healthcare of tomorrow, and providing the highest-quality care that enriches lives today.
He shared the story of Sondus Alkadri, a dental student from Syria who graduates next month after an educational journey that has spanned continents. The first woman in her family to travel abroad for higher education, Sondus thrived in the Advanced Standing International Student Program at the CU School of Dental Medicine and plans to practice in Colorado.
Elliman highlighted the research work underway by Traci Lyons, PhD, and Virginia Borges, MD, in postpartum breast cancer. After Lyons discovered that a particular molecule appears to drive breast cancer spread, the two formed a startup biotech company, Pearl Scientific, to develop a novel drug targeting the molecule and offering hope for thousands of women with postpartum and other aggressive breast cancers.
As the finale to his presentation, Elliman shared a touching video story of Josh Bryan ‒ a young father with complex orthopedic trauma who was given his life back after innovative bone-anchored limb replacement by Jason Stoneback, MD, and the Limb Restoration Program team.
“There are literally thousands of stories each year of patients who benefit from life-changing outcomes at our hospital facilities,” Elliman said. “Stories like Sondus’s, Traci’s and Josh’s are why we are all here.”
Watch the full address below, or read the full remarks as written.