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From the Chair - December 2013

Department of Medicine

Two significant events took place since our last newsletter issue.  Our first New Faculty Welcome Reception and the State of the Department Address. Both are positive signs of the activity and forward momentum of the Department of Medicine.

At the end of October, we welcomed 61 new faculty to the Department.  Division heads introduced their new faculty and although all of the new faculty could not be present, I was struck by the outstanding accomplishments and tremendous promise of this group.  These new faculty are our future.  They bring fresh, new ideas, a special energy, and strength to help us achieve our vision.  Hugo Rosen, MD, Head of the Gastroenterology/Hepatology Division stole the show with photos of his division’s new faculty who could not be present.  This event made me think back to my days as a new faculty member.  One thing I’ve come to recognize and appreciate is the central role that the academic community has played in my personal and professional life.  I look forward to having these new faculty members become part of our community, and to celebrate their accomplishments.   



On November 15th, I presented the State of the Department Address.  My goals were to share the major accomplishments during the past year and share our vision for the future of the department.  I want to highlight a few points from the Address.
Our clinical program has experienced unbelievable growth in hospital admissions, patient days, in-patient activity, and outpatient visits.  In addition, given the outstanding leadership of each of our clinical services, we have decreased length of stay.  To meet this rapid expansion, with the support of our hospital partners, we have grown the clinical operation by hiring more physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants.  We have also created a rigorous peer review process under the leadership of Heidi Wald, MD, Vice Chair for Quality, that has become a model program for other departments.  We will do everything possible to provide the best care for our patients by ensuring high quality and safety.  Moreover, I firmly believe that the strongest clinical programs will create opportunities for the development of outstanding integrated programs in education and research. 
Our education and training program is strong yet continues to grow and develop.  This year we have a house staff of 172 and 113 subspecialty fellows.  We continue to expand our clinical and educational opportunities through the development of a Medicine-Pediatrics training program, a partnership with Children’s Hospital Colorado and our Department of Pediatrics.  New programs to help provide the tools for future leaders are the Physician Scientist Training Program and the Academic Subspecialty Career Program (see article in this issue). We continue to address the issue of diversity, and will attempt to increase the under-represented minorities (URMs) to 20% of our incoming class (30% URMs graduate from medical schools in the U.S. each year). 
Research continues to focus on the “Bridge Between Science and Medicine.”  While this year we were ranked 23rd for NIH Grants, we were only 8 million away from returning to the top 20.  Our Veterans Administration support has increase significantly and will be the highest to date in the 2013-2014 fiscal year. 
The Department holds 31 endowed chairs with five new endowed ​chairs added in the last three years.  I am pleased to announce that as of this address, through the generosity of friends, colleagues, residents, fellows, and two major gifts we have completed the Robert W. Schrier, MD, Endowed Chair of Medicine in the Department of Medicine. 
More importantly, our faculty have made fundamental contributions to our understanding of a number complex diseases including (but not limited to) cancer of the breast, colon, thyroid, and lung, inflammatory bowel disease, acute lung injury, rheumatoid arthritis, and metabolic syndrome.  The future of our research program is dependent on strong mentorship, recruitment and retention of outstanding physician-scientists and PhDs, establishing a pipeline of career development (DREAM program for medical students, Physician-Scientist Training Program, Outstanding Early Career Scholars Program, Bridging Research Program), support for interdisciplinary program development (Center for Pulmonary Vascular Disease and Division of Personalized Medicine), and the need to showcase our research accomplishments.  We are extremely fortunate to have both Sean Colgan, PhD and Marc Moss, MD providing leadership of our departmental research program.   
We are well on our way to developing a new division which focuses on Personalized or Precision Medicine.  This future trend for medicine will help us with prevention, prediction and prognosis. We are joined in this significant venture with partners at UCH, UPI, SOM, Children’s Hospital Colorado, CCTSI, and CUCC. 
This is a stressful time and we are facing many challenges – growth of our clinical service, constrained funding for research, new rules imposed by the ACGME, and local politics, market forces, and the federal deficit.  Our clinical and research programs are being asked to do more with less, and our training programs are competing with the very best for the very best.  Each day, the decisions facing us seem to be more difficult.  To succeed, we have to be nimble and change the way we do business, but we must maintain our goals and our determination – keeping our minds and our decisions focused on who we are and using these challenging times to further define ourselves.  After all, the decisions that we make individually or institutionally in response to these challenging times serve to further define who we are and can strengthen our commitment to not only our professional goals but those of our colleagues. 
In trying to address many of these decisions, I think first about ‘career development’ because it is your success that will allow us to emerge as one of the very best departments in the country.  I am fully committed to the success of each and every one of you, and want you to challenge me when you’re not convinced.  We also need to recognize that we are stronger together than we are apart, and that support of our colleagues will oftentimes enhance our own success.  Each person reading this column has a role to play in moving us forward.  I invite you to contact me, let me know your thoughts, and thank you for all that you have done and will do in the future to make the Department of Medicine the best that it can be.  Best regards.
David A. Schwartz, MD