President Bruce Benson's newsletter

February 2015

Dear Alumni and Friends,

When the University of Colorado Department of Medicine opened in 1883, it seemed headed for Noah's Ark. It occupied two rooms in Old Main on the Boulder campus and had two professors, two instructors and two hastily recruited students.

While its beginnings were modest, its aspirations were lofty. The department (later the School of Medicine) aimed to "secure a higher standard of medical education for those who may, in the future, be entrusted with the lives and with the health of our citizens."

Some 132 years later, CU still plays a substantial role in the lives and health of our citizens. We are the only public university in the state preparing physicians, dentists and pharmacists. We have first-rate nursing programs on our campuses at CU Anschutz and Colorado Springs. Our researchers and clinical practitioners save lives and improve lives. Our focus is on high quality and leading-edge research and treatment.

The School of Medicine moved to Denver in 1924, occupying a barren plain at present-day Ninth Avenue and Colorado Boulevard. There, the CU Health Sciences Center grew and flourished for the next 75 years.

The next milestone came at the turn of this century, when we began moving to the former Fitzsimons Army Medical Garrison, now the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. It is one of the few medical campuses in the country where research, education and clinical care (with an adjacent biomedical park) all share the same site. More important, it is where the next chapters in CU's history in health care are being written.

For example, researchers at CU Anschutz are close to isolating the cause of Alzheimer's disease, a critical step in finding a cure. Cancer care doctors are using precision medicine, which uses an individual's genetic makeup to guide treatment, to build on cancer-care outcomes that already exceed national averages. Doctors in our Ophthalmology Department recently invented a device to improve cataract surgeries. In the past year, CU Anschutz has generated 97 invention disclosures, 150 patent filings, 27 patents, 20 licenses and options and 10 startup companies.

We are collaborating with our hospital partners at University of Colorado Health to transform our clinical and research programs in an era of big data. We have created and funded the Center for Biomedical Informatics and Personalized Medicine, which will allow us to connect dots and correlate data using billions of pieces of information to drive medical care focusing on prevention, prediction and precision.

U.S. News & World Report ranks CU's hospital among the top 25 among academic medical centers nationally, with nine specialty areas receiving high marks, including pulmonology (2nd), cancer care (15th) kidney disorders (18th) and gynecology (19th). Several School of Medicine programs rank among national leaders, including family medicine (5th), pediatrics (6th) and rural medicine (9th). The College of Nursing's online graduate program ranks 5th nationally.

We are fortunate to have new leaders take the reins to guide us on the next part of our journey. We recently named Dr. John Reilly dean of the School of Medicine. He previously was chair of medicine at the acclaimed University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), a leader among academic medical centers. He has big shoes to fill when he begins in April – outgoing dean Dr. Dick Krugman is the longest-serving medical school dean in the U.S. at 24 years and has led the School of Medicine to significant heights. We appreciate Dick's steady leadership and contributions.

Another alumnus of UPMC joined us last fall. Liz Concordia is president of University of Colorado Health, a network of seven hospitals (including the University of Colorado Hospital) established two years ago that is quickly setting the standard for quality health care. Liz is a dynamic leader whose interest in collaboration mirrors my own. She also has aspirations to make UCHealth the go-to choice in health care, move it into the top tier of academic medical centers nationally, and make it a destination health care provider for certain specialties to serve patients from across the country and around the world.

Additionally, we are collaborating with partners at Children's Hospital Colorado on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, and look forward to the same when the new VA Hospital is completed across the street.

Our quest to improve the lives and health of our citizens extends beyond the boundaries of the CU Anschutz Medical Campus to some 450 clinics where our physicians serve communities large and small.

Continuing our tradition of service and achieving our aspirations will require building on the firm foundation of collaboration among our network of hospitals, researchers, physicians, nurses, teachers and staff. I am confident that the next chapters in the history of medicine and health care at CU will be even more vital than those already written.

For feedback, contact


Bruce Benson

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  • February,Leading leaders


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