Profiles in Leadership - Meet the Deans

Ralph J. Altiere, PhD - Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences


Ralph Altiere photo

Dean and Professor

Why do you do what you do? 

Ever since I was an undergraduate, I was interested in research. I engaged in research as a student and went into the pharmaceutical industry before earning my graduate degree and doing my post-doc. Over that time, I had some opportunities to teach and decided that academia was where I wanted to build my career. That took me to the University of Kentucky pharmacy school, and then on to the University of Colorado in the late 1980s. While being an administrator was never in my career plans, I was appointed associate dean for academic affairs some years later and found out I had a propensity for this type of work. I led the effort to move our program from the baccalaureate degree to the PharmD degree for accreditation and was named dean in 2006. So it was a bit by happenstance that I ended up becoming dean! When I first interviewed at CU, neither I nor the faculty knew what we were in for! 

Why CU Anschutz? 

Given my previous roles at CU, I had a lot of knowledge about our university, our pharmacy school and where things were heading when I took on the dean position. I knew great opportunities were on the horizon for our school and that I could help achieve those. 

How does your work impact the world? 

The world of pharmacy is perceived in one way by the general public, but they really don’t know what’s going on in schools of pharmacy like ours. We are research-intensive – pioneering pharmaceutical and biomedical research in areas spanning cancer, neurology and other disease states. Also, very importantly, we are investigating how best to deliver drugs and make sure they are effective. Our impact in both drug discovery and drug delivery is really substantial. And our clinical faculty are looking at how to best design therapies for patients and monitor them to ensure no adverse effects. They’ve demonstrated that there are greatly improved health outcomes, and at lower costs, when we embed pharmacy services into direct patient care. Our students learn from our outstanding faculty, and then take that knowledge into their careers. So, our impact spans research, education and care, and is fueling an understanding of pharmacy as an integral part of the overall health care system. 

What are you most excited about in the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences  Opportunity?

We have excellent opportunities in front of us in all of our mission areas: education, research and clinical care. On the clinical side, we just led the successful effort to obtain “provider status” for pharmacists in Colorado, giving them the option to expand their scope of work and seek reimbursement for that. It’s going to open up whole new levels of practice for pharmacy, and make a big difference for patients and the health care system overall. On the research side, new endeavors open up all the time. We’re heavily involved in the personalized medicine initiative on campus, and there are incredible opportunities there. On the education side, we’ve expanded our program from local to global, and we’re just getting started. 

What’s the biggest conversation piece in your office or living room? 

A 5-foot by 3-foot oil painting prominently displayed in our living room at home. It started with a trip to San Francisco, my wife’s first, where we found the piece in a local artist’s gallery. Perhaps by fate, it matched our living room perfectly and it’s hanging there today. A delight to look at, and a great story to tell!

David Engelke, PhD - Graduate School


David Engelke photo

Dean

Why do you do what you do? 

As I was teaching and doing research in molecular biology, I accepted a series of increasingly university-wide roles in graduate education over the last 20 years. These were very rewarding, in terms of both serving the institution and helping individual students achieve their goals. I found that I also enjoyed learning about the academic life in disciplines across the entire spectrum at a comprehensive university. The decision to devote full time to the graduate dean position evolved slowly over those 20 years to the point of certainty. 

Why CU Anschutz? 

The ideal position seemed one where I could be involved with a broad spread of disciplines, including humanities as well as biological, physical and social sciences. In keeping an eye out for opportunities, I was especially receptive to a position in Denver, having visited the city and the University of Colorado for over 30 years to visit family and see old friends. 

How does your work impact the world? 

I think of my work more in terms of its impact on individual students, faculty and programs. It’s possible that conversations examining the future of graduate education here will also help influence national trends – one effort in this direction is that we are hosting a national meeting on the future of scientific training here next year consisting of graduate schools, funding agencies and the private sector. 

What are you most excited about in the Graduate School? 

There is great potential for creating new interdisciplinary educational and training programs to push the boundaries of scholarship. New programs are continuously being implemented in cooperative ventures between departments and programs, and the graduate school will do everything in its power to facilitate these efforts by the faculty on behalf of future students. 

What's the biggest conversation piece in your office or living room? 

A lighted crystal structure representation of the large catalytic RNA molecule – RNase P – from the ancient RNA world.

David C. Goff, Jr., MD, PhD* - Colorado School of Public Health


David C. Goff Photo

Dean and Professor

Why do you do what you do? 

I decided to bridge medicine and public health in order to be more effective in preventing mass diseases, especially heart disease and stroke. My interest in the health professions was encouraged by an aunt who was a nurse and by various teachers along the way. My more specific interest in preventing heart disease and stroke relates to the effect my grandfather’s stroke had on him and our family when I was a young child. He was instantly changed – from a vigorous man who lived alone on his farm, where our extended family would gather on many weekends – into a severely debilitated man dependent on others for care. Once I pursued medical education, I learned that we already knew many of the causes of heart disease and stroke, but we needed to learn more about these diseases and how to prevent them effectively. I’ve worked on those issues for over 25 years now. 

Why CU Anschutz? 

Over the years, my research focus on the causes and prevention of heart disease and stroke led to interactions with many outstanding faculty members here… Having admired them and their work from afar, it was a privilege to come here to look for opportunities to work with them and others to build a great school of public health and a healthier world. 

How does your work impact the world? 

Heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death worldwide. In fact, the World Health Organization has identified high blood pressure as the leading cause of death and disability. Working with many others on large team science projects, we’ve shown that more intensive blood pressure control can reduce heart disease and stroke and improve quality of life. Knowing that we can create a healthier world is inspiring. 

What are you most excited about in the Colorado School of Public Health? 

The Colorado School of Public Health is a young school, born in the 21st century, yet born on a strong foundation of excellence provided by faculty from three great universities – CU Anschutz, Colorado State University and the University of Northern Colorado. I’m excited about our opportunities to create a healthier Colorado and world, through training public health practitioners in 21st century approaches to 21st century problems. I’m also excited about the discoveries our faculty and students are making related to major public health problems like cancer, obesity, diabetes, injury, behavioral health and climate change. Our work is grounded in an appreciation of the social determinants of health and the promotion of health equity. We’re making major contributions to American Indian and Alaska Native health and Latino health, and we look forward to continuing those efforts. 

What is the biggest conversation piece in your office or living room? 

In the office, water colors. At home, abstract art created by my wife’s grandmother. 

*As this publication was being printed, Dean Goff announced he had accepted a new opportunity as director of the Division of Cardiovascular Sciences for the National Institute of Health’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Denise Kassebaum, DDS, MS - School of Dental Medicine


Denise Kassebaum photo

Dean and Professor

Why do you do what you do? 

I am excited about the dental profession – its importance in health – and I wanted to make a difference. 

Why CU Anschutz? 

The CU School of Dental Medicine is terrific. It is research-intensive, it has innovative interprofessional education programs and exceptional community engagement opportunities. We have great faculty, staff and students, and we’re here on the amazing Anschutz Medical Campus. 

How does your work impact the world? 

We are educating future generations of oral health care providers who will experience the promise and opportunity of integrated health care. 

What are you most excited about in the CU School of Dental Medicine? 

I am so excited each day by the energy, enthusiasm and talent of our students and faculty. We have fresh ideas and approaches for providing innovative solutions that result in evidence-based changes to our profession. We are beginning to focus on personalized dental medicine and it is exciting to consider the possibilities for the future – how we can interrupt oral disease processes to improve the quality of life for the patients we are privileged to serve. 

What’s the biggest conversation piece in your office or living room? 

Photographs of my college-age sons, who I am so proud of.

John J. Reilly, Jr., MD - School of Medicine


John Reilly photo

Dean and Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs

Why do you do what you do? 

According to my mother, I always wanted to be a doctor. There were no doctors in my family before me and my family didn’t have close friends who were physicians, so it wasn’t because a family connection. I chose pulmonology because I like solving problems, which is also one of the things that attracted me to medicine. Pulmonology happens to be a lot of physiology, so if you understand the physiological principles, you can usually figure things out. 

Why CU Anschutz? 

I think the attraction is a sense of opportunity and the trajectory of the Anschutz Medical Campus. In other places, there are concerns about how to maintain what you have. It’s more fun to think about hiring good talent and scaling up to meet the demand. We are growing here and will continue to grow. It’s more fun to hire people than to think about how to cut back. 

How does your work impact the world? 

We are responsible for creating and maintaining an environment that allows thousands of others to succeed and make a difference. Our common goal is great patient care. Right now, we are adapting to a changing healthcare environment where medical care is compensated based on the health of the population rather than on the number of procedures performed. We must succeed in this transition because our school depends significantly on the clinical activity of our faculty to achieve our other responsibilities, including educating the next generation of great physicians, scientists, physician assistants and physical therapists. We are also forging the way to better understanding of health through investments in promising, high-impact areas of research. We aim to improve the quality of life of individuals, our community and our world.

What are you most excited about in the CU School of Medicine? 

I am impressed by the collaborations on our campus. There are lot of stereotypes about the types of personalities attracted to academic medicine and their willingness to collaborate with different medical specialties. Those stereotypes have proven not to be true here. By and large, people play well in the sandbox with each other. The next step is to share the news about our successes. I feel that’s one of our challenges. As the school and this campus have grown, we have attracted all this expertise. We now have a great opportunity to tell our community about the great work we’re doing here.

Sarah Thompson, PhD, RN, FAAN - College of Nursing


Sarah Thompson photo

Dean and Professor

Why do you do what you do? 

I really believe in the profession of nursing, and our ability to make a difference for people, in terms of their health and wellbeing. This position presents a wonderful opportunity to bring expert faculty, skilled clinicians and talented students together to make an impact. As dean, I am privileged to facilitate and honor our faculty’s work, and to bring resources to bear in the areas where we can contribute most. I have a real passion for people, and nursing lets me make the most of that. 

Why CU Anschutz? 

I was drawn to CU Anschutz because of the incredible strengths of this entire campus. We have faculty expertise spanning research, practice and teaching, and we have a proud legacy of innovation. The CU College of Nursing is situated on a truly dynamic academic medical campus – one in which all of our schools and colleges are poised for continued growth. We’re in a health system that is pretty amazing as well, with excellent hospital partners on campus, throughout the metro area, and around the state. There’s a lot of expertise to draw upon as we continue to develop as a national leader in health. 

How does your work impact the world? 

Nursing is ranked the most trusted profession, year in and year out. For the last 14 years, the American public has named nurses as the most honest and ethical profession in the annual Gallup poll. We spend more time with patients than do any other health care providers, and we’re trained to foster overall health and wellbeing, not just to treat illness and disease. Our graduates receive the hands-on experience that they need to go on and impact patient care almost immediately, and our faculty researchers are making life-changing contributions in areas spanning childhood obesity, direct clinical care, and veteran and military health. Across the board, we have the ability to make a difference and we’re out there doing that every day. 

What are you most excited about in the CU College of Nursing? 

In the clinical practice arena, we have tremendous opportunity right now. There’s such great need among primary care providers, and we’re working to fulfill that need through our nurse-managed clinics on our campus and throughout our community. 

What’s the biggest conversation piece in your office or living room? 

My biggest conversation piece is a who, rather than a what. My Wheaten terrier, Bailey, greets everyone he meets with an actual smile. People just love him. In fact, some of my faculty have suggested the title “Associate Dean of Happiness” might be in order.