The ECHO Colorado board of directors announced today that John “Fred” Thomas, PhD, will succeed Tim Byers, MD, MPH, as Director of ECHO Colorado while Duane Pearson, MD, will serve as the program’s new associate director starting immediately.
Byers retired last month after a distinguished career at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus that began back in 1995. Most recently, he served as Associate Dean for Public Health Practice, Director of the Rocky Mountain Public Health Training Center, Director of ECHO Colorado, and professor of Epidemiology in the Colorado School of Public Health at CU Anschutz. In addition, he has served as the Deputy Director of the University of Colorado Cancer Center.
“During the past few months, our board and management team have worked diligently together to prepare for this change in leadership,” said Byers. “Our goal has been to ensure a seamless transition and I am honored to announce Fred’s elevated role and the addition of Duane to the leadership team.”
Byers continued, “Working with Fred for the past few years on the ECHO Colorado program development, I have seen his passion for developing meaningful community health outcomes through the use of tele-enabled connection and building innovative models of care delivery.”
ECHO, or Extension for Community Health Outcomes in Colorado, is a statewide professional education initiative aimed at connecting health workforces to topic experts to increase access to specialty care and expert knowledge.
For over 15 years, Thomas has been a healthcare innovator and social entrepreneur. Prior to arriving in Colorado four years ago to lead the telehealth efforts for Children’s Hospital Colorado, he had over a decade of service and innovation at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), where he was Director of Community Based Mental Health Services and Policy. In that role, he led the development of a regional telehealth-based pediatric system of care recognized as a national model. Thomas received his doctorate from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston; his Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Texas at Austin; and his Bachelor of Business Administration Degree in Finance from Texas State University.
As Director of ECHO Colorado (ECHO-CO), Thomas looks forward to working with the ECHO-CO team along with Pearson to integrate ECHO methodology into innovative care delivery and population health efforts. In addition, he is committed to providing a robust evaluation of ECHO-based models of education, capacity building, and care delivery.
“ECHO is best described as a model of providing health professionals with applicable knowledge and collegial support to effectively manage complex chronic and public health conditions within their own practices and communities,” Thomas said. “It has become a widely accepted model of care collaboration. And as private and public sector support for the ECHO model builds, health care entities will begin to recognize the foundational role it serves. Value-based healthcare demands improved cost effectiveness and care received in the right place, at the right time, and in the manner that best suits a patient’s needs. ECHO will be essential in driving improvements in cost, quality, and outcomes”.
Thomas continued, “It has been an honor to work with Tim on the development of this statewide initiative and I look forward to sharing the vision with Duane as associate director. His passion for the development of new clinical pathways that may improve efficiency and decrease healthcare disparities made him a promising fit for the new leadership role in ECHO Colorado.”
Dr. Duane Pearson is Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. He currently serves as the practice director for the CU School of Medicine’s Rheumatology practice. After completing his residency and fellowship in Rheumatology at the CU School of Medicine, focusing on translational research programs in lupus, he moved to Ventura, California to further explore healthcare delivery in a medically underserved population. At the Ventura County Health Care Agency, he served as the Medical Director for Specialty Services, where his main focus was the coordination of care transition between a large primary-care network and a robust specialty panel. Currently, he is also a member of the Clinical Leadership Council’s Subcommittee for Ambulatory Referrals, participating in the Community Health Assessment Grant steering committee, sitting on the Aurora Health Care Access Specialty Task Force, and partnering with CORHIO and HCPF for an e-Consult pilot project to improve specialty care access for Medicaid participants.
“Fred and Duane offer significant combined experience in innovative care delivery models and passion for building capacity in Colorado’s health workforce,” said Lilly Marks. “We look forward to supporting ECHO Colorado as the leadership team undergoes this transition.”
Marks serves as Vice President for Health Affairs for the University of Colorado and Anschutz Medical Campus as well as a member on the ECHO Colorado board of directors.