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    CFAS News Current Edition

    Harvard Pulling Out of U.S. News Rankings; Kessler Stepping Down from Biden’s COVID-19 Team; Cato to Head AAMC Communications and Marketing; and Other Items of Interest

    Harvard Medical School announced it will no longer submit data to U.S. News and World Report as part of the publication’s “best medical schools” survey and rankings. “As unintended consequences, rankings create perverse incentives for institutions to report misleading or inaccurate data, set policies to boost rankings rather than nobler objectives, or divert financial aid from students with financial need to high-scoring students with means in order to maximize ranking criteria. Ultimately, the suitability of any particular medical school for any given student is too complex, nuanced, and individualized to be served by a rigid ranked list, no matter the methodology,” wrote George Daley, MD, PhD, dean of the faculty of medicine at Harvard, in a letter.
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    In its reporting on Harvard leaving the rankings system, the Washington Post drew links between similar moves made by notable U.S. law schools in recent months. The piece also added that other Harvard schools, such as its business school, will continue to participate in published ranking systems. And the Chronicle of Higher Education reported that Dr. Daley will continue to make the data used for rankings public and easily available on the school’s website and in the resources published online by the AAMC.
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    David Kessler, MD, is leaving his position as chief science officer for the Biden administration’s COVID-19 response team after two years of behind-the-scenes work setting up mass vaccination sites, pushing for the development of antiviral medicines, and distributing reformulated booster shots, reported the New York Times. The article noted that Dr. Kessler’s departure signals the end of Operation Warp Speed, a Trump-era federal effort that supported multiple COVID-19 vaccine candidates to speed up development. Dr. Kessler was a past dean of the Yale School of Medicine and the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
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    The AAMC has named Susan Cato as its next chief communications and marketing officer (CCMO). She joined the AAMC as senior director of digital communications in 2020 and has served as acting chief communications and marketing officer since 2022. As CCMO, Cato will work in collaboration with the AAMC Leadership Team and the Board of Directors to lead the development, oversight, and implementation of a comprehensive communications and marketing program to support the AAMC’s strategic priorities, brand recognition, policy priorities, reputation, crisis communications, digital experience, and marketing campaigns.
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    The number of hospital merger and acquisition transactions reached a decade-plus low in 2022, but more deals are expected this year, reported Modern Healthcare. The piece noted that there are “fewer financially distressed hospitals to acquire after years of consolidation,” adding that potential buyers are faced with higher labor and supply costs, declines in investment income, heightened regulatory scrutiny, and Medicare reimbursement cuts.
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    On a similar note, an opinion in Politico from Barak Richman, JD, PhD, a senior scholar at Stanford University’s Clinical Excellence Research Center, stated that competition and antitrust strategies could help rein in rising health care costs. “One rudimentary principle of economics applies in health care markets, as anywhere: When there’s less competition, prices are higher. This has been especially true for America’s hospitals, the largest driver of the increasing cost of health care. Hospital systems have experienced rapid consolidation over the past three decades. An abundance of research examining hospital acquisitions and mergers over that period reveals some basic truths. When nearby hospitals merge, prices go up; cities with fewer competing hospitals exhibit higher prices; and even hospitals acquired by distant health systems increase prices more than unacquired, stand-alone hospitals. In fact, most of America’s unsustainable health care costs are driven by hospital care, and most of that price inflation over the past decades has been due to hospital mergers,” wrote Dr. Richman.
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    A Gallup poll revealed a record number of patients delayed medical care last year because of high costs. The survey released this week also showed that Americans who rate their health care as “poor” have reached a new high of 21% of those surveyed. The research in the poll links some of the perceptions of health care to political concerns and additionally finds a high number of people pointedly dissatisfied with the cost of care.
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    The Washington Post’s editorial board urged Congress to get out in front of the potential antibiotic crisis, noting, “bacteria can evolve to fight back. They can prevent antibiotics from entering their cells, for example, or pump out the drugs. The resulting antibiotic resistance has become a global public health crisis, a shadow pandemic, threatening the effectiveness of human medicine in areas such as joint replacements, Caesarean sections, organ transplants, chemotherapy, dialysis and more. … The inadequate pipeline of potential new drugs has been a subject of concern for years, prompting frequent debate about whether and how the government should help. With recent studies showing that antibiotic-resistant infections are on the rise and more lethal than previously thought, the new Congress should take on the issue, learning from the shortcomings of previous attempts to jump-start antibiotic development.”
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    A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine called for further development and continued investment of wastewater surveillance after the practice provided valuable public health information during the COVID-19 pandemic, reported the New York Times.
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    The Washington Post explored how fears that COVID-19 originated in a lab are subjecting virologists to increased scrutiny as they attempt to solve the mysteries of pathogens that could contribute to the next pandemic.
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    Are some people immune to COVID-19? AAMCNews reported on the fact that many health care workers and others have never contracted the disease despite being heavily exposed. Scientists around the world are studying whether genetic mutations make some people immune to the infection or resistant to the illness.
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    The Harvard Gazette covered why so many people are likely to believe COVID-19 misinformation and how scientists and reliable scientific sources can counter the noise. Quoted in the piece is AAMC Chief Scientific Officer Ross McKinney, MD, who noted, “We need …the [National Institutes of Health] to be believed, we need them to be reliable. They should give the basis of the information, as well as an interpretation. Whoever is providing information should be consistent and if there’s an inconsistency, explain why.”
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    President Joe Biden signed a law last month that allows the FDA to approve new medicines without needing to test them in animals first, reported Science. The reporting noted that the change may not come quickly given the challenges of effectively replacing animal models in testing.
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    Inflation is pushing up the cost of reagents, gloves, pipette tips, microscopes, and other equipment needed in labs, forcing scientists to tighten their budgets, reported Nature.
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    A pending decision by the Supreme Court on race-conscious admissions is expected to precipitate far-reaching and permanent changes in how colleges and universities admit students, reported the New York Times. Depending on the contours of the ruling, several practices related to outreach, recruitment, and other efforts to ensure a diverse array of applicants widely in use now may no longer be allowable. Other commonly used practices also might be on the way out, reported the piece, such as early admissions.
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    AAMCNews reported on why eliminating race-conscious admissions may hurt medical school students if the Supreme Court erases years of progress in improving the diversity of the medical student population. These medical students and physicians say doing away with race-conscious admissions has implications not just for the future physician workforce but for the health of patients, too.
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    Nature published an article and a podcast featuring an interview with Charu Kaushic, MSc, PhD, a faculty member in Medicine, Clinical Immunology and Allergy, and Infectious Diseases at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, on how the presence of women is changing traditional leadership in the sciences. “Having more women at the table starts to bring in a different point of view of how to make decisions and how to execute vision,” she said.
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    An analysis of “the gender and publication habits of more than 80,000 editors at 1,100 Elsevier journals across 15 disciplines and five decades” showed evidence of systemic and persistent gender inequality in editorial boards and a surprising amount of self-publishing from some journals’ editors, reported Nature.
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    Politico discussed how a persistent lack of diversity and inclusion in clinical trials, despite recent legislative and regulatory efforts to remedy the pervasive issue, is threatening their effectiveness. On a related note, the 2023 omnibus spending bill requires diversity action plans for clinical trials used by the FDA to evaluate new treatments, reported Bloomberg Law.
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    The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, a CFAS member society, recommended policy solutions to offer scientists who are caregivers much-needed support that they often don’t get.
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    The New York Times reported on what it called a “steady drop from 1945 through 2010 in disruptive finds” in a range of different scientific fields where there has been voluminous research. In other words, there are decreasing numbers of breakthroughs and innovations when compared against the “mountains of science and technology research” available today. Nature published a paper on the topic.
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    Some scientists are criticizing the National Science Foundation for not collecting LGBTQ+ data, calling for the addition of a question about sexual orientation to the foundation’s 2023 workforce surveys, reported Nature.
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    Historically Black university Xavier University of Louisiana and Ochsner Health announced plans to jointly establish a new medical school with a goal to diversify the medical workforce in the state and across the country, reported Inside Higher Ed.
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    Inside Higher Ed also reported on whether new medical schools, including at two historically Black colleges and universities, will be able to collectively increase the number of Black doctors.
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    Howard and Georgetown Universities will launch the joint Georgetown-Howard Center for Medical Humanities and Health Justice, with help from a $3 million grant from the Mellon Foundation.
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    As many as 47% of active physicians in the United States are 55 or older, according to the AAMC’s 2022 Physician Specialty Data Report, which was covered by Becker’s Hospital Review.
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    A new study from the Clarify Health Institute examined nearly 180,000 hip and knee replacements and found that higher-volume surgeons had higher quality across metrics such as readmissions, post-surgery emergency room visits, and costs, reported STAT+.
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    The Wall Street Journal covered how residents are unionizing over their pay and working conditions.
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    The AAMC will host a free webinar Feb. 15, at 2:30 p.m. ET, focused on what organizations should be looking for in department leaders and chairs and what skills leaders need to acquire to be successful. This webinar will outline the critical skills and attributes essential for a successful department chief or chair and will invite discussion regarding meeting the challenge of filling these important positions. Participants will also hear specific, actionable ways to recruit, incentivize, and support department leaders. Advanced registration is required.
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    The AAMC will host a free webinar Feb. 2, at 1 p.m. ET, to discuss the latest regulatory and legislative developments in telehealth. This session will include an overview of the telehealth regulatory framework, including which regulations changed during the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) and which will remain in the long term after the PHE ends. It will also include key considerations when reviewing telehealth arrangements including reimbursement; professional board requirements, licensure, and scope of practice; fraud and abuse considerations; corporate practice of medicine; and privacy. Advanced registration is required.
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    The Interprofessional Education Collaborative (IPEC), of which the AAMC is a member, will host a virtual faculty development institute on May 23-25. The program will be focused on interprofessional education for collaborative practice (IPECP). Participants will engage with national leaders in acquiring the building blocks for IPECP; spend significant time planning, building, designing, assessing, and communicating their IPECP goals and projects; and return to their home institutions with a new or improved programmatic action plan for IPECP. The early bird discount ends Jan. 31.
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    There is still time to submit nominations for the AAMC Award for Excellence in Medical Education, the Award for Distinguished Research in the Biomedical Sciences, the Louis W. Sullivan, MD, Award, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation David E. Rogers Award. The deadline for these awards is Jan. 27 at 11:59 p.m. ET.
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    William Pinsky, MD, will retire from his positions as CEO of Intealth, president of the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMB), and board chair of the Foundation for Advancement of International Medical Education and Research, or FAIMER, at the end of 2023. Dr. Pinsky has served in the positions for more than seven years.
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    Michelle Krause, MD, MPH, has been named senior vice chancellor for University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Health and CEO for UAMS Medical Center, and Ahmed Abuabdou, MD, MBA, has been named chief clinical officer for UAMS Medical Center. Both have been serving in these roles on an interim basis since September of 2022.
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    Michael Farkouh, MD, MSc, has been named associate dean for research and clinical trials at Cedars-Sinai, effective March 1. Dr. Farkouh currently holds the Peter Munk Chair in Multinational Clinical Trials at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre of the University Health Network in Toronto.
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    Paula Vertino, PhD, has been appointed senior associate dean for basic research at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, effective Feb. 1. Dr. Vertino is a professor of biomedical genetics and pathology and laboratory medicine and the Wilmot Distinguished Professor in Cancer Genomics at URSMD.
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    Shahzad Mian, MD, has been appointed interim chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at University of Michigan Medical School. Dr. Mian is a professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the U-M Medical School and has served as vice chair of clinical sciences and learning for the department since 2019.
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    Also at U-M Medical School, Raymond Yung, MB, ChB, has been appointed interim chair of the Department of Internal Medicine. Dr. Yung is the inaugural Jeffrey B. Halter Professor of Geriatric Medicine, chief of the Division of Geriatric and Palliative Medicine, and director of the Geriatrics Center and the Institute of Gerontology at the medical school.
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    Walter Douglas Jr. has joined the Morehouse School of Medicine as its executive vice president for operations and business affairs. Prior to joining MSM, Douglas served as the vice president and chief operating officer of Neighborhood Health Services Corporation.

    COVID-19 is contagious. Bad news. Flu is contagious. Bad news. But laughter is also contagious. And that’s good news. The Washington Post reported on a range of peer-reviewed articles and books describing the curiously contagious quality of laughter — not unlike yawning, incidentally — and how little is understood about why we laugh merely because others around us happen to be laughing, too. We don’t seem to be born with the laughter contagion, however, because babies aren’t infected, such as it is.
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    And finally, that feeling of awe you get when viewing a beautiful sunrise or sunset is, in fact, a real thing that will enhance your enjoyment of a natural setting and even set up a scenario where you will pay a premium to witness it as opposed to simply enjoying a run-of-the-mill lovely blue sky under a brightly shining sun. Researchers at the University of Exeter Medical School in the U.K. demonstrated how a sunrise or an unexpected rainbow can add a “'wow’ factor [that] might unlock small but significant bumps in feelings of beauty and awe, which could in turn have positive impacts for mental wellbeing,” according to Alex Smalley, PhD, fellow at the University of Exeter and lead author of the research. The researchers even quantified it — noting that people will be willing not only to get up early and travel a bit, but will pay a 10% premium to witness a beautiful sunrise over just a normal beautiful day. Tomorrow’s Saturday. Would it be too stressful to pull yourself out of bed a little early to conduct an experiment of your own?
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    Visit the CFAS Resources page for an archive of the previous edition of CFAS News as well as our People of Academic Medicine page, which features a running list of academic promotions, appointments, and departures.

    Your comments and news tips are always welcome. Please email them to Eric Weissman at eweissman@aamc.org.

    Read the previous edition of CFAS News.

    Eric Weissman
    Senior Director, Faculty and Academic Society Engagement
    AAMC
    eweissman@aamc.org
    www.aamc.org/cfas