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    CFAS News Current Edition

    AAMC Response to Proposed Health Care Cuts; States Sue to Block Transgender Rule; Bloomberg Donation Makes Med School Tuition Free; and Other Items of Interest 

    AAMC President and CEO David J. Skorton, MD, and Chief Public Policy Officer Danielle Turnipseed, JD, MHSA, MPP, issued a statement regarding the fiscal year 2025 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies bill advanced by the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee. “While the AAMC appreciates the House committee’s work to largely preserve crucial medical research supported by the National Institutes of Health, we have strong concerns about the bill’s proposed cuts to other health priorities and restrictions that would jeopardize the health of all Americans.”
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    The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released its annual proposed changes to the Physician Fee Schedule for 2025, including a 2.8% cut to in the conversion factor from last year, reported Becker’s Hospital CFO Report. The cut in physician pay was criticized by both the American Medical Association and the Medical Group Management Association.
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    Several states are suing to block the implementation of a Biden administration rule that would require doctors and health insurance companies to provide gender transition care or lose federal funding, reported The Hill.
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    An op-ed in the New York Times covered the Cass Review, an assessment of gender treatment for youths commissioned by the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, which found “no definitive proof that gender dysphoria in children or teenagers was resolved or alleviated by what advocates call gender-affirming care,” according to the author. The piece also argued that, while the review has been met with adjustments to treatment in Europe, the “United States, federal agencies and professional associations that have staunchly supported the gender-affirming care model greeted the Cass Review with silence or utter disregard. There’s been no response from the Department of Health and Human Services, whose website says that ‘gender-affirming care improves the mental health and overall well-being of gender diverse children and adolescents’ and which previously pushed to eliminate recommended age minimums for gender surgery. Nor has there been a response from the American Medical Association, which also backs gender-affirming care for pediatric patients.”
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    Other outlets, including another opinion piece in The Hill, commented on the Cass Review, covering the response to the review and noting that, “when news broke last month that the advocacy group World Professional Association for Transgender Health had censored systematic reviews of so-called ‘gender-affirming’ care at Johns Hopkins’ Evidence-based Practice Center — because the work did not reflect well on youth gender transition — it didn’t make waves. It should have.”
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    Billionaire Michael Bloomberg announced a donation of $1 billion to make tuition free for medical students at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine with family incomes under $300,000 a year, reported the Washington Post and CNN.
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    Although positive, the trend of making medical school tuition free is unlikely to bring major improvements to the larger health care system in the United States, reported STAT.
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    “An ongoing federal lawsuit aims to strike down the ACA’s preventive care coverage requirements for private insurers. If the case knocks out the mandates, state-level laws — which vary widely across the country — would carry more weight, change that would resume the ‘wild West’ dynamic from before Obamacare,” said Zachary Baron, JD, a health policy researcher at Georgetown Law in an article in KFF Health News.
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    Surgeons at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona performed a total larynx transplant in a Massachusetts man with active cancer, resulting in the man regaining of the use of his voice and becoming only the third person in the United States to undergo this procedure, reported STAT.
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    Health insurers are using artificial intelligence to deny claims, but some physicians are fighting back using the same kinds of chatbots to synthesize research and make the case for covering what’s needed for their patients, reported the New York Times. “Some experts fear that the prior-authorization process will soon devolve into an A.I. ‘arms race,’ in which bots battle bots over insurance coverage. Among doctors, there are few things as universally hated.”
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    A consortium of higher education organizations, including the American Council on Education, is urging the United States to remedy delays for F-1 and J-1 student visas, arguing that students from India and other South Asian countries are experiencing especially long processing delays in their applications, potentially hurting international enrollments this fall, reported Inside Higher Ed.
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    The majority of Americans favor receiving hospital-level care in their home, according to a study published in JAMA and covered by U.S. News and World Report.
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    A third of people 65 and older say they have difficulty paying for health care expenses and the lack of affordability is at the top of older Americans’ health care worries, reported MedPage Today.
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    Few hospitals are prepared to deal with the kind of cyberattacks that hurt care at Ascension weeks ago, reported the Washington Post, and experts are sounding the alarm in the absence of robust guidance from the federal government on required protocols and standards to protect patient safety in the event of such attacks. “We’ve started to think about [cyberattacks] as public health issues and disasters on the scale of earthquakes or hurricanes,” said Jeff Tully, MD, an associate clinical professor of anesthesiology at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and a co-director of the Center for Healthcare Cybersecurity at the University of California at San Diego.
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    “The mix of stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamines with fentanyl — a synthetic opioid 50 times more powerful than heroin — is driving what experts call the opioid epidemic’s ‘fourth wave.’ The mixture presents powerful challenges to efforts to reduce overdoses, because many users of stimulants don’t know they are at risk of ingesting opioids and so don’t take overdose precautions. The only way to know if cocaine or other stimulants contain fentanyl is to use drug-checking tools such as fentanyl test strips – a best practice for harm reduction now embraced by federal health officials for combating drug overdose deaths,” reported NPR.
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    In related news, the Los Angeles Times discussed how infants and toddlers are tragically becoming unsuspecting victims of fentanyl.
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    A study published in the American Cancer Society’s journal, CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, found that 40% of all cancer cases in the United States in people 30 and older were due to potentially modifiable risk factors, including cigarette smoking, inactivity, eating processed meat, viruses, excess body weight, and drinking alcohol. The story was covered in STAT.
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    In other cancer news, GLP-1 medications such as Ozempic and Wegovy could help lower the risk of 10 of the 13 obesity-associated cancers in people with type 2 diabetes, reported CNN in coverage of a study published in JAMA Network Open.
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    “Culture, work-life balance, taking control of your schedule, those things are a bigger priority now for providers that are coming out of residency, fellowship, than they were 10 years ago,” said Luke Woodyard, president at Weatherby Healthcare, in an article published in Chief Healthcare Executive.
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    The Wall Street Journal described how questionable diagnoses of HIV and other conditions led to insurers pocketing $50 billion from Medicare Advantage.
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    Modern Healthcare covered Northwell Health’s approach to screening emergency department patients for their risk of experiencing gun violence. Also covered is the potential for the approach to become a model for other hospitals across the country.
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    New AAMC data shows that the presence of women has grown as learners, teachers, and leaders, but pay disparities and gender harassment continue. The association will host a free webinar on July 24 to provide a snapshot of women’s representation in these roles and highlight trends in advancement over time.
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    A new issue brief from the AAMC Research and Action Institute fellow in residence, Gaetano Forte, MS, assistant director, Center for Health Workforce Studies, University at Albany, SUNY, presents an approach to better understand the roles and contributions of nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician associates (PAs) on the health care team and how this new knowledge should be incorporated into existing workforce projections models. The paper proposes a two-pronged solution to modeling deficits and to better project supply and demand for NPs and PAs and asserts that models should adapt to how the workforce changes, including how it is composed, how it is deployed, and how it accomplishes its work.
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    The AAMC has named its 2024 Telehealth Equity Catalyst Award winners. Programs at five institutions — Johns Hopkins Health Systems, Lahey Hospital and Medical Center, the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, and the University of California Davis Health — were selected for new or existing initiatives that reduce barriers to health care access using telehealth modalities and promote equitable care practices.
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    The AAMC has also named the recipients of its 2024 Integrated Behavioral Health (IBH) Awards: Boston University Aram V. Chobanian & Edward Avedisian School of Medicine/Boston Medical Center, Nationwide Children's Hospital, University of Chicago Medicine, and University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. These institutions were recognized for their innovative contributions to health care delivery or medical training through existing exemplary IBH programs. The AAMC will continue collaborating with these programs to learn more and to share strategies for improving mental and behavioral health access.
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    A new data snapshot published by the AAMC provides a benchmark of the number of senior leaders at U.S. medical schools, their decanal rank, and the proportion of leaders reporting directly to the dean. The report describes administrative areas within the medical school dean’s office that are most and least likely to hold a senior associate or vice dean title and which are most likely to report directly to the dean.
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    The AAMC will host a virtual conference on Feb. 5-6, 2025, designed to highlight innovative projects, tools, and educational technology solutions through interactive demonstrations to conference attendees. Proposals are now being accepted for digital demonstrations across a variety of topics related to emerging technologies for teaching and learning. The submission deadline for proposals is Aug. 16.
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    The AAMC will host a webinar on July 24 from 2-3 p.m. ET, “Navigating Critical Junctures: USMLE Exams,” that will focus on creating readiness pathways, developing individualized plans for students, addressing well-being challenges, and more.
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    On July 29, the AAMC Center for Health Justice will host the second of two virtual sessions in an interactive learning series to highlight approaches to building stronger collaboration between community organizations and academic medicine institutions to improve population health, especially in underserved communities.
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    Alma Littles, MD, has been appointed dean of the Florida State University College of Medicine. Dr. Littles has served as interim dean of the college since February 2023 and as a senior associate dean for medical education and academic affairs for nearly 20 years.
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    Phyllis MacGilvray, MD, has been appointed dean of the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville. Dr. MacGilvray is currently the senior associate dean for academic affairs at the school of medicine.
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    Jose Romano, MD, has been named chair of the Department of Neurology at the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. Dr. Romano has served as interim chair of the department since January 2023.
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    Prashant Mahajan, MD, MPH, MBA, has been named interim chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School. Dr. Mahajan has served as vice chair of the department and is a tenured professor and section chief of pediatric emergency medicine at U-M Medical School.
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    Mohamed Zayed, MD, PhD, has been appointed director of the Division of Surgical Sciences in the Department of Surgery at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Dr. Zayed is a vascular surgeon and a professor of surgery, radiology, molecular cell biology, and biomedical engineering at the school of medicine.
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    In the most recent example of the recurring news that we are more closely related to Neanderthals than feels comfortable, it’s thought that Neanderthals went extinct thousands of years ago, but a new study published in Science looking at Neanderthal and modern human genomes suggests they may have instead been absorbed into the modern human population, reported Live Science. Now, at long last, there might be an explanation for all those crazy uncles out there.
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    Previous studies have suggested that the eye’s pupil size shrinks as people age, causing the pupil to become less responsive to light, but now, “a funky, Hitchcockian video of 64 eyeballs, all rolling and blinking in different directions, is providing a novel visual of one way in which eyes age,” reported Science News. The video, while eye-catching (see what we did there?), should be viewed at one’s own peril.
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    And finally, ant, heal thyself – or each other. In news that seems heartwarming, unnerving, and fascinating all at once, a video shows ants amputating their nest mates’ injured legs to save their lives by preventing infection. “This is the first time that an ant species has been known to use amputation to treat an injury,” reported the New York Times. In it's coverage of the study published in Current Biology, the Times noted that the ants “performed amputations on only certain leg injuries, suggesting that they are methodical in their surgical practices.
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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