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    CFAS News Previous Edition

    AAMC Launches Campaign to Highlight Academic Medicine Impact; COVID-19 Cases Down Nationally but up in Urban Centers; Biden Administration Seeks to Protect Science From Political Interference; and Other Items of Interest

    As new members, staff, and leadership join the 118th Congress in Washington, D.C., the AAMC is sharing information about its new campaign, “Academic Medicine: What Starts Here Saves Lives,” to ensure policymakers are familiar with the contributions that medical schools, teaching hospitals, and health systems make to the nation’s health. The campaign is focused on creating more understanding around the medical education mission of academic medicine with examples of education innovations, from advancing telemedicine to addressing health inequities. The campaign showcases how AAMC-member institutions are training the next generation of physicians and health care professionals to shape the future of patient care.
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    Recent COVID-19 statistics presented a mixed bag this week in local reporting from opposite sides of the country. In both Los Angeles and Philadelphia cases are rising, but overall, nationally, cases have seen declines. The Los Angeles Times reported that COVID-19 deaths in Los Angeles County have hit the highest point of the season but are still lower than they were a year ago, as is the number of people hospitalized with infections. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that regional COVID-19 cases have increased 70% in Philadelphia over the two weeks prior to Jan. 11, compared against a nationwide drop of 2%. The piece noted, however, that national daily deaths have recently risen to about 550 per day, remaining stubbornly high.
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    The rapidly spreading Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5 now accounts for about 43% of COVID-19 cases in the United States, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up from 30% in the first week of January. Reporting on the latest stats in Reuters, however, noted that current vaccines and boosters have proven highly effective in blunting severe illness.
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    “The permanence of the coronavirus in the disease landscape could mean brutal and long-lasting seasonal surges of cold-weather illnesses for years to come, resulting in hospitals struggling to care for non-COVID-19 emergencies and unable to give patients timely, lifesaving treatments,” reported the Washington Post. AAMC Chief Scientific Officer Ross McKinney, MD, is quoted in the piece, “If XBB.1.5 had the virulence of delta, we would be in deep weeds,” noting the importance of vaccine uptake to prevent severe illness both from COVID-19 and flu.
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    “After 9/11, Congress created an entirely new government agency to address the threat of terrorism, and Americans are still taking off their shoes in airports more than 20 years later. After a pandemic that killed more than 1 million people in the United States alone, very little about the federal government has changed at all, and it may not for a long time,” said STAT in an article that asked whether America will ever have a public health reckoning.
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    The British Medical Journal published research showing that people who developed long COVID-19 symptoms after a relatively mild experience from COVID-19 generally saw relief from their symptoms after a year beyond their initial diagnosis. In reporting on the paper by CNN, Benjamin Abramoff, MD, director of the Penn Medicine Post-COVID Assessment and Recovery Clinic and a faculty member at Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, cautioned that the experience is often more complicated for people who have had severe infections and continue to experience symptoms years after an initial diagnosis.
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    Céline Gounder, MD, ScM, FIDSA, clinical associate professor of medicine and infectious diseases at NYU Grossman School of Medicine and wife of journalist Grant Wahl, who died unexpected while reporting on the World Cup in Qatar last month, wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times about the misinformation machine that attributed the death of her husband to COVID-19 vaccines. “The vaccine disinformation playbook includes the use of fake experts, logical fallacies, impossible expectations, cherry-picked data, and conspiracy theories,” she wrote. “Not a single qualified medical or public health expert has supported the claim that my husband died from COVID vaccination.”
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    The Biden administration has released a plan “to protect government science from political interference,” reported Nature. The guidance lays out standards for policies that federal agencies have been asked to develop in the coming months to avoid what has been seen as efforts to downplay science and to avoid conflicts of interest that many have perceived as hampering research during the prior administration.
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    A federal judge ordered the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to come up with a plan to correct underpayments made to 340B hospitals after the Supreme Court ruled that cuts to reimbursement rates were unlawful, reported Modern Healthcare. The AAMC, the American Hospital Association (AHA), and America’s Essential Hospitals expressed dissatisfaction with the decision to let the HHS come up with a plan for remedying the underpayments instead of dictating terms to the department.
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    AAMC President and CEO David J. Skorton, MD, and AAMC Chief Health Care Officer Jonathan Jaffery, MD, MS, MMM, FACP, issued a statement upon the ruling to return a 340B funding dispute back to the HHS. the department was directed to determine an appropriate remedy for delayed payments to hospitals participating in the 340B Drug Pricing Program. “The AAMC is disappointed by the district court ruling, which will likely delay retroactive payments to 340B hospitals for the period January 1, 2018 - September 27, 2022, following the U.S. Supreme Court decision last year that HHS cuts under the Outpatient Prospective Payment System, begun in 2018, were unlawful.”
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    HHS released its timeline for starting Medicare negotiations on drug prices, with the first 10 high-cost drugs at the center of negotiations with manufacturers to be revealed in early September, reported Axios. And the department also extended the COVID-19 public health emergency until April 11, reported Becker’s Payer Issues.
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    More than half of hospitals are expected to lose money over the last year, and some hospital groups are pushing Congress to decide which hospitals should receive “essential” status so they can receive more federal funding to serve the poor, reported Axios.
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    The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services awarded an initial 200 of 1,000 Medicare-funded physician residency slots in qualifying hospitals, with most of the new positions being allocated toward primary care and mental health specialties, reported Bloomberg Law.
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    The AHA is asking the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission to recommend higher pay rates for hospitals, nursing homes, and physicians, reported Inside Health Policy.
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    Becker’s Hospital CFO Report summarized an analysis by the consultants Kaufman Hall exploring why academic health centers are expanding their community hospital networks. At the top of the list: “Improving access to the academic medical center's services, expanding its clinicians and branding into new markets and boosting capacity at the main campus for higher-acuity care.” Also included in the analysis is “providing a talent pipeline for physician recruitment and residency programs in community hospital settings.”
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    The Washington Post reported on a panel of scientists who have been added to the research review of Stanford University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne, PhD. A neuroscientist who has helmed Stanford since 2016, Dr. Tessier-Lavigne has faced complaints — including those leveled by a Stanford student-run news outlet — that his published research may contain altered images. “The five scientists [added to the panel], all members of the National Academy of Sciences or National Academy of Medicine or both, include a Nobel laureate, a former president of Princeton University, and a former provost of Harvard University,” reported the Post. The special committee conducting the review of Dr. Tessier-Lavigne has set up a website to provide and collect updates and feedback.
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    Among people with epilepsy, Black, Latino, and Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander people are less likely to be prescribed newer drugs than white people, which can be a marker of the quality of care, according to a study published in Neurology Clinical Practice. The publication is an official journal of the American Academy of Neurology, which is a CFAS-member society. Philip M. Alberti, PhD, founding director of the AAMC Center for Health Justice, is a co-author of the study.
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    AAMCNews reported on the struggle experienced by people released from incarceration suffering massive health problems, from diabetes to substance use disorders. This population is 13 times more likely to die soon after release. To address these issues, hospitals are employing formerly incarcerated people to help provide support to those who were once incarcerated.
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    “Among over 120,000 trainees who were active from 2014 to 2019, Black trainees were significantly more likely to have every type of debt than the overall sample (95.5% vs 82.7%, respectively),” reported MedPage Today in coverage of a study published in Health Affairs by researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
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    Tens of thousands of graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and other academic staff are heading back to work at the University of California system with higher wages and more benefits after they halted research across the UC system in the largest higher education strike in U.S. history, reported Nature.
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    AAMCNews summarized findings from the 2022 Physician Specialty Data Report, including a breakdown in the choices of doctors’ specialties by gender, race, and age, and the continuing trend of sports medicine’s popularity over all other specialties.
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    Nature Medicine reported on a “growing trend of researchers departing academia and making the jump into industry. At biotech start-ups and pharmaceutical companies, they are finding a flood of job opportunities, fulfilling, flexible work and supportive workplaces that offer better pay and don’t ask them to sacrifice their personal lives. Their research motivations remain the same, but the impact of their work feels more immediate.”
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    A massive transformation in health care is being driven by artificial intelligence, but medical educators are not focusing enough on the technology, creating knowledge gaps that could “compound the damage caused by flawed algorithms and biased decision-support systems,” reported STAT.
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    The 2023 AAMC IDEAS Learning Series season begins with a webinar on Jan. 27 to address the difficult topic of bullying in academic medicine. While academic medicine encourages teamwork, empathy, and altruism, a culture of incivility persists that permits workplace bullying. Bullying involves offenders abusing authority positions and targeting individuals in order to impede their education or career growth. Bullying also affects patient care and causes some individuals to leave the workforce. This webinar will help participants and organizations recognize workforce bullying and discuss tools to disrupt uncivil behavior.
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    The AAMC will host a webinar, “Legacy of Medicine During the Holocaust and its Contemporary Relevance,” on Jan. 26 from noon to 1:30 p.m. ET as part of its Fundamental Role of the Arts and Humanities in Medical Education initiative. The virtual event will feature presentations by Hedy Wald, PhD, from Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, and Sabine Hildebrandt, MD, from Harvard Medical School, followed by a panel discussion with health professions learners from four countries. AAMC President and CEO David J. Skorton, MD, will provide opening remarks.
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    Dr. Skorton and Chief Academic Officer Alison J. Whelan, MD, joined University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine Dean and Chief Academic Officer Henri Ford, MD, MHA, on the “Inside U Miami Medicine” podcast to discuss the current medical education landscape and strategies to improve the learning environment. The second episode of this two-part series will be released in late January.
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    The United States Public Health Service (USPHS) and the Interprofessional Education Collaborative (IPEC) is seeking nominees for the Public Health Excellence in Interprofessional Education Collaboration Award, a joint effort to recognize interprofessional health education teams that have significantly impacted the community through multidisciplinary collaboration on a program geared toward improving health knowledge, awareness, and behavior. Applications close Feb. 3.
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    Alma Littles, MD, has been named interim dean of the Florida State University (FSU) College of Medicine. Dr. Littles, who has served as senior associate dean for medical education and academic affairs at the medical school for nearly 20 years, will succeed John P. Fogarty, MD, who is retiring after 14 years as the College of Medicine’s dean. Dr. Littles became acting and then founding chair of the Department of Family Medicine and Rural Health not long after the FSU College of Medicine was created in 2000. The appointment is effective Feb. 1.
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    Arturo Saavedra, MD, PhD, has been named dean of Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) School of Medicine, effective April 15, and will also serve as VCU Health System executive vice president for medical affairs. Dr. Saavedra comes to VCU from the University of Virginia where he is chair of the Department of Dermatology and president and interim CEO of University of Virginia Physicians Group.
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    Kevin Klauer, DO, has been appointed chief medical officer for HCA Florida Ocala Hospital and HCA Florida West Marion Hospital. Dr. Klauer previously served as CEO of the American Osteopathic Association.
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    Rajeev Suri, MD, MBA, has been named chair of the Department of Radiology at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine. Dr. Suri previously served as interim chair of the department.
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    The Division of Urology within the Department of Surgery at Duke University School of Medicine will be elevated to department status, effective July 1, and Gary Faerber, MD, now chief of the division, will become interim chair of the new department. Dr. Faerber joined the Duke Division of Urology in 2018 and has served as the associate chair of Ambulatory Surgery in the Department of Surgery.
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    University of Florida (UF) Health has appointed Timothy Morey, MD, as chief medical officer and Jennifer Hunt, MD, MEd, as chief of staff for UF Health Shands. Both are faculty members of UF College of Medicine, and Dr. Hunt will take on her new role while continuing to serve in her current position as chair of the Department of Pathology, Immunology, and Laboratory Medicine.
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    Also at UF Health, Gregory M. Janelle, MD, has been named interim chair of the department of anesthesiology in the UF College of Medicine. Dr. Janelle was a resident in anesthesiology at UF, serving his senior year as chief resident prior to completing a fellowship in cardiothoracic anesthesiology, and has held numerous leadership positions within the College of Medicine and the department of anesthesiology.
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    Stacey Watt, MD, has been appointed interim chair of the Department of Anesthesiology at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo. She will assume her new duties in the first quarter of 2023.
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    Eric Lander, PhD, has been named chief scientist of a new organization called Science for America, a “solutions incubator to address urgent challenges, driven by an unprecedented alliance of leading philanthropic organizations.” Currently on academic leave, Dr. Lander is a member and was founding director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, a professor of biology at MIT, and professor of systems biology at Harvard Medical School. He is also the former presidential science advisor and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and former co-chair of the president’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.
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    The New York Times reported on a first-of-its-kind vaccine breakthrough this week unrelated to COVID-19. All honeybees: please take note. Dalan Animal Health has developed a vaccine to address American foulbrood, an aggressive bacterial disease that affects honeybees as it rapidly spreads from hive to hive. “There are millions of beehives all over the world, and they don’t have a good health care system compared to other animals,” said Dalail Freitak, associate professor in honeybee research at the Karl-Franzens University of Graz in Austria and chief science officer for Dalan. “Now we have the tools to improve their resistance against diseases.” In more good news for bee arms, the vaccine is administered through food rather than a billion tiny needles.
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    Want to create your own proven-effective, DIY indoor air purifier to keep you that much safer from flu, COVID-19, and other nasty bugs circulating around the air in your environment? Washington Post writer Lena Sun, who reported extensively on the pandemic and public health in the age of COVID-19, and who herself is three years into her own recovery from the disease, walks you through the process, step by step. Make sure you have plenty of duct tape sitting around.
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    And finally, at long last, scientists have proven what many of us didn’t need laboratory experiments to understand: it feels great to eat chocolate. Basically, it all boils down to the unique ability fine chocolate has to lubricate your tongue. Sorry if that wasn’t what you were expecting. A research team from the University of Leeds in the U.K. published findings in the journal ACS Applied Materials and Interface which showed that a combination of ingredients in the chocolate and the interaction with saliva produces that familiar smooth, melty feeling familiar to those who savor fine chocolates. Of course, fat plays a role — and often the finer the chocolate, the less healthy it may be for you — which gets to the reasoning behind the research: is it possible to acquire the astounding, unique sensation of eating chocolate without the potential negative health consequences? Tune in on some future Valentine’s Day to find out.
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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.

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