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    CFAS News Previous Edition

    Third Person in U.S. Tests Positive for Bird Flu; Long COVID Cases Inadequately Addressed; NIH Braces Against Potential Political Interference in Science; and Other Items of Interest 

    A third person in the United States tested positive for H5 bird flu due to an ongoing outbreak among dairy cattle in Michigan, reported Reuters. In addition to other symptoms seen in two earlier cases such as eye-related symptoms, this farmworker reported a cough and other respiratory symptoms more typical of human influenza infections. The piece additionally noted that this was the second case identified in Michigan, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still considers the risks to be low for the general public, and no signs of human-to-human transmission has materialized.
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    KFF Health News has reported on the difficulty of tracking bird flu in farmworkers, many of whom do not have insurance. The federal government is offering farmworkers $75 as an incentive to be tested along with providing incentives to farm facilities to allow their cattle to be tested.
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    The Washington Post discussed the difficulty many patients of color experience when trying to get help for long COVID. The article noted data from a 2023 study that showed about 15 million Americans, most of whom were between 36-50 years old, had experienced the condition, and most of those cases began with only mild instances of COVID-19 that did not require hospitalization. An activist community of people with long COVID has been advocating for more federal funding for research into the disease.
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    The Washington Post also reflected on “whether anyone will care” that COVID-19 will very likely be making appearances throughout the summer months, but given ramped down testing and surveillance mechanisms, it will be difficult to tell whether there’s a surge or heightened risk at any given point.
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    The latest COVID-19 shots have mostly kept up with circulating strains of the virus, but showed less effectiveness against the JN.1 variant, prompting questions about whether the shots need to be updated, reported MedPage Today.
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    The effects of having COVID-19, including pulmonary and gastrointestinal symptoms, can last for more than three years, according to a large study of thousands of U.S. veterans published in Nature, reported Bloomberg Law.
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    The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has designated an official to identify potential political interference in the agency’s scientific work and is pursuing other efforts to safeguard science in the event of future administration pressures to manipulate science to suit political purposes, reported Politico. “Interfering and manipulating science to hit a partisan agenda is inappropriate and is what we’re working to wall against,” said Lyric Jorgenson, PhD, the agency’s designated scientific integrity official, in an interview.
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    Deadly heat in the workplace resulting from climate change is leading to rising deaths, and the Biden administration is considering how to protect workers by imposing regulations that would require employers to offer more breaks, access to water, shade, and air conditioning, reported the New York Times.
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    The Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services found that clinical trials funded by the NIH often enroll fewer Black patients, women, and other underrepresented groups than researchers plan to, reported STAT.
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    In related news, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is set to publish guidelines for how drug and medical device makers can include more people of color in clinical trials, reported STAT. Researchers have noted that clinical trials have historically excluded populations that a given device or drugs may be intended to treat. While the guidelines are expected soon, the reporting noted that they are arriving a few months later than originally scheduled.
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    For the first time, cannabis appears to be a daily drug of choice for Americans over alcohol, reported the New York Times in its coverage of a study reported in the journal Addiction. According to the report, 17.7 million people reported using cannabis either every day or nearly every day in 2022, compared with 14.7 million who reported using alcohol with the same frequency.
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    Among doctors who endorsed a prescription drug or medical device on the social platform X, 93% received at least one payment from manufacturers of the product, with the average payment amounting to more than $27,400, reported STAT in coverage of a study published in JAMA.
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    The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is rolling out its drug price negotiation program, but there are concerns about compliance and operational challenges faced by manufacturers and dispensing entities that must adhere to the program, reported Bloomberg Law.
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    The FDA’s Endocrinologic and Metabolic Drugs Advisory Committee is evaluating whether the benefits of Novo Nordisk’s weekly insulin injection, called insulin icodec, outweigh the risks, potentially leading to a decision that would make the first weekly insulin available in the United States, reported CNN.
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    Thomas Cech, PhD, a biochemist at the University of Colorado Boulder and a recipient of the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1989 for his work with RNA, wrote a guest essay in the New York Times describing the promise of RNA to usher in a new generation of science. “RNA discoveries have led to new therapies, such as the use of antisense RNA to help treat children afflicted with the devastating disease spinal muscular atrophy. The mRNA vaccines, which saved millions of lives during the Covid pandemic, are being reformulated to attack other diseases, including some cancers. RNA research may also be helping us rewrite the future; the genetic scissors that give CRISPR its breathtaking power to edit genes are guided to their sites of action by RNAs. Although most scientists now agree on RNA's bright promise, we are still only beginning to unlock its potential. Consider, for instance, that some 75 percent of the human genome consists of dark matter that is copied into RNAs of unknown function. While some researchers have dismissed this dark matter as junk or noise, I expect it will be the source of even more exciting breakthroughs,” wrote Dr. Cech.
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    Girls are getting their first periods earlier and the length of time it takes to become regular is also changing, potentially leading to later health problems, reported CNN in coverage of a study published in JAMA Network Open.
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    The Wall Street Journal covered the potential emergence of smart bandages that could heal wounds faster as they also communicate data back to health care workers.
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    The American Society of Hematology (ASH), a CFAS member society, will host a webinar on the ASH Hematology-Focused Fellowship Programs on June 10 at 6:30 p.m. ET.
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    AAMCNews explored data from the past 18 years showing how women have driven growth in the supply of physicians and expanded their presence in some of the largest specialties. AAMCNews also explored whether giving low-income patients cash could improve their health.
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    The AAMC has published Becoming a New Teaching Hospital to guide hospital executives and medical school leadership who are interested in their institutions becoming teaching hospitals and who are seeking educational partnerships for graduate medical education (GME) training. This updated edition provides information on long-standing policies and outlines what it means to be a “new” teaching hospital for Medicare payment purposes, the types of residency training programs Medicare will pay for, how direct GME and indirect medical education payments are calculated, and more.
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    The AAMC has compiled a number of resources for both individuals and institutions to support better approaches and policies for maternal mental health care, including research briefs, best practices, data from the AAMC Center for Health Justice, and resources from other organizations.
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    Join the AAMC throughout June for a webinar series highlighting ways in which AAMC-member institutions are implementing equity-focused interventions to cultivate safe and inclusive environments for their learners, faculty, staff, patients, and communities. The first webinar, “Achieving Inclusivity in Medicine Beginning Day 1: Experiences of Learners and Faculty Facilitators,” will take place on June 5 at noon ET. This series was developed in partnership with the AAMC Group on Diversity and Inclusion and the Group on Women in Medicine and Science and is part of the AAMC Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Anti-racism (IDEAS) Learning Series, which provides actionable information about diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies that members of the academic medicine community can put into practice.
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    The AAMC will host a free webinar on June 24 at noon ET as part of a series co-sponsored by Academic Medicine and MedEdPORTAL on the importance of publishing education scholarship and practical suggestions for success.
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    Registration is open for an interactive discussion on June 5 with the AAMC Center for Health Justice to explore public perspectives on reparations in America. The virtual discussion will provide an overview of 2024 reparations polling data, as well as how it impacts the work of health justice. Registration is free but required.
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    On June 12, the AAMC will host a webinar on integrating arts and humanities into medical education to promote awareness and understanding of concepts in health equity, as part of its Fundamental Role of Arts and Humanities in Medical Education (FRAHME) initiative. Medical educators will present innovative pedagogical approaches using history and performing arts to foster critical thinking, empathy, and humility in their students. In recognition of Juneteenth, speakers will also share ways they have empowered learners to provide and advocate for equitable health care access and outcomes for Black patients.
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    The AAMC recently hosted a webinar on the Transforming Episode Accountability Model (TEAM), and the recording is now available. Presenters provided an overview of the new mandatory episodic model for acute care hospitals, which aims to improve recovery time, emergency department use, post-acute care length of stay, connections to primary care, and health equity for a subset of clinical episodes. The passcode is vFn.up5C.
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    Russell Bowler, MD, PhD, has been named chair of the Department of System Biology and Genome Sciences at Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Bowler joins Cleveland Clinic from National Jewish Health in Colorado where he was director of the Precision Medicine Program.
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    Ravindra Kolhe, MD, PhD, has been named chair of the Department of Pathology at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, effective June 1. Dr. Kolhe is a molecular pathologist and director of the Georgia Esoteric and Molecular Laboratory at MCG.
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    Rana Chakraborty, MD, DPhil, has been named the Adrienne Arsht Endowed Chair in Pediatric Clinical Research at the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine and chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at University of Miami Health System and Jackson Health System. Dr. Chakraborty is a pediatric infectious disease specialist and comes to the Miller School of Medicine with more than 150 peer-reviewed publications and is a principal investigator on two NIH grants.
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    Virginia Weldon, MD, died on May 23 in St. Louis at the age of 88, after a long and distinguished career in academic medicine. She joined the faculty of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis in 1968 and rose to become deputy vice chancellor for medical affairs and vice president of the Washington University Medical Center. Dr. Weldon served the AAMC as its first woman chair in 1985-86. Additionally, President Bill Clinton appointed her to the President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology, and she was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
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    Anyone who has ever cleaned a bathroom can attest to every moldy nook and slimy cranny as a sign of the petri-dish-nature of a warm, moist place. Then it only makes sense that researchers in Bath, England, of all places, would look to the site of ancient Roman baths as a place to unearth an array of bacteria to better understand antimicrobial resistance. Their findings were published in the journal Microbe. Different temperature baths revealed very different biofilms and sediments that scientists were able to analyze to, in some cases, unearth entirely new organisms, including building blocks for potential new antibiotics.
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    And finally, if you’re looking for that perfect gift for a spouse or if you just want to splurge on a little something for yourself, don’t cross a third thumb off your list for fear it will be hard to operate. A team of researchers at the University of Cambridge discovered that the vast majority of third-thumb users — with the exception of the very young and the very old — were able to effectively operate the little robotic appendages after barely a minute of first-time use. The device, which straps across the palm and protrudes from the pinky side, is manipulated via foot controller. Study participants were given tasks to complete with the third thumb, such as moving small objects and dropping them into a basket, according to a paper published in the journal Science Robotics. Interestingly, handedness wasn’t a consideration for ease of use despite the fact the device was worn on the right hand for all participants, including those who are left-handed. No word yet on whether a fourth thumb is coming for the left side, nor the impact all these extra thumbs will have on your texting game.
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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