aamc.org does not support this web browser.

    CFAS Rep Bulletin March 2024

    In this edition:

    • Message from the Chair
    • CFAS Spring Meeting Just Days Away
    • Recent CFAS Connects Sessions
    • AAMC Statements on President’s Budget Proposal, Spending Bills, and Medical School Curriculum
    • CFAS Rep Profile: Martha Alexander-Miller, PhD

    Message from the Chair

    Dear CFAS Colleagues,

    We’re less than a week away from our joint meeting with the AAMC’s Group on Resident Affairs (GRA) and the Organization of Resident Representatives (ORR). People are continuing to register for the 2024 joint meeting held April 2-4 in Arlington, VA, just across the Potomac from Washington, DC, and registration remains open right through the meeting, so there’s still time to reserve a spot. The registration site also provides details about the meeting, including the full program, so even if you’re already planning on traveling to the Washington, DC, area, please have a look.

    We had a great turnout during the “Know Before You Go” session of CFAS Connects earlier this month. I was especially gratified to see so many first-time attendees with plans to be in Arlington. I hope those new to CFAS understand you can hit the ground running with committee activity and discussion sessions. It was also interesting to hear from CFAS committee chairs about the topics they plan to address with CFAS reps on the first day of the meeting – so please, especially those new to our meeting and our open culture, make the most of it! Take part in however many sessions and conversations you can.

    On a related note, it’s an especially consequential time for some CFAS committees, with new leadership convening the Advocacy Committee in April – many thanks to Dr. Deanna Sasaki-Adams as chair and Dr. Laura Shaffer as vice chair and other committees, including the CFAS Mission Alignment Committee, will also be exploring a refocusing of efforts starting at this meeting. But all the committees, including Wellbeing, Diversity, Biomedical Research and Training, Faculty as Medical Educators, Engagement – have exciting conversations planned.

    As I’ve mentioned, the CFAS Administrative Board will meet in June at AAMC headquarters in Washington, DC, for a daylong retreat. We want your input on the key issues we should be working on. In the Business Meeting, I’ll be soliciting your input through some polling and conversation. I’m especially curious about how connected faculty feel to health systems and institutional governance. I’m also interested in what resources and time you have available for teaching and how your institution helps support the research meeting.

    I also want to hear your response to a “magic wand” question: If you could wave a magic wand and fix one thing, what would it be? As you prepare for your trip to Washington, DC, next week, keep these questions in mind. For those unable to attend, I’ll look for your input through other channels. You can also email me directly at nita.ahuja@yale.edu with your thoughts. Your ideas matter to me, and CFAS won’t be successful unless we’re responsive to the issues and challenges that matter to you.

    Finally, I hope you’ll take the time to say hello and introduce yourself if we haven’t met before. You’ll see me dropping by committee meetings and up at the podium for several sessions, including the CFAS Business Meeting and the closing plenary, so if we don’t already know each other, I’ll be easy to spot. It’s always a joy to meet new CFAS representatives and learn about your work, interests, and how you want to contribute. Please don’t be shy. I promise I won’t be!

    Have a safe trip to Arlington, and I look forward to continuing the journey with you.

    Nita Ahuja, MD
    CFAS Chair
    Yale School of Medicine

    CFAS Spring Meeting Just Days Away

    We look forward to welcoming you to the upcoming CFAS – GRA – ORR Spring Meeting in Arlington, VA, April 2-4. This is the first time CFAS has met with the AAMC’s Group on Resident Affairs, though we have in the past met with the Organization of Resident Representatives. It promises to be an exciting meeting with excellent programming for faculty and academic society reps, regardless of specialty or discipline.

    Important information and reminders for all attendees: There’s an app available with the full program, resources, and other information about the meeting. Take the time to download it and get set up, because there won’t be a printed program distributed onsite.

    The program for the meeting is available online on the AAMC website, so if you’d like to review it prior to the meeting, it’s available.

    CFAS Committees are open to all reps! Please attend the committee meeting that is interesting to you, even if you’re a first-time attendee. With the exception of the Program Committee, all committee meetings are open.

    Right after the committee meetings, there are two concurrent professional development sessions available to any CFAS rep who wishes to attend. Please select between “Finding Your Academic Niche” and “The Transformative Power of Vision Workshop.” Following those sessions is the CFAS Business Meeting, which is open to all CFAS reps, and then the main joint meeting program kicks off.

    Any questions at all? Just reach out to Eric Weissman at eweissman@aamc.org – and of course, look for me there, too!

    Recent CFAS Connects Sessions

    CFAS Connects featured a Feb. 22 update on the work of the CFAS Faculty and Organizational Well-Being Committee. The session was moderated by Jon Courand, MD, vice chair of the committee and the Assistant Dean for Well-Being in Graduate Medical Education at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine. Dr. Courand provided the update on the committee’s latest work, which includes developing a follow-on publication to the highly successful 2021 report that the committee produced titled, The Rise of Wellness Initiatives in Health Care: Using National Survey Data to Support Effective Well-Being Champions and Wellness Programs.

    After Dr. Courand’s updates, Bree Andrews, MD, MPH, a member of the committee’s Leadership Team and Chief Wellness and Vitality Officer at UChicago Medicine gave a presentation on how her team at UChicago Medicine is using technology innovation and strategy to combat burnout.

    The March CFAS Connects focused on what CFAS reps should know before they go to the 2024 CFAS GRA ORR Professional Development Conference. As always, recordings and summary notes of both sessions will be available on the CFAS Resources webpage.

    AAMC Statements on President’s Budget Proposal, Spending Bills, and Medical School Curriculum

    The AAMC has made a number of recent statements on national developments affecting academic medicine, including President Biden’s FY 2025 budget request; the health care provisions in the congressional spending package; and diversity, equity, and inclusion in the medical school curriculum.

    AAMC President and CEO David J. Skorton, MD, and AAMC Chief Public Policy Officer Danielle Turnipseed, JD, MHSA, MPP mostly applauded President Biden’s FY 2025 budget request for its attempts to increase funding for certain types of NIH-funded research and protect and strengthen Medicare and Medicaid. The statement also called for robust, sustained funding increases of the National Institutes of Health’s base budget to bring it to at least $51.3 billion; expanded investment in HRSA’s health professions programs, including Title VII and Title VIII workforce development programs, diversity training programs, and the Children’s Hospitals Graduate Medical Education program; and criticized the proposed $75 million (8 percent) decrease to the Veterans Affairs Medical and Prosthetics Program below the FY 2024 funding level.

    On the issue of the site neutral payment policy, Dr. Skorton and Danielle Turnipseed wrote that, “the AAMC is concerned that the President’s budget request does not take into account the real differences between physician’s offices and teaching health system and hospital outpatient departments, and that the proposed cuts to hospital outpatient department payments from commercial insurers would result in limiting patient access to care.”

    In response to congress’ passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2024, Dr. Skorton and Danielle Turnipseed wrote, “We are grateful that congressional leaders addressed several health care challenges facing the nation’s teaching health systems and hospitals, medical schools, and faculty physicians by including critical health extenders as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act. In addition to funding a number of federal agencies, the legislation will eliminate scheduled cuts to the Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital program through the end of 2024, which is critical to protecting the nation’s health care safety net. This legislation will also help patients continue to access the care they need by mitigating cuts to physicians' Medicare payments. Additionally, we are pleased that the package includes an extension of the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education program, which helps support resident training, and the National Health Service Corps, which plays a significant role in recruiting primary care physicians to rural and other underserved communities through scholarships and loan repayment options. We also are grateful it includes a $27 million (2.9%) increase for the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical and Prosthetics Research programs, which would help ensure research progress keeps pace with the increasing demands of improving health for veterans.”

    Finally, the AAMC issued a statement in support of diversity, equity, and inclusion in medical school curricula. “Evidence shows that patients do better with a health care team who listens, understands them, and takes their unique experiences into account. … For decades, medical schools have taught future physicians to incorporate the skills needed to address these differences to create more effective relationships with their patients. In support of our member medical schools and teaching health systems and hospitals, the AAMC firmly reiterates its commitment to addressing and mitigating the factors that impair effective physician-patient relationships when preparing the future physician workforce. The presence of diversity, equity, and inclusion in medical school curricula is intended to train the next generation of physicians to respond most appropriately to the rapidly diversifying populations that they will serve. Doing so increases the likelihood for better health care and healthy lives for all patients, including individuals who have been historically marginalized by the health care system,” wrote Dr. Skorton and AAMC Chief Academic Officer Alison J. Whelan, MD.

    More statements, news articles, and opinion pieces from the AAMC can be found on AAMCNews.

    CFAS Rep Profile: Martha Alexander-Miller, PhD

    Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine; CFAS School Rep for Wake Forest University School of Medicine

    CFAS: Please tell us about your research.

    Dr. Alexander-Miller: My research is focused on the development of a vaccination approach that protects newborn infants from influenza. The current vaccines can only be given when the infant is 6 months old, and it takes two doses of the vaccines to reach a sufficient level of immunity. Infants are born with some level of immune protection from the mother, but the protection wanes constantly from the time the infant is born. Our goal is to vaccinate infants early during the period of time when the immunity from their mom is still present so there are no gaps in protection.

    When we are born, as we come out into a non-sterile environment for the first time, our microbiome gets exposed to many foreign entities. My team is trying to figure out a vaccine strategy to send the right signals to infants’ immune systems so their microbiome isn’t overwhelmed. We do tests on newborn African green monkeys as our model and we are looking for the best adjuvant to drive a response in these newborns. Adjuvants are elements in vaccines that drive a more potent response. We can program the immune system by fooling it into thinking there is something dangerous in the body to develop pathways and responses to drive potent responses. Another thing we are focused on is the different platforms we could use to deliver vaccines, including mRNA vaccines and universal vaccine approaches, which target aspects of a virus that don’t evolve to protect against all future evolutions of a virus. The research is really exciting because it involves aspects of basic immunology and translational applications.

    CFAS: Could you please give us a brief update on the work of the CFAS Biomedical Research and Training Committee?

    Dr. Alexander-Miller: I’ll be speaking at the 2024 Council of Faculty and Academic Societies (CFAS), Group on Resident Affairs (GRA), Organization of Resident Representatives (ORR) Professional Development Conference and myself and other members of the committee are thinking about how we can frame the content for residents. I’m speaking in a session looking at the impact of research experiences for residents and fellows and how those experiences can be useful to their career paths. The logical reasoning skills we use every day in the lab are very similar to what is used for complex medical cases, so honing these skills is applicable to practicing medicine. And in research, we get a lot of experience writing publications and presenting complex information, which can also be useful for medicine.

    The Biomedical Research and Training Committee is an important committee because it’s the voice of research faculty that goes directly to the AAMC. Research-focused faculty members are the minority in academic medicine, so it’s critical that we have a voice that is being heard in the AAMC. The committee is working hard to garner data from the AAMC’s StandPoint(TM) surveys to identify emerging challenges. We’re also working in collaboration with the CFAS Committee for Faculty as Medical Educators (FAME) to explore data on retention, because we face challenges with not enough people deciding to go into and staying in the research pathway. We want to understand what this looks like for basic science researchers and basic science educators in the actual basic science departments.

    CFAS: What are some current and emerging trends in immunology and pathology that would be interesting for CFAS reps?

    Dr. Alexander-Miller: The universal vaccine approach is really interesting because it can lead to multi-strain protection from certain viruses, which would be very beneficial for patients. It’s important for clinicians too because it changes the cadence of when patients have to be vaccinated. From the compliance standpoint, doctors would be happy to not have to try to get people vaccinated every year.

    There is a need to educate faculty and research clinicians about how to talk with the public about vaccines. We made a strategic error during the pandemic by suggesting to the public that this vaccine was made in a year, because the mRNA technology that underpins most of the vaccines has actually been around for years. SARS taught us what target to go after for COVID-19. So the marriage of mRNA technology and knowledge gained from the fight against SARS was the thing that we could do in a year. And then there was misinformation and mistrust that compounded that miscommunication.

    Another interesting thing is thinking about how in utero exposures are having long term impacts on infants. COVID-19 exposure can be tied to neurological changes after birth. The data are suggesting that strong inflammatory environments in utero can possibly lead to autism and vaccines actually help fight the inflammation, so they can actually help prevent autism. This whole area is a very intriguing and important area of research.

    CFAS: What are some ways CFAS can continue to support research-focused faculty members?

    Dr. Alexander-Miller: It would be good for CFAS to initiate a visibility campaign, since one of CFAS’ largest challenges is just being seen. Not as many people know about CFAS as they should. The more people who know about it, the more impact we will have. The more voices we have advocating on what we want to do, the better. CFAS reps should also be more accountable for talking to faculty at our institutions about CFAS.

    CFAS: What do you like to do in your free time?

    Dr. Alexander-Miller: I’m a huge body combat enthusiast. It’s an MMA (mixed martial arts) class. It’s very therapeutic and also a great total body workout. I also enjoy landscaping with ornamentals and flowers.

    Tell Us How You’re Doing

    Please keep the lines of communication open so we can provide you with the resources and information that would be most useful. It is helpful for the AAMC to understand in detail what is happening on the ground at the medical schools, teaching hospitals, and academic societies we serve. Please email Eric at eweissman@aamc.org, or call directly at 301-437-2572 with updates or feedback from your perspective. You can also reach out with questions or comments to CFAS Communications Specialist Alex Bolt.

    If you are looking for information about CFAS, find what you need on our website, from the names of CFAS leaders, to updates on committee and working group initiatives, to upcoming offerings and meetings, and finally, current and previous editions of CFAS News.

    Do you have an article or study coming out? A new promotion or professional accomplishment? Let us know and we'll feature it in an upcoming edition of the CFAS Rep Bulletin.