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CFAS News Current Edition


Tax Bill’s Grad Student Impact; CVS Acquires Aetna; Well-Being in Women Residents; and Other Items of Interest

Beyond removing the ACA’s individual mandate, the tax overhaul that passed the Senate could have broad ripple effects throughout the health care system, reported the Washington Post.
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Jeremy Berg, PhD, editor in chief of Science, wrote a post opposing the tax legislation’s provisions to make tuition waivers taxable. “It is not clear what the objective is, as the new policy would disproportionately affect students without additional resources to support their educations and would likely decrease economic viability and competitiveness as talent is lost from the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) enterprise,” said Dr. Berg.
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Also commenting on the tax legislation, a Scientific American opinion piece warned that certain provisions could cut into graduate students’ incomes. “In effect, these students would see a tax increase of over $4,000 in federal taxes per year over what they currently pay.”
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Inside Higher Ed reports today on one Republican congressman, Pete Sessions of Texas, who has circulated a letter to his colleagues urging them to remove from the final legislation a provision for a tax on grad student tuition benefits.
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The New York Times covered CVS Health’s purchase of Aetna for $69 billion and explored potentially profound effects the acquisition could have on the U.S. health care system.
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Writing for the Harvard Business Review, John S. Toussaint, MD, explored some of the motivation behind such a merger, and outlined why hospitals should be worried. He asks rhetorically, why are patient clinics, such as the CVS Minute Clinic, merging with insurers? His answer: "They have figured out the hospital business is beginning to be commoditized. Many functions of hospitals may become totally obsolete."
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A study in JAMA Internal Medicine suggested that residency is especially hard on women. Six months after beginning residency, 3,100 residents across 44 hospitals reported increasing levels of depression, but depression scores among women were significantly higher. The New York Times covered the study.
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A Healthcare Financial Management Association article covered a growing body of research that has “identified interventions that appear to reduce the incidence of burnout.” The article also touched on the history of the rising incidence of burnout. AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, MD, quoted in the piece, noted, “This problem, we need to acknowledge, has existed for a long time,” stemming from a wide range of factors with complex origins.
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A bipartisan group, consisting of six senators, is asking Republican leadership in Congress to block an attempt by the Trump administration to cut 340B funding, which requires drug companies to give discounts to organizations such as teaching hospitals that serve large numbers of low-income or uninsured patients, reported The Hill. The AAMC, the AHA, and America’s Essential Hospitals, are suing the administration to block the rule.
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The Supreme Court allowed the third version of the Trump administration’s travel ban to go into effect, reported the New York Times. The article noted that legal challenges to the ban are ongoing.
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“Congress should massively ramp up funding for the NIH over the next several years,” wrote Kenneth L. Davis, MD, in an op-ed for The Hill. Dr. Davis is president and CEO of the Mount Sinai Health System.
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As if deliberate, unimpeded research weren’t difficult enough, lawsuits are used in different ways to suppress research that presents inconvenient findings for a certain group or industry, according to a perspective in the New York Times. The piece was written by Aaron E. Carroll, MD, professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine.
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For the first time in the United States, a woman who was born without a uterus successfully delivered a baby after a uterus transplant, reported the Washington Post. The procedure was part of a clinical trial at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas.
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For good news on the diversity front, look no further than the 2018 Rhodes scholars class, said an editorial in the Boston Globe. The class showcases “trickle-up” diversity, which has been painstakingly cultivated through investments in programs aimed at boosting the number of minorities in the biomedical workforce, such as the NIH’s National Research Mentoring Network, said the piece.
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The Boston Globe covered research suggesting that double-booked surgeries may increase the risk of patients having a complication.
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In an analysis for the Washington Post, Keith Humphreys, PhD, professor of psychiatry at Stanford University, described how drop-off locations for unused or excess prescription pain medication could help prevent opioid abuse. Some sites are already functioning and have helped cut down on the number of excess medication, said the analysis.
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An op-ed in the New York Times from Cheri A. Blauwet, MD, assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School, discussed what it’s like to be a doctor in a wheelchair and outlined the potential benefits to the health care system of having more doctors with disabilities.
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Clinical reporting practices have improved at some pharmaceutical companies, reported The Scientist in a piece that covered a study inBMJ Open. The article commented on a number of investigations in the past couple years that revealed clinical reporting practices, both in academia and industry, have failed to meet ethical and legal standards. “The good news is, for the trials that the companies conducted in patients to gain regulatory approval of their drug, [transparency levels] went up,” said study coauthor Jennifer Miller, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Population Health at NYU School of Medicine.
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An article in the Wall Street Journal explored the vegan diet’s health benefits to the human heart.
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Animal lovers should support animal research because of the health benefits such research ultimately brings to pets, said an opinion piece in Fox News. The piece was written by Matthew R. Bailey, president of the Foundation for Biomedical Research.
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The Association of American Universities and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities released a report detailing principles and recommendations that facilitate public access to research data derived from federally sponsored research grants. The recommendations also seek to minimize the administrative burden on agencies, universities, and researchers.
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“The existing drug patent system is poorly designed to motivate discoveries of new uses for off-patent drugs,” stated a viewpoint in JAMA that explored how to encourage new uses for old drugs.
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FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, released a statement describing how the FDA is developing a comprehensive regulatory pathway that keeps pace with advances in 3D printing of medical devices, medications, and human tissue.
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Integrative medicine services are growing at NIH-supported comprehensive cancer centers in the United States, reported Ars Technica, which covered a study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute Monographs. The article discussed concerns that the “integrative medicine” label could be used as a Trojan horse for unproven treatments such as homeopathy to creep into cancer care.
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The Buffalo News described the new high-tech home of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at University at Buffalo. The $375 million building’s infrastructure is specifically designed to foster collaboration and accommodate simulation centers.
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The personal health information of more than 18,000 patients was viewed or stolen when a hacker broke into Henry Ford Health System’s EHRs in October, reported Modern Healthcare.
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The VA noted recently that it has enrolled its 50,000th volunteer in an ongoing study of colorectal cancer, making it the largest-ever VA-sponsored clinical trial.
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The Boston Public Health Commission gave final approval for Boston University’s National Emerging Infectious Disease Laboratories, a high-security laboratory, to start research on biosafety level 4 pathogens—the world’s deadliest microbes that have no treatment or vaccine, according to an article in the Boston Globe. The decision ends a decade and a half of risk assessments, public hearings, and failed lawsuits motivated by safety concerns from the neighboring community.
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An opinion piece in The Intelligencer criticized legislation that it claimed would interfere with basic research by appointing poorly defined outside experts to peer-review panels.
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An increasing disconnect between academe and other sectors of society—such as industry and government—is threatening career opportunities for PhDs hoping to find nonacademic careers, which are growing disproportionately in comparison with other opportunities, reported Science.
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On average, male researchers submit 5.9 manuscripts for publication during their PhD programs, whereas female researchers submit 3.7, reported an article in Nature covering research on gender differences in scientific publication rates and salaries in the United States.
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Dr. P. Roy and Diana Vagelos donated $250 million to Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, with $150 million of the gift endowing a fund that will eliminate student loans for medical students who qualify for financial aid.
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Early bird registration remains open for “Legal Issues Affecting Academic Medical Centers and other Teaching Institutions,” a two-day conference Jan. 25-26, 2018, in the Washington, DC area. Featured speakers include AAMC Immediate Past Chair Marsha Rappley, MD, the AAMC’s Karen Fisher, JD, and CFAS Ad Board member Mona Abaza, MD. The American Health Lawyers Association’s conference is cosponsored by the AAMC and the National Association of College and University Attorneys.
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Eugene M. Oltz, PhD, has been named editor in chief of the Journal of Immunology. Dr. Oltz is a professor and vice chair for faculty development in the Department of Pathology and Immunology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
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Christopher Hess, MD, PhD, has been appointed chair of the UCSF Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging, effective Jan. 1, 2018. Dr. Hess is a professor of radiology and neurology and chief of neuroradiology at UCSF.
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Said Ibrahim, MD, MPH, has been named the inaugural chief of the new Division of Healthcare Delivery Science and Innovation in the Department of Healthcare Policy and Research at Weill Cornell Medicine, effective Feb. 1, 2018. Dr. Ibrahim is a professor of medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine.
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Sheri Johnson, PhD, has been named director of the Population Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health. Dr. Johnson serves as associate professor of pediatrics at the Medical College of Wisconsin.
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Maureen Durkin, PhD, has been named chair of the Department of Population Health Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health. Dr. Durkin previously served as interim chair of the department.
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Dee Fenner, MD, has been appointed chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Michigan, effective Jan. 1. Dr. Fenner previously served as Chief Clinical Officer for University Hospital and the Cardiovascular Center.
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In another example of the power of scientific collaboration, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory—more specifically, its Office of Planetary Protection—does work that may offer answers on the specific microbiome of the breast, offering potential insight into breast cancer, the Daily Beast explains. In case you’re wondering, the Office of Planetary Protection has as one of its missions, “Avoiding the biological contamination of explored environments that may obscure our ability to find life elsewhere—if it exists.”
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And finally, as we embark on the high season of awkward holiday work parties, CFAS News has you covered. The website edgeforscholars.org has published a helpful guide, “Darwin’s Tips for Surviving the Holiday Party at the Chair’s House,” which is full of helpful tips (prepare something interesting to say before you arrive; know something about VIPs who might be invited; carry around the same half-filled glass all night so you don’t get drunk and say something stupid). Perhaps most useful of all, the guide includes a link to another important article, “How to Leave a Party Early if You’re an Introvert.”
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Find more news items on AAMC's Research Clips page, and visit the CFAS Resources page for an archive of the previous four editions 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.

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