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CFAS News Current Edition

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Delta Variant Leads to COVID-19 Upticks; Vaccine Mandates Considered; Federal Judge Rules Against DACA; and Other Items of Interest

The COVID-19 Scenario Modeling Hub projects an accelerated surge in COVID-19 cases in the coming weeks, reported NPR. The hub is made up of a consortium of researchers working with the CDC to develop a range of different models based on vaccination rates, transmissibility of the variants, and societal scenarios including return to work and school.
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The Delta variant now accounts for an estimated 83 percent of new cases in the United States, reported the New York Times. It also published an overview of what scientists know about the widely circulating variant, noting that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, described it in a White House briefing as “one of the most infectious respiratory viruses we know of and that I have seen in my 20-year career.” About 60 percent of American adults are fully vaccinated, and those vaccines still seem to offer strong protection against the variant.
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Despite some rare “breakthrough” infections in people who are fully vaccinated, experts are confident in the overwhelming evidence that the vaccines are dramatically reducing severe illness and death, reported the Associated Press.
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Medpage Today reported that half of patients with severe COVID-19 infections have developed new medical issues.
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Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey expressed exasperation in response to COVID-19 spread in her state, saying, “It's time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It’s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down.” Fewer than 50 percent of Alabamans over the age of 12 have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, The Hill reports.
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Meanwhile, states that have seen relatively successful vaccine campaigns are experiencing an increase in cases. The Baltimore Sun reports that Maryland saw more than 300 newly reported COVID-19 cases in a day – the highest number since last May. The piece notes that 76.4 percent of Maryland’s adult population is at least partially vaccinated against the virus, placing it in the top 10 of vaccinated states, according to the CDC.
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CNN covered the AAMC’s call last week that its member institutions require employees be vaccinated in order to protect patients and staff.
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More hospitals and health systems are requiring their employees get vaccinated, reported the New York Times. Becker’s Hospital Review noted the American Hospital Association released a statement in support of the hospitals and health systems that require vaccination policies.
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RWJBarnabas Health, the largest health-care system in New Jersey, dismissed six senior level staff members “who refused to comply with a New Jersey hospital system’s coronavirus vaccine mandate,” reported the Washington Post. Despite the six who lost their jobs, the piece notes that 99.7 percent of the system’s employees “complied and were fully vaccinated or had received a medical or religious exemption, or a deferral.”
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Khadija Soufi – a second-year medical student and a member of the AAMC Organization of Student Representatives at the UC Davis School of Medicine and the vaccine clinic director for Shifa Community Clinic in Sacramento, California – wrote a piece in AAMCNews describing how her student-run clinic “overcame language and cultural barriers to vaccinate thousands who wouldn’t otherwise have gotten the vaccines.”
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Bechara Choucair, MD, the vaccinations coordinator on the White House COVID Response Team, wrote an op-ed in Modern Healthcare on the role primary care will play in boosting vaccination efforts.
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A story in Science reviewed questions about when the COVID-19 vaccines will be fully approved.
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COVID-19 deaths pulled U.S. life expectancy down by 1.5 years in 2020, reported the Washington Post. The piece notes that among the most significant findings in the data are the disparity along racial lines in the life expectancy decline. According to the data, COVID-19 accounted for 90 percent of the decline in life expectancy among Latinos, 68 percent among the non-Hispanic White population, and 59 percent among the non-Hispanic Black population.
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Inside Higher Ed reported on a legal battle that played out between Indiana University and a group of students concerning the schools’ vaccine mandate and related mandates linked to masking and testing requirements. U.S. District Court Judge Damon R. Leichty ruled the students failed to show a likelihood they will succeed on their claim that IU lacks a rational basis for its vaccine requirement.
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An editorial in Science called for vaccine mandates in colleges. “Imagine a college campus where large numbers of students are coughing and sneezing, and even bedridden with normal colds and flu,” wrote Science editor-in-chief H. Holden Thorp, PhD. “In the absence of a vaccine mandate, it will be impossible for the college to reassure staff, faculty, and local residents that there is not a major outbreak of COVID-19. Further, many of these students who are unvaccinated could very well have severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 in addition to whatever else ails them.”
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CNBC explored whether crowded nightclubs in Europe – many of which have reopened, though some have since closed – are especially fertile “battlegrounds” for COVD-19. A lack of social distancing plus alcohol plus younger people desperate for fun potentially spells trouble, especially considering some of the nations with thriving nightclubs also have some of the highest rates of new COVID-19 cases in Europe.
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Can the crowdsourced Wikipedia model provide a public health giant like the CDC a model on how to manage conspiracy theories and misinformation on topics as important as COVID-19 vaccine safety? The Atlantic explored the question, along the way describing the special information governance system the online encyclopedia has established to develop its pandemic-related entries.
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The Journal of Clinical and Translational Science published a special edition devoted to COVID-19-related research, “Re-engineering the Clinical Research Enterprise in Response to COVID-19: The CTSA Experience.”
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Katalin Karikó, senior vice president of the German biotech company BioNTech and adjunct associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania, shared her insight into the creation of mRNA vaccines in an interview during the 2021 STAT Breakthrough Science Summit.
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A federal judge in Texas last Friday ordered the Biden administration to immediately stop granting new applications under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, reported CNBC. President Biden said the Department of Justice intends to appeal the ruling, according to NPR.
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AAMC President and CEO David J. Skorton, MD, issued a statement on the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Texas’ decision that the 2012 Obama Administration Executive Order creating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is unlawful. “The AAMC is alarmed by the District Court ruling that undermines the nation’s health by jeopardizing the work authorization of nearly 30,000 health care workers with DACA status at a time when our nation’s health care workforce is still strained by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”
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The AAMC also issued a statement on the passage of the FY 2022 spending bill by the U.S. House Appropriations Committee. “The AAMC deeply appreciates the FY 2022 spending bill’s historic investments in programs to promote the health of patients, communities, and the nation and to begin to reverse chronic underfunding of national public health and health care priorities. For more than a year and a half during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have witnessed firsthand the critical role of the NIH, CDC, and other federal health and research agencies that work with medical schools and teaching hospitals to keep the population healthy. The increased funding passed by the House Appropriations Committee today is essential to strengthen the nation’s health and research infrastructure, to improve the health of people everywhere, and to best prepare for future public health threats. We applaud the bill’s landmark investment in the NIH overall, particularly the significant commitment to the base budget for foundational research across the agency. Ongoing, robust support for this fundamental work directly benefits patients and families by enabling scientists at academic medical centers nationwide to advance new and better future diagnostics, preventive interventions, treatments, and cures,” said AAMC President and CEO David J. Skorton, MD, and AAMC Chief Public Policy Officer Karen Fisher, JD.
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The Health Resources and Services Administration will release $103 million in American Rescue Plan funding to “several programs to help healthcare organizations in rural and medically underserved communities build resiliency among newer healthcare workers and mentor providers on how to respond to stressful situations,” said Modern Healthcare.
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AAMCNews described how the threat of ransomware attacks to hospital networks has grown since the pandemic and highlighted the urgency with which hospitals should secure their networks against such attacks, which often compromise patient safety and privacy.
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The lack of paid parental leave at many institutions is just one of the many “parenting penalties” faced by mothers who are scientists, reported Nature.
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RevCycle Intelligence reported on a recent JAMA Internal Medicine article on the gender pay gap among physicians. Women were paid at least 90 percent of men’s median annual salary for 10 of 13 internal medicine specialties, according to the study.
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Researchers now have adequate funding from the NIH and the CDC to study issues around gun violence, including how gun policies affect homicide rates, how to reduce suicides, and how to collect better statistics on gun-related injuries, reported Nature.
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Some hospitals are fighting increasing gun violence by “launching programs that link patients with mental health services, community resources and other follow-up care in the aftermath of a firearm injury, with a goal of reducing future violent injuries by encouraging patients to change behaviors that might lead them down a similar path or to retaliate against the person who injured them,” reported Modern Healthcare.
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A guest essay in the New York Times explored the shortcomings of America’s search process for identifying technologically talent, especially the lack of consideration for the value of spatial ability.
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Novartis, Morehouse School of Medicine, Thurgood Marshall College Fund, Coursera, and the National Medical Association are investing $33.7 million to resolve racially unequal health care and improve trust in the health care in communities of color, reported Fast Company. The effort involves a partnership between Novartis and 26 HBCUs.
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White men no longer make up the majority of physicians and surgeons in the United States reported WebMD, though there are still few Black or Hispanic physicians, the piece notes.
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Less than 6 percent of hospitals are fully compliant with the federal price transparency rule, reported Modern Healthcare. The Biden administration is considering a per-bed monetary penalty for larger hospitals that don’t comply with the price transparency rule, reported Fierce Healthcare.
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Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough said there were fundamental flaws in the agency’s $16 million effort to modernize veterans’ medical records and an internal review of the EHR system found so many issues that he can’t continue to deploy at other hospitals for the time being, reported the Washington Post.
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Johnson & Johnson, McKesson, Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen have reached a $26 billion settlement with a group of attorneys general to resolve thousands of lawsuits over the opioid epidemic, reported the Washington Post.
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Psychiatrist Susan T. Mahler, MD, contributed an opinion piece to STAT that explores the notion of health care providers “passing” for psychologically well even as they encourage their own patients to be frank and honest with them about their own mental health. “I believe the fault is not with licensing boards or hospital administrators, but with the culture of medicine,” Dr. Mahler writes. “I suspect the people attracted to medicine as a career are exactly those who have the greatest fear of death, weakness, or vulnerability.”
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A new article by the AAMC and collaborators published in the journal Telemedicine and e-Health illustrates trends in the adoption and maturation of telehealth programs at teaching hospitals and health systems. Among the key findings, the data show that programs at teaching hospitals progressed steadily and the adoption of a wide range of telehealth delivery modes expanded.
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The NIH will use Microsoft Azure as the cloud platform for its Science and Technology Research Infrastructure for Discovery, Experimentation and Sustainability Initiative, reported Becker’s Health IT.
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Applications are now open for the AAMC Center for Health Justice Building Trust and Confidence Through Partnerships grant program, which will support the work of AAMC-member institutions and their partners to build vaccine confidence, particularly in communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. The program, made possible through a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), will provide up to $75,000 to selected applicants and their public health or community-based nonprofit partners to support local efforts, communication campaigns, and COVID-19 testing and vaccinations. Applications must be submitted by Monday, Aug. 16.
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The AAMC Center for Health Justice held a virtual briefing, “Data for Health Equity: the Foundation for Creating Healthier Communities.” The conversation highlighted how all sectors in the health ecosystem – housing, public health, medicine, transportation, and more – have similar data needs when it comes to demographics, individual-level social needs, and community-level social determinants.
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Recordings are now available from two recent congressional briefings hosted by the AAMC. On July 20, the AAMC hosted a briefing, “The Future of Telehealth: How Teaching Hospitals Continue to Expand Access to Care,” which focused on the role that telehealth played to provide access to care during the COVID-19 pandemic and the importance of continuing beyond the end of the public health emergency. Speakers included AAMC Chief Medical Officer Janis Orlowski, MD, Karen Rheuban, MD, from the University of Virginia Health, and Darren Malinoski, MD, FACS, from Oregon Health & Science University.
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Vineet Arora, MD, has been named dean for medical education at the Pritzker School of Medicine. Dr. Arora is the Herbert T. Abelson Professor of Medicine at the Pritzker School of Medicine.
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Myra Muramoto, MD, MPH, has been named chair of the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, effective Oct. 1. Dr. Muramoto is chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine.
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Mary-Ann Mycek, PhD, has been appointed interim chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at University of Michigan Medical School. Dr. Mycek previously served as associate dean for graduate and professional education at University of Michigan College of Engineering.
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Alan Sanders, MD, has joined Albany Med as chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases. Dr. Sanders has a special interest in surgical-associated infections, severe hospital- and community-acquired infections, and improving the use of antibiotics to decrease the potential for antibiotic resistance.
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Rebecca Dutch, PhD, has been named vice dean of research for the University of Kentucky College of Medicine. Dr. Dutch has most recently served as chair of molecular and cellular biochemistry at the UK College of Medicine.
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The UK College of Medicine made three more leadership announcements: Alan Hall, MD, has been appointed assistant dean of curriculum integration; Jagriti Chadha, MD, has been named assistant dean of competency assessment; and Helen Garces has been named assistant dean for curriculum and assessment management at the UK College of Medicine.
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A man in Indonesia disguised himself as his wife and used her name and documents to purchase an airline ticket, and presumably demonstrate no COVID-19 infection so he could easily travel, reported NBC. He was caught midflight while changing his clothes – and as it happens, he tested positive for COVID-19.
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And finally, if you’re looking for a reciprocal reward for giving your dog a treat, you may have to wait forever. Researchers from the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Austria, demonstrated through an experiment that dogs who have been trained to push a button to dispense a treat for either themselves or a human will feed themselves if they have control of the button, and will whine and complain if a human who has control of the button doesn’t dispense a treat for them. But if a human whines and complains for a treat to a dog who has control of the magic button? Nada. It’s not like the dogs can’t do it – the Smithsonian piece reporting on a PLOS One article notes that dogs effectively share food with other generous dogs and they will heroically risk it all to rescue a truly distressed person. But when it comes to giving a simple tasty treat to a whimpering human? From the dog’s perspective, “Meh.”
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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

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