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CFAS News Current Edition

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FDA Advisory Panel Recommends Moderna Boosters; Vaccine Rates Hit New Highs; Health Care Workforce Declining; and Other Items of Interest

The Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) unanimously recommended on Thursday half-dose Moderna booster shots six months after a regular second dose of the Moderna vaccine for adults over 65, those at high risk of severe COVID-19, and people whose jobs put them at increased risk, such as health care workers. This recommendation parallels the FDA’s Sept. 22 decision on groups that can receive boosters for the Pfizer vaccine. In its reporting, STAT noted the panel discussed whether boosters should be considered for all adults over 18 but determined it was “too soon to consider the matter.” While the FDA is not bound to follow the recommendation of its advisory panels, it often does. If the FDA agrees that the Moderna vaccine booster is warranted, it would be available through expansion of the existing emergency use authorization.
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The FDA’s VRBPAC continued its meeting on Friday to discuss whether those individuals who received the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine should also receive a booster. The advisory committee unanimously endorsed the idea of a second dose for anyone who received the single-dose vaccine at least two months ago. Notably, this recommendation is much broader than those made for either of the mRNA vaccine boosters, which were limited to certain high-risk groups.
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Another area of continued discussion is whether recipients of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine would be better served by a booster dose of one of the two mRNA-based vaccines instead. NBC News reported the results of a National Institutes of Health clinical trial released this week that indicated that a booster dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, when given to people who initially received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, produced a stronger antibody response than those who received the J & J booster. The study, which has not yet been peer reviewed, also showed that mixing and matching Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines as boosters was effective regardless of which regular two-course vaccine a person previously received. As STAT has reported, though, the FDA typically acts on data presented through applications from companies, and it’s not clear how the FDA would take such an action when no company is likely to ask the agency to authorize a booster dose of a vaccine made by a rival company.
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Americans living abroad are increasingly frustrated because they are unable to receive an FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine even as the delta variant rages around the world, reported The Hill.
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The rate of COVID-19 cases is dropping nationally; however, Montana, Colorado, Minnesota, Michigan, and Pennsylvania have had at least a 10% rise in new cases in the past week, reported CNN.
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In a long piece with interviews from several infectious disease specialists and researchers in academic medicine, the New York Times explored how viruses mutate and adapt, and importantly, how the immune system responds. The experts agreed on the certainty regarding SARS-CoV-2: the virus will continue to evolve, but it has thus far been successfully countered by the unusually quick and effective development of vaccines.
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Reuters reported on the upward growth in COVID-19 vaccination rates as more employers and institutions have adopted vaccine mandates. According to the White House, 77% of eligible Americans have received at least one dose of a vaccine, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported daily COVID-19 cases fell 12% from the previous week and the seven-day average of daily deaths was down 5%.
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NPR reported on evidence showing that COVID-19 breakthrough infections are not very transmissible.
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The vaccine rate among Black Americans has been trending upward into the autumn months, reported Medscape in its coverage of a Kaiser Family Foundation report that used CDC data. In some cases, the gap between Black and White vaccination rates is closing quickly, with data from Georgia showing that 44.8% of Black residents are vaccinated for COVID-19 versus 47.4% of White residents. Earlier nationwide data showed gaps at 15%. 
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The AAMC, the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing will host a joint virtual symposium, “Confronting Health Misinformation: Gaps and Opportunities for Health Professions Educators.” The event will take place Oct. 29 from 2 to 4 p.m. ET. The symposium is funded by a cooperative agreement from the CDC: Improving Clinical and Public Health Outcomes Through National Partnerships to Prevent and Control Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Disease Threats, which is focused on building confidence in the COVID-19 vaccines.
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Since the onset of COVID-19, the health care workforce has lost more than half a million jobs, with employment stability remaining an ongoing problem, reported Healthcare Finance. In September, the health care labor market shed about 17,500 jobs, 8,000 of them in hospitals. The piece also references AAMC data showing that these labor troubles in health care predate COVID-19.
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Staffing problems are partly to blame for new lows in morale among nurses, reported the Washington Post. Nurses nationwide are reporting exhaustion and rising workloads, with some nurses leaving regular employment in a single hospital to become traveling nurses or leaving the profession altogether. The piece quotes several nurses who work at academic health centers, including level 1 trauma centers.
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Time described a Washington state law that could help get foreign-trained doctors back in hospitals by granting “internationally-trained medical graduates the opportunity to obtain two-year medical licenses to work as doctors, with the possibility of renewal. Participants can forgo residencies—one of the most arduous steps in becoming a doctor—but must meet certain other requirements, including English proficiency, passing all three steps of the USMLE, and working under the supervision of a fully-licensed doctor.”
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AAMCNews covered how student debt and physician shortages are fueling three-year medical school options.
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Some doctors and families of COVID-19 patients are asking hospitals to reconsider not allowing people to visit their loved ones at such a crucial time, given the psychological and emotional harm that can come from being denied a visit to a family member who later dies, reported Modern Healthcare.
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In coverage of a survey of more than 300 scientists who had given media interviews about COVID-19, Nature reported: “[M]ore than two-thirds of researchers reported negative experiences as a result of their media appearances or their social media comments, and 22% had received threats of physical or sexual violence. Some scientists said that their employer had received complaints about them, or that their home address had been revealed online. Six scientists said they were physically attacked.”
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The World Health Organization announced a committee to study the origins of COVID-19, reported the New York Times.
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On a related note, the New Yorker detailed the origin and development of the theory that COVID-19 initially escaped from a lab.
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A Wall Street Journal op-ed warned that some scientists in America are worsening public trust in science by pretending to have authority on social and political matters.
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STAT explored revelations that some trustees of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute stood to profit from their philanthropic roles.
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For years, Ricardo Cruciani, MD, a neurologist formerly at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, got vulnerable women addicted to pain medications and sexually assaulted them while hospital staff looked the other way, reported the New York Times. “But even as complaints from patients mounted, the doctor was able to move from job to job, securing positions at hospitals in three states over the course of a decade. He was finally charged with sexual assault in Pennsylvania, registering as a sex offender and surrendering his medical license in a plea agreement in 2017.”
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A letter in Nature Human Behaviour called for serious efforts to fight pandemic-related setbacks to caregivers working in academia. “With attempts to return to normal lives following more than a year of remote working and home schooling in many countries, a question arises: how many institutions have implemented effective action to mitigate the pandemic’s negative impacts on the academic careers of caregivers,” the authors asked.
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The FDA is guiding food companies toward gradually lowering sodium levels in foods such as condiments, cereals, french fries, and potato chips, reported the Associated Press.
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Although Black people face a survival gap for every cancer type, Medscape explained why the numbers for endometrial cancer are especially alarming, given that Black women have a 90% higher mortality rate than White women.
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People who are Black, Hispanic, or American Indian/Alaska Native are more likely than White people to be hospitalized with the flu, and young children in these populations, especially those under the age of 5, are more likely to die of flu than White children, reported the Washington Post in coverage of a study published in JAMA Network Open in August.
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“What’s not clear is whether the changes in law made by the No Surprises Act — which takes effect Jan. 1 — will have the unintended consequences of shifting costs and leading to higher insurance premiums,” said Health Leaders in a discussion of the effects of legislation that prohibits patients from receiving surprise medical bills.
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MedPage Today discussed the problem of eroding job security in health care.
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Howard University alumni Eddie C. Brown and C. Sylvia Brown gave a $5 million gift to their alma mater to support the Graduation Retention Access to Continued Excellence (GRACE) Grant for students facing financial barriers.
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A new date has been announced to join a CFAS-sponsored AAMC Twitter chat on COVID-19 research: Oct. 26 from 7 to 8 p.m. ET. CFAS and the AAMC’s Research on Care Community group will host the event, which will explore COVID-19 research, pandemic prevention, and preparedness. AAMC constituents are encouraged to join this Twitter-based networking opportunity to highlight their work and share their own research and resources. Anyone with a Twitter account may participate by including #CFASChat in their tweets. To see the conversation unfold in real time, search “CFASChat” on Twitter and monitor the tweets coming in by selecting the “Latest” tab.

Applications for the AAMC Chief Medical Officers (CMO) Leadership Academy are being accepted through Nov. 11. This program’s 15-month curriculum is designed to address common challenges that academic CMOs face while equipping participants with critical leadership skills and knowledge needed to successfully meet the continuously evolving business and administrative demands of the role.

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For the first time, the 2021 Official Guide to Medical School Admissions: How to Prepare for and Apply to Medical School is free for download by all who are interested in applying to medical school. The AAMC has updated this guide as the authoritative source for information on medical school admissions for the 2022 application cycle to help aspiring medical students navigate the application process. The guidebook offers exclusive insights from experts, including application tips and national applicant and acceptance data from the 2020 entering class.
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The Health Resources and Services Administration announced a funding opportunity “to train doctoral health service psychology students, interns, and post-doctoral residents in integrated, interdisciplinary behavioral health for placement into community-based primary care settings in high need and high demand areas.” The program also supports faculty development in health service psychology. The deadline to apply is Dec. 9.
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A roundtable of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine is convening stakeholders to discuss incentives for adopting open science practices, current barriers, and ways to move forward to align reward structures and institutional values.
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Stephen Klasko, MD, MBA, will retire as CEO of Jefferson Health on Dec. 31. Dr. Klasko has served as president of Thomas Jefferson University and as CEO of Jefferson Health for eight years.
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Marilyn Galimi has been named chief operating officer of Upstate University Hospital. She has served as assistant vice president of facility and planning since 2019.
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Will Whiting has been appointed associate vice chancellor for the Office of Institutional Advancement at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Whiting previously served as executive director of development at the University of Texas at Austin.
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Brenessa Lindeman, MD, has been named assistant dean for graduate medical education in the University of Alabama School of Medicine. Dr. Lindeman is an associate professor in the Department of Surgery at the UAB School of Medicine and has served as associate designated institutional official for the clinical learning environment at UAB Hospital since 2017. Dr. Lindeman is also a former member of the AAMC Board of Directors.
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Pari Pandharipande, MD, MPH, has been appointed chair of the Department of Radiology at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. Dr. Pandharipande previously served as an associate professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School.
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The Washington Post told the story of Johana Peña, a fourth-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, who participated in a program at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Oakland, California, where her mother, Cristina Peña, was a custodian. A photo that the medical student tweeted a couple of years ago with the note, “It’s crazy how life works sometimes. I get to work with my mom, at the same hospital in the same department. She has been a janitor here for 18 years. She raised a Latina physician in the making! Thank you ama, I am so proud to be your daughter,” has gone viral (again) upon being retweeted. Dr. Peña is now in the process of applying for residency programs.
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And finally, mummies may seem like faceless beings belonging to another time — but that’s only before you see the 3D reconstructed faces of three ancient Egyptian mummies dating back more than 2,000 years. The reconstructions were created through phenotyping using DNA removed from the studied mummies in 2017 (in itself a feat, since it was the first time researchers successfully extracted DNA from an ancient mummy). Smithsonian described how the DNA helped reveal information about likely face shape and skin color, leading to the creation of likenesses that would leave you to think mummies may very well be the people who live next door, right now. Just in time for Halloween.
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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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