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U.S. Leads in Global Coronavirus Cases; $2 Trillion Stimulus Package; Med Schools Weighing Early Graduations; and Other Items of Interest

As of last Thursday, the United States became the nation hit hardest by novel coronavirus infections, with more than 81,300 known cases of infection and over 1,000 deaths, reported the New York Times in a piece that noted how ill-prepared the country was for an outbreak of this scale.
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President Trump signed the $2.2 trillion coronavirus package approved earlier in the week by the Senate and earlier today by the House, reported the New York Times. Several members of Congress had to rush back to Washington to keep the bill moving when a Kentucky representative threatened to delay the process out of procedural concerns, reported USA Today.
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The AAMC issued a statement on the Senate agreement on the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the third supplemental funding package out of Washington. “We are heartened and grateful to congressional leaders and the administration for the agreement on the supplemental funding package. It is a crucial step toward ensuring that teaching hospitals, academic physicians, and all health care providers get essential support to fight the growing coronavirus pandemic and care for patients. The new $100 billion emergency fund will help stabilize teaching hospitals and faculty physician practices that are challenged by lost revenue attributable to the treatment of patients during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak — losses estimated at millions of dollars per day. Other emergency investments in research and public health will help bolster our nation’s response. Additionally, delaying the Medicare sequester beginning May 1 through the end of 2020 and providing an increase in the Medicare reimbursement rates for COVID-19 patients, among other provisions, will ease the financial burden on hospitals and physicians who are critical first responders in this pandemic,” said AAMC President and CEO David J. Skorton, MD.
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On March 27 at 10:30 a.m. ET, the AAMC hosted its second in a series of press teleconference events. The press conference was moderated by David J. Skorton, MD, AAMC president and CEO, and featured AAMC experts as they discussed pandemic preparedness and other breaking news related to teaching hospitals, patient care, the latest in medical research, and how medical schools are responding to the coronavirus epidemic. A recording and full transcript are now available.
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Kaiser Health News covered the cash infusion hospitals will receive in the coronavirus relief bill. The article quotes Atul Grover, MD, PhD, AAMC executive vice president. “The money needs to not run out before you get to the big places,” he said, noting that large, urban hospitals have a “larger magnitude of losses and concentration of patients.”
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Higher education groups were disappointed that the $2 trillion stimulus package doesn’t cancel student loan debt or provide more aid to colleges and universities, and they are already hoping to get more support in the next stimulus package, reported Inside Higher Ed.
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“Rather than prioritize more money in our pockets that we will likely hoard versus spend, our political leaders should recognize that our long-term economic resilience depends on putting American lives first,” said an article in Medium that recommended activating the Defense Production Act to bolster the supply chain of critical medical equipment, rapidly expanding the health care workforce, and channeling research capabilities into a medical “Manhattan Project.”
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Ronald Daniels, president of Johns Hopkins University; Paul Rothman, MD, dean of the Johns Hopkins medical faculty and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine; and Kevin Sowers, president of the Johns Hopkins Health System, wrote an op-ed in the Baltimore Sun pleading that the public take social distancing more seriously. “Right now, social distancing is indispensable. Because we don’t yet have a treatment or a vaccine for COVID-19, social distancing is one of the few effective tools we have right now to reduce the risk of widespread transmission. Social distancing is especially crucial because with COVID-19, many infected people have no symptoms, so they don’t even realize they are spreading it. In this way the virus spreads invisibly, widely and exponentially,” they wrote.
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J. Larry Jameson, MD, PhD, dean of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and chair-elect of the AAMC Board of Directors, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times on behalf of six other leaders of “large academic health systems in some of America’s Covid-19 ‘hot spots’ to urge our national leadership to resist pressure to lift tough social restrictions intended to subdue this outbreak and save thousands of lives. While some say the economic damage of these measures will cause more harm than the disease itself, these steps will actually ensure our economic health, since commerce cannot thrive until we have substantially contained the virus.”
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William Hanage, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology at the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post criticizing President Trump’s desire to see social distancing relaxed by Easter, saying, “relaxing national vigilance and movement restrictions aimed at preventing more novel coronavirus infections that soon would be like throwing a drowning person a life raft and then shooting it full of holes.”
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“[T]he Centers for Disease Control and Prevention developed and distributed a faulty test in February. Independent labs created alternatives, but were mired in bureaucracy from the FDA. In a crucial month when the American caseload shot into the tens of thousands, only hundreds of people were tested. That a biomedical powerhouse like the U.S. should so thoroughly fail to create a very simple diagnostic test was, quite literally, unimaginable,” said The Atlantic in a piece that predicted the United States would eventually experience the worst coronavirus outbreak of all developed countries.
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NPR reported that administration officials, including the president, said the U.S.-developed coronavirus tests are better than those created in other countries and that the United States refused to import tests with a high false positive rate. The study from which these false positive rate figures came was retracted within days of being published but is still being cited.
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“In the nearly 75 years that the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] has existed, in every single infectious disease outbreak the country has dealt with, the CDC has been central. It's been at the decision table, and it's been at the podium. I feel less safe because it's not clear that the CDC's expertise is feeding into the decisions that are being made, and these are life and death decisions,” said former CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, in an NPR article that discussed the agency’s conspicuous silence during the pandemic.
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Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, commented on the coronavirus outbreak, noting how dire New York’s situation is becoming in an article in CNBC. “New York City hospitals right now are on the brink of what I would call being maxed out in terms of their available capacity. New York has another about five weeks to go for this between now and when they’re going to hit peak hospitalizations, so the fact that they’re stretched right now is worrisome.”
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Anthony Fauci, MD, “the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, has grown bolder in correcting the president’s falsehoods and overly rosy statements about the spread of the coronavirus in the past two weeks — and he has become a hero to the president’s critics because of it. And now, Mr. Trump’s patience has started to wear thin,” warned the New York Times.
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Earlier in the week, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised the Trump administration’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak and said President Trump has done a “great job” leveraging public and private sector resources, reported CNBC.
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Children’s hospitals are resisting calls to take adult patients as COVID-19 overwhelms other hospitals, saying that their equipment and staff is geared only toward caring for children, reported Modern Healthcare.
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Many states are loosening their licensing restrictions, asking retired physicians to volunteer and allowing out-of-state physicians to practice immediately so that more people with clinical skills can help the exhausted front-line health care workers battling the COVID-19 outbreak, said NPR.
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The New York Times described how medical students, sidelined during the coronavirus outbreak, are getting creative and organizing to help the health system in other ways, including collecting masks, working at call centers, and providing child care to health workers.
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NYU Grossman School of Medicine is allowing students to graduate a few months early to help hospitals battle the COVID-19 surge, reported Time. “With the growing spread of COVID-19, our hospitals inundated with patients and our colleagues on the front lines working extra-long hours, we are still short-staffed in emergency and internal medicine. Burnout of our doctors has become a growing concern,” said the deans of the medical school in an email to students, according to a piece in Becker’s Hospital Review that also covered the story.
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The New York Times also reported on early graduation plans in a long piece that quoted Alison Whelan, MD, AAMC chief medical education officer. “As we think about what the role of these new graduates would be, it would need to be under supervision,” she said.
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The Liaison Committee on Medical Education issued guidance for medical schools determining which of its final-year students are eligible for early graduation.
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Morehouse School of Medicine is working on a plan to allow fourth-year medical students to volunteer at Grady Memorial Hospital through telemedicine. The students would give patients advice on symptoms over the phone, assist drive-thru testing centers, and get online pandemic medicine training before going into the field, said the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
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Martin Kaminski, MD, an internal medicine resident at Cambridge Health Alliance, a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital, and Frances Ue, MD, the chief resident at Cambridge Health Alliance, wrote an opinion piece in STAT saying that teaching hospitals should consider delaying the start of new resident training if COVID-19 peaks in July, since July 1 is the traditional date when new residents begin their training. “Bringing new doctors into hospitals at the peak of Covid-19 is a bad idea. If a hospital is inundated with infected patients, who will have time to supervise and train doctors who are just starting out? And under shelter-in-place and social distancing orders, how will doctors who have finished their training leave and move to other posts across the country?”
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Even before Congress lifted restrictions on reimbursement for telehealth through Medicare, academic medical centers were expanding telemedicine services. AAMCNews explored whether it will be enough.
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Much of the impact of COVID-19, both on the populations from a health perspective and on the U.S. economy, is dangerously misunderstood due to flawed statistics and data, reports The Atlantic, drawing a parallel between the term “the fog of war” and a newly coined phrase, “the fog of pandemic.”
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Science magazine reported on the wrenching decision research labs across the country have had to make to euthanize thousands of laboratory animals out of concerns for the health and safety of scientists, lab workers, and the animals themselves.
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Against the backdrop of the pandemic, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services withdrew a proposed rule to tighten state Medicaid eligibility rules, reported Modern Healthcare.
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Health Affairs discussed how a Medicare expansion might be used to reduce racial and ethnic health disparities.
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The Wall Street Journal commented on the unusual dynamic of the Trump administration’s push for a special Affordable Care Act enrollment period to help people obtain coverage during the coronavirus pandemic while the administration simultaneously challenges the ACA’s validity in court.
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Politico covered 10 predictions about the ACA (now celebrating 10 hard-fought years of life) that never panned out, including that 25 million people would sign up for ACA plans, the ACA would be a job-killer, it would save the government $143 billion, and it would save families $2,500 per year on health insurance, among other things.
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The National Library of Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health, is expanding access to literature on the coronavirus through PubMed Central so that scientists, providers, and the public can conduct text-mining research.
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International academic publisher Taylor & Francis published a website that aggregates and organizes all recent COVID-19 research in one portal, making breaking research related to COVID-19 freely accessible, reported Scientific Computing World. Other publishers are making similar efforts.
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The National Academy of Medicine also has launched an online resource on COVID-19 as well as consensus studies and workshop proceedings on pandemic infectious disease.
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After New York Governor Andrew Cuomo reported that the New York State Department of Health will begin treating the state’s sickest coronavirus patients using the blood of coronavirus survivors, the Food and Drug Administration approved emergency protocols on Tuesday allowing doctors across the country to follow suit, reported CNBC.
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Physicians in some states are stockpiling possible coronavirus treatments by writing prescriptions for themselves and their family members. The trend has become so pronounced in Idaho, Kentucky, Ohio, Nevada, Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Texas that those states’ pharmacy boards have issued emergency restrictions on how pharmacies can provide the treatments, reported the New York Times.
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STAT reported that some American doctors are turning to colleagues in China for answers on how to overcome the onslaught of COVID-19.
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Doctors’ practices are dealing with a growing cash crunch resulting from en masse cancellations, quarantined staff, and a rush to switch to virtual visits during the coronavirus outbreak, reported Bloomberg Law.
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The Dallas Morning News described the best way to receive packages and deliveries during the outbreak.
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Becker’s Hospital Review posted a list of “100 academic medical center CEOs to know” in 2020.
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Legislative action on the issues of surprise billing and drug pricing will have to wait until November, reported The Hill.
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JAMA profiled the Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine’s Wy’east program, which provides a rigorous 10-month medical school preparation program to Native American and Alaska Native students who didn’t get into medical school on their first attempt.
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A national health crisis meets a pandemic: Opioid use disorder is increasingly being treated through telehealth as the health care system becomes overwhelmed by COVID-19, reported PBS.
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Do you risk getting several doctors infected with the coronavirus by rushing them into one place to resuscitate a coronavirus patient, or do you opt not to resuscitate? The Washington Post explored the heated private debate being forced on many hospitals.
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The New York Times described the experience of caring for coronavirus patients from the unique perspective of anesthesiologists, who must hover close to infected patients’ mouths while performing intubations. The patients often cough during the intubations, aerosolizing the virus. “You’re aware of every moment you’re in there. Ten seconds. Twenty seconds. Thirty seconds. You feel radioactive,” said Michelle Au, MD, an anesthesiologist at Emory St. Joseph’s Hospital in Atlanta.
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A public-private consortium comprising Princeton University, Carnegie Mellon, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of California, the University of Illinois, the University of Chicago, Microsoft, and artificial intelligence company C3.ai has been organized to apply machine learning solutions to stopping the spread of the coronavirus, accelerating the development of treatments, designing and repurposing drugs, planning clinical trials, and predicting the evolution of the disease, among other things. The New York Times covered the story.
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The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) has released a statement regarding continuing certification during the COVID-19 outbreak. “We understand that the pandemic will have a highly variable impact on physicians based on the unique needs of their specialty,” ABMS leaders said. “Individual Boards will respond in ways that best meet the needs of physicians in their particular specialty.”
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AAMCNews explored the battle against COVID-19 from the perspective of front-line health care workers.
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As health care workers across the country plead for more protective equipment, manufacturers and distributors are scrambling to meet an unprecedented need. AAMCNews looks at how we got here — and what needs to happen for us to get through this crisis.
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The AAMC published resources related to COVID-19 on its website, including academic medicine’s response and information about AAMC meetings and professional development. This content is updated regularly. The AAMC’s page on well-being in academic medicine also contains resources related specifically to COVID-19.
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Citizen scientists are using a free computer game called Foldit to help researchers design coronavirus drugs by digitally solving protein puzzles. The game is helping David Baker, PhD, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and University of Washington professor of biochemistry, hunt for proteins that might block SARS-CoV-2 from infecting human cells.
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A website, covidnearyou.org, asks community members to report data on the ground where they live to help scientists track the COVID-19 pandemic. The effort is sponsored by Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
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The April edition of Academic Medicine is online and features content on the closure of Hahnemann University Hospital, the changing culture on parental leave, and tuition-free versus need-based, loan-free medical school, among other topics.
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The Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center at UT Southwestern Medical Center has joined the National Comprehensive Cancer Network.
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Badrinath Konety, MBBS, MBA, has been appointed dean of Rush Medical College, effective July 1. Dr. Konety serves as associate dean for innovation at University of Minnesota Medical School.
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Daniel Yoshor, MD, has been appointed chair of the Department of Neurosurgery in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and vice president of clinical integration and innovation for the University of Pennsylvania Health System. Dr. Yoshor serves as the Marc J. Shapiro Endowed Professor and chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at Baylor College of Medicine.
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Hasan Alam, MD, has been named the Loyal and Edith Davis Professor and chair of the Department of Surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, effective Sept. 1. Dr. Alam is the Norman W. Thompson Professor of Surgery and section head for general surgery at the University of Michigan Medical Center.
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Paul Diamond, MD, has been appointed the Catherine and Vladislav P. Hinterbuchner Professor and Chair of Rehabilitation Medicine at New York Medical College and director of rehabilitation medicine at NYC Health + Hospitals/Metropolitan. Dr. Diamond previously served as director of neuro-rehabilitation and associate professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Virginia Health System.
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Robert Ryu, MD, has been appointed chair of the Department of Radiology at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, effective May 1. Dr. Ryu serves as the Dr. David A. Kumpe Chair and Division Chief of Interventional Radiology in the Department of Radiology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
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Jonathan Holmes, MD, has been appointed chair of the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Arizona College of Medicine - Tucson, effective July 31. Dr. Holmes serves as the Joseph E. and Rose Marie Green Professor of Visual Sciences and Professor of Ophthalmology at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science in Rochester, Minnesota.
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Adrienne Lahti, MD, has been appointed interim chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurobiology at the University of Alabama School of Medicine. Dr. Lahti serves as the F. Cleveland Kinney Endowed Chair in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurobiology at the UAB School of Medicine.
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Elma Ireland LeDoux, MD, has been appointed associate dean for admissions and student affairs at the Tulane University School of Medicine. Dr. LeDoux is a professor of medicine and course director of clinical diagnosis at the Tulane University School of Medicine.
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Susan Bakewell-Sachs, PhD, RN, has been appointed chair of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing Board of Directors. Dr. Bakewell-Sachs is dean and vice president for nursing affairs at Oregon Health & Science University School of Nursing.
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The BBC reported on a viral (in a good way) effort in the United Kingdom for everyone to stop what they’re doing and go to balconies or open spaces and applaud the health care workers and first responders at the forefront of the coronavirus pandemic response. The video is worth a watch. It may even make you misty eyed.
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And finally, perhaps out of boredom from staying home for weeks on end, or perhaps to show community solidarity in the grim face of COVID-19, people around the country are plugging in holiday yard and house decorations of all variety to spice up the landscape, reported the Washington Post and the Lansing State Journal. In late March, there’s a cacophony of Christmas displays next to daffodils, Halloween lawn ornaments popping up near flowering crabapples, and blinking holiday lights while the sun remains on the horizon close to 8 p.m., apropos of no season in particular. Merry whatever it is!
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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/members/cfas

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