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CFAS News Current Edition

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Vaccination Access Widens in the United States; India Hits New Daily COVID-19 Record; Attacks Against Asian Americans in Health Care Continue; and Other Items of Interest

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a report this week that indicated (through modeling) potentially dramatic decreases in levels of COVID-19 cases in the United States by July – if vaccinations efforts are effective and people continue to take precautions against virus transmission. In its reporting, the Washington Post noted the modeling includes an assumption that 90 percent of those eligible for vaccine do, indeed, get a shot, which may be optimistic, considering some pockets of the U.S. population are unable or unwilling to get vaccinated.
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The AAMC has updated its consensus guidance on face coverings to align with new guidance from the CDC. The latest guidance suggests that, while the nation is in a period of transition, vaccinated individuals can now refrain from wearing masks in most outdoor settings unless in crowded places such as concerts, sporting events, and other large gatherings where not everyone may be vaccinated. Fully vaccinated individuals can also safely visit indoors with other fully vaccinated people.
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Relatively good news in the United States contrasts with a worsening health crisis in India, where COVID-19 case totals hit daily records and the national health infrastructure is fracturing. The Associated Press reported on patients lined up outside hospitals, rural areas relying on inadequate outdoor clinics, and increasing pressure within the country, even among businesses, for an extreme lockdown to slow the spread.
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The BBC ran a detailed piece outlining how India fell into such a dire crisis so quickly – from lack of clarity about oxygen supplies to false hopes from earlier in the year when cases in India fell sharply, and from a broken public health system to lack of vaccine availability.
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Science asked, “Is India's Coronavirus Death ‘Paradox’ Vanishing?” in an article exploring why India appeared to emerge from the pandemic with relative ease in an earlier wave only to be hit so hard recently.
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Rajendra Kapila, MD, an infectious disease specialist and a professor at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and a founding member of the New Jersey Infectious Disease Society, died in India after traveling there to care for sick family members. He had tested positive for COVID-19 but had also been vaccinated. ABC News reported on the story.
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AAMCNews reported on physicians in academic medicine with “long COVID-19” who shared their struggles to heal and how they are managing to move forward despite the disease. Among those interviewed is Coleen Kivlahan, MD, of UCSF, who is a former AAMC staff member. “[Being part of a teaching hospital] has imbued in me the spirit of recovery, the spirit of curiosity, and the spirit of humility in the face of what we just don’t know,” she said.
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The New York Times reported on Pfizer’s plans to increase accessibility of its vaccines to children. By next week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to issue emergency use authorization allowing the vaccine to be used in children from 12- to 15-years-old. And in September, Pfizer expects to apply for authorization to administer its vaccine to children between from 2 to 11.
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The New York Times also reported on Kaiser Family Foundation research suggesting that many parents are likely to be reluctant to vaccinate their children as the shots become available. As observed elsewhere, reluctance can break along political and regional lines.
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NPR reported on a new goal announced this week by the Biden Administration: 70 percent of all adults in the United States will have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by July 4. By that same date, the administration hopes to have at least 160 million adults fully vaccinated. According to CDC data, this week more than 56 percent of the adult population has received at least one dose and 40 percent of adults have gotten two doses.
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CNBC reported that Americans 65-years-old and older already have crossed the 70 percent inoculation level.
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With the vaccine likely to become widely available to children soon, some people are wondering if schools will require students to be vaccinated. CNBC reported schools may tend to encourage the shot rather than require it, though different districts will handle it in different ways – some may be more aggressive in requiring vaccination while others may not even encourage their student to be vaccinated. The piece notes it is likely to become a state-by-state issue.
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Despite the positive news about vaccine availability, Leana Wen, MD, writing in the Washington Post, warned that a failure to reach herd immunity may spell trouble in the United States next winter. While Dr. Wen is optimistic about the direction we’re headed, there are clear risks if significant percentages do not get vaccinated, especially if there are more dangerous variants of the virus still to come. Dr. Wen is an emergency physician and visiting professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University’s Milken School of Public Health.
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Younger adults are some of the least likely people to get vaccinated. CNN ran a piece on why it is important for them to protect themselves from the virus. The piece quotes Carlos del Rio, MD, executive associate dean at Emory University School of Medicine and an infectious disease expert: “We really need to get people 20 to 49 years old vaccinated because they are the ones driving the pandemic right now,” he said.
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The AP reported on the ongoing attacks Asian American health care workers are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic. The piece tells the story of several people in health care, including medical students and residents, and notes the negative experiences are sometimes coming from colleagues within a health care setting.
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Vox asks why there is no COVID-19 commission or similar long-view task force to look ahead to the next pandemic crisis. Granted, the current administration is handling the crisis at hand, but now is the time to learn from the mistakes of the U.S. pandemic response in order to be better prepared next time, according to Vox. The piece lays out three potential lessons to take from this latest experience.
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The pandemic has led to a shortage of medical oxygen, creating a crisis in areas where COVID-19 rates are spiking, most notably India. The New York Times explored how the global shortage came to be and what it will take in order to recover from it.
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The pandemic led to spikes in costs for masks and other PPE, causing physicians, medical practices, and others – such as dentists – to pay much more for the equipment to keep them safe, reported Kaiser Health News. Some are now asking insurance companies to help foot the bill.
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Kaiser Health News also covered a National Academies report urging all adults in America to have a primary care physician, and noting it may take government assistance in shifting resources back to primary care from specialty care in order to reach such a goal.
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Inside Higher Ed reported on the “Changing Face in Science,” which shows more women and racial minorities in science, as well as scientists with disabilities. The piece reports on a new study by the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics at the National Science Foundation.
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COVID-19-related shutdowns and restrictions halted studies for cancer, diabetes, and more, threatening scientific progress. AAMCNews reported on how researchers and academic medicine can make up for lost time.
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The AAMC’s new Telehealth Equity Catalyst “TEC” Award allows member medical schools and health systems to nominate programs that demonstrate a positive impact on barriers associated with telehealth and health technology. Nominated programs can fall into one of two tracks: clinical delivery or medical training, and they may be eligible to receive $15,000. Submissions will be accepted through June 7, 2021.
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The May edition of Academic Medicine is now available online. It is devoted to mental health and well-being with a letter from the editor, “Courage and Mental Health: Physicians and Physicians-in-Training Sharing Their Personal Narratives.” The edition contains a range of other articles including, “Physician Mental Health: My Personal Journey and Professional Plea,” by Darrell G. Kirch, MD, AAMC’s President Emeritus; “Preventing Clinician Suicide: A Call to Action During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond;” “We Burn Out, We Break, We Die: Medical Schools Must Change Their Culture to Preserve Medical Student Mental Health;” and “Faculty Disclosure of Personal Mental Health History and Resident Physician Perceptions of Stigma Surrounding Mental Illness;” among other articles exploring the topic. 
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In a Medium post, Filmore Thomas, IV, laid out the case for why “We Must Establish More Black Medical Schools.” The piece notes, among other points, it’s a very small number of schools now carrying a huge burden, compared to in the past, when there were far more schools focused on Black medical students.
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CNBC reported on the high number of chronic diseases members of the millennial generation already experience, including major depression, diabetes, asthma, hypertension, and others. About 44 percent of millennials born in the 1980s report having at least one chronic condition.
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The AAMC, American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, and Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates have developed a toolkit of voluntary guidance and other resources to assist in the transition of 2021 medical school graduates into their first post-graduate year of medical education and training. This collection of resources is designed to support residents and their residency programs in delivering safe, high-quality patient care. Supporting the well-being, professional development, and equitable treatment of incoming residents is critical as they begin their journey to the independent practice of medicine.
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The Washington Post reported on this year’s Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals, or the “Sammies,” which honors federal civil servants for their work. Several were named for their efforts in the COVID-19 response, including Kizzmekia S. Corbett, PhD; Barney S. Graham, MD, PhD; Gary H. Gibbons, MD; Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, MD; and Peter Marks, MD, PhD.
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The Las Vegas Review Journal reported on the first medical school graduating class at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. The first class at the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine was made up of 50 students.
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A collection of poems based on stories from health care professionals has been published as part of the AAMC’s Fundamental Role of Arts and Humanities in Medical Education initiative. The Good Listening Project and the AAMC have partnered to provide faculty and constituents at the nation’s medical schools and teaching hospitals with a listening poet experience. To do this, the Good Listening Project conducts a call with a health professional or trainee and subsequently transforms the conversation into a work of original poetry. More than 200 poems to date have been created through this effort.
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The AAMC Building Better Curriculum Learning Series will present a virtual session honoring mental health awareness month. The free session, “Combating Burnout in Medical Education Including the Role of Microagressions,” features CFAS Chair-elect Adi Haramati, PhD, of Georgetown, and Leah Chisholm, MD, of Vanderbilt, and takes place Thursday, May 13, 12 – 1 pm (Eastern).
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Army Colonel Benjamin “Kyle” Potter, MD, was selected to chair the Department of Surgery at the Uniformed Services University’s Hebert School of Medicine, the Department of Defense medical school, effective August 2021. Dr. Potter will succeed Navy Capt. Eric Elster, MD, who was recently selected as the new Hebert School of Medicine Dean.
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Dolores B. Njoku, MD, has been named the director of pediatric anesthesiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and anesthesiologist-in-chief at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. With the post, she will become the new Rudolph L. and Mary Frances Wise Endowed Chair in Pediatric Anesthesiology. She also has been appointed a vice chair in the Department of Anesthesiology.
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Maria Markakis Zestos, MD, professor of anesthesiology, has been appointed chair of the Wayne State University School of Medicine’s Department of Anesthesiology. Dr. Zestos is chief of anesthesiology at the Detroit Medical Center’s Children’s Hospital of Michigan.
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Lisa R. Leffert, MD, has been appointed chair of the Department of Anesthesiology at Yale School of Medicine and chief of Anesthesiology at Yale New Haven Hospital and Bridgeport Hospital, effective Aug. 16. Dr. Leffert is associate professor of anesthesia at Harvard Medical School and chief of the Division of Obstetric Anesthesia at Massachusetts General Hospital.
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Heidi Stuhlmann, PhD, the Harvey Klein Professor of Biomedical Sciences, has been named interim chair of the departments of Biochemistry and of Cell and Developmental Biology at Weill Cornell Medical College. The announcement came as Frederick Maxfield, PhD, recently stepped down from his role as chair of the departments. Dr. Maxfield will remain a member of the Weill Cornell faculty and will maintain his lab.

Smithsonian reported on a mummy that sat (well, maybe reclined) in a museum in Poland for a couple centuries before giving up two extraordinary secrets courtesy of imaging technology. Surprise number one: he turned out to be a she. And then came surprise number two: she was pregnant – the first time a pregnant mummy has been documented. Experts in the Warsaw Mummy Project have named her the “mysterious lady of the National Museum in Warsaw.” Mummy and her mummy are doing as well as can be expected given the circumstances.

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And finally, standup comedy is often a bit hit-or-miss, but it’s an interesting experience to watch standup routines about doctors kibitzed upon by two docs who also fancy themselves comics. They laugh, they tell stories of their own, they groan at jokes that haven’t held up so well, and they talk about the challenges of eating lunch when studying pathology.
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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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