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CFAS News Current Edition

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Ideas for Fixing the Health Care System; Black Physicians on the Front Lines; Hospitals, Health Care Works Under Pressure; and Other Items of Interest

A USA Today op-ed coauthored by AAMC President and CEO David J. Skorton, MD, and UCSF Health President and CEO Mark Laret discussed problems in the nation’s health care system that have been highlighted and exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The authors assert that now is the time to make meaningful, lasting changes, proposing five ideas for reform efforts that ensure the needs of patients always come first.
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The pandemic’s disproportionate impact on the Black community, coupled with the police killing of George Floyd, is throwing issues of racism and health equity into sharp relief, and many experts are saying that to move forward, health equity must become a central principle of health care, reported Modern Healthcare . “People in my generation who have had the blessing of leadership positions, we just have not gotten the job done. We have not done enough to relieve the burden of structural racism — first, perhaps in our own hearts, in the organizations that we lead, and in our communities in general. Why can’t we as leaders in our communities get involved in discussions about policing tactics — it’s all part of being part of a community,” said AAMC President and CEO David J. Skorton, MD, who was interviewed for the piece.
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In the wake of nationwide protests against police violence and racism, and the continuing coronavirus pandemic, the AAMC hosted a press conference on racism and public health today. Hosted by David J. Skorton, MD, president and CEO of the AAMC, several AAMC experts answered questions and provided perspectives on the state of race and health inequities at the intersection of public health, public policy, medical education, research, and clinical care. The press conference included remarks from David Acosta, MD, AAMC chief diversity and inclusion officer, Malika Fair, MD, MPH, AAMC senior director, health equity partnerships and programs, Philip M. Alberti, PhD, AAMC senior director, health equity research and policy, among others.
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The United States now has more than 2 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, and infections are escalating in at least 20 states. States such as Texas and Florida that reopened the earliest are seeing the biggest increases in hospitalizations, reported NPR.
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NPR interviewed Black emergency physicians in Washington, D.C., to get their impressions of the COVID-19 pandemic and the personal toll it has taken on them. “I think as a Black doctor, it's my responsibility to do everything in my power to make sure that a Black patient is getting fair treatment,” said Janice Blanchard, MD, associate professor of emergency medicine at The George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences.
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The Guardian reported on the experience of Black physicians and other health care workers who have been protesting racial injustice over the past few weeks even as they treat patients who are among the worst affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
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The World Health Organization issued a statement supporting protests against police brutality and racism in the middle of the pandemic, provided that participants follow the guidance of local health officials, reported NPR.
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Khama Ennis, MD, chief of emergency medicine at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Massachusetts, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post describing her daily encounters with bias and racism in the emergency room.
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“Black adults have been 10% to 26% more likely than white adults to report symptoms of psychological distress in a mental health survey conducted weekly since late April by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Census Bureau. In the week after Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police, 40.5% of Black adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, compared with 33.1% of white people,” reported STAT.
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“While the rest of the country did quarantine or was able to stay home to flatten that curve ... the Latinx community continued to go to work,” said Viviana Martinez-Bianchi, MD, a primary care doctor and associate professor in family medicine and community health at Duke University School of Medicine, in an article in CNN. Rosa Gonzalez-Guarda, PhD, MPH, RN, an associate professor at the Duke University School of Nursing, concurred: “So what we're seeing is now all these people who have been essential workers, who worked without even the masking and the protection that was legally required during the time of their jobs, are now becoming infected by the virus.”
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And Time covered the efforts of refugees – some of whom practiced medicine in their country of origin but are unable to practice medicine in the United States – offering their expertise and experience however they can to address health care needs revealed by the pandemic.
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Patients are gradually returning to hospitals for elective procedures, but many hospitals still risk going bankrupt or consolidating in the coming months, even with access to federal aid, reported CNBC. The article noted that larger hospitals will be better positioned to survive the new normal: “We were losing $5 million per day, and now it’s just a few million,” said Bob Wachter, MD, chair of the Department of Medicine at University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine.
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Hospitals are reexamining their operations to prepare for a grimmer future where crises such as the pandemic may be a fact of life, “turning to new protocols and new technology to overhaul standard operating procedure,” reported the Wall Street Journal.
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“Doctors, nurses and emergency medical technicians are supposed to be the superheroes of the pandemic. They are immortalized in graffiti, songs belted out from balcony windows and tributes erected from Times Square to the Eiffel Tower. But despite the accolades, many confide that the past months have left them feeling lost, alone, unable to sleep. They second-guess their decisions, experience panic attacks, worry constantly about their patients, their families and themselves, and feel tremendous anxiety about how and when this might end. The unfathomable loss of more than 100,000 Americans within a matter of weeks — many in isolation, without family or friends — has inflicted a level of trauma few anticipated when they signed up for these jobs,” reported the Washington Post.
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An op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer explored whether the pandemic will cause the end of private practice in medicine as we know it.
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Maya Hammoud, MD, MBA, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Michigan Medicine, J. Bryan Carmody, MD, MPH, an assistant professor of pediatrics and nephrology at the Eastern Virginia Medical School, and Taylor Sandiford, a student at the University of Michigan Medical School, co-wrote a perspective in JAMA titled, “Potential Implications of COVID-19 for the 2020-2021 Residency Application Cycle.” Dr. Hammoud is a newly named CFAS representative from the Association of Professors of Gynecology and Obstetrics.
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ABC News covered newly minted doctors just entering practice to join the front lines in treating COVID-19 patients. “Graduating medical school during COVID is different than I ever expected, but it’s exactly why I went into medicine in the first place,” said Oscar Hernandez, MD, a recent grad of UC Irvine School of Medicine.
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Researchers are studying whether older vaccines that guard against polio and tuberculosis may be helpful in protecting people from the novel coronavirus, reported the Washington Post.
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Public health experts and government officials are worried fewer people will get flu shots at the start of the next season, noting that if COVID-19 cases spike while hospitals are strained due to more flu cases than usual, there could be even more pressure on health delivery when it’s needed most, reported The Hill. As a result, a public push to get vaccinated for the flu is likely to be greater this year, and may launch earlier.
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Daniel P. Oran, AM, and Eric J. Topol, MD, both of Scripps Research, contributed an op-ed to the Washington Post on the implications of the growing body of data showing that large numbers of people infected with the novel coronavirus are asymptomatic.
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Scientists researching vaccines for the coronavirus are trying to chip away at the mysteries of what exactly immunity to the virus looks like and how long it lasts, reported STAT.
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Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine have started testing an experimental stem cell therapy to help COVID-19 patients on ventilators breathe.
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In an operation believed to be the first of its kind in the United States, a COVID-19 patient got a double lung transplant that saved her life, since her lungs had been “completely plastered to tissue around them, the heart, the chest wall and diaphragm,” reported the New York Times.
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Parker Crutchfield, PhD, a philosopher and associate professor, Tyler S. Gibb, PhD, JD, assistant professor, and Michael Redinger, MD, a physician and assistant professor in psychiatry, all in the Program in Medical Ethics, Humanities, and Law at Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine, wrote an opinion piece in STAT in favor of allocating remdesivir, ventilators, vaccines, and other treatments to communities that bear the biggest burdens from COVID-19.
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Insurance regulators and states are having to step in to protect patients from hefty, unexpected bills for coronavirus tests, “concerned the federal government has failed to shield people from thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses,” reported Politico.
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Research into deadly rare diseases has become yet another casualty of the coronavirus pandemic, since labs have had to either shut down, pause operations, or refocus their work on COVID-19, reported the Washington Post. “There is very likely a point of no return, but we don’t know what that point is. The fear is that you have a patient who would have been in the good zone who has now moved into the non-recoverable zone,” Matthew Gentry, PhD, a professor and biochemist at University of Kentucky College of Medicine and the director of the Lafora Epilepsy Cure Initiative.
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“Compared to 2009, the number of studies that included females grew to 49%, up from 28%. … [But] in eight of the nine fields studied, the proportion of studies that analyzed study results by sex did not improve. And in pharmacology, the trend was actually downward, from 33% to 29%,” reported STAT in an article that explained how females are still disproportionately represented in biomedical research.
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MedPageToday reported on a JAMA Surgery study that identifies risk factors of physician suicide. Medical residents are often thought to be at higher risk of suicide than older physicians due to long work hours and related pressure, but the study suggests suicide risks are notable among older physicians, who can often feel isolated, and younger physicians alike. Physicians who die by suicide also tend to be older than nonphysicians who die by suicide.
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Some of the country’s wealthiest hospitals are sitting on cash reserves from federal bailout funds but are still laying off or cutting the pay of tens of thousands of health care workers, reported the New York Times. The article also covered a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, noting that “the formulas to determine how much money hospitals receive were based largely on their revenue, not their financial needs. As a result, hospitals serving wealthier patients have received far more funding than those that treat [lower-income] patients.”
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Researchers at Harvard Medical School analyzed commercial satellite imagery and noticed a “dramatic increase in hospital traffic outside five major Wuhan hospitals beginning late summer and early fall 2019,” suggesting that the coronavirus outbreak was present and spreading long before China notified the rest of the world, reported ABC News.
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Although President Trump withdrew the United States from the WHO, the agency maintains bipartisan support in Congress and members are evaluating how to proceed with investing in global health, reported Roll Call.
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The Washington Post covered the WHO’s assertions about the coronavirus that the organization later had to walk back and growing criticism over how the organization is educating the public about COVID-19.
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The American Association for the Advancement of Science launched a “Governance Modernization Project” that will answer this question: “What governance culture, processes, structures, and documents will provide the best framework for successful achievement of the AAAS mission in the coming years and match the reality of the way in which the modern organization is run?”
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A grand jury has indicted Charles Lieber, PhD, former chair of the Department of Chemistry at Harvard, on charges of lying to government officials about his work for the Wuhan University of Technology in China, reported Politico. Dr. Lieber maintains his innocence.
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AAMCNews asked experienced trainees for tips on getting through training during the pandemic.
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AAMCNews also covered the trend of using more community health workers to alleviate the toll COVID-19 continues to take on low-income, marginalized communities.
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MedEdPORTAL®, the open-access journal of the AAMC, has created a collection of resources to provide educators with practice-based, peer-reviewed content to teach anti-racist knowledge and clinical skills and elevate the educational scholarship of anti-racist curricula.
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The AAMC is hosting a webinar, Remote Learning Using Electronic Health Record Simulations During COVID-19, on Thursday, June 18, at 4 p.m. ET.
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The deadline for resident nominations for the 2020 ORR Community Service Recognition Award is June 14, 2020, at 11:59 p.m. PST.
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Research!America is hosting a webinar, Partnership, Progress, Pandemic: The Impact of COVID-19 on Medical Discovery, on Thursday, June 18, 2-3:15 p.m., ET.
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Richard Woychik, PhD, has been named director of the NIH’s National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Dr. Woychik has served as acting director of NIEHS since October 2019.
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Ganesh Rao, MD, has been named chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Rao is currently an adjunct professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at Baylor College of Medicine.
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Kristin Myers, MPH, has been appointed executive vice president, chief information officer, and dean for information technology at Mount Sinai Health System. Myers most recently served as senior vice president for technology at Mount Sinai Health System.
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Sarah Berga, MD, has been appointed professor and chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo. Dr. Berga previously served as professor and director of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at the University of Utah School of Medicine’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
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Kathryn A, Colby, MD, PhD, has been named chair of the Department of Ophthalmology at NYU Langone Health, effective this fall. Dr. Colby serves as the Louis Block Professor and chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of Chicago.
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Robert Taylor, MD, PhD, has been appointed director of the MD-PhD Program in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University of Buffalo. Dr. Taylor previously served as professor of obstetrics and gynecology, research director of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, and director of the MD-PhD Program at the University of Utah School of Medicine.
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Namandjé Bumpus, PhD, has been appointed director of the Department of Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. Bumpus has served as associate dean for basic research at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
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Lucio Miele, MD, PhD, has been appointed assistant dean for translational research at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine. Dr. Miele previously served as professor and head of the school’s Department of Genetics.
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As more communities in the United States lift restrictions on public interaction – wisely or unwisely – you, family members, or your patients may be wondering about the relative safety of going out for a beer vs. working out at the gym vs. getting a haircut in a salon (all relatively risky). MassLive.com assembled a panel of health experts and had them rank on a numerical scale the relative safety and risk of a variety of common activities in a COVID-19 world.
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And the Washington Post’s Voraciously blog, devoted to food and entertaining, ran a piece on how to entertain graciously, with safety in mind.
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And finally, the pandemic has changed the relationship many Americans have toward food, reported Food Business New s in coverage of the International Food Information Council (IFIC) 2020 Food and Health Survey. Up to 85% of Americans have changed something about how they eat during the pandemic – with more at-home cooking, more snacking, and more people revealing they think about food more often. “It’s hard to think of another recent event that has had such far-reaching effects, and in such a short period, on how we purchase, prepare, and consume foods and beverages,” said Joseph Clayton, president and CEO of IFIC. While about 20% of those surveyed reported they are eating more than usual, slightly more observed they are eating healthier than usual. Hmm. And if you’re one of those 85% cooking more at home and you’re not sure how to make the most of your pantry, ask grandma. Good Housekeeping ran an article, “My Grandmother's Depression-Era Recipes Are Helping Me Cope During Coronavirus,” that, if nothing else, will give you ideas on how to stretch a bag of potatoes.
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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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