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CFAS News Current Edition

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Pfizer, Moderna Vaccines Advance; At-Home COVID-19 Test on the Horizon; AAMC Hosts First Virtual Learn Serve Lead Annual Meeting; and Other Items of Interest

After favorable safety and effectiveness reports, Pfizer and BioNTech announced they will file for emergency authorization of their COVID-19 vaccine, reported the Washington Post . Moderna is expected to follow suit soon with its vaccine candidate. According to company data, the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine reports 95% effectiveness with few safety concerns. Pfizer’s final results from its clinical trial of 44,000 people confirmed its safety and effectiveness were consistent across age, race, gender, and ethnicity, according to Politico.
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Moderna likewise announced that a preliminary analysis showed its coronavirus vaccine is almost 95% effective, which “raises the prospect that the United States could have two coronavirus vaccines available on a limited basis by the end of the year,” the Washington Post reported.
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And the upshot? According to CNBC, if things proceed as hoped, health care workers may be able to get the first doses of a vaccine in roughly one month.
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Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Stephen Hahn, MD, issued a statement on the agency’s ongoing commitment to transparency for COVID-19 emergency use authorizations (EUAs). “I am announcing today that our drug and biological product centers intend, to the extent appropriate and permitted by law, to publicly post their reviews of the scientific data and information supporting the issuance, revision or revocation of EUAs for all drug and biological products, including vaccines, as part of our COVID-19 response. We have already posted some scientific review documents, for instance for an EUA revocation as well as an EUA authorization, and we are committing to continuing to post these documents moving forward,” Hahn wrote.
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The World Health Organization has rejected Gilead’s antiviral drug remdesivir as an effective COVID-19 treatment, reported the New York Times, noting that an expert panel concluded that the drug “has no meaningful effect on mortality or on other important outcomes for patients, such as the need for mechanical ventilation or time to clinical improvement.”
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The United States now has 11 million coronavirus cases and added 1 million more in just one week, NPR reported. And more than 1 million children have tested positive for COVID-19, making them 1 out of 11 of all reported U.S. cases, also according to NPR.
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Deaths from COVID-19 in the United States have passed 250,000 as of Wednesday, Politico reported. And on Tuesday, CNN said that the United States logged the highest daily COVID-19 death toll in more than six months, with at least 1,707 lives lost to the disease.
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Hospital staffing shortages in at least 25 states are making it harder for them to care for COVID-19 patients, even though many hospitals spent months building up their stockpiles of PPE and other medical equipment, reported STAT. “Care is about more than a room with a hospital bed. It’s about medical professionals taking care of patients. If you don’t have the staff to do that, people are going to die,” said John Henderson, president and CEO of the Texas Organization of Rural and Community Hospitals.
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A silver lining to the latest surge in COVID-19 cases (if one can even characterize it as that): Researchers across the globe can measure how well their vaccines work at a faster pace, reported the New York Times.
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But the country’s coronavirus testing system is starting to buckle under the weight of the new coronavirus surge, with long lines forming in some places, laboratories under strain, and shortages of supplies looming, according to NPR. “We're still far behind where we need to be with testing. And as these cases skyrocket, the need for tests are far outpacing what we have,” said Heather Pierce, JD, AAMC senior director for science policy and regulatory counsel.
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The Wall Street Journal explored how months of hospital experience, research, drug trials, and global discussion among doctors and nurses has equipped health professionals to apply lessons learned as they face the new onslaught of COVID-19 cases.
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Governors, city leaders, and public health officials are imploring Americans to limit travel and large gatherings during the Thanksgiving holiday, reported CNBC. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention itself issued recommendations against Thanksgiving travel along with safety guidelines in the event anyone does travel. “Postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year,” the statement said.
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But alas, almost 40% of U.S. residents said they plan to gather for Thanksgiving in groups of 10 or more people, according to a survey from the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center that was covered by The Hill.
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The New York Times reported that “[i]n a turnabout, [the CDC] now is hewing more closely to scientific evidence, often contradicting the positions of the Trump administration.”
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Alan Dow, MD, contributed an op-ed to the Richmond Times-Dispatch giving thanks to fellow health care providers, first responders, business owners, educators, and others, for their efforts to keep him and people within his community safe during the pandemic – and expressing hope that those efforts will result in a better year to come. “My Thanksgiving 2020 wish is that we continue our vigilance as we think about the promise of Thanksgiving 2021,” he writes. Dr. Dow is a CFAS Administrative Board member and a school rep from Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine.
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An ad campaign featuring front-line health care workers from hospitals across the country is imploring Americans to wear masks, reported the New York Times. In addition to several large health care organizations and private hospitals, academic health centers such as Johns Hopkins Medicine, Mass General Brigham, NewYork-Presbyterian, and UCLA Health are taking part in the campaign.
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“Wearing the mask. This is not an invasion of your personal freedom. This is actually a lifesaving medical instrument. We have the data for that. With Thanksgiving coming and other holiday gatherings, I think we're all really concerned that this could get even worse if we don't follow those guidelines, those three W's. You know what they are, wear your mask, watch your distance and wash your hands. We have got to do that,” said National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, according to The Hill.
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The FDA issued an EUA for the first COVID-19 diagnostic test for self-testing at home. Called the Lucira COVID-19 All-In-One Test Kit, the unit’s light-up display shows whether a person is positive or negative within 30 minutes of the nasal swab.
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The New York Times provided more detail on the newly approved at-home test, noting it requires a prescription and hasn’t been evaluated in asymptomatic people.
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The AAMC issued a statement urging the Trump administration to allow members of the Biden-Harris transition team to access federal efforts to fight the pandemic. “On behalf of the teaching hospitals, physicians and other clinicians, scientists, and other health experts on the front lines of the COVID-19 public health emergency, the AAMC urges the Trump administration to enable members of the Biden-Harris transition team to engage formally with current federal officials across the government regarding ongoing efforts to combat the pandemic,” the statement said in part.
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The American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, and the American Nurses Association also weighed in with a letter to President Trump calling on his administration to share information with President-elect Biden’s team “so that there is no lapse in our ability to care for patients,” The Hill reported.
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The New York Times covered “the most comprehensive and long-ranging study of immune memory to the coronavirus to date,” which found that most people who have recovered from the coronavirus still have enough immune cells to prevent reinfection eight months after initial infection. The article noted that immunity could last years and maybe even decades.
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Politico profiled Yale health disparities researcher, associate professor of internal medicine, and former CFAS rep Marcella Nunez-Smith, MD, who President-elect Joe Biden tapped as a co-chair of his coronavirus advisory board, noting that the decision “puts the fight against the virus in devastated Black, Latino and Native American communities smack in the center of his pandemic response.”
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In a closely divided Congress, President-elect Biden is unlikely to get any sweeping health care measure passed, but he will most likely be able to tap into bipartisan interest to lower prescription drug prices, curb surprise medical bills, and increase enrollment in coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s marketplaces, reported the Associated Press.
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“Industry consolidation, surprise billing, and prescription drug pricing, in addition to ACA perseveration and COVID-19 response, are among the areas Biden intends to address,” reported Rev Cycle Intelligence in a piece titled “What Healthcare CFOs Can Expect Under a Biden Presidency.”
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During the opening plenary of Learn Serve Lead 2020: The AAMC Virtual Experience, NIH Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, and CDC Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat, MD, joined AAMC President and CEO David J. Skorton, MD, in a discussion on how the nation can better prepare itself for the next pandemic. Prevention will depend on a stronger public health system, stronger public trust, more public buy-in on safe behaviors, and more equitable clinical trial processes. Also during a session at Learn Serve Lead 2020, Anthony Fauci, MD, expressed hope that the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine announcements could bring the country back to a degree of normalcy by fall 2021 as long as public health measures, such as wearing masks, aren’t abandoned in the interim.
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In their addresses to the approximately 4,600 registered attendees of the virtual meeting, AAMC President and CEO David J. Skorton, MD, and AAMC Board Chair Joseph Kerschner, MD, focused on challenges facing academic medicine during the Leadership Plenary session. Dr. Skorton implored medical schools and teaching hospitals to lead the way forward to a healthier nation by confronting the long-term harm from the onslaughts of COVID-19, racial injustice, and social strife, while Dr. Kerschner urged leaders in academic medicine to deepen their understanding of the needs and perspectives of their learners.
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Additional plenary sessions at the event featured discussions with Nikole Hannah-Jones and Ibram X. Kendi, PhD, on how institutions of higher education can and must foster change around issues of racial injustice. Former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD, shared how he learned the value of shared humanity as a child, and journalist Ann Curry reflected on the value of empathy. Additional content from the event will be posted online in the coming week.
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The AAMC announced the renaming of the Abraham Flexner Award for Distinguished Service to Medical Education to the AAMC Award for Excellence in Medical Education, effective in 2021. Explaining the reason for the name change, AAMC President and CEO David J. Skorton, MD, said, “Historically, Abraham Flexner has been associated with rigor in academic medicine. In fact, his report recommended valuable changes in medical education, many of which still have positive impact today. But that report also contained racist and sexist ideas, and his work contributed to the closure of five out of seven historically Black medical schools. This has negatively affected the training of Black and African American physicians and adversely impacted the health of the Black and African American communities in the United States.”
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In a surprise rule from the Trump administration, health insurers will have to give their customers estimated out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs and disclose their negotiated prices, reported Kaiser Health News. The rule doesn’t apply to Medicare or Medicaid.
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And the Trump administration may move as soon as this week to implement President Trump’s “most favored nation” proposal to lower certain Medicare drug prices to match those in other wealthy countries, The Hill reported.
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The Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation and National Medical Fellowships have launched a $100 million program to increase diversity and inclusion in clinical trials.
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The pharmaceutical industry’s largest lobbying organization, PhRMA, released guidelines to diversify participants in its members’ clinical trials, according to STAT. There are four main recommendations to fight health disparities and eliminate systemic racism in medical research: Reach out to Black and Brown communities, reduce barriers to accessing clinical trials in the communities, monitor how treatments or preventive measures affect diverse populations once the trials have concluded, and be transparent about commitments and efforts to increase diversity and inclusion in the trials.
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Medscape reported on the creation of the first tribally affiliated medical school in the United States, the Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine at the Cherokee Nation.
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Nature reported on how do-it-yourself technologies, open science, and 3D printing are democratizing science. “What’s new is the online availability of a vast array of free open-source designs, and the growing ease of building them using 3D printers and hobbyist electronics such as Arduino and Raspberry Pi. Coupled with open-source reagents, these resources are making advanced diagnostics accessible even in resource-poor regions that lack trained technicians, cold storage and reliable power.”
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Baylor Scott & White Health announced it’s financing a new medical school campus in Temple, Texas, through a partnership with Baylor College of Medicine, Modern Healthcare reported.
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Thousands of medical practices are closing as many doctors and nurses are planning to quit or retire early under the stress of the pandemic, according to the New York Times.
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CFAS Ad Board member Catherine Florio Pipas, MD, MPH, wrote an article in Family Practice Management titled “Improving Physician Well-Being Through Organizational Change,” which explains why Wellness Wednesdays and yoga breaks are insufficient to turn the tide against burnout.
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Doctors have the highest suicide rate of any profession, and it doesn’t help that they are being held to even higher standards now by getting put on the pedestal of being “heroes,” said Patricia Celan, MD, a psychiatry resident, in a post for KevinMD.
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The National Academy of Medicine Action Collaborative on Clinician Well-Being and Resilience hosted a virtual meeting, Ensuring Clinician Well-Being in an Age of Uncertainty: Emerging Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic and a Systems Approach for the Future, on Oct. 28-29. The AAMC is a sponsor of the work and several CFAS reps and member societies over the past two years have contributed to the effort.
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The Infectious Disease Society of America Foundation has announced the opening of applications for 2021 G.E.R.M. Program grants. The program awards grants to medical students to support a mentored clinical learning and/or research project for up to a year. The deadline to apply for a 2021 award is Feb. 5, 2021. An interactive workshop to learn tips for writing a successful research project proposal will be offered on Dec. 15, 2020.
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The Journal of General Internal Medicine has announced a call for submissions for a special supplement, “Patient and Veteran Engagement in Healthcare Research.” Authors interested in contributing may submit articles for review by Feb. 5, 2021.
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The University of Pennsylvania announced it will contribute $100 million to the School District of Philadelphia. The donation will be paid out in 10 yearly payments of $10 million and will be used specifically to remediate environmental hazards that affect students, including asbestos and lead, in public school buildings.
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Mantosh Dewan, MD, has been named president of the State University of New York (SUNY) Upstate Medical University. Dewan has served as interim president of SUNY Upstate since November 2018.
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Serpil Erzurum, MD, has been appointed chief research and academic officer at Cleveland Clinic and Donald Malone Jr., MD, has been named president of Ohio Hospitals and Family Health Centers. Dr. Erzurum has served as chair of the Lerner Research Institute of Cleveland Clinic since 2016 and Dr. Malone serves as president of Lutheran Hospital.
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Katherine Julian, MD, has been named associate dean for graduate medical education at the University of California, San Francisco, (UCSF) School of Medicine, effective Jan. 1. Dr. Julian is a professor of medicine at the UCSF School of Medicine.
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Susan Goldsmith, MD, has been appointed associate dean for student affairs at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, effective Jan. 1. Dr. Goldsmith is assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the Division of General Obstetrics and Gynecology.
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Barbara Gordon will retire from her position as executive director of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) in early 2021. She has served as executive director of the ASBMB since 2003. The ASBMB is a CFAS member society.
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Don’t worry, runners and fitness enthusiasts! A new study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health showed that wearing masks won’t hinder your performance and has no discernable negative effect on blood or muscle oxygenation levels or heart rate, reported Runner’s World.
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We’ve heard the term “superspreader” bandied about quite a lot over the past several months, but what exactly might that mean, and are there specific traits of a person who might be considered a “superspreader”? Research out of the University of Central Florida identified some features of people who are especially effective in spreading COVID-19, such as having a full set of teeth and being especially congested when they sneeze. Conversely, the study showed that people who have a clear nose upon sneezing are far less capable of spreading droplets far and wide. Sounds reasonable.
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So, on a scale of 1 to 5, what’s your Fauci level today? Karen Sautter Errichetti, MPH, DrPH, assistant professor in public health and community medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine and her co-instructor Reece Lyerly, MPH, created a five-tiered Fauci scale that ranges from full-on smile (apparently hard to find) to head hidden in hands (less rare) — with three steps in between. Can you find yourself on the scale today?
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And finally, with travel restrictions and personal safety at the forefront, perhaps you’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving with only your cats on hand for the big turkey feast, making it worthwhile to invest resources into understanding what your kitties are saying from across the table as you all hungrily eye the bird. Fortunately, there’s an app for that. The BBC reported on MeowTalk, an app that records the sound of your cat’s “words,” such as they are, and provides a translation into English. According to the piece, there are 13 phrases in the app’s vocabulary, which include “Feed me,” “I’m angry,” and “Leave me alone,” so it’s pretty much 100% comprehensive. Whether you’re celebrating Thanksgiving with humans or kitties or some other combination of creatures, have a wonderful and safe holiday. CFAS News is taking next week off to feed its cats plenty of turkey leftovers. We’ll see you back here Dec. 4.
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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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