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COVID-19 Proves Persistent; AAMC Releases National Guidance on Masks; DOJ Accuses Yale of Admissions Discrimination; and Other Items of Interest

NBC News reported on the high death toll from COVID-19 this week, particularly in Southern states, and growing public health worries about the consequences of aggressively reopening schools in a region without adequate testing measures in place.
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Business Insider interviewed Natasha Kathuria, MD, MPH, an emergency medicine physician who works at several hospitals in the Austin, Texas, area, about the strain state hospitals are experiencing due to COVID-19. “It’s not just, ‘We've got a lot of COVID-19, and everyone's dying of COVID-19,’” she said in the piece. “Patients with cancer are not getting their cancer surgery, patients who are delivering children in the hospital and not being able to feel comfortable that they’re not at risk for COVID.” Kathuria also noted concern for the coming flu season and its potential to compound effects on COVID-19 cases.
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Researchers have published findings in JAMA Network Open asserting that the COVID-19 pandemic hit New York City in the spring of 2020 with a ferocity similar to the flu pandemic of 1918. Coverage of the paper by NBC News noted that during the peak of the 1918 pandemic, 287 per 100,000 New Yorkers died per month, while 202 per 100,000 New Yorkers died per month during the peak of COVID-19.
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“Researchers at George Washington University's Milken Institute School of Public Health found that the majority of states are now at risk for shortages in healthcare workers needed to treat critically ill patients, including those with COVID-19. … [The results of the study showed] alarming projected shortages over last week in doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and pharmacists,” ABC News reported.
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“There has been a 90% increase in the number of COVID-19 cases among children in the United States over the last four weeks,” CNN reported, covering an analysis published by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association. “It's not fair to say that this virus is completely benign in children. We've had 90 deaths in children in the US already, in just a few months. Every year we worry about influenza in children, and there are roughly around 100 deaths in children from influenza every year,” said Sean O’Leary, MD, vice chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases.
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On a positive note, the number of new daily cases dropped to its lowest tally since Aug. 3, the Wall Street Journal reported. But the New York Times published estimates that the true number of deaths from COVID-19 in the United States already exceeds 200,000.
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Nearly three dozen current and former members of the federal Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee warned that the Trump administration’s new database for reporting coronavirus cases is putting undue strain on hospitals and will compromise data integrity, the New York Times said.
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New Zealand became globally known for tamping down COVID-19 early, reporting weeks without new cases, but that distinction has come to an end in recent days as a mysterious rise in infections have triggered new lockdowns in the island nation. Ars Technica covered the investigation into what's causing the new cases — even the unlikely scenario that it’s related to frozen food packaging.
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The AAMC released national guidance on face coverings, compiling the most up-to-date scientific information on mask usage from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state and local governments, and public health experts.
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On Aug. 18 from 6-6:30 p.m. ET, AAMC Research and Action Institute Executive Director Atul Grover, MD, PhD, and AAMC Chief Scientific Officer Ross McKinney Jr., MD, will host a live Q&A event, “Mask Me Anything,” to answer questions about face coverings and the association’s new national guidance on wearing masks.
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Growing scientific evidence has left little room for doubt that masks are among the most powerful weapons against the spread of the coronavirus, the Wall Street Journal said.
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CDC Director Robert Redfield, MD, warned Americans, “For your country right now and for the war that we’re in against Covid, I'm asking you to do four simple things: wear a mask, social distance, wash your hands and be smart about crowds … [or else this could be] the worst fall, from a public health perspective, we’ve ever had,” CNN reported.
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Researchers from Duke University School of Medicine published a study in Science Advances that used a laser beam and a cellphone to evaluate the effectiveness of various kinds of masks. As for those convenient neck gaiters so many wear as a face covering? The Washington Post said the study shows that they are not only ineffective but also may even be counterproductive. While we’re on the subject, don’t wear a mask with valves or vents, because they don’t stop the spread of the coronavirus, the Washington Post advised in further coverage of updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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Academic Medicine’s August edition featured an article, “Emerging from the COVID Crisis with a Stronger Health Care Workforce,” co-authored in part by Alan Dow, MD, and Sally Santen, MD, PhD, who are both CFAS reps (Dow with Virginia Commonwealth University and Santen with the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine). Also among the authors is VCU School of Medicine Dean Peter Buckley, MD, Chair of the AAMC’s Council of Deans. The perspective looked at how addressing health care challenges revealed by COVID-19 could help create a more collaborative and streamlined workforce. Dr. Dow serves on the CFAS Administrative Board and is chair of the CFAS Communication Committee.
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The U.S. Department of Justice said Thursday that Yale University discriminated against Asian American and White applicants in its admissions practices, reported the Hartford Courant. The piece noted that Yale said it “categorically denies” the finding and would not change its admissions practices.
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The AAMC issued a statement expressing disappointment in the Department of Justice’s challenge to Yale’s admission practices. “The investigation appears to have been hastily concluded and based on a mistaken premise that academic metrics should drive admissions decisions to the exclusion of other factors. We note that the Department’s position on this issue did not sway the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts, which recently upheld Harvard’s admissions process against a similar challenge… The AAMC has long supported individualized holistic review, a strategic, mission-driven, multifactorial, evidence-based process rather than a mechanical weighing of grades and standardized test scores,” said AAMC President and CEO David J. Skorton, MD, and Chief Legal Officer Frank Trinity, JD.
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The Trump administration announced it has made a $1.5 billion deal with Moderna for 100 million doses of its potential vaccine, The Hill reported.
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Less promising news on the vaccine front comes from Russia, according to a commentary in Science Translational Medicine by Derek Lowe, PhD, who said of their newly announced vaccine, “I think it’s a ridiculous publicity stunt.”
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The New York Times also covered Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement of a COVID-19 vaccine and discussed the skepticism and derision of many scientists because the vaccine did not go through large-scale clinical trials of any kind. “This is all beyond stupid. Putin doesn’t have a vaccine, he’s just making a political statement,” said John Moore, PhD, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Weill Cornell Medicine Medical College.
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Amid widespread concern that the current administration — against the backdrop of the looming 2020 election — will put undue pressure on the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Stephen Hahn, MD, said, “Let me assure you that we will not cut corners. All of our decisions will continue to be based on good science and the same careful deliberative processes we have always used when reviewing medical products,” reported The Hill.
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But “[m]any medical experts — including members of his own staff — worry about whether Dr. Hahn, despite his good intentions, has the fortitude and political savvy to protect the scientific integrity of the FDA from the president,” the New York Times reported in coverage that described the pressure the FDA commissioner may come under as he guides the agency through the process of approving treatments and a vaccine for COVID-19.
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STAT covered the ongoing problem of COVID-19 vaccine trials failing to enroll diverse populations in their studies despite the disproportionate effect on minority populations in a Q&A with Hala Borno, MD, of the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, who has been studying the issue.
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CNN has reported on a growing number of states that are identifying racism as a public health crisis. The AAMC issued a statement in June about the public health implications of racism and police brutality, and several CFAS societies endorsed the statement and shared similar statements of their own.
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Federal money distributed through the CARES Act was allocated primarily based on hospital revenue, not the number of COVID-19 cases a hospital had, leaving smaller hospitals with large numbers of Black patients with disproportionately lower funding, STAT reported in coverage of a study published in JAMA.
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The AAMC issued a statement in support of the American Heart Association’s response to an article in the Journal of the American Heart Association that advocated for ending race-conscious admissions policies. “We applaud the recent statement by the American Heart Association (AHA) denouncing the views expressed in the article by Norman C. Wang, MD, MS published by the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA) that advocated for ending race-conscious policies for undergraduate and medical school admissions and argued against affirmative action initiatives, asserting, without evidence, that Black and Hispanic trainees in medicine are unqualified. The article lacked factual accuracy, was selectively referenced, misrepresented individuals and organizations cited, and misinterpreted data to support the author’s opinions,” said AAMC President and CEO David Skorton, MD, and AAMC Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer David Acosta, MD.
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Kali Cyrus, MD, MPH, a practicing community psychiatrist in Washington, D.C., assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and founding member of Time's Up Healthcare, wrote an opinion piece in AAMCNews on how academic medical institutions can do more to support diversity, equity, and inclusion. “They need to create clear, strong policies that support employees from racial and ethnic minority backgrounds. Then they need to train all staff in those policies, support reporting of breaches, and make sure to enforce the institution’s rules and values. Institutions also need to make long-term investments in hiring and promoting faculty of color, providing administrative support for faculty of color, and funding diversity education at levels comparable to that of other initiatives,” Cyrus wrote.
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The New York Times explored the microaggressions doctors of color must contend with, including being mistaken for janitors or food service workers.
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Nature described five tips for increasing diversity on campuses, including identifying sources of recruitment, considering the diversity of speakers invited to give talks, reevaluating physical spaces to avoid walls lined with portraits of only White males, celebrating even minor wins for everyone in the lab, and making educational materials on race and anti-bias training available.
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Fortune profiled Uché Blackstock, MD, a former associate professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at NYU Grossman School of Medicine who left academic medicine and is now committed to speaking out and raising awareness of racism and sexism in medicine, in part because Black women account for less than 3% of doctors in the United States.
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A study published by the Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, the University of Alabama School of Medicine, and the American College of Physicians “found that the presence of health disparities curricula does not affect student perceptions about the overall quality of their medical education,” PatientEngagementHIT reported. The study was published in JAMA Network Open.
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Researchers across Latin America are trying to contribute their expertise to battling the pandemic, but the pandemic’s deep economic and financial impacts are forcing governments to make hard choices, including ones that effectively sideline scientists to direct more resources to clinical capacity, said Science.
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Politico covered hope that rapid antigen tests can finally get the United States to properly accelerate testing, which many public health experts say is more important than accuracy at this point, since labs are still wrestling to clear “days-long backlogs.”
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Some of the country’s biggest pharmaceutical companies, such as CVS, Johnson & Johnson, McKesson, and Walgreens, remain bogged down in legal troubles resulting from their alleged roles in the opioid epidemic, even as they are producing treatments and providing testing services and vaccine development to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, NPR reported.
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U.S. News & World report covered what to know about the AAMC Virtual Interview Tool for Admissions (VITA) and how the tool aims to help students affected by the pandemic.
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The Wall Street Journal profiled Coleen Kivlahan, MD, a former AAMC employee who now serves as head of primary care at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, treating COVID-19 patients while battling persistent, long-term symptoms of the disease herself.
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“I slept 20 hours a day, I was throwing up. I was coughing. I had all the G.I. symptoms you can get. You’re telling me, because I don’t have a fever, that you think it’s safe for me to go take care of patients? And they told me yes,” said a nurse at a hospital in New Jersey’s Hackensack Meridian Health system who spoke to Kaiser Health News on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation by her employer. The article discussed the pressure to come back to work felt by some doctors and nurses who have COVID-19.
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Shifting the way primary care physicians get paid from “piecemeal for every service to a per-patient, per-month reimbursement” could be one way to help primary care practices survive the pandemic and emerge from it even stronger, said Kaiser Health News.
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The New York Times explained how eating out played a major role in the summer surges of COVID-19 cases.
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The Institute for Research on Innovation and Science (IRIS) developed the IRIS Impact Finder, a tool that uses university administrative data and information from the U.S. Census Bureau and other sources to illustrate the economic impacts of the university research enterprise.
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Leon McDougle, MD, MPH, has been named president of the National Medical Association. McDougle is associate dean for diversity and inclusion and chief diversity officer at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
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Thomas Jackiewicz, MPH, has been appointed president of the University of Chicago Medical Center and chief operating officer of the UChicago Medicine health system, effective Aug. 31. Jackiewicz previously served as senior vice president and CEO of Keck Medicine at the University of Southern California.
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Karen Restifo, MD, JD, has been named regional vice dean of Drexel University College of Medicine’s Tower Health campus, effective Sept. 1. Restifo previously served as associate dean of student affairs at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California.
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Leann Lesperance, MD, PhD, has been named associate dean for undergraduate medical education in the State University of New York Upstate Medical University College of Medicine. Lesperance is a clinical assistant professor of pediatrics and has served as interim associate dean of undergraduate medical education since August 2019.
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Crystal Wiley Cené, MD, MPH, has been appointed the first executive director for health equity at the University of North Carolina Health System. Cené is an associate professor in the Division of General Medicine and Clinical Epidemiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine.
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Ana Núňez, MD, has been appointed inaugural vice dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion at the University of Minnesota Medical School, effective Aug. 31. Núňez serves as associate dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion and professor of medicine at Drexel University College of Medicine.
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Miriam Laufer, MD, MPH, has been appointed assistant dean for medical student research education at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Laufer is a professor of pediatrics and associate director for malaria research at the Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health.
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Richard Wender, MD, has been named chair of family medicine and community health at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Wender serves as a professor of family and community medicine at Thomas Jefferson University.
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Krystle Kuhs, PhD, MPH, has been appointed co-leader of the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center’s Cancer Prevention and Control Research Program. Kuhs previously served as an assistant professor in Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Department of Medicine.
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If you’re looking for yet another amazing use for that Instant Pot sitting on your kitchen counter, apparently you can use it to decontaminate your N95 mask, reported Fast Company.
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Is Andrew Lloyd Webber doing research for an upcoming Broadway musical on COVID-19? Or is he just interested in helping to find a safe and effective vaccine? The legendary creative force behind “Evita,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Phantom of the Opera,” and “Cats” is now participating in a British vaccine trial at Oxford University, reported Vulture. “I’ll do anything to get theatres large and small open again and actors and musicians back to work,” he said in an Instagram post.
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And finally, if you don’t know Quentin Lee, EdD, principal of Childersburg High School in Alabama, do yourself a favor and watch him in action. My Modern Met reported on his efforts to get his students educated about protecting themselves against the novel coronavirus through his remake of MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This,” where he manages to take awkward yet strangely beguiling dad humor to previously unknown heights. Crank up the volume.
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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.

Eric Weissman
Senior Director, Faculty and Academic Society Engagement
AAMC
eweissman@aamc.org
www.aamc.org/members/cfas

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