aamc.org does not support this web browser. Learn more about the browsers we support.

New section

Content Background

New section

CFAS News Previous Edition

New section

New section

Omicron Now Dominant Strain in U.S.; New COVID-19 Treatment Approved by FDA; Outgoing NIH Director Reflects on His Role; and Other Items of Interest

The Omicron variant is now dominant in the United States and accounts for three quarters of new cases “at a time when many U.S. hospitals are depleted by an exodus of health care workers who have quit or taken other jobs and are already buckling under the strain of caring for COVID-19 patients across the Northeast, Midwest and Southwest,” reported NPR. With a confirmed case in South Dakota this week, COVID-19 cases arising from Omicron have now been detected in all 50 states, reported Forbes in an article that broke down where cases are the most prevalent (Ohio, the Upper Midwest, New York, and New Jersey, among others).
Read More
Read More

In an address this week, President Joe Biden announced that the government will buy a half-billion at-home COVID-19 test kits and mail them to people who want them as a safeguard in living with the highly contagious variant, reported NPR. The New York Times stated that those tests are still likely weeks away from shipping given market shortages and the run on tests seen all over the country.
Read More
Read More

New research based on data from South Africa, England, and Scotland indicates that people who become ill with COVID-19 from the Omicron variant seem to have less severe illness and are less likely to require hospitalization, reported CNBC. The piece notes that the research has not yet been peer reviewed and cautions that studies have shown the unvaccinated are being hit the hardest by Omicron, and even people who have had two vaccine doses are seeing breakthrough infections, leading to an increased push for booster shots.
Read More

“Many people are holding out hope for the possibility that the Omicron variant may cause less severe disease. But this is little comfort for those worried about our hospitals and the people who work there: A large surge of even a more mild variant will still produce more patients than our already maxed-out system can handle,” wrote Craig Spencer, MD, an emergency medicine physician and director of global health in emergency medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center in a piece for The Atlantic.
Read More

The Hill reported on a steep decline in Omicron COVID-19 cases in South Africa, where the world saw the first surge of the variant earlier in December.
Read More

Francis Collins, MD, PhD, warned that the Omicron surge could lead to 1 million cases per day, reported NPR. On his final day as director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) last Sunday, Dr. Collins said in an appearance on “Fox News Sunday” that the true enemy is COVID-19, not people of opposing political parties or ideologies, reported The Hill. “We in this country have somehow gotten all fractured into a hyper-polarized, politicized view that never should have been mixed with public health,” he said. And in an interview published in Science, Dr. Collins reflected on things he would miss the least about his role, including the political divisiveness. “I won’t miss the nasty politics that unfortunately seem to surround a lot of what’s happening right now as a reflection of the divisiveness in our country. I won’t miss the slings and arrows being pitched at NIH, on the basis of political perspectives,” he said.
Read More
Read More
Read More


Two of the three monoclonal antibody treatments used to keep COVID-19 patients from becoming seriously ill don’t seem to work against the Omicron variant, and supplies of the one treatment that likely does work are running out, reported the New York Times.
Read More

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved molnupiravir, a drug from Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, to treat COVID-19 at home, reported the Washington Post. The new drug provides an “easy to use” alternative for those “for whom alternative COVID-19 treatment options authorized by the FDA are not accessible or clinically appropriate.”
Read More

Also this week, the FDA approved the Pfizer drug Paxlovid under emergency use authorization. In clinical trials, Paxlovid reduced the risk of severe disease by nearly 90%, reported USA Today. The pill is taken soon after COVID-19 symptoms begin and is intended for use in people at high risk of developing severe disease.
Read More
Read More

William Shaffner, MD, professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, said that ramped up testing and more uptake of booster shots will be key to defeating the omicron surge, according to CNBC.
Read More

“In the many months since that [original] now-defunct version of the virus emerged, new variants have arrived to speed the timeline up. Estimates for this exposure-to-symptom gap, called the incubation period, clocked in at about five days for Alpha and four days for Delta. Now word has it that the newest kid on the pandemic block, Omicron, may have ratcheted it down to as little as three,” reported The Atlantic in a piece that noted the challenge omicron’s faster incubation time poses for our current COVID-19 tests.
Read More

The New York Times provided tips on how to strategize for holiday travel amid the spread of the omicron variant.
Read More

“Our health care system is under attack. Data shows that in some areas, the unvaccinated are overwhelming hospital resources. Nine hospital CEOs in Minnesota sounded the alarm in an ad imploring the unvaccinated to get vaccinated and help their systems remain viable. Health care workers are burnt out and demoralized. The net effect of overwhelming demand on health care services is that it is difficult, if not impossible, to seek care for health conditions that are important, but perhaps not urgent, which includes elective surgeries. By delaying such care, these important but not urgent issues later become urgent, effectively creating a future logjam of demand for health care services that are more expensive and more life threatening, and will take months to work through,” said an opinion piece in The Hill.
Read More

“Many people in rural and conservative areas remain frustratingly resistant to vaccination, challenging public health officials to come up with more convincing — and sensitive — approaches to promoting greater vaccine uptake,” reported AAMCNews in a piece focused on how to talk about vaccination with vaccine skeptics in rural, conservative communities.
Read More

Global vaccination efforts may be hampered by the U.S. decision to favor mRNA vaccines over the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because it could discourage the development of technologies similar to the J&J shot, reported Bloomberg Law.
Read More

“The Build Back Better Act would take historic steps toward alleviating the physician shortage, diversifying the physician workforce, improving access to care for people in underserved urban and rural communities, strengthening public health infrastructure, and addressing long-standing health inequities. The AAMC remains committed to working with all members of Congress and the Biden administration to advance these priorities, and we urge the Senate to act without further delay. Time is not a luxury that the nation’s patients or our health care system can afford,” said AAMC President and CEO David J. Skorton, MD, and Chief Public Policy Officer Karen Fisher, JD, on the crucial health care provisions included in the Build Back Better Act.
Read More

The FY 2022 Inpatient Prospective Payment System final rule issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will commit $1.8 billion over eight years to create 1,000 new Medicare-funded physician residency slots at qualifying hospitals in rural and underserved areas, according to Bloomberg Law.
Read More

Purdue Pharma’s restructuring plan to settle thousands of lawsuits over its alleged role in the opioid crisis is in limbo after U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon overturned the $4.5 billion settlement, ruling that the deal the company struck with its owners isn’t allowed under the law, reported the Wall Street Journal.
Read More

A federal jury found Charles Lieber, PhD, a former professor of chemistry at Harvard University, guilty of two counts of making false statements to the U.S. government about whether he participated in the Chinese government’s Thousand Talents Plan, reported the New York Times.
Read More

More than 800 hospitals are urging the Department of Health and Human Services to take action to restore the 340B drug pricing program after a federal court ruled that pharmaceutical companies can restrict sales of drugs discounted under the program to contract pharmacies, reported Fierce Healthcare.
Read More

The American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association are seeking to enjoin certain provisions of the No Surprises Act’s Implementing Rule, reported the National Law Review.
Read More

Fierce Healthcare discussed the state of drug pricing reforms and the Medicaid coverage gap after the faltering of the Build Back Better Act.
Read More

Medscape explored the challenges of matching to psychiatry residencies.
Read More

According to Becker’s ASC Review, 1 in 5 physicians plan to leave their current practice within two years. And Modern Healthcare reported on polling that found nearly half of more than 46,000 physician respondents are thinking of leaving the field.
Read More
Read More

“Natural language processing could shift the safety improvement field, allowing [patient safety organizations] and hospitals to quickly query millions of events, connect the dots in patient risks sooner and put interventions in place in a shorter time frame,” reported Modern Healthcare.
Read More

David Chelmow, MD, has been named interim dean of the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine and executive vice president for medical affairs at VCU Health. Dr. Chelmow has served as the Leo J. Dunn professor and department chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the VCU School of Medicine since 2010.
Read More

David Shimp has been appointed CEO of HCA North Florida Division's Osceola Regional Medical Center. Shimp previously served as CEO of HCA Healthcare's Del Sol Medical Center in El Paso, Texas.
Read More

Santhosh Koshy, MD, MBA, has been appointed chair of the Department of Medicine at the Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine, effective Feb. 14, 2022. Dr. Koshy previously served as director of Interventional Cardiology, vice chair of the Department of Medicine, chief of medicine, and chief of Cardiovascular Services at the Regional One Health Hospitals and Clinics at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Medicine.
Read More

Richard Smith, MD, has been named professor and university chair of the Department of Otorhinolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at Montefiore Health System and Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Dr. Smith has served as the interim chair of the department since February 2020.
Read More

Richard Walker III, MD, has been named chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the UTHSC College of Medicine. Dr. Walker has served as the interim chair of the Emergency Medicine Department since 2016.
Read More

Gerald Arthur Grant, MD, has been named chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at Duke University School of Medicine, effective April 1, 2022. Dr. Grant previously served as an endowed professor and chief of pediatric neurosurgery at Stanford University.
Read More

Nicholas Bambakidis, MD, has been named chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at University Hospitals (UH) Cleveland Medical Center, effective Jan. 1, 2022. He has served as vice president and director of the UH Neurological Institute since 2016.
Read More

Elaine Majerus, MD, PhD, and Stephen Oh, MD, PhD, have been selected to co-lead the Division of Hematology in the Department of Medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Dr. Majerus is a professor of medicine, and Dr. Oh is an associate professor in the Department of Medicine, both at WUSTL School of Medicine.
Read More

Tariq Ahmad, MD, MPH, has been appointed director of the Yale Heart Failure Program at Yale School of Medicine. Dr. Ahmad is an associate professor of medicine at Yale School of Medicine.
Read More

George Weiner, MD, will step down from his role as director of Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Iowa after 24 years at the helm.
Read More

If you were paying attention to science journalism in 2021, the following quiz from the BBC’s “Science Focus” section should be easy to ace. Then again, judging by the iffy score of the CFAS News editor who was tracking the year in science carefully, maybe not. 
Read More

With the end of the year upon us, there are plenty of top science stories of 2021 lists to choose from, including a perfectly straight forward one from The Guardian (which includes a few entries noted in these virtual pages over the past 12 months). But in a year where news wasn’t always great, other outlets have taken a more curated approach to the inevitable year-end lists, including The Spinoff out of New Zealand, which ranked the top “feel good” science stories of 2021 (No. 4: scientists figured out a way to rate movies — think PG, R, X — based on the smell of the breath of movie viewers). And, because 2021 was 2021, the website inverse.com rated the top “WTF Science Discoveries of 2021,” including research showing that the gut biome between modern humans and our Neanderthal ancestors are surprisingly similar — which may say a lot about who we are.
Read More
Read More
Read More


And finally, with Santa’s annual ordeal of sleigh-delivered gifts right around the corner, you may be wondering whether the seasonally busy reindeer population is up to the task. The Conversation ran a piece, “Five Ways Reindeer Are Perfectly Evolved for Pulling Santa’s Sleigh,” which conclusively proves, from an evolutionary biology perspective, that Santa is real. Well, not quite — but if Santa were out there doing what everyone would like to think he’s doing this coming Friday night, the innate sturdiness, steadiness, warmth, fitness, and vision capabilities of reindeer would make them fully capable for the challenging task (putting aside their inconclusive ability to fly or to illuminate their noses as headlights).
Read More

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/cfas

New section

New section