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CFAS News Previous Edition

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Oral Antiviral Appears Effective Against COVID-19; Some States See Cases Decline; AAMC Leaders Urge Racial Justice in Medical Education, Health Care; and Other Items of Interest

Molnupiravir, an antiviral medication from Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, cut the risk of hospitalization or death from COVID-19 in high-risk people by 50% in a late-stage trial, proving to be so successful that Merck and Ridgeback stopped enrolling subjects in trials after discussions with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), reported CNBC. Phase 3 trials were conducted at more than 170 sites, in countries including the United States, Brazil, Italy, Japan, South Africa, Taiwan, and Guatemala. The companies plan to seek emergency authorization for the treatment.
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USA Today additionally reported on the appeal of a COVID-19 treatment that could be administered orally through a pill, quoting David Kessler, MD, chief science officer for the Biden administration’s COVID-19 response last June, “An easily administered oral antiviral drug would be an important part of our therapeutic arsenal that would complement the great success of our vaccine efforts,” he said last June.
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Emory University released a statement noting that researchers at the university discovered the antiviral drug. “Critical to our mission at Emory is ensuring that scientific discoveries can become real-world solutions that improve the health of our global population and save lives,” said Jonathan S. Lewin, MD, executive vice president for Health Affairs at Emory University and executive director of Woodruff Health Sciences Center.
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Some states, including Kentucky, Georgia, and Maryland, are seeing encouraging signs that the numbers of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are dropping, although governors are sending warnings about what could come next if more people don’t get vaccinated, reported CNN. Axios published a composite map showing where cases are declining most sharply, and also where they are still rising over a two-week average.
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However, the seven-day average rate of vaccinations has sunk to its lowest since mid-January, reported CNN. CNN also listed 18 states where at least half of the residents still have not been vaccinated.
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A Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that a third of parents of kids 5-11 years old say they will vaccinate their child right away once a vaccine is available for that age group. Another finding from the survey: a quarter of parents reported that their kids have had to quarantine at home after a possible COVID-19 exposure since this school year began.
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And AAMCNews reports that as school re-openings stir COVID-19 outbreaks, pediatricians are sounding the alarm, saying hospitals are filling with critically ill kids because of lax prevention measures at schools. Many are calling for mask mandates and vaccinations.
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On a related note, AAMCNews also reported on lagging vaccination rates among teens, presenting the perspective from a pediatrician and bioethicist on whether schools should require vaccinations and what happens if parents and teenagers disagree.
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Vaccine mandates have spurred some hesitant employees to get vaccinated in the past couple weeks, but the tradeoff is that holdouts have been suspended or have lost their jobs, causing employers to scramble to cover the potential staffing shortages, reported CNN. For example, Monday was the deadline for New York State health care workers to get vaccinated, and while thousands have refused to meet it, reported the New York Times, some health systems had more positive news: Westchester Medical Center Health Network, for example, reported that 94 percent of its 12,000 workers are vaccinated, and called the mandate “a critical part of upholding our mission.”
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The FDA announced today two upcoming meetings of its Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee to discuss new data for available COVID-19 vaccines. On Oct. 14 and 15, the committee will meet to discuss the use of booster doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine. The committee also will hear presentations and discuss data on the use of a booster of a different vaccine than the one used for the primary series (i.e., “mix and match” boosters). The committee also has scheduled a meeting for Oct. 26 to discuss Pfizer vaccine use in children ages 5-11.
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VaccineVoices, an AAMC effort supported by a cooperative agreement between the AAMC and the CDC, covered the small-but-vocal minority of nurses still resisting the COVID-19 vaccines as a growing number of hospitals and nursing organizations are urging them to reconsider.
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This week, YouTube booted popular anti-vaccine influencers and deleted false claims in a major crackdown on vaccine misinformation on the video-sharing platform, reported Modern Healthcare.
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Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of Stanford University School of Medicine, gave an interview on CNBC in which he stated that the COVID-19 vaccine is one of the safest ever.
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CNN covered experts’ recommendations on the best time to get a flu shot this year: “What you should do is get it as soon as you can and in the most expeditious manner,” said Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
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And a preprint in The Lancet describes a study that found no safety nor efficacy concerns with administering COVID-19 vaccinations and influenza vaccinations at the same time. From the abstract: “Concomitant vaccination raises no safety concerns and preserves the immune response to both vaccines.”
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The New York Times profiled the groundbreaking research by Katalin Kariko, PhD, senior vice president at BioNTech, and Drew Weissman, PhD, a professor in vaccine research at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, which led to the creation of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. Drs. Kariko and Weissman were awarded the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award for their research last week.
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A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court is challenging the University of Colorado at the Anschutz Medical Campus’s denials of requests for religious exemptions to the school’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate, reported the Associated Press. The lawsuit states that “the university is approving requests that are based on organized religious beliefs that oppose vaccinations, while subjecting requests based on personal religious beliefs to ‘intrusive religious inquisition to test the veracity of students’ and employees’ asserted religious beliefs.’”
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Modern Healthcare covered what heart and stroke patients should know about COVID-19 boosters.
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Side effects from booster shots were similar to those from second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, with brief, mild-to-moderate effects, reported CNN in coverage of a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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“Some public health officials and doctors say they fear [President Joe Biden] — who has staked his presidency on successfully managing the pandemic — is pushing for boosters because they are politically popular,” reported the New York Times in a piece that explored whether the president’s position on booster shots has gotten ahead of the positions of public health experts.
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A proposed rule from the Department of Homeland Security seeks to solidify the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and strengthen protections for people who were brought to the United States undocumented as kids, reported The Hill.
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There’s a lot of anger going around these days, and CNN discussed the do’s and don’ts of expressing anger in healthy ways from the perspective of its Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta, MD.
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The New York Times ran a guest editorial that explored the intersection of vaccine refusal with monoclonal antibody treatment, based in part on a decision in Tennessee to limit access to the COVID-19 treatment to the unvaccinated.
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After an internal review, Mass General Brigham and Women’s Hospital announced that it will not be treating patients with Aduhelm, the controversial Alzheimer’s disease treatment recently approved by the FDA, reported Fierce Healthcare.
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A study of nearly 200,000 children showed that kids, especially ages 5 to 11, gained excess weight during the pandemic, reported the Associated Press.
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An article in the Health Affairs blog discussed the U.S. health system’s growing recognition of the importance of improving the health of the country’s food system.
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A commentary in Patch discussed the need to modernize the federal Rural Health Clinic Program.
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David A. Acosta, MD, AAMC chief diversity and inclusion officer, and David J. Skorton, MD, AAMC president and CEO, contributed an article in The American Journal of Medicine that urges organized medicine to call for racial justice in medical education and health care. “It is time to have an honest confrontation with reality in order to bring about racial healing and become anti-racist organizations,” they write. “Organized medicine must come together in solidarity to make ‘good trouble’ and fight collectively for racial justice so that every community we serve can achieve their full health potential and achieve racial equity—that is, giving people what they need to enjoy full, healthy lives regardless of race.”
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Medpage Today explored the question of whether medicine can be “race-conscious” without being racist.
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The American Hospital Association (AHA) is lobbying to extend tariff exemptions on medical supplies imported from China, reported Becker’s Hospital Review.
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Also from Becker’s Hospital Review, the AHA sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services outlining their recommendations for how the agency could ensure the implementation of its vaccination mandate is “feasible” and “fair” for all workers in health care facilities that participate in Medicare or Medicaid.
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Modern Healthcare discussed GoodRx, a prescription drug discount provider that has launched its own informational consumer health website.
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An opinion piece in STAT explored strategies to build resilience and well-being to avoid the worst of a coming shortage of health care workers. The piece noted projections of a global shortfall of nurses in 2030 reaching 10 million and a health system in Texas that saw a staff turnover of 25% just within the past year.
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The New England Journal of Medicine published perspectives titled “Marking the 40th Anniversary of the AIDS Epidemic – American Physicians Look Back” and “Race in Medicine – Genetic Variation, Social Categories, and Paths to Health Equity.”
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AAMC Workforce Studies published a data snapshot on diversity among Hispanic and Latino physicians in the United States. According to the snapshot, 6% of U.S. physicians and 11% of medical students identify as Hispanic/Latinx. Although typically aggregated into a single group, new data illustrates that these physicians and students represent a broad array of ethnicities, cultures, and experiences.
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Michael Dill, director of workforce studies at the AAMC, and Xiaochu Hu, lead research analyst in workforce studies at the AAMC, published an article in Women’s Health Reports, “When Physicians Marry Physicians: Gender Inequities in Work Hours and Income.” The research finds women physicians who are married to physicians work significantly fewer hours and earn less than women physicians not married to other physicians. In contrast, men physicians in dual-physician marriages earn more than men physicians not in dual physician marriages, although the work hours between the two groups are not statistically different.
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Marnix E. Heersink, MD, provided a transformative gift to the University of Alabama School of Medicine of $95 million, while Triton Health Systems donated $5 million, totaling $100 million, the largest philanthropic commitment in the university’s history. The UAB School of Medicine will now be named the UAB Marnix E. Heersink School of Medicine. Inside Higher Ed covered the story.
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The MacArthur Foundation announced the 2021 MacArthur Fellows. In the group of “genius award” winners are many thinkers, academics, and researchers familiar to academic medicine, including Ibram X. Kendi of the Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University. Mr. Kendi was the keynote speaker at last year’s virtual Learn Serve Lead 2021: The AAMC Annual Meeting. Also awarded were Michelle Monje, MD, PhD, neuroscientist at Stanford University School of Medicine; Victor Torres, PhD, microbiologist/immunologist at NYU Grossman School of Medicine and Langone Health; and Trevor Bedford, PhD, computational virologist at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Washington. NPR also covered the winners and provided additional information about the awards.
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The AAMC Center for Health Justice will host a webinar Oct. 12 at 2:30 p.m. ET, featuring a presentation and Q&A with the Build Healthy Places Network, a national organization working to foster collaboration between the community development and health sectors to advance health and racial equity. Speakers will highlight opportunities for collaboration and resources to bring multisector partnerships into health equity work.
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The National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics-Underserved Populations initiative (RADx-UP) is offering researchers who are seeking funds to conduct community-engaged research on COVID-19 testing an opportunity to apply for up to $200,000 in funding. The application deadline is Dec. 10.
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The NIH Common Fund Faculty Institutional Recruitment for Sustainable Transformation (FIRST) program, which seeks to “develop cultures of inclusive excellence,” and enhance diversity and inclusion among biomedical faculty, announced its first cohort of awardee institutions: Cornell University; Drexel University; Florida State University; Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai; San Diego State University; and University of Alabama at Birmingham/ Tuskegee University. The newly awarded FIRST Coordination and Evaluation Center (CEC) awardee institution is Morehouse School of Medicine. An online resource on the NIH website provides additional detail of the program.
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A virtual symposium, Confronting Health Misinformation: Gaps and Opportunities for Health Professions Educators, will be offered Oct. 29 from 2 - 4 p.m. ET. The symposium is sponsored by the AAMC, the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. The event seeks to define health misinformation and the role of health professions educators in combatting misinformation and building trust among patients and families, as well as and exploring practical strategies for preparing health professional learners to confront health misinformation with patients and public audiences.
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The NIH Maximizing Opportunities for Scientific and Academic Independent Careers (MOSAIC) Scholars program will hold its inaugural meeting on Oct. 14-15. MOSAIC is designed to facilitate the transition of promising postdoctoral researchers from diverse backgrounds into their new careers as independent faculty members at research-intensive institutions.
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Harold “Hal” Paz, MD, MS, has been named executive vice president for health sciences at the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University, effective Oct. 4. Dr. Paz is executive vice president and chancellor for health affairs at The Ohio State University College of Medicine and chief executive officer for the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center.
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Dan Lundergan, MHA, has been appointed CEO of Utah Health Hospitals and Clinics. Mr. Lundergan is COO at University of Utah Health Hospitals and Clinics, and has served as interim CEO since February.
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Shiva Bidar-Sielaff has been named the inaugural associate dean for diversity and equity transformation for the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. Bidar-Sielaff is also the UW Health Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and this is an expansion of her role.
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Brian Pogue, PhD, has been appointed chair of the Department of Medical Physics at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. Dr. Pogue has served as a professor of medical physics and biomedical engineering at Dartmouth College for 25 years.
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Florida International University Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine has announced two new leadership appointments. Amalia Landa-Galindez, MD, will serve as interim chair of the Department of Translational Medicine. In addition to her new role, she will continue serving as division chief for Internal Medicine and Internal Medicine clerkship director. Dr. Landa-Galindez is a CFAS representative from HWCOM. And Jorge Camilo Mora, MD, has been named associate dean for Faculty Affairs. In this role, Dr. Mora will develop department-specific promotion guidelines and build on existing faculty career development programs.
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Matthew Layne, PhD, has been named assistant dean for research at the Boston University School of Medicine. Dr. Layne is associate professor of biochemistry at Boston University.
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Edward Kaftan, PhD, has been appointed associate Cancer Center director for Research Affairs at Yale Cancer Center, effective Jan. 1. Dr. Kaftan is assistant Cancer Center director for translational science at Yale Cancer Center.
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Lisa Pino has been appointed director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights. Pino is a former senior executive official appointed by President Barack Obama and most recently served as the New York State Department of Health's Executive Deputy Commissioner.
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And finally, who knew that proteins could write such beautiful music? All they needed was just a little tweaking from biochemistry researchers to hone their compositional skills. Once they got started, it sounds great. As described in a study that appeared in the Sept. 29 edition of the journal Heliyon, researchers started with the classical styles of fantasies and impromptus as a guide, and from there, translated specific proteins into melodies using a “protein-to-music algorithm.” A piece in the Big Think explains the process and includes a couple of links that let you listen to the unexpected musicality of first a receptor protein that binds to the hormone and neurotransmitter oxytocin (ponderous and somewhat meandering), and second, tumor antigen p53, a protein that prevents cancer formation (fast-paced and patterned).
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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/cfas

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