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CFAS News Previous Edition

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COVID-19 Cases Make then Break Records; President-Elect Biden Names COVID-19 Task Force; Vaccine Progress Emerges While Equity Concerns Remain; and Other Items of Interest

Cases of COVID-19 in the United States are shattering records at nearly a daily rate. The New York Times reported on the record 160,000 daily new U.S. cases that was reached just over a week after daily cases topped 100,000 for the first time. In response, several governors around the nation are creating new mask mandates, social distancing guidelines, and shutdown policies in an effort to control the rising numbers.
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Also this week, the total number of U.S. cases has surged past 10 million, reported Politico.
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Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 have spiked in recent days. Vox published a graph showing a wavelike pattern of U.S. hospitalizations from the beginning of April, when the first surge began, through Nov. 11, where the sharp increase goes beyond all previous points.
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The Atlantic similarly covered “the worst day” of the pandemic since last May, noting there are now 40% more Americans hospitalized with COVID-19 than there were two weeks ago.
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NPR covered the states where hospitals are experiencing the greatest capacity challenges: New Mexico, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, and Wisconsin, among others.
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The Dakotas in particular are being overrun by COVID-19, leading to a rash of hospitalizations and deaths, prompting some public health experts to point to the region as a cautionary tale of “the consequences of ignoring the science of the virus and public health initiatives,” Modern Healthcare said.
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“The difference between what's happening now versus what happened before is that the virus is everywhere now. Before, there were just a few hot spots across the country. There were health care workers who could volunteer and go between different states. But when the virus is so widespread, we could very well ... run out of health care workers, which means that patient care is going to suffer. And we will be at breaking point in our hospitals,” said Leana Wen, MD, an emergency medicine physician, in an article in CNN.
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Becker’s Hospital CFO Report listed 11 hospitals that announced layoffs since Sept. 1, most due to financial hardship caused by the pandemic.
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The AAMC issued a statement last weekend on the election of Joe Biden as U.S. president. “2020 has presented immense challenges for our nation — from a global pandemic to economic distress and uncertainty to a national reckoning with structural racism and health inequities. Despite, or perhaps because of, these challenges, the American people turned out in historic numbers to vote and to have their voices heard. The record-breaking voter turnout — and the close outcome — signal the importance of the election to the nation, and the urgent need to come together as a country, bridge our divisions, and overcome the challenges we face. The AAMC looks forward to working with President-elect Biden, the new administration, and the new Congress to defeat the coronavirus pandemic, safely reopen businesses and schools, and stabilize the economy,” said AAMC President and CEO David J. Skorton, MD.
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Some are describing the COVID-19 crisis in the United States as reaching the level of a “humanitarian disaster,” with little hope for relief in the coming weeks, reported the Washington Post. Among those sounding the alarm is epidemiologist Michael Osterholm, PhD, of the University of Minnesota, who was recently named to President-elect Joe Biden’s coronavirus task force.
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President-elect Biden’s COVID-19 task force was fully empaneled earlier this week. Among the three co-chairs is Marcella Nunez-Smith, MD, who is a former CFAS rep from Yale School of Medicine. The Washington Post detailed the task force’s work, challenges, and members.
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In an NPR opinion piece, four academic medicine faculty members argued that President-elect Biden should focus on the most vulnerable when it comes to addressing the pandemic. “Ultimately, we need to approach the COVID-19 response through what we see as a lens of true equity — a permanent transformation in how our nation thinks about and responds to this illness and other epidemics that might arise in the future,” they wrote.
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Increased testing, a national mask mandate, possible nationwide lockdowns, and a repaired relationship with the World Health Organization will be components of President-elect Joe Biden’s plan to tackle the pandemic, reported CNBC. The article noted that listening to scientists like Anthony Fauci, MD, will also be part of the plan.
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Wearing masks as a protective measure during a pandemic is far from new. According to an historical piece from Circulating Now from the National Library of Medicine, more than a 100 years ago, a ship of 6,000 soldiers crossing the Atlantic had only 50 contract the deadly 1918 flu. News reports from the day credited widespread use of masks for controlling the spread. The piece contains a photo of a mid-voyage boxing match showing many — but not all — spectators masked up.
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STAT reported on how mRNA has become one of the leading technologies in fighting COVID-19, noting that the especially promising Pfizer and Moderna vaccine candidates rely on mRNA in their development, with much of the research emerging from the University of Pennsylvania.
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Pfizer announced that early analysis of its coronavirus vaccine trial revealed the vaccine to be more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 among trial participants who had no evidence of prior infection, reported the New York Times. There have been no serious safety concerns observed so far, and Pfizer is planning to apply for emergency authorization of the vaccine later this month.
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Despite the promising progress of the Pfizer vaccine, most rural hospitals can’t afford the ultra-cold freezers needed to store it, reported STAT.
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In more vaccine news, Moderna announced it will release the first data from the clinical trial of its coronavirus vaccine in coming days and expects its vaccine to have a similar degree of efficacy as Pfizer’s vaccine, reported Politico.
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Some health experts believe people of color should be prioritized for vaccination when a COVID-19 vaccine emerges, and STAT described how to implement the idea and avoid barriers, including legal challenges and vaccine hesitancy in minority communities.
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“Vaccine nationalism” is making it unlikely that a coronavirus vaccine will be distributed equitably across the globe, noted the Washington Post. “The Trump administration refused to join Covax, a global effort to develop, manufacture and equitably distribute billions of doses of a vaccine by pooling money to invest in a slate of vaccine candidates. More than 150 countries including China have joined Covax, but many are pursuing their own plans in parallel,” the Post reported. “So far there is no mechanism in place for rich countries to distribute their surplus vaccine doses. President-elect Joe Biden, set to assume office in January, has not said whether he would join the effort.”
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The careers of women in medicine are at particular risk in the face of COVID-19, reported AAMCNews. The increased demands and complications around childcare and education, not to mention pronounced career stressors already in play, are making it more challenging for women to advance in academic medicine during the pandemic.
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The Food and Drug Administration authorized Eli Lilly’s COVID-19 antibody drug (bamilivimab) for patients ages 12 and up with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 symptoms who don’t yet require hospitalization, the Wall Street Journal reported.
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A federal appeals court ruled that Harvard University didn’t violate civil rights laws by discriminating against Asian American applicants, reported the Wall Street Journal. The article noted that the decision tees up the case for potential Supreme Court review.
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In other legal news, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh appeared to signal they don’t think it’s the Supreme Court’s role to invalidate the entire Affordable Care Act, reported CNN. “I think it's hard for you to argue that Congress intended the entire act to fall if the mandate was struck down when the same Congress that lowered the penalty to zero did not even try to repeal the rest of the act. I think, frankly, that they wanted the court to do that, but that's not our job,” Chief Justice Roberts said to the attorney representing Texas in the fight against the ACA.
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As coronavirus cases soar throughout the country and push hospitals to the limit, the specter of rationing care lurks in the background, prompting a group of doctors in Illinois to write an urgent letter to the governor, saying, “We’re having to almost decide who gets treatment and who doesn’t.” The Washington Post covered the news.
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Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of Stanford University School of Medicine, was interviewed by CNBC and discussed tactical measures that can help control the spread of COVID-19.
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On NPR, Taison Bell, MD, director of the medical intensive care unit and an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Virginia, voiced frustration with the country’s political leadership for their lack of urgency in communicating the seriousness of the virus to communities of color. “You have to connect it to the top where in the White House, they may have been holding events outside, but very tight. No mask, no social distancing, not setting an example of how we should be proceeding in society to control the spread of COVID-19,” said Dr. Bell.
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The Wall Street Journal explored how the U.S. response to the third wave of COVID-19 infections is faltering due to data woes and tens of millions of COVID-19 tests going unused.
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“A study of Marine recruits found that despite [temperature and COVID-19 symptom checks] and strict quarantines before they started training, the recruits spread the virus to others even though hardly any of them had symptoms. None of the infections were caught through symptom screening,” reported the Associated Press in coverage of a study in the New England Journal of Medicine.
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Despite federal officials giving millions of point-of-care antigen tests to nursing homes, only 38% of the nation’s roughly 15,000 nursing homes have used them as of Oct. 25, preferring instead to send out to laboratories a type of test considered more reliable but that can take days to get results back, Kaiser Health News reported.
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Wearing face masks may be having a negative impact on doctors’ bedside manner, warned Medscape.
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Also on the subject of masks, the publication Best Life reported on research that indicates consumer face masks with a built-in valve may, in fact, help spread COVID-19.
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In a new episode of the Beyond the White Coat podcast, Geoffrey Young, PhD, AAMC senior director of student affairs and programs, spoke with Max Jordan Nguemeni Tiako, a fourth-year medical student at Yale School of Medicine, on his experience as a learner and an advocate for racial equity and equality in medical education and health care. Nguemeni Tiako discussed his perspective on racism in medical education, his “White Coat and a Hoodie” column, and producing the Flip the Script podcast on health disparities.
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Although incoming medical students have a greater knowledge of opioid overdose than members of the public, some still hold significantly stigmatized feelings about patients with substance abuse disorders, reported Becker’s Hospital Review, covering a study in Substance Abuse.
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The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a final rule on how states can manage their Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program plans, giving them more flexibility to set rates and “ensure plans have adequate provider networks,” said Modern Healthcare.
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The New York Times offered advice on how to navigate Thanksgiving this year.
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And AAMCNews explored whether it’s possible to gather safely for the holidays given the recent and ongoing surge of new COVID-19 cases throughout the country.
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Hospitals are opposed to President-elect Biden’s plan to lower the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 60 because they’re concerned that adding millions to Medicare will cost them billions in revenue, reported Kaiser Health News.
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Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ rise to power has put a spotlight on her alma mater, Howard University, and other historically Black schools. Many are hoping that spotlight leads to more long-term support and better funding, the Washington Post reported.
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CFAS Administrative Board member Catherine Florio Pipas, MD, a professor in community and family medicine at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, will give a presentation during the webinar “Healing the Healers: Understanding and Addressing Clinician Burnout During COVID-19.” Dr. Pipas will be the new chair of the CFAS Resilience Committee when Mona Abaza, MD, completes her term on the CFAS Administrative Board next week.
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The Society for Academic Continuing Medical Education, a CFAS-member society, will host its 2021 annual meeting virtually on Feb. 24-26. Early bird registration rates extend through Dec. 4.
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The Alliance for Academic Internal Medicine, the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM), the ABIM Foundation, the American College of Physicians, and the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation announced a new grant program for internal medicine residents and faculty members. The program will support projects designed to promote trust and create a more equitable health system by incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusion into the fabric of internal medicine education and training. Letters of intent are due Dec. 10, and selected applicants will be invited to submit full proposals early next year. grants will be awarded in spring 2021.
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The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, in collaboration with the AAMC, will hold a virtual workshop on Dec. 7. on the unique and valuable role the arts and humanities can play in medicine, medical education, and clinician well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic. The event is part of the AAMC initiative and upcoming report The Fundamental Role of the Arts and Humanities in Medical Education and will feature activities and demonstrations that showcase current integrative arts and humanities approaches to teaching and learning in medicine. David J. Skorton, MD, AAMC president and CEO, will serve as keynote speaker.
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Wendy Horton, PharmD, MBA, has been named CEO of UVA Medical Center, reported Modern Healthcare. She will begin her new role Nov. 15.
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Tony Avellino, MD, has been appointed assistant vice president for health sciences and chief clinical and medical officer at Michigan State University (MSU). Dr. Avellino has served as assistant provost for student health, wellness and safety, chief medical officer, and interim director of athletic medicine at MSU since 2018.
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Adam Bass, MD, has been appointed founding director of the Center for Precision Cancer Medicine and director of gastrointestinal oncology at the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at Columbia University and NewYork-Presbyterian, effective Jan. 1. Dr. Bass is an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, a faculty member of the cancer program at the Broad Institute, and a physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
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Steven L. Bernstein, MD, has been appointed chief research officer and associate dean of clinical research at Dartmouth-Hitchcock and the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. Dr. Bernstein serves as professor and vice chair of research in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the Yale School of Medicine and professor of public health (chronic disease epidemiology) in the Yale School of Public Health.
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David C. Adams, MD, has been named chair of the Department of Anesthesia at Indiana University School of Medicine, effective Jan. 1. Dr. Adams currently serves as executive vice chair of Montefiore Medical Center Department of Anesthesiology and professor of anesthesiology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
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McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston named eight faculty members as inaugural vice chairs for diversity and inclusion: Omonele O. Nwokolo, MD; Yolanda R. Villarreal, PhD; Omowunmi Aibana, MD, MPH; Nicole R. Gonzales, MD; Syed S. Hashmi, MD, MPH, PhD; Elaheh Ashtari, PsyD; Louis A. Faillace, MD; Rodrick C. Zvavanjanja, MD; and Ritha M. Belizaire, MD.
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Peter Rosenquist, MD, has been named Leon Henri Charbonnier Endowed Chair in Psychiatry and Health Behavior at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University. Dr. Rosenquist previously served at the Medical College of Georgia as the executive vice chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior.
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Maurice M. Solis, MD, has been appointed senior associate dean for the Mercer University School of Medicine’s Columbus campus. Dr. Solis is a professor of surgery at the Mercer University School of Medicine.
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Matthew Ogrodnik has been appointed director of the joint Boston University Medical Campus/Boston Medical Center (BUMC/BMC) Office of Research Affairs, effective Dec. 24. Ogrodnik previously served as director of the joint BUMC/BMC institutional review board.
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Stephen Ray Mitchell, MD, MBA, has received the 2020 LCME Distinguished Service Award. Dr. Mitchell is a former chair of the Liaison Committee on Medical Education and dean emeritus at the Georgetown University School of Medicine.
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In yet another example of over-the-top pandemic protection for the consumer, Yahoo! News reported on the BioVYZR, a self-contained face shield and air circulation system that basically fits over your entire head and torso. A link in the article reveals a dramatic video of the BioVYZR in use. Although the company raised close to $800,000 in development money, caveat emptor, unless you’re trying out for a part on Star Trek.
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Despite self-consciously describing itself as “morbid” and “depressing,” a YouTube video on the scientific value of roadkill explains how scientists retrieve a bonanza of research opportunities by finding flattened creatures large and small, due to the animals’ unfortunate encounters with cars. The almost excruciatingly punny video, produced by the environmental science-focused MinuteEarth YouTube channel, explains how some animals (armadillos, for instance) are especially subject to roadkill, while others, notably bats, escape most one-sided encounters with cars. That this story would be a welcome distraction from reality is, more than anything, a testament to the kind of year 2020 has been.
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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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