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CFAS News Previous Edition

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The Race to Inoculate in Face of Variants; Transmission Rates Dropping; U.S. Justice Department Drops Case Against Yale; and Other Items of Interest

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will propose guidelines on how manufacturers of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics should handle new COVID-19 variants, reported the Washington Post. Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said the agency doesn’t believe any current treatments or vaccines will have to start at square one.
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The Biden administration will start shipping about one million vaccine doses per week directly to thousands of pharmacies “in an attempt to address equity concerns and speed up the country’s crucial inoculation effort,” reported NPR. Politico also reported on the administration’s effort to get doses to pharmacies around the country, noting that the effort is an attempt to speed distribution despite unknowns about the number of doses that remain unused in states.
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Politico also explored whether any of the COVID-19 variants will “scramble” global vaccination plans, reporting that while some variants can “complicate” vaccination efforts, it still appears that having a vaccine that is somewhat less effective given the nature of a variant is better than no vaccine at all. The key to effective protection in light of the variants is to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible as variants continue to evolve.
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Vaccines may be a bright spot in the country’s fight against the pandemic, but the New York Times explored the crushing toll the coronavirus is still exacting on doctors and nurses. It described ways the government could do more to help them, including setting up a program that tracks the psychological wellbeing of health care workers like the federal health program that monitors those who responded to 9/11. Victor Dzau, MD, president of the National Academy of Medicine, was featured in the article and made the case for the government to start making a serious effort to accurately count health worker infections and fatalities. “We have a great obligation to people who put their lives on the line for the nation,” said Dr. Dzau. The Times article linked to a perspective published in the New England Journal of Medicine titled “Preventing a Parallel Pandemic — A National Strategy to Protect Clinicians’ Well-Being” written by Dr. Dzau, AAMC President Emeritus Darrell G. Kirch, MD, and president and CEO of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education Thomas Nasca, MD.
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Moderna wants to raise the number of doses in its vials to up to 15 from the current 10 doses and the FDA could decide within weeks whether to give them the green light, reported the New York Times.
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Race and ethnicity data was left out of information taken from almost half of all coronavirus vaccine recipients during the first month shots were available, reported the Washington Post.
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State-level data reveals that Black and Hispanic people are receiving far fewer COVID-19 vaccinations than white people, reported The Hill.
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CNN reported on new data backing up the reluctance among some Black Americans to get a COVID-19 vaccine. The data came from a survey conducted by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, showing that slightly less than half of respondents said they intended to get a vaccination while 31% of Black adults said they will not get the vaccine, and 20% said they were unsure.
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All that said, vaccination sites remain a rare resource in predominantly Black neighborhoods in many parts of the country, reports NPR.
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Medscape covered the status of teenager access to the vaccine, both from the perspective of clinical trials involving teens and from the perspective of teens who have pre-existing health conditions that leave them at elevated risks should they contract COVID-19.
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Some pediatricians are running into an unforeseen obstacle in their efforts to test children for COVID-19: Insurance companies reimburse them less than the cost of the test itself. The New York Times covered the story.
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The Atlantic questioned the logic of a vaccine line, noting that equitable distribution still can leave some of the neediest people too far from the front.
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Some Americans, especially older people, are having difficulty navigating the complex sign-up systems and inconvenient locations for getting their second vaccine doses, reported Reuters.
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Transmission throughout the country seems to be ebbing and the number of new average cases is 40% lower than three weeks earlier, reported the New York Times. That said, deaths attributed to COVID-19 saw a big jump yesterday, in part due to data correction from Indiana that was logged on Thursday adding 1,500 deaths from the pandemic, reported The Guardian.
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Julie L. Gerberding, MD, MPH, and Barton F. Haynes, MD, contributed a New England Journal of Medicine perspective, “Vaccine Innovations — Past and Future,” which explores the overwhelming benefits of strong and effective vaccines and what must be done to ensure future confidence around the safety of vaccines going into the future, especially as technology changes with public views.
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The Guardian seeks to explain the seemingly intractable suspicion some people have about vaccines in an article, “Could Understanding the History of Anti-vaccine Sentiment Help Us to Overcome It?” Among the points the article makes is the different perception between “vaccine hesitancy” and the deeply entrenched views many have about a public health system that has abandoned them in the past.
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Scientists are mixing and matching different vaccine doses as a new tool to combat the virus, reported the Wall Street Journal.
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The Department of Justice  (DOJ) withdrew its lawsuit against Yale University over admissions practices, reported the New York Times. The Patch, in New Haven, Conn., reported that a Yale official had said the DOJ filing against the University had "unexpectedly and precipitously cut off an exchange of information that Yale looks forward to resuming."
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an order requiring masks for travel in the U.S., reported the New York Times.
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But it appears that the delivery of more N95 masks to the public won’t be prioritized anytime soon, reported CNN.
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Wearing a mask or two, social distancing, and getting vaccinated as quickly as you can seems to be the strategy for Americans as the COVID-19 mutations spread, in contrast to countries in Europe that are locking down more aggressively, reported the Washington Post. The relatively restrained approach illustrates the realities of the pandemic response in America, where there is little appetite for more limitations to curb viral spread, reported the Post.
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The FDA is trying to streamline the authorization for COVID-19 vaccines after they’ve been updated to counter the new variants, reported Becker’s Hospital Review.
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The Washington Post featured an in-depth discussion of the various mutations of the coronavirus.
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NPR explained the factors playing into whether herd immunity in the U.S. is in reach, elusive, or out of reach.
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The Federation of American Hospitals is asking Congress to put $32 billion into the Provider Relief Fund in the next COVID-19 relief package, reported Becker’s Hospital CFO Report.
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A coalition of 43 health care associations and organizations sent a letter to leaders of Congress to enact legislation that would prevent payment cuts to providers through the duration of the pandemic, reported Healthcare Innovation.
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Former Stanford School of Medicine dean and AAMC Council of Deans Administrative Board Member Philip A. Pizzo, MD, was among the authors of a JAMA Viewpoint article addressing the appropriate response to physicians who engage in practices that endanger that nation’s health. “There is precedent for both medical professional societies and boards of medical licensing to take action when physicians violate their ethical responsibilities in nonclinical contexts,” the authors wrote.
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Thanks to masks and social distancing, the respiratory viruses that usually afflict us in the fall and winter, are circulating at much lower levels, reported STAT. One of the seasonal viruses that is also on the decline is acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a rare condition that affects children similarly to polio.
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In a similar vein, FiveThirtyEight detailed how the  United States has “apparently beaten the flu into submission.”
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“There is little guidance on how communities can mend or be mended, or what role hospitals can or should play in that process. As a first step, communities should seek a realignment of hospital accountability. Primarily focused on margins and market share, hospitals need to reconnect with the communities they ostensibly serve, starting with a truth and transparency dialogue to excavate the layers of reasons for such profound disparities in infection and death rates in different parts of a single city,” said STAT.
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"It's like being hit on all sides. [Black] people giving care, like myself, feel this incredible glass ceiling bearing down upon us. And then at the same time, the (Black) patients have it much worse – without jobs or health insurance, without food security, without appropriate telecommunications to make appointments,” said Steven McDonald, MD, a Black emergency physician in New York and an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. Dr. McDonald was quoted in an article in U.S. News & World Report that discussed how Black doctors have to face the double load of workplace racism and discrimination while watching the pandemic disproportionately hurt their communities.
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Just over half of American doctors surveyed strongly agreed that they welcomed patients with disabilities into their practices and 82% believe patients with significant disabilities have a worse quality of life, according to CNN’s coverage of a study published in Health Affairs. The article noted that the negative assumptions could adversely affect patient care because “many physicians assume that patients with disabilities are not sexually active, and therefore do not provide them with information about contraception, sexually transmitted infections or testing for cancers associated with sexual activity. Many surgeons also presume women with disabilities who are diagnosed with breast cancer prefer mastectomies to breast-conserving surgery, under the false assumption that these patients don't care about their physical appearance…”
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President Biden has put a freeze on Trump-era regulations and the move will affect at least two rules meant to lower drug prices, including one rule that dealt with insulin and EpiPens, reported CNN.
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The Biden administration will also most likely throw out the previous administration’s rule that takes immigrants’ use of public programs such as Medicaid into consideration in their applications for residency in the United States, reported Modern Healthcare.
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Many Latinos are hesitant to get vaccinated against COVID-19, even though the disease has had an outsized impact on their communities, reported NPR. And Inside Higher Ed explored how academic medical institutions, including historically Black and Hispanic-serving institutions, are conducting research and outreach to address COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in their communities.
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The journal Healthcare published a paper, “The State of Telehealth Education at U.S. Medical Schools,” which includes AAMC authors, including Kamilah Weems, Scott A. Shipman, Marie Caulfield, Adrien Barrios, and Lisa Howley.
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AAMCNews explained the trends in the evolution of the nation’s workforce, from increasing numbers of women to older physicians and other demographic information.
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The New York Times covered “scores of wealthy hospitals that have quietly used century-old hospital lien laws to increase revenue, often at the expense of low-income people…”
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Fifteen scientists from the World Health Organization is on the ground in Wuhan, China, looking for clues as to the emergence of the novel coronavirus, reported the New York Times. The inquiry could take months or years to uncover answers about how the coronavirus first spread to humans.
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The strain that COVID-19 has put on the supply chain for lab tests is also affecting testing for other illnesses, reported Modern Healthcare.
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Medscape discussed how the pandemic has affected the National Resident Matching Program and residents across the country who are feeling in the dark because of the loss of on-campus, in-person experiences. The article also described how residency programs are also facing difficulty from not knowing which students would make a good cultural fit.
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Modern Healthcare described how Michigan Medicine is expanding its hospital at-home program.
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“Facing conflicting guidance and logistical chaos, many cancer patients are struggling to navigate the bumpy rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination campaign. Ideally, cancer patients who take immunosuppressant medications should receive vaccinations under the care of a doctor, or in a cancer center, where they can be closely monitored and encounter fewer people than they would at a mass distribution site. But the limited availability of the vaccine, plus the havoc and confusion surrounding the rollout, leaves patients grasping for answers,” said the New York Times.
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The National Academy of Medicine’s Action Collaborative on Clinician Well-Being and Resilience announced a two-year extension of its work under the leadership of NAM President Victor Dzau, MD, AAMC President Emeritus Darrell G. Kirch, MD, and president of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education Thomas Nasca, MD. Several CFAS societies and reps have participated in the effort.
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Research!America will hold its 25th anniversary of the Research!America Advocacy Awards on April 14 from 4 p.m. to6 pm ET.
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The AAMC is offering one workforce improvement non-research funding opportunity available through the AAMC-CDC Cooperative Agreement. This Workforce Improvement Project (WIP) focuses on developing the public health workforce in the United States for diabetes and chronic kidney disease. U.S. AAMC-member institutions are eligible to apply for this WIP through the AAMC. The CDC expects to make one award in the amount of $85,000. Applications are due March 5.
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The 2021 Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation Essay Contest is now open and the deadline to submit all materials is March 31 at 1 pm EDT.
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Jill RachBeisel, MD, has been appointed chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Marlyand School of Medicine. Dr. RachBeisel has served as interim chair of the department for the past two years.
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Daniel Hamstra, MD, PhD, has been appointed professor and chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at the Baylor College of Medicine and Radiation Oncology Lead at the Dan L. Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. Hamstra previously served at the University of Michigan and the William Beaumont Oakland University School of Medicine.
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Claudette Jones Shephard, MD, has been named founding associate dean of diversity and inclusion for the University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s College of Medicine. Dr. Shephard serves as associate professor and interim chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in the College of Medicine.
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Michael McDermott, MD, has been named chief of the Division of Neuroscience at the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine. Dr. McDermott serves as chief medical executive of Miami Neuroscience Institute at Baptist Health.
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Samantha Lemus-Martinez has been named director of teaching and learning for the Florida International University Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine. Dr. Lemus-Martinez has served as interim director of the Student Academic Success Program for the past year.
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“Inflammaging” – inflammation that leads to signs of aging – is a thing, apparently. It even may be the case that parasitic worms help prevent “inflammaging,” according to a paper published in the journal eLife, “Gross Ways to Live Long: Parasitic Worms as an Anti-inflammaging Therapy?” The piece suggests that certain parasitic worms not only seem to slow aging but could lead to fewer risks from chronic disease. From the abstract: “A decline in exposure to commensal microbes and gut helminths in developed countries has been linked to increased prevalence of allergic and autoimmune inflammatory disorders -- the so-called ‘old friends hypothesis’,” wrote author Bruce Zhang, Undergraduate Assistant at the UCL Institute of Healthy Ageing, in London. “A further possibility is that this loss of ‘old friend’ microbes and helminths increases the sterile, ageing-associated inflammation known as inflammaging.”
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And finally, to many, this weekend is of course “Super Bowl Sunday” but to some (admittedly a tiny fraction), it’s “SuperbOwl Sunday,” with emphasis on “Owl” (note to gastroenterologists, read this as “superb owl” not the near-homonym “super bowel”) – but we digress. If you’re looking for a slightly different, more science-y pace this coming Sunday, consider forking over $5 to join the Connecticut Audubon Society from the comfort of your laptop in a virtual presentation on various superb owls – including the great-horned, eastern screech, northern saw-whet, barred, and barn owls. The LymeLine.com news site has the registration link. Go owls – not pronounced “Goals!” – different sport. Sorry.
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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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