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In this edition:

Message from the Chair

Dear CFAS Colleagues and Friends,

What a difference a month makes. When I last wrote in this forum, the Omicron variant was still front and center on our minds as we continued to grapple with a crisis in our hospitals and disruptions to our routines, both in our personal and professional lives. While we likely will continue to feel disruptions for months to come, it is safe to say we see light in the darkness. The number of new COVID-19 infections has fallen sharply in recent weeks, and the case load in hospitals, while still high, is dropping too.

One of the more difficult decisions CFAS Administrative Board members have had to make came several months ago when we were asked to provide input to AAMC colleagues about whether to hold the CFAS Spring Meeting virtually or in-person given the pandemic. We opted for virtual. It was pre-Omicron so it seemed riskier at the time, but the questions were no less important: Would you, as a CFAS rep, want to engage virtually again? Would you get the benefit you needed from CFAS from your office desk rather than a shared conference room? In the end, we believe you will get everything you need and more in the 2022 CFAS Spring Meeting.

Recognizing Zoom fatigue, the Program Committee, led by CFAS Chair-elect Nita Ahuja, MD, has come up with an extraordinary program featuring direct interaction with numerous deans and health system CEOs from around the country – including two relatively new deans who were once your CFAS colleagues.

As many of you will recall, our last planned in-person Spring meeting was canceled at the beginning of the pandemic. The highlight of that meeting was collaboration with the AAMC’s Council of Deans (COD). In the past year, Nita and I have reached out to our colleagues at COD to find further opportunities for collaborative engagement as we strive to address the pressing issues affecting faculty in academic medicine. While we are not meeting jointly with COD, we have no fewer than six medical school deans as speakers and panelists, ready to interact with you as we explore ways to strengthen the faculty community and enhance faculty governance – overriding themes of our program.

And importantly, there will be opportunities for you to share your stories and experiences as faculty – both personal and professional – in two cohorts of Ignite-styles sessions. This presentation style has become a CFAS tradition since it so effectively fosters connection and personalizes our time together, which is one of the driving forces behind the Council.

I encourage you to attend this consequential meeting on April 11–13, 2022. The program is rapidly being finalized and registration will open soon. Please make every effort to keep the dates on your calendar blocked for CFAS and be ready for a few pleasant surprises along the way. We are looking forward to an enjoyable and relevant event for all of us.
Yours in good health and wellness,

Aviad “Adi” Haramati, PhD

CFAS Chair

Representing the Academic Consortium for Integrative Medicine and Health

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CFAS 2022 Spring Meeting Update

Registration for the CFAS Spring meeting will be opening soon, but we urge you to block your calendars for the program, April 11-13, from noon-4 or 4:30 p.m. over the three days.

The thread through the meeting will be “Strengthening the Faculty Community.” The meeting will explore how three years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the environment in academic medicine has changed dramatically for faculty, resulting in tremendous professional demands and challenges, but also innovations and flashes of community strength.

Faculty have opportunities to create positive change both within our institutions and within ourselves as faculty, to thrive within the landscape, to offer our expertise, and to collaborate actively alongside our institutional leaders to create transformation and pave a road to a better future in academic medicine.

Day 1: STRENGTHENING FACULTY COMMUNITY IN OUR PROFESSION – this day will feature frank and open conversations with academic health centers deans and CEOs on how faculty can be engaged, where the pressure points are with faculty, and how solutions can be uncovered collaboratively.

Day 2: STRENGTHENING FACULTY COMMUNITY AMONG OURSELVES – this day will feature input from two former CFAS reps who are now medical school deans, sharing their leadership journey and interacting with their CFAS colleagues on faculty engagement. There will also be Ignite-style sessions featuring stories of transformation from within the ranks of CFAS, and a seminar session on how leadership models are transforming in academic medicine. The call for sessions was announced this week. If you have any questions or would like to share your story, email Eric Weissman.

Day 3: STRENGTHENING FACULTY COMMUNITY WITH CFAS AND THE AAMC – this day will feature an overview of AAMC strategic planning efforts to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion within the academic medicine workforce, and will also feature AAMC President and CEO David Skorton, MD, providing a leadership update. We will also have the CFAS Business Meeting and our traditional knowledge sharing session.

We hope you can attend, so please BLOCK THE DATES (April 11-13) and look for registration to open shortly.

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CFAS Committee Profile: A Conversation with Nominating and Engagement Committee Chair Gabriela Popescu, PhD

What is the charge of the CFAS Nominating and Engagement Committee?

As you know, the Council of Faculty and Academic Societies was created in 2013 to serve as a forum that reflects the diversity of medical school faculties represented by the AAMC. The Charter stipulates that a Nominating Committee must be charged “to ensure that the Administrative Board maintains a diverse membership, including appropriate representation from basic and clinical societies, senior and junior faculty, and representatives from the various established membership pathways.” Therefore, maintaining a full and representative slate for the CFAS Administrative Board, including its elected officers, is a duty of the Nominating Committee. In addition to this statutory role, the CFAS Administrative Board has charged the Nominating Committee to maintain robust engagement of CFAS representatives with the Council. Hence the double-duty name for this committee as the Nominating and Engagement committee.

What are ongoing activities coordinates by this committee?

Every year, four members of the Administrative Board complete their appointed three-year term on the Board. We have just launched a call for nominations to fill the four seats that will become available in November of 2022. Anyone who wishes to self-nominate or nominate a colleague can do so on line by filling out a 2022 AAMC CFAS Ad Board Nomination Form. We are looking very much forward to receiving these by March 11, 2022 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern. After this deadline, the members of the committee will undertake a wholistic examination of all the materials received and rank the applications based on how well each would contribute to balancing the overall composition of the Administrative Board in terms of ensuring balanced representation from scientists, educators, and clinicians’ from senior and junior faculty, as well as from schools and societies.

In addition, we have a strong desire to broaden the perspectives present on the board as much as possible with other aspects of diversity including gender, race, ethnicity, and other life and professional experiences. You can imagine that this is a tall order. However, I have full confidence that as in the past, after careful consideration and discussion by the committee member we can present the Administrative Board with a slate that is fully representative of the talents within our Council. Once this slate is approved by the Administrative Board, it will be presented to the full Council for an electronic vote, likely around mid-May.

In addition to selecting replacements for four outgoing board members, next year we will also select a new Chair-elect. For that, the process will be similar in that we will launch a call for nominations from which the Committee presents a candidate to the board for approval, and then to the entire Council for a vote. The criteria for the Chair-elect, are even more stringent because the Chair-elect has an automatic seat on the AAMC Board of Directors. We are keenly aware of the responsibility that rests upon us to select and present the Council with candidates that will ably, competently, and compellingly articulate the voice of faculty.

Lastly, we have initiated discussions on developing new ways to increase the engagement of our representatives within the CFAS and thus strengthen the voice of faculty within the AAMC. At this time we are considering organizing a third meeting with the Society Leadership Forum an activity initiated by the previous chair of this committee, Scott Gitlin, MD.

What are the committee’s most important achievements so far?

I should mention that I have become Chair of this committee last November, at the end of the Annual Meeting. Since then, my first priority has been to assemble a committee with broad expertise and experience. We have met twice to decide on best ways to proceed in meeting our duties and as I have just mentioned, we have already launched the call for nominations to fill four seats on the ad board. I am pleased to announce that this year, thanks to diligent work of the CFAS staff, especially Stephen Barry the application process will be done entirely online in a web-based system created by CFAS and the AAMC. We believe this new process will be quicker and more convenient for applicants, and will facilitate the compilation of materials to allow committee members to focus on evaluating these materials. As always, we look forward to your feedback on how well this new system serves your needs as we look to further optimize the site based on your suggestions and comments.

What does the committee need from CFAS or the larger AAMC to achieve its future objectives?

First and foremost, it’s critical to CFAS that we have a diverse and engaged group of leaders in the organization. Anything that the CFAS community can do toward that end by nominating the best possible candidates, by adding new voices, by ensuring that we are the organization we aspire to be, will make us better. I urge all CFAS reps to think in those terms as they submit nominations to the process this year. The CFAS Nominating and Engagement Committee would also welcome feedback from the CFAS community about this year’s Administrative Board nomination process to continue improving on it given that it’s so fresh in people’s minds. Ideas about how to increase engagement across the board are welcomed as well.

How can CFAS reps join the committee and what responsibilities and benefits of participation can they expect?

CFAS representatives are nominated to the committee in a similar process to the current Administrative Board process. This call for nominees to the Nominating and Engagement Committee will launch after the CFAS 2022 Spring Meeting. Please be on the lookout for information about this call for nominees from Eric Weissman and the committee.

Also keep in mind that the Committee is limited in size by AAMC Bylaws and CFAS Rules and Regulations to just seven people, including the chair, in term-limited roles. Most importantly, we want to make sure it is a representative group with diverse views, perspectives, and backgrounds among its members. When the call comes later this year, we’d love to welcome new nominees to the process.

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CFAS Connects February Session

CFAS Connects returned on Thursday, Feb. 17 with a presentation from Rosha McCoy, MD, FAAP, AAMC Senior Director for Advancing Clinical Leadership and Quality and the PI for the CDC's Vaccine Confidence Cooperative Agreement with the AAMC. The session focused on the work the AAMC is doing to increase trust in the COVID-19 vaccines and how to deal with COVID-19 misinformation and disinformation. The session provided an opportunity for many in the CFAS community to reflect upon the state of vaccinations and the role of science and public health in various communities around the country. There was also rich discussion on the politicization of medicine and science, which has defined so much of public health in recent years. Summary materials from the session, along with a recording of the presentation from Dr. McCoy are available on the CFAS Resources webpage.

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CFAS Rep Profile: Jeffrey Laitman, PhD

Jeffrey Laitman, PhD, Distinguished Professor; Professor and Director, Center of Anatomy and Functional Morphology; Professor of Medical Education and of Otolaryngology; Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai; Past-President and CFAS Rep for the Association of Anatomy, Cell Biology, and Neurobiology Chairs (AACBNC)

CFAS: What are your thoughts on how the pandemic changed medical education and the lessons medical educators can take from the pandemic to apply to the future?

Dr. Laitman: This pandemic has had some positive effects on medical education and also some negative effects. It’s caused us to learn many new modalities such as teaching virtually over Zoom. We’ve become more adept in general in using electronic modes of communication. We’ve also become nimbler in how we teach, communicate, and work. We have found that there are some newer ways to do things that are more effective than trying to do everything, for example, in traditional lecture halls.

But at the end of the day, education is personal and one-on-one – it’s the essence of sharing and giving. And it’s hard to create that over Zoom. We have become too comfortable with this kind of virtual communication, and it’s removed a lot of the humanity from teaching. It’s an unnatural type of communication and I hope that we will soon resume the kind of interpersonal, face-to-face interactions that are so essential, especially in the biomedical world.

CFAS: Tell us about your research.

Dr. Laitman: My research deals with what makes humans special with respect to the aerodigestive tract of the head and neck region. What’s special about this region in humans is its anatomy and associated functions. We’ve looked at this over the years through two different prisms: how humans have changed developmentally and how we’ve changed evolutionarily. A key structure in this area is the larynx, the gateway to, and protector of, our airways. In most mammals the larynx is placed sufficiently high in the throat effectuating a continuous portal from the nasopharynx through to the lungs. Food can go around this interlocked larynx, essentially creating a “two-tube” or two pathway system, one for air and one for food. This allows most mammals the ability to breathe and swallow almost simultaneously. Infant humans exhibit the same pattern of a high larynx as found in most mammals and can, accordingly, breathe and swallow almost simultaneously as well.

Humans go through a remarkable change developmentally wherein the larynx “descends” into the neck, and we lose this ability. This laryngeal descent, however, enables the emergence of our unique “vocal tract” that allows us to make the extensive array of sounds found in human speech. We are trying to understand when these changes occur – which also affect the functioning of the eustachian tube, middle ear, and inner ear – and the concomitant diseases and clinico-pathologies that accompany them. For example, diseases ranging from otitis media to clinicopathologies such as SIDS often occur around the same time that these aerodigestive tract changes take place.

We are also trying to understand how this region changed evolutionarily. How to reconstruct the soft anatomy of our ancient ancestors is, of course, the challenge as structures such as the larynx do not preserve. What we have learned is that we can reconstruct this region through the use of a part of the area that does remain, the skull base or basicranium, that is the de facto “roof” of the aerodigestive tract. In essence, we have learned that we can reconstruct the anatomy of the aerodigestive tract by understanding the attachments and positioning of how structures attached to its roof. Through this, we have learned that our earliest ancestors – hominins such as “Lucy” – were probably very much like monkeys and apes: they were basically nose-breathers unable to make the array of sounds that we can today.

What probably occurred some million and a half years ago on the plains of Africa, as the brain was growing, was that our ancestors started to do more running, they found themselves in a benign climate, and there were advantages to getting more oxygen through the mouth. So it looks like the early ancestors of our own genus gradually started breathing more through the mouth. As this occurred the position of the larynx was also gradually lowering in the throat, increasing the area available to modify laryngeal sounds. While our ancestors of a million and a half years ago couldn’t make all the sounds we can today, it is likely that major changes in the path to becoming human were occurring at this time.

CFAS: As a society representative, how do you think CFAS could continue to expand its benefits to society members?

I represent the Association of Anatomy, Cell Biology and Neurobiology Chairs (AACBNC). At my society, we were wondering what the value of CFAS was. It cost a lot of money to send people to CFAS meetings (pre-Covid, of course!), so we were cautious. When I came to the CFAS Spring Meeting in Atlanta in 2019, in part to “check out CFAS,” I was bowled over by how much was going on, how much I learned, and the tremendous potential to be actively engaged. I was won over. I think CFAS is really a hidden gem in academic medicine. The opportunity to hear from different people and groups across academic medicine is so important.

As someone who was new to CFAS, I felt like an outsider at first and found that it was hard to know where to fit in with the council and the different committees. Having more of an orientation period for new reps would be helpful. There should also be a handbook for new reps that tells them about what they can do in CFAS and where, and how, to get “plugged in.” However, once you get involved with one of the committees, the chairs are very receptive to your ideas. Maybe it would be helpful for CFAS committee chairs to do pre-recorded onboarding videos so new reps can be trained on the opportunities and expectations of membership.

In addition, many members of constituent CFAS societies/schools are not very familiar with CFAS’ relation to the AAMC or the AAMC’s various councils and groups and their functions. It would be very valuable both for CFAS reps – and by extension their parent organizations/schools – to be better educated about the AAMC and its functions. This can be part of CFAS onboarding activities.

CFAS: Are there any recent accomplishments or initiatives from the Icahn School of Medicine that would be interesting to other CFAS reps?

Dr. Laitman: The Icahn School of Medicine is part of Mount Sinai Health System, which is the largest health system in New York, with 8 hospitals and 7,500 physicians and faculty. The medical school is the jewel in our crown. I’ve been at Mount Sinai since 1977 and am very proud of how it has grown and given back to our city, country, and biomedical community. One of the accomplishments I’m most proud of is a recent development in the clinical realm. As well as an anatomist, I’m also a professor of otolaryngology and medical education, and I’ve been impressed by the chair of otolaryngology (Eric Genden, one of my former students) who performed the first ever successful tracheal transplant last year. He’s developed exciting new ways to do this, and it’s an area that’s received a lot of attention because of all the intubations (and ensuing injuries) that have taken place during the pandemic. This procedure required a lot of insightful basic science research in micro-vascular anatomy and transplantation biology and has brought the field forward in many directions.

On the education side, we’ve done a lot of pivoting in undergraduate medical education – such as Zoom teaching and modified labs –to accommodate students, as many schools have. It has been a wild ride as any in this sphere of medical education can attest to. I’m particularly proud of the efforts that our school and hospitals have made in the realm of graduate medical education – our resident programs. Many of our residents were literally removed from their programs when COVID-19 hit (we in New York were amongst the first hit hard). They were needed to “be on the front lines” usually in ways that they were little prepared for. I watched my own son – a PGY 2 in ENT at the outset – sent to unbelievably difficult and draining situations at some of our hospitals.

What we tried to do on the educational (particularly, anatomical side) was make sure the educational programs were there for these residents. At Sinai, we have some 20 resident anatomy courses, and we managed to keep them active so our residents were still able to be students and learn during these difficult times. It was amazing how our residents – from anesthesiology and dermatology to trauma surgery and PM&R among many others – so greatly appreciated being able to have learning and teaching sessions available during this horrible period. I found that sharing and discussing situations and activities with other CFAS reps and in committees was very valuable as I could learn what others were doing.

Lastly, at Icahn School of Medicine we’re doing something called “Chats of Change,” initiated by our Medical Education department, in which people from different roles across our school can discuss contemporary social issues regarding race, critical race theory, white supremacy, antisemitism, anti-Asian violence, etc. This has been monumentally valuable. I’ve learned things I never knew, and I was able to do this in a non-judgmental environment. It was one of the healthiest and most valuable things I’ve done in a long time.

CFAS: What do you like to do in your free time?

Dr. Laitman: What I get the biggest smile from is being able to spend time with my kids and grandkids. Just this weekend we took them to “The Ice-Cream Museum” and watching them play in a pool of (artificial) sprinkles made my day. So great to enjoy grandkids – and then be able to hand them back to my kids when they need to be fed or disciplined! Being a grandparent is great! When the world opens up again, I’m also looking forward to seeing friends and colleagues around the globe. My own fields of anatomy and physical anthropology have given me opportunities to work in many countries and through that gift gain friends from different cultures. The pandemic has taken this away from me – as it has from so many others – and I look forward to sharing a laugh and some good food with beloved colleagues soon. Just the thought gives me a smile!

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Updated AAMC Faculty Salary Report

The AAMC has released its updated Faculty Salary Report for FY2021. This is a tremendously popular signature AAMC resource that CFAS reps are able to access online for a dramatically reduced member rate. The member price is $45 for a yearlong subscription to all data (the non-member price is $1,150). By following the link below, you'll see red text about the member pricing on the lower righthand side. You must log in with your AAMC username and password to gain access to the data at the reduced price. Visit the AAMC Store.

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How to Manage Emails from the AAMC (and Keep Your CFAS News Subscription)

Recently we have received a few inquiries about CFAS reps falling off distribution lists for our newsletters, most notably CFAS News, and in many cases, we have discovered that the reason is because someone inadvertently unsubscribed themselves from more AAMC emails than they intended to. To improve the processes by which constituents can select which AAMC emails they receive or don't receive, the AAMC launched its Email Preference Center, which allows constituents to be more specific with which AAMC emails they unsubscribe from. CFAS reps should be able to access this Email Preference Center by scrolling to the bottom of any AAMC email and clicking on "Manage your email preferences" in the footer of the message.

For more information about the AAMC's Email Preference Center, or for general questions about subscribing to or unsubscribing from AAMC emails, please reach out to Alex Bolt at abolt@aamc.org. While we don't want you to have a cluttered inbox, we have learned from experience that many of you without meaning to opt out of important CFAS-related messages you miss when they don't arrive.

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Tell Us How You’re Doing During the Pandemic

During the pandemic, we ask you to keep the lines of communication open so we can provide you with the resources and information that would be most useful. It is helpful for the AAMC to understand in detail what is happening on the ground at the medical schools, teaching hospitals, and academic societies we serve. Please email Eric at eweissman@aamc.org, or call directly at 301-437-2572 with updates or feedback from your perspective. You can also reach out with questions or comments to CFAS Communications Specialist Alex Bolt.

If you are looking for information about CFAS, find what you need on our website, from the names of CFAS leaders, to updates on committee and working group initiatives, to upcoming offerings and meetings, and finally, current and previous editions of CFAS News.

Do you have an article or study coming out? A new promotion or professional accomplishment? Let us know and we'll feature it in an upcoming edition of the CFAS Rep Bulletin.

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