AAMC News and Leadership Announcements, 2012 December 10

The current issue of AAMC News and Leadership Announcements is now available:

In an e-mail sent to staff on Thursday, leaders of the University of Michigan Health System reported that the System is running a deficit and must cut its expenses. The email said, “HHC leaders were asked to develop detailed expense management plans to adjust to new revenue realities. Those plans included attrition management; reductions in appointment effort, overtime, temporary staff and contract labor; and savings from improvements in supply chain efforts…All of our leaders have responded with plans that will significantly reduce our negative margin. But more work remains.” In a November 28th notice, “Moody’s Investors Service said it has downgraded the University of Michigan Hospitals (UM Hospitals) to Aa3 and Aa3/VMIG 1 from Aa2 and Aa2/VMIG 1…The downgrade reflects a marked decline in operating performance in fiscal year (FY) 2012 resulting in a very low adjusted operating cash flow margin of 2.9% after transfers (7.9% before transfers), continued low 3.0% cash flow margin in the first quarter of FY 2013, and expectations for continued pressures that will keep operating cash flow low in full FY 2013.”

A lengthy article in Sunday’s Miami Herald reported, “Science, technology, engineering and math – the fields collectively known as STEM – are all the rage these days. Florida state leaders are so eager for more STEM students that they may even create discounted college tuition for students who pursue those fields. In an economy that is still struggling to regain its footing, boosting STEM is seen by many as a path to jobs. Except … what if it isn’t? As STEM has become an education buzzword in recent years, a steady stream of research has emerged that challenges the notion of STEM as an economic elixir. In some STEM careers, the employment picture is downright lousy.”

Several weeks ago NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins started blogging. The postings have highlighted new scientific advances, research innovations, and data related to NIH’s mission and operations. For example, recent postings have included a report from Dr. Collins’ visit to NYU to review the hurricane damage first hand, a report from the recent 2012 mHealth Summit, a new video from NIH on how flu viruses spread, and data from NIH on prescription drug abuse by teens. The blog is quickly becoming must reading by those interested in research and NIH.

At the NIH Advisory Committee to the Director meeting on Thursday, it was announced that a new ACD working group is being formed on the optimal research training of individuals in clinical disciplines. The Working Group is being co-chaired by David Ginsburg, M.D., Professor of Internal Medicine and Human Genetics, University of Michigan; Sherry Mills, MD, MPH, Director, Office of Extramural Programs, NIH Office of Extramural Research; and, Susan B. Shurin, MD, Deputy Director, NHLBI.

Reuters this weekend reported that British health minister Jeremy Hunt has announced plans “to roll out telehealth to 100,000 people with long-term conditions in 2013 and have 3 million on the system by 2017. It will make Britain second only to the United States as an adopter of technology to monitor patients at home, luring technology and telecoms firms looking for somewhere to test ideas in a global market that may soon be worth tens of billions of dollars.”

Dr. Carl F. Nathan, chairman of the department of microbiology and immunology at Weill Cornell Medical College, wrote an op-ed in Monday’s New York Times urging that “we take a page out of the pathogen playbook” in an effort to “confront the critical shortage of new antibiotics when both the scientific approach and the economic model are letting us down…” Dr. Nathan wrote, “Many pathogens exchange DNA, sharing what they learn. Drug makers can operate in the same way: they can do science ‘open lab’ -style, working in teams with academic and government scientists and other drug companies to share what they learn and to bring fresh scientific ideas and technological tools to bear. Relaxing the traditional insistence on secrecy allows collaboration, and with it, innovation.”

The Oregonian newspaper on Saturday profiled several members of the entering class at the OHSU School of Medicine. The article reported, “With an average age of 26 — three years older than the national average — many students entering OHSU’s School of Medicine this fall started careers far different from medicine. Among the 132 first-year students — out of 4,500 applicants — are a lawyer, a neuroscientist, a vice president of Visa, a journalist, military veterans, teachers, nurses and world-class athletes. A little more than half are women. Fewer Oregon medical school students come directly from college. Historically, in 1970, the average first-year student at OHSU was 22, and in 1980 it was 24. For the past decade, it’s been 26.”

The IRS last week issued regulations on some taxes included in the Affordable Care Act. Saturday’s New York Times discussed the impact of the taxes, reporting, “For more than a year, politicians have been fighting over whether to raise taxes on high-income people. They rarely mention that affluent Americans will soon be hit with new taxes adopted as part of the 2010 health care law…Affluent people are much more likely than low-income people to have health insurance, and now they will, in effect, help pay for coverage for many lower-income families. Among the most affluent fifth of households, those affected will see tax increases averaging $6,000 next year, economists estimate. To help finance Medicare, employees and employers each now pay a hospital insurance tax equal to 1.45 percent on all wages. Starting in January, the health care law will require workers to pay an additional tax equal to 0.9 percent of any wages over $200,000 for single taxpayers and $250,000 for married couples filing jointly.”

Emory Healthcare CEO John Fox was interviewed by the Atlanta Journal Constitution in Sunday’s issue concerning quality improvement efforts and the role of quality surveys and metrics.

UMDNJ-Newark and ten female faculty members have settled a sex-discrimination suit for $4.65 million according to the Newark Star Ledger. The paper reported, “According the lawsuit, the women compiled data showing female faculty members who were hired by UMDNJ as full professors earned a mean salary of $135,652, while men in the same position earned a mean salary of $154,768. Women who were promoted to full professor from within the medical school did not fare much better, according to the lawsuit. Female professors earned $128,884, while men averaged $139,684. The lawsuit also alleged it took women at UMDNJ an average of 20½ years to earn the rank of full professor after receiving their doctoral degrees, while the average man was promoted to full professor in 15½ years.”

Saturday’s Sacramento Bee reported on a 92-page report from investigators for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services concerning the “activities of two UC Davis neurosurgeons, who performed untested treatments on three critically ill brain cancer patients.” According to the article, “UC Davis officials rejected some of the investigators’ harshest findings, responding in their ‘plan of correction’ that the agency’s findings were incorrect in some areas and that the medical center already had taken steps to correct problems.”

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and GlaxoSmithKline have announced an agreement to collaborate on new approach to cancer immune therapy. MD Anderson reported that “success could earn cancer center $335 million plus royalties.”

Saturday’s issue of the LA Times reported that Cedars-Sinai Medical “says five people were accidentally infected when tears in surgical gloves allowed bacteria on the doctor’s hands to pass into patient’s hearts. Four patients needed second operations.” The article further reported, “tiny tears in the latex surgical gloves routinely worn by the doctor allowed bacteria from a skin inflammation on his hand to pass into the patients’ hearts, according to the hospital. The patients survived the second operation and are still recovering, hospital officials said.”

Richard Gunderman, MD, PhD, of Indiana University, and a recent recipient of the Alpha Omega Alpha Distinguished Teacher Award, has an essay in The Atlantic titled, “Great Health Care Requires Great Medical Educators.” Dr. Gunderman wrote that there is much more to educating medical students than time, talent and treasure. He wrote, “A school can provide the perfect curriculum, state-of-the-art instructional methods, and unimpeachable testing, yet do a poor job of educating future physicians. One ingredient missing from this account is the creativity, commitment, and inspiration of medical educators. Education is not an industrial process, akin to pressing mounds of clay into a uniform shape. Instead it is a human process. Students are not identical to one another. Each brings distinctive interests, abilities, and experiences. Like the practice of medicine itself, great education means establishing a relationship between human beings.”

Barbara Murphy, MD, MB, BAO, BCh, FRCPI, a physician-scientist specializing in transplant immunology research, has been named the Chair of the Samuel F. Bronfman Department of Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. The appointment makes Dr. Murphy the first female chair of medicine of an academic medical center in New York City. She has been the acting chair of the Department of Medicine, the largest department at Mount Sinai, since June, and Chief of its Division of Nephrology since 2004. She succeeds Mark W. Babyatsky, M.D.

Annetine Gelijns, PhD, has been named Chair of the Department of Health Evidence and Policy at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. The appointment is effective immediately. She joined Mount Sinai in 2008 from Columbia. At Columbia, she had appointments in both the School of Public Health and the School of Medicine. While at Columbia, she founded and co-directed, with Dr. Alan Moskowitz, the International Center for Health Outcomes and Innovation Research (InCHOIR), which, now at Mount Sinai, continues to lead efforts in multi-center clinical trials. She succeeds Eric A. Rose, MD.

Patti DePompei has been named president of University Hospital’s Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital and MacDonald Women’s Hospital. Ms. DePompei, a nurse, most recently has been vice president of patient operations at UH.

Cathee Johnson Phillips, M.A., has announced she will step down from her role as Executive Director of the National Postdoctoral Association on April 30th, 2013. The search for her successor has begun.

The Cancer Letter on December 7 reported that Dr. Kenneth Aldape has been named chair of the Department of Pathology at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

Tony Mazzaschi

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