AAMC News and Leadership Announcements, 2012 December 23

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

The nation’s medical schools and teaching hospitals had a combined economic impact of $587 billion and supported nearly 3.5 million jobs directly or indirectly in 2011, according to a new economic impact analysis of AAMC-member institutions by the consulting firm Tripp Umbach. The report found that in 2011, one in every 40 wage earners in the United States worked either directly or indirectly for a U.S. medical school or teaching hospital.

President Obama on Friday named twelve researchers as recipients of the National Medal of Science and eleven inventors as recipients of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the highest honors bestowed by the United States Government upon scientists, engineers, and inventors. The recipients will receive their awards at a White House ceremony in early 2013. The National Medal of Science awardees are: Dr. Allen Bard, UT, Austin; Dr. Sallie Chisholm, MIT; Dr. Sidney Drell, Stanford; Dr. Sandra Faber, UC, Santa Cruz; Dr. Sylvester James Gates, University of Maryland; Dr. Solomon Golomb, University of Southern California; Dr. John Goodenough, UT, Austin; Dr. M. Frederick Hawthorne, University of Missouri; Dr. Leroy Hood, Institute for Systems Biology; Dr. Barry Mazur, Harvard; Dr. Lucy Shapiro, Stanford; and Dr. Anne Treisman, Princeton. Among the National Medal of Technology and Innovation awardees is Dr. Jan Vilcek, NYU Langone Medical Center.

A major article in Sunday’s New York Times reported, “Three drug makers are seeking to restore a mechanism [p53] that normally makes badly damaged cells self-destruct, a move that could be used against half of all cancers and have major implications for cancer philanthropy, experts say.” The article further reported, “No pharmaceutical company has ever conducted a major clinical trial of a drug in patients who have many different kinds of cancer, researchers and federal regulators say. ‘This is a taste of the future in cancer drug development,’ said Dr. Otis Webb Brawley, the chief medical and scientific officer of the American Cancer Society. ‘I expect the organ from which the cancer came from will be less important in the future and the molecular target more important,’ he added. And this has major implications for cancer philanthropy, experts say. Advocacy groups should shift from fund-raising for particular cancers to pushing for research aimed at many kinds of cancer at once, Dr. Brawley said.”

The Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act, formerly known as the Pancreatic Cancer Research & Education Act, passed Congress on Friday as part of the Defense Authorization Act and is on its way to President Obama to be signed into law. An earlier version of the measure drew opposition from NCI Director Dr. Harold Varmus, AAMC, and others. At a recent National Cancer Advisory Board meeting, according to The Cancer Letter, Dr. Varmus said the revised bill is “…something I can live with, but it’s not a bill that I’m particularly happy about.”

A powerful op-ed column in Friday’s New York Times by Dr. Danielle Ofri discussed the impact of Hurricane Sandy on research activities at NYU and elsewhere. She discussed the link between research and patient care and how recovering lost research will take years. She concluded, “Bellevue and Tisch are returning to their clinical operations and will be able to admit patients shortly. But even after the hospital wards and clinics are bustling at full capacity, the ribbon won’t feel ready to snip until the researchers are restored to their homes as well. For many patients, the thrum of research within a medical center is invisible. But it is an integral – and very human – part of a hospital. When a hurricane disrupts research, it is a loss that resonates well beyond the laboratories.”

The leadership of the University of Michigan authored an op-ed in Thursday’s Detroit Free Press on the fiscal cliff negotiations and the threat to biomedical research funding. The op-ed was written by Dr. Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, executive vice president for medical affairs at the University of Michigan and CEO of the U-M Health System; Dr. James Woolliscroft, dean of the University of Michigan Medical School; and Doug Strong, CEO of the University of Michigan’s Hospitals and Health Centers.

Another op-ed on medicine and the fiscal cliff appeared on the Huffington Post web site on Thursday. The essay was written by Dr. Steven J. Corwin, CEO of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital; Dr. Jeff Balser, Dean of the School of Medicine at Vanderbilt University; and Dr. Steven Gabbe CEO of The Ohio State University Medical Center.

The CBC newswire reported on Friday, “Approval was given Thursday for a plan to address shortcomings at the University of Saskatchewan’s medical school. At a special meeting, members of the University Council – made up of students, professors, administrators and others – voted in favour of adopting a range of reforms recently proposed school officials.” The article reported, “The restructuring process has been fraught with controversy over the past several months. An earlier version of the plan drew passionate opposition from many professors and students and was blocked at an unprecedented meeting of people from across the university. That prompted officials to go back to the drawing board and create the blueprint that was approved Thursday.”

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has posted a new podcast on the history, theory, and practice of Holistic Review. Holistic Review “is a flexible way of looking at an applicant’s capabilities, a method of assessing the whole person and how he or she might contribute value as a medical student and future physician. It allows institutions to dig deeper into the background of the applicant so as to ensure not only that he or she has the academic readiness to be successful in medical or dental school, but also has the personality and drive and ability to comport him or herself as a culturally competent physician or dentist.” The podcast features Marc Nivet, Ed.D. (Chief Diversity Officer, Association of American Medical Colleges) and W. David Brunson, DDS (Associate Director, Center for Equity and Diversity, American Dental Education Association).

The New York Times reported this week that “Mortimer B. Zuckerman, the real estate developer, owner of The Daily News and philanthropist, has pledged $200 million to endow an interdisciplinary Mind Brain Behavior Institute at Columbia University. Prof. Thomas Jessell, joined by Prof. Richard Axel and Prof. Eric Kandel, both Nobel laureates, are founders of the institute, which will be housed at the 450,000-square-foot Jerome L. Greene Science Center now under construction on Columbia’s campus in northern Manhattan.”

Sunday’s New York Times Magazine featured a major story about the late Dr. Ralph Steinman, who was a senior physician and research immunologist at Rockefeller University. The article describes how his “losing battle against cancer could save the rest of us.”

The NIH has announced it will hold a webinar on January 15 “to assist grantee institutions with guidance and resources related to the NIH Public Access Policy, upcoming changes, tools, and how non-compliance will affect awards.” NIH earlier announced that in the spring, at the earliest, it “will hold processing of non-competing continuation awards if publications arising from grant awards are not in compliance with the Public Access Policy.”

The Wall Street Journal on Thursday highlighted a recent article in the journal Surgery that focused on the number of avoidable surgical mistakes. The study authors reported, “We identified a total of 9,744 paid malpractice settlement and judgments for surgical never events occurring between 1990 and 2010. Malpractice payments for surgical never events totaled $1.3 billion. Mortality occurred in 6.6% of patients, permanent injury in 32.9%, and temporary injury in 59.2%. Based on literature rates of surgical adverse events resulting in paid malpractice claims, we estimated that 4,082 surgical never event claims occur each year in the United States. Increased payments were associated with severe patient outcomes and claims involving a physician with multiple malpractice reports.”

The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) has announced a moratorium on grants until concerns about the agency are addressed. The moratorium was requested by Texas Gov. Rick Perry. CPRIT on Friday announced the appointment of Wayne Roberts to be Interim Executive Director of the agency. Mr. Roberts served as associate vice president for public policy at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston from November 2008 to December 2012.

Howard K. Koh, MD, MPH, the HHS Assistant Secretary for Health, and Jennifer L. Gordon, PhD, of the HHS National Vaccine Program Office, wrote an essay that appears in the new issue of Public Health Reports, titled “Breaking Through the Status Quo: Improving Influenza Vaccination Coverage Among Health-Care Personnel.” The authors conclude, “In short, heightened attention to maximizing HCP [health-care personnel] influenza vaccination rates can create safer working environments. We must break through the status quo and increase HCP influenza vaccination coverage rates, which have been low for far too long. The time has come for all of us to work together to determine not if, but how improving HCP influenza vaccination rates can create the higher standards for quality and safety that everyone deserves.”

NIH on Friday published a “Notice of Intent to Publish a Funding Opportunity Announcement for NIH Director’s Workforce Innovation Award.” According to the notice, “The FOA is expected to be published in February 2013. Letters of Intent are encouraged and are due March 30. The application due date is April 30, 2013.” NIH is encouraging “investigators with expertise and insights in training predoctoral students and postdoctoral scholars to begin to consider developing relevant partnerships and applying for this FOA.”

The Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday, “Virtual doctor visit services – which connect patients from their homes with physicians whom they meet via online video or phone – are moving into the mainstream, as insurers and employers are increasingly willing to pay for them. In the latest sign, WellPoint Inc., the nation’s second-biggest health insurer, plans to offer a new service in all of its employer and individual plans that will allow people to consult with physicians on-demand, using laptop webcams or video-enabled tablets and smartphones.”

The New York Times on Sunday featured an essay on the effort of the National Rifle Association to block scientific research on gun violence. Most of their efforts have been aimed at the CDC.

The Sacramento Bee on Sunday featured an analysis of the findings of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services regarding “non-standard, experimental treatments” conducted by two neurosurgeons at UC, Davis. According to the article, “Virtually everyone interviewed at the hospital – from scrub nurses to pharmacists to top leadership – trusted their doctors to follow proper procedures, then failed to step in when they did not, investigators reported.” The paper has posted the full CMS report.

The Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) announced on Friday that it “is collaborating with members of the international medical education community to develop the Global Education in Medicine Exchange (GEMx), an exciting new service to facilitate and promote international exchange in medical education. GEMx will allow medical schools to promote their electives to students around the world, and to establish strong relationships with other schools to provide students with a wide range of high-quality international educational opportunities.” The ECFG said that development of the web-based GEMx application system is underway and it expects to launch a pilot of the new service in late 2013.

Crain’s Chicago Business this week reported, “University of Chicago Medical Center’s operating income fell almost 9 percent, to nearly $18 million, during first quarter of the 2013 fiscal year, as the South Side institution works to debut a new, $688 million hospital. Operating income declined to $17.6 million during the first quarter, which ended Sept. 30, from $19.2 million during the same year-earlier period, according to a financial statement given to bondholders on Nov. 30.”

The Toledo Blade on Sunday reported on efforts by the University of Toledo Medical Center and the compliance committee of the University of Toledo Physicians Clinical Faculty to ensure that medical billing is proper and appropriately documented.

The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology has released a summary of a conference they sponsored this summer focused on the exchange of information within the international scientific community regarding the targeting of individuals and organizations by animal rights extremists (ARE).

OU Medical System, one of Oklahoma’s largest and most comprehensive health care systems, has announced the selection of Charles L. Spicer, Jr., FACHE, as its next President and CEO effective January 1, 2013. Mr. Spicer will assume the role presently held by Cole C. Eslyn, who is retiring at the end of the year after 35 years in the health care industry. The OU Medical System includes OU Medical Center, The Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center and OU Medical Center – Edmond.

The National Association for Biomedical Research reported on Friday, “The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced [Friday] that it is amending its Animal Welfare Act (AWA) regulations to require all licensed and registered facilities to develop a contingency plan for emergencies so they can better protect their animals in disaster situations.”

On Dec. 18, Nobel Laureates from across the country sent President Obama a letter urging him to work with Congress to find a solution that avoids sequestration and the “devastating impact of across-the-board cuts.” In the letter, the prize winners attest to the importance of ongoing federal support for biomedical research and say they “strongly believe that America’s economy and security depend on our ability to continue the bipartisan support for research, discovery and invention that has long been fueled by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).”

The deadline for 2013 Taubman Prize nominations has been extended to Jan. 11, 2013. The $100,000 Taubman Prize for Excellence in Translational Medical Science is open to clinician-scientists worldwide, with the exception of University of Michigan faculty. Self-nominations are permitted.

The University of North Texas System Board of Regents has announced the appointment of Michael Williams, DO, MD, as Interim President of the UNT Health Science Center at Fort Worth. Dr. Williams has served on the UNT System Board of Regents for the past 15 months and has been CEO of Hill Country Memorial Hospital in Fredericksburg, Texas, since 2008. Dr. Williams is board certified by the American Board of Anesthesiology in anesthesiology and critical care medicine. He succeeds Dr. Scott Ransom, whose employment contract was terminated.

Dr. Larry Hollier has been named the new chief of the Baylor College of Medicine’s division of plastic surgery. A member of BCM’s faculty since 1998, Dr. Hollier is a professor in the plastic surgery division of the Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery and of pediatrics at BCM. He also serves as chief of the division of plastic surgery at Texas Children’s Hospital and director of BCM’s plastic surgery residency program.

David Burr, Ph.D., who served as the chair of the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at the Indiana University School of Medicine for 21 years, has been named associate vice chancellor for research at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). Dr. Burr, professor of anatomy and cell biology orthopaedic surgery at the IU School of Medicine, also holds an appointment as an adjunct professor of anthropology at the School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI and the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington. Dr. Burr served as one of the founders of the IUPUI Biomechanics and Biomaterials Research Center and was instrumental in the development of the current Biomedical Engineering Program at IUPUI and Purdue.

Chad LaGrange, M.D., has been named chief of the Division of Urology in the University of Nebraska Medical Center Department of Surgery. The appointment is effective Jan. 1. Dr. LaGrange joined the UNMC faculty in 2008. He succeeds George Hemstreet, M.D., who served as division chief for eight years before stepping down in October 2010.

Dr. Matthew E. Fink has been named chairman of the Department of Neurology at Weill Cornell Medical College and neurologist-in-chief at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. Dr. Fink has served as interim chairman of Neurology and Neuroscience at Weill Cornell and interim neurologist-in-chief at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell since 2008. He also serves as chief of the Division of Stroke and Critical Care Neurology at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell.

Richard S. Foster, chief actuary of the Medicare program for the last 18 years, has announced he will retire from federal service in January. The position is very influential and Mr. Foster has butted heads with leaders in both parties.

Tied to holiday gift giving, a Boston Globe article on Friday discussed the ethics and appropriateness of clinical faculty and staff accepting gifts from patients. The Center for Bioethics at Brigham and Women’s Hospital has produced a newsletter with advice for clinicians facing the dilemma.

Happy holidays!

Tony Mazzaschi

PS: Feel free to email <cas@aamc.org> if you have a problem accessing any article or resource mentioned in this summary. Also, have colleagues email <cas@aamc.org> if they would like to receive these news postings. We also welcome news tips and corrections.

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