AAMC News and Leadership Announcements, 2013 January 9

Actuaries with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) report in the new issue of Health Affairs that “In 2011 US health care spending grew 3.9 percent to reach $2.7 trillion, marking the third consecutive year of relatively slow growth. Growth in national health spending closely tracked growth in nominal gross domestic product (GDP) in 2010 and 2011, and health spending as a share of GDP remained stable from 2009 through 2011, at 17.9 percent.”

AAMC is sponsoring a free webinar on Wednesday, January 23 from 2:00-3:30pm ET on the “Report from the NIH Diversity in Biomedical Research Workforce Implementation Team.” Lawrence Tabak, D.D.S., Ph.D., NIH Principal Deputy Director, will speak and Ann Bonham, Ph.D., AAMC Chief Scientific Officer, will moderate. Last year, the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director established a working group on diversity to identify immediate and long-term strategies for improving diversity of the NIH’s investigator pool. The working group presented recommendations to the Director in June. Dr. Tabak, a co-chair of the working group, will discuss a report of the NIH Diversity in the Biomedical Research Workforce implementation team with the rest of the time being dedicated to Q&A. Dr. Bonham was also a member of the working group.
http://tinyurl.com/NIH-Diversity-Webinar (password: nih2013)

The Boston Globe reported on Wednesday that Dr. Donald M. Berwick “is strongly considering a run for governor [of Massachusetts] in 2014.” Dr. Berwick, a pediatrician, ran the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in the first half of Obama’s first term, but was not confirmed by the Senate.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune on Wednesday reported, “In a quiet finale to a troubled tenure, the University of Minnesota is parting ways with Francois Sainfort and Julie Jacko, the star faculty couple investigated for double-dipping salaries in Minnesota and Georgia. The pair’s resignations were announced by e-mail inside the School of Public Health and confirmed Tuesday by university officials. The professors faced pending disciplinary charges at the time of their departure, said General Counsel Mark Rotenberg.” The article further reported, “The two professors were hotly recruited by the U more than five years ago for their potential to attract millions of dollars in research funding. Within three months of their arrival, however, they became suspects in a drama that evolved into grand jury indictments in Georgia, reprimands and demotions at the U, restitution payments and the conviction of Sainfort last year under a plea agreement.”

It was announced on Tuesday that the search for a new president of the University of Florida has been suspended. Dr. Bernie Machen, who announced his retirement last year, has agreed to remain in his position at the request of Gov. Rick Scott and UF board of trustees.

The New York Times reported on Tuesday, “Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo will announce in his State of the State Message this week that every hospital in New York must adopt aggressive procedures for identifying sepsis in patients, including the use of a countdown clock to begin treatment within an hour of spotting it, a state official said. In a related development, state regulators will develop new procedures for parents to ‘play a meaningful and informed role’ in decisions made about care for their children, according to a draft of the message to be delivered by the governor.” The paper reports that the initiatives were prompted by the death of a 12 year old boy last year of severe septic shock after being discharged from the emergency room at NYU Langone Medical Center.

An article in Tuesday’s Boston Globe reported that in Massachusetts, “Drug companies are once again taking medical clients out for meals, a move that pleases restaurants and worries health advocates.” The Bay State changed its regulations limiting such practices last year.

The consolidation of Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities is official following Tuesday’s approval of a resolution by the University System of Georgia Board of Regents to form Georgia Regents University. Georgia Regents University is one of four public comprehensive research universities in the Peach Tree State, with nearly 10,000 students enrolled in its nine colleges, including the Medical College of Georgia.

Crain’s Chicago Business reported on Tuesday that Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services has issued a new report on underfunded pension funds for hospitals in the country, based on 2010 financials. The article reported that five Chicago-area hospitals and health care networks have pension funds that “are less than 80 percent funded and are considered at risk of default, according to federal regulations.”

According to a National Cancer Institute press release, “The Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, 1975-2009, shows that overall cancer death rates continued to decline in the United States among both men and women, among all major racial and ethnic groups, and for all of the most common cancer sites, including lung, colon and rectum, female breast, and prostate. However, the report also shows that death rates continued to increase during the latest time period (2000 through 2009) for melanoma of the skin (among men only) and for cancers of the liver, pancreas, and uterus.”

In an article posted this week in the journal Open Biology, Dr. James Watson wrote, “Although the mortality from many cancers, particularly those of haematopoietic cells, has been steadily falling, the more important statistic may be that so many epithelial cancers (carcinomas) and effectively all mesenchymal cancers (sarcomas) remain largely incurable. Even though an increasing variety of intelligently designed, gene-targeted drugs now are in clinical use, they generally only temporarily hold back the fatal ravages of major cancers such as those of the lung, colon and breast that have become metastatic and gone beyond the reach of the skilled surgeon or radiotherapist. Even though we will soon have comprehensive views of how most cancers arise and function at the genetic and biochemical level, their ‘curing’ seems now to many seasoned scientists an even more daunting objective than when the ‘War on Cancer’ was started by President Nixon in December 1971.”

Richard Nixon was born 100 years ago on Wednesday. During his 1960 campaign against John F. Kennedy, Nixon issued a short policy paper on medical research and medical education. It is fascinating reading for those of us who were in diapers at the time.

MedStar Heart Institute at MedStar Washington Hospital Center and the Sydell and Arnold Miller Family Heart & Vascular Institute at Cleveland Clinic have announced “a first-of-its-kind clinical and research alliance.” According to the announcement, “The two organizations will share best practices related to the various disciplines within cardiology and cardiac surgery, and MedStar physicians will work with Cleveland Clinic on quality outcomes and protocols to accelerate improvements in heart care and research.” This new agreement builds on a 2011 agreement between MedStar Health and the Cleveland Clinic that formed an Innovation Alliance to develop new ideas, strategies and technology for the healthcare marketplace.

An article in the new issue of Health Affairs assessed the success of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003, which “redistributed nearly 3,000 residency positions among the nation’s hospitals, largely in an effort to train more residents in primary care and in rural areas.” The authors found that “out of 304 hospitals receiving additional positions, only 12 were rural, and they received fewer than 3 percent of all positions redistributed. Although primary care training had net positive growth after redistribution, the relative growth of nonprimary care training was twice as large and diverted would-be primary care physicians to subspecialty training.”

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, University of Mississippi Chancellor Dan Jones and other state and local dignitaries unveiled plans and broke ground on Tuesday on a $63 million building that will permit larger class sizes at the University of Mississippi School of Medicine. According to the school, “The new 151,000 square-foot building will provide state-of-the-art, flexible and technology-rich classrooms and laboratories. The new space will allow the School of Medicine to increase its incoming class sizes from 135 students per year to more than 165. The five-story building is scheduled for completion in 2016.”

The NIH on Tuesday added two new human Embryonic Stem Cell (hESC) lines to the NIH Stem Cell Registry, bringing the total number of lines now available to federally-funded researchers to 200. The two new lines were produced by GENEA, the Australian fertility and research center. A total of 21 lines were available under the previous administration’s stem cell policy.

Geron Corporation has announced that on January 4th it entered into an agreement to sell its stem cell assets to BioTime.

The Associated Press reported on Monday, “Cuba is eliminating longstanding restrictions on health care professionals’ overseas travel as part of a broader migration reform that takes effect next week…” The article noted, “For many years Cuban doctors have been limited in their ability to travel or had to undergo cumbersome bureaucratic procedures. They are routinely denied permission to travel or receive it only if they plan to leave for good and after a five-year process of being released from their duties. The restrictions were justified as necessary to prevent brain drain from a sector that is the pride of Cuba’s Communist leaders, and which lost thousands of skilled professionals in the 1960s as the country increasingly embraced socialism following the Cuban Revolution.”

Leonard Napolitano, Ph.D., died on Monday a day before his 83rd birthday. Dr. Napolitano served as dean of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine from 1972-1994. Before becoming dean, he was a professor of anatomy at the school. He is survived by three children, including Janet Napolitano, the current Secretary of Homeland Security and the former governor of Arizona.

Baylor College of Medicine on Tuesday announced the appointment of Wayne Keathley to the position of president of the Baylor College of Medicine Medical Center and Health Network. Mr. Keathley will lead BCM’s clinical expansion efforts, primarily focused at the BCM Medical Center on the McNair Campus. Mr. Keathley currently serves as president and chief operating officer of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. David L. Reich, MD, has been named Interim President of Mount Sinai Hospital.

Mayo Clinic has announced the appointment of Gregory Gores, M.D., as executive dean for research. He succeeds Robert Rizza, M.D., who stepped down to focus on research and patient care. Dr. Gores, previously chair of Mayo’s Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, oversees research across Mayo Clinic and Mayo Clinic Health System.

Steven McLaughlin, M.D., recently was appointed Chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of New Mexico (UNM) School of Medicine. Dr. McLaughlin is a UNM Regents Professor and most recently served as Vice Chair for Education within the department, and as Interim Associate Dean for Continuing Medical Education and Simulation within the School of Medicine. Dr. McLaughlin succeeds former Emergency Medicine Chair, Michael Richards, M.D., M.P.A., who recently became Executive Physician-in-Chief for the UNM Health System.

Mauricio Tohen, M.D., DrPH, MBA, recently was appointed the new chair of the Department of Psychiatry at UNM’s Health Sciences Center. Dr. Tohen, who previously was the head of the Division of Mood & Anxiety Disorders and the Krus Endowed Tenured Professor in Psychiatry at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, is expected to start February 1.

Leonard Y. Lee, MD, has been named associate professor of surgery at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (RWJMS) and chief of the division of cardiothoracic surgery at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH). Dr. Lee most recently has been at Hackensack University Medical Center, where he served as chief of the division of cardiothoracic surgery and surgical director of the Heart & Vascular Hospital.

Russell E. Armistead has been named chief executive officer of Shands Jacksonville. Mr. Armistead replaces James R. Burkhart, who was appointed the head of Tampa General Hospital on Jan. 2. Since 2004, Mr. Armistead has served as associate vice president for finance and planning for the University of Florida Health Science Center in both Gainesville and Jacksonville.

Matthew State, MD, PhD, a child psychiatrist, has been named the new chair of the Department of Psychiatry and director of the Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute at UCSF. Acording to UCSF, Dr. State “will play a key role in integrating psychiatry into the University’s preeminent neuroscience program.” His appointment begins on March 18. He is currently the Donald J. Cohen Professor of Child Psychiatry in the Department of Psychiatry and Genetics at Yale’s School of Medicine. He also is deputy chairman for research in the Department of Psychiatry and co-director of the Program on Neurogenetics at Yale.

And finally…In its 23rd annual words of the year vote, the American Dialect Society voted “hashtag” as the word of the year for 2012. Hashtag refers to the practice used on Twitter for marking topics or making commentary by means of a hash symbol (#) followed by a word or phrase. The society also made other awards. The winner for the most creative word was “gate lice: airline passengers who crowd around a gate waiting to board,” narrowly beating out “mansplaining: a man’s condescending explanation to a female audience.” The award for the most euphemistic word of the year: “self-deportation: policy of encouraging illegal immigrants to return voluntarily to their home countries.”

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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