AAMC News and Leadership Announcements, 2013 January 18

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

Moody’s Investor Services on Wednesday issued a new report concerning higher education in the US. According to the report, “For 2013, Moody’s revises its outlook for the entire US higher education sector to negative, marking a shift to negative from stable for even the sector’s market leading diversified colleges and universities. The outlook for the remaining majority of the sector remains negative, as it has been since 2009. The new sector-wide negative outlook reflects mounting pressure on all key university revenue sources, requiring bolder actions by university leaders to reduce costs and increase operating efficiency. As the economic growth languishes below previous benchmarks and the federal government seeks to reduce spending in key areas, even market leading universities with diversified revenues are facing diminished prospects for revenue growth. Universities have been restraining costs in response to the weak economic conditions since the 2008-09 financial crisis, but they have only recently begun examining the cost structure of their traditional business model.”

The State University of New York Downstate Medical Center (Downstate), which includes the University Hospital of Brooklyn, “faces insolvency as early as May if immediate actions are not taken,” according to an audit assessing the hospital’s financial condition released Thursday by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. “SUNY Downstate’s fiscal condition is dire and it needs all hands on deck if it is going to survive,” Mr. DiNapoli said. He added, “Management has made poor financial decisions that often times weren’t justified by economic conditions. As a result, the hospital is hemorrhaging millions of dollars every week. This hospital is a key part of the health care delivery system in the city and is a major employer in Brooklyn. The time to act is now if Downstate is going to achieve fiscal stability.” Nancy L. Zimpher, SUNY’s chancellor, released a statement, that said, in part, “Many of the Comptroller’s findings – none of which we dispute or consider to be a surprise – are issues already remedied or currently being addressed at Downstate. SUNY System Administration has recruited a strong new leadership team at Downstate that is developing a comprehensive, fiscally responsible plan to ensure medical education and quality healthcare continues for the people of Brooklyn.”

HHS on Thursday released four final rules updating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations. The four rules are:
1. Modifications to the HIPAA Privacy, Security, and Enforcement Rules mandated by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act.
2. Changes to the HIPAA Enforcement Rule to incorporate the increased and tiered civil money penalty structure provided by the HITECH Act.
3. Final rule on Breach Notification for Unsecured Protected Health Information under the HITECH Act, which replaces the breach notification rule’s ‘harm’ threshold with “a more objective standard.”
4. Modifications to the HIPAA Privacy Rule as required by the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) to prohibit most health plans from using or disclosing genetic information for underwriting purposes.

The OMB Deputy Director for Management on Monday issued a memorandum to all executive departments and agencies concerning fiscal year 2013 budget uncertainty. The memo noted that “executive departments and agencies will confront significant uncertainty regarding the amount of budgetary resources available for the remainder of the fiscal year. In particular, unless Congress acts to amend current law, the President is required to issue a sequestration order on March 1, 2013, canceling approximately $85 billion in budgetary resources across the Federal Government. Further uncertainty is created by the expiration of the Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2013 on March 27, 2013.” OMB offered some guiding principles for agencies, one of which states: “review grants and contracts to determine where cost savings may be achieved in a manner that is consistent with the applicable terms and conditions, remaining mindful of the manner in which individual contracts or grants advance the core mission of the agency.”

President Obama’s gun-control proposals and actions on Wednesday contained the following gun research proposals, according to the Washington Post: direct the Centers for Disease Control and scientific agencies to conduct research into the causes and prevention of gun violence; ask Congress to provide $10 million to CDC for additional research on relationship between video games, media images and violence; and ask Congress to provide $20 million to expand the National Violent Death Reporting System to all 50 states. According to the Post, the President also has or will take the following actions regarding mental health: clarify that the health-care law does not prohibit doctors from asking their patients about guns in their homes; launch a national dialogue about mental illness; finalize requirements for private health insurance plans to cover mental health services; and, ensure that Medicaid recipients get quality mental health coverage. In addition, Obama is asking Congress to: provide $55 million for new initiative (Project AWARE) to make sure students get treatment for mental health issues; provide $25 million for state-based strategies supporting individuals ages 16-25 with mental health or substance abuse issues; provide $25 million to offer students mental health services for trauma or anxiety; and, provide $50 million to train 5,000 additional mental health professionals serving children and young adults.

The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center has announced “a settlement with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) regarding the Medical Center’s self-reported mistaken referral of a limited number of proficiency test samples to other hospital laboratories. The samples were not patient specimens, and at no time was patient care affected.” According to OSU, “…the settlement includes additional training for lab staff in proficiency testing, a monetary payment of $268,000 and appointment of a new medical director for the laboratory.” Dr. Daniel Sedmak, a professor of pathology, has been named as the new medical director of the laboratory. He succeeds Dr. Amy Gewirtz, who will remain at the medical center.

A new report released on Wednesday from an Institute of Medicine panel finds, “A review of the available evidence underscores the safety of the federal childhood immunization schedule.” The report also offers a framework for conducting safety research using existing or new data collection systems “should signals indicate the need for investigation of the schedule,”

The FDA on Wednesday approved the first seasonal flu vaccine comprised of recombinant proteins. It is the first influenza vaccine made without the use of live influenza virus and the first egg-free influenza vaccine. The vaccine, Flublok, was developed by Protein Sciences Corporation. Its development was partially funded by the federal Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and NIH grant awards.

Two interviews with NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins were published on Wednesday. One appeared in Politico, a newspaper popular on Capitol Hill. Dr. Collins discussed the possible effects of sequestration on biomedical research. A second interview appears in the new issue of Nature. Dr. Collins discussed the two recent Advisory Committee to the Director working group reports concerning the biomedical workforce and diversity.

Joel Kupersmith, MD, Chief Research and Development Officer of the Veterans Health Administration, has posted an essay on the Health Affairs web site concerning “New Approaches To Learning In The Learning Healthcare System.” Dr. Kupersmith discussed initiatives related to Point-of-Care Research (POC-R).

Thursday’s Pittsburgh Post Gazette reported, “Highmark and West Penn Allegheny Health System officials have reached an agreement with bondholders on a debt-reduction deal…With the deal, officials said West Penn Allegheny will avoid a bankruptcy filing and preserve pensions for the health system’s 12,000 employees.” The paper noted, “The agreement is considered crucial to Highmark’s plans to acquire West Penn Allegheny, which the insurer plans to have as the crown jewel in a regional integrated health care delivery system it is putting together to compete with UPMC.”

An upcoming conference co-hosted by the AAMC and the Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response is aimed at priming academic medical centers (AMCs) and their communities for disaster preparedness. Intended for deans, CEOs, and senior executive leadership, the event seeks to improve federal agencies’ understanding of the capabilities and challenges facing AMCs when responding to a disaster situation. “A Critical Relationship for Successful Healthcare Preparedness,” will be held March 1-2 at Tulane University School of Medicine.

The AAMC Integrating Quality Meeting will be held June 6-7, 2013 in Chicago. The meeting is a highly interactive, interprofessional program that brings together health care leaders, faculty, educators, trainees and students from teaching hospitals, medical schools, health professions schools, and other health care organizations to share strategies for enhancing the culture of quality in clinical care and health professions education. Teams that lead these efforts are encouraged to attend together. The meeting organizers are seeking proposals for poster presentations, interactive workshops/sessions, and plenary presentations in the selected areas. The deadline for submitting an abstract has been extended to Friday, January 25, 2013. Registration will be available online in March.

An article in Wednesday’s LA Times reported that Jerry Brown, governor of California, “is challenging the UC and Cal State systems” and “hopes to use state purse strings to force down their expenses, hold the line on tuition and fees, and graduate more students more quickly. He wants more teaching, less research and more online courses to save money and increase offerings.” The article quoted the Governor as saying, “I’ve got a whole book showing how the university is spending money it doesn’t have to” referring to “certain kinds of research, sports, gardeners, a lot of things.”

The AAMC has issued a call for submissions for competency-based educational and assessment resources, as well as effective (or best) practices, policies and guidelines, that address the health of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender individuals, gender nonconforming and/or discordant children and adolescents, and those affected by disorders of sex development. Funded in part by the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, this initiative is designed to create an anthology of resources to guide academic medical institutions in providing high-quality and patient-centered care for these unique populations. The call for submissions is supported by MedEdPORTAL, the association’s cross-indexed suite of services that aims to equip healthcare educators and professionals across the continuum with effective and efficient educational tools to improve patient care. The AAMC is offering three web sessions for individuals to learn more about the initiative and review submission instructions.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune on Wednesday reported, “University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler on Tuesday denied contentions that administrative costs at the flagship institution have spiraled out of control, but also vowed to rein in spending.” The article reported that “Legislators have vowed to take a stern look at the university’s costs this session. Debate around the country over administrative bloat got personal when the Wall Street Journal zoomed in on the University of Minnesota, reporting that, among 72 major research institutions, the Twin Cities campus had the largest share of employees labeled as administrators and that the school had gone ‘on a spending spree over the past decade,’ inflating its ranks of administrators.” The article reported that “Kaler asserted Tuesday, the university is ‘more productive than ever.’ And he challenged the Wall Street Journal’s analysis, saying there was no standard definition of an administrator and that ‘schools categorize employees in vastly different ways.'”

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has issued a report finding that UC Davis Medical Center is in compliance with regulations governing patient safety and care.

The National Institutes of Health announced on Tuesday the appointment of Franziska B. Grieder, D.V.M., Ph.D., as director of the Office of Research Infrastructure Programs (ORIP) in the Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives. Dr. Grieder’s appointment was effective Jan. 13, 2013. She has been serving as ORIP Acting Director since July 2012. Prior to her tenure as acting director, Dr. Grieder served as the director of the Division of Comparative Medicine for eight years at the former NIH National Center for Research Resources (NCRR).

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center has announced the appointment of Dr. Paul Sabbatini, an oncologist, to the new position of Deputy Physician-in-Chief for Clinical Research. In this role, Dr. Sabbatini “will streamline and accelerate the clinical research process while ensuring the highest-quality program at Memorial Sloan-Kettering.” He has been at MSKCC since 1994.

Dr. Sylvia Smith, Interim Dean of the College of Graduate Studies and Co-Director of the Vision Discovery Institute at Georgia Regents University (GRU), has been named Chair of the Medical College of Georgia Department of Cellular Biology and Anatomy. Dr. Smith, a faculty member in the department for more than 20 years, assumes her new duties Feb. 1. She will maintain co-leadership of the Vision Discovery Institute with MCG Ophthalmology Chair Dr. Julian Nussbaum. GRU Provost Dr. Gretchen Caughman has selected Dr. Patricia Cameron, Acting Vice Dean of the College of Graduate Studies, to serve as the college’s Interim Dean while a national search for that position is completed. Dr. Smith succeeds Sally Atherton, PhD, as chair. Dr. Atherton is now executive director of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO).

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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