AAMC News and Leadership Announcements, 2013 March 6

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

AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, M.D., on Friday issued a statement about the impact of sequestration on the missions of academic medicine. He said, in part, “Sequestration will have a serious effect on medical schools and teaching hospitals and the patients they serve. If they remain in place, these devastating cuts to medical research funding and support for doctor training to be implemented under sequestration will not just have an impact this year, they will have consequences for many years to come.” The full statement is available on-line.

Sally Rockey, Ph.D., NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research, on Monday sent a letter to the signing officials at NIH-funded institutions about the sequestration order signed by the President on Friday. Dr. Rockey told the officials, “At this time, the Department of Health and Human Services and NIH are taking every step to mitigate the effects of these cuts, but based on our initial analysis, it is possible that your grants or cooperative agreement awards may be affected. Examples of this impact could include: not issuing continuation awards, or negotiating a reduction in the scope of your awards to meet the constraints imposed by sequestration. Additionally, plans for new grants or cooperative agreements may be re-scoped, delayed, or canceled depending on the nature of the work and the availability of resources.”

An article in the Business Section of Sunday’s Washington Post was titled, “How austerity could take the zip out of scientific advances.” The article discussed how the US’s lagging pace of investment in R&D threatens our global competitiveness.

In an essay posted by Forbes on Wednesday, three research leaders warned that cuts to scientific research in the U.S. are a real threat to the future. The essay was written by Marc Tessier-Lavigne, President, The Rockefeller University and former Chief Scientific Officer, Genentech Inc.; P. Roy Vagelos, Chairman, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, and Retired Chairman and CEO, Merck & Co., Inc.; and Elias Zerhouni, President R&D Sanofi and former Director of the NIH. They wrote, “As current and former leaders of major commercial and academic life science institutions, the three of us know that to retain that competitiveness, we can’t afford to shrink our basic science investment at a time when other countries like India and China are rapidly increasing theirs…America’s last century has been a story of leadership and innovation. Our future, our health, and our competitiveness all depend on the work of NIH and other science agencies. These institutions remain the backbone of U.S. scientific preeminence and competitiveness. Congress and the Administration must act quickly and assertively to renew our investment in basic scientific research.”

The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai has announced a new early admissions program called “FlexMed.” The program is “offering college sophomores with any undergraduate major early acceptance, no MCAT, and progressive pre-med requirements for half of each entering class.” The school says the program builds on the success of Mount Sinai’s Humanities and Medicine (HuMed) program.

Marjorie A. Speers, Ph.D., on Tuesday announced that she intends to retire as President and CEO of the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Programs (AAHRPP) at the end of this year or when a successor has been named. Dr. Speers has led the organization since its founding in 2001, establishing AAHRPP as a champion for quality research and rigorous human research protections worldwide.

Thursday’s issue of Nature is a special issue focused on Women in Science. Nature reports, “Science remains institutionally sexist. Despite some progress, women scientists are still paid less, promoted less frequently, win fewer grants and are more likely to leave research than similarly qualified men.” The issue “takes a hard look at the gender gap — from bench to boardroom — and at what is being done to close it.”

The NIH on Monday posted a new Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) on the “NIH Director’s Biomedical Research Workforce Innovation Award: Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training (BEST) (DP7).” According to NIH, “The purpose of this FOA is to seek, identify and support bold and innovative approaches to broaden graduate and postdoctoral training, such that training programs reflect the range of career options that trainees (regardless of funding source) ultimately may pursue and that are required for a robust biomedical, behavioral, social and clinical research enterprise.” NIH said, “This program will establish a new paradigm for graduate and postdoctoral training; awardee institutions will work together to define needs and share best practices.” Letters of intent are due by April 10 and applications by May 10.

The Massachusetts secretary for environmental affairs, according to the Boston Globe, “issued a certificate Friday indicating that an environmental impact report submitted by BU for the National Emerging Infectious Disease Laboratory is complete enough to comply with state law.” According to the Globe, “BU said it now would begin performing research in the lab on less dangerous ‘level 3’ germs.” The facility was designed to be a BSL-4 level lab.

The fifth annual report of the Harrison survey —jointly sponsored by the AAMC and the Society for Academic CME (SACME), in collaboration with the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada (AFMC)— is now available. The report reviews changes in Academic CME over a five-year period. These include: an emerging focus on quality and patient improvement; a continued and multifaceted presence in regional communities; and a commitment to evidence-based CME, demonstrated by the increasing use of effective educational methods and (for some units) sizable scholarship activity.

The Gainesville Sun reported on Thursday, “The University of Florida has to release the locations of its animal research labs after a court battle” with an animal rights activist “ended with an appeals court ruling that the locations are public record.” A University spokesperson “…said UF was disappointed in the ruling but would remain vigilant in protecting its researchers.” The person who brought the suit recently served prison time for illegal acts committed as part of her protest of research at Wayne State.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has updated the 2001 report, Making Health Care Safer: A Critical Analysis of Patient Safety Practices. A list of 22 patient safety strategies are discussed in the new report “that are ready for adoption.”

Former Senate majority leaders Tom Daschle and Bill Frist wrote an op-ed in Monday’s Washington Post calling for the Senate to confirm Marilyn Tavenner as head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The essay noted that CMS has not had a Senate-confirmed administrator since 2006.

The National Academy of Sciences turned 150 on March 3rd. Dr. Ralph Cicerone, president of the NAS, authored an editorial in PNAS on the mission of the Academy and its continued relevance and value.

The Institute of Medicine has established a “Roundtable on Population Health Improvement” to “provide opportunities for experts on education, urban planning, medicine, public health, social sciences, and other fields to interact and share their knowledge and perspectives with the goal of catalyzing joint action.”

AAMC has announced three workforce improvement funding opportunities available through the AAMC’s cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These Workforce Improvement Projects (WIPs) focus on various areas of public health practice. The announcement of the 2013 WIPs is one method used by CDC to solicit proposals from eligible applicants from members of academic partner institutions in topic areas that are of interest to the CDC Centers, Institutes and Offices (CIOs). The WIPs are available to AAMC members or members of these other academic organizations: the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the Association of Schools of Public Health, and the Association of Prevention Teaching and Research. A list of the funding opportunities (WIPs) and information on how to apply are available on-line. The application deadline is March 22, 2013 at 8:00pm EST.

An article in Wednesday’s San Francisco Chronicle discussed the opening of the new Stanford Center for Health Research on Women and Sex Differences in Medicine (WSDM – pronounced “wisdom”), which officially opens Wednesday with a conference on sex, gender and the brain.

The 21st Annual Congress on Women’s Health will take place March 22-24, at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, DC. A limited number of complimentary registrations are available to minority physicians, physicians from teaching hospitals, and physicians from underserved areas. Contact awh@academyofwomenshealth.org for details.

Duke University has announced that the neurology division of the Department of Medicine will become a full department this summer.

A lengthy article in Tuesday’s Washington Post, produced by Kaiser Health News, was titled, “Anger management courses are a new tool for dealing with out-of-control doctors.” The article reported that tolerance of physician rage is waning, in part due to increased attention by the Joint Commission to the issue.

The CDC has posted a new Vital Signs report that shows that antibiotics are being overpowered by lethal germs called carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE). In a press release aimed at the public, the CDC reported, “Even though these infections are not common, their rise is alarming because they kill up to half of people who get severe infections from them. In addition to causing lethal infections among patients, CRE are especially good at giving their antibiotic-fighting abilities to other kinds of germs.”

A perspective essay in the new issue of The New England Journal of Medicine asserts that “Given the pass rates among examinees and the exam’s cost, we believe that Step 2 CS [Clinical Skills] provides a poor return on investment and little appreciable value to the U.S. health care system — and should therefore be eliminated.” The authors, Elmer Philip Lehman, IV, M.D., M.P.P., and Jason Ross Guercio, M.D., M.B.A., both of Duke, assert that “…Of 17,852 examinees taking the exam in a given year, we predict that only 32 per year would not pass the exam on a repeat attempt. Even if no examinee had to use a loan to pay for the exam, the cost of identifying a single ‘double failure’ would be $635,977…” The authors conclude, “Although an annual cost of $36 million may seem negligible in the context of the multitrillion-dollar health care industry, that is not a justification for it to continue unquestioned. To paraphrase a quip often attributed to Everett Dirksen: a million here, a million there — pretty soon, you’re talking real money.”

An essay in the San Francisco Chronicle on Saturday discussed the EngageUC project, which “brings together researchers, policymakers, institutional officials and, most importantly, community members of the Bay Area and California to engage in an open, active, long-term discussion of” the informed consent process, especially regarding tissue donation. The essay was written by Elizabeth A. Boyd, UC associate vice chancellor for ethics and compliance, and Daniel Dohan, an associate professor of health policy and social medicine at UCSF. They are co-directors of EngageUC.

An article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on Sunday discussed issues relating to the recruitment of mentally ill patients into research studies. The article reviews a 2004 case involving the suicide of a patient in a study on the effectiveness of antipsychotic drugs. The article noted that as a result of the case, “the Minnesota Legislature has since made it illegal for a psychiatrist to recruit his own patients into his own clinical trials.”

Inside Higher Ed reported on Wednesday, “A new report by the American Association of University Professors recommends curtailing the power of institutional review boards (IRB) and entrusting researchers with the ability to decide whether individual projects involving human subjects should be exempt from regulation.”

The Chattanooga Times Free Press on Sunday posted an interview with Kevin Spiegel, who will become the new President and CEO of Erlanger on April 1. The Erlanger Health System is a non-profit, academic teaching center affiliated with the University of Tennessee College of Medicine.

Dr. Neal L. Weintraub has been appointed to the Herbert S. Kupperman Endowed Chair in Cardiovascular Science in the Department of Medicine at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University. Dr. Weintraub, a cardiologist, physician-scientist and biotech entrepreneur, also has been named Associate Director of the MCG Vascular Biology Center. He is currently Director of the Division of Cardiovascular Diseases at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

Scott Hunt has announced he is retiring in January after 25 years as executive director and CEO of The Endocrine Society.

Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital have announced agreements with the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, which is owned by CHRISTUS Health System. Baylor will recruit, employ and oversee physicians and TCH will provide consulting and clinical expertise.

A new article from Health Affairs “…examined trends in male and female mortality rates from 1992–96 to 2002–06 in 3,140 US counties. We found that female mortality rates increased in 42.8 percent of counties, while male mortality rates increased in only 3.4 percent. Several factors, including higher education levels, not being in the South or West, and low smoking rates, were associated with lower mortality rates. Medical care variables, such as proportions of primary care providers, were not associated with lower rates. These findings suggest that improving health outcomes across the United States will require increased public and private investment in the social and environmental determinants of health—beyond an exclusive focus on access to care or individual health behavior.”

UPDATED URL: A new AAMC Analysis in Brief explores how academic institutions support investigators who experience an interruption in sponsored research funding. Results suggest that medical schools consider bridge support an important strategy to help sustain research programs, and in 80 percent of participating institutions, bridge award amounts were limited to $100,000 or less. Given the extraordinary difficult fiscal environment for medical research, bridge funding programs may be critical for the survival of promising research projects.

The AAMC Early Career Women Faculty Professional Development Seminar, a three and a half-day program designed for women at the assistant professor or instructor level, is now accepting applications. The program goal is to provide an introduction to the knowledge and skills needed to follow the path to leadership in academic medicine. The seminar is targeted at physicians and Ph.D. scientists holding medical school appointments and considering leadership positions within their discipline, department or institution. The on-line application period will be open until Monday, April 1, 2013.

The National Academy of Inventors, founded in 2010 in order to recognize investigators at universities and non-profit research institutes who translate their research findings into inventions that may benefit society, has announced its 2012 Charter Fellows. The Fellows represent 56 research universities and non-profit research institutes and, collectively, hold over 3,200 U.S. patents.

AAMC’s Diversity Policy and Programs (DPP) has launched a Minority Faculty Career Development Webinar Series. The next webinar is scheduled for Friday, March 8 from 2-3pm EST on the topic, “Building Your Research-based Career.” The session will feature Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D., University Professor, Albert and Wilda Van Dusen Distinguished Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, Professor of Chemical, Materials and Biomolecular Engineering, the University of Connecticut. The webinar is free, but pre-registration is required.

The Department of Justice on Tuesday announced, “that it has reached a settlement with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey School (UMDNJ) under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  The settlement resolves complaints that the UMDNJ School of Medicine and the UMDNJ School of Osteopathic Medicine unlawfully excluded applicants because they have hepatitis B.” According to the Department, “This is the first ADA settlement ever reached by the Justice Department on behalf of people with hepatitis B.” The release further reported, “In 2011, the two applicants in this matter applied and were accepted to the UMDNJ School of Osteopathic Medicine, and one of them was also accepted to the UMDNJ School of Medicine. The schools later revoked the acceptances when the schools learned that the applicants have hepatitis B.”

In collaboration with the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) and DataStar, the AAMC has announced the release of the Diversity Engagement Survey. The DES is a 22-item survey grounded in workforce engagement theory along with demographic information to assist institutions in determining the strategic direction for a diversity plan.

Kevin N. Sheth, MD, was recently appointed Chief of the Division of Neurocritical Care and Emergency Neurology and Chief of Clinical Research in the Department of Neurology at the Yale School of Medicine. He will also serve as the Program Director of the Neurocritical Care Fellowship, and Director of the Neurosciences Intensive Care Unit at Yale New Haven Hospital. He joins Yale from the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Ramon E. Parsons, MD, PhD, has been named Chair of the Department of Oncological Sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Dr. Parsons is a researcher in cancer genetics. He is formerly a Professor of Breast Cancer Research, Medicine, Pathology, and Cell Biology in Columbia’s Institute for Cancer Genetics and in The Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center (HICCC) at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

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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+AAMC Second Opinion, news and perspectives from AAMC’s Chief Public Policy Officer
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