AAMC News and Leadership Announcements, 2013 May 19

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

The Texas House on Friday gave final approval to a constitutional amendment to open, as early as 2016, a medical school along the Texas border with Mexico. The House also passed a funding bill for the school, but that bill will need to be reconciled with the Senate version in a conference committee. The House version contains an amendment settling the location of the school: administrative offices for UME will be in Hidalgo County; administrative offices for GME will be in Cameron County; the first and second years of the medical school will be primarily based out of Hidalgo County; and, third and fourth years of the medical school will be primarily based out of Cameron County. The school will utilize, in part, existing facilities at the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg, the University of Texas at Brownsville, and the Regional Academic Health Center in Harlingen.

A group of researchers, editors and publishers on Thursday issued what they called the “San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment.” It attacks what they say is the misuse of the Journal Impact Factor as a method to assess the quality and impact of scientific outputs. The group issued 18 recommendations calling for the elimination of impact factors in funding, appointment, and promotion considerations, and urging that research be assessed on its own merits rather than on the journal in which the research is published.

The New Jersey/Bergen Record reported on Saturday, “In one of the most visible signs yet of the reorganization of the state’s medical schools, the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey notified more than 15,000 employees about their new assignments on Friday. On July 1, about 10,730 of them will report to Rutgers University, 3,460 to The University Hospital in Newark and 1,170 to Rowan University. Officials at UMDNJ said the vast majority will continue performing the same duties in the locations where they currently work, but will be employed by a different institution. They received hand-delivered letters notifying them of their transfers.”

Detroit newspapers reported on Friday that “The completion date for the nonprofit megamerger of Henry Ford and Beaumont health systems will likely be delayed, both organizations said Thursday. Announced in late October, the $6.6-billion deal had once been on pace for a formalized agreement by mid-May and a late summer or early fall closing, pending various state and federal regulatory approvals. While the merger is still on, that schedule is now off. Directors’ boards at both Henry Ford and Beaumont on Tuesday extended the deal’s ‘letter of intent,’ which was signed Oct. 31 and due to expire Wednesday.”

A new report from the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council shows that profits/excess revenues are shrinking at Pennsylvania hospitals. According to a Pittsburgh Post Gazette report, “56 Western Pennsylvania hospitals reported their operating margins decreased by more than half…Behind the sinking numbers are recurring issues — growing uncompensated care provided to patients unable to pay coupled with falling payments from government insurance programs such as Medicare.”

The Boston Globe on Saturday reported that Partners HealthCare System, parent of Mass General and Brigham and Women’s hospitals, saw its operating margin narrow to 1.6 percent in the second quarter “largely due to reimbursement cuts for Medicare and Medicaid, the government insurance programs for seniors and low-income patients that represent 45 percent of Partners patient revenues.”

The Raleigh News and Observer newspaper on Saturday featured an article on hospital staff reductions announced by Wakemed. The article said that Wakemed’s leadership warned that the reductions are “a taste of things to come under federal health care reform, which is designed to squeeze costs out of health care delivery.” The paper noted, “What is clear is that the Affordable Care Act, dubbed Obamacare by detractors, is increasingly being cited by health care organizations as they seek to explain unpopular decisions that raise costs or cut expenses within organizations.”

The New York Times on Friday reported that vast databases of patient and doctor information are being used by pharmaceutical firms to “let them know which medications physicians are prescribing and how they compare to colleagues.”

The New York Times on Saturday reviewed the data released last week on hospital charges to Medicare for 100 common treatments. The article featured a graphic detailing the ten hospitals that charged the most compared to the national average. The list: Bayonne Medical Center (4.1x), Bayonne, N.J.; Crozer-Chester Medical Center (3.7x), Upland, Pa.; Northbay Medical Center (3.7x), Fairfield, Calif.; Doctors Medical Center (3.4x), Modesto, Calif.; Hahnemann University Hospital (3.4x), Philadelphia, Pa.; Washington Hospital (3.4x), Fremont, Calif.; Temple University Hospital (3.3x), Philadelphia, Pa.; Garfield Medical Center (3.2x), Monterey Park, Calif.; Regional Medical Center (3.2x), San Jose, Calif.; and, Delaware County Memorial Hospital (3.2x), Drexel Hill, Pa.

Dr. Michael Gottesman, NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research, wrote an essay posted by the New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday on “The Role of the NIH in Nurturing Clinician-Scientists.”

The NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) is requesting comments on ways to avoid duplication, redundancy, and competition with industry activities.

According to a report published this week in JAMA Surgery, “A majority of surgical residents disapprove of 2011 ACGME Common Program requirements (65.9%). The proposed benefits of the increased duty hour restrictions—improved education, patient care, and quality of life — have ostensibly not borne out in surgical training. It may be difficult for residents, particularly in surgical fields, to learn and care for patients under the 2011 ACGME regulations.” The results are based on a survey of 1,013 voluntarily participating residents in general surgery and surgical specialties at ACGME-accredited institutions.

A report released last week, “The Changing Face of Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” documents “the disproportionately large role that these colleges and universities play in educating historically underserved populations and considers many of the challenges and opportunities they face.” The report was written by Dr. Marybeth Gasman of the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education.

An article in Saturday’s LA Times discussed the University of Southern California’s efforts to woo the leadership of the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging. It was announced this week that the recruitment was successful. The article detailed the factors that went into the decision by Drs. Arthur Toga and Paul Thompson and colleagues to change institutions. According to the article, the researchers also had been in negotiations with the University of Pennsylvania.

Changes are being made to the NIH Pathway to Independence (K99/R00) awards program. Dr. Sally Rockey, NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research, recently posted a blog notice detailing the changes, which include shortening the length of awards from 5 to 4 years.

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday, by a vote of 91-7, confirmed Marilyn Tavenner as the first full-fledged administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services since 2006.

Central Michigan University’s Board of Trustees on Friday approved moving forward with planning and design work for Phase 1 construction of its College of Medicine facilities in Saginaw. Phase 1 includes a medical education center to be built on the campus of Covenant HealthCare. According to the school, about 200 third- and fourth-year students will be based in Saginaw each year along with about 100 residents.

CMS on Wednesday announced the availability of a second round of Health Care Innovation Awards. Almost $1 billion will be available. This second round of awards differs from the first round in that CMS is specifically seeking innovations in four areas: rapidly reducing costs for patients with Medicare and Medicaid in outpatient hospital and other settings; improving care for populations with specialized needs; testing improved financial and clinical models for specific types of providers, including specialists; and linking clinical care delivery to preventive and population health. Letters of intent from interested organizations are due June 28, 2013.

An article in Sunday’s LA Times focused on “a presidential advisor and biowarfare consultant to the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security” who was simultaneously “serving as a director of a biotech startup [Human Genome Sciences Inc.] that won $334 million in federal contracts to supply” a drug stockpile to combat antibiotic-resistant anthrax.

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has posted details about the Administration’s Project Open Data. It is described as “an online, public repository intended to foster collaboration and promote the continual improvement of the Open Data Policy.” The policy was announced on May 9 and focuses on managing government information as an asset to “increase operational efficiencies, reduce costs, improve services, support mission needs, safeguard personal information, and increase public access to valuable government information.”

Florida Atlantic University President Mary Jane Saunders resigned on Wednesday. Dennis Crudele, FAU’s senior vice president for finance and administration, was named Acting President, effective immediately.

The Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) on Tuesday evening presented the 12th annual Michael E. DeBakey Journalism Awards. The awards, named in honor of FBR’s late chairman and the legendary Baylor surgeon, Dr. Michael E. DeBakey, recognize outstanding journalism that highlights the role of humane and responsible use of animal models, cell cultures, and computer modeling in recent medical discoveries and scientific breakthroughs. The awardees include: Britney Glaser, KPLC-TV (television); KW Hillis, The Lawton Constitution (print, small market); Ferris Jabr, Scientific American (print, large market); Susan Donaldson James, ABC News (online); Judy Kurtz, The Hill (print, specialty market); Ryan Loyd, KSTX Texas Public Radio (radio); and Annette Novak, McGill University (viral video). The AAMC is a Benefactor of the awards program.

The Huffington Post on May 8 published an op-ed written by Robert Brown, Ph.D., president, Boston University; Susan Desmond-Hellman, M.D., M.P.H., chancellor, the University of California, San Francisco; and Elson Floyd, Ph.D., president, Washington State University. The authors said that research conducted at universities across the nation not only “powers the discoveries that improve our lives and economy, but educates the next generation of discoverers, innovators, healers, and entrepreneurs, ensuring America’s continued scientific and technological leadership.” They said Congress must recognize the value of research and provide the “strong and sustained funding necessary for its proper functioning.” They added, “Neglecting this engine –even in the short term– will have long-term, negative consequences.”

An article in Sunday’s issue of the San Diego Union Tribune reported on how the UCSD’s 100,000-square-foot Medical Education and Telemedicine Building “has fundamentally changed the way the county’s only medical school trains the next generation of health care professionals and helps maintain the skills of those already in practice.” The building opened last fall. A separate article on the Center for the Future of Surgery, housed in the building, is advancing surgical education.

Dr. Paul Sieving, director of the National Eye Institute, recently answered questions about the NEI’s Audacious Goals Initiative on a White House OSTP blog site. The blog notes that more than 250 prizes are now offered by more than 50 Federal agencies in an effort “to spur innovation and solve tough problems.”

Ananias Diokno, M.D., who has served as Beaumont’s executive vice president and chief medical officer since 2006, has announced that he will step down from his administrative role effective June 1 and retire on September 1. Dr. Diokno earlier was chairman of the Beaumont, Royal Oak Department of Urology. He will be succeeded as EVP and CMO on June 1 by David Wood, M.D., currently president of Beaumont Physician Partners. Dr. Wood will continue to serve as president of the practice plan.

Brian O’Neil, M.D., the Edward S. Thomas Endowed Professor and associate chair of Research for the Department of Emergency Medicine at the Wayne State University School of Medicine, has been appointed chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine. Dr. O’Neil has served as interim chair of the department for the last year.

Samuel R. G. Finlayson, M.D., MPH, has been named the new chair of the Department of Surgery at the University of Utah School of Medicine. Currently, he serves on the Harvard Medical School surgery faculty and is the Kessler Director at the Center for Surgery and Public Health at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Dr. Finlayson succeeds Sean J. Mulvihill, M.D., who was named U of U Health Sciences associate vice president for clinical affairs and CEO of the University of Utah Medical Group last year. Patrick C. Cartwright, M.D., professor of pediatric urology, has been serving as interim chair.

Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine has appointed Darlene F. Saporu, Ph.D., as Assistant Dean of Diversity and Inclusion. Dr. Saporu leads the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and works to advance a comprehensive diversity plan aligned with the school’s mission. Prior to joining Stritch, she worked at The Ohio State University, where she executed strategic diversity initiatives for the Graduate School and other entities.

Eve J. Higginbotham, SM, MD, has been named the first Vice Dean for Diversity and Inclusion at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, effective August 1, 2013. Prior to joining Penn Medicine, Dr. Higginbotham held numerous academic leadership roles, including Senior Vice President and Executive Dean for Health Sciences at Howard University and Dean and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Morehouse School of Medicine. Earlier in her career, Dr. Higginbotham was chair of ophthalmology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Most recently, she served as a Visiting Scholar for Health Equity at the AAMC.

An article in Sunday’s Pittsburgh Post Gazette profiled Meghan Wilson, who has quadriplegia. She received her Ph.D. in 2011 and this week will be granted her M.D. from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, completing the Pitt MSTP program.

Like several new medical schools, the University of Central Floria College of Medicine is graduating its first class this spring. NBC News this weekend featured a segment on the UCF graduation, focusing on the fact that the students received full scholarships and are graduating debt free. The students discussed the generous gift they have been given and their desire to serve the community as a result.

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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