AAMC News and Leadership Announcements, 2013 May 27

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

The Associated Press reported on Friday, “International efforts to combat a new pneumonia-like virus that has now killed 22 people are being slowed by unclear rules and competition for the potentially profitable rights to disease samples, the head of the World Health Organization warned Thursday. Dr. Margaret Chan, in a blunt warning to the U.N. agency’s annual global assembly, portrayed a previously little-known flap over who owns a sample of the virus as a global game-changer that could put people’s lives at risk. The virus, which first emerged in Saudi Arabia where most cases have arisen, is called MERS for Middle East respiratory syndrome.”

The Washington Post on Sunday reported, “From 2000 to 2012, the annual production of master’s degrees jumped 63 percent, federal data show, growing 18 percentage points more than the output of bachelor’s degrees. It is a sign of a quiet but profound transformation underway at many prominent universities, which are pouring more energy into job training than ever before. The master’s degree, often priced starting at $20,000 to $30,000, is seen by some universities as a moneymaker in a time of fiscal strain.” A graphic accompanying the article lists the schools awarding more than 1,000 master’s degrees. Leading the list: University of Phoenix (18,602), New York University (6,876), Columbia (6,794), Grand Canyon (6,385), and the University of Southern California (6,136). Phoenix and Grand Canyon are for-profit institutions.

The Seattle Times on Monday reported, “Leaders of UW Medicine, surprised by a barrage of criticism over a plan to affiliate with a Catholic system, are attempting to assure critics that the arrangement would not limit its services, particularly reproductive care or end-of-life services barred by Catholic ethical directives.” The article reported that Dr. Paul Ramsey, CEO of UW Medicine and dean of the University of Washington School of Medicine, sent a letter last week to UW Medicine board members clarifying the proposed relationship with PeaceHealth, founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace.

The University of Nebraska Medical Center on Wednesday opened a major new ophthalmology center, the Stanley M. Truhlsen Eye Institute. The $20 million, 54,536-square-foot facility features outpatient eye exam facilities, an optical shop, and a comprehensive regional diagnostic center. Plans are in the works for an eye surgery center to be built at a future date. The Center is named after Stanley M. Truhlsen, M.D., 92, an Omaha ophthalmologist who has been affiliated with UNMC for more than 40 years and made the lead gift for the facility.

NIH on Friday posted a reminder about the prohibition on using federal funds for lobbying activities. While the legislative language is unchanged, a new document on the NIH website provides additional guidance. Dr. Sally Rockey, NIH deputy director for extramural research, also discussed the notice in a related blog posting on Friday.

The Minnesota state legislature on Monday gave final approval to a $585 million Mayo Clinic- and Rochester-championed proposal “to make the city more appealing to patients and to the people Mayo and other businesses hope to draw there to live.” Mayo “has pledged billions to the project – $3.5 billion of its own money and another $2 billion in private investments.” The article noted that “Other big-ticket projects, such as the Vikings stadium, can take years or even decades to pass. The fact that Mayo managed to push such a complicated, pricey bill through the Legislature in a single year was something of a legislative miracle…”

The Shreveport Times reported on Saturday, “LSU Hospital in Shreveport will continue residency and fellowship training programs for doctors but won’t support LSU School of Medicine in Shreveport financially after privatization. Biomedical Research Foundation [BRF] in Shreveport is poised to take over operation of the Shreveport hospital and E.A. Conway Medical Center in Monroe this summer. The move is part of state officials’ plans to turn public hospitals in the LSU system over to private operators and cut costs.” The head of the BRF was quoted in the article as saying, “As we move forward, the hospital simply will not generate enough money under any circumstance to allow funding for the medical school.”

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on Thursday that “The University of Wisconsin-Madison is seeking to limit the state’s open records law – potentially through language slipped into the state budget – to keep from the public information about research until it is published or patented.” According to the article, “The proposed change was prompted by a change in U.S. patent law earlier this year, moving to a first-to-file system. If a competitor uses the open records law to gain premature access to patentable intellectual property, the competitor could race to the patent office to seek patent protection for the ideas of UW researchers, UW officials say.”

The USMLE last week posted a notice stating that its Step 2 committee will meeting in June to consider whether to change the minimum passing score on the Step 2 Clinical Knowledge (CK) exam. The passing score was raised from 189 to 196 in June 2012. Any change will become effective for all examinees who take a Step 2 CK examination on or after July 1, 2013.

In conjunction with its 2013 Annual Research Meeting (ARM), AcademyHealth, in partnership with the PCORI Methodology Committee and the Center for Medical Technology Policy (CMTP), on June 25th will convene a mini-course on the PCORI Methodology Standards. The workshop will be in Baltimore. There will be a related webinar on June 4th.

The Baltimore Sun reported on Saturday that Johns Hopkins University is ending its master’s program in science writing “citing a decline in applications that rendered it not selective enough.”

Sunday’s Detroit Free Press featured a story about the status of Detroit Medical Center, two and half-years after its acquisition by Vanguard. The paper reported, “Vanguard is showing some signs of financial strain from its Detroit promises. Wall Street analysts note Vanguard’s high debt burden, with at least one analyst raising questions about the company’s long-term ability to fulfill its commitments to the DMC…For now, Vanguard’s pledge is only slightly behind schedule, and DMC officials say their recent decision to lay off 300 employees was a response to Medicare spending cuts and a ‘proactive step’ to streamline operations amid the changing health care business environment.”

An article in Friday’s San Jose Mercury News discussed Stanford University School of Medicine’s “Personalized Medicine and Genomics” class. Students in the class learn about their own DNA code and the article reports, “The testing is confidential and voluntary.” The article further reported that the course’s introduction two years ago, “triggered intense controversy at Stanford, leading to the creation of a 29-member task force… Students now have access to genetic counseling and psychiatric care, and they must attend several ‘informed consent’ sessions about the implications of their findings.” The article also reported, “The curriculum is gaining traction elsewhere. The company 23andMe offers discounts on the testing and course materials to universities, and it has worked with schools such as the University of Iowa, the University of Texas and Duke University.”

The New York Times on Sunday featured an article on occupational licensure. The article, focused on who can whiten teeth in Alabama, reported that a researcher at the University of Minnesota found that five percent of US workers had jobs that required licenses in the 1950s, which now has risen to around 30 percent. Some observers quoted in the article contend that some of the licensing requirements are “overzealous” and that “in areas like interior design or hair braiding, they are simply anticompetition measures.” The Alabama teeth whitening case, which is in the courts, involves prohibiting non-dental commercial firms from using products that can be bought over the counter.

Sunday’s Pittsburgh Post Gazette reported on an investigation at UPMC of allegations a scientist at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC “failed to fully comply with the sanctions imposed on him in 2011 for misusing research from [a UPMC immunologist’s] lab to get federal grants and seek a patent for a vaccine against…pneumocystis.”

The Nashville Business Journal reported last week, “Vanderbilt University Medical Center has tapped Dr. Melinda Buntin, deputy assistant director for health at the Congressional Budget Office, to chair its new Department of Health Policy, starting this August. According to Vanderbilt news release, the new department will be a multi-disciplinary base for health policy research and design, whose mission is to provide rigorous evidence and help drive public health decisions at the very highest level. The new department will be spun out of the Department of Preventive Medicine, chaired for 31 years by Dr. William Schaffner, who will continue his teaching and research duties at Vanderbilt.”

HHS on Thursday announced “that more than half of all doctors and other eligible providers have received Medicare or Medicaid incentive payments for adopting or meaningfully using electronic health records (EHRs). HHS has met and exceeded its goal for 50 percent of doctor offices and 80 percent of eligible hospitals to have EHRs by the end of 2013.”

Tom Friedman wrote in Sunday’s New York Times, “The combination of Obamacare regulations, incentives in the recovery act for doctors and hospitals to shift to electronic records and the releasing of mountains of data held by the Department of Health and Human Services is creating a new marketplace and platform for innovation — a health care Silicon Valley — that has the potential to create better outcomes at lower costs by changing how health data are stored, shared and mined. It’s a new industry.”

The new issue of the HHMI Bulletin profiled Dr. Erin O’Shea, who in July will become vice president and the new chief scientific officer of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Dr. O’Shea, a systems biologist, joins HHMI from Harvard where she directs the Center for Systems Biology. She succeeds Jack E. Dixon, Ph.D., who has held the positions since 2007.

Dr. Gary Gibbons, director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), was profiled in Tuesday’s Philadelphia Inquirer.

Our colleagues at the Society for Neuroscience will hold a webinar, “Tackling Bias: Best Practices for Recruiting and Retaining a Diverse Faculty,” on June 6 at 2 p.m. EDT. The session will address the challenges of recruiting women faculty and faculty from diverse backgrounds and the resources available at institutions. The session is particularly targeted to department chairs.

Jim Dean, currently dean of the university’s Kenan-Flagler Business School and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, has been named the school’s new executive vice chancellor and provost. He succeeds Bruce Carney, who is returning to the faculty after four years as provost.

Following legislative approval, last week the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) at El Paso was named the fourth institution under the Texas Tech University System. Tedd L. Mitchell, M.D., has been named interim president of the new university by the Board of Regents. Dr. Mitchell will continue to carry out the administrative responsibilities he has had since he was named president of TTUHSC (headquartered in Lubbock) in June 2010. He is board certified in internal medicine and has subspecialty certification in sports medicine.

Robert Berenson, M.D., an Institute Fellow at the Urban Institute, has posted an essay on the Health Affairs Blog titled, “Seven Policy Recommendations To Improve Quality Measurement.” The recommendations were initiated by Drs. Berenson, Harlan Krumholz and Peter Pronovost.

The National Coalition for Health Professional Education in Genetics (NCHPEG), Genetic Alliance (GA), and the Genomic Medicine Institute (GMI) at El Camino Hospital have teamed up to develop a hospital-based CME curriculum, “Medicine’s Future: Genomics for Practicing Doctors.” The curriculum can be licensed and made available to other hospitals and health systems. Each two-hour workshop of the curriculum is supported with a lesson plan, learning objectives, teaching tools, case studies, and pre- and post-tests.

Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine has appointed Dimitri Krainc, MD, PhD, to be the Aaron Montgomery Ward Professor and Chair of the Ken and Ruth Davee Department of Neurology and Director of the Center for Rare Diseases. He has spent the past 21 years at Harvard Medical School where he completed his research training followed by a neurology residency and fellowship in movement disorders at Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He then served on the neurology faculty at Massachusetts General and Harvard.

Also at Northwestern, Andrew Parsa, MD, PhD, has been named the Michael J. Marchese Professor and Chair of the Department of Neurological Surgery. He most recently has been at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) as professor, vice chair, and Reza and Georgianna Khatib Endowed Chair in Skull Base Tumor Surgery. His wife, Charlotte Shum, MD, a hand and upper extremity specialist, has been named associate professor of orthopaedic surgery at Northwestern.

Sara Jo Grethlein M.D., has been named associate dean for undergraduate medical education at the Indiana University School of Medicine. According to IU, “Dr. Grethlein will serve as the senior administrative leader for the Office of Undergraduate Medical Education and oversee a statewide, integrated and competency-based curriculum leading to the M.D. degree, ongoing program and course evaluation, and assessment of student learning outcomes. Dr. Grethlein will also continue her clinical practice as a member of the Division of Hematology and Oncology in the Department of Medicine.” She joins IU from the Bassett Healthcare Network, a clinical campus of Columbia University in central New York State.

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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+Wing of Zock, a blog about innovation and change in medical schools and teaching hospitals
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