AAMC News and Leadership Announcements, 2013 Aug. 6

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

Dr. Pedro J. Santiago-Borrero has stepped down as dean of the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine. Dr. Ines Garcia-Garcia has been designated as Interim Dean of the school.

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) announced last week that it has terminated its agreement with Vanguard Health Systems to join with the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio in building a new children’s hospital. CHOP’s statement noted that Tenet is acquiring Vanguard Health Systems and that CHOP and Tenet actively compete in the Philadelphia market.

Nearly three-quarters (73.4 percent) of medical students graduating this year report that their education included training in teams with other health professionals, such as nurses, dentists, pharmacists, osteopaths, public health professionals, and others, according to new data released by the AAMC from the 2013 Medical School Graduation Questionnaire (GQ). This year, 82 percent of graduates (14,836) responded, the largest number of participants ever. In other 2013 results: graduates reported an average medical education debt of $135,084, an increase of 2 percent compared with 2012. The percent of students graduating with medical school debt remained relatively unchanged at 84.4 percent. The survey also found that more graduates plan to enter into loan forgiveness programs. The percent indicating such future plans jumped from 29.4 percent in 2012 to 38.1 percent in 2013.

Politico, an influential newspaper popular on Capitol Hill, featured an advertisement on Wednesday signed by 165 university presidents and chancellors calling on leaders in Washington to close what they call the ‘innovation deficit.’ The university leaders wrote that closing the innovation deficit — the widening gap between needed and actual investments in research and education — must be a national imperative. The higher education leaders said that investments in those areas lead to the types of innovation and new technologies that power the nation’s economy, create jobs, and reduce the budget deficit while ensuring the U.S. maintains its role as global leader.

The Newark Star Ledger on Monday featured a major editorial supporting federal funding for medical research. The editorial concluded, “As a percentage of the federal budget, spending on medical research is miniscule. Why not look for cuts elsewhere, in entitlement programs or tax benefits for the rich? Our priority should be finding cures for diseases like cancer, not the instant gratifications of Congress.”

The August issue of Academic Medicine is now available. Articles of note include an examination of the validity of the US News and World Report primary care medical school rankings, an article on the evolution of competency-based medical education, and an in-depth look at health care fraud and program integrity. Research articles from the September issue of the journal are now available in the published ahead-of-print section of the journal’s web site.

President Obama on Wednesday nominated Dr. France Cordova to be the new head of the National Science Foundation. Senate confirmation is required for the position. Dr. Cordova is President Emerita of Purdue University, where she served as President from 2007 to 2012. From 2002 to 2007, she was Chancellor of the University of California at Riverside, where she was also a Distinguished Professor of Physics and Astronomy.

Sunday’s New York Times continued its series on the cost of health care in America compared with other countries. The article focused on joint replacement surgery. Earlier segments focused on colonoscopies and pregnancy.

On Wednesday, the President nominated Dr. Jo Handelsman, to be Associate Director for Science, Office of Science and Technology Policy. Dr. Handelsman is the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor and Frederick Phineas Rose Professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at Yale University, a position she has held since 2010. Previously, she served on the University of Wisconsin-Madison faculty as a Professor in Plant Pathology from 1985 to 2009 and Professor and Chair of the Department of Bacteriology from 2007 to 2009. She is currently President of the American Society for Microbiology.

The Houston Chronicle on Thursday reported on a guilty plea in “what authorities said was a scheme to illegally harvest and sell stem cells.” The paper reported that, “Vincent Dammai of South Carolina pleaded guilty in federal court in Houston for his role in the scheme. Prosecutors said he processed stem cells at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston without approval from the Food and Drug Administration or the university…The charges against Dammai were the result of an FBI and FDA investigation into the manufacture and distribution of stem cells in the treatment of human autoimmune diseases such as Parkinson’s.” The article further reported, “Dammai admitted using university facilities to harvest and process stem cells, for which he was paid more than $161,000. He was hired in 2006 only to conduct research into kidney cancer and had no formal training in processing stem cells, officials said.”

Richard I. Fisher, MD, who joined Temple Health on March 1, has been appointed President and CEO of Fox Chase Cancer Center. Dr. Fisher will also hold the title of Cancer Center Director of Fox Chase, serving as the PI on the Cancer Center Support Grant (CCSG) from the NCI. He will retain the title of Senior Associate Dean for Cancer Programs at Temple University School of Medicine.

A posting on The Scholarly Kitchen blog site considers the impact of the open access publishing movement on professional societies. The site has also posted a podcast with Alice Meadows, head of society relations at John Wiley, who talks “about the challenges and opportunities for scholarly and professional societies in finding new value-adds in a competitive, Internet-driven environment – and how many of the ‘new’ sources of relevance are rooted in things that have made societies central to their members’ professional lives for many years.”

An essay in Friday’s issue of the New York Times by Dr. John VandeBerg, director of the Southwester National Primate Research Center, discussed the negative impact the NIH’s decision to end most chimpanzee research might have on the health of wild chimpanzees and gorillas. The impact of the NIH’s decision in the development and testing of vaccines is discussed. The article noted that, “Ebola hemorrhagic fever has killed a third of the wild gorilla population and nearly as high a fraction of the wild chimpanzee population. Of the chimps in Gombe Stream National Park, in Tanzania, more than 40 percent are affected by chimpanzee AIDS; their death rate is 10 to 16 times higher than that of uninfected chimps. Human respiratory diseases, which are transferred to great apes in areas where they have close contact with people, are the most destructive: 48 percent of all recorded disease-related deaths at Gombe from 1960 to 2006 were from respiratory illness. All these infectious diseases are potentially preventable in apes by administering prophylactic or therapeutic vaccines.”

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius on Wednesday released a report detailing the Department of Health and Human Services’ “significant strides over the past year as well as its objectives for the coming year for improving the health and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals, families, and communities.”

The Chicago Tribune on Sunday featured a story on Fragile X patients and their families and the disappointment they are enduring after a potential treatment failed in a clinical trial. The families of some patients who perceive they were benefiting from the treatment are devastated. According to the article, “While the drug showed significant benefits in some areas in the 300-patient trial, researchers said, it failed to beat the placebo on the main goal of the study: social withdrawal…The drug is unavailable anywhere in the world, leaving the families frustrated and feeling abandoned. Following the announcement, advocates started online petitions, reached out to potential investors and even appealed to the White House, all to no avail.”

The Institute of Medicine has issued a new guide “to help stakeholders identify surge and capability problems and triggers that may govern their health system’s transition across a continuum of care during a disaster.”

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has announced that Dr. Farzad Mostashari will step down as head of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. He succeeded Dr. David Blumenthal about two years ago. A successor has not yet been named.

Perry V. Halushka, M.D., Ph.D., dean of the Medical University of South Carolina College of Graduate Studies, retired on Aug. 1. Dr. Halushka joined MUSC in 1974 as an assistant professor of pharmacology and medicine. In 1987, he became the director of the Medical Scientist Training Program and in 2000, Dr. Halushka was appointed dean of the College of Graduate Studies. For the past six years, he has served as co-director of the South Carolina Clinical and Translational Research Institute. Dr. Halushka has served in a variety of leadership positions within the AAMC Graduate Research, Education, and Training (GREAT) Group. MUSC has announced that Jacqueline McGinty, Ph.D., associate dean of the college and professor in the Department of Neurosciences, will be interim dean until a permanent replacement is named.

Dr. Jeremy Sugarman and colleagues from Johns Hopkins have published an editorial in the new issue of BMJ that succinctly describes some of the unintended consequences of a new clinical trial statute in India. The statute has resulted in a drastic reduction in the number of clinical trial applications and approvals in the country.

An article in Sunday’s Minneapolis Star Tribune discussed the maturing field of biomedical informatics and its on-going potential to continue to revolutionize health care and biomedical research.

The Tampa Bay Times on Sunday featured an article on the University of South Florida’s involvement in providing health services to residents of The Villages, “Florida’s enormous retirement mecca.” The article discussed USF Health’s effort to create a new delivery model, what the article calls “a launch pad for returning American health care to a welcoming, one-stop shop.”

The Associated Press on Tuesday reported, “Gone are the large conferences, big pharma funding, Nobel laureates and lavishly paid state officials who vowed scientific breakthroughs from Texas’ unprecedented $3 billion crusade against cancer. What’s left of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas isn’t flashy, but that’s precisely the goal for an agency regaining its footing after a year of turmoil and an ongoing a criminal investigation.”

CNN reported on Sunday that the University of Kentucky’s health care system has put the pediatric heart surgery program at Kentucky Children’s Hospital on hold pending a review.

A new report from an Institute of Medicine panel found, “The United States lags behind other international plans to evaluate obesity prevention efforts, and the country needs to know whether these efforts are having their intended impact.” The panel concluded, “that more systematic and routine evaluations could help determine how well obesity prevention programs and policies are being implemented and which interventions work best. The committee also recommended specific national and community plans for evaluation of obesity prevention efforts.”

NIH on Friday issued a notice announcing that the current requirement that all postdocs listed in the grantees’ annual progress report have an eRA Commons account will be extended to capture data on NIH-supported graduate students and undergraduate students as well.

CMS on Friday issued the final FY 2014 Inpatient Payment Rule. CMS has posted a summary of the rule on-line.

Penn State College of Medicine has announced that Dr. Ronald Domen has stepped down from the position of associate dean for graduate medical education to focus on leading new departmental and health system pathology initiatives. Taking over leadership of GME is Dr. Ted Bollard, professor of medicine, who will serve as associate dean and designated institutional official, and Dr. Don Flemming, professor of radiology, who will serve as associate DIO and chair of the Graduate Medical Education Council. Both Drs. Bollard and Flemming have extensive experience serving as residency program directors and with other aspects of GME.

The Interprofessional Education Collaborative (IPEC) will hold its next Institute October 7-9, 2013, in Chicago, IL. It is entitled: Interprofessional Education: Building a Framework for Collaboration. Historically, once registration opens for the Institute, all slots are filled in a very short period of time. General registration will be open on Tuesday, August 6, 2013, at noon (Eastern Time).

Dr. Daniel Wolpaw, professor of medicine and humanities, has been appointed director of The Doctors Kienle Center for Humanistic Medicine at Penn State College of Medicine, effective Aug. 15. Originally established as the Center for Humanistic Medicine in 1979 and renamed The Doctors Kienle Center in 1991, this center supports education and research aimed at promoting a humane, compassionate and patient-centered approach to medicine. For the past seven years, the Kienle Center has been led by Dr. Philip Wilson, professor of humanities. Dr. Wilson has been named chair of the department of history at East Tennessee State University.

Sandra R. Hernandez, MD, former director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, has been named president and CEO of the California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF). She will succeed founding President and CEO Mark D. Smith, MD, MBA, who announced earlier this year that he was stepping down from the foundation.

Richard C. Wender, M.D., will join the American Cancer Society as the Society’s first-ever Chief Cancer Control Officer. According to the announcement Dr. Wender’s “new role will complement that of Society Chief Medical and Scientific Officer Otis Brawley, M.D.; while Brawley will focus on the Society’s epidemiologic and peer-reviewed cancer research programs and their translation to clinical practice, Wender will focus on the Society’s consumer and clinical guidance on cancer prevention and early detection and their implementation through evidence-based cancer control interventions.” Dr. Wender presently serves as Alumni Professor and Chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University and Hospital.

Leo Lefrancois, Ph.D., Professor and Chairman of the Department of Immunology and Director of the Center for Integrated Immunology and Vaccine Research at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, died unexpectedly last week while on a hiking vacation in the Dolomites in northern Italy.

Ronald W. Estabrook, Ph.D., chair of biochemistry at UT Southwestern for 14 years, and the first dean of UT Southwestern Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, died on Monday. Dr. Estabrook was the chair of the AAMC’s Council of Academic Societies in 1973-74. A member of the National Academy and the IOM, Dr. Estabrook was at Penn before moving to Dallas.  During his distinguished career, he played a critical role in determining the biological function of cytochrome P450.


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