AAMC News and Leadership Announcements, 2013 Sept. 16

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

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on Friday issued a final rule implementing scheduled cuts in the disproportionate share hospital (DSH) program. The Affordable Care Act mandated the reductions. The rule will formally appear in the Sept. 18 Federal Register, and the provisions take effect Nov. 12.

Bloomberg reported this weekend that the growing use of tablets and PDAs by physicians and researchers has proven to be a gold mine for Wolters Kluwer and Reed Elsevier, owners of UpToDate and ClinicalKey. According to Bloomberg, “Shares in the two companies — which together dominate trade and academic publishing — have jumped more than 60 percent in the past 15 months.” The article further reported, “Their growing strength has made Wolters Kluwer and Reed Elsevier targets of groups that say research should be widely available at no cost since it’s often funded by taxpayers and publishing costs have plummeted with the switch online.”

Saturday’s Washington Post reported, “As community groups, brokers and insurers prepare to recruit people for enrollment in medical plans that go on sale in October under the health-care overhaul, nobody has a bigger financial stake in their success than hospitals. And few may work harder to sign up consumers for the health-insurance marketplaces than hospitals themselves.”

The creators of the Golden Goose Award announced two more sets of award winners “whose federally funded research may not have seemed to have significant practical applications at the time it was conducted but has resulted in tremendous societal and economic benefit.” Mathematicians Lloyd Shapley and David Gale (deceased) and economist Alvin Roth are being recognized for their work that led to the national kidney exchange and the NRMP. Microbiologist Thomas Brock and glycobiologist Hudson Freeze are being recognized for their discovery that helped make possible the biotechnology industry and the genomics revolution. AAMC is one of the sponsors of the awards program.

Dr. Eric J. Topol, Director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute and Professor of Genomics at The Scripps Research Institute, authored an editorial in the new issue of Science Translational Medicine titled, “From Dissecting Cadavers to Dissecting Genomes.” Dr. Topol concluded, “Only when opportunities for students to annotate and decipher their own genomes become widely available will medical schools create a new generation of physicians fully capable of rendering genomic medicine for their patients.”

Science reported on Friday that at a recent forum Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the NIH, reported that the success rate of NIH applicants would be 14 or 15 percent in fiscal year 2013. The success rate in 2011 and 2012 was 18 percent, down significantly from the 32 percent success rates of 1999, 2000, and 2001. According to Science, “NIH’s budget shrunk by 5.5% this year, to $29.15 billion. As a result, NIH expects to fund about 650 fewer grants than it did the previous year.” The forum was sponsored by Research!America.

Our colleagues at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology have issued a new factsheet asserting that “the funding capacity of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) could be reduced by more than one-third (37 percent) compared to its 2003 level under the budget plan approved by the House earlier this year.” FASEB said that “Catastrophic cuts to life-saving biomedical research will continue unless Congress reaches agreement on an alternative approach to deficit reduction that cancels sequestration.”

Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons (P&S) has launched a three-year Doctor of Medicine (MD) program for PhD-trained biological scientists. The accelerated curriculum “prepares graduates for physician-scientist careers that combine their knowledge of fundamental biomedical science with an understanding of how diseases and their treatments affect humans.” The first students in the new program are expected to graduate in 2016. Applicants must hold a doctorate in a biological or related science and meet the same requirements as all applicants to P&S’s MD program.

A new report from an Institute of Medicine Panel finds that, “Delivery of cancer care in the U.S. is facing a crisis stemming from a combination of factors — a growing demand for such care, a shrinking oncology work force, rising costs of cancer care, and the complexity of the disease and its treatment.” The report recommends ways to respond to these challenges and improve cancer care delivery, including “by strengthening clinicians’ core competencies in caring for patients with cancer, shifting to team-based models of care, and communicating more effectively with patients.”

The New York Times on Saturday featured an column about PayScale, which “offers an alternative to the U.S News rankings of universities, listing them by the average earnings of their graduates.” Liberal arts and women’s colleges suffer in the comparison. The article reports, “PayScale’s rankings are just one manifestation of a growing nationwide movement toward quantifying the outcomes of college education based on economic factors like income and employment. The Obama administration wants to rank colleges by tuition, graduation rates, debt and earnings of graduates, and use the rankings to influence federal financial aid to students. But this can lead to some absurd and potentially alarming conclusions.”

The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute on Tuesday announced that it has approved more than $114 million in funding for 71 new projects to conduct comparative effectiveness research (CER) “designed to answer questions most important to patients, their caregivers and clinicians.” The awards include the first 19 awards PCORI has made under its priority area of Accelerating Patient-Centered Outcomes Research (PCOR) and Methodological Research. PCORI also announced that its Board has approved a $9 million contract to a consortium led by Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute to serve as the Coordinating Center for PCORI’s proposed new National Patient-Centered Clinical Research Network. The directors of the Coordinating Center will be Richard Platt, MD, MS, Professor and Chair of the Harvard Medical School Department of Population Medicine at the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, and Robert Califf, MD, Vice Chancellor for Clinical and Translational Research, Director of the Duke Translational Medicine Institute, and Professor of Medicine in the Division of Cardiology at the Duke University Medical Center.

An article in Tuesday’s issue of The Oregonian newspaper reported that the financial picture of Oregon Health & Sciences University “keeps improving.” The article further reported, “The upbeat report for OHSU, which employs more than 14,000 people, comes despite nearly $30 million lost to federal cuts as well as austerity measures by OHSU that have included scaled-back research and a partial hiring freeze.”

An Institute of Medicine and National Research Council panel reported this week that, “Rates of physical and sexual abuse of children have declined over the last 20 years, but for reasons not fully understood… Yet, reports of psychological and emotional child abuse have risen in the same period, and data vary significantly as to whether child neglect is increasing, decreasing, or remaining constant.” The panel recommended that, “To prevent and treat the problem more effectively, the causes and consequences of child abuse and neglect need to be understood with greater specificity.” The panel called for “a national strategic plan to advance research on child abuse and neglect as well as a national surveillance system to improve the accuracy of cases identified.”

The Sheps Center for Health Services Research at the University of North Carolina recently released the results of a study on state initiatives related to Graduate Medical Education (GME). The study examined the extent to which selected states are using health workforce data, implementing novel GME financing initiatives, creating governance structures, and establishing policies or measures to encourage accountability of public funds invested in GME.

The Indianapolis Star reported on Friday, “IU Health, the largest hospital system in Indiana, will cut 800 jobs, or about 2 percent of its workforce by Dec. 1. The cuts are a response to declining admissions and lower reimbursements from insurance companies and government programs, officials said. The cuts will be a mix of layoffs and early retirements, and will affect departments and programs at seven hospitals: Methodist, University, Riley, North, Saxony, Tipton and Ball Memorial hospitals…The cuts are the latest step in the system’s efforts to trim $1 billion over five years, a goal announced earlier this year.”

A Washington University medical student authored an op-ed in Wednesday’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch about physician shortages and the insufficient number and funding of residency positions.

A new report in JAMA Internal Medicine reported that infections acquired in the hospital cost the U.S. health care system $10 billion a year. According to a Reuters article on the findings, the CDC reported that “about one in every 20 hospitalized patients contracts a hospital-acquired infection.”

An essay posted this week by the Huffington Post discussed how cuts in biomedical research funding shorten American’ lifespans. The essay was written by Paul E. Klotman, M.D., president and CEO of Baylor College of Medicine, and Adam Kuspa, Ph. D. , the senior vice president for research at Baylor.

Dr. Teresa K. Woodruff, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Feinberg School of Medicine of Northwestern University and president of the Endocrine Society, wrote a letter in Wednesday’s New York Times on how “Huge budget cuts threaten the lives of millions of patients counting on medical innovation.” She noted that “When laboratories lose financing, they lose people, ideas, innovations and patient treatments. Our government leaders must prioritize biomedical research. We can’t afford to lose the health advances made through research financed by the National Institutes of Health and the people power behind those discoveries!”

Applications for the 2014-2015 National Institutes of Health (NIH) Medical Research Scholars Program (MRSP) are being accepted beginning October 1, 2013. The MRSP is a year-long, mentored research training program for qualified medical, dental, and veterinary students in basic, clinical, or translational research at the main intramural campus of the NIH in Bethesda, MD. The application deadline is January 15, 2014.

Weill Cornell Medical College announced on Tuesday that it has received a $100 million gift from longtime benefactors Joan and Sanford I. Weill and the Weill Family Foundation to launch the Medical College’s $300 million ‘Driving Discoveries, Changing Lives’ campaign “dedicated to using the most advanced scientific approaches to rapidly translate research breakthroughs into innovative treatments and therapies for patients.”

David Mulligan, MD, a liver transplant surgeon from the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, has been appointed chief of the Section of Transplantation and Immunology, director of the Yale-New Haven Transplantation Center (YNHTC), and professor of surgery at Yale School of Medicine. Dr. Mulligan succeeds Sukru Emre, MD, who will continue at Yale as a professor.

Bloomberg on Monday distributed a story titled, “DeVry Lures Medical School Rejects as Taxpayers Fund Debt.” Bloomberg has also posted an editorial titled, “The Cost of Training Doctors Offshore.” The editorial began, “U.S. tax dollars are financing for-profit medical schools in the Caribbean that are not accredited in the U.S., Janet Lorin reports in the October issue of Bloomberg Markets magazine, putting taxpayers, students and patients at risk. The U.S. may face a doctor shortage, but this isn’t the way to fix it.” The editorial concluded, “Many of the students who attend overseas for-profit medical school will go on to become excellent doctors, so in making any changes policy makers should weigh those students’ ability to get an education. That may mean greater funding for U.S. teaching hospitals’ residency programs, which could help replace the revenue they now get from overseas schools and encourage U.S. medical schools to expand enrollment further. What doesn’t make sense is to continue providing federal money for subpar results.”

By popular demand, the submission deadline has been extended to September 22 for the AAMC’s video competition, “Light-years Beyond Flexner: Academic Medicine in 2033.” The competition challenges member medical schools to envision the innovations of the future of academic medicine. Schools interested in participating are asked to form a team and submit a two-minute video depicting any aspect of medical school or medical education 20 years into the future. The winning school will receive a “Golden Ticket” redeemable for one registration at the 2014 AAMC Annual Meeting and 10 additional AAMC meetings in 2014.

The San Francisco Chronicle this week featured an article about the 50 orthopedic surgeons from 17 developing nations that gathered this week “at San Francisco General Hospital to learn surgical techniques and wound care that could help them save limbs in such cases.” The article reported, “For years, surgeons at UCSF and S.F. General have traveled to developing nations, teaching advanced techniques. The S.F. General program, headed by surgeons at UCSF’s Institute for Global Orthopaedics and Traumatology, was a natural evolution of that work.”

The Commonwealth Fund this week announced it “will hone its focus to address emerging issues in the post-health reform landscape.” It announced it will focus its grantmaking and research resources on “Tracking the results of the Affordable Care Act, improving how health care is delivered to the sickest patients, ensuring access and improving quality of care for low-income, minority, and immigrant populations, and supporting breakthroughs in health care…The Fund will also expand its policy analysis efforts to focus more explicitly on controlling health care costs, improving Medicare, and tracking the nation’s health system performance.” David Blumenthal, M.D., joined The Commonwealth Fund as its president earlier this year.

UW (University of Washington) Medicine and PeaceHealth have signed an agreement to make UW Medicine the preferred healthcare system of choice for complex tertiary and quaternary care for patients receiving care in PeaceHealth’s Northwest Network, effective Friday. The agreement does not involve a change in ownership or governance of either UW Medicine or PeaceHealth. The strategic collaboration will provide PeaceHealth patients with prompt access to complex tertiary and quaternary care when needed, and allow both organizations to work together to continue to improve the quality, safety and cost effectiveness of care. PeaceHeal


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