AAMC News and Leadership Announcements, 2013 Oct. 24

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

A record number of students applied to and enrolled in the nation’s medical schools in 2013, according to data released Thursday by the AAMC. The total number of applicants to medical school grew by 6.1 percent to 48,014, surpassing the previous record set in 1996 by 1,049 students. First-time applicants, another important indicator of interest in medicine, increased by 5.5 percent to 35,727. The number of students enrolled in their first year of medical school exceeded 20,000 for the first time (20,055), a 3 percent increase over 2012. “At a time when the nation faces a shortage of more than 90,000 doctors by the end of the decade and millions are gaining access to health insurance, we are very glad that more students than ever want to become physicians. However, unless Congress lifts the 16-year-old cap on federal support for residency training, we will still face a shortfall of physicians across dozens of specialties,” said AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, M.D. “Students are doing their part by applying to medical school in record numbers. Medical schools are doing their part by expanding enrollment. Now Congress needs to do its part and act without delay to expand residency training to ensure that everyone who needs a doctor has access to one.”

Nearly 200 medical school deans and teaching hospital CEOs have called for Congress to stop additional sequestration budget cuts to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In a letter delivered to all members of Congress on Wednesday, they express their “grave concern” about the impact of sequestration on medical research and the health of America’s patients. “Enacted and proposed cuts in NIH funding threaten current and emerging basic research opportunities across the country, as well as the clinical studies that are essential to bringing scientific discoveries from the bench to the bedside,” the deans and CEOs noted in the letter. “Further, these cuts also will discourage young people from careers in medical research, risking the loss of the next generation of innovators and their ideas.”

A commentary in the new issue of JAMA reported on the “…failure of medical education systems to train physicians in addiction medicine. Despite the enormous burden of disease attributable to addiction in North America, there have traditionally been exceptionally few opportunities for physicians to obtain advanced skills in this area outside of addiction psychiatry.” The essay concluded, “Ultimately, through the greater incorporation of addiction medicine into the spectrum of medical training, patients will be better served by narrowing the health care quality chasm in addressing substance use disorders. The development of addiction medicine as a formal medical subspecialty also has the potential to begin the slow process of public education required to treat those who are alcohol- or drug-addicted with compassion and care, and to move away from overreliance on punitive approaches that have not served the interests of patients, public health, or taxpayers.” Evan Wood, MD, PhD, FRCPC; Jeffrey H. Samet, MD; and Nora D. Volkow, MD, authored the viewpoint.

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette on Thursday reported, “Steered by a federal judge to a courthouse room [directed] to spend ‘as long as it takes’ to work out their legal differences, attorneys for Highmark and UPMC reached a tentative deal Wednesday to end four years of litigation. The two have been involved in contentious antitrust litigation, beginning in 2009. The health care giants agreed Wednesday to have those cases dismissed.” The article continued, “The pact, which must still win a board’s approval, won’t extend Highmark’s in-network contract with UPMC beyond 2014, nor is there any guarantee that it will end the advertising war between the nonprofits. However, it could eliminate one front in the rivalry between the region’s dominant insurer and its leading hospital system.”

In a separate story, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reported, “Depending on whom you ask, medical giant UPMC either employs more than 50,000 people — or no one at all.” The issue has become contentious in a legal case between the city and UPMC over its tax status. The paper reported, “UPMC’s website and media releases say the hospital giant employs in the range of 55,000 people.” However, in court UPMC said it employs no one – marketing material notwithstanding – and that the employees are actually employed by 37 subsidiaries. The judge in the case halted proceedings to allow the city to file an amended complaint on the matter.

A front page article in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Thursday detailed Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey’s (D-PA) Wednesday visit to the University of Pennsylvania’s Smilow Center for Translational Research, where he was briefed by researchers and UPHS officials on the dire impact of sequestration and the government shutdown on biomedical research. During his visit, Casey emphasized the importance of medical research for jobs and competitiveness in the Philadelphia area and across the country, in addition to saving lives. Discussing the need to keep crucial federal dollars invested in U.S. biomedical research, J. Larry Jameson, MD, PhD, Executive Vice President of the University of Pennsylvania for the Health System and Dean of the Perelman School of Medicine said, “The competition is rising, particularly in Asia.” Researchers, including Daniel J. Rader, MD, chief, Division of Translational Medicine and Human Genetics, and Jean Bennett, MD, PhD, F.M. Kirby Professor of Ophthalmology, described long-term effects of even short-term spending reductions on their research, including threats to funds for training young scientists, for carrying out research and conducting clinical trials, and bringing new products to development.

A new preliminary report from the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine reported on Wednesday, “New medical student enrollment at the nation’s osteopathic medical colleges has increased by 11.1 percent in fall 2013 over enrollment in 2012. A total of 6,449 students began their medical education at one of 29 DO-granting medical schools; these schools educate students at 37 locations in 28 states. Total enrollment at the colleges is 22,054, an increase of 4.9 percent over fall 2012.”

The Tampa Tribune on Thursday provided a status report on the search for a new dean at the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine. In June, Dr. Stephen Klasko announced his departure to become president of Thomas Jefferson University and chief executive officer of the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital System. The article reported that three internal candidates are being interviewed with external candidates still being identified.

Similarly, three finalists for the deanship at the Universtiy of Minnesota Medical School have visited with faculty on-campus.

An article posted by The Scientist on Tuesday discussed the pros and cons of re-reviewing published papers. The article highlighted the launch of PubMed Commons, “a new post-publication peer review system house on the oft-accessed National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) biomedical research database.”

A viewpoint in the new issue of JAMA discusses the need for academic medical centers to focus on high value care, both in their operations and in advancing their educational mission.

An article in Wednesday’s Orlando Sentinel discussed the evolution of pediatric care in central Florida. The article reported, “Orlando Health, which runs Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital, and Florida Hospital for Children argued that two children’s hospitals was enough. But Nemours persisted and finally prevailed. Now, as Nemours celebrates its first anniversary, the hospital appears to be delivering on its promise: to offer specialized pediatric services that don’t compete with the region’s other two children’s hospitals.”

Leaders from the American College of Radiology, the Alliance of Medical Student Educators in Radiology and the Association of Program Directors in Radiology have developed a concise, free online lecture series to help residents become better teachers. Dr. James V. Rawson, Chairman of the Department of Radiology and Imaging at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University, spearheaded the development of the series. He said that while developed by radiologists, the majority of the 13 lecture topics are applicable for a resident or faculty member in any specialty.

A recording of the October 16th AAMC webinar, “Making It Real: What the Supreme Court’s Fisher Decision Means for Medical Schools,” is now avaiulable on-line.  The webinar was part of the AAMC’s Holistic Review Project.

The National Research Council on Thursday is holding a workshop on “Institutional and Organizational Supports for Team Science.” According to the NRC, the workshop “will explore organizational and institutional factors and policies affect team science. It will explore the research related to the following questions: How do current tenure and promotion policies acknowledge and provide incentives to academic researchers who engage in team science?; What factors influence the productivity and effectiveness of research organizations that conduct and support team science, such as research centers and institutes? How do such organizational factors as human resource policies and practices and cyber infrastructure affect team and collaborative science?; What types of organizational structures, policies, practices and resources are needed to promote effective team science, in academic institutions, research centers, industry, and other settings?” Background materials and the full agenda are available on-line. The workshop is being broadcast on the web.

Johns Hopkins researchers, publishing in the Journal of Hospital of Medicine, “found that doctors-in-training are unlikely to introduce themselves fully to hospitalized patients or sit down to talk to them eye-to-eye, despite research suggesting that courteous bedside manners improve medical recovery along with patient satisfaction.” The researchers called “for some simple adjustments to intern communications to make the whole experience of a hospital stay better.”

Science reported on Tuesday that an Indian court is now mandating that consents in clinical trials be videotaped. This is the latest in a number of recent legislative, regulatory and judicial moves that have halted many trials in India.

The Leapfrog Group, an employer-funded organization, released its fourth set of hospital safety scores. The scoring has been heavily criticized by some hospitals. The Group said in its release, “New research estimates up to 440,000 Americans are dying annually from preventable hospital errors. This puts medical errors as the third leading cause of death in the United States, underscoring the need for patients to protect themselves and their families from harm, and for hospitals to make patient safety a priority.”

The University of Michigan has appointed Kevin Ward, M.D., a professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine, to lead an effort that will unify Medical School efforts to nurture commercialization and entrepreneurship activity in close collaboration with U-M Tech Transfer. Dr. Ward’s appointment is part of the school’s strategic research initiative, Fast Forward to Tomorrow’s Cures. As the first executive director for the new Fast Forward Medical Innovation initiative, Dr. Ward “will bring together a broad array of efforts to help UMMS biomedical research discoveries make the transition to clinical application and to industry and venture partners.”

Debra W. Stewart, PhD, president of the Council of Graduate Schools since 2000, recently announced that she would step down from the position at the end of June 2014.

The Board of Trustees of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) announced on Monday it has selected La June Montgomery Tabron to be the foundation’s next president and CEO, effective Jan. 1, 2014. She has held a number of positions with the foundation during her 26-year tenure at the Foundation, most recently serving as executive vice president of operations and treasurer. Ms. Tabron succeeds Sterling Speirn, who announced he is stepping down on December 31 after heading the foundation for nearly eight years.

And finally (1)… An ancient Arabic medical encyclopedia written in the eleventh century provides a model for practicing individualized medicine, says a Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) scientist who, with two colleagues, has translated the original text into English. The new translation is of the “Canon of Medicine,” written by a Persian scholar (Latinized as Avicenna), and is the definitive work of Unani medicine, which is based on the teachings of the Greek physician Hippocrates and the Roman physician Galen. According to a GUMC release, the authors’s medical writings aimed to rid medicine of superstition and base it on empirical observation, objectivity and rationalism and urged “that health parameters should be considered according to race, gender, age and geographical adaptation.”

And finally (2)… Do you know more about science and technology than the average American? The Pew Research Center and Smithsonian Magazine have posted a 13-question quiz. After taking the quiz, you can compare your results with those from a national sample.

Tony Mazzaschi

PS: Feel free to email <cfas@aamc.org> if you have a problem accessing any article or resource mentioned in this summary. Also, have colleagues email <cfas@aamc.org> if they would like to receive these news postings. We also welcome news tips and corrections.

PPS: Registration is now open for the 2013 AAMC Annual Meeting, November 1-6, in Philadelphia.


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