AAMC News and Leadership Announcements, 2013 Nov. 20

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

The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) Board of Governors on Monday approved PCORI’s strategic plan and a Fiscal Year 2014 budget along with a resolution for PCORI to commit up to $1.03 billion in research funding over the next two fiscal years. In addition, the Board approved the charters for two new advisory panels, one on rare disease and the other on clinical trials. It also accepted the revised version of the PCORI Methodology Report, “which provides a roadmap for conducting scientifically rigorous comparative clinical effectiveness research centered on questions and results that matter most to patients and other end-users of research results.”

The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) and National Board of Medical Examiners have posted a notice of planned changes to the USMLE in 2014 – 2015.  The document also highlights features of the examinations that will not change.

The Galveston Daily News reported on Sunday, “The University of Texas Medical Branch has made offers to research scientists, existing faculty members and clinician recruits in the past several years that far exceeded its financial resources.”  According to the article, “The issue became public after Dr. Danny O. Jacobs, executive vice president, provost and dean of the School of Medicine, sent an Oct. 31 letter to colleagues outlining how incomplete records had made it hard to track who had made officers, to whom offers had been made and the dollar amounts committed, while explaining the university would be unable to immediately fulfill all of them.”  According to the article, UTMB officials said, “The offers could total as much as $80 million or be half of that…”
http://tinyurl.com/oaxmt69 (subscription may be required)

Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal reported, on “…a new and growing generation of concierge doctors who, in this era of health reform, see more opportunity in the middle class than they do in the jet set. The trend has bifurcated the retainer medicine industry: On one end, patients pay thousands of dollars a month for lavish celebrity-type treatment at traditional concierge practices. On the other, pared-down clinics charge roughly $50 to $100 a month for basic primary-care medicine, more accessible doctors, and yes, money savings for those looking to reduce their health spending.”  The article further reported, “Of the estimated 5,500 concierge practices nationwide, about two-thirds charge less than $135 a month on average, up from 49% three years ago, according to Concierge Medicine Today, a trade publication that also runs a research collective for the industry. Inexpensive practices are driving growth in concierge medicine, which is adding offices at a rate of about 25% a year, says the American Academy of Private Physicians.”

The November 13 issue of JAMA focused on critical issues in US health care.  Of special interest is an article on “Academic Health Centers and the Evolution of the Health Care System,” written by Drs. A. Eugene Washington, Molly Coye, and David Feinberg of UCLA. They conclude, “The profound changes now unfolding in US health care bring very specific challenges for AHCs. Their fate—and ultimate contribution—will be determined by how they respond. Will AHCs become victims or make the necessary shifts to reinvent themselves meaningfully? Centers pursuing the disruptive transformations [outlined in the article] will survive and thrive in the value-conscious, patient-centered world of health care ahead. And these institutions will continue providing value to society, patients, and communities.”

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), spoke about the future of the NIH and the impact of sequestration on science research funding at the Washington Ideas Forum last week.  The 16-minute interview was broadcast by C-SPAN and is available on-line.

Monday’s New York Times reported, “Last week, the nation’s leading heart organizations released a sweeping new set of guidelines for lowering cholesterol, along with an online calculator meant to help doctors assess risks and treatment options. But, in a major embarrassment to the health groups, the calculator appears to greatly overestimate risk, so much so that it could mistakenly suggest that millions more people are candidates for statin drugs.”  The article reported, “…the calculator overpredicted risk by 75 to 150 percent, depending on the population.”  The newspaper further reported that the issues with the calculator were identified during the review process but were not shared with the appropriate researchers. The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology vigorously defend the recently published risk assessment and cholesterol guidelines despite criticism of the risk assessment calculator tool.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allowed the marketing of four diagnostic devices that can be used for high throughput gene sequencing, often referred to as “next generation sequencing” (NGS). This is the first regulatory clearance of a high-throughput DNA sequencing device. Two of the newly cleared devices are used to detect DNA changes in the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) gene. Commenting on the FDA action, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the NIH, said, “This action reflects our nation’s commitment to a future in which health-care professionals will be able to use each person’s unique genetic information to provide more precise ways of detecting, treating, and preventing disease.”

Inside HighEd reported on Monday, “The squeeze that research universities are feeling because of federal budget cuts may put their credit ratings at risk, Moody’s Investor Services said Friday. The rating agency did not formally change its outlook on research universities but did warn that the budget reductions, known as sequestration, are a negative development for the creditworthiness of those institutions.”

The University of Chicago Medicine and Franciscan Alliance have entered into a master affiliation agreement “that creates a novel partnership between a prominent academic medical center and a leading regional health system. The affiliation provides for the joint development and implementation of clinical, research and educational initiatives.”  The affiliation agreement focuses on the Franciscan Alliance’s Northwest Indiana facilities including Crown Point, Michigan City, Dyer, Hammond and Munster.

An article in Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle highlighted “PubMed Commons,” a new comments site housed within PubMed.  The article reported, “A beta version of the site launched in June and opened up last month to hundreds of thousands of authors who have work published on the site. Eventually the general public will be able to view comments. The idea is that the site will subject already published work to the continued scrutiny of the scientific masses, to more quickly pick out the bad science and more widely circulate the good.” The Scientific American also featured an article on the new site.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer this weekend featured an article on the Cleveland State University/Northeast Ohio Medical University Urban Health Partnership.  This fall saw “the first full class of 35 CSU students who will enter NEOMED in the fall of 2015, as part of the Partnership for Urban Health.”  The paper further reported, “Hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants for planning, curriculum development and the mentoring program have been provided by several foundations since the program was announced in 2011…CSU and NEOMED devised a program meant to encourage Cleveland students, as early as middle-school age, to consider medicine and other health care professions. They will be mentored and guided through high school and CSU.” Dr. Meredith Bond, dean of CSU’s College of Sciences and Health Professions, is leading the program.

The Seattle Times on Friday reported, the “University of Washington (UW) Board of Regents on Thursday unanimously approved plans for a new, $123.5 million animal-research facility. The two-story building, which will be entirely underground, will allow the university to boost the number of mice, pigs, dogs, rabbits and primates used in biomedical research. Located near the shore of Portage Bay, it also will help consolidate animal experiments that are now spread across campus.”

A second $10 million gift commitment from Jerre and Mary Joy Stead of Scottsdale, Ariz., will advance children’s medicine at the University of Iowa by creating four new faculty chairs and establishing funds to support innovation and leadership development. In recognition of the Steads’ total philanthropy to UI Children’s Hospital and the UI Department of Pediatrics of $20 million, the pediatrics department will be named the University of Iowa Stead Family Department of Pediatrics. The Steads are co-chairs of Iowa First: Our Campaign for Breakthrough Medicine—UI Health Care’s $500 million campaign for private support that launched in 2011 and will celebrate its conclusion in spring of 2014. The Pediatric Department at UI is chaired by Dr. Raphael Hirsch.

Susan H. Guttentag, M.D., is joining Vanderbilt University on Feb. 1, 2014, as the new director of the Division of Neonatology within the Department of Pediatrics at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. Currently, Dr. Guttentag is associate professor of Pediatrics with the Perleman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. She has been a faculty member there and has served at both Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania since 1994.

An article in Friday’s issue of the Gainesville Sun discussed physician suicide.  According to the article, “An estimated 400 physicians commit suicide in the U.S. each year, and physicians are at a significantly higher risk of dying from suicide than the general population, according to Medscape…Suicide is also the only cause of death in which the risk is higher for physicians than other causes of death.”  The article discussed depression and resources that are available to physicians with the disease.  The article noted that the Florida state licensing board has changed its reporting policy to encourage affected physicians to obtain the help they may need.

The Wall Street Journal has posted a number of expert responses to the question, “If you could change one aspect of the Affordable Care Act, what would it be?” Among the respondents was Dr. Atul Grover, AAMC Chief Policy Officer, who discussed the failure of the ACA to lift the cap on federally-supported GME positions.

One of America’s largest healthcare simulation centers, incorporating more than 30,000 sq. ft. of virtual reality, surgical simulation, task trainers, standardized patients, and high fidelity mannequins, was officially dedicated as the “Val G. Hemming Simulation Center” on Monday, Nov. 18 at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. It was named in honor of Val G. Hemming, M.D., who spent more than 20 years at USU’s F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine, first as chair of the pediatrics department and later as dean of the school. Dr. Hemming is credited with spearheading efforts to establish the Simulation Center, which opened in 1999.

The Seattle Times on Sunday ran the second part of their investigation on orphan-drug abuses by pharmaceutical companies. The article featured a case study in how drug makers can boost an orphan drug’s off-label revenue. The lengthy article also discussed practices that have prompted, “…the federal government to cry foul [and] have posed a big problem industry-wide, according to court records and medical-journal articles.”

Alan Gordon, MD, has been named director of Division of Gynaecologic Oncology within the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at the Emory University School of Medicine.  He joins Emory from Mercer University School of Medicine where he was a division director and vice-chair of the Department Gynecology and Obstetrics.

Uroyoán Ramón Emeterio Walker has been named the new president of the University of Puerto Rico. Dr. Walker is a professor of mathematics on the UPR’s Mayaguez campus.

Investigators reported on Friday that in a large-scale analysis of 1.6 million results from 46 of medicine’s 50 most commonly ordered lab tests, “that, on average, 30 percent of all tests are probably unnecessary. Even more surprising, the results suggest that equally as many necessary tests may be going unordered.” The report was published in PLoS ONE.

Tony Mazzaschi

P.S. CFAS-Mail is a service of the AAMC Council of Faculty and Academic Societies. The Council is composed of two representatives from each US and Canadian medical school and two representatives from member academic societies and is the voice of faculty in AAMC’s leadership structure.

P.S.S. To be added to the distribution list for these listserve messages, e-mail a request to CFAS@AAMC.ORG.


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