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  • Writer's pictureAssociation of Academic Physiatrists

AAMC's Virtual Annual Meeting: News for Physiatrists

By: Danielle Perret Karimi, MD, Natasha Romanoski, DO, Jessica Beardsley, MD and Sterling Haring, DO, the AAP’s AAMC Representatives

Learn, Serve, Lead, the nation’s premier academic medical conference and the signature meeting of the AAMC, brought together 4,800+ professionals on November 16-18, 2020. The AAP was represented by CFAS members Danielle Perret, MD and Natasha Romanoski, DO, as well as resident members Sterling Haring, DO and Jessica Beardsley, MD.

This year’s conference centered on two of the complicated crises impacting our nation and our world: the COVID-19 pandemic and racial injustice. The AAMC explored how the pandemic has impacted our medical schools, teaching hospitals, academic societies, patients and providers. The Leadership Plenary with the AAMC’s Board Chair Joseph Kerschner, MD and President/ CEO David Skorton, MD inspired us to “celebrate academic medicine” and challenged us to “confront our shared shortcomings.”

Powerful plenary speakers included Ibram Kendi, PhD, bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist and Director of Boston University’s Center for Antiracist Research; Nikole Hannah-Jones, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist for The New York Times and Creator of the 1619 Project; Francis Collins, MD, PhD, Director of the NIH; Anne Schuchat, MD, Principal Deputy Director of the CDC; Anthony Fauci, MD, Director of the NIAID and Vivek Murthy, MD, former Surgeon General of the United States.

The audience was reminded that “every day, every hour counts” as we work toward managing this pandemic. With a rapidly changing public health crisis on our hands, we were also inspired to educate the public through our work clinically, academically and within our own communities. The well-being of physicians and healthcare professionals was discussed in remembering the life of Lorna Breen, who died from suicide in the setting of COVID-19 and burnout in healthcare. We were reminded, as healthcare workers, that "before we were considered heroes, we were human.”

The AAMC examined the data surrounding racial injustice, inequality and discrimination in academic medicine. Inequity trends occur not only in post graduate medical education and patient care, but are often present in early education. Often, resources are limited in early education with a lack of early opportunity for underrepresented students; this deficit is further propagated in medical education and into clinical medicine. The goal is to identify systemic barriers to inequality and considerations for implementing a more inclusive workforce within academic medicine. We also discussed solutions for conscious and unconscious racial bias, overt discrimination, and gender harassment.

Other Highlights

Work-Work Balance: The AAMC sponsored a session entitled “Overwhelmed,” focusing on work-life balance. A new term, work-work balance, was brought to life. In academic medicine, it was noted that conflicting forces are often at play in regard to clinical, educational and research opportunities; work and function at a systems level is required to create the requisite work-work balances. We heard that the way Americans work may be considered unhealthy. As we work and lead in our communities, we might consider expanding our inquiries and thoughts about the social determinants of health to include occupation.

Research: A panel of researchers highlighted how research has been greatly affected in 2020. Concerns were raised for students and junior faculty who may be new to research and may lose opportunities without an established research portfolio. Female-led research has suffered due to childcare needs related to the pandemic. Other secondary factors have negatively impacted research, such as the periodic shut down of public transportation in large cities. On the bright side, there is a significant opportunity to reinvent collaboration and innovation. There has been growth in research related to public health and epidemiology and in many places with more collaboration between researchers and clinicians.

The Opioid Crisis: The AAMC and NIH have created initiatives focused on advanced education in addressing the opioid epidemic. The NIH “Helping to End Addition Long-Term” (HEAL) initiative has over 25 projects aimed at enhancing pain management and improving treatments for opioid misuse and addition.

Telehealth Competencies: In addition to ongoing work dedicated to combating the opioid epidemic, the AAMC has recognized how the use of telemedicine is rapidly shifting the options for how healthcare is delivered. The AAMC announced new guidelines for telehealth competencies relevant to those physicians entering residency, those entering practice, and for experienced physicians. The document aims to align with the ACGME/ABMS six domains of competence.

From Your AAMC Liaisons

As 2020 comes to a close, your AAMC representatives look forward to continued conversations surrounding academic medicine and its impact on public health, pandemic preparedness, racial equity, physician wellness and the use of telemedicine – and all related specifically to how we, together, advance the field of physiatry.

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