Global Health

December 14, 2022

VUMC well represented at Association of American Medical Colleges annual meeting

Several Vanderbilt University Medical Center faculty were featured in the annual meeting of the Association of American Medical Colleges in Nashville.

Disrupt the status quo. Inspire action. Redefine what it means to be a physician.

Those were among the messages delivered by Vanderbilt University Medical Center faculty during Learn Serve Lead 2022; the annual meeting of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) at Nashville’s Music City Center. More than 4,300 people from the nation’s academic medicine community attended the five-day meeting Nov. 11-15.

A major theme of VUMC’s communications during the meeting was the impact of climate change on medicine and health.

“Climate impacts affect health care systems in really complex and multifactorial ways,” said Eva Rawlings Parker, MD, assistant professor of Dermatology, during a live chat episode of Vanderbilt Health’s podcast series, “DNA: Discoveries in Action,” broadcast from the exhibition hall on Twitter Spaces.

One consequence of global warming, she said, is “climate migration,” the mass movement of people escaping drought and famine. With migration will come amplification of infectious and vector-borne diseases like leishmaniasis and dengue, which formerly were confined to the tropics.

These diseases “will likely be knocking on our door soon enough,” said Parker, who is involved in raising climate change awareness at the national and international level. As physicians who are still reeling from the greatest global pandemic in more than a century, “we should care about this,” she said.

Holly Fletcher, director of Media Equity and Emerging Platforms at VUMC, produces the podcast series and served as co-host of Monday’s episode with Reed Omary, MD, MSc, Carol D. and Henry P. Pendergrass Professor and chair of the Department of Radiology & Radiological Sciences.

Members of VUMC’s Department of Marketing and Engagement played key roles during the meeting, including staffing two booths in the exhibition hall and producing a video that promoted the Medical Center’s programs and mission.

Other VUMC participants included Beth Malow, MD, Burry Professor of Cognitive Childhood Development, and chief of the Division of Sleep Medicine; John Scheel, MD, PhD, MPH, vice chair of Global Health, Department of Radiology & Radiological Sciences; and Consuelo Wilkins, MD, MSCI, professor of Medicine and Senior Vice President for Health Equity and Inclusive Excellence.

Another VUMC faculty member who challenged conventional wisdom at the meeting was Wesley Ely, MD, MPH professor of Medicine, Grant W. Liddle Professor and author of the recent book, Every Deep-Drawn Breath: A Critical Care Doctor on Healing, Recovery, and Transforming Medicine in the ICU.

During his session, Ely presented data that showed ICU patients do better long term if doctors avoid benzodiazepine-induced sedation, as has been common practice, and if they wean their patients off the ventilator as soon as possible.

This data-driven approach, which combines humanism with science, benefits doctors, too.

Early in his career, Ely said he pulled back from his patients, focusing on their diagnoses and treatment. “I was cheating myself out of the beauty and truth that we have in medicine, which is the relationship we have with our patients.

“We are called to an encounter with these people,” he continued. “We can’t have an encounter with them if we can’t meet them where they are in their suffering. This is our vocational calling. This is why we’re here.”

Other VUMC faculty members and staff who participated in the AAMC meeting were Suzanne Brown Sacks, MD, MS, Margaret Compton, MD, Elisa Friedman, MS, Bonnie Miller, MD, Heather Ridinger, MD, MHPE, Christianne Roumie, MD, MPH, and Kimberly Vinson, MD.