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Morning Rounds Megan Thielking

The White House is getting its first science advisr

The White House has its first official science adviser. The Senate just confirmed meteorologist Kelvin Droegemeier, the president's pick to lead the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. His new post will give him broad latitude to weigh in on anything from infectious disease outbreaks and oil spills to biotechnology and scientific research. The Senate also confirmed Jim Carroll to run the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, often dubbed the "drug czar." Carroll, who previously served as deputy chief of staff in the White House, has been the acting director of the drug policy office for months. 

The latest on the Ebola outbreak in DRC 

The Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo continues to spread, with the outbreak now totaling 608 cases and 368 deaths. Here's the latest:

  • Health workers attacked: Members of an Ebola vaccination team were attacked near Komanda, an area affected in the outbreak. In a tweet, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he had "enormous respect for heroic responders who continue to save lives despite the difficult situation." 
  • New concerns in Uganda: The country’s recent elections have fueled fresh concern that the virus might spread across DRC’s borders. Health officials say hundreds of refugees from DRC have entered Uganda since the vote took place on Sunday.
  • Preparedness plans: No cases of Ebola have been reported in Uganda during this outbreak, but the country has immunized health workers and other high-risk individuals with an experimental Ebola vaccine in case the outbreak spills over the border.

Another company recalls blood pressure drug due to contamination concerns

Another company is recalling a drug used to treat high blood pressure and heart failure over concerns it could be contaminated with a cancer-causing ingredient. A handful of companies have already recalled valsartan tablets after impurities known as NDMA and NDEA showed up in some of the drugs. Now, Aurobindo Pharma has recalled 80 lots of drugs that contained valsartan after finding trace amounts of NDEA. The FDA says patients taking any of the recalled medicines should reach out to a doctor or pharmacist to find a substitute, but should keep taking the drugs until they find a replacement. Not all drugs containing valsartan have been pulled from the market. Get the latest on the recall here.

Inside STAT: What happens to patients when their doctor is not who he claimed to be?


Yvette Hansberry, who had "Dr. Charles Akoda" as her OB-GYN, in her home in Maryland. (ANDRÉ CHUNG FOR STAT)

It's been just over two years since the man known as Dr. Charles Akoda, whose legal name was Oluwafemi Charles Igberase, pled guilty to fraud after using a fake Social Security card to get a medical license. He had performed exams on women, read sonograms, and delivered babies in Maryland. But for the women under his care during that time, the revelation of his fraud has continued to reverberate. "This is gonna be with me forever and ever," said Yvette Hansberry, who was treated by Akoda and lost her daughter after going into labor three months early. Hansberry and other patients are plagued by the same lingering question: How could this have happened? STAT contributor Kelsey McKinney has a compelling look at the case — read here.

Adults are worried about affording health insurance after retirement, AARP poll finds

A new poll finds that U.S. adults in their 50s and early 60s often share a similar health care concern: whether they’ll be able to afford health insurance when they retire. The AARP/University of Michigan poll surveyed more than 1,000 adults and found that 45 percent aren’t confident they’ll be able to pay for health insurance when they stop working. Another 19 percent of adults ages 50 to 64 said they decided to stay in their current positions — instead of changing jobs or retiring — because they wanted to keep their insurance coverage.

How pregnant women could play a role in HIV screening for men

New research suggests that pregnant women could play a role in reaching men who might need to be screened for HIV. The study looked at more than 2,300 women receiving pregnancy-related care in urban Malawi. They were given either a letter for their male partner to visit an HIV clinic, self-testing kits to take home to their partners, or kits along with a financial incentive for visiting a clinic. Men who received self-testing kits were much more likely to head to a clinic within a month."Pregnancy and the postpartum period are times of unusually high HIV risk for both partners as well as the child," the authors write, and the interventions studied could represent a "promising new approach" to address that risk. 

What to read around the web today

  • ‘I really don’t know what happened to Jim’: Friends ask where James Watson’s odious attitudes about race came from. STAT
  • Scientists have been studying cancers in a very strange way for decades. The Atlantic 
  • Where doulas calm nerves and bridge cultures during birth. New York Times
  • For head of  biotech trade group, drug progress is personal. Boston Globe
  • Three more children's hospital executives resign after Times investigation. Tampa Bay Times

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


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Thursday, January 3, 2019


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