College of
Human
Medicine

Dean's Update | March 11, 2020

Friends,

Do. Not. Be. A. Vector.

Most of us are a larger danger to others by spreading the COVID-19 virus than we are personally in danger from the virus. We should work to protect each other. Medicine is a caring and healing discipline, and at the very least, we should do no harm.

There will be cases around us, and there are things we can do to protect others and live responsibly:

  • Stay home if you are sick, full stop.
  • Seek care by calling your physician’s office early for a respiratory illness.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with your sleeve at the elbow or use a disposable tissue.
  • Keep your hands away from your face.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water. If you don’t have soap and water, you can use a 60% alcohol hand sanitizer.
  • Social distancing – as much as possible meet by video or phone and reduce or cancel events. This means no hugging or shaking hands – it is time to bow, nod your head, or wave. Try to literally increase the space between you and other people.

I hope you recognize these from the February 28 update.

It is not reasonable to hope COVID-19 will just go away, but if we can slow down its progress, we have a chance to avoid hospital overcrowding, decrease infections in at-risk populations, and decrease mortality from the disease.

As you will have seen, President Stanley announced that we ended in-person teaching, except for clinical experiences, today at noon. (This is a kind of social distancing is meant to slow progress of the epidemic.) You can find updates from March 11 here. There is information about how MSU is working to continue teaching here, but know that most of that information is related to the general university.

The clinical experiences will continue in the LCE, and the college has surveyed students to allow people to identify if they or people they care for are particularly at risk from the pandemic. If you haven’t already, and think that you are at risk of complications from COVID-19, please discuss this with Dr. Peggy Thompson

We have also communicated with students about non-clinical teaching, and all of our courses will be online by tomorrow morning. Overall, we are focusing our education-related communication to students, staff, and faculty directly involved in implementation of these plans. We will broaden that communication when we have the time to do so. The academic and student affairs team has been preparing for a while for this, and I am really impressed by their planning and work. 

We are working to ensure our students are protected and safe while they are on rotations. We are in close contact with our clinical partners as some of them will have their own plans regarding student involvement. As with all patients with communicable diseases, students should have the proper protective equipment before they care for patients. No protection, no participation.

This could go on for a long time. The university’s social distancing efforts are scheduled at least until April 20, so this will be the new normal for a while. Resilience is very important to our ability to keep the programs of the college going during this pandemic. Please do the following:

  • Presume positive intent by those around you. We are all doing the best we can, and we know we will have to change plans and take new actions as illnesses develop.
  • Expect that there will be technical challenges and understand that some people will not have the technical expertise or equipment to quickly move away from in-person work.
  • Again, do not come to work, school, clinic if you are sick.
  • Take care of yourself and your family.
  • Avoid characterizing groups or at-risk people – there have been people insulted and harassed because they are from countries with high burdens of this novel coronavirus.

Consistent with the university travel ban, I have asked people to only travel within the state if it is absolutely necessary. (More social distancing.) Many of us move between campuses several times a week. We should stop doing that for now. I know our dedication to being in additional campuses is a part of our strategy for success, but for now we need to do our work by phone and videoconferencing as much as possible.

The college and the university are open, but we will be reducing events, especially those with significant numbers of participants. As an example, we are cancelling the Student Scholarship and Awards Banquet scheduled for April 5 and the Annual Med Ball, April 18.

We will be working through details and revising plans as the day and week go on. There are still many ongoing conversations at the college, HealthTeam, and university level as the health department tracks cases, and we all come to grips with the detailed implementation required to continue our work and programs. Thanks for your patience, dedication, and hard work.

Serving the people with you,

Aron Sousa, MD
Interim Dean