College of

Dean's Update | March 20, 2020


Today is Match Day, when graduating medical students find out where they will begin their residency training on July 1. (Above - Samir Yassin matches in emergency medicine at UIC)  Match is the culmination of years of work for our students, and there is so much for our students and faculty to be proud of. No other school in the country provides so much clinical experience to students – and no other school provides so much feedback to students on their performance.

When our graduates join their colleagues around the country in their residencies, they can be proud of their work, their preparation, and their talent. (As an example, our students improve on national tests compared to the nation by more than 0.3 standard deviations!) We are very proud of our students, and they were very successful! Our match rate of 99% is our best ever (!!!) and our students are going to some great places, including some wonderful Spartan residencies.

Usually, a Match Day note from a dean prattles on, veering uncomfortably between hyperbole and gloating. But our students will be entering residency in a clinical world very different than last year’s graduates, or any class since the 1918 flu pandemic.

And for all the discomfort we are facing now, we have to do more. While the testing data is always going to follow behind the actual pandemic, the curve is clearly exponential and not at all flat. (See the included graph from the NYTimes.) We need to hunker down and limit our activities to taking care of each other and increasing the capacity of society to care of the sick. Regulation that made sense at other times, does not make sense now. This is particularly the case around implementing COVID-19 testing.

Like people all over the state and around the world, the people of our college have done remarkable work in the last 10 days:

  • Our educational staff and faculty moved 400 students to online experiences in about 20 hours.
  • Our clinical education team created a series of clinical and non-clinical electives for students after the AAMC guidelines moved students off traditional rotations.
  • We have epidemiologists volunteering for MDHHS, kudos to Jean Kerver and Dawn Misra.
  • Peggy Thompson and friends put on a “Brown Bag” on COVID-19 that maxed ZOOM at 300 participants. If you missed it, you can watch it here (link expires March 27). And, we are going to do another one on March 27 at 1pm on Zoom. (The capacity will be 500 this time and you can join via this link:
  • We have other students working on phone triage of patients, students helping screen healthcare workers for symptoms of the novel coronavirus, and students volunteering in county health departments.
  • Claudia Finkelstein, Jennifer Johnson, and Julia Felton are hosting virtual small group discussions where people can discuss social distancing and the challenges of our current situation.
  • Our communication team has put up a great site with common questions and important information here. There is a compendium of emails and other communication here and the daily list of work our educational team is doing here.
  • Earlier in the week I had a fascinating discussion with Diana Chen, a CHM MD-MBA student who went to the CDC in January for an Epidemiologic Elective Program and remained at the CDC as the COVID-19 outbreak spread across the world. She was assigned to the CDC COVID-19 Response Team and has stayed two extra months helping track cases and the public health response in the US.
  • I cannot list all of the people who are volunteering (but let us know), or putting their lives on hold, or working flat out for two weeks, but it is astonishing to see this teamwork. I am honored and humbled to work with them. Please join me in thanking them.

And, I want to thank our clinical staff, providers, and all of MSU Health Care, who have taken on a challenge unknown in this country for a century. In a matter of days, new systems have been rolled out, new triage and phone banks are running, and telemedicine training is underway and telehealth ready to be implemented. It’s been a great effort by wonderful people...and we are joining an endeavor led by so many health care providers around the world.

These are tough times. More cases are being diagnosed, deaths are rising, there is more stress on our health care providers and their families, and social distancing can easily become social isolation. Remember, we are all in this together – this is not a nationalistic event, this is not a virus sent our way, and our neighbors did not do this to us. Be excellent to each other, swap stories and enjoy each other on Zoom, call someone living on their own just to talk, make kindness a central part of your day.

Be Well.

Serving the people with you,


Aron Sousa, MD
Interim Dean