College of

Dean's Update | March 13, 2020


Through social distancing, Spartans Will…Flatten the Curve.

Flattening the curve of COVID-19

This is about altruism.

The move from in-class to online teaching in universities across the country, and our moves to cancel group events (like Match Day lunches, the Dean’s Staff Appreciation event, and the NCAA tournament) are all efforts at social distancing. I want to be clear, social distancing is our only way to control this virus, and it is how we will save lives. Michigan now has 12 cases, including cases in our communities, and we are way behind on the kind of case finding and testing that should have been going on.

So, there is not a day to lose. This piece has been making the rounds of faculty, and it is an accessible description of what we are facing and how social distancing is our key weapon to manage this crisis. (Read the whole thing, but really understand Chart 8 and Chart 22, which shows that even a day’s delay leads to thousands of cases.)

Getting this virus will not particularly harm most of us, but it is particularly deadly to older people and those with significant comorbid conditions. The way we all contribute to keeping our family and neighbors healthy and safe is to engage in social distancing:

  • If you are sick stay home. You are sick if you have some version of cough, fever, or shortness of breath.
  • Keep groups of people small.
  • If you can have people work at home, work toward that – we are trying to get as many people working at home as possible. (I am working from home today.)
  • Stay away from crowds and big events.
  • If you run large events, cancel them. (I am talking to our community partners here!)
  • Stay out of planes, buses, and trains.
  • Limit or postpone travel.
  • Support the idea of social distancing.
  • Maintain distance between yourself and others.

Social Distancing

This is hard work. Our staff have turned on a dime to move intersessions for 400 students into online experiences, literally overnight! Our faculty have made curricular changes to get our students meaningful experiences and content when in-class or in-community work is not possible. And, our students have stepped up to this once-in-three-generations challenge – some of them will be volunteering for phone banks answering patient questions about COVID-19. This has been amazing, and I am so impressed with our team! And, thank you from my every microtubule and synapse.

Our challenge is to create social distancing and yet be open. We have students to educate, patients to help, and research programs to maintain. (You can find more about the educational efforts at our JustInTimeMedicine page, and the MSU page is here.)

We are not closed:

  • We still need to get work done; our patients and students need us.
  • The research infrastructure has to be maintained.
  • Student services have to be maintained.
  • Curriculum must be delivered.
  • Phones must be answered. (But we can forward those to cell phones!)

The chairs of the college met Thursday (by Zoom), and they are ready to push the social distancing imperative message out in their departments and in our communities. And, our chairs are working out how graduate students could do COVID-19 testing in our laboratories to help increase testing in the state. A lack of testing is a part of why we are in this situation, and MSU can be the scientific safety net that helps protect the people of Michigan. Science and advocacy are how we will make a difference.

Serving the people with you,


Aron Sousa, MD
Interim Dean

PS Fill out the census and mail it in. Help keep census workers stay safe by getting the census done now, and make sure everyone gets counted!