College of
Human
Medicine

Dean's Update | February 26, 2021

Friends,

This week, the COVID-19 death toll in the US passed 500,000 lives lost. That is a nearly unfathomable number of people lost in less than a year – slightly more than the population of the Lansing metro area. Of course, each of our communities have lost loved ones. The health care community was hard hit, especially earlier in the pandemic. We all have colleagues who have cared for patients even in the face of deep uncertainty and risk. Those technicians, staff, nurses, and physicians around the world are very brave, dedicated, and clever; and they help continue the most noble traditions of health care.

I am not so sanguine about the rest of our response. Leadership failed us. Nationally, our public health system has been shown to be disjointed, and too many of our fellow residents have fallen for misinformation and mistruths. It is not clear how many people would be alive with a better response.

Vaccination does seem to be working well. In particular, cases and deaths in nursing homes are way down, and that is probably due to widespread vaccination for those high-risk people. Unfortunately, the disparities based on race and ethnicity that have plagued us during the pandemic continue in the vaccination effort. It is my hope that the national move to using health centers for vaccinations will help address this inequity.

The pandemic and political misinformation surrounding SARS-CoV2 have spawned a rise in anti-Asian and Pacific Islander attacks, which exacerbates an already existing epidemic of hate crimes against  Asian Americans/Pacific Islander (AAPI). The reports of attacks are heartbreaking and distressing. I know that our students have faced this themselves, just as their families have in a long history of racism against people from Asia and the Pacific Islands. Dr. Lipscomb and I will schedule a session(s) with students and others to share experiences and support. The people of the college stand with our students, faculty, and staff from Asia and the Pacific Islands or of AAPI heritage.

There are some news items to pass along:

  • March 16 is Give Green Day, and we will be focusing on student scholarships. Be ready.
  • Today is Francesca Dwamena’s last day as chair of the Department of Medicine. I want to thank her for all her service as chair. She has some international work she will be taking on, and as usual, I expect she will be energetic and successful. I also want to thank Supratik Rayamajhi for stepping into the role as interim chair. Dr. Rayamajhi is vice-chair of the department and has been the residency program director for many years as well as a clerkship director. His clinical work is as a hospitalist. There is a lot going on in the department, and I am happy he has the support of the department. Please welcome him to the role.
  • Today is Thank A Resident Day. Thank a resident on CHM’s social media.

This is the last Friday of Black History Month, and this week I spent time reading about the Underground Railroad in Michigan. The best documented “station” in our region is in Cass County located in southwest  Michigan. The community had a long history of welcoming free Blacks from the American South over many years, and the Black and White communities worked together as the nexus of two different Underground Railroad “lines”. The “Quaker Line” ran from Cincinnati to Wayne County, Indiana and then north into Michigan. The “Illinois Line” ran north from St. Louis up to Niles and then into Cass. Some freedom seekers ended up settling in the area and others headed east to cross into Canada.

Freedom seekers often continued east into Canada because raiders would come north to “recapture” people who had escaped bondage. In August 1847, a group of raiders from Kentucky came up to Cass County to do just that. Brave, dedicated, and clever people managed to protect the freedom seekers; and they helped continue the most noble traditions of humanity. I encourage you to read about it – the website is pretty informative and can consume an evening.

Please continue to wear your mask, spatially distance, wash your hands, and, in the most noble of traditions, get vaccinated when you can.

Serving the people with you,

Aron

Aron Sousa, MD
Interim Dean