Op Ed: Medical School Deans' Statement on Public Health

September 24, 2021

Originally published on the opinion page of the September 24 print edition of the Detroit Free Press.

The health of our community depends on the work of our public health professionals. These public health directors, officers, physicians, nurses, and educators have dedicated their careers to the hard work of keeping us safe from all manner of conditions and diseases. Indeed, during the last century, the work of public health professionals to reduce food- and water-borne illness, tuberculosis, smallpox, diphtheria, polio and smoking-related diseases, among many others, has doubled the life expectancy of Americans. They are just as dedicated to protecting us from the disability and death caused by COVID-19.

Mask-wearing mandates are an important tool with which we can all limit the spread of COVID-19 and protect those around us. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website has a summary of studies that show that mask wearing meaningfully decreases COVID-19 in hospitals, hair salons, cities, airplane flights, an aircraft carrier, and in 200 countries, including the United States. Wearing a mask is safe, cheap, and easy to do.

Vaccination is our path out of this pandemic. We are all physicians, and we note that even before vaccine mandates, more than 95% of physicians chose to be vaccinated. Few professionals are more prepared than physicians to review the scientific literature or to witness the dangerous nature of this disease. It is significant that the people who have followed the science and cared for the sick have been vaccinated. If you or those near you are not yet vaccinated, we encourage you to talk to your physician and get vaccinated.

The vast majority of people contacted by our public health workers are appreciative and understand the important work these people do. This is true across the political spectrum and among people who are vaccinated and are not yet vaccinated. Unfortunately, there is a small minority where this is not the case. Over the last few months, some of these professionals have been physically threatened and received death threats. This is awful, and as deans of the state’s medical schools, we offer our full support and appreciation to our public health colleagues.

The Deans of Michigan’s medical schools:

  • Andrea Amalfitano, D.O., Ph.D., dean, Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • George Kikano, M.D., dean and vice president for health affairs, Central Michigan University College of Medicine
  • Duane Mezwa, M.D., dean, Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine
  • Marschall S. Runge, M.D., Ph.D., dean and executive vice president for medical affairs, University of Michigan Medical School
  • Mark Schweitzer, M.D., dean and vice president for health affairs, Wayne State University School of Medicine
  • Aron Sousa, M.D., interim dean, Michigan State University College of Human Medicine
  • Paula Termuhlen, M.D., dean, Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine