Dean's Update

February 23, 2024 - Aron Sousa, MD


60th Anniversary banner with the words "Deans Update" on it.Friends,

It has been an eventful few weeks for my calendar, including the launch bash for the Rx Kids initiative, the Remembrance Conference, the Blue Ridge Rankings, and a rush of receptions before the main campus spring break. For reasons of clinical scheduling, the college’s spring break is a week later than for main campus, so after a turn through Florida visiting alumni and donors, I will be in Chicago the first week in March for an alternative spring break with some of our students. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, let me share some opportunities and news you might have missed.

Kent Key, PhD, MPH, one of our assistant professors of public health in the Charles Stewart Mott Department of Public Health, won an MSU 2023-24 Excellence in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Award and was honored at the February 9, 2024, ceremony. It was great to see his department colleagues at the event too. Dr. Key is a health disparities researcher focused on social determinants of health. He also leads the Flint Public Health Youth Academy and is executive deputy director of Community Based Organization Partners (CBOP), one of the founding partners of the college in our expansion in Flint. He was in that last role when I first met Dr. Key, and while I was interim director of the Division of Public Health in 2015-16, Kent joined the division. And yes, I was an interim in that role, too. I’ll note that after I left that job, Kent’s career and collaborations really took off. Surely that is more correlation than causation.

Michigan has early voting for the primary until February 25, and the college participates in MSU Vote, which encourages Spartans to vote. By all means, vote.

As I noted above, this has been a week of receptions, and Thursday’s was for our Health Professions (HP) and fixed term faculty who were promoted in the last year. Hear ye, on March 7 the good people of Faculty Affairs and Development are holding a webinar for our fixed term and HP faculty, “Describing, Promoting, and Valuating Excellent Scholarship.” By and large, but not always, the faculty audience for this program have been hired for their excellence in something other than research, usual teaching, service, or clinical care. But, many of our non-tenure stream proceed to kick ass in scholarship anyway. Check in with Heather Laird-Fick, MD, MPH, Julie Phillips, MD, MPH, and Ade Olomu, MD, MS, among other great faculty for the webinar.

February is Black History Month and next week we are celebrating a special part of Black history in Grand Rapids. Dr. Robert W. Claytor was one of thirteen children and born in 1897 to farming parents born into slavery in pre-Civil War Virginia. Dr. Claytor had to travel to find a high school in segregated Virginia. He eventually found his way to college at Northwestern and then medical school at Meharry, after Northwestern filled its quota of Black students. Meharry is an historically Black medical school in Nashville, Tennessee, and was founded in 1876 as the first medical school for Blacks in the South.

Dr. Claytor graduated with his medical degree in 1934 and moved to Grand Rapids soon after because he had few opportunities to work in the South. He worked at Saint Mary’s hospital (now Trinity Health Grand Rapids Hospital), although it took nearly ten years for Butterworth to admit him to the staff. Dr. Claytor estimated that he delivered more than a thousand babies in his Grand Rapids career. He also was very active in the community, as was his wife, Helen Jackson Claytor. Dr. Claytor was named Family Physician of the Year in 1976 by the Michigan Academy of Family Physicians and co-founded an organization that became the Grand Rapids Urban League. He died at 91 in 1989. Next week, we will celebrate a new college scholarship endowed and named in Dr. Claytor’s honor by donor Peter Lundeen, MD. Dr. Lundeen is a family physician and hospitalist at Corewell Health, the old Spectrum, the old Butterworth. This is a great gift in honor of a great leader.

Serving the people with you,


Aron Sousa, MD, FACP
Dean, Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

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