Dean's Update

February 5, 2021 - Aron Sousa, MD


This is one of the first weeks in a long time when my schedule and meetings were not really dominated by the pandemic. And because my job usually runs about 3-9 months ahead of current events, I take that as a good sign.

This week I met with the Department of Family Medicine faculty to discuss the chair search strategy in the hopes of avoiding an interim when Bengt steps away from the role at the end of May. And, I met with the steering committee of the College Advisory Committee to plan out work for the rest of the semester. The chairs, department administrators, assistant and associate deans and I discussed the Henry Ford agreement following the Town Hall discussion last Friday. We are working on the budget cuts; ok, that is about the pandemic.

There were a few COVID-19 discussions about the “enhanced physical distancing” directive from MSU, and the Early Detection Program data that led to the decision. It is good to see a few more vaccines have good effectiveness, and it is excellent news that the AstraZeneca vaccine appears to have eliminated COVID-19 hospitalizations and reduced transmission in the vaccinated group. (I should note the paper is only available as a pre-print and has not been peer reviewed. The same journal did run into trouble earlier in the pandemic.)

This is Black History Month and, like last year, each week I will briefly discuss a little history in the hopes of piquing the curiosity of a few friends. One key to making a better culture and better society is a better understanding of each other. Sometimes a little reading about history can foster greater insight on what we know or think we know. At the worst, I will learn a little something as I write.

As many of you know, I grew up and went to school in Indiana, which has some bad history. Even when I went to school, a rival high school’s mascot was the rebel, and their school flag was the confederate battle flag. Like Michigan and the rest of the country, the state still struggles with racism and hate of many kinds.

Right down the street from where I lived and went to medical school is the Indianapolis base of Madam C.J. Walker. Madam Walker became known as the first Black woman in America to be a self-made millionaire at the height of her empire around 1915. She was an entrepreneur, who set up a laboratory and factory in Indianapolis to make beauty products produced for Black women and generally sold by Black women. She was a suffragist, opposed segregation, and was a patron of the arts. Apparently, there is a Netflix series about her that I should watch…

I had not really heard about Madam Walker until I moved to Indianapolis for my third year of medical school. And although I knew there had been an early thriving jazz scene in Indianapolis, I did not know the community that supported those musicians had Madam Walker’s business as an anchor on Indiana Avenue. At that point in my life, I don’t think I knew there had been a creative, vibrant, successful African-American community in Indianapolis, and I felt kind of stupid for not having been curious enough to find out about this community until I drove through what was left of it on the way to third-year orientation. Today, I learned that the expansion of that university and medical center destroyed parts of Indiana Avenue and was a part of the fundamentally racist and widespread “urban renewal” that took down Black neighborhoods and businesses across the country.

I enjoy history because it feeds my curiosity, but sometimes history also gives me a slightly better understanding of why the current world is the way it is. That seems like reason enough to read a little more widely.

While COVID-19 cases are generally going down, there is plenty of disease still in our communities and new variants continue to spread, so be careful and continue all the precautions we have endured for the last 11 months.

Please wear a three-ply cloth or disposable mask, spatially distance, wash your hands, and when you get the chance, get vaccinated.

Serving the people with you,


Aron Sousa, MD
Interim Dean

Read more from the Dean's Update archive