Dean's Update

March 4, 2022 - Aron Sousa, MD


First-year College of Human Medicine student Jaclyn Calkins presenting at the ECE Poster Sessions in East Lansing.Each year, the Early Clinical Experience students (ECE) do projects based off their experience in their year one clinic. Many of these are quality improvement efforts with the staff of their clinic. Sometimes students assess or create patient education materials, sometimes students work on the application of clinical guidelines, and sometimes students work on logistical problems like reducing no-shows. The students only have a few months to work on these projects, and then they make a poster and are judged by faculty at a poster session. It’s just like a conference poster session, except there is no beer or wine.

I had a chance to drop in on one of the two ECE poster sessions this week, and I really enjoyed myself. There were nearly a hundred posters judged at each session, so I did not get a chance to look at all of them. But I did get a tour of several posters, and I came away impressed and delighted. The students were really useful in their clinics this year as evidenced by the projects they did to improve patient education, follow-up vaccination, improve staff communication, and reduce language barriers, errors, and mistreatment. Our first-year students made an impressive contribution toward improving clinical care in the greater Grand Rapids and Lansing communities.

In the Town Hall two weeks ago, we had a chance to learn about and celebrate a large gift from the Maxon Foundation to the Munson Healthcare Foundation in support of our students in rural settings of Northwest Michigan. This support is thanks to the great work of our Traverse City Community Assistant Dean, Dan Webster, MD, and thanks to the leader of our Leadership in Rural Medicine programs who is also our new Associate Dean for Community Academic Programs, Andrea Wendling, MD. And, it is important recognize our staff for making this work happen, and especially thank our students, who are amazing. This kind of support for education from our partners is a great indicator of the esteem, importance, and connection our community partners feel for the students, staff, and faculty of the college.

Give Green Day is March 15, and we are raising money for student scholarships. You may recall our goal busting effort on Giving Tuesday last November. These kinds of events help prime the pump for our scholarship campaign, so we really appreciate everyone’s help and contributions.

This week, most of the counties of our campuses are now down to CDC “medium risk” level for COVID-19 transmission after many months at “high risk” transmission. Some of our counties (hello Genesee!) even have “low transmission.” In areas of medium and low transmission risk, people still need to be vaccinated and should be tested if they have symptoms. It is always the case that people with a positive test, symptoms, or who were exposed to a person with COVID-19 should wear a mask. And, people with symptoms should stay home – maybe Zoom will make it easier to stay home when we have other colds and flus. (Imagine my wife reading this and saying something about practicing and preaching, sooty pots and kettles, snakes and crabs walking straight, brambles complaining about the thorns on a pomegranate tree, motes and beams in eyes, etc.)

One of the important college projects this spring and summer is our strategic planning effort. The college has many exciting opportunities and needs to be strategic in its choices in coming years. There is a lot we could do. For example:

  • The college has remarkable opportunities to expand education and scholarship in several communities.
  • Our clinical partners provide new chances for linkage and collaboration.
  • We have the chance to hire dozens of new scholars and clinicians in the next five to seven years.
  • We have the chance to add departments to fill traditional disciplines we have not had in the college.
  • We could work to bring to together the realms of medical sciences/disciplines and public health sciences/disciplines.
  • We could take on a grand challenge like improving health equity or expanding health access.

The strategic task force has had their first meeting, and we have begun the data collection portion of the planning process. Thank-you to everyone working on the project and all of those who answer our surveys and participate in the focus groups. This work is incredibly important for the college and can have a big impact on our future.

I can only occasionally manage to watch the horror of Russia’s morally bankrupt invasion of Ukraine. The bravery and resilience of the Ukrainian people and Russians opposing the war are inspiring and humbling. The plight of the million or more Ukrainians fleeing the violence reminds me of those leaving violence-torn parts of our hemisphere and elsewhere in the world. These include the families and friends of people in our college and the human compatriots of all of us. I wish all of us peace and safety. Look out for each other.

Serving the people with you,


Aron Sousa, MD
Interim Dean

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