Dean's Update

March 8, 2024 - Aron Sousa, MD


Aron, on the right, and Lauren Sellers, MS2, on the left, have a Turkish dinner with the assembled students and faculty of the 2024 Chicago Immersion Trip.
Above: Aron, on the right, and Lauren Sellers, MS2, on the left, have a Turkish dinner with the assembled students and faculty of the 2024 Chicago Immersion Trip.


After driving and driving through Florida visiting alumni and donors last week, I turned north for Chicago to spend some time with a group of intrepid students doing an alternative spring break on the west side of Chicago. They spent most of their time with Franciscan sisters of the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels. Among other service-oriented experiences, the students helped with the sisters’ heavily used food pantry, talked with seniors at a community lunch, and worked with kids at the YMCA, also supported by the sisters.

Everywhere I went with our students, people were impressed and delighted by them. And, it’s so great to be with people who spend their vacation learning about other people, who are different than themselves and are in less fortunate circumstances. They handed out food, took blood pressures, learned about the programs available to residents, and cleaned-up with brooms, mops, and sponges. When they found someone with an elevated blood pressure, they referred them to a local Cook County Clinic. It was very cool, and it was organized and led by Lauren Sellers, MS2, who did everything from parallel park the van, to set up the experiences, to arrange a visit to Cook County Hospital, where they met with residents and did a simulation. (Thanks Dr. Aks!) Lauren took it all on! I also want to thank Dr. Susan Phillips, faculty from Grand Rapids, who accompanied the students everywhere they went and stayed with them at the sisters’ mission/retreat.

During the quiet moments, it was enlightening to talk to our students in more informal settings and learn about their interests, goals, and a bit about their paths. We have wonderful students. My thanks to them for sharing some of their time with me: Jessica Shaltry, Haley Divis, Yasin Farhan, Lanah Almatroud, Judy Teran, Chloe Binando Scott, Mahnoor Khan, Lindsey Jurecki, Theresa Nguyen, Hasaan Hayat, and the force of nature, Lauren Sellers.

You can support students like these through Give Green Day. We are featuring scholarship funds for our public health and MD students this year. Give Green Day is March 12, and set your alarms, because the college with the most faculty and staff who make a gift on that day between 9-10 am EST will receive an additional $1K bonus towards scholarships.

When I spoke to the students, they were, appropriately, focused on learning about the residents in the West Humboldt Park neighborhoods around the mission – that is why they went to the west side, which is one of the poorest and most troubled areas of the city. If I am honest, I wanted to talk to the sisters, who spend their life in service to the neighborhoods around their mission. There have been a lot of patients to talk with in my life – I was an attending when many of these students were born, egad – but I have much less opportunity to talk to people so completely dedicated to local service. It was fascinating and inspiring to talk with the sisters, and I appreciate the openness and welcome they gave us all. Our thanks to Sr. Stephanie and all the sisters.

While in Florida, I met with some wonderful alumni and faculty spanning the history of the college. I had a fun and delightful dinner with a 1972 graduate and his wife, as well as a snow birding, longtime faculty member who still does some teaching for us. With each meeting I learned a little bit more about the history of our college, the great work of our graduates, and what they took from their CHM experience that made them a better, smarter, more responsive doctor. I have one more meeting Saturday, and then I head home with my head full of friends and stories.

To finish out this update, let me congratulate the winners of the Annie Li Yang Student Essay Contest. In the summer of 2019, Annie was returning to East Lansing from her home in North Carolina just before MCE, when she was killed in a car accident. Annie was a writer and a winner of the 2019 student writing contest that was renamed in her honor. This year’s winners are first place, Jake Haver, a Morrill student from the class of 2026; second place, Andrew Harris, an Addams student from the class of 2027; and third place Eliza Burr, a Morrill student from the class of 2025. The essays link the student’s experiences in the clinic to their work in the classroom – it’s the fundamental work of becoming a doctor.

I’ve been on the road for more than a week and half, including a stretch of seven nights in seven different cities, but through it all, it has been a delight to spend time with our students, current and graduated. This is our combined legacy, the work of students who use their time away from school to help others and hone their craft as well as alumni who have given their careers to the health and wellbeing of their communities. So be it.

Serving the people with you,


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

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