Dean's Update

March 29, 2024 - Aron Sousa, MD


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Last week, I attended the AAMC’s meeting of the Council of Deans, which, as you might imagine, is a meeting of a whole mess of deans. (A group of caterpillars is an army, a group of buffalo is an obstinacy, a group of alligators is a congregation, and a group of deans is a mess.) The sessions focused on common struggles of medical schools including challenges funding research, integration with clinical partners, and the political and social challenges of the world.

That last item spans regions, private and public institutions, and new and long-standing schools. New legislation at the state and federal level, as well as the recent resignations of university presidents, are manifestations of changes in the place of higher education in society and academia’s failure to adequately explain the economic and social opportunity afforded by colleges, universities, and medical schools.

As the College of Human Medicine turns 60 this year, we are focused on our social impact. From the beginning, the college provided new opportunities to non-traditional students who turn to medicine from another career. There was not much of a home for non-traditional students in the era of our founding, but the College of Human Medicine resolutely made a home for non-traditional students. Alan Neiberg was an early graduate who came to medicine from a prior career and then served the people of the Lansing area for more than 30 years as an internist. Marsha Rappley also came to the college from another career and became a national leader in medicine. Because women had fewer opportunities to track into medicine in the sixties and seventies compared to men, an openness to non-traditional students provided a new chance for women interested in medicine and helped the college reach gender parity a decade or more before most medical schools.

We continue to welcome non-traditional students, who are not straight out of college. More than a third of our students come to us with a master’s degree and a significant number of our students have had other careers. I know students who have been in health care, research, the military, and even real estate before entering medicine. In many countries, entry into higher education and then graduate or professional education depends entirely on what happens in the prior educational level. If you don’t excel in the equivalent of high school, there is little hope of getting to college or further in your education. One of the great strengths of the American higher education system is that people from all experiences and walks of life have a re-entry point into educational opportunity. The college has specific pathways to help and welcome students from community colleges, from rural backgrounds, from the tribes, from regional colleges, and from disadvantaged communities.

We provide opportunities to students, who then help provide the opportunities of health in the communities in which they serve. More than half of our graduates will do their residencies in Michigan and the community of your residency is one of the strongest predictors of where you will start your practice. More than 50% of our 2024 graduates have matched into a residency in Michigan. Our communications team has created a fun, interactive map showing the cities and disciplines into which our students matched. Speaking of Match, here’s some joy – the recap Match Day Video.

I have a couple of exciting announcements to pass on this week:

  • After a search process that took almost as long as the gestation period of a red velvet worm, I am delighted to report that Michael Lewis, MD, will be the founding chair of the newly instituted MSU Department of Anesthesia. Dr. Lewis is a proven leader in anesthesiology and is the current chair of the Henry Ford Health Department of Anesthesiology, Pain Management & Perioperative Medicine. He has long been a leader in the field and has been our interim chair for more than a year.

    This is an important next step for the college. The Department of Anesthesia, like all the new departments approved last year, is a statewide department and will engage students and faculty from all eight of our campuses. The backbone of the department will be faculty from Henry Ford Medical Group, and the impact of the college depends on our engagement in all communities of Michigan. The current faculty have done excellent work developing research and education programs, and I look forward to our next steps and successes.

  • From April 2-May 17, all full-time and part-time faculty and staff members, clinical/adjunct non-prefix faculty and contracted community campus staff will be invited to take part in the StandPoint Staff or Faculty Engagement Surveys administered by the AAMC. You will receive an email from directing you to the survey using a personalized link. The survey should take no more than 15-20 minutes to complete. The survey is completely confidential and the AAMC only sends us aggregated results. We have participated in this nationally normed survey before, and the results will be important to our work developing programs and support for faculty and staff. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Ade Olomu, Interim Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs ( or Carol Parker, Associate Dean for Administration ( or StandPoint Surveys at or 202-828-0521.

  • With a successful match behind them, our fourth-year students are getting ready for graduation. We are fortunate to have Dr. Teresa K. Woodruff, member of the National Academy of Medicine (2018) as our commencement speaker. She received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Mentoring from President Obama in an oval office ceremony in 2011 and was a recipient of the Endocrine Society’s 2021 Laureate Award, a top honor that recognizes the highest achievements in the field of endocrinology. Most recently she was the MSU interim president and demonstrated remarkable leadership as the university traversed tragedy and trauma. She is also a great speaker!

  • Finally, I am completely chuffed to announce Assistant Dean and Chief External Relations Officer Jerry Kooiman has won the university Simmons Chivukula Award for Academic Leadership. Jerry has been transformative for us. I know people say that kind of thing all the time, but stay with me for a couple of paragraphs. Jerry has led our community work for every major expansion of the college and has thrown himself into the college’s relationships across the state over the last two decades. I met Jerry in 2007, when the college hired him to help develop our expanded campus in Grand Rapids. Jerry had just termed out of the legislature, where he was in the leadership. But when I met him, he had a hammer in his hand and was putting together furniture in our first, newly rented, teaching space in Grand Rapids. He was swinging a hammer, but you’d never thought he swung the gavel in the Michigan House.

    Jerry was essential to our work engaging the Flint community at the outset of the 2012-14 expansion. He forged partnerships with the faith community, local organizations, and people of this minority majority city. I know Jerry went through two pairs of shoes and a set of tires in this work. His work has been remarkable, full stop.

The college is a very different place than it was when Jerry Kooiman joined us nearly two decades ago. Our transformation has absolutely depended on the talent, dedication, grit, and interpersonal talents of Assistant Dean Kooiman.

Serving the people with you,


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

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