Dean's Update

April 14, 2022 - Aron Sousa, MD


On April 4, 2022, Patrick Lyoya, a 26-year-old Black man, was killed by a White police officer in Grand Rapids. Mr. Lyoya was an immigrant and refugee to the US fleeing a violent country. He was a father, a brother, a son. He, like all of us, lived at the intersection of many identities, none of which define him or should have put him at risk of being shot in the back of the head by a police officer. And yet, that is the society we live in. For so many reasons, none of this should have happened, and yet it does again, and again, and again.

As I watched the video released yesterday by the Grand Rapids Police Department, I thought of Mr. Lyoya and the tragedy and horror of his loved ones. My thoughts also turned to our staff, students, and faculty, and our community partners around the state who watched that same video seeing their child, brother, husband in place of Mr. Lyoya. I thought of our people who were confronted with watching the video as someone who has survived violence or racism here or elsewhere. I was a mess.

Words have so little to offer, and yet they are among our best ways to convey love, they are how we share grief and provide support, and they are the only way to help people change their minds and create a better, more peaceful world. We will meet tonight at 6:30 to listen and share our words and emotions. In addition, I have changed the Town Hall tomorrow at noon to be another conversation. In the past we have taken care of each other, and we will do so again. I want to thank Terry McGovern, Angie Thompson-Busch, and Andrea Wendling for being at the Secchia Center yesterday, Judy Brady for being in Radiology, and Deana Wilbanks for being in a Zoom room as the video was released. My thanks and love to all of you for taking care of each other.

Events like the death of Mr. Lyoya can affect us no matter where they happen, but this killing happened in one of our communities. It matters because we will care for the people around him, and because we live and work here. It is our community, and we have a responsibility to make our part of society more just, less racist, more peaceful, more loving. Better.

Our people save lives daily, and I am very proud of what we do across the state, but our life-saving work can be broader. We are a college with expertise in medicine, public health, health services, ethics, social justice, and community engagement. We have colleagues in community organizations and the greater university with matching drive, goals, and histories of innovation. The challenges in Grand Rapids are faced in Lansing, Detroit, and Alpena. The solutions we validate in Marquette and Flint can be implemented elsewhere. We have work to do.

Before that work, please take care of yourself and look out for each other in our grief. While it’s our nature in medicine to focus on helping others, we must take care of our own mental health. The college contracts with Pine Rest for mental health assistance. Call (800) 442-0809 or (616) 455-6210 and make sure you identify yourself as a student, faculty, or staff member of the College of Human Medicine. Other university support services include ThrivingCampus, MSU Student Counseling & Psychiatric Services (CAPS), and MSU Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

Finally, we have two virtual spaces to come together to share our thoughts and feelings about the tragic death of Patrick Lyoya. Tonight, we are holding a Virtual Listening Session at 6:30 pm. Join Zoom Meeting  Passcode: Listening 

Tomorrow at our weekly Dean’s Town Hall from 12 - 1 pm, I will be joined by Dr. Sean Valles, chair of the Center for Bioethics and Social Justice, and Dr. Lisa Lowery, assistant dean of the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Cultural Initiatives. Join Zoom Webinar  Password: CHMDean

Join us. Talk, seek peace and justice, and share love.

Serving the people with you,


Aron Sousa, MD
Dean Designate

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