Dean's Update

April 22, 2022 - Aron Sousa, MD


Last week, about 75 College of Human Medicine students participated in the student led ‘White Coats for Black Lives’ march in Grand Rapids. They and a group of faculty walked from the Secchia Center to the Rosa Parks Circle statue in response to the shooting death of Patrick Lyoya. They marched so their fellow students and community members would know that they see them and the injustice that surrounds us. One of the faculty who accompanied the students on the march, Dr. Angie Thompson-Busch, called the event her “proudest moment at CHM.” In addition, College of Human Medicine students in East Lansing joined with faculty at the vigil at The Rock by the Red Cedar River on Tuesday. As we listened to students last week, the college made some policy changes around time off that we hope is trauma informed and helps those who are particularly struggling with tragic events in our community and across the world. I have been heartened by everything our people have done to support each other and those struggling in these very difficult times. Thank you for looking out for each other.

This week, the college lost a close friend and founder. Roy J. Gerard, MD, was one of the founders of family medicine as a medical specialty and was one of the first people to change from identifying as a general practitioner to identifying as a family medicine physician. After being wounded in the Battle of the Bulge, Roy returned home and graduated from the University of Michigan for both college and medical school.

In 1955, Dr. Gerard established his practice as a family physician in Saginaw. He and colleagues, including another college founder, Tom Johnson, MD, started one of the country’s first family practice residencies based out of their Saginaw practices. From there Dr. Gerard advocated for the discipline nationally and in the state of Michigan. In 1974, he became the founding chair of the Department of Family Medicine (then it was named the Department of Family Practice), and he was core to implementing Dean Andy Hunt’s founding vision supporting and leading primary care and the human emphasis of medicine.

Roy once said, "I am now convinced that listening, bearing witness, empathizing, caring and loving create wisdom and a powerful opportunity for healing.” Our thoughts and support are with his wife, children, and the rest of his family. I know that the Department of Family Medicine plans its own remembrance of Dr. Gerard, and we will all miss his leadership, his dedication to family medicine and medicine in general. For many years, Roy was at the Secchia Center every day, dispensing wisdom and supporting students, faculty, and staff. Perhaps most of all, we miss him as a man focused on ensuring everyone gets the care and support they need for a healthy life.

For those of you keeping track of the comings and goings in the dean’s office, you know that we have reorganized as folks in the dean’s hallway retired, or moved to the Office of Health Sciences, or were recruited away by remote work. With the retirement(s) of Barbara Forney, we moved our college human resources services for staff and faculty under Associate Dean Nara Parameswaran. With this change, Nara’s unit transitioned from faculty affairs to faculty affairs and staff administration. This merger of the human resources team, directed by Toya Pruitt, and the faculty affairs team, directed by Kelly Hodges, has gone very well. I am delighted that we are doing a better job with chair reviews and are more streamlined and integrated in our work.

Those with a longer history with the college will remember the leadership role of Senior Associate Dean Liz Lawrence, who led the college’s strategic work as we expanded campuses and built buildings. She also soaked up a lot of dean’s office work like budget planning letters, creating white papers, and forging relationships across campus and our communities. When Liz retired, other associate deans picked up some of her work, but I have not only missed Liz as a colleague, I also feel the loss of that position.

After approval this week from the College Advisory Council (CAC), I am beginning an internal search for an Associate Dean for Administration. This is a 0.5 FTE faculty position, and you can find the description of duties here. To apply for this position, please send a letter of interest, curriculum vitae, and statement of commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion to Cynthia Vincent by May 2. The CAC approved a search committee including a CAC member, a chairperson, a member of the Dean’s Student Advisory Committee, a member of the Dean’s Staff Advisory Committee, and two members of the dean’s office.

At its core, the role is a combination of Liz’s strategic duties and the operational supervision that was in Barbara’s shop. I’ve passed the position description to some chairs and associate deans for comment, and the response can be summarized as, “Friend. How can this be only 0.5 FTE?” And, the answer lies in a combination of two deanly behaviors: 1) I need to control the number of “duties as assigned” I give to this person, and 2) I plan to turn to leaders outside the dean’s office for more of our strategic work. A key step of our future success will be engaging the broad leadership talents of the college. My hope and plan are that this role helps coordinate that broader engagement of our leadership, and that our leaders take a college-level, rather than unit-level, view of our strategic work.

And finally, it’s official.

Serving the people with you,


Aron Sousa, MD


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