Dean's Update

April 16, 2021 - Aron Sousa, MD


After weeks and months of starting with COVID-19 in a dean’s update, I thought I would start with some celebrations this week.

Margaret “Peggy” Thompson has been a stalwart with the college’s education program for decades. I met her when she was the clerkship director for Family Medicine in Grand Rapids as well as lead clerkship director for the department. She was awesome. Then as the college was expanding in Grand Rapids, we had the chance to make her the community assistant dean (CAD) for Grand Rapids. As I recall, the prior CAD left the job within weeks of me becoming interim associate dean for academic affairs, and I had no idea what I should do. Marsha Rappley said something like, “…this is easy, Aron, pick Peggy.” And we did, and she was awesome. Then as I was interim dean the last time, Dr. Thompson picked up the reins of Academic Affairs, and she was awesome. Dr. Thompson has made something of a specialty of helping start campuses and mentoring CADs across the system. She is basically fearless and will step into any role or fill any breach.

Peggy is going to retire this summer, and while I wish that was not the case, she absolutely deserves to do as she pleases. She has been such a wonderful leader and advocate, and she tells me she “…looks forward to some great volunteer activities.” We will miss her deeply, but perhaps we will still get to see her when it works out.

This week, we can announce a $2 million planned gift from Richard and Chris Dean to the college. When enacted, the gift will be an endowment to support the Dr. Richard E. and Mrs. N. Christine Dean Endowed Professorship in Immunology and Molecular Biology. I cannot do justice to Dr. Dean’s career here, but he was chair of surgery, won the college’s Lester J. Evans, MD, Distinguished Service Award in 2018, led early immunology work in transplant science, and was a surgeon in a MASH unit in Vietnam. Dr. Dean and his wife Chris are wonderful people, and this gift is a remarkable legacy of their spirit and leadership.

Also this week, the Grand Rapids community celebrated the groundbreaking of the new Perrigo Company plc’s North American Corporate Headquarters in the third building of the MSU Innovation Park at the base of the Medical Mile. In many ways, this new public private partnership will complete the vision of those who first helped our college expand In Grand Rapids with the Secchia Center, the Grand Rapids Research Center, and this fall, the Doug Meijer Medical Innovation Building (DMMIB). The new Perrigo headquarters and the DMMIB are public private partnerships in which developers have leased land from MSU for privately financed buildings that will be used by MSU and others to advance science and health care.

As many of you will have seen, the MIOSHA Emergency Rules have been extended until October. This will extend mask wearing in many businesses and will continue our current version of working from home when work can be done from home. This does not roll back anything we have done to date, and our people will continue to work in clinics, laboratories, and educational spaces. Eventually the current surge will come under control, and then we can continue to work on plans that reopen more of our spaces.

The surge or fourth wave continues. Michigan has spent another week as the country’s hottest COVID-19 hot spot. As of today, 16 of the 20 metro areas with the worst COVID-19 outbreaks are in Michigan. There is some hope because the number of Michigan metro areas listed in the 20 fastest growing cases is down to eight compared to 16 or 17 last week.

The epidemic is still very bad. Cases in Ingham County are as high or higher than they have been in the whole epidemic. Kent County was worse this winter, but the case load is still increasing. Hospitalizations are increasing in both counties and across the state. So far, death rates are not increasing as much, but deaths are the last outcome in a surge. Keep people safe by wearing masks, spatially distancing, washing your hands, and being vaccinated. If you can help someone decide to get vaccinated, you’ll be almost as awesome as Peggy.

Serving the people with you,


Aron Sousa, MD
Interim Dean

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