Dean's Update

May 5, 2023 - Aron Sousa, MD

Dean Aron Sousa and Irving Vega


This week, I had the pleasure of attending the Community Meeting of the Michigan Center for Contextual Factors in Alzheimer’s Disease in Grand Rapids, led by our own Irving Vega, PhD (with me above). The Center is a statewide NIH grant including UM, Michigan State, Wayne State, and Eastern Michigan Universities among other partners. This community work is dedicated to expanding the scope and scale of research in Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) to previously underserved communities. The event on Wednesday evening was the best community meeting I have attended in Grand Rapids, and you could feel the partnership and collaboration between community members and the research team.

In his presentation, Irving outlined the outcomes of the work from the last five years, including papers and scientific advances. Importantly, the outcomes also included people hired on the grant from the Latino community, the first bilingual staff person for the Alzheimer's Association Michigan Chapter, the state’s first Spanish speaking AD support group, and the expansion of the COVID-19 testing to the West Michigan Latino community during the pandemic using the Spartan Spit technology developed in our own Translational Neuroscience Department.

One of the partners in the work of this research team is the college’s chapter of the Latin American & Native American Medical Association (LANAMA), who help with community outreach, supporting research activities, and teaching medical English as part of programs for English as a second language. I had the chance to sit with our dedicated students, Juan Jimenez, Andrea Ramirez, and Mary Ann Medina, and listen to their experiences during the mix and mingle agenda item, which should be a part of every post-pandemic meeting.

I went to the event knowing much of what I have described above, but I did not expect to meet volunteers of Music for Dementia – the College of Human Medicine Chapter. Beatrice Lucchesi (the founder), Chris Skovira, and Haleigh Czarnecki are very talented and sound wonderful – their harmonies were delightful. The organization works to find and perform music that will connect with people with dementia in the hopes of triggering memories and language that have otherwise been inaccessible to their listeners with dementia diagnoses. It is a little shocking how much of the music that these patients love and re-remember is from some approximation of my youth… During the meeting they explained their work and performed an example using a classic with sing along. (That classic is well before my youth.)

I want to encourage people to show up, virtually, for the CHM Spring Faculty Meeting on May 9, from 4-5:30 pm. (Here’s the LINK to the Zoom and Agenda.)  The agenda includes a pretty extensive dean’s update and an update on our CHM Strategic Plan implementation. I will do the update again for staff, students, and any other interested folk during the Town Hall at noon Friday, May 26.

Dean Sousa and Anna MooreLast week, I was in Philadelphia for the graduation presentations of ELAM (Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine), the premier leadership training program for women in academic medicine and medical sciences. Anna Moore, PhD, completed the program this year. ELAM asks deans to attend the final project presentations of their faculty, so I was in Philly for Anna’s presentation of her project, which is a national workshop introducing scientists from underrepresented backgrounds to in vivo imaging techniques at MSU’s world class imaging facilities. One of the goals of the workshop is to foster collaborations leading to papers and grants for these visiting scientists. It is an exciting concept and project. The multiday workshop is coming up in October, and it was great to see how much the other deans and the other ELAM graduates were excited by Anna’s work and leadership. But wait, there is more. In an announcement just last week, Andrea Wendling, MD, and Julie Phillips, MD, MPH, will be in ELAM next year, so I will be in Philadelphia again next spring.

Serving the people with you,


Aron Sousa, MD FACP



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