Dean's Update

May 20, 2022 - Aron Sousa, MD


Early this week, the Dean’s Advisory Committee on Diversity helped me think through how the college (and the dean) should respond to tragedies and major events that are racist or hate-based. I’ve not always thought it was really the place of a college to make statements about wars, killings, or traumatic weather events. It would be easy to see current events as beyond our scope and a distraction from caring for patients, educating the health-related workforce, making discoveries, and doing scholarship. But I think we need to be of our world. We are a college where people work, study, and are treated, and we need to have a culture of being engaged in the world.

As an example of how such engagement might be useful, there is reason to believe that Black students have a better learning experience if their institution acknowledges major racial events. (I need to include some caveats about this study as a convenience sample, retrospective recall survey, I am an author, etc.) The study does include a large number of students across many organizations, even if the methodology is not what we’d use for clinical decisions, but you do not need randomized trials to justify something as low risk as expressing that you care. And, I suspect this phenomenon is generalizable across all people and many kinds of trauma. It just makes sense that people want to know their institution cares about them and their experience.

On Monday, I sent an email to students and many faculty about the horrific events of last weekend. The days following the graduation ceremony of our medical students have been traumatizing for many of us. The deadly shooting of 10 people last Saturday, nearly all Black, at a Buffalo supermarket by a young, White man espousing White supremist and antisemitic beliefs is another in a long line of similar massacres. The church shooting in California was apparently also a hate crime, this time based on nationalistic beliefs. On May 13, just before graduation, there was a “shootout” on a crowded street in Milwaukee following a Bucks game in which 17 people were injured. The police recovered nine guns. So far in 2022, there have been more than 200 shootings with four or more injuries, not including the shooter. Last year, there were more than 19,000 non-suicide gun deaths in the US. As one of my colleagues says, this is the country we live in. Of course, the future is in our hands.

This leads me to the advocacy work and public intellectual work of our staff, students, and faculty. The whole point of modern universities is to improve the future through scholarship, discovery, education, and service – that is all the more true for land grant schools and community-based medical schools like our college. Following my discussion of public intellectual work in last week’s update, Family Medicine faculty member Steve Ashmead contacted Geri Kelley informing her of the climate change work he and students are doing. Pediatrics Public Health Alice Hamilton Scholar Gurbaksh Esch, MD, MPH, published a piece about being a pediatrician caring for children who are the victims of gun violence. We would like to know about your public intellectual work and encourage you to contact Geri Kelley at to share.

In internal news, I am delighted to announce that Carol Parker, PhD, will be our new Associate Dean for Administration. Following the completion of an internal search designed with the College Advisory Committee, I have asked Dr. Parker to take on this role for the college. She will give up some of her duties in Academic Affairs but will continue working on the LCME effort as the Assistant Dean for Program Evaluation and Continuous Quality Improvement. The good folks in Academic Affairs will search for a person to step into her previous work as Executive Director of Academic Affairs. Following the retirement of Barbara Forney and other changes in the dean’s office, I am delighted to have Carol helping us manage facilities, operations, space, IT, as well as continuing the work she has been doing in strategic planning. Please welcome her to the role!

Before I close, this is just a friendly reminder to do the one page submissions for the MSU 2030 strategic plan implementation. I outlined this pretty thoroughly a couple of weeks ago, but this is just a reminder to get these in by the June 1 deadline.

Serving the people with you,


Dean Aron Sousa, MD


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