Dean's Update

May 27, 2022 - Aron Sousa, MD


Wednesday, I sent out another email to students and faculty about a mass shooting. The week before, I wrote about shootings in Buffalo and Southern California, and this week, I wrote about yet another school shooting. This time in Texas, this time 21 people including 19 children, this time there is the same sorrow, the same recriminations, the same pointing fingers, the same prayers, the same moments of silence, and, it is emerging, the same policy paralysis as we have seen after Columbine, and Sandy Hook, and Oxford, Michigan…

The people of the College of Human Medicine are working on this problem at many levels:

  • The Center for Targeted Violence Prevention is now a part of the Department of Psychiatry and is working on a partnership with the state to help Michigan school districts assess adolescents at-risk for committing violent behavior. If funded, this would be a mental health effort to prevent these kinds of tragedies. Let me give a special shout out to our chair, Dr. Jed Magen, for his work.
  • We have students working with faculty to improve the college’s curricular response to gun violence (my thanks to Amanda Schoonover and Jasman Kaur).
  • Our alumni, faculty, and fellows (calling out Dr. Gurbaksh Esch for two weeks in a row) have been advocates for applying the tools of public health to gun violence.

The epidemic of gun violence in this country is a public health and medical crisis, and we need to think about it in those terms, if we are going to make a safer, freer, and more healthy country. Reducing gun violence is a part of making communities and schools safer and less oppressed by fear. Locking down schools, making them armored, and limiting access to schools does not make us a freer country. Freedom from fear is one of the classic freedoms, and given the rate of shootings, does anyone honestly feel more free from fear? So many have died for our safety and freedoms, I think we can do more to respect and live up to their sacrifice.

This weekend is the observance of Memorial Day and an excellent time to recall and respect those who sacrificed and “gave that last full measure of devotion.” Memorial Day started as a day to remember service members who died in the Civil War, the war that ended the American system of slavery. In modern times, it is a day to remember all those in the military who died in service to the country, to pay respect to those who have sacrificed, and to care for those left behind. As a part of our appreciation and remembrance of those who have sacrificed, it seems fitting and proper that we take time this holiday to think about the freedoms we have and those freedoms we still aspire to have.

In more specifically college news, we have a new associate dean for undergraduate medical education. After an internal search, the good folks in Academic Affairs have announced the appointment of Robin DeMuth, MD, as the associate dean for undergraduate medical education. Dr. DeMuth has been a core educator in the college as a clinical skills director, faculty inductee into the Gold Humanism Society, and a member of the design team for the Shared Discovery Curriculum. Her capacity has always amazed me. During the two years at the heart of the pandemic, Dr. DeMuth was chief of staff at Sparrow Hospital connecting hundreds of clinicians to leadership during this general challenge for medicine. She is an associate professor of family medicine with numerous awards and has been key to managing our MD program as assistant dean for clinical experiences. I am delighted to have her step up into this new job – please welcome her to this new role.

At the end of June, Eric Achtyes, MD, MS, will be transitioning from Pine Rest to Network 180, the Kent County Community Mental Health Authority. Dr. Achtyes has led the college’s Division of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine based in West Michigan since its inception. As a part of his transition, he will be stepping down as director of the division. He was the founding director of the division and has been a key part of its faculty growth and support of the Pine Rest sponsored psychiatry residency. His highly successful research effort is focused on schizophrenia and will be facilitated by this move. He has brought in numerous grants and has published more than 60 manuscripts in his time as director, and, I am happy to say, will continue his same College of Human Medicine faculty position at Network 180. My thanks to Eric for his wonderful service, and I am delighted he will continue to do his work for the community and the college.

After going strong for the last two years, the Dean’s Update and the Town Hall are going on break for a few weeks, but they will be back in late June.

The due date for MSU 2030 Sustainable Health pillar submissions is June 1. You must submit your proposal to the university here, and we would like you to also submit it to the college at this site. (Thanks to Kris Stroud for putting together this simple submission site!) In the coming weeks, a college team will go through our submissions and hope to find synergies and opportunities to enhance our submissions. Thanks to everyone who put forward their ideas!

Take care of yourselves and each other.

Serving the people with you,


Dean Aron Sousa, MD


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