Dean's Update

May 7, 2021 - Aron Sousa, MD


I have been following the great trauma and tragedy unfolding in India as the latest COVID-19 surge courses through cities and countryside. Like here, the virus is a mindless bit of chemistry, and its onslaught lays bare the structures, struggles, inequities, and politics of society and community. The Indian diaspora is so tightly tied to families and friends on the subcontinent that each of us has family, friends, colleagues and neighbors frantically calling home, hoping for good news, and fearing the worst. Take care of those around you, and know that those with ties to India and surrounding countries are facing uncertainty, fear, and loss.

As COVID-19 races through the Asian subcontinent, there continue to be attacks in this country against people from Asia and the Pacific Islands. Xenophobia and anti-Asian attacks have long been in our history, which I have written about before. Since that update, the College of Human Medicine has been working on enacting the nine requests submitted to the college by our student organization APAMSA (Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association). Our plan includes initiating bystander training for all members of the college, addressing content in the curriculum, and advocating for APIA concerns. You can read our letter here.

There is a lot going on in the world. Our students, staff, and faculty have been working straight out through it all. In response to the university’s request for documenting additional hours spent by faculty and staff to address the pandemic since March 2020, the college submitted this information to the Office of Health Sciences. The time spent by staff and faculty on the pandemic is an astonishing 51,000 hours. This total does not include the efforts of university leadership like the EVP and University Physician, nor does it include the bulk of the hours dedicated to the Early Detection Program (Spartan Spit), which is now supported on a different budget.

Our COVID-19 work total does include new courses on COVID-19 for physicians, public health workers, and the public. It includes open sessions with community members and rewriting clerkships and courses multiple times to keep our students on track toward graduation. It includes reorganizing our work in clinic, the classroom, and supporting university efforts. It is a lot. Said another way, our staff and faculty, in addition to their regular jobs, did the work of an additional 26 people this year. People talk about “COVID fatigue,” but I think the issue is really just straight up fatigue. Thank you for all of this work on behalf of our patients, students, communities and each other.

In some ways all of that effort culminates this weekend and next with our graduation ceremonies. This Saturday at noon, you can watch our spatially distanced, masked, never-before-done graduation as a live stream. Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Chief Medical Executive for the State of Michigan, will be our graduation speaker (her talk is pre-recorded) and, while there won’t be a hooding ceremony, we will be there to celebrate in the parking lot of the Breslin with the new Spartan MDs and their two guests.

This week was Cinco de Mayo, the fifth of May. Although Cinco de Mayo is not a large holiday in Mexico, it is a significant celebration in areas of the US with larger populations of Mexican decent. The celebration comes on the anniversary of Mexico’s May 5, 1862 victory in the Battle of Puebla, led by President Juárez over the French, who invaded and occupied Mexico in 1861-67. In the US, the holiday is an opportunity to celebrate Mexican culture and Mexican-American heritage. The celebration came to prominence first in California with the rise of the Chicano movement under the leadership of people like César Chávez. Many of the celebrations of last year and of this year have been sidelined due to the pandemic, but we can still learn and celebrate the history, work, sacrifice and pride in Cinco de Mayo.

In Michigan, the COVID-19 burden is decreasing, but the key to our success is vaccination. You can help normalize vaccination by using a MSU “I got my COVID-19 vaccine” sticker in your email. Please get vaccinated and encourage others to do the same.

Serving the people with you,


Aron Sousa, MD
Interim Dean

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