Dean's Update

May 14, 2021 - Aron Sousa, MD


This week, our teams are ramping up efforts to begin returning more people to our campuses as the state has surpassed the governor’s first vaccination milestone – 55% of people eligible have been vaccinated. Two weeks after this milestone is met, May 24, the state will lift the requirement that work that can be done from home should be done at home. For those of us at MSU, this does not mean everyone will be suddenly be back in the office; workplace flexibility will be a priority while we are still in the pandemic. And, we are still in the pandemic.

The university has a task force working to recommend how unit leaders should decide what work needs to return to the office and how to bring people back to offices and educational spaces in a safe and equitable manner. This is not easy. Some people who are asked to return to the workplace will need time to make personal adjustments, especially those with family or other caregiving responsibilities. Other people may continue to have health and safety concerns. We also have to consider the availability of child care, persistence of hybrid/online schooling, as well as evolving masking and spatial distancing requirements in our offices.

Many of our folks are already back in laboratories, but the departments and colleges are looking to safely increase the density of people in the labs. The good folks in Academic Affairs are re-working and simplifying the process for student access to study space to allow more students to study in our buildings. It is all a work in progress.

There will be updates going out to colleges, departments, and units over the next few weeks as the details are worked out. This will not be a one-size fits all set of solutions. We know people have different spaces, different needs, and different challenges.

For those of you keeping score at home, the governor’s second milestone is 60% of eligible people vaccinated. If you want the state to lift the limitations on restaurant capacity (60% milestone), get vaccinated. If you want the state to remove indoor capacity limits (65% milestone), get vaccinated. If you want the state to lift the mask order (70% milestone), get vaccinated, except wait. During final review of this update the state has changed the masking rules…. If you want to protect yourself and those around you from COVID-19, get vaccinated. While you are at it, get your 12-year-old and 15-year-old vaccinated, too.

This week and last, each clinical chair met with MSU HealthCare, Inc. (HCI) to go over the new financing model for our clinical practice. Overall, the new model centralizes the overhead risks of our departments into HCI. This helps our practices by spreading the cost of overhead over the whole enterprise. After overhead is deducted, the proceeds from each practice will be distributed to departments based on RVUs produced in the practice. The departments will use the total of all incomes (contracts, the HCI distribution, the college allocation, endowments, etc.) to cover departmental costs including the compensation of the departmental staff and faculty. This is complex work, and I appreciate the questions chairs have raised and the best practices they have shared in these meetings.

But wait, there is more:

  • For those of you who want to catch up on the work of our faculty, check out the work of Honglei Chen. He and his team have found a link between our sense of smell and our risk of pneumonia.
  • I have already linked to Mona Hanna-Attisha and her kids earlier in this update, but you should also read her interview in JAMA marking the sixth anniversary of the Flint Water Crisis.
  • See a couple of our remarkable medical students (Allison Hoppe and Elisabeth Milligan) as they talk about doing COVID-19 vaccinations in rural communities in last week’s Town Hall.
  • Tune into our “Virtual Celebration for the Class of 2021” this Saturday at 1pm! (LINK HERE - Passcode: CHM) A good time for one and all. Don’t miss it if you can.

While it seems much of the pandemic appears to be improving in Michigan, COVID-19 continues to expand and traumatize India, Nepal, and South America. At the same time, violence is escalating in Gaza, Israel, the West Bank, and so many places in the world. Our staff, students, and faculty have family and friends in these places, and I know having loved ones in harm’s way is stressful, painful, and frightening. Please look out for each other and take care of yourself. For those of you who celebrate Ramadan, let me wish you a hearty, if slightly late, Eid Mubarak.

The COVID-19 pandemic is getting better in some of our Michigan communities, but we still have hospitals in our system that are really full and have a lot of younger patients with COVID-19 – please get vaccinated.

Serving the people with you,


Aron Sousa, MD
Interim Dean

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