Dean's Update

May 21, 2021 - Aron Sousa, MD


Over the last month or so, my conversations with chairs, community leaders, and faculty have included a spontaneous turn toward the future and future transitions. It may or may not be a real phenomenon, but it sure seems like people are deeply considering retirements and changes to their work focus as we come out of the depths of the pandemic.

Certainly, this seems like a natural time to ask the question, “How do we want things to be different as we come out of the pandemic?”

For those of us who have been working remotely, we are questioning how we will do our work in the future. Some of us have been going into the workplace throughout this entire time because animals need to be fed, facilities need to be maintained, people need to be safe, and patients need care – that work has not changed much in the last 14 months. 

How much of our work needs to be done in the traditional workplace, and what is there to be gained and lost by doing less or more work in the workplace? The university has a task force (including our own Barbara Forney) to help identify options for units and employees and to provide guidance on how we make these decisions. Recognizing that people have a variety of family caregiving responsibilities, we are encouraging flexibility in decision-making about when people may be asked to return to university spaces.

We also need to be thinking about the next strategic steps for the university and the college. The university is getting closer to finalizing seven strategic themes, which dovetails with the strategic work of the Diversity Equity and Inclusion Task Force outlined in a recent presentation by the Task Force co-chair, our own Dr. Wanda Lipscomb. There will be opportunities for our students, staff, and faculty in both of these efforts.

As some of you know, the college is also in need of a new strategic plan before our LCME accreditation site visit in March 2023. I have had meetings about strategic planning with potential consultants, the chairs, and other leaders in the college. The point of doing strategic planning is to help the people of the college work together to achieve mutual goals. In the past we have had specific clinical, educational, research, and community goals. This time we are considering more general goals that each mission could help address. As an example, imagine if your unit was asked to respond to a strategic goal like “improve health equity.” Education programs might focus on preparing a workforce to advance health equity, clinical units might address access for disadvantaged populations, and researchers might engage previously unincluded patients and communities in their work. We could all work toward the larger goal using the strengths of our own unit.

Folks will have some time to think about this before the college’s strategic planning starts in earnest. We are going to try to thread the needle between the timeline for the LCME accreditation needs of the college and the timeline for the dean’s search. Completing the strategic plan before we know the outcome of the dean’s search is not likely to be fruitful in the long term, so we will wait several months to get started on strategic planning.

For the first time since the start of pandemic, I spent a whole day in Detroit. I met with some Henry Ford Health System (HFHS) chairs and leadership and set to work on next steps in the arrangement. While I have your attention, I do have a few announcements about Henry Ford:

  • The combined educational team of the College of Human Medicine and HFHS submitted the LCME accreditation documents for a clinical campus at Henry Ford. Because HFHS has a long history of medical education, and our college has unparalleled experience in community-based medical education, our submission is many months ahead of schedule.
  • I am delighted to announce that Rick Leach, MD, chair of our Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Biology has been named chair of Henry Ford Medical Group’s Department of Gynecology, Obstetrics, and Women’s Health. Rick will continue as our chair and will take over the clinical and academic chair duties for Henry Ford. The new combined chair role for Dr. Leach is seen as the much-anticipated start of joining the renowned clinical and applied research expertise at Henry Ford with the basic science and translational research power of MSU.
  • The college is very fortunate that Steve Kalkanis, MD, CEO of the Henry Ford Medical Group and senior vice president and chief academic officer of Henry Ford Health System, will be joining the college as associate dean for Henry Ford. In this role, Dr. Kalkanis will work with the dean on developing the regional campus called for in the MSU-HFHS Definitive Agreement. He has been a key architect and enthusiastic leader of the partnership; he’s also simply wonderful with which to work. He did medical school at Harvard and then his neurosurgical residency at Massachusetts General Hospital. In addition to be an internationally recognized brain tumor expert, he serves as president of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons and leads a research laboratory focused on the genetic and molecular differences between long- and short-term brain tumor survivors. Dr. Kalkanis will be joining the college’s monthly leadership meeting as soon as schedules allow and joining other administrative meetings as the partnership develops.

As the state opens up, and COVID-19 cases go down in our partner hospitals, there is still danger from the virus. One of hospitals lost a caregiver to COVID-19 this week – the person was not vaccinated. So, take care of yourself and take care of those around you by getting vaccinated and encouraging others to be vaccinated, too.

Serving the people with you,


Aron Sousa, MD

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