Dean's Update

May 28, 2021 - Aron Sousa, MD


This week last year, George Floyd was murdered by a police officer. In the time since, I hope we have held on to the energy and dedication that was so apparent then. In November of 1863, Lincoln said in Gettysburg, “It is for us the living…to be dedicated here to the unfinished work…” We have had a year of consciousness raising and hard work to begin to address the racism in our society and institutions. Yet, the work is unfinished. Continued hard and necessary effort is required, and it is for us, the living, to be dedicated to the work.

The way to a more wholesome and sanative world is through the efforts of individual people reaching out to support one another, to educate each other, to be proximate and responsive in whatever way possible. This is work we can do with each other. All around us are those who know suffering and struggle. We meet them in clinic and in class. To start, we only have to see them and get to know them.

Eagle-eyed readers of this space will know that the university is facing significant financial issues related to COVID-19 and the impact of the pandemic on student enrollment across the university. We knew this was coming, and the college has been working on how to rationally and responsibly cut the budget since last spring. At that time, I set out a series of principles around cutting the budget:

  • We have to preserve our missions of education, diversity, discovery/scholarship, and clinical care.
  • We will need to grow in order to emerge from this crisis a strong and healthy college, so any reductions and cuts need to preserve our opportunities for revenue and growth.
  • We have to be humane. In the case that we may be required to make cuts that impact people’s careers and livelihoods, we will need to give people time to adjust and make arrangements. Our cuts cannot worsen salary and employment disparities.

Last spring, we formed a task force to review our budget and suggest ways to address the cuts consistent with these principles. Through the suggestion of the chairs at that time, we also created work groups that focused on increasing revenue, rational use of reserves, and ensuring we treat people fairly, as well as a group working on the return to campus fall of 2020 (so much for that!).

Those workgroups finished up last summer, and the financial task force has been working since then. In the end, the college did not have to access departmental reserves, we did manage to increase some income, and we are avoiding passing on the entire 4% university cut to the departments. We are using the retirements and other attrition as savings, and we are making some other cuts because we think it is time to do so. We’ve done our best to give people time to adjust to reductions in the budgets, and I hope we have avoided as many layoffs as possible. By using retirements and some focused cuts, we are avoiding at least some of the job cuts that disproportionately impact women and minorities.

I want to thank everyone who has worked on the budget process, and I know that some of these decisions are very difficult and painful. The college does wonderful work, and we do not want to lose any of that good work.

If you have not already read the May issue of MSUMedNews, I encourage you to do so. You can read about our new neurologist, Larry Charleston, IV, MD, advocating for headache patients, see highlights from graduation, learn about the recent grants, check out Drs. Kelly-Blake and Valles discussing social justice-oriented bioethics, and read about CHM in the news.

With the turn of the month, Bengt Arnetz, MD, is stepping away from his role as chair of the Department of Family Medicine. I want to thank him for his service to the department. He is going to focus on research, and I am really excited by how he is approaching remote care, improving the clinical experience for patients and practitioners, and hastening the move to value-based health care. You can read more about his accomplishments as chair in this prior update.

This coming Monday is Memorial Day, dedicated to remembering those who have died during military service to the United States. People have been decorating the graves of fallen soldiers for as long as there have been battles, but in the U.S. the custom took a formal shape (usually called Decoration Day) after the Civil War before transitioning to Memorial Day in the 20th century.

I can only appreciate those who have given their life for our country and for expanding the freedoms we have and need. You will not likely recall what I write here, and certainly I have no power to add to their honor. Lincoln again, at Gettysburg “… we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.” And from that perhaps we can all take some inspiration. That in a year of dedication and sacrifice, there are those who will volunteer to protect us. Each year at commencement, we include and honor the promotion ceremony for our military graduates. Watching our students take their oath of office – and their loved ones pin their new rank on their uniforms – is powerful, moving, and inspiring. Thank you to all who serve. 

We can all serve and protect each other, without sacrifice, by being vaccinated.

Serving the people with you,


Aron Sousa, MD

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