Dean's Update

July 29, 2022 - Aron Sousa, MD


We are getting very close to the beginning of our fall semester. And we have some exciting and unusual events coming up. The first event comprises of two white coat ceremonies on August 20 in Grand Rapids.

We have never done two white coat ceremonies before, so this will be new territory for us. One of the ceremonies will be the traditional matriculation ceremony for our first-year students, and the other will be a special white coat ceremony for our rising third-year students, who did not get a matriculation white coat ceremony due to the pandemic. I am looking forward to both ceremonies. Mostly, I want to shout out a very special thank-you to the Student Affairs Team and other college faculty and staff who are going to be working long hours as we put on these two wedding-sized events in one day. So many thanks.

As we plan our white coat ceremony, I’ve had people ask for my thoughts about some matriculating students walking out of the University of Michigan white coat ceremony last week in response to their featured speaker. For better or worse, we have never had a main speaker for our white coat ceremonies, so we are in a different situation than some other schools. As to the events of last week, my response might be a little different than most: I think everyone involved in the events did well. The faculty and students of the Gold Humanism Honor Society chose a respected faculty member to give a non-controversial welcome to new students. The university maintained the invitation, because they do not disinvite people based on their personal beliefs. That is how academic freedom works. The speaker gave the non-controversial welcome appropriate for a white coat ceremony. Finally, those students who were deeply opposed to this speaker protested peaceably and calmly by walking out without significantly disrupting the event for students and families who stayed. I am not suggesting this was easy for people. I’d guess the speaker, the students, and everyone in the room were pretty uncomfortable as it happened. Intellectual dialogues and respectful disagreements are integral, and sometimes uncomfortable, parts of an academic life.

The second event coming up in August is the beginning of the new year for the Late Clinical Experience (LCE) - our third-year curriculum. This will be the first LCE for our new community assistant deans in Lansing (Dr. Power) based out of Sparrow, Midland (Dr.Buzanoski) based out of MyMichigan Health, Southeast Michigan (Dr. Abdo) based out of Ascension Providence, and in Detroit (Dr. Hug), at our new, eighth campus based out of Henry Ford. The LCE opens with new third-year students showing up for orientation beginning on August 22. I know they are excited and so am I.

Starting a new campus is an exciting and rare event. The teams have worked very well together, and our students are going to have a great experience with the patients and teachers at Henry Ford.

Over the last several years, the college and university have expanded their interest and investment in innovation and the intellectual work that makes entrepreneurship possible. One of our partners in the innovation effort is the Henry Ford Innovation Institute, and they invite people to apply for their Davidson Fellowship for Entrepreneurs in Digital Health. The program is open to people with three years of graduate work beyond a bachelor’s degree, which means many students, residents, and faculty can apply. Take a look, but note that the deadline for applications is fast approaching.

I want to close by recognizing a remarkable milestone of one the college’s landmark programs. The Flint Registry’s enrollment just passed 20,000 people. The registry helps link people exposed to Flint water during the crisis with support, evaluation, and treatment. So far, the registry team has made more than 25,000 referrals to care for the people enrolled in the program. The Flint Lead Registry is a CDC funded program possible only through the bipartisan support of congresspeople and senators. Further, the good work of the program is possible because of the amazing team constructed by the registry’s director, Nicole Jones, PhD, MS, and the always awesome head of the MSU-Hurley Children’s Hospital Pediatric Public Health Initiative, Charles Stewart Mott Professor of Public Health, Mona Hanna-Attisha, MD, MPH, FAAP. This team has found wonderful partners in the leaders and residents of Flint, and together they are serving the people in the most important ways possible.

Serving the people with you,


Aron Sousa, MD


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