Dean's Update

August 26, 2022 - Aron Sousa, MD


Last week, the college held two wonderful white coat ceremonies. The first one celebrated the transition of our rising third-year students from the Middle Clinical Experience to the Late Clinical Experience. These students are from the matriculating class of 2020, who had only a “virtual white coat ceremony” when they entered the college. About 100 students joined us Saturday morning, and in talking to students afterwards, I know they really appreciated the opportunity to be a part of this traditional medical school transition ceremony.

The talented and hard-working people of Student Affairs and Academic Affairs put on a second, more traditional matriculation white coat ceremony late Saturday afternoon. We have a remarkable incoming class of 190 students. About 85% of our new students are from Michigan, 22% are from rural backgrounds, 21% are from populations under-represented in medicine. This year 58% of our incoming students identify as women, 41% identify as men, and two identify as “gender diverse,” which is a new category in the national admissions database. About 20% of our new students have a master’s degree. You can “get to know” some of our students through the college’s news feed. It was great to meet so many students and faculty, and it was a wonderful day for our students and their families.

I want to take a moment to acknowledge a remarkable milestone for our Division of Public Health, which is in the process of becoming a department. In the seven-and-a-half years since the unit’s founding, the faculty of the division have been awarded more than $100 million in research funds. To my knowledge that is the fastest NIH/HHS funding growth of any unit in the college or university. This amazing accomplishment is due to the hard work of the faculty, staff, and students of the division and, very importantly, the partnerships the division has cultivated with community partners. There is a special symmetry in this particular milestone. Jennifer Johnson, PhD, our first faculty in the division, brought in the division’s first grant awards, and it was her newest grant, which will be a future news item of its own(!), that put the division over $100 million! Funding is not the end all and be all of scholarship, and so I want to explicitly recognize the community and disciplinary impacts of our people in the division. Still, it is an impressive milestone! Congratulations!

As we celebrate our Division of Public Health’s accomplishments, we also get to celebrate the implementation of a new College of Human Medicine Department of Anesthesiology. A few years ago, the college obtained approval for Departments of Emergency Medicine, Translational Neuroscience (originally called Translational Science and Molecular Medicine), and Anesthesia. The Emergency Medicine and Translational Neuroscience departments are well established, but we had not been successful initiating the Department of Anesthesia…until now.

This week I announced our interim chair of anesthesiology, Michael Lewis, MD. He will lead a statewide department, which will begin supporting the educational opportunities in anesthesiology for College of Human Medicine students across our system. Similarly, the department will engage in research and service (outreach and potentially clinical work) for the college. The majority of faculty are expected to be from Henry Ford Health, but anesthesia faculty from across our system will now have a disciplinary home in the college. Our new department will be adding faculty from across the state and working to establish its bylaws before we begin a search for the founding chair.

Dr. Lewis is presently the Joseph L. Ponka Chair in the Henry Ford Health Department of Anesthesiology, Pain Management, and Perioperative Medicine, a role in which he will continue to serve. He is a native of London, England, obtaining both an undergraduate and medical degree from University College London.

Following his U.S. anesthesiology training at Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, Dr. Lewis joined the faculty at the University of Miami before moving to the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville as chair. He has been a medical student clerkship director, residency program director, and associate dean for graduate medical education. He has a long history of service in academic governance as well as leadership in professional societies. As an example, Michael will be the president of the Council of Society of Academic Associations of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine (SAAAPM). Congratulations, Dr. Lewis, and welcome to this exciting new role!

For all our causes of celebration this week, we have also had significant losses. Early this week, the college lost a remarkable leader with the passing of E. James Potchen, MD, JD. I worked on many projects with Jim over the years, and he was a great mentor and supporter of so many students and faculty. He had a voracious mind, equally interested in medicine, law, horticulture, and philosophy. Dr. Potchen was the founding chair of the Department of Radiology and was a national force in the field. The college and the university owe so much to his talent and work over the decades. He will be deeply missed.

Many of us will also miss John Hickner, MD, MSc, who was a long-time faculty in the college. To many, he is like family, and to others in the college, he is family. John was editor-in-chief for The Journal of Family Practice for a decade and was a leader in evidence-based medicine before it was cool. Based in Escanaba, where he spent most of his career, he worked with the American Academy of Family Physicians to create a 2,400-member research network. Our colleagues Henry Barry, Mark Ebell, and Kate Rowland have written a lovely remembrance.

I’d like to close out this update by announcing a new effort that delights me. Over the last several months, I have worked with the Dean’s Advisory Committee on Diversity (DACD) to create a new program to hire or support faculty who will expand the college’s scholarship in topics relevant to diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. We will use recurring funding from my dean’s package, along with unit matching funds, to support new faculty hires. It is our expectation that we can add 2-3 faculty a year through this effort. All units are welcome to apply, and the program is designed to help bench, clinical, and social science/humanities units expand their scholarship. We are calling this effort the 1964 Project, honoring the year of the college’s founding and the passage of the US Civil Rights Act. The DACD endorsed the RFP this week, and the college is working out implementation.  We invite you to review the draft RFP and offer your comments and suggestions.

Serving the people with you,


Aron Sousa, MD FACP


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