Dean's Update

October 13, 2023 - Aron Sousa, MD


Group photo of Aron Sousa, MD, Dave Morgan, PhD, Joan Secchia, Jeff Dage, PhD, and Norm Beauchamp, MD.
Next to me are Dave Morgan, PhD, Joan Secchia, Jeff Dage, PhD, and Norm Beauchamp, MD.


On Tuesday morning, the college held the inaugural Ambassador Peter F. Secchia Lecture hosted, appropriately, at the Secchia Center. Jeff Dage, PhD, who developed the first successful blood tests for Alzheimer’s Disease, was our speaker, and he did a great job. His work focuses on finding, characterizing, and clinically detecting biomarkers for diseases, specifically for Alzheimer’s Disease and other neurodegenerative diseases. While Dage was at Eli Lilly, he and his team found that diagnostic tests using antibodies to particularly phosphorylated fragments of the tau protein identified people who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s through PET scanning and spinal fluid analysis. These new tests have been used in research protocols for several years, and they will radically change how we diagnosis Alzheimer’s in a few years, when the tests come to market for the clinical care of patients. 

Peter Secchia was an innovator and enthusiastic supporter of the college and the university. When community leaders in Grand Rapids decided to bring a medical school to the city, Ambassador Secchia advocated for MSU to be that medical school. He and his wife, Joan, who was at the lecture and headed the table at the dinner Monday night, have been very generous donors to the college and, more importantly, have engaged and supported the college in West Michigan. When Peter passed October 21, 2020, he left us one more gift: funding to support this remarkable lecture series. The series is off to a wonderful start.

Over the last couple of months, we have had the chance to celebrate the renewal of the CHM portion of the Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO - the “I” is silent?) and the remarkable funding progress of Rx Kids. This week we announced a $19 million NIH center grant, Multilevel Interventions to Advance Maternal Health Equity Center, aka, MIRACLE Center. (Again, with the spelling issues.) Black women are nearly three times as likely to die as a result of their pregnancy compared to white women. This grant aims to reduce that disparity as well as related disparities for Hispanic, Native American, and women who live in rural parts of the Lower Peninsula. Cris Meghea, PhD, and Jennifer Johnson, PhD, are the MSU PIs for this grant, which includes partners Henry Ford Health and Corewell Health.

Later in the week, I made the trip to our Midland campus to meet with our MyMichigan partners, clerkship faculty, and students. Our energetic community assistant dean, David Buzanoski, MD (’11), was an excellent host. All of our Midland students are in the Rural Community Health Program (R-CHP), which is a certificate program in the college’s premier Leadership in Rural Medicine program. Each Midland student focuses on a rural region in the Midland area, including the Thumb. When I met with students on Wednesday, about half of them were with me in Midland and the other half were out in rural communities doing rotations and engaging with their community. The dedication of these students is remarkable, and the whole effort has a depth and engagement that few recognize. Check out the This Rural Podcast, produced by Julia Terhune, as an example of the work this team does!

This has been another week of violence threatening our friends and loved ones. We have students, faculty, and staff from around the world, including countries and regions at war with each other. My main local concern is that we are thoughtful with and good to each other. There is no escaping the raw brutality and terror of children and civilians massacred. To be targeted and traumatized is an excruciating experience, known to both sides in most wars, and usually leading to more violence. Presumably, we will see more violence in the Middle East. I feel a kinship with my colleagues anywhere who care for the sick and injured in hospitals without power or supplies. Here, we will need to give each other space and kindness. Surely, we will all experience these events differently, while we work together to learn, discover, and care for our own patients. We have confirmed the safety of faculty (Dr. Hend) and students in Jordan doing crucial work to care for Syrian civil war refugees, whose suffering continues. The war in Ukraine continues. The war in Yemen continues. There was a shooting on the Morgan State University campus last week. There is much to do.

Sadly, I close today with news that Dr. Douglas Kwazneski died this week. He was a site director for our Surgery 2 clerkship in Grand Rapids and taught in some of our MCE experiences. He was a beloved father, husband, teacher, mentor, and trauma and critical care surgeon. His family and colleagues are in our thoughts, and he will be dearly missed.

Serving the people with you,


Aron Sousa, MD, FACP


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