Dean's Update

October 20, 2023 - Aron Sousa, MD


Last week, I wrote about the violence in the Middle East, and the world overall, and how our students, staff, and faculty experience the violence in the streets and neighborhoods of their families and loved ones. It is frightening, infuriating, alienating, and traumatic. The deaths of children, civilians, and patients through this violence is atrocious, and I know our people are suffering. For our faculty, students, and staff who have loved ones in Palestine and Israel, there is an unfathomable horror from loss of life and the overwhelming humanitarian crisis. As I noted last week, my main concern, as dean, is that we are good to each other and understanding of the trauma others are experiencing.

We have many faculty and students from the Middle East or with family and friends there. The traumatic events of the last two weeks have left many shaken, fearful, and feeling targeted. Indeed, there have been physical attacks and threats against those from our communities as misguided people bring these conflicts to our neighborhoods and organizations. Our faculty have had to cancel events due to Islamophobic threats. In that vein, I want to offer my deep appreciation to Dr. Yalldo, who defended one of our students from a patient making hateful statements. I know, too, that antisemitic threats have increased against Jewish organizations and individuals in the last two weeks. This only makes the pain and trauma worse. I want to thank Dr. DeMuth and Academic Affairs for setting up time and space for food and community in the Secchia Center, Radiology, and Fee Hall today. Sometimes the best we can do is be together. If you or yours are struggling, we have support resources available to help.

This Wednesday the college held its Recognition Reception Celebrating Faculty and Staff Success, aka, our awards and promotion reception. My thanks to Allison Tilma and Cynthia Vincent for their help in organizing this event and to everyone at Cowles house for hosting that evening. I would also like to thank the CAC awards selection committee and the folks in faculty affairs and staff administration for their role in the process. It was a team effort to make this such an enjoyable and successful night. We shrewdly scheduled the chair retreat right before the reception, and it was great to have so much of the college’s leadership at the event. Congratulations to our award recipients Lisa Galbavi, Lora McAdams, Ripla Arora, Jens Schmidt, David Barondess, Lauren Snyder, Ross Ramsey, Laura Freidhoff, Heather Laird-Fick, Rebecca Knickmeyer, Barbara Luke, Dohun Pyeon, and Danielle Gartner.

It is flu and COVID shot season, and our Town Hall this week focused on vaccinations. Unless you are one of the rare people with a medical contraindication, you should get both vaccinations this fall. We all have some immunity to both conditions, but the antigens of both influenza and COVID drift (mutate a little bit) over time, and we have seen that happen with each new variant of COVID. Influenza also has antigenic shift, in which different versions of the H (hemagglutinin) and N (neuraminidase) antigens are dominant as we move from one flu season to another. This year, and for the last few years, the flu vaccines cover strains of H1N1 and H3N2 influenza A, but in different years there will be different N and H antigens in the predominant influenza A strains. COVID does not do this kind of shifting, but as we saw during the pandemic, its drift mutations can move quickly.

Flu vaccines are particularly important for people with lung disease, chronic diseases, heart disease, children, pregnant people, and older folk. For people in these groups, influenza vaccination helps prevent getting sick, reduces the severity of their illness, and hospitalization. For some of these groups, including children, flu vaccines can help prevent death. Even people with lower risk are less likely to get flu if they are vaccinated, and if they do get sick, they are less likely to be hospitalized as a result of the flu if they are vaccinated.

The updated COVID-19 vaccine is available from several producers. Although the recommendations for kids are a little more complex, these vaccines will bring adults up to date on COVID-19 vaccination regardless of your prior vaccinations or history of having COVID. That said, if you have had COVID recently, you might as well bask in the natural immunity for three months before getting the updated vaccination.

The college and the university do not have emotions, opinions, or beliefs, but as a college and university, we exist for and of people who do have emotions, opinions, and beliefs. We must be here for everyone, even those with whom we disagree or those who seem wholly separated from our understanding of the world’s events. Please make use of the resources available to help you, check on your people and look out for those who are struggling, and be good to each other.

Serving the people with you,


Aron Sousa, MD, FACP


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