Dean's Update

December 1, 2023 - Aron Sousa, MD


On a snowy evening this week, I had dinner with a lovely group of alumni and former MSU faculty in Traverse City. We discussed the college as it was and the work we do now as we approach the college’s sixtieth year. Inevitably, people ask about their favorite faculty member or maybe the most memorable. As usual, I did a dean’s update, and I explained how our alumni can mentor current students and why scholarships are the college’s first fundraising priority.

Also true to form, the most interesting part of the evening was not my spiel but the people around the table. Mark Weiss, MD (’85), is a former president of the Michigan Radiology Society, College of Human Medicine Alumni Board member, and a longtime radiologist in Flint. With his wife Sue Weiss, DDS, they have been long-standing supporters of the college, as have Barbara Conley, MD (’79), and Gerry Schatz, JD, who were also faculty members in the college. Dr. Conley was faculty in Heme-Onc after a long career at the NIH, and Mr. Schatz was in bioethics after a career at Georgetown. Since retiring, Barb has been very active in public health in Northwest Michigan, and Gerry volunteers in an immigration law clinic in the community.

At the other end of their careers, Allison Goldsmith, MD (’13), and Austin Kerndt, MD (’13), are finding their way in the practice of medicine/geriatrics (AG) and anesthesia (AK). Dr. Goldsmith was particularly inspirational in her description of moving from one practice to another, so she could have the time and freedom to care for her patients with compassion and dedication. I should have recorded it for students…and faculty. Gerry noted that Allison embodies his goal for his bioethics students, “I want them to be people of integrity, without being a moral tyrant, in an amoral clinical setting.” Thank you, Allison, and thank you, Gerry. So be it.

Not all of our work is so simple. Some of the college’s students are facing a crazy making bureaucratic nightmare at the nexus of the university, a Blue Cross vendor, and Medicaid. That sounds bad, but it’s even worse than it sounds. Although, let me foreshadow the university is very close to a helping solution.

Briefly, all university health profession students are required to have health insurance, and the university has an insurance product from Blue Cross for students without existing insurance. So far, so good. Students with qualifying existing insurance can waive the Blue Cross product and keep their plan from their parents, partner, or Medicaid. Except this year, the waiver system, run by the Blue Cross vendor, has completely failed for a group of students in our college as well as the veterinary and osteopathic colleges. Students have waived the BC insurance but then were dropped by Medicaid, because, somehow, it falsely appears they still have the BC coverage. So, students have had no BC coverage and no Medicaid, and fixing the problem has been crazy. Our administrators have personally stepped in to cover more than $9,000 in medical costs for students with genuinely serious medical conditions. I am confident the university has the right plan and will pay our students’ costs. We expect communication about this solution very soon from the university, but it has been very scary for students who do not know how they will pay thousands for life saving medications or face recurrences of life-threatening conditions. I’ve never dropped so many f-bombs in meetings and emails in my career, but as I said, I am confident the university is onto a solution.

A week ago, Tuesday, we celebrated the 40,000 square foot expansion of our Flint building with a Town Hall at the former Flint Journal Building. I am obviously biased, but I thought it was a great event and much better than some staged, faux groundbreaking. The panels, questions, and conversations were excellent. You can catch up with a range of leaders like University President Woodruff, APHA President Greene-Moton, and Mott Foundation President Ridgway White, as well as faculty and community partners in the video at our Town Hall site. My thanks to Melissa Kacos, Erik Dane, Tae Blair, and the combined might of our Flint team, college advancement, and our community outreach & engagement team for setting up the event. I want to send my deepest appreciation and respect to our community collaborators and their faculty partners, who do the work to serve the people of Flint and communities across the state, the nation, and the world.

Serving the people with you,


Aron Sousa, MD, FACP


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