Dean's Update

August 4, 2023 - Aron Sousa, MD

L-R: Mona Hanna-Attisha, MD, MPH, Aron (2,834 weeks), Tabitha (6 weeks), Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II, and Faith (mother of Tabitha).



That was the text Mona sent me last week inviting me to the announcement of the state’s $16.5M in funding for Rx Kids. To be sure, she was happy to have Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II, Senator John Cherry, and Rep. Jasper Martus there, but it was the babies who got the capital letters and the exclamation mark. Because of the work of Sen. Cherry and the administration of Gov. Whitmer, the state budget will provide the lion’s share of the funding for Rx Kids, but the whole point of the program is the babies. Mona’s short text to me was a celebration and a mission statement. Poetry through exclamation.

You will notice in the picture I am paying no attention to Mona, the Lt. Gov., or the camera; that moment was about just me and Tabitha, and she was asleep. I did pay attention to the events the rest of the morning, which was a testament to how academic medicine, philanthropy, and government can align to create and evaluate an intervention for reducing childhood poverty, a root cause of health inequities.

You all will know that our strategic plan includes a grand challenge to improve health equity. A program like Rx Kids is a mountainous affirmation of our dedication to the cause, but know I value each step we take to improve health equity no matter the length of the stride. The search committees for the two 1964 Project professors have formed and are taking applications; Seun Ogunwobi, PhD, who will join us mid-month as chair of Biochemistry, will create a center for cancer disparities; and, you should watch last week’s Town Hall during which four of our Leadership in Rural Medicine students (Eneka Lamb MS3, Madeline Merwin MS4, Morgan Block MS2, Dennis Boynton MS2) described their advocacy for rural populations. Some steps are smaller than others, but each counts as progress. While you are on our channel, check out this week’s Town Hall with Jabbar Bennet, vice president and chief diversity officer for the university and professor in our own Department of Medicine. Our conversation will cover the university’s diversity, equity, and inclusion plan and the college’s own work to advance sponsorship and inclusion across our college and campuses.

For the first time in a couple of months, this is a four-campus week for me: Monday was Flint, Wednesday was Detroit, Friday is Grand Rapids. (Hello, class of 2013!) East Lansing was in the interstices, and my remaining summer experiences are apparently reduced to construction traffic. While I was in Detroit, Scott Dulchavsky, MD, Henry Ford Health chair of surgery, and I got a look at John Mitchell’s new virtual reality laboratory for procedural training. Dr. Mitchell is building a great program, and he is also the chair of the faculty executive committee of our new Department of Anesthesiology. It was great to see the new lab, but it was a real milestone to meet with the department faculty, residents, and staff during their grand rounds this week. Interim Chair Michael Lewis, MD, and the faculty have jumped into work of creating the department, and we have begun the search for the founding chair of the department.

I am happy to relay Dr. Lipscomb’s announcement of Kelly Armstrong, MD (CHM ’10), as our new assistant dean for student career and professional development. After graduating from CHM, Kelly went to Mayo for her PMR residency before returning to work at Mary Free Bed. She joined the college as a learning society faculty in 2016 and has been chief of the Justin Morrill Learning Society. In her new role, Kelly will work with Deana Wilbanks, Ed.D., on our programming supporting student career exploration, specialty choice, and the transition to residency. Please welcome Kelly to her new role!

Serving the people with you,


Aron Sousa, MD, FACP


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