Dean’s Update: August 12, 2022 | College of Human Medicine

August 12, 2022 – Aron Sousa, MD

Friends,

It’s been a big week for the college’s strategic planning effort. After months of Zoom meetings, the Strategic Planning Task Force and its working groups met face-to-face for the first time in the entire process. I understand that there were hugs.

I have not been able to attend task force or task force meetings in person as I am still coughing and sputtering as part of my COVID experience. But they let me attend via video, and I found the meetings to be very productive. The five working groups focused their discussions on goals and strategies around student success, faculty and staff success, college identity and reputation (including research goals), a grand challenge and clinical and community outreach. None of the goals are final yet, and there is still a lot of work to do before we have a final strategic plan to review in October.

Although I’m not sure what will be in the final plan, the conversations have exciting and interesting directions. The working groups and task force address many goals that will expand our health equity work in scholarship, education, and clinical practice. For those who haven’t been following college closely in recent years, our people have stepped up our work on health equity through new and redeveloped programs like the Leadership in Rural Medicine program, the Michigan State University-Hurley Pediatric Pediatric Public Health Initiative, R2D2, and our Early Assurance programs in partnership with universities and community colleges including Mott, Grand Rapids, Northwestern Michigan, Bay, and Bay Mills.

We have too many health equity programs to list them all, but if you have some time, take a look at the Flint Center for Health Equity Solutions, Maternal Health Racial Equity Project, Approach Latino Community Network Approach, to Health Disparity in Cardiovascular Disease, and social epidemiology among others.

I believe that many of the health equity ideas in the strategic planning effort will benefit not only our patients and our communities, but also our students, our faculty and our university. As we bring public health and more traditional academic medicine closer together, we are creating new liminal spaces for our researchers to investigate.

The task force also spends time on how we perceive ourselves, as well as how the rest of the world thinks of us. I imagine there will be strategic efforts focused on our identity and our reputation. Much of what the world knows about us results from our broad participation in scientific, social and political discussions in society.

The task force considered strategies to advance the public intellectual work of our students, staff, and faculty. This question is close to my heart. I see society’s response to the pandemic, climate change, violence, access to mental health, and maternal/child mortality disparities as indicators of whether or not we are engaging science as which country. Some of our graduates will end up in communities where they have the highest level of education of anyone in town. Helping our people to be effective public intellectuals is integral to our impact on community health.

For all the discussions on public intellectual work and health equity, it is clear that grassroots efforts in education, research and clinical work will underpin the strategic plan. The working groups have developed strategies to help our employees (students, staff and faculty) succeed in everything they do. College clinical success is clearly recognized as a key component of how we do good in the world and how we continue to enhance the success of our students and faculty.

Any college strategic plan will need to respond to the university’s emphasis on research growth and, in particular, NIH-supported research. Our strategic planning consultants interviewed leaders at MSU, and it’s clear that these leaders view the college as key to the university achieving its goals of tripling NIH funding in five years and reaching a total of 1 billion in research spending by 2030.

Portrait of Michael BrownThe next steps for the Strategic Planning Working Group are to digest the week’s work, start focusing on the main goals of the plan, and draft the document. I am deeply indebted to the work of Carol Parker and Kris Stroud in moving the process forward. My thanks to Alan Conceicao for handling the logistics of the meetings. Developing and implementing a strategic planning effort at a disparate college like ours during the latter stages of the pandemic has not been easy, but Nicholas Williams and Michael Butler of HLA have been flexible, patient and expert in their work. Thanks.

Congratulations to Mike Brown, MD, MSc, who will be the new academic physician. You may already know Mike as Director of Emergency Medicine, and I am pleased to confirm that he will continue in his role as Department Director. Responsibilities of the Academic Physician position have been restructured from our own Dave Weismantel, MD, MS, retired from the post in May. As the institution’s public health officer, Mike will lead planning and preparedness for major public health issues and coordinate the university’s response to these crises. However, the administration of the student health center is no longer the responsibility of the university doctor, which will allow Mike to continue running the department. (Although his clinical rotations in the emergency department take a hit.)

I don’t suppose college medic is always an easy job to take on, but starting omicron courses across the countryside and monkeypox to an escape must be a particularly difficult set of starting circumstances. Dr. Brown brings to this role his expertise in epidemiology and his scientific strength, which will serve him well. He is a wonderful colleague and leader within the college, and has always been of service to students, faculty and the community. I’m sure Mike will be great in this role.

Serve people with you,

Arron

Aron Sousa, MD FACP
Dean


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