Dean’s Update: August 26, 2022 | College of Human Medicine

August 26, 2022 – Aron Sousa, MD


Last week the college held two wonderful white coat ceremonies. The first celebrated the transition of our rising third-year students from intermediate clinical experience to late clinical experience. These students are from the class of 2020, who only had a “virtual white coat ceremony” when they entered college. About 100 students joined us on Saturday morning, and speaking to the students afterwards, I know they really appreciated the opportunity to be part of this traditional ceremony of transitioning into medical school.

The talented and hardworking people of Student Affairs and Academic Affairs held a second, more traditional White Coat Registration Ceremony late Saturday afternoon. We have a remarkable incoming class of 190 students. Approximately 85% of our incoming students are from Michigan, 22% are from rural backgrounds, 21% are from underrepresented populations in medicine. This year, 58% of our incoming students identify as female, 41% identify as male, and two identify as “gender diverse,” which is a new category in the National Admissions Database. About 20% of our new students have a master’s degree. You can “get to know” some of our students through the college news feed. It was great to meet so many students and faculty, and it was a wonderful day for our students and their families.

I want to take a moment to highlight a remarkable milestone for our Public Health Division, which is on its way to becoming a ministry. In the seven-and-a-half years since the unit was established, faculty in the division have received over $100 million in research funding. To my knowledge, this is the fastest growing NIH/HHS funding of any unit at the college or university. This amazing achievement is due to the hard work of the division’s faculty, staff, and students and, very importantly, the partnerships the division has cultivated with community partners. There is a particular symmetry in this particular stage. Jennifer Johnson, PhD, our first faculty in the division, brought the division’s first scholarships, and it was her most recent grant, which will be future news in its own right (!), that put the division to more than $100 million! Funding is not the end of everything and scholarship is not everything, and so I want to explicitly recognize the community and disciplinary impacts of our people in the division. It’s still an impressive step! Congratulations!

As we celebrate the accomplishments of our Public Health Division, we also celebrate the establishment of a new Department of Anesthesiology in the College of Human Medicine. A few years ago, the college gained approval for the departments of Emergency Medicine, Translational Neuroscience (originally called Translational Science and Molecular Medicine), and Anesthesia. The emergency medicine and translational neuroscience departments are well established, but we hadn’t been able to launch the anesthesia department…until now.

This week, I announced our interim president of anesthesiology, Michael Lewis, MD. He will lead a statewide department, which will begin supporting anesthesiology training opportunities for College of Human Medicine students throughout our system. Likewise, the department will engage in research and service (outreach and possibly clinical work) for the college. The majority of faculty are expected to come from Henry Ford Health, but anesthesia faculty across our system will now have a disciplinary home at the college. Our new department will add faculty from across the state and work to establish its bylaws before beginning the search for the founding chair.

Dr. Lewis currently holds the Joseph L. Ponka Chair in the Department of Anesthesiology, Pain Management and Perioperative Medicine at Henry Ford Health, a role he will continue to serve in. He is originally from London, England, and earned both an undergraduate and medical degree from University College London.

After training in anesthesiology in the United States at Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, Dr. Lewis joined the faculty at the University of Miami before joining the University of Florida College of Medicine in Jacksonville as president. He has served as clerkship director for medical students, residency program director, and associate dean for higher medical education. He has a long history of service in university governance as well as leadership in professional societies. For example, Michael will be the Chairman of the Council of the Society of Academic Associations of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine (SAAAPM). Congratulations, Dr. Lewis, and welcome to this exciting new role!

For all of our celebratory causes this week, we also had significant losses. Earlier this week, the college lost a notable leader with the passing of E. James Potchen, MD, JD. I have worked on many projects with Jim over the years, and he has been a great mentor and support to so many students and faculty. He had a voracious mind, also taking an interest in medicine, law, horticulture and philosophy. Dr. Potchen was the founding chairman of the Department of Radiology and was a national force in the field. The college and university owe much to his talent and work over the decades. He will be deeply missed.

Many of us will also miss John Hickner, MD, MSc, who was a long-time college professor. For many he is like family, and for others in college he is family. John served as editor for The Journal of Family Medicine for a decade and was a leader in evidence-based medicine before it was cool. Based in Escanaba, where he spent most of his career, he worked with the American Academy of Family Physicians to create a research network of 2,400 members. Our colleagues Henry Barry, Mark Ebell and Kate Rowland wrote a beautiful memory.

I’d like to close this update by announcing a new effort that I’m excited about. Over the past few months, I have worked with the Dean’s Advisory Committee on Diversity (DACD) to create a new program to hire or support faculty who will expand the college’s scholarship on topics related to diversity, equity, inclusion and justice. We will use recurring funding from my dean’s program, as well as unit matching funds, to support new faculty hires. We hope to be able to add 2-3 teachers per year through this effort. All units are welcome to apply, and the program is designed to help laboratory, clinical, and social science/humanities units expand their scholarship. We call this effort the 1964 Project, honoring the year of the college’s founding and passage of the US Civil Rights Act. The DACD approved the RFP this week and the college is working on its implementation. We invite you to review the draft RFP and provide your comments and suggestions.

Serve people with you,


Aron Sousa, MD FACP


Dean’s Update