Dean’s Update | July 30, 2021 – College of Human Medicine

UPDATE from Dean Sousa – 4:30 p.m.

Friends,

By now, most of you know that MSU has moved on to a mask and vaccine mandate for students AND faculty and staff. The mask mandate is like our world a few months ago, except that there will be more people in our offices and classrooms.

The vaccine mandate is clearly new, and I fully support the vaccine and mask mandates.

The College of Human Medicine already has a vaccine requirement for students to obtain a clinical assignment. Since all of our students have clinical assignments, the implementation of the student vaccination mandate will follow the same process as the clinical assignment requirement.

The college will be part of the MSU process for the implementation of the mandate of immunization of faculty and staff. I understand the university is working on a vaccine registry and will work with the bargaining units on the immunization documentation schedule.

We will learn more over the next week as the university establishes its process for implementing the immunization mandate. I would like to express my deep gratitude to Dr Stanley and his team for this thoughtful decision.

Vaccinated with you,
Aron

PS – here is my first update from Dean:

Friends,

This week, the deans of the university gathered to talk about MSU’s progress on its new strategic plan. You can find resources on the planning process and this spring’s presentations on the plan’s progress at the university. strategic planning site. The plan will be finalized by the board of directors again this year, which means we are near the end of the process.

Our college must also conduct strategic planning over the next year. We are required to have a strategic plan for our accreditation cycle, and with a new MSU strategic plan, the college will be able to reconcile its plan with that of the university. In addition, it would be better if the next dean guides the college’s strategic plan, so time will be tight. We can do some data collection in the fall, so the college is ready to move on to strategic planning with the choice of the next dean.

The MSU plan has cross-cutting goals to be expected (student success, faculty and staff success, promotion of discovery / scholarship / the arts, and financial and environmental stewardship) as well as a strong focus on diversity, equity and inclusion and a goal to improve health and health systems. Given the pandemic, the expansion of the healthcare economy to nearly 20% of the US economy, the evident disparity and inequalities in healthcare, and the workforce needs of our healthcare organizations, a healthcare effort widely understood across academia makes sense.

If 20% of the economy is directly related to health and growing, it is likely that at least 20% of university graduates will work in health care, even if their specialization is not directly related to health care, for example communications or finance. The better we prepare all these graduates, the better able we will be to tackle difficult challenges like tackling disparities and inequalities in health. The better we prepare all students to think about science, evidence and health, the better our communities will be able to deal with the health and policy challenges we faced during the pandemic, such as the hydroxychloroquine craze, resistance to masking and reluctance to vaccination / stubbornness.

Let’s talk about when people have to hide. I’m not talking about formal politics or politics, just a doctor talking about masking. The CDC has changed its orientation encourage vaccinated and unvaccinated people to wear masks in areas of “”high or heavy transmission. “As of the evening of July 29, neither Kent County nor Ingham County fell into these categories, but Ionia and Jackson counties were both in the ‘substantial transmission’ category. Thursday, the CDC would say that everyone in Ionia and Jackson counties should mask themselves in indoor public spaces. According to the CDC, that would not be the case in Kent or Ingham counties … but I am convinced that we will be there any day.

The CDC has also suggested that people who are likely to be immunocompromised wear a mask regardless of the level of transmission in their area. Evidence indicates that immunocompromised people are not as well protected by vaccines because their immune system is not sufficiently stimulated by the vaccines. (There is reason to believe that a third shot could trigger a stronger response in transplant patients.) People in this situation have a double risk because they are less likely to be protected by the vaccine and more exposed to COVID-19. About 5% of the U.S. population may belong to this immunocompromised group, including people with cancer, people who have had transplants, and people taking immunosuppressive drugs for autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease.

We have a responsibility to protect those around us who are at risk for COVID-19 (including the unvaccinated), and the best way to protect those who are immunocompromised is to get vaccinated. Since the delta variant is so transmissible, with even some transmission among vaccinees, we should wear masks when there is significant transmission in the community.

I live in Ingham County, where two to four percent of tests are positive and cases are well below the level of previous relapses. Although Ingham County does not have “substantial” transmission, I have decided to wear a mask when in indoor public spaces. In models, the use of the mask drastically decreases illness and hospitalization, and if our goal is to reduce cases so that we can be together in the fall, we must seriously consider the mask as our normal behavior. Other faculties and some departments have made the same choice. These are choices about masking, not masking rules or mandates.

If you are not vaccinated, I want to talk. My phone is 517-353-1730, and I’m here to answer your questions about the vaccine. Serious illnesses from COVID-19 are preventable. The unvaccinated are really at risk and should wear a mask around people and distance themselves spatially regardless of the level of COVID-19 in their community. This is doubly true if you are or are around an immunocompromised person. I delved into the subject for months.

Wash your hands and if you are vaccinated, consider standardizing the wearing of the mask. If you are not vaccinated… we will always help you and we have people who can answer your questions, but know that you and yours are at risk.

Serve people with you,

Aron

Aron Sousa, MD
Acting Dean


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