September 2, 2022 – Aron Sousa, MD
If at some point in your career you are lucky enough to run a medical school, one of the fun things about the job will be meeting the people who make your school special. Now that the summer has started giving us a hard time, I’ve started a little “meet the new dean” tour of campuses and one-on-ones. For deans new to the position and to the institution, this usually happens shortly after their arrival. Since I’m not new to work or college, we waited until after summer break with a little extra hope that omicron would calm down a bit.
On Wednesday, I had the pleasure of visiting our Southeast Michigan campus, based at Ascension Providence in Southfield and Novi. I met with students, internship directors, and hospital leaders, including our new community assistant dean, Basil Abdo, MD, and their director of medical education, Abdul Sankari, MD. It was a great visit and it was a pleasure to be with partners that we have only seen on Zoom for the past few years. The campus is doing very well, and through partnerships with Dawn Misra, PhD, our Chair of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, there are now parts of three NIH studies with our faculty at Ascension Providence.
The importance of outreach and visits to our communities became apparent when I met a politician from Lansing, and they thought the college moved to Grand Rapids in the 2000s, so we doubled down on educating the Lansing metropolitan community on the college.
I know most of you are in the choir and know what’s going on in college, but here’s a quick refresher on our Lansing campus. First of all, we’re still good at Lansing. Last week, 95 new medical students (half of our class) began their medical training on the south side of the East Lansing campus. These students complete longitudinal rotations in primary care clinics in the Lansing area during their first year. During the second year, these 95 students will complete almost all of their clinical rotations at Sparrow Hospital. Sparrow has been a great teaching partner for these rotations, and our students have wonderful experiences in adult services, pediatrics, nursery, emergency medicine, women’s health, nutrition, pharmacy, nursing , respiratory therapy, social work and palliative care. About 18 students are staying at Sparrow for their third and fourth year. (Typically, students at the new Lansing McLaren are from the College of Osteopathic Medicine.) Overall, we have the same number of students in the Greater Lansing area as before the Grand Classroom expansion began. Rapids in 2007.
But wait! There is more. When you’re on the go, please let people know that approximately 60% of our NIH funding is provided by faculty based in East Lansing/Lansing. It is true that we have strong growth in Flint and Grand Rapids, but the majority of our work and research at NIH is where we have always been. We also have about 100 clinicians caring for patients in Lansing (again, mostly in Sparrow). In fact, we don’t have a clinical practice anywhere other than Lansing. We are not a large practice, but we provide a range of essential services in the community like neonatology, neurology, stroke care, adult inpatient medicine for patients without a primary care physician, surgery biliary, vascular surgery, endocrinology and endocrine surgery, infectious diseases, cancer care and a range of other specialties. I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I want the Lansing community to know that we serve them and strive to help the community develop stronger health care and a more vibrant intellectual economy.
A core part of our work in the Lansing area is in basic science departments that we share with other colleges on campus. One of these departments, the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (BMB), is in the preliminary stages of its search for a new chair. As we complete the research, I am pleased to report that Tim Zacharewski, PhD, was named interim president. Dr. Zacharewski is a professor at BMB and the Institute of Integrative Toxicology. He is well-funded by the NIH and has really stepped up to help the department through the final stages of research. Acting is never easy, and I’m so glad he agreed to take on this role for us.
The campus is buzzing with students this week, and it always feels new to have so many people in the classrooms and filling the sidewalks. Naturally, with the influx of people, we have had some increase in COVID cases among students and faculty. Even though MSU is no longer mandating masks, for people who have been exposed, or are coming out after 5 days of isolation after being sick with COVID, masks are the considerate thing to wear as we protect each other .
For most of us, having COVID means feeling crummy and wasting time at school or work. Hospitalizations are stable across the country, as are deaths; however, deaths are stable at around 500 deaths per day, which is still quite amazing. If that rate continues, COVID and strokes will kill a similar number of Americans this year. Remember to wear masks when you are around people at risk or if you think you have been exposed, just to be a good neighbour.
Serve people with you,
Aron Sousa, MD FACP