Human communication

Dean’s Update: March 4, 2022 | College of Human Medicine

March 4, 2022 – Aron Sousa, MD


Each year, Early Clinical Experience (ECE) students complete projects based on their experience in their first-year clinic. Many of them are quality improvement efforts with their clinic staff. Sometimes students evaluate or create patient education materials, sometimes students work on applying clinical guidelines, and sometimes students work on logistical issues like reducing no-shows. Students only have a few months to work on these projects, then they make a poster and are judged by professors in a poster session. It’s like a conference poster session, except there’s no beer or wine.

I was lucky enough to participate in one of two ECE poster sessions this week and really enjoyed myself. There were nearly a hundred posters judged at each session, so I didn’t get a chance to look at them all. But I went around several posters, and I came away impressed and delighted. The students have been very helpful in their clinics this year, as evidenced by the projects they have completed to improve patient education, immunization tracking, improve staff communication, and reduce language barriers, errors and mistreatment. Our freshmen have made impressive contributions to improving clinical care in the great communities of Grand Rapids and Lansing.

Two weeks ago at City Hall, we had the opportunity to learn about and celebrate a significant gift from the Maxon Foundation to the Munson Healthcare Foundation in support of our students in rural Northwest Michigan . This support is due to the excellent work of our Traverse City Community Assistant Dean, Dan Webster, MD, and thanks to the Head of our Rural Medicine Leadership Programs who is also our new Associate Dean for Community University Programs, Andrea Wendling , MD. And, it is important to recognize our staff for making this work possible, and especially to thank our students, who are incredible. This type of educational support from our partners is a great indicator of the esteem, importance and connection that our community partners feel for the students, staff and faculty of the college.

Give Green Day is March 15 and we are raising funds for scholarships. You may remember our efforts to achieve our goals during Giving Tuesday last November. These types of events help prime the pump for our scholarship campaign, so we really appreciate everyone’s help and contributions.

This week, most counties on our campuses are now at the CDC’s “medium risk” level for COVID-19 transmission after several months of “high risk” transmission. Some of our counties (hello Genesee!) even have “low transmission”. In areas with medium and low risk of transmission, people still need to be vaccinated and should be tested if they have symptoms. It is still true that people who test positive, have symptoms, or who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 should wear a mask. And people with symptoms should stay home – maybe Zoom will make it easier to stay home when we have more colds and flus. (Imagine my wife reading this and saying something about practice and preaching, pots and kettles full of soot, snakes and crabs walking straight, brambles complaining about the thorns of a pomegranate tree, grains and rays in the eyes, etc.)

One of the important college projects this spring and summer is our strategic planning effort. The college has many exciting opportunities and needs to be strategic in its choices in the coming years. We could do a lot. For example:

  • The college has remarkable opportunities to expand education and scholarship in multiple communities.
  • Our clinical partners offer new opportunities for connection and collaboration.
  • We are fortunate to hire dozens of new researchers and clinicians over the next five to seven years.
  • We are fortunate to add departments to fill traditional disciplines that we did not have at the college.
  • We could work to bring together the fields of medical sciences/disciplines and public health sciences/disciplines.
  • We could take on a big challenge like improving health equity or expanding access to health.

The strategy working group has had its first meeting, and we have started the data collection part of the planning process. Thank you to everyone working on the project and to everyone who answers our surveys and participates in the focus groups. This work is extremely important to the college and can have a big impact on our future.

I can only occasionally witness the horror of Russia’s morally bankrupt invasion of Ukraine. The bravery and resilience of Ukrainians and Russians who oppose the war is inspiring and humbling. The plight of the million or more Ukrainians fleeing violence reminds me of those leaving violence-torn regions in our hemisphere and around the world. These include the families and friends of people in our college and our fellow humans at all. I wish us all peace and security. Pay attention to each other.

Serve people with you,


Aron Sousa, MD
Acting Dean

Learn more about the Dean’s Update Archive