December 23, 2021 – College of Human Medicine



The heart of the university’s traditional winter vacation begins tomorrow, and this year the university has extended official days off all week. I hope as many people as possible will have some sort of respite during this time. If you are a supervisor, try to retain as much work as you can. For example, the college has “fall planning” work to do in January, but I don’t hand out homework until after the break.

While I want to encourage as many people as possible to take a break, I also want to recognize that not everyone has the full opportunity to be away. When I asked three graduate students (Marzieh Ghiasi, Colleen MacCallum-Bridges, and Jessica Worley) about their research into using masks to fight COVID-19, I asked them how they plan to use the extra days off, and each of them planned to use time away from class to work on grants, papers, or abstracts.

I asked a senior faculty member today how he planned to use the break and he replied, as I would have without the days off: “I just finished my grades, so next week I’m getting ready for next semester’s classes. Our clinics will be open next week and a large number of clinicians and staff will see patients in our hospitals and clinics filled with COVID-19. Another group of our staff, teachers and students will continue to work to continue the experiments, care for the animals and keep our people safe; and our medical residents will continue to shoulder the burdens they carry throughout the pandemic.

It tires me just writing that last paragraph, and while I can’t stop all the time, I do intend to squat for some of these days. I have several things on my list:

  • My son is in town and he’s still good at some designer project.
  • I’ll make sure to exercise and sleep which shouldn’t be considered a hobby, but have you looked at the world in the past couple of years?
  • I will have time with a vaccinated, boosted, tested family.
  • I know it’s time to start thinking about starting seedlings for the garden as the seed catalogs are starting to arrive. And, that’s a good feeling.

In the fall, Spectrum Hospitals and MSU agreed to a change in the way academic work is supported and organized in their mutual work. Rather than having academic chairs, the system uses Senior Academic Advisors (SAA) in their service lines to support faculty. Although I like the concept of our partners including departmental structures in health care systems, I also understand that many health systems have converted to service lines and wish to develop academics consistent with their service lines. An unfortunate side effect of this change has been to end the academic chair positions at Spectrum, and one of those chairs is Ash Mansour, MD, who has been our president of surgery since 2010. He has been a national leader for us. and a great resource. for students and teachers. His term as President ends on December 31, and I would like to thank him for his work and leadership. I am working with the faculty of the department on the appointment of an interim president for the college. Finally, I appreciate that Ash has agreed to continue helping students interested in surgery. I would appreciate it if you thank Ash when you get the chance.

I also want to make sure to tell the whole college that we have a new Community Assistant Dean (CAD) in Lansing. Dr. Jamila Power led the Emergency Medicine Experience of Intermediate Clinical Experience at Sparrow Health System, and I am delighted that she is our new CAD in Lansing. Dr Wagner and his team carried out extensive research and were delighted to recruit Dr Power for this crucial role. I would also like to thank Dr Carol Parker for her excellent service as Interim CAD. As always, Dr. Parker kicks in when we need him and does a great job! Please welcome Dr Power to the role of CAD and thank Dr Parker when you have the opportunity.

Yesterday there was encouraging news about omicron from the UK. Preliminary data suggests that in the first two weeks of infection, people who test positive for omicron are less likely to go to hospital or be admitted than those who test positive for the variant. delta. At least preliminary data doesn’t suggest omicron is worse than delta, but Warning. The data only covers positive tests between December 1 and December 14 (two weeks), and they had to make a lot of adjustments for age and previous infection / vaccination etc. It seems that people with immunity do better than people without vaccination. or a previous infection. There isn’t enough data to say much about the impact of vaccination, although it appears that omicron is not more difficult than delta on those vaccinated.

A larger cohort study across Scotland, not yet peer-reviewed but available here, suggests that omicron may be ten times more likely than delta to cause reinfection. At the same time, these infections appear to be milder than with delta, boosters seem to work, and there appear to be fewer hospitalizations with omicron than with delta. However, many more infections can still mean a total increase in hospitalizations, even though the per capita hospitalization rate with omicron is lower than with previous variants.

In the long run, this could be how we move from the pandemic to a more endemic state. My question, or hope, is if we can flatten the curve over the next couple of weeks as the omicron takes over, could we take a step towards endemic status when the omicron completely outshines? the delta variant?

This does not improve the current circumstances. And, it sure doesn’t help if your family has suffered. I know some of us have lost loved ones in the past few weeks to COVID-19. I think of you and your family as well as those around you in college. We are all tired and we still need each other.

Take care of yourself, look out for each other, encourage vaccination, boost yourself, wear your mask, and after all, you have a peaceful and healthy vacation.

Serve people with you,


Aron Sousa, MD
Acting Dean


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