College of

Dean's Update

January 20, 2016


Since fall much of the news in the state has revolved around the Flint water debacle, and the role of College of Human Medicine faculty in discovering exposure and intervening on behalf of Flint’s children. The work of CHM faculty demonstrated that children in Flint have suffered from higher lead levels than they have in the past or than in their age-mates in the surrounding county, which did not use Flint city water. The team of Mona Hanna-Attisha, Jenny LaChance, Rick Sadler, and Allison Schnepp used geospatial analysis of lead levels from children five years old and younger and found that lead levels increased significantly after the change to Flint River water ( 

This paper is a collaboration of faculty from CHM and Hurley Medical Center, a college-affiliated hospital and stalwart partner for 40 years. I cannot say enough good things about the dedication and fortitude of the people and leadership at Hurley. On Thursday, January 14, the college and Hurley Medical Center announced the Pediatric Public Health Initiative ( focused on helping the children of Flint as they recover from their lead exposure and the difficulties surrounding them.

This new initiative will be housed in the college’s Flint-based Division of Public Health and led by Dr. Hanna-Attisha. She is a graduate of CHM at the Flint campus, is the residency director of the CHM-affiliated Pediatrics Residency Program at Hurley Medical Center, and at this point she is a part of the medical firmament. Her work has demonstrated her to be a thoughtful and data-driven scientist, a physician leader guided by the needs of the children of Flint, and she is quite nearly fearless without being reckless. In short, to quote Rachel Maddow, “she is a bad ass.”

The College of Human Medicine Division of Public Health was created last year in a partnership of Michigan State University with the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Genesys Health, Hurley Medical Center, and McLaren-Flint.  Among the first hires was Rick Sadler, PhD, the health geographer whose work was a necessary part of the lead analysis.  It is entirely possible that we would still not know the impact of the lead contamination in Flint without the Division of Public Health.

The entirety of the Flint-water catastrophe points to the vital role of land-grant universities and community-based medical schools in society. It was the work of faculty from the College of Human Medicine (the pioneer community-based medical school at the pioneer land-grant university) that demonstrated increasing lead levels in children. This follows the work of water engineer Marc Edwards, PhD, at Virginia Tech, another land-grant institution, who demonstrated that Flint’s water was meaningfully polluted with lead.

Governmental agencies only came to see these dangers after the work of courageous faculty. It is to the point that land-grant universities are the scientific safety net of our society. For better or worse, that is a part of our role now. Academic freedom provides the freedom to speak about data that companies and governments do not always allow, and the land-grant mission moves faculty to focus on the needs of the people and communities.

New MPH Director (also in Flint)

This fall Simone Charles, PhD, joined the college as the new director of our Flint-based Master of Public Health Program (MPH).  Her main administrative focus is the accreditation of the MPH, but she has a remarkable background given the current water problems in Flint. Her PhD is in environmental chemistry and toxicology from MSU with a postdoc in environmental health sciences at the University of Michigan.  She comes to us from Georgia Southern University where she was a tenured associate professor and director of the Master of Public Health (MPH) program and director of the Doctorate in Public Health (DrPH) program. Her areas of interest as witnessed in her research and publication background include community-based participatory research, maternal/child health, school-based health, community and environmental health assessments, and hazard risk analysis. She arrives at just the right time.


The new Bioengineering Building located just south of the Clinical Center will open later this winter and house the Institute for Quantitative Health Science and Engineering, which is a partnership of the College of Human Medicine, College of Engineering, College of Natural Science, and the provost’s office. The Institute will focus on liminal fields between biomedicine and engineering. This is major investment by the college and university in the future of medical and engineering research on campus.

The Grand Rapids Research Center continues to be on-time and on-budget. The building will hold the 17 principal investigators currently in Grand Rapids and additional hires as the college moves to double its research productivity in Grand Rapids. The building will be finished using the same materials as the Secchia Center and was designed by Ellenzweig, the designers of the Secchia Center. 

Aron Sousa, MD
Interim Dean 


MSU, Hurley hospital partner on mitigating lead exposure in Flint
WKAR Radio | January 19
Current State talks about the Pediatric Public Health Initiative with Hurley pediatrician Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha and Associate Dean at the MSU College of Human Medicine Dr. Dean Sienko.

Initiative to treat children exposed to toxic lead in Flint's water
CNN | January 19
I want to talk more about the health crisis with Dr. Dean Sienko, of Michigan State University. He's spearheaded an initiative to treat the estimated 27,000 children exposed to the toxic lead in Flint's water. "What we're focusing on now is, what can we do to help the children. We're looking at helping them through education. There's been talk about universal pre-K, talk about universal Head Start. We're trying to improve their nutrition so that they know of food nutrition they can do that will mitigate the effects of the lead exposure, and as well as health care, so that if we identify these children early on, we can get them into appropriate care."

Flint Water Crisis: What's being done to help children exposed to lead
ABC News | January 19
As the water crisis continues, health experts said they are working to mitigate the long-term effects of lead exposure in the youngest residents, even if they can't reverse it. Hanna-Attisha along with others at the Hurley Medical Center are working with Michigan State University and the Genesee County Health Department as part of the Pediatric Public Health Initiative, announced last week. The initiative includes cooking classes and an information pamphlet from MSU aimed at helping parents give their children food that will protect them from lead exposure. That's because a diet rich in iron, calcium and vitamin C "can decrease absorption and increase excretion," of lead, said Dr. Dean Sienko, associate dean of prevention and public health at MSU's College of Human Medicine.
READ MORE | Related: ABC News RadioABC TV 7 New YorkKMBZ Radio

Gov. Rick Snyder to present plan of action on Flint's water crisis
NewsOne Now | January 19
Dr. Dean Sienko from the MSU College of Human Medicine explained on NewsOne Now a team of experts is being assembled to monitor the children of Flint for the foreseeable future as a result of the Flint water crisis. Watch Dr. Sienko and Roland Martin’s NewsOne Now discussion below.

New initiative to help Flint children with lead poisoning
WILX TV 10 | January 18|
Michigan State University and Hurley Children's Hospital are teaming up to help children in Flint who have been exposed to lead in their water. The Pediatric Public Health Initiative will be headed by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the Flint pediatrician who discovered high lead levels in children after the city switched to the Flint River as its water source in 2014.

New Pediatric Public Health Initiative to support the health of Flint children
MSU Today | January 14
Michigan State University and Hurley Children’s Hospital have announced a new Pediatric Public Health Initiative to address the Flint community’s population-wide lead exposure and help all Flint children grow up healthy and strong. The Pediatric Public Health Initiative brings together experts in pediatrics, child development, psychology, epidemiology, nutrition, toxicology, geography and education, and includes the Genesee County Health Department, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and MSU Extension.
READ MORE | Related: Detroit NewsAssociated PressMSNBC's Rachel Maddow ShowDaily TribuneMLiveDetroit NewsWNEM TV 5Michigan RadioWiredMLiveDetroit NewsDetroit Free PressUSA Today Column, WOOD TV 8

New farmers market, MSU medical school growing Flint's downtown redevelopment
Crain's Detroit Business | January 9
MSU's College of Human Medicine, which operates in seven community campuses through affiliations with local hospitals, physicians and other providers, had since the early 1970s been training third- and fourth-year medical students at Flint hospitals and outpatient clinics. But it had more student demand in Flint than available slots, said Aron Sousa, the college's interim dean. "We were able to increase our teaching capacity. And some of that is having a building and places to teach, some of that is hospitals and physicians teaching more of the year … and some of that is more staff," Sousa said.
READ MORE | Related: Becker's Hospital Review

MSU prof breaks ground with childhood cancer discovery
Lansing State Journal | January 7
Andre Bachmann arrived late to dinner at a medical conference in Paris 14 years ago. And, because of it, he made a discovery that has defined his career. He was the last person to enter the dining room that evening. There was one seat left — at a table surrounded by grief-stricken parents whose children were fighting neuroblastoma. To his right was a pediatrician whose son was battling the disease, to his left a mother who lost her daughter to cancer on Christmas day. They were there to learn what they could about advancements in fighting the disease. He had studied cancer as a scientific puzzle but the Michigan State University research professor, then a professor at the University of Hawaii Cancer Center, had never been confronted by its devastating wake.
READ MORE | Related: Detroit Free Press

Elevated blood lead levels associated with Flint drinking water crisis in published report
Grand Blanc View | January 7
The latest research has been published by the American Journal of Public Health citing elevated blood lead levels in children associated with the Flint drinking water crisis. The research was conducted by Mona Hanna-Attisha MD MPH FAAP, Director, Pediatric Residency Program at Hurley Children’s Hospital and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, Jenny LaChance, MS, Hurley Research Center, Richard Sadler PhD, MSU College of Human Medicine Division of Public Health and Allison Champney Schnepp, MD, Pediatric Resident at Hurley Children’s Hospital/Michigan State University.

10 "Must-Ride" US Gran Fondos for 2016 (MSU Gran Fondo ranked #4) | January 4
2016 sees the world focus on reducing its carbon emissions, sustainability and health. So naturally, cycling gains a further boost as a means of travel, staying fit and enjoying sport. So whether it's to improve your fitness, stay healthy, or as an environmental choice - taking up cycling could be one of the best decisions you ever make. Here's our selection of some great Gran Fondos, taking place across the United States - from April until November 2016. 

Study addresses disparity in cervical cancer deaths
Grand Rapids Press | January 3
While studying cervical cancer statistics compiled by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Sabrina Ford noticed a discrepancy she thought must be a mistake. While African American women undergo screenings for cervical cancer at a higher rate than white women, they die from the disease at almost twice the rate.


The many faces of food fraud
Food Business News | December 29
Food Business News spoke with the paper’s co-authors John Spink, director of the Food Fraud Initiative and assistant professor in the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine, and Doug Moyer, assistant professor of public health in the MSU College of Human Medicine, about the prevalence of food fraud and how it can be prevented.

Spartans' special friend gets special visit
Lansing State Journal | December 28
Dr. Amy McIntosh, a native of Gladstone in the Upper Peninsula and an associate professor of orthopedic surgery and surgeon at the children’s hospital, is a graduate of MSU’s College of Human Medicine who operates on spine conditions such as Fitzsimmons’. “Patients like Rowan, we treat here all the time. It’s just so amazing that coach helped her realize just putting a little extra hard work in can make all the difference,” McIntosh said.

Opioid dependency peaks among younger age group
MSUToday | December 22
A Michigan State University study shows that 14- and 15-year-olds are at a higher risk of becoming dependent on prescription drugs within a 12-month period after using them extra-medically, or beyond the prescribed amount. The study, led by Maria A. Parker, a doctoral student, along with professor James C. Anthony, both in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, is based on a nationally representative sample of 12- to 21-year-olds taken each year between 2002 and 2013. The survey sample focuses on what happens when young people start to use these drugs for other reasons.
READ MORE | Related: Detroit News

Newly published study gives more evidence of elevated lead in Flint kids
MLive | December 21
The American Journal of Public Health has published research by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha that further details the rise in blood lead levels in children who drank Flint River water for as long as 17 months. Research was conducted by Hanna-Attisha; Jenny LaChance of Hurley Research Center; Richard Sadler of the MSU College of Human Medicine Division of Public Health; and Dr. Allison Champney Schnepp, pediatric resident at Hurley Children's Hospital and Michigan State University.

Doctors wish you some kind of Christmas
Detroit News | December 18
When it comes to indecipherable messages, the handwriting of some doctors looks like they flat-lined in midscribble. Building on that stereotype, the College of Human Medicine at Michigan State University decided to send out nearly 1,000 hilarious Christmas cards as written by a harried physician.

Kids' toxic test results raised alarm over water supply
MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show | December 18
Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician with Hurley Children's Hospital in Flint, Michigan, talks with Rachel Maddow about how the alarming results of lead testing in the city's children prompted her to raise the alarm about the toxicity of the new water supply the Rick Snyder administration insisted was safe.

Eating at certain Flint restaurants Tuesday will also help those who are medically underserved
ABC 12 | December 15
You have the chance to eat at some of your favorite Flint restaurants Tuesday and at the same time, help out those who are underserved in Michigan and around the world. It's a fundraiser between students in the Leadership in Medicine for the Underserved group at Michigan State University's College of Human Medicine and four Flint restaurants.
READ MORE | Related: Fox 66

Flint pediatrician: Out of water crisis, opportunity
Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity | December 14
Last week I wrote about concerns facing kids living in the city of Flint. The biggest concern as of late revolves around negative health impacts due to the water crisis. The fear is that the behavioral and health consequences will put already disadvantaged children in an even tougher position to get ahead. Since last week, I’ve talked with Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha a second time. She’s a pediatrician and child advocate working in Flint. She reminded me that despite the impact the water crisis has had on the city’s most vulnerable residents, it’s not all “doom and gloom.”

Nine MSU students receive Fulbright grants
MSU Today | December 8
The U.S. Department of Education recently awarded funding to nine MSU students, including fourth-year College of Human Medicine student Evan Milton. He will use his Fulbright scholarship in Honduras to study ways to improve the delivery of medical care there. 
READ MORE | Related: Grand Rapids Press

Dean Sousa discusses new Grand Rapids Research Center
WGVU's The Morning Show | December 7
Michigan State University College of Human Medicine's Dean Aron Sousa joins Shelley Irwin on the Morning Show to discuss the new Grand Rapids Research Center

MSU celebrates milestone for new research center
Grand Rapids Press | December 6
It was a largely symbolic ceremony, yet the topping off of the MSU Grand Rapids Research Center held great promise for the expansion of the College of Human Medicine's research capabilities.

2015 Healthcare Forum: Pursuing an empowered and health workforce
Lansing Regional Chamber | December 1
Dean Sienko, associate dean of prevention and public health with the MSU College of Human Medicine, was one of the featured speakers at the 2015 Healthcare Forum.

Send your Michigan State University College of Human Medicine news to Geri Kelley, director of communications, and Amy Sawade, communications manager. For the latest news, visit the College of Human Medicine website, the news page and follow us on Facebook and Twitter @MSUMD.