College of

Dean's Update

May 3, 2016

Last Friday the MSU Empower Extraordinary university-wide campaign made a visit to West Michigan with a reception and dinner, and it was a rousing success. The event included a celebration of the remarkable journey of College of Human Medicine donors Tom and Cathy Mall and their generous donation in support of the college’s research seeking to identify a cause and a cure for autism. You can watch a powerful video of their story here

The reception and dinner took place in downtown Grand Rapids, and the proximity to the Grand Rapids Research Center provided an important platform to highlight the growth and future of the college. Just as Spartans and close friends provided the private support for the Secchia Center in Grand Rapids, philanthropy is the lynchpin of success for the construction and future research. Strong collaboration and community support make a remarkable difference for the research efforts of the college and will help bring to life the work of our scientists in the new building.

It was a busy week for the college. The week began with the investiture celebration for the first three Charles Stewart Mott Endowed Professors of Public Health in a ceremony in the College of Human Medicine building in Flint. President Simon, Provost Youatt, and numerous Flint community members helped celebrate the installation of these named professorships to Jennifer Johnson, Harold “Woody” Neighbors, and Debra Furr-Holden, who each gave brief summaries of their work demonstrating their passion of community-participatory public health research and the community of Flint. The professorships are supported by more than $12 million in funding from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation which made possible the expansion of the College of Human Medicine in Flint in combination with support from Hurley Medical Center, McLaren-Flint, and Genesys Regional Medical Center. These faculty have already amassed more than $15 million in NIH funding supporting public health interventions to help address health disparities in and around Flint.

Amongst all of this news, I am sad, but proud, to report that Dean Sienko will be leaving MSU and our college to become Vice President for Health Programs at the Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia. It will be his job to guide the Carter Center in the last stages of eradicating Guinea Worm and working to prioritize the next projects of the center.  Dean Sienko has done wonderful work as the college’s associate dean for public health and as director of our Division of Public Health. We will all miss him as a leader and colleague, but we get to keep him as a friend and he joins a vibrant College of Human Medicine diaspora doing immensely important work.

The month of May brings many transitions for the college:

  • Sunday, May 1, the college celebrated the student scholarship awardees and the donors who make our scholarships possible. While the college has managed to hold student debt steady for the last three years, it is still too high and constrains the career choices of our students.
  • This Friday, May 6, is the graduation of the College of Human Medicine’s advanced degree candidates who have earned MS, MPH, and PhDs. Earlier in the afternoon, College of Human Medicine alum Mona Hanna-Attisha will be the university’s commencement speaker and will receive an honorary degree at the MSU undergraduate convocation. Also Friday, College of Human Medicine’s great friend, Don Maine, will receive an honorary degree at the Advanced Degree celebration in the afternoon.
  • And, Saturday, May 14, will be the commencement ceremony for our MD students of the college. Dr. Hanna-Attisha will also be the commencement speaker for the MD ceremony. She will have done commencements at Virginia Tech and the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins, but she saved a spot on her schedule for her alma mater.
  • You can find an update on the dean’s search here.                           

It has been a busy academic year for the college and the summer promises to be equally exciting. If you are on this email list, you are a part of the College of Human Medicine and a part of the good work the people of the college do each and every day all around the world. Thank you for your contributions to the public good and for being a part of the College of Human Medicine.


Aron Sousa, MD
Interim Dean 


Flintstone 5K run/walk
ABC 12 | May 1
It was the fourth annual Flintstone 5k walk and run on Sunday. The event is organized by students at MSU's College of Human Medicine Flint campus. One of the organizers, Bernadene Jayasundera, spoke to us about why the college does the event, and why they raise money for Flint Community Schools.

Is hospital discharge unsafe? Ethical response is needed
AHC Media | May 1
It’s a difficult yet common scenario: A patient with complex care needs does not have a reliable caregiver at home to assist with implementing their post-discharge care needs. In these cases, it’s necessary to determine if the patient has the capacity to make the decision, says Erin Sarzynski, MD, MS, an assistant professor of geriatric medicine at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine.

The water crisis in Flint and how a community-based medical school came to the rescue
AAMC | April 30
Aron Sousa, MD, interim dean at MSU’s medical school, said that a community participatory infrastructure had been in place before the crisis. In 2012, two years before the water became toxic; the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation awarded the college a $2.8 million planning grant to expand its medical education and public health research in Flint. With this funding, the college formed an advisory committee to work with hospital partners and more than 80 community organizations, government agencies, and the business community to examine social determinants of health in Flint and how to reduce health disparities.

Endowment supports three public health researchers
MSUToday | April 29
They are tops in their fields, each bringing years of experience and an abundance of research into different areas of public health. The investitures of Jennifer Johnson, Harold “Woody’ Neighbors and Debra Furr-Holden as the first three Charles Stewart Mott Endowed Professors of Public Health was a “momentous occasion” for the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, interim Dean Aron Sousa said.

Carter Center names Dean Sienko as new Vice President for Health Programs
The Carter Center | April 27
Dean G. Sienko, M.D., M.S., has been appointed vice president for health programs at The Carter Center, effective June 2016. Currently, Sienko is associate dean for prevention and public health at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine. At The Carter Center, he will provide leadership for programs working to prevent or eliminate six tropical diseases in 18 nations, as well as efforts to improve mental health care in the United States and abroad.  He replaces Dr. Donald Hopkins, who joined the Center in 1987, and remains as special advisor for Guinea worm eradication.

On-the-job deaths in agriculture rise
MSUToday | April 27
An estimated 138 on-the-job deaths occurred in Michigan last year, with tractor-related deaths increasing, according to preliminary figures from an annual Michigan State University report. The 2015 figure indicates a potential decrease from 143 confirmed deaths in 2014. The final total will not be determined, though, until the end of this year. Kenneth Rosenman, chief of the Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine in MSU's College of Human Medicine, studies work-related illnesses, injuries and deaths to help the state of Michigan prevent future incidents.

Community, multi-university campus partnership to address public health challenges in Flint
MSUToday | April 26
Flint community partners and three major Michigan university campuses have announced a new partnership to help address, through coordinated research efforts, the current and future status of residents and their health. The new initiative, the Healthy Flint Research Coordinating Center, brings together Flint’s Community Based Organization Partners, or CBOP, Michigan State University, the University of Michigan Flint and the University of Michigan Ann Arbor. Working with CBOP, a coalition of community-based organizations, will ensure community needs stay at the forefront in current and future research efforts in the Flint community. “Michigan State has been a knowledge partner in Flint for a century now, and this effort will further complement the Hurley/MSU Pediatric Public Health Initiative and the other health, education and community building efforts we’re involved in today,” says MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. “With our University of Michigan colleagues, we are pleased to offer Flint residents a new point of access to a tremendous reservoir of collective expertise and to give our own researchers additional channels to serve the community."

Fighting counterfeit medicine
MSUToday | April 25
“It’s important to understand the different types of counterfeits, counterfeiters and counterfeiting organizations before selecting effective countermeasures,” said Spink, whose team included MSU’s College of Human Medicine’s Dr. Douglas Moyer and Dr. Michael Rip. “The goal is to reduce the size of the triangle; increasing the understanding of how and why fraudsters circumvent laws, audits and certifications helps achieve that goal.

Making a "pink" impact through breast cancer care
MSU Today | April 22
The Michigan State University College of Nursing has received $75,000 from the local Susan G. Komen Foundation, Michigan affiliate, to provide essential screening and diagnostic breast care services to both women and men in need. In partnership with the College of Human Medicine's Department of Radiology, imaging services will be provided for patients with an income of up to 350 percent above the poverty level.

Michigan leaders experience education and training for practice in rural communities
AAMC | April 21
Federal, state and local leaders from Northern Michigan got a first-hand look at the unique aspects of learning and teaching, training, and practicing in rural settings at a Project Medical Education event hosted by the Michigan State University (MSU) College of Human Medicine and Munson Healthcare in Traverse City, Mich. on April 14 and 15.

Mona Hanna-Attisha named on of TIME's most influential people
MSU Today | April 21
TIME has named Mona Hanna-Attisha, director of the Michigan State University and Hurley Children’s Hospital Pediatric Public Health Initiative to the 2016 TIME 100, its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world. The full list and related tributes will appear in the May 2 issue of TIME, which will be available on newsstands on Friday, April 22. 
READ MORE | Related: TIME MagazineCrain's Detroit BusinessDetroit NewsWFNT 1470 AMMacomb DailyOakland PressFOX 47Becker's Hospital ReviewDexter PatchState News

Faculty Voice: Finding a calling in the Amazon Basin
MSU Today | April 20
What began in August 2008 as a joint medical mission to Peru between the College of Osteopathic Medicine and the College of Human Medicine at MSU has evolved into a medical ministry. The trip was initially called the Peru Medical Mission. It was a two-week trip where we set up a mobile clinic and treated patients. In those days, there was not much follow-up care. We did not work with local physicians; we had one or two medical students that would weigh in and give us insight, and we had a relatively undeveloped research program. After working there for three years, something began to change within us.

Daniel Goldowitz appointed visiting Hanna Distinguished Professor
MSU Today | April 20
Daniel Goldowitz, an internationally recognized expert in brain development and brain disorders, has been appointed Visiting Hannah Distinguished Professor, the most prestigious faculty appointment at Michigan State University. With the appointment in the College of Human Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics and Human Development, Goldowitz will consult and advise leaders of the MSU Institute for Research in Autism, Intellectual and Neurodevelopmental Disabilities.

MSU and Hurley Children's Hospital announce Pediatric Public Health Initiative to support the health of Flint children
Innovative Health Magazine | April 19
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. The intent is to address the Flint population-wide lead exposure from multiple fronts and provide the tools and resources for the assessment, continued research and monitoring, and interventions necessary for improving children’s health and development. The foundation for this new initiative leverages MSU’s recently expanded Division of Public Health, supported by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, that has brought new public health researchers to Flint and MSU College of Human Medicine’s 35-year medical education collaboration with Hurley Medical Center.

Q&A with Jeff Dwyer, Director of MSU Extension
MiBiz | April 17
I’ve spent the last 10 years as the associate dean of the College of Human Medicine so there was a little head-scratching when I was announced as the director of MSU Extension. One of the areas of great commonalities between the two is that Extension is a statewide organization. A lot of people don’t know, (but) the College of Human Medicine has seven campuses all over the state ranging from Southfield to the Upper Peninsula. I was one of a couple of people who spent the most time on the road between those campuses and built a statewide research network around working with partners who would help us fund positions. Part of what I learned is the whole aspect of building relationships and finding partners that have aligned interests. That’s something that we’re going to apply at Extension.
READ MORE | Related: County Press Online

From bedridden to recovery, the story of one MSU medical student
The State News | April 17
First-year student in MSU’s College of Human Medicine Ariel Dempsey was enjoying a swing dancing session with her younger brother, Jordan Dempsey, in January 2015 when her nightmare began.

Seven reasons your posture matters
Bustle | April 15
"It’s important to think about good posture from a young age for a number of reasons. Health being the most important," Susan M. Day, M.D., orthopedic surgeon and clinical instructor at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, tells Bustle. There's a lot more at stake here than looking taller in those skinny jeans without having to wear stilettos — posture is about much more than aesthetics. Posture could affect your lung capacity, the condition of your joints and ligaments, and even the level of hormones in your system. Those may sound like wild claims to you, but there's research to back it all up, as you'll see below.

Underage girls more likely to take first drink than boys
MSUToday | April 14
A new Michigan State University study has found that mid-adolescent females are more likely to take their first alcoholic drink earlier in life compared to their male counterparts. The findings could suggest that more attention should be paid toward girls between the ages of 12 and 17 years old who have already started to drink, which up until now, has been more of a public health concern among boys. “Our findings didn’t show any age between this period of time where males were at a higher risk of taking the first drink,” said Hui Cheng, a postdoctoral fellow in epidemiology who led the study with mentoring from James C. Anthony, a professor in the College of Human Medicine.

Most family medicine residents graduating with $150K or more in debt
Healio | April 13
In a related commentary, Julie Phillips, MD, MPH, of the Sparrow-MSU Family Medicine residency program, at the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, said the effects of high student loan debts could lead to depression, delaying marriage, childbearing and major purchases, and to regrets over choosing family medicine.

David McGreaham: A great place to practice medicine
Traverse City Record Eagle (Opinion) | April 12
Our partnership with Michigan State University’s Colleges of Human Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine allows Munson Medical Center and other northern Michigan physicians to train third- and fourth-year students on our campus and at regional clinics. We believe these relationships will help us with future recruiting needs as these students go on to graduate, pursue residency training and possibly come back to northern Michigan to establish their career.

Why Flint's life expectancy is below the national average
Time | April 11
“Genesee County has poverty, but it also has had the deterioration of its infrastructures and institutional services because of what’s happened economically,” says Dr. Aron Sousa, interim dean at Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine.

Flint offers a new model for accountability
Huffington Post | April 11
Inspired by Edwards’ example, though, another academic collected more crucial data. Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, director of the pediatric residency program at Flint’s Hurley Medical Center and an assistant professor at Michigan State University, did an independent study on lead levels in Flint children, and found blood lead levels had doubled and even tripled in some areas after the switch to Flint river water.

Flint's crisis raises questions - and cautions - about the role of philanthropy
Philanthropy News Digest | April 8
The Mott Foundation has provided nearly $23 million in support since 2011 to Flint's growing health-and-wellness district. Some of that funding has helped position two anchor institutions in the district, the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine and Hurley Children's Center, to lead the new Pediatric Public Health Initiative that will address the many health and behavioral impacts of children's exposure to lead.

Drug for rare disorder linked to reducing cholesterol plaque
Wall Street Journal | April 6
The research is still in its early days and positive findings in animals don’t always translate to humans. “This is a potentially promising therapeutic approach,” said George Abela, chief of cardiology at Michigan State University, who has done extensive research on cholesterol crystals but wasn’t involved in the new study. Abela said he and other researchers are looking for a way to prevent or dissolve cholesterol crystals by testing agents that include aspirin, statins and alcohol, among others. He said they haven’t examined cyclodextrin for this purpose.

Parkinson's disease awareness
WGVU Morning Show | April 5
MSU's College of Human Medicine is doing a special Parkinson's event this afternoon to observe Parkinson's Disease Awareness Month. Researcher Dr. Caryl Sortwell joins us to discusses the disease and what's on the horizon.

MSU researchers in Grand Rapids raise Parkinson's awareness
WZZM TV 13 | April 5
As construction continues on the new Michigan State University research center in Grand Rapids, scientists are talking about some of the work they will soon do inside the facility. A handful of researchers gathered outside of the building on Michigan Street as part of a Parkinson's awareness event Tuesday. They held signs urging people to support efforts to find a cure. Construction on the research facility is on track. When it's finished, it is expected to generate 130 new jobs.

College of Human Medicine announces major endowed scholarship
MSU Today | April 4
Today, the medical school announced the establishment of the Daniel and Debra Edson Endowed Scholarship Fund. Traverse City philanthropists Dan and Debra Edson donated $600,000 to establish the fund, the first fully funded endowed scholarship in the history of the medical school, which has a clinical campus based in Traverse City at Munson Medical Center.

Initiative hopes to provide 1 million glasses of milk for Flint families
MLive | April 4
The United Dairy Industry of Michigan and Kroger has started an initiative to provide 1 million glasses to milk to families in Flint to try and combat the potential health consequences associated with the city's water crisis. Entitled, the Flint Pediatric Public Health Initiative recommended a mission by the UDIM towards long-term dietary needs of children impacted by having ingested lead into their bodies through drinking water. 

The paradox of precision medicine
Scientific American | April 1
Moreover, a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the extent to which ivacaftor helped its target patients was roughly equal to that of three far-lower-tech, universally applicable treatments: high-dose ibuprofen, aerosolized saline and the antibiotic azithromycin. “These latter innovations are part of many small-step improvements in [cystic fibrosis] management that have increased survival rates dramatically in the past two decades,” says Nigel Paneth, a pediatrician and epidemiologist at Michigan State University. “They cost a fraction of what the [high-tech] drugs cost, and they work for every patient.”

Kendall has designs on medical illustration
Grand Rapids Business Journal | April 1
With the introduction of the medical illustration program, Kendall College of Art and Design is at the forefront of a high-demand specialized industry. The brainchild of illustration program chair Jon McDonald, the program initially began in response to the completion of Michigan State University College of Human Medicine’s expansion into Grand Rapids.