Dean’s Update | September 3, 2021 – College of Human Medicine




September is Women in Medicine Month, and while I thought I would write about Women in Medicine in the update every week of the month, I thought it was probably best to have some women write about them. women in medicine every week. So I asked some of our elders to write about a woman in medicine who inspired them. Each week in September, I will include a one-page essay in the Dean’s Update and invite our alumni to tell our town halls about their essay and career. Hours being what they are, some of the Town Hall sessions will run through October, but I look forward to the essays and conversations.

The first is Marsha D. Rappley, MD. Dr Rappley graduated from college in 1984 and returned to the CHM to become a professor after her residency in pediatrics. She was the dean of the college from 2005 to 2015. She was a national leader at the FDA and AAMC, and Marsha has been an amazing mentor and sponsor to many of us. I’ll get back to you all after the trial, but for now, Marsha, the update is yours:

Nancy J. Hopwood, MD, allowed me to see that a physician can be a caring and compassionate person, as well as an excellent teacher, scientist and researcher. I loved the caring side of being a nurse. And I wanted to learn more about the rigorous science behind what I was seeing and doing. In Dr Hopwood, I saw that all of this could be possible.

I have always felt a great separation, a chasm, almost a class distinction between nurses and doctors. It wasn’t quite us versus them. Rather, it was as if there were nurses and doctors. My family revered Dr. Shirley Austin, a renowned pediatric anesthesiologist at Michigan Children’s Hospital in the 1950s, who helped save my little sister’s life. And I met a few female pediatricians in my nursing job, so I knew it was possible for a woman to be a doctor. I also knew it was unlikely. And certainly unlikely for me, someone more inclined to literature than chemistry, ridiculed by medical students for asking questions on tours, and rewarded with thanks from a sweat-soaked cancer patient. whose sheets I changed in the middle of the night.

Working alongside Dr Hopwood, I started to think, “If I were a doctor, I would like to be like Dr Hopwood. It slowly evolved into, “Maybe I could be a doctor like Dr. Hopwood.” This was the key to taking a step that seemed extremely risky.

What if I applied and was not accepted to medical school? My premedical counselor told me my chances were slim, if any. Less than 1% of applicants at the time had nursing degrees, and about 1% of them were accepted. Most medical schools were predominantly male. And then there was the chemistry.

Would I be able to deal with rejection, thrive in my job if I applied and wasn’t accepted? Working alongside Dr Hopwood made me realize that if I was successful I could be a good doctor. I could be the kind of doctor I choose to be.

I have been treated with great respect by many people throughout my nursing career, perhaps more deeply by my patients. Respect has been conveyed to me as a person, for my abilities, for my potential to contribute. Mary Renkiewicz, RN, Nursing Supervisor at Michigan Children’s Hospital, said, “Maybe I see something in yourself that you don’t see in yourself yet. “

Ashok Sarnaik, MD, director of the intensive care unit at Michigan Children’s Hospital, insisted that I be the nurse assigned to his team to care for a critically ill child when I was an LPN. Christine Willis, RN, Director of Nursing at the University of Michigan Clinical Research Center said, “I think that’s a wonderful idea,” when I revealed that I thought, in a very preliminary way, at the Faculty of Medicine.

Robert Kelch, MD, then head of the division of endocrinology, who then held leadership positions at the University of Iowa and the University of Michigan; and Irving Fox, MD, director of the UM Clinical Research Center, both always noted to everyone present that I had asked a very important question, every time medical students laughed.

These are small things. But through these little acts of assertiveness, I slowly built the courage to possibly fail in my ability to become a doctor.

It was Dr. Nancy Hopwood in whom I could see a future for myself. If I could be a fraction as nice, as intelligent, as competent as this intelligent woman who thrives in her career, then I could be fulfilled. And I could help.

Dr Hopwood attended my medical school graduation ceremony (pictured above) it was a great day.

– Marsha D. Rappley, MD (CHM ’84)

Even though I had to follow Marsha at times, it is not an enviable position. I will be brief:

  • COVID-19 cases have been on the rise in our communities since July, and cases and the percentage of positive tests are not increasing like they did during the April outbreak in Ingham and Kent counties .
  • While there is no merit increase funding for non-union faculty this year, the university has provided a small market increase fund. The Chairs have submitted market increase requests well beyond our funding capacity. We try to deal with the inequity issues first and do our best with the limited size of the pool.
  • MSU’s undergraduates are back on the East Lansing campus, which is wonderful. Although the early detection program is only mandatory for people with vaccine exceptions, you can still volunteer, like I did.
  • Every county in the state is listed by the CDC as having substantial or high transmission of COVID-19. This means that, based on CDC guidelines, everyone across Michigan should wear a mask indoors in a public place.
  • This week, the Michigan Association of Preventive Medicine and Public Health Physicians and the Michigan Association for Local Public Health issued a letter asking for support from local health officials. Over the past two weeks, I have heard that local Michigan health workers are receiving threats of violence and reports of physical intimidation from community members angry at public health orders related to the COVID-19. My mind is spinning. These health leaders are doing their best to protect us and they need our support. Take a moment to thank the members of your county’s health department and when you have the opportunity in conversations, public meetings and in the media, express your support for them and for the science of public health.

Serve people with you,


Aron Sousa, MD
Acting Dean


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