On Tuesday this week, Deanna East, coordinator for District 9, and I were invited to attend an announcement in Flint that featured Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon; Marsha Rappley, dean of the College of Human Medicine; Neal Hegarty, vice president of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation; and Mike Brown, emergency financial manager of the city of Flint. Together, they announced a new initiative by the MSU College of Human Medicine that not only will double the number of medical students who complete the third and fourth years of their medical education in Flint area hospitals and clinics, but also will hire new faculty and assign them to the Flint “campus” for research and outreach services. MSU has pioneered a model of developing strong teams focused on particular health research needs with the development of a team of faculty who focus on Parkinson’s disease at the Grand Rapids campus. The plan is to repeat this in Flint, partnered with the area hospitals, and with a large investment from the C.S. Mott Foundation, perhaps narrowing down to two groups, each focused on a particular area. The area of health science research they plan to pursue is yet to be determined, because the college wants to engage the Flint community in helping to identify the needs that they feel need to be addressed.
This kind of investment is exciting for any community. For the Flint community, it’s even more valuable as the area continues to rebound from the severe hardships they have encountered following a dramatic decline in manufacturing jobs in the area. Over the past decade, the only job sector in the area experiencing growth was the health services arena. A research enterprise based in Flint will only help to further accelerate that kind of growth.
So why were Deanna and I invited to attend? We are fortunate to have a medical dean in Dean Rappley who understands the value of having professional educators and paraprofessionals embedded in the community to help translate research findings into practice – by consumers and by health professionals. And she realizes that MSU Extension is well equipped to serve as a key partner in that translation. Where this takes us is uncertain, but it really helps to reinforce the importance of our Health and Nutrition Institute in positioning us to help do what we do in Extension – translate research into practice. And with these kinds of investments at the university level, we are even better positioned to attract new investments in Extension to help us realize our mission in this area as well.
There’s a lot to be done yet, much to be determined, but MSUE is invited to be at the table as the College of Human Medicine works to understand how they can have an impact in Flint and greater Genesee County. And we are ready.