People Make DMU a Community

Facilities, equipment and technology all are critical aspects of a medical and health sciences university, but people are what make DMU the collegial community it is. Here are two examples. 

For many, the height of the COVID-19 pandemic brought “lows” in attitude, motivation and energy. For Luann Tucker, however, it only invigorated her caring heart. She became the academic assistant for DMU’s physician assistant studies (PA) program in March 2020 and has since endeavored to support students in the challenging program. 

“She made us goody bags for most holidays. She cut down the recordings of lectures to make it easier,” says Colin Pranger, PA’23. “Right before simulated patient encounters, she always made sure we had what we needed and gave us encouragement. It’s not just one thing she does, but lots of things.” 

Tucker also creates uplifting messages for students, including monthly e-newsletters, and supports the program’s guest lecturers, too. 

“She will hold practice Zoom run-throughs with guest lecturers so that they can feel comfortable and confident before delivering content to our students,” says Heidi Kennedy, the PA clerkship coordinator. “The small things she does on a daily basis really make the students and DMU faculty and staff feel cared for and supported. She is just one of those people who makes you feel good.” 

For all her thoughtful actions, Kennedy nominated Tucker for a DMU Outstanding Staff Award, which she received in August, and Pranger created a sweatshirt for himself that expressed his appreciation for her support. His classmates clamored for their own, and after the class’s first semester, Pranger presented Tucker with her own version of the sweatshirt. 

“I have the pleasure of getting to know our PA students quite well during their didactic year,” she says. “They are amazing human beings, and they work so hard. If I can be an encouragement to them, even in a small way, then my purpose is complete.” 

Waseem Sous, D.O.’18, and Michaela Simmons Sous, D.O.’18, came to medical school seeking global health opportunities. Michaela experienced an internship with the World Health Organization; together, they did rotations in Rwanda and Uganda. Along the way, Richard Salas, Ph.D., DMU’s chief diversity officer, sparked their interests in diversity, equity and inclusion in health care. 

“Dr. Salas opened our eyes to the different systems of oppression that affect our patients and health outcomes,” Michaela says. “By having that in mind, we’re able to better serve patients with compassion and empathy and find solutions that work for patients.” 

The Drs. Sous have put those lessons to work. In their residency in upstate New York, they served a large refugee community. Now they’re “rotating fellows” in the two-year Health, Equity, Action and Leadership (HEAL) Fellowship through the University of California-San Francisco, splitting their time between an underserved site in California and at Neno District Hospital in Malawi. There, they work with “site fellows” who are employed by the hospital. 

“A key component of the fellowship that we both appreciated is it’s bidirectional,” Waseem says. “We’re not going to a community to try to fix things; we’re working with our Malawi colleagues so we can learn from each other as we work to benefit patients.” 

The couple have highly valued the mentors they’ve had, including Salas, so when they got married prior to starting the fellowship, they asked him to officiate. “We tried to think of someone we both highly respected who encompasses our values, and Dr. Salas is exactly that,” Michaela says. 

The feeling is mutual. “To be asked to marry them was such a great honor and privilege,” Salas says. “Both Michaela and Waseem are very special human beings. The world needs more physicians like them.” 

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