Michigan State University's College of Human Medicine will recruit and house a new cluster of top public health researchers in downtown Flint, Michigan, a city that gave birth to General Motors and since the 1980s has seen steady decline.
 
The college also will expand its master's level Program in Public Health with faculty and staff located in Flint, and it will increase the number of third- and fourth-year medical students at the three Flint-area hospitals and other clinical sites by 50 percent. The moves allow Flint to join mid-Michigan and Grand Rapids in expanding the land-grant university's reach. 
 
The plans are being made possible by a $2.8 million grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation in Flint. The program is expected to be located in the city's downtown area, making it part of Flint's growing higher education community. Located in downtown Flint is the University of Michigan-Flint, which offers a nursing program in addition to undergraduate and graduate degrees in other fields. Also nearby is Mott Community College, which offers associate degrees and also a venue for undergraduate degrees from Ferris State University and other Michigan institutions. Community leaders are hoping that these various educational opportunities will make Flint a magnet for the medical professions and high-tech manufacturers. 
 
"Reflecting its core priorities, Michigan State University is working with community partners across the state to train health care workers and to promote regional prosperity," MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon said. "The partnership with the Mott Foundation is an important example. Working in Flint and Genesee County, not only is MSU providing crucial services to residents but also unique opportunities for students both in public health and medical education."
 
Flint offers a substantial opportunity to address significant public health needs and to understand the underlying issues and potential solutions, said Marsha D. Rappley, dean of the College of Human Medicine.
 
"Flint is looking to education as a part of its downtown development and wants MSU to be a part of the community," she said. "With a group of excellent partners and a strong philanthropic community, our new advisory committee will develop a set of targeted public health research needs for Flint and enable us to recruit researchers to help find best practices to address these areas of need in the community."
 
The MSU/Flint Community Research Advisory Committee will provide guidance as the public health program is developed. Members will engage the residents of Genesee County as well as organizations and institutions to identify public health needs.
 
The college then will hire six to seven experienced researchers with national funding in one or two clusters focusing on the public health needs most important to the Flint community.
 
At the same time, centering MSU's public health program in Flint gives the university and college an opportunity to be very innovative, said Michael Rip, director of the program, which has grown from 15 to 350 students in three years.
 
"We envision a strong community presence and participation," Rip said. "Along with our education program, we see our students working with schools and parents about identifying public health needs and preventing disease."
 
As part of the online master's degree program students undergo a 30-day practicum, and Rip said many of the students will be working in Genesee County.
 
"Flint offers a great opportunity to integrate clinical work and research, and this integration will help us focus on prevention," he said.
 
William S. White, president and CEO of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, said: "Through this project, Michigan State University will evolve its long-standing medical education program in Flint by establishing a unique presence that will leverage the resources of several of our top-notch local health care providers.
 
"Moreover, by establishing a new approach to medical education that embeds training in the public health issues and priorities of our community, the project has the potential to become a national model leading to healthier individuals and a more cost-effective health system."

The city of Flint has seen decades of fractious politics, coupled with overspending, outmigration, declining infrastructure, abandoned homes, and a rising incidence of violent crime. This month, a city manager imposed by the Michigan state government took over the helm of the city, effectively sidelining the elected mayor, Dayne Walling. City Manager Michael Brown has already fired several top city employees as he grapples with soaring operational and personnel costs. This is the second time Brown has served in the position in the last five years. A previous mayor, Woodrow Stanley, was removed in the 1990s. General Motors and related industries once employed 70,000 people in the area in factories that sprawled over the city. Since the 1980s, most of these have been shuttered and then razed, leaving behind acres of land paved over with concrete and presumably harboring toxic chemicals.


  
Organizations represented on the MSU/Flint Community Research Advisory Committee include Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Hurley Medical Center, McLaren Regional Medical Center, Genesys Health System, Hamilton Community Health Network, Mott Children's Health Center, Greater Flint Health Coalition, Genesee County Health Department, Genesee County Community Mental Health, Genesee Health Plan, Genesee Regional Chamber of Commerce, Genesee County Medical Society, Concerned Pastors for Social Action, Kettering University and MSU Extension.

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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