March 23, 2016
Ouch. I mean OUCH. That really hurt. Last Friday afternoon there were a lot of hurting and stunned Spartans out there — and a lot of busted basketball brackets. It seemed inconceivable that the men’s basketball team, who many picked to go all the way, found themselves on the losing side in the very first round of the NCAA basketball tournament. As I listened to final seconds at my desk, I couldn’t believe it. I was shocked, sad and angry — and I may have expressed a few choice words. Loudly.
I certainly wasn’t the only one. All around me, I could hear colleagues voicing their disappointment. It was the upset of all upsets. Tom Izzo and his incredibly talented team were out. Done. Going home long before March was over. A great sadness took over campus, the city of East Lansing and anywhere you find Spartans. Of course I was upset, but I couldn’t even imagine how those young student athletes felt. They’d worked so hard and accomplished so much, yet fell way short of the ultimate prize they were seeking. It broke my heart to look at their faces and see their tears.
At the end of the day, I stumbled blindly out to my car, barely even noticing the majestic Beaumont Tower that I’m lucky enough to see every day. I had been texting with my daughter during the game and at this point was telling her how awful it felt that the Spartans lost. And then, in all her wisdom (when did she get so smart?) she texted me back this photo she happened across in a magazine at the moment I texted her. She said, “Hey, would you rather the Spartans win basketball, or have one featured in national publications for trying to solve one of the hugest problems to hit the state?”
The photo, of course, is of Mona Hanna-Attisha, an assistant professor in the MSU College of Human Medicine and director of the MSU-Hurley Children’s Hospital Pediatric Public Health Initiative. She, along with her team, is credited with discovering the increased levels of lead in children in Flint during the water crisis. She has been all over the national media for her tenacity in pursuing the problem and finding solutions to a tragic situation. In an update to the Flint community on Feb. 17, she explained how she and her team would work to “flip” the story so the kids do not become statistics of lead poisoning.
I realized then that my kid really understood what I had temporarily forgotten. There are way more important things then a basketball game. I know there are people who think MSU is only a place where people play football and basketball, but we are so much more. Spartans might lose a game, but we win every single day in classrooms, laboratories, medical facilities and communities. When Spartans win in those places, everyone wins.
Dr. Mona, as she’s known, is fiercely committed to helping the Flint community heal from exposure to polluted water. Other Spartan researchers are working hard to protect water from the beginning. Check out the MSUTODAY FEATURE: What’s On Tap, to learn more about how Spartans are protecting our most valuable natural resource.
MSU professor Joan Rose is one of those incredible researchers. She’s such a leader in the field that she was just named the 2016 recipient of the Stockholm Water Prize, the world’s most-prestigious water award. Read the MSUTODAY STORY: MSU Global Scientist Awarded World’s Top Water Prize, to learn more about this brilliant scientist and esteemed recognition.
Rhonda Conner-Warren, who grew up in Flint, is an assistant professor of health programs in the MSU College of Nursing and a pediatric nurse practitioner. She is another Spartan who is answering the call to help the citizens of her hometown. She says she doesn’t have all the answers, but feels it’s her job as a health care provider to offer her skills and expertise. Read her FACULTY VOICE: You Can Trust That I Will, to learn more about her promise to the citizens of Flint.
Grace Noyola, a senior majoring in professional writing and minoring in environmental and sustainability studies, has already discovered that being a Spartan means protecting our resources. She says, "At MSU, green is much more than a school color, it's a responsibility." Read her STUDENT VIEW: Pursuing Your Passions, to learn more about this impressive young woman.
Does the basketball loss still sting? Of course it does. But being a Spartan isn’t all about sports. I’ll take a loss on the court for a win in the lab if it means healthier and better lives for people. In the game of creating a better world, Spartans will claim victory every time.
Photo by Derrick L. Turner