Duggan to UM: Study murders like hospital deaths

Kim Kozlowski

Ann Arbor – As the former CEO of the Detroit Medical Center, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan wonders why murders on city streets are not treated the same way as deaths in a hospital.

When someone unexpectedly dies in a hospital, Duggan said a team of officials reviews what happened to see if anything could have prevented the death.

So why couldn’t a similar approach be taken to review the cases of people killed in Detroit, Duggan asked a crowd of faculty, researchers and students Wednesday at the University of Michigan. Last year, the city had 302 homicides.

“Does anybody back up and say, ‘Could we have prevented that murder?’ ” said Duggan, a UM undergraduate and law school alumnus who is seeking a second term.

“I am interested in putting together a team that backs up and looks at that individual’s life, both the victim and the shooter ... There is no one in America that is treating a murder victim on the streets of a city the same way a hospital treats a hospital death,” the mayor said. “What if we did a research project that backs up the root cause of these deaths? We are looking for partners to do something like that.”

Duggan joined UM President Mark Schlissel at a daylong event to highlight work that faculty and students on the university’s campuses in Ann Arbor, Flint and Dearborn are doing in Detroit.

The session touched on research, teaching and learning that UM has carried out in Detroit since the university’s beginnings 200 years ago, on issues ranging from public health collaborations to sustainability projects to partnerships to address poverty.

“One of the things (Duggan) said that is really important to us is that the city really values this engagement and they see benefits for city communities, as well as benefits for our students and faculty,” said Professor James Paul Holloway, UM’s vice provost for global engagement and interdisciplinary academic affairs. “To hear that expression of validation and support from the mayor is really helpful to folks who day to day do this work.”

Schlissel said the idea was to bring faculty, students and Detroit partners together to learn what others are doing so that more collaborations could be created, and have more of an impact on the city and its residents.

“Detroit is our largest and in many ways our most important city in the state,” Schlissel said. “We are Michigan, a public university in the state of Michigan and we want to focus our research energy on problems that matter to the public. Detroit, its challenges and opportunities, are a sweet spot between doing good research and doing work that is very impactful for the citizens we serve.”

While the university is involved in a full spectrum of issues, Schlissel some of the most important are economic development, healthy environments, land use, public health and poverty.

“It ranges from student groups doing community service work to professors doing published research that has implications not just for Detroit but for cities all around the country and the world,” Schlissel said.

The event comes as Wayne State University and Michigan State University, along with UM, are involved in efforts in Detroit to improve education delivery, build community, promote public health, and provide community service, arts programs and economic revitalization.

A report issued by the University Research Corridor last year showed that the three universities are involved in more than 300 projects in Detroit, producing $958 million in annual economic impact, 1 in 20 jobs in the city, and $263 million in research activities in 2015.

Carmel Price, as assistant professor of sociology at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, was among the estimated 250 people who attended the event in Ann Arbor. While her work is in Dearborn, she said it’s critical that researchers find ways to work in tandem with communities no matter where they are based.

“Our work is more meaningful if we work on social justice issues in partnership with the community,” Price said.