Three questions for Brian Frank

Brian Frank, M.D. '08, is assistant professor of family medicine, OHSU School of Medicine.

May 31, 2016

Dr. Brian FrankWhat projects are you currently working on and are there opportunities for fellow faculty to participate?

I am part of an incredible team comprising academicians, community health centers, local farms and advocacy groups working to increase access to nutritious foods. Currently four safety net clinics in the Portland area are preparing to offer subsidized, weekly community supported agriculture (CSA) shares of local fruits and vegetables to our low-income families. Along with the weekly produce, we will have educational sessions, cooking classes, and other activities to increase our participants' knowledge of healthful dietary choices. It's exciting to be able to offer simple but desperately needed interventions to our patients. I would welcome any member of the OHSU community to get involved.

What is the most important aspect of support that OHSU provides to you currently and how would you like this or other support to grow in the future?

Leadership in the Department of Family Medicine has been extremely supportive and encouraging of our work. I am indebted to them for allowing me to pursue my passion, even though it's a bit unconventional. And there are many other departments across the university doing similar experiments with nutrition interventions, like farmers' market vouchers and classes on healthy lifestyle choices. Increased support for these projects is crucial for their success. The Knight Cancer grant has allowed OHSU to explore healing on a molecular level;work that holds great promise for curing many of our nation's most significant illnesses. I would like to see the institution provide equal support for work aimed at the macro-scopic level of healing, like the work our group and others are undertaking.

A hypothetical: If you could have one tool that would solve a seemingly impenetrable problem in your work, what would it do? You have unlimited resources to design this tool, so think big.

I would like to see insurance companies embrace the idea of health care providers as healers rather than simply diagnosticians. Our training, and the model of care we practice, is based on recognizing illness and prescribing treatment to reverse disease once it's identified. But in practice, our patients face barriers to health that we are ill-prepared to address: unhealthful diets, inactivity, lack of resources. So often, the interventions that a patient needs versus those that are reimbursable don't align. There is movement in this direction. Medicaid providers in Oregon, for example, have been incredibly forward-thinking in addressing social determinants of health, but in order to stem the tide of chronic disease, especially as our population ages, we need to concentrate much more effort on upstream interventions like teaching healthy lifestyle choices, ensuring adequate access to nutritious foods, and helping our most vulnerable populations meet basic needs like affordable housing and safe outdoor spaces.

About Three Questions
This Q&A series features OHSU School of Medicine faculty members talking about their work with the goal of getting to know them and different areas across the school. View more