From the dean: Appreciating your investment in me; focused on investing in you

July 19, 2017


Dean Sharon AndersonI want to begin by telling you that I am honored to be your new dean. While it was not a role I anticipated playing, it is a role I am proud, humbled and prepared to accept. As I've been telling faculty and staff groups that I've started meeting with, in my second full week as your dean, it would be presumptuous to articulate a fully crafted vision for the school so early in my tenure. But I do know what I'm passionate about.

I'm passionate about all of our missions and have spent my career pursuing each. I'm also passionate about improving the lives of physicians and scientists – focusing not only on recruitment, which is important, but also on retention. That means not only time-saving supports like Dragon voice recognition software and scribes, but also getting us to think beyond the next patient or grant application to see ourselves as part of a bigger whole.

Finding meaning, supporting development

Part of that is about engaging in scholarship and in training the next generation of clinical and research leaders. The Dean's office now has a work group to look at how we define teaching and service in the faculty compact. It's an opportunity to construct standards about when compensation should be adjusted. More than that, it's a way to explore and better define what is expected of us, why we are here and how engaging in the opportunities at OHSU can drive success and help us thrive.

Faculty development is an important aspect of this. A decade ago, I was associate dean for faculty development and faculty affairs here in the school, but that focus on a comprehensive faculty development strategy fell off over time. We need it back. A lot of folks in the school have been looking at models, and I intend to work with them to see what we can do.

My passion for expanding the ranks of physician scientists is related. Combining discovery with healing and healing with discovery connects you to the power of both – in addition to advancing human health. Another Dean's office initiative I am already engaged in is forging a plan for expanding our ranks of physician scientists. More to come.

The last piece I'll mention is the importance of recognition.

I attended my first function as dean on July 6, the OHSU Professional Board meeting and award ceremony. It was inspiring to see the range of deserving clinicians honored – a nurse, a physician assistant, a resident physician and a number of faculty providers, emphasizing the degree to which health care is about teamwork. It was also moving to me to see the OHSU Transgender Health Program recognized for new models of clinical care and interdisciplinary teams.

Gender front and center

As only the second female dean in the 130-year history of the School of Medicine, I am aware that gender is what people younger than I describe as "still a thing." I have appreciated the many female colleagues and students who have said they feel inspired by my appointment. Yet for me, it is physician colleagues like Paula Amato, Jens Berli, Carol Blenning, Kara Connelly, Daniel Dugi, Juliana Hansen, Christina Milano, Lishiana Shaffer and the other professional team members of the Transgender Health Program who are on the front lines of equity and of freeing ourselves from labels to focus on humanity and human potential.

The Transgender Health Program provides the complex and crucial supports and procedures for individuals to become who they are. The program is also a gateway for transgender individuals to find other affirming health care providers and for their families to gain information and resources.

These colleagues are changing how we think and how we talk about gender. The level of nonjudgment inherent in the terms cisgender – when one's gender identity matches the sex assigned at birth – and transgender is simply fantastic. These terms also reflect a level of frankness that I identify with. As my colleagues in the Department of Medicine will tell you, I will nearly always ask for input, and then I will call it how I see it. I am decidedly Vulcan in this way.

I am proud that OHSU is on the leading edge of not only providing but celebrating such work as gender transition health care. Oregon is joining the cause, becoming the first state to allow residents to identify as nonbinary, or identifying outside of the male/female binary, on their driver's license. And, worth noting, the U.S. House of Representatives just this month refused to ban insurance coverage for transition health care for transgender troops in the U.S. military, citing the effectiveness and medical necessity of treatment for individuals with gender dysphoria.

Moving into a new era

As a school, we are emerging from our own time of transition. We were fortunate for Dr. John Hunter's service as interim dean. I am pleased that he remains part of the team as chief clinical officer overseeing, along with OHSU Practice Plan CEO Anthony Masciotra, our clinical integration with partners, including increasing access to our specialized care, and expanding and streamlining access to primary care.

Going forward, I will be focusing my time on strengthening and working with colleagues to provide direction to all our missions. Integration will be a theme not only in our clinical enterprise but everywhere else – from continuing to leverage the faculty and resources that OHSU has invested in to improve collaboration and ignite discovery across the campus, to expanding graduate medical education and the sites where our residents and fellows serve, to building out our new Ph.D. curriculum to create truly multidisciplinary programs better aligned with today's careers in science.

I want to acknowledge and thank you for pulling together during our time of change and appreciate all you are doing and will do to support me in my new role. Be patient but don't be afraid to challenge me. I look forward to growing together.

Sharon Anderson, M.D.
OHSU School of Medicine