From the dean: joining together to shape our future

November 9, 2016


John Hunter, M.D., F.A.C.S.It's been a month since I became interim dean. First, I want to say thank you to everyone who has helped me get settled. The talent and professionalism of our staff and leaders in the Dean's office, and the school as a whole, is evident in how well we are weathering a difficult transition.

I also want to acknowledge that today has been an emotional day for many people. Regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum, this year's national election has been an intense experience that has brought out feelings of division in our country and in our personal relationships. I encourage you to reach out to each other and to utilize our Employee Assistance Program, Resident and Faculty Wellness Program or our JBT Health and Wellness Center if needed.

Transforming our research landscape

October was essentially Research Month, bookended by visits from new FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, M.D., Oct. 12 and NIH Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., Oct. 24. Dr. Califf was on a listening tour of academic medical centers and is interested in OHSU's ideas around health care consolidation as well as phase 1 trials. Dr. Collins came to deliver the Mark O. Hatfield Lecture, with hopeful messages about an uptick in federal funding after years of decline and ambitious new initiatives such as the Cancer Moonshot, and the All of Us Precision Medicine Initiative.

I was excited to be part of these visits. It was a chance for us to both define and tell our story at an important moment. In the last five years, OHSU has invested more than $150 million in faculty, technology and resources and received commitments of another $1.175 billion in philanthropy and state support to expand our research enterprise.

We are transforming our research landscape through such endeavors as building the Knight Cancer and Knight Cardiovascular institutes, the Brenden-Colson Center for Pancreatic Care, the Moore Institute for Nutrition and Wellness, the Center for Spatial Systems Biomedicine and the Center for Radiochemistry Research; hiring 100 new faculty members, including new chairs who bring key expertise in neuroscience, early detection and imaging, and developing collaborations with such key partners as Intel.

Our work now is about determining how best to leverage these investments to help take science at OHSU to the next level.

I want to thank our research faculty leaders, as well as Mary Stenzel-Poore, Ph.D., senior associate dean for research in the School of Medicine, and Dan Dorsa, Ph.D., senior vice president for research at OHSU, who began shaping a vision for scientific integration at a research retreat, convened by the school on Oct. 25. Dr. Dorsa and I look forward to reporting our progress to the OHSU Board of Directors at their retreat this week.

New and enduring leadership

We've also been busy on other fronts.

The search for a permanent dean is underway, and we have interviewed the first round of candidates for CEO of the OHSU Health System, meeting several excellent applicants for this most important role.

I'm meeting early every morning with Tim Goldfarb, our interim CEO, to more tightly align the health system with the school, a goal mirrored in the work Anthony Masciotra, M.B.A., C.P.A., CEO of the Faculty Practice Plan and senior associate dean for clinical practice, is leading to continually integrate our clinical system, the school and the hospital.

As well, we are engaging faculty and leadership on a pragmatic view of our academic titles to better align them to the many subtleties of our new health care and academic environment. Individuals on our faculty need to be recognized for their contributions. I look forward to bringing to clinical chairs a simpler, more flexible and defensible structure of promotion tracks, work led by David Ellison, M.D., chair of the Promotion and Tenure Committee, David Robinson, Ph.D., in the Provost's office, and Irene Barhyte, C.P.A., C.T.P., in the Dean's office. 

Creating conversation

Our work to envision a more flexible, interdisciplinary Ph.D. program that better prepares aspiring scientists for the demands of today's diverse research fields has emerged from the work of the CreativeIDEAS Committee and continues to take shape under the leadership of George Mejicano, M.D., M.S., senior associate dean for education, and Allison Fryer, Ph.D., associate dean for graduate studies.

I also want to credit faculty in the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine for seizing an opportunity to bring Brian Williams, M.D., F.A.C.S., to campus Nov. 28-30 (view the all-OHSU event).

Dr. Williams is the Dallas trauma surgeon who treated police officers shot following a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in July and is now talking publicly about his experiences of both caring for and, as a black man, fearing police. He wants to help others wrestle with the complexity and impacts of racism. We are pleased to have him here as part of a growing dialogue on campus about issues of race and racism, encouraged by our faculty and many of our students.

A final note I want to add this week is about our veterans. We are privileged to have more than 75 employees across OHSU, and many in the School of Medicine, who are veterans of the U.S. armed forces and more than 200 faculty with V.A. affiliations. Thank you to those who served our country and who serve today by caring for our veterans. Veterans Day is Friday, Nov. 11 and I ask each of us to take a moment to thank a veteran for their contribution to our country.

John Hunter, M.D., F.A.C.S.
Interim Dean
OHSU School of Medicine