From the dean: Season’s greetings, alumni and friends

Dr. Sharon Anderson

Dec. 12, 2017

Friends and colleagues:

As 2017 draws to a close, I'd like to take a moment to share some thoughts with you.*

A medical and biomedical research school must build community in order to succeed. As alumni, we do this by identifying, mentoring and fostering incoming students, by contributing time and resources and by becoming part of the intellectual fabric of our medical and research communities.

Your opinions are trusted in your communities. Your role is especially important as we transition to a new OHSU president. Indeed, we are all sad that Dr. Joe Robertson will leave the university June 30, 2018. But we have a strong leadership team supporting the transition, and the OHSU Board has already begun the search process to hire a new president. The goal is to have that person in place by the start of next academic year.

In this time of change, one of the many things that makes me hopeful is that we see our students modeling Joe's values –especially the commitment to improve the health of all Oregonians.

As part of the new M.D. curriculum, the school offers a course called Structural Competency, required for all first-year students. In this course, students learn about how societal structures such as immigration status, gender orientation, racism and homelessness impact health.

The special thing about this class is that second-year medical students select and teach the topics to first-year students. This approach builds leadership skills among our second-year students and fully immerses them, along with the first-year students, in this important material.

The students are learning that physicians must understand the larger context in which patients live in order to deliver the best care possible, and that we physicians must also advocate on behalf of patients when societal structures need changing.

In our Graduate Studies program, we are transforming our Ph.D. program so that students can forge multi-disciplinary paths of study that give them more flexibility and potential career options. Our goal is to let discovery define the path rather than the path being so proscribed that it can limit discovery.

While we finalize the structure and gain accreditation for the transformed program, we are already implementing aspects of this new approach. Our first-year graduate students, for example, now take a semester-long journal club that emphasizes scientific logic and teamwork, while teaching fundamental concepts in molecular and cell biology. This course is as much focused on mastering the technologies that students must use to gather information and the skills they must have for communicating their science as it is about the science itself.

We also know that to succeed, it is no longer sufficient for our students only to learn how to do research to solve today's complex biomedical questions. They must also be able to communicate what they are doing and why in a way that will attract the resources and attention required to propel innovation.

To that end, we hope to build an endowment that will allow graduate students to tackle highly innovative, interdisciplinary questions outside of their work on the funded projects of their research mentors.

While I'm mentioning Graduate Studies, I want to congratulate our Physician Assistant program. This master's program celebrated 20 years last year, and it's become a key contributor to our larger missions. Nearly 24 percent of the incoming P.A. class is from rural areas and 35 percent identify with underrepresented minority groups. Congratulations to our P.A.'s who are expanding our ability to serve all Oregonians.

In addition to my pride in our students, I am especially grateful to our faculty. They bring to the classroom their considerable experience as educators and are also stretching themselves to evolve how and what we teach.

A final thought I want to share is our expansion of Graduate Medical Education, in which our residents and our fellows work in hospitals and clinics in Portland and elsewhere for on-the-job training after medical school. Our residents and fellows are critical to keeping medicine on the cutting edge and addressing the shortage of physicians in our communities.

This year, we will begin expanding our residency slots in several communities across Oregon, increasing the number of our trainees in rural communities and smaller cities in order to provide important community training experience and to reach and serve more Oregonians closer to where they live.

This not only serves Oregonians now, but it turns out that physicians are most likely to stay and practice in the state where they did their residency. Among our OHSU residents, 53 percent remain here to practice medicine. And for students who did both their M.D. training and their residency at OHSU, 70 percent of them stay. So the more residency slots we have, the more young physicians we can potentially keep here in Oregon.

In addition to serving more communities by expanding our residency slots, OHSU is partnering with Tuality Healthcare and with Adventist Health Portland to become one, larger health system.  Our goal is to be able to provide patients with a larger variety of care settings and expertise to meet their primary care and more specialized health care needs.

It's a great time to be at OHSU. Thank you for sharing that message and adding your own experiences to that story. Your ongoing support, leadership and advocacy for the school will help to insure our continued strength and growth. I invite you to .

Warm wishes to you and yours this holiday season.

Sharon Anderson, M.D. R '82

Dean, OHSU School of Medicine

*Adapted from her remarks at the 2017 Alumni Holiday Party.