From the dean: embracing progress as we welcome a new academic year

Aug. 8, 2018

Dean Sharon Anderson with students in the M.D. Class of 2022It's a moment of beginnings at OHSU and in the School of Medicine.

The first thing to mention is that, starting today, we are sending the e-newsletter Inside the School of Medicine to all students in the school, in addition to our faculty and staff. Students want to be more informed and engaged in the work of the school. This is just one of several initiatives we will undertake to do that.

Also this year, we are expanding the number of school committees that students can serve on – including search committees for our department chairs.

Celebrating a new president, new trainees and new students

On Aug. 1, we welcomed OHSU's fifth president, Dr. Danny Jacobs, with a truly touching handoff of the OHSU presidential mace from Dr. Joe Robertson to Dr. Jacobs.

At the ceremony, Dr. Jacobs offered a first glimpse of his priorities. In addition to his plans to do a lot of listening to learn OHSU's strengths and needs, Dr. Jacobs noted his focus on wellness. He understands the interconnections between wellness and excellence across missions, and I look forward to supporting this and his other priorities.

In June, we celebrated our 276 new residents and fellows with a mixer on the Mackenzie Hall lawn. Among our outstanding new residents is Dr. Jason Campbell in anesthesiology and perioperative medicine, who explained his motivation for coming to OHSU.

"I feel that in Oregon, there's a void of African-American physicians and specifically African-American male physicians," Dr. Campbell said. "There are patients who have waited their entire life to see a physician who looks like them." Be sure to follow Dr. Campbell on Twitter, @DrJCoftheDC, for his truly inspiring tweets.

I want to especially recognize the efforts of the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine (APOM) and the Department of Surgery for the graduate medical education second-look programs they launched in partnership with the OHSU Center for Diversity and Inclusion, and on which we hope to build.

This approach gives diverse prospective trainees a chance to visit, meet leaders and peers, learn about resources and decide if OHSU is a fit. Kudos to APOM and Surgery for building a pipeline for a more diverse faculty, fueling innovation and best serving all patients. 

On Aug. 6, we welcomed the M.D. Class of 2022. Kudos to the Class of 2021 whose members greeted their new peers with cheers and applause as they entered the Robertson Life Sciences Building to begin their Transition to Medical School course. And thanks to current medical students for all they're doing to help new students begin putting down roots here, including hosting a brunch cruise on the Portland Spirit last weekend. I am looking forward to the White Coat Ceremony Friday at the Oregon Convention Center.

The welcome mat will remain as we eagerly anticipate the arrival of new Ph.D. and other Graduate Studies students, including those in the Physician Assistant Program. Looking to the future for our Ph.D. program, I want to recognize our Graduate Studies leaders, faculty and students for gaining approval for a transformed Ph.D. curriculum. Graduate Studies is now hiring leaders and pursuing accreditation for the new program, and expects to admit its first students in fall 2020.

Congratulations to our newly minted physician assistants

While many new students are coming in to the school, an important group has now gone. On Aug. 4, we celebrated the graduation of the Physician Assistant Class of 2018 at RLSB.

I am exceedingly proud of our 41 P.A. graduates and of their program, founded in 1995 and now ranked #5 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Physician assistants are practicing not only in primary care, but across multiple specialties and in a broad range of patient settings.

In June, the OHSU Practice Plan elected its first physician assistant member to its board of directors. Alex Nydahl, M.P.A.S., P.A.-C., is a 2015 graduate of our P.A. Program and an instructor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Hospital Medicine. In addition, the Oregon Medical Association appointed its first ever P.A. to its executive committee, Pat Kenney-Moore, Ed.D., P.A.-C., associate professor and associate director in our P.A. Program.

New leaders and great recognitions

We also have new faces among our School of Medicine leaders.

I was delighted to welcome Dan Marks, M.D., Ph.D., as our new senior associate dean for research on July 23. Dr. Marks is an outstanding physician-scientist. He is professor of pediatrics, OHSU School of Medicine; Credit Unions for Kids Professor of Pediatric Research, OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital, and a pediatric endocrinologist, Papé Family Pediatric Research Institute. Dr. Marks is diving in. He will work closely with faculty, chairs, Senior Vice President for Research Peter Barr-Gillespie and me to hone the vision for research in the school.

Additional recent accomplishments in our research realm include Alejandro Aballay, Ph.D., professor and chair of molecular microbiology and immunology, who was appointed on July 30 as the inaugural recipient of the William A. Whitsell Dean's Leadership Professorship. Also in July, Kent Thornburg, Ph.D., professor of medicine and director of the Bob and Charlee Moore Institute for Nutrition and Wellness and of the OHSU Center for Developmental Health, received the March of Dimes Agnes Higgins Award.

I also want to recognize Stephen Robinson, M.D., professor of anesthesiology and perioperative medicine, who is serving as interim chair of APOM and to thank Jeff Kirsch, M.D., professor of anesthesiology and perioperative medicine, for his service as chair of APOM since 2002. APOM is an outstanding contributor to OHSU across missions, and I look forward to working with Dr. Robinson to build on the department's excellence.

Congratulations also to David Jacoby, M.D., who became chair of medicine July 1.

I'm grateful for our many talented male leaders and also gratified by the number of women in executive roles on the OHSU leadership team. It's an honor for me to join colleagues like Provost Elena Andresen, Chief Medical Officer Renee Edwards, General Counsel Alice Cuprill-Comas, and Chief Administrative Officer/Chief of Staff Connie Seeley to fulfill OHSU's mission.

I'll end with a special call out the Department of Surgery and Doernbecher Children's Hospital, which just received the official notification recognizing Doernbecher as the first hospital in the Pacific Northwest to be verified by the American College of Surgeons in both pediatric trauma and pediatric surgical care.

For our youngest patients, this verification confirms that we are providing the highest quality multidisciplinary care tailored specifically to their needs, including the state's sole children-only operating rooms. I encourage you to read more to understand the value and the accomplishment of this designation and to congratulate our Department of Surgery and the Doernbecher team.

We have much to celebrate and anticipate. I hope that the summer months have meant at least a change of pace for you, including some time to enjoy our beautiful state, your friends and family.

Thank you for all you do for OHSU and the School of Medicine.

Sharon Anderson, M.D.
Dean, OHSU School of Medicine

Photo: Dean Sharon Anderson meets with M.D. Class of 2022 incoming students during their Transition to Medical School course. Photo by Jennifer Smith.