From the dean: Doing good and feeling well this Thanksgiving

Nov. 20, 2018

Dean Sharon Anderson congratulates facultyThanksgiving is nearly here, and I hope that means some respite from your normal schedule and time with family and friends. Taking a break is part of being well.

I am inspired by the many ways that we are working across the school to support resiliency over relentlessness; I want to share just a few examples.

Many paths 

Our students showed that there are many paths to well-being through their creative applications for what our education mission leaders are calling "happiness" grants.

Cooking classes, art exhibits and the First Do No Harmony choir (pictured below; photo provided by Kendall Weierich) were among the projects that leaders selected for $500 mini-grants to foster community and wellness.

A project that especially stood out for me: Students in the Graduate Programs in Human Nutrition are creating emergency meal kits to distribute through a free, community clinic. Because helping others isn't just the right thing to do; it feels good.

First Do No Harmony a cappella group

Learning to see multiple perspectives can also improve wellness – and patient care.

Patrick Bowden, M.M.S., P.A.-C., assistant professor of physician assistant education, OHSU School of Medicine, is teaching students to broaden their clinical and professional perspectives in partnership with the Portland Art Museum. The students hone their powers of observation by analyzing paintings, sharing their interpretations and learning about the artist's intent. And: it's fun.

More time for healing

Optimizing clinic workflow is a tactic the OHSU Practice Plan is perfecting to maximize the rewarding aspects of clinicians' jobs: time with patients. The OPP has begun using sprints – two-week analyses of staffing distribution and internal processes, including the electronic health record, to rapidly identify and make improvements.

The OPP is also partnering with the School of Medicine Division of Continuing Professional Development to provide tailored leadership development for OPP members, investing in clinicians' career satisfaction and fostering leaders who cultivate a healthy work environment.

Salud Lillian Navarro-Reynolds
Being well is linked to doing good. Lillian Navarro-Reynolds, P.A.-C., assistant professor in the OHSU School of Medicine physician assistant program, volunteers with the ¡Salud! mobile clinic to bring health services to Oregon migrant and seasonal vineyard workers and their families.  Soon the mobile clinic will expand and involve P.A. students and eventually more providers. The clinic is an OHSU Tuality Healthcare program funded by the Tuality Healthcare Foundation in partnership with the Oregon Wine Industry. Watch video

Getting real

I want to recognize our residents and fellows who brought forward concerns last winter and spring about burnout. Chris Swide, M.D., associate dean for graduate medical education, OHSU School of Medicine, and his team responded by partnering with the House Officers' Association to conduct 16 listening sessions with more than 200 house officers.

From this honest and productive dialogue has come collaboration between the HOA, GME and OHSU Healthcare senior leaders to make improvements. These include systemic issues like better two-way communication and following best practices for paging to avoid unnecessary interruptions, especially overnight. They also include simpler – but impactful – solutions, such as ensuring trainees have access to snacks. 

As Stuart Slavin, M.D., senior scholar for well-being at the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, said when our Resident and Faculty Wellness Program hosted him in September: comforts matter. When we do the hard work that we do – from painstaking perseverance in the lab to juggling demanding course loads to keeping our offices running to caring for patients with complex conditions – we must take care of each other.


I'm inviting School of Medicine departments, labs, programs and offices to join the Dean's office in the Gratitude Tree Wellness Project: notes of gratitude or recognition about an individual or a team, especially those who do great work with little fanfare.

Hang the notes from a tree, tack or string up the notes clothes-line style or place them in a basket. Share some of the messages with by Friday, Dec. 14.

On Wednesday, Dec. 19 at 3 p.m. in Mac Hall Café, join me for hot chocolate and cookies. I'll read a selection of messages, and we will have some seasonal entertainment.

If you can't manage the whole tree production, just come for hot chocolate.

If you are feeling worn out or discouraged, please reach out. Our wellness O2 page is a start for resources.

We have work ahead to foster a healthier climate in academic medicine. I won't pretend that our current efforts are sufficient. But I am encouraged by our deepening understanding of the steps needed and grateful for your contributions. Don't stop sharing your concerns and ideas. It will take all of us.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sharon Anderson, M.D.
OHSU School of Medicine