School of Medicine convenes retreat to help shape the future of science at OHSU

November 2, 2016

research retreat 2016, group

Scientists, clinicians and leaders from the School of Medicine and beyond gathered at the Portland Art Museum Oct. 25 to take stock of the expansion of research in the last five years and begin shaping a vision for the future of science at OHSU.

"The Research Retreat was a chance to celebrate the combined firepower we now have in science and the tools that OHSU has assembled to support our scientists' work and determine how to link our strengths to take science at OHSU to the next level," said John Hunter, M.D., F.A.C.S., interim dean, OHSU School of Medicine.

"We need an integrated research enterprise built on a foundation of strong, well supported individual scientists with the tools and freedom to collaborate across departments, centers and institutes and with our clinical enterprise in service of both basic and translational science," said Dr. Hunter. "We have some structural steps to take to achieve this vision, and it's time to begin forging that path."

Strategic investment fuels new research era at OHSU

In the last five years, OHSU has invested more than $150 million in new research technology, programs and recruitments that fuel collaboration, including:

New research leaders share their visions

The retreat featured presentations by seasoned research leaders as well as recently-hired and newly-appointed scientists framing their visions and areas of focus to assist in cross-pollination, including:

  • Dennis Bourdette, M.D., professor and chair of neurology
  • Jen DeVoe, M.D., D.Phil., professor and chair of family medicine
  • Sadik Esener, Ph.D., director, Center for Early Detection Research/Knight Cancer Institute
  • Marc Freeman, Ph.D., director, Vollum Institute
  • Sancy Leachman, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of dermatology
  • Bita Moghaddam, Ph.D., professor and chair of behavioral neuroscience
  • Carsten Schultz, Ph.D., professor and chair of  physiology and pharmacology
  • Nate Selden, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of neurological surgery

research retreat 2016, Carsten SchultzDrs. Schultz and Esener bring critical expertise that will advance our imaging capabilities through chemical probes and novel methodologies to aid early detection of cancer.

New recruits such as Drs. Freeman and Moghaddam are examples of OHSU's increasing focus on neuroscience.  Dr. Freeman was hired to lead the Vollum Institute and Dr. Moghaddam will lead the Department of Behavioral Neuroscience. They will work with other leaders on campus to unify the neurosciences across the institution.

Already new collaborations are launching. Dr. Moghaddam, Dr. Schultz and Damien Fair, Ph.D., P.A.-C., associate professor of behavioral neuroscience and psychiatry, began planning a federal Brain Initiative grant proposal last week, sparked by presentation and discussion about research at OHSU with Dr. Collins during his visit.

Strategies and supports for success

Retreat organizers put up a "What do we need to be successful" board to capture these needs, which included:

  • Strategic planning support
  • Team building and change management consultant support
  • Clinical and basic science researchers attending Faculty Practice Plan meetings

Afternoon sessions focused on strategies for leveraging OHSU's strengths. Daniel Dorsa, Ph.D., OHSU senior vice president for research, spoke about the Innovation Quadrant being developed on the South Waterfront to build a bridge from bench to market, and improvements being planned for the West Campus and the Oregon National Primate Research Center.

Mary Stenzel-Poore, Ph.D., senior associate dean for research, OHSU School of Medicine, discussed two current research initiatives that are in the planning phase: a facility to house imaging capabilities for PET/MRI and a new cellular GMP facility.

research retreat 2016, Sancy LeachmanOther sessions showcased strategic partnerships between clinicians and industry and the resources OHSU provides through the Oregon Clinical and Translation Research Institute; the importance of support for physician scientists, presented by Sharon Anderson, M.D., professor and chair of medicine, and Mary Heinricher, Ph.D., associate dean for basic research, and the link between great science and how and who we educate as the next generation of scientists, presented by George Mejicano, M.D., senior associate dean for education, and M.D./Ph.D.
student Sunil Joshi.

"As our demographics are changing, it is imperative that we recruit and advocate for physicians and scientists who truly reflect the community at large," Sunil Joshi said.

Taking research to the next level

In a final session, faculty gathered at their tables to discuss what changes and structural improvements are needed to take research to the next level at OHSU.  A few of these ideas included:

  • A need to encourage risk-taking, such as annual incentive pay that isn't just linked to making financial goals, which tends to encourage doing the same, proven money-generating initiatives rather than new ventures with a bigger risk of failure or a longer pay off horizon.
  • A tenure system that not only emphasizes individual accomplishment but rewards collaboration and integration to incent the behavior we want to see that will enhance our scientific enterprise.
  • A process for bringing ideas from bench to market that allows for some earnings to benefit the department.
  • A focus not only on recruitment but retention.

"In collaboration with our faculty, philanthropists and leadership, OHSU has built a dynamic infrastructure for scientific research," said Dr. Stenzel-Poore. "The retreat was a chance to show that investment and encourage and support our research leaders to create a vision for their future that takes advantage of these considerable areas of development to further elevate their work."

Michael Chiang, M.D., professor of ophthalmology and medical informatics and clinical epidemiology , left the retreat feeling optimistic about the prospects for accelerating advancements in science at OHSU.

"I'm really excited about our capabilities, the intellectual assets and the investments that OHSU has made, but we need to continue to talk and continue to provide energy and recruit additional talent to move us up the rankings," said Dr. Chiang.

Dr. Chiang thinks acceleration is possible in part because of OHSU's size. He said the large size and intense competition at institutions he has trained or worked at – Harvard, Johns Hopkins and Columbia University – sometimes impede progress.

"They are so big;it's hard to come up with a unified plan or there are so many egos that it hard to get everyone on the same page," Dr. Chiang said. "This is an institution that is big enough that we can accomplish something and small enough that we can actually get together in a retreat like this and collaborate."

Pictured (top to bottom):

  • The School of Medicine Research Retreat at the Portland Art Museum brought together research, clinical, strategic partnership and business development leaders to begin shaping the future of science at OHSU (also including Sharon Anderson, M.D., professor and chair of medicine).
  • Dr. Carsten Schultz, new chair of physiology and pharmacology, describes chemical tools he developed for manipulating and monitoring signaling that will advance OHSU's ability to study brain circuitry.
  • Dr. Sancy Leachman, professor and chair of dermatology, joined new leaders in sharing their research visions at the retreat.