NIH Director Collins ignites optimism and collaboration during campus visit

National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., spent a day at OHSU sprinkling some fairy dust of possibility that is spurring renewed optimism and new grant applications to fuel the next generation of science at OHSU.

Dr. Collins visited on Monday, Oct. 24 to give the 2016 Mark O. Hatfield Lecture, named for his personal mentor, the late U.S. Senator Mark Hatfield. Dr. Collins’s standing-room-only evening lecture at CLSB – “Exceptional opportunities in biomedical research” – pulled together the narrative he built over the course of the day in small group sessions with faculty, partners, elected officials and students.

It was a narrative about hope.

After a dozen years of declining grant funding, the fever chart is inching up.

Dr. Francis Collins's Hatfield Lecture included a moving tribute to the late senator, an engine for science funding, and a story line about hope captured in the guitar pick-shaped pin Collins designed, based on the slogan National Institutes of Hope.

Dr. Francis Collins’s Hatfield Lecture included a moving tribute to the late senator, an engine for science funding, and a story line about hope captured in the guitar pick-shaped pin Collins designed, based on the slogan National Institutes of Hope.

The NIH’s BRAIN Initiative and the Cancer Moonshot, led by Vice President Joe Biden, are directing national focus to the frontier of basic science – the brain – and a scientific pursuit which now feels within reach: curing cancer.

Failure to diversify the ranks of scientists has led to renewed determination, recognizing that attracting multiple perspectives to ask new questions and perceive new solutions is central to advancement.

And NIH has launched the All of Us Research Program – with the goal of signing up 1 million people across age, race and class to fuel population health studies that can tailor treatments to individuals, rekindling patriotism of a nonpartisan nature akin to putting man on the moon.

Yet the sense of possibility his visit engendered came not only from his marketing of NIH but in the ways he engaged faculty, partners and students and in the ways that OHSU used his visit as a catalyst.

A catalytic visit

OHSU President Joe Robertson, M.D., M.B.A., and research leaders welcomed Dr. Collins with a luncheon discussion about the OHSU-Intel Cancer Cloud Collaborative. The conversation included OHSU School of Medicine faculty members Drs. Brian Druker, Joe Gray, Adam Margolin and Lisa Coussens;* U.S. Senator Ron Wyden and Rep. Earl Blumenauer; PSU’s Erin Flynn, board chair of Oregon Inc.; Intel leaders; and Eric Dishman, formerly of Intel and now leading the All of Us Research Program for NIH.

Their discussion about a cloud of clouds — that allows researchers to bring their computers to the data rather than ginormous data sets to their computers  helped define for Dr. Collins how OHSU can contribute to the big data dilemma NIH must tackle to realize the promise of the All of Us precision medicine initiative.

“This is an industrial challenge of the first order,” said Dr. Gray, associate director for translational research at the Knight Cancer Institute. “Oregon has a confluence of people interested in the data and people interested in the application.”

Showcasing basic science

An hour-long research forum followed with teams from cancer, infectious disease and neuroscience presenting their work to Dr. Collins, who listened intently.

“If Zika has been around for decades in Africa, why didn’t we know it had this impact during pregnancy?” Dr. Collins asked, sparking a discussion following a presentation on the virus by maternal-fetal medicine specialist Antonio Frias, M.D., associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology, OHSU School of Medicine.

And as Marc Freeman, Ph.D., director of the Vollum Institute, wrapped up his slides on OHSU’s work in neuroscience from bench to bedside, Dr. Collins probed how OHSU is positioning itself to take advantage of the NIH BRAIN Initiative. Minutes after the session ended, Dr. Freeman, Damien Fair, Ph.D., P.A.-C., associate professor of behavioral neuroscience and imaging leader, and Bita Moghaddam, Ph.D., incoming chair of behavioral neuroscience, huddled in the foyer to plan a cross-campus collaboration on a grant application.

Dr. Fair said Dr. Collins’s visit seeded “a blossoming of ideas of all we can do across the institution” while also pointing out areas for improvement, such as the need for engineering expertise within OHSU – not just through tech partners – to meet new challenges in translational science.

Caring about students

In a private session with 20 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows and during a question/answer period after his lecture, Dr. Collins delivered a chin-up message to trainees. He emphasized the areas where NIH is investing and offered thoughtful advice about staying flexible and choosing a research focus broad enough for a course correction if prospects in one area fizzle.

Behavioral neuroscience graduate student Eileen Torres said Dr. Collins made her feel like NIH is in her corner, that the agency understands how the funding challenges impact budding scientists and has real plans for addressing the problem with strategic investment.

“It hasn’t been until now that I’ve heard any bright spots,” Torres said, “so it was nice.”

Dr. Collins rounded out the afternoon before his lecture with a tour led by Dr. Gray of the OHSU Center for Spatial Systems Biomedicine, one of OHSU’s newest tools for taking science at OHSU to the next level. He ended the evening with goodwill.

“I’ve had a great time today,” Dr. Collins said. “Everything I’ve heard and seen today says that OHSU is a great place. You’re big enough to do outstanding multidisciplinary work but not too big to run into too much bureaucracy. You’re in that sweet spot.”


Brian Druker, M.D., director, OHSU Knight Cancer Institute; professor of medicine, OHSU School of Medicine

Joe Gray, Ph.D., director, OHSU Center for Spatial Systems Biomedicine; professor of biomedical engineering, OHSU School of Medicine

Adam Margolin, Ph.D., director of computational biology and associate professor of biomedical engineering, OHSU School of Medicine

Lisa Coussens, Ph.D., associate director of basic research, OHSU Knight Cancer Institute; professor and chair of cell, developmental and cancer biology, OHSU School of Medicine

Jake’s story: A senior project from the heart

The Knight Cardiovascular Institute recently hosted a patient forum for over 60 patients with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), a genetic heart condition. At the event attendees heard from experts about the latest treatments, lifestyle recommendations and research for HCM. They also heard from Jake Hansel, a senior at Camas High School recently diagnosed with apical hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Jake’s senior project focuses on raising awareness of the disease and support for HCM research. Below, Jake shares his story.

My name is Jake Hansel and I am a senior at Camas High School. I love basketball and as a freshman I made the varsity basketball team. For two years, I was our starting point guard and we qualified for State for the first time in 51 years. Last fall my doctor recommended I have a routine EKG screening due to a family history of a heart condition. The EKG results were abnormal. After some additional tests, I was cleared to play my junior year but told that I would need to have follow-up tests in March. At the completion of my junior year, I was selected to First Team Class 4A Greater St. Helen’s All-League as well as second team All-Region.

Jake and Dr. Heitner

Jake with Dr. Stephen Heitner, Director of the Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Clinic at OHSU

After my junior year, I was in contact with several colleges and had hopes of continuing both my athletic and academic career. Basketball, strength training, and conditioning had always been a major part of my daily life with my academics. I have maintained a 3.99 GPA.

In March after extensive tests, I was diagnosed with apical hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. I was told I could no longer play competitive sports. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a genetic condition where part of the heart muscle is enlarged. The enlarged portion can be less effective than normal heart muscle, leading to symptoms like shortness of breath, lightheadedness, fainting, chest pain and palpitations. In rare, severe, cases it can lead to an abnormal or rapid heart rate, which can be fatal.

An estimated 1 in 500 people have the disease, yet not much is really known. There are treatment options that can provide improvements in quality of life for many with HCM, but there is no cure at this time. I recently met with Dr. Stephen Heitner, the Director of the Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Clinic at the OHSU Knight Cardiovascular Institute. They are conducting very exciting research into new treatment options for HCM that will hopefully eradicate this disease entirely.

My goal is to raise awareness about HCM and raise money for research into treatments of the disease.


Jake will be hosting a fundraiser at Camas High School on January 20 during the varsity basketball game against Skyview High School. If you would like to get involved, the OHSU Foundation is accepting donations on his behalf to be directed towards HCM research. You can make a donation online at

OHSU students, staff and faculty join leaders in committing to address gun violence as a public health issue

OHSU leaders, faculty, staff and students gathered in the late afternoon rain outside Mackenzie Hall Tuesday, Oct. 4 to mark an institution-wide commitment to address gun violence as a public health issue.

“We all know why we are here,” OHSU President Joe Robertson, M.D., M.B.A., told the gathering of more than 100. “We are troubled by the increasing violence in our society and the way in which that violence has disproportionately impacted people of color. As an institution, OHSU has struggled a bit to finds its voice. As healers, we want to act, but we must do so in a way that is consistent with our mission and also respectful and inclusive of those who have been involved in this issue for much longer. Now I think we have the right man to help us find our voice.”

Dr. Robertson introduced Brian Gibbs, Ph.D., vice president for Diversity and Inclusion and a faculty member in the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health. In July, Dr. Robertson charged Dr. Gibbs with leading a series of community conversations to identify how OHSU – across its clinical, research and education missions – can best address gun violence as a public health issue. His directive was inspired by calls for action by students, staff and faculty.

The Center for Diversity and Inclusion and the School of Public Health have now convened the Gun Violence as a Public Health Issue Advisory Committee to plan community forums to identify opportunities for OHSU and community partners to reduce gun violence and address the social and societal conditions that contribute to it. The advisory committee met for the first time at 9 a.m. on Oct. 4. The Stand Together vigil at 5 p.m. kicked off the work.

“Tonight we shift from a place where we were standing as individuals to a place where we stand in unity,” said Dr. Gibbs, who was joined at the event by the provost and the deans of all the schools. “There has been a great amount of work from many parts of the institution to help make this day possible. However, the harder work is ahead of us. But to get there we first had to stand and then step out onto the path together.”

The event was defined by personal reflections from three students – Kalisha Bonds, a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Nursing; Brianna Ennis, M.D. ’19, and Alisha Berry, M.D. ’19 and a co-leader of Students for LGBTQ Health.

Ms. Ennis read a poem she wrote.

“Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner,

Tamir Rice, Eric Harris, Walter Scott, Alton Sterling,

Philando Castile, Keith Lamont Scott, Terence Crutcher,

I will stop here; You already know where I’m headed.

May the beautiful black men robbed of their freedom, their dignity, their hopes and dreams—

May they rest in peace.

I’m angry; I’m pained. This is an understatement—

It’s more like my cup runneth over with bitterness and rage.

But most of all I fear.

I fear for my dad, my brother, my future son. Any one of them could be next.

And I am not immune; I fear for myself too…

We are called today to stand together as healers,

to throw compassion at darkness and rise to the light,

and to practice what we preach.”

Alisha Moreland-Capuia led the crescendo and finale of the event.

Assistant professor of Psychiatry and executive director of the OHSU Avel Gordly Center for Healing, Dr. Moreland-Capuia completed her psychiatry residency and addiction psychiatry fellowship at OHSU. She is serving on the Gun Violence as a Public Health Issue Advisory Committee.

Dr. Moreland-Capuia called the participants to the moment, defined and underscored the importance of the work and then invited everyone to turn toward the Mackenzie Hall fountain and join hands.

As the rain clouds momentarily parted to reveal a sliver of blue sky, orange-, red- and yellow-colored lights illuminated the Mackenzie Hall fountain. The lights remained on all night as a beacon of the institution’s commitment.

After the vigil, Molly Rabinowitz, M.D. ‘18, stood with classmates sipping hot chocolate provided for the event. Ms. Rabinowitz is among a group of inter-professional students that began calling for OHSU to act in the midst of police shootings of unarmed black men starting in 2014 and signed on to a letter to the OHSU administration.

“Across our classes and our university, students didn’t feel that the administration was listening to our concerns about issues of institutional racism and social justice,” Ms. Rabinowitz said.
“Now we’re here. This vigil and the work that will follow is both exactly what we wanted and so much more than we expected. We finally feel heard, and that brings me so much hope.”


Follow the work at .


(all photos courtesy of OHSU/Kristyna Wentz-Graff)

OHSU nurse midwives celebrating National Midwifery Week 2016

National Midwifery Week is supported by ACNM, its members, physicians, and women’s health organizations across the nation.

OHSU has a thriving faculty midwifery practice. OHSU’s midwifery graduate program has been ranked as one of the top Midwifery programs from U.S. News & World Report consistently since 2004.

Some of our faculty include:

  • Sally Hersh,D.N.P.,C.N.M. who received the Excellence in Teaching Award for graduate teaching chosen by the OHSU School of Nursing students. Sally teaches core coursework in the graduate nurse-midwifery academic program, precepts masters’ degree midwifery students in the busy faculty practice, and supervises DNP students during their final year of doctoral work.

  • Michele Megregian N.M., M.S.N., who published Ethics Education in Midwifery Education Programs in the United States
  • Ellen Tilden, Ph.D. Most recently The Wall Street Journal picked up her team’s research regarding the influence of group prenatal care and timing of hospital admission. She received the 2016 Early Career Achievement Award from the OHSU School of Nursing Alumni Association. Dr. Tilden’s current work includes examining the risks and benefits of giving birth inside and outside a hospital setting and she received broad media attention following her publication in The New England Journal of Medicine. Dr. Tilden’s work is supported by a National Institutes of Health-funded BIRCWH K12 award made possible through the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Office of Research on Women’s Health.
  • Retired faculty and midwife Carol Howe, an Elnora E. Thompson Distinguished Professor at OHSU, was presented with the 2016 Dorothea M. Land, Pioneer Award by the Certified Nurse Midwives Foundation, which honors exceptional certified nurse midwives who have exhibited vision and leadership. Carol is also the founding director of the OHSU Nurse-Midwifery Education Program. Carol dedicated over 35 years to educating midwifery students and practice in our clinic.

Our midwives have been caring for women across their lifespan since 1975. They educate the community on women’s health, including nutrition, sexual health, menopause and osteoporosis. OHSU midwives also offer prenatal care and provide compassionate, respectful and family-centered care. They also offer a water birth program that was established in 1997.

To learn more about becoming a Nurse-Midwife, please take a look at the OHSU School of nursing program pages.

To learn how to receive care from one of the OHSU midwives, please visit our website.

Food as medicine

By now, we’ve all heard the recommendations for a heart-healthy diet – reduce your saturated fat intake, avoid trans fats, cut back on salt. But did you know there are specific foods you can eat that can help lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol even further? Researchers have created a “portfolio” of cholesterol-lowering foods, that, when eaten together along with a heart-healthy diet, are even more effective at reducing LDL cholesterol than a low-saturated fat diet alone. Incorporate these four foods into your diet to maximize your heart health.

  • Soluble fiber – The two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble, are beneficial for a host of health issues, but getting at least 10 grams of soluble fiber every day is useful for reducing LDL cholesterol. Fiber is found in all whole plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and grains; foods highest in soluble fiber include oats, barley, beans, citrus fruits, apples, okra, eggplant, and ground flax seeds. You can also take a fiber supplement made from psyllium husk (e.g., Metamucil).almonds
  • Soy – Aim for adding 25 grams a day of soy protein to help lower LDL cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease. Choosing more plant proteins, such as soy, in place of animal proteins helps reduce intake of saturated fat and cholesterol while increasing fiber. To get to 25 grams, aim for two servings of soy foods a day—examples of a serving include ½ cup shelled edamame, 1 cup soy milk, ½ cup tofu, 3 ounces tempeh, or a soy “burger” such as Boca Burger.
  • Almonds – This study looked specifically at eating ¼ cup of almonds every day (plain, not salted or honey-roasted), but the heart benefits of all nuts are well documented. Sprinkle them on your oatmeal, salad, or stir-fry, or simply eat a small handful as a snack.
  • Plant sterols and stanols – Plant sterols and stanols are naturally found in plant foods such as grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and are very effective at lowering LDL by blocking cholesterol from being absorbed into the bloodstream. The problem is that it’s impossible to eat enough plant foods (even for this dietitian!) to get to the recommended dose of 2 grams a day. Many foods have added plant sterols and stanols (such as Benecol and Take Control margarine or Minute Maid Heart Wise orange juice), but I prefer a capsule such as Nature Made CholestOff Plus (taken twice daily with meals). These supplements help to avoid the extra calories from fortified foods (it takes 4 tablespoons of Benecol spread to get to the recommended 2 grams of plant sterols – too much margarine, in my opinion!).

After years of hearing that we should eat less, I love being able to tell people that eating more of certain foods can improve their health. Enjoy!


Tracy Severson, R.D., L.D., is the dietitian for the Center for Preventive Cardiology at the Knight Cardiovascular Institute. She specializes in nutrition counseling for cardiovascular health and weight management.


Race for the Cure: Shirley’s story

For Shirley Ira, participating as a Race for the Cure team captain is both personal and professional: an experience that blends her many years coordinating care for oncology patients at OHSU Casey Eye Institute (CEI) with some personal losses.CEI Team

In 1991 the Susan G. Komen Foundation was about to launch its first Race for the Cure event in the Portland area and Ira had volunteered to be a team captain, representing CEI: at the time, she was the only clinic coordinator at CEI with oncology experience.

“You wouldn’t think an eye clinic would see patients with breast cancer.” Ira explained that sometimes breast cancer patients develop metastatic lesions in their eyes.

Over the years she has watched Portland’s Race for the Cure grow to what it is now: one of the largest in the country. Ira thinks the level of participation in the Northwest says a lot about the people here and their willingness to support a good cause that help others in their community. One of her favorite aspects of being a team captain is the opportunity it gives her to rally others to join the cause.

But the connection for Ira hasn’t been just professional. “I did lose a very good friend at one Race namestime.” In recent years several coworkers she’s been very close to at CEI have also been diagnosed with breast cancer. And most recently, one of CEI’s international fellows – a highly trained ophthalmologist who was here for two years for special training – died after returning home to Germany.

Ira shared a photo with us from last year’s race containing a list of names and a short message: “One of the reasons I participate! All the survivor names are coworkers at CEI.”

This year, she’ll walk in celebration of them, in memory of her friend and colleague, and in honor of her patients – some of whom will join her at the race on Sunday.

Shirley Ira is a clinic coordinator at OHSU Casey Eye Institute (CEI) where she coordinates care for adult and pediatric oncology patients with malignant tumors in their eyes. For over 17 years she coordinated patient enrollment and participation in an ocular oncology trial at CEI through the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Support #TeamOHSU and post your pictures from the Race to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram using #OHSUKnight.

Race for the Cure: a mother’s legacy

For Race for the Cure Team Captain Jill Mason, participating in the Susan G. Komen breast cancer fundraiser and outreach event in Portland each year is a family event inspired by a woman who is dearly loved and remembered.

After their mother, Cricket, died of breast cancer in the Spring of 1993, Mason and her sister rallied family members together to participate in the walk the followinRace for the Cure historicalg year. “Cricket’s Crew hasn’t missed a year since we started,” she said with a smile.

A photo from one of their first years shows Mason with her sister and daughters wearing their matching Race t-shirts, standing in front of a rock outside of Mason’s neighbor’s home.

Mason pointed to one of the young girls in the photo and chuckled: “her t-shirt was hanging down to her ankles – now it fits like a normal shirt!”

What began with just the women of the family quickly grew to what it is today: a multi-generational family reunion of sorts. Each year, brothers, sisters, cousins, and in-laws, travel, or sleep in, from across the country – some as far as Maryland, North Carolina, Iowa, and Idaho – to participate
in the walk.

Last year was their team’s biggest year yet with 29 participants. This year – the 25th anniversary of Race for the Cure in Portland – looks to be even bigger. And just like the early years, no team member is too small to participate: eight are three years of age and younger. The youngest, born just weeks ago, will be about two Race for the Cure teammonths old when he dons his pink Team OHSU t-shirt on September 18 in honor of his great-grandmother.

Before the walk begins however, the team will gather briefly for a picture in front of the same rock they’ve been photographed in front of for the past 22 years.

A faculty member in the OHSU School of Dentistry, Mason spends part of her time in clinic with students and patients. She also directs all community-based rotations – where students go work in public health and community clinics.

 Join #TeamOHSU and post your pictures from the Race to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram using #OHSUKnight.

Healthy summer barbecues and potlucks

Is your summer filling up with social engagements that threaten to derail your healthy diet efforts? Backyard barbecues and potlucks are wonderful, but the typical fare – creamy mayonnaise-based salads, high-fat meats like ribs, and baked goods – isn’t exactly optimal for good health and weight management. Here are my go-to tips for staying on track all summer long.

Plan ahead6064070792_1916d759fb_z

If you bring a dish that is healthy and delicious, you know there will be at least one appropriate choice for you to fill up on at the party. I love whole-grain salads – stir together any type of cooked whole grain (e.g., brown rice, quinoa, barley, wheat berries), a mixture of raw or grilled vegetables, and a tangy vinaigrette, and you have an easy, delicious dish that’s packed with fiber and nutrients. (I love this Quinoa & Snap Pea Salad, although I usually grill the onions and mushrooms first.) These types of salads taste great at room temperature, making them a convenient option at potlucks.

Choose your protein wisely

Avoid higher-fat red meats and instead opt for fish or veggie burgers as your grilled protein. You’ll save on saturated fat, cholesterol, and calories, while gaining heart-healthy omega 3 fats (from the fish) or fiber (from the veggie burgers). Fish also cooks faster than meat, and less time on the grill means fewer carcinogens forming on your food.

Rethink dessert

We are lucky to live in Portland, where the farmers’ markets are packed with gorgeous and delicious berries, melons, and stone fruit all summer. Instead of sampling the same old baked goods for dessert, try grilling peaches or nectarines, tossing berries with lightly sweetened yogurt, or just slicing a juicy watermelon for a sweet treat that delivers vitamins, minerals, and fiber with minimal calories.

Do you have a favorite tip for serving up a healthy barbecue? Share in the comments below!



Tracy Severson, RD, LD, is the dietitian for the Center for Preventive Cardiology at the Knight Cardiovascular Institute. She specializes in nutrition counseling for cardiovascular health and weight management.


Plan ahead: Upcoming construction projects to affect travel to OHSU

Traveling to OHSU for an appointment or work? Several current and upcoming construction projects will affect traffic and parking starting August 14.

Here’s what you need to know as you prepare for your trip to OHSU.

ODOT ramp closure, August 14-31

I-5 Exit 299A will be closed for construction August 14-31.

The Sellwood Bridge will also be closed from 7 p.m. August 19 to 6 a.m. Tuesday, August 23.

Patients driving to OHSU from the south could experience traffic delays up to one hour.

Many cars will be rerouted down Southwest Curry and will be delayed without the I-5 exit access. Between 400-500 cars per hour or 7,500 cars per day will be rerouted, which will cause substantial congestion and longer trip times. For detours and more information, visit ODOT’s project website at

TriMet northbound bus lines 35-Macadam/Greeley and 36-South Shore will also be detoured because of this construction. The following northbound stops will not be served:

  • Macadam and Lowell
  • Macadam and Gaines
  • Macadam and Tram Tower
  • Arthur and 1st
  • 2200 Block SW 1st

Temporary stops will be located at Bond and Lowell, and Moody and Gibbs.

Southbound bus stops and the Portland Streetcar will not be affected by this closure.


MAX lines closed at Rose Quarter, August 21-September 3

TriMet has announced that major work on the Rose Quarter area MAX stations will disrupt MAX service August 21-September 3.

  • The Rose Quarter Transit Center, Convention Center and Northeast 7th Avenue stations will be closed.
  • Orange and Yellow lines will travel with reduced frequency.
  • The Green line will not run in downtown Portland.

TriMet encourages you to plan for an extra 30-45 minutes and to expect delays, crowded buses and full trains. Shuttles will run between the Lloyd Center and the Yellow line’s Rose Quarter station.

More information at

South Waterfront construction

OHSU is expanding in the South Waterfront to better serve the needs of Oregonians for generations to come. Two new buildings are being built near the base of the Portland Aerial Tram and adjacent to the Center for Health & Healing.

While every effort will be made to minimize disruption to patients, visitors and nearby residents, please allow extra time to get to your appointment. Expect intermittent road closures and extended sidewalk closures for the duration of the project.

The Center for Health & Healing parking garage will remain open to patients and visitors during construction.

Prescribing change: Using healthy food to break the cycle of poverty and chronic disease

As a child, Brian Frank, sat down at the beginning of every week with his father and brother to plan each of the family’s meals for the next seven days. Every morning, he knew he would wake up to a delicious breakfast, that he would have something in his lunchbox and that he would return home from school to a nutritious meal on the table.

“What I didn’t realize at the time,” he said “was the incredible sense of security that gave me.”

Now, as a physician at OHSU Family Medicine at Richmond, Dr. Frank understands all too well that food security is a luxury that many of our community members do not enjoy. In fact, an astounding 75 percent of Oregon’s Medicaid patients lack reliable access to affordable, nutritious food.

So what does this mean for our community? Lack of consistent access to nutritious foods, especially in childhood, can have devastating and long-lasting health effects. In particular, food insecurity leads to patterns of overconsumption of calorie dense, but nutrient poor, foods. This “high calorie malnutrition” can cause or worsen chronic diseases such as diabetes, leading to poor health outcomes. Once people develop chronic diseases, food insecurity prevents them from making changes that would improve their health. In turn, people suffer worse outcomes, driving up the cost of medical care as a whole and leading to financial devastation for patients and their families due to hospitalizations, illness and lost time at work. These catastrophic events send families further into poverty and worsen food insecurity. What we end up with is a cycle that continues until patients are dying at an earlier age than their counterparts who have better access to food. “Hunger is more than nutritional or physiological deficit,” Dr. Frank explains. “It’s a dangerous medical condition that requires urgent treatment.”

This year, OHSU Family Medicine at Richmond, the Oregon Food Bank, Multnomah County, Zenger Farms, and researchers at Portland State University have partnered to launch a research project with the aim of changing how we think of, and provide, food. The project, collectively called CSA Partnerships for Health (CSAP4H) provides weekly, subsidized boxes of fresh, locally-grown fruits and vegetables.

Building on the work of a pilot program at Multnomah County’s Mid-County Medical Center, and supported by grants from Kaiser Permanente and the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, CSAP4H hopes to show that this simple intervention can change eating habits of its participants.

Over the course of the 20-week growing season, patients will also have access to free cooking classes hosted by the Oregon Food Bank, and food education by Zenger Farms.
At the end of the 20-week period, the team will conduct an in-depth evaluation, with the hope of proving the medical benefit of “prescribing” healthy foods to patients in need.

OHSU Family Medicine’s mission to address food insecurity and malnutrition extends beyond this summer’s project. Other efforts will include additions to OHSU’s curriculum across all healthcare professions, which will arm providers with the ability to better understand, treat and manage food insecurity. Final steps will also include coming up with best practices for evaluating and addressing food needs across the country, so there is a standardized, evidence-based method that can be easily used by all healthcare organizations.

Want to learn more? Visit OHSU Family Medicine at Richmond to see Dr. Frank in action, learn more about healthy eating, and enjoy delicious giveaways.

OHSU Family Medicine at Richmond

Friday, August 12

1 – 5 p.m.


Dr. Brian Frank is a Family Medicine physician at OHSU Family Medicine at Richmond, a Federally Qualified Health Center. OHSU Family Medicine at Richmond treats infants, children, adults, and seniors in the Southeast community, regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay.

Why 96,000 Square Miles?

OHSU Health Fair at Pioneer Square.

President Robertson is fond of saying that OHSU has a 96,000 square mile campus, serving Oregonians “from Enterprise to Coos Bay, from Portland to Klamath Falls.”

This blog aims to highlight that breadth. 96,000 Square Miles (96K for short) will focus on the people of OHSU, the Oregonians we serve and the ripple effect of our work in Oregon and beyond.

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