Melanoma event to spotlight latest research and survivor stories

By Matt Wastradowski

Shon Ramey began his seven-year fight against skin cancer in 2007, when he was first diagnosed with melanoma. Growing up in Washington State, he never used sunscreen and admitted that his goal was to get tan as fast as possible. But after four surgeries in seven years, he understands more than ever the importance of proper skin care and remaining vigilant about the dangers of melanoma.

Ramey will be one of three featured panelists at the Melanoma Care Update and Patient Dialogue on Nov. 15, 2014. He discussed his experience with 96,000 Square Miles and stressed the importance of raising awareness about the deadly disease.

What have you learned about melanoma that has surprised you?

I’ve lived in Texas and in the Middle East, so I was surprised by the prevalence of melanoma in Oregon when I moved here in 2013. Oregon has the fifth highest rate of new melanoma cases in the nation, and scientists are unsure why.

I learned the importance of wearing appropriate clothing and applying sunscreen of 30-50 SPF regularly year-round. Even when the sun comes out on wintry days, it can do serious damage if we’re not careful.

You joined the Melanoma Community Registry, which formed earlier this year to bring together patients, friends and family to help researchers take on melanoma. What made you decide to join?

The medical establishment is getting better at keeping us alive, but there’s not always a focus on how to live—and rightly so. The registry creates this pool of meaningful resources for others dealing with melanoma, and we can help each other out. Every survivor’s story is unique, but there’s also a commonality; we can share those experiences and help others.

I don’t want to be defined as a survivor, but I have a cache of experience that I think will help other people in the same or similar situations. It’s not the highest and best use for people with medical degrees, but we all have a bachelor’s degree in cancer survivorship; how can we become a resource?

What do you hope attendees learn from your panel discussion?

Registration is now open for the Melanoma Care Update and Patient Dialogue. The free event is from 8 a.m. to noon Nov. 15 at the Vey Auditorium in OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital.

It’s important to learn about the latest melanoma research from the experts, but it helps to hear stories from patients who have gone through it themselves.  I’m excited by the research happening and the enthusiasm generated by the registry so far, and I want to share that.

Shon Ramey, 53, is a father of two working for NAVEX Global, a software company in Lake Oswego.

Don’t be scared by Halloween treats!

The holiday season seems to get longer every year, with sweets, shopping, and stress threatening to derail your healthy lifestyle habits from Halloween to Valentine’s Day!

Hopefully you’re already following these tips to minimize temptations at home, but how do you deal with treats that show up at the office?

Follow these tips to help stay on track when Halloween candy begins making its spooky appearance this month.

1. Make a plan: If you don’t already, begin planning your meals and snacks for the week. Life gets extra busy during the holidays, so make good use of slow cookers, leftovers, and low-fat frozen entrées to help stop you from eating out or skipping meals. Have a long day coming up at work? That’s a perfect time to toss ingredients in the slow cooker before you leave in the morning!

2. Bring supplies: Now that you have a plan, make sure you’re bringing lunch and snacks to work each day. When the cupcakes call your name, it will be much easier to resist the temptation if you have healthy foods on hand. Stock up on protein- and fiber-filled snacks to help stop the sugar cravings, such as:

  • String cheese and fruit
  • Hummus and veggies
  • Trail mix or nuts (pre-portioned into ¼ cup servings)
  • Edamame
  • Low-fat Greek yogurt
  • Apple slices or celery sticks with 2 tablespoons peanut butter

3. Pay attention: Start tracking everything that goes in your mouth with a food log app such as MyFitnessPal. No smart phone? Pen and paper work just as well! It’s much easier to stay on track if you see the evidence of the candy!

4. Drink up! Stay hydrated with 64 ounces of calorie-free, caffeine-free fluids every day. Your body may mistake thirst for hunger, leading to unnecessary snacking.

The Halloween Candy Buy Back program is going on again this year and is a great way to get leftover candy out of your house or office. Enter your zip code on their website to find a participating dentist office to “buy” your leftover Halloween candy—your waistline (and teeth!) will thank you.

Another cool campaign happening this year is the Food Allergy Research & Education’s (FARE) Teal Pumpkin Project, which aims to help make Halloween more inclusive for kids with food allergies. To participate, simply have non-food treats available for trick-or-treaters, such as spider rings, bubbles, or glow sticks. Paint a pumpkin teal or print and post a sign from FARE to indicate you are participating (teal is the color of food allergy awareness).

Happy Halloween!


Tracy Severson is an outpatient clinical dietitian at OHSU. She moved to Portland from Tucson in 2010, and has worked at OHSU since 2011. Tracy works with the OHSU Surgical Weight Reduction clinic and Cardiac Rehab program, and also provides medical nutrition therapy for General Adult Outpatient Clinics at OHSU.

OHSU Recognized as 2014 LGBT Healthcare Equality Leader

We are proud to share that for the fourth year in a row, Oregon Health & Science University has been recognized as a “Leader in LGBT Healthcare Equality” by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, the educational arm of the country’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization. 

The findings were part of HRC Foundation’s Healthcare Equality Index 2014, a unique annual survey that encourages equal care for LGBT Americans and recognizes healthcare institutions doing the best work.

OHSU earned top marks in its commitment to equitable, inclusive care for LGBT patients and their families, who can face significant challenges in securing the quality health care and respect they deserve.

OHSU was one of a select group of 426 healthcare facilities nationwide – and one of only four in Oregon – to be named Leaders in LGBT Healthcare Equality.

OHSU is the largest employer in the Portland area that offers health coverage for employees and their dependents for care related to gender transition.

The Center for Diversity and Inclusion coordinates trainings and cultural competency lectures on patient-centered care.

OHSU Pride, the employee resource group for LGBTQ staff and their allies, promotes an inclusive workplace that provides opportunities for growth for all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

For more information about the Healthcare Equality Index 2014, or to download a free copy of the report, visit


Maileen Hamto is Communications Manager for the Center for Diversity & Inclusion, which leads and supports university-wide initiatives to create a culture of respect and inclusion for all people.

OHSU participating in Ebola drill Thursday, October 23

Although the odds of seeing a patient with Ebola virus here in Portland are low, OHSU continues to actively prepare for the possibility of a suspected or confirmed case.

On Thurday, Oct. 23, Multnomah County Emergency Medical Services will be running a full-scale practice drill, in collaboration with OHSU’s Emergency Department. The drill will include receiving, transporting and isolating someone roleplaying as a potentially infectious patient (an actor) from the Portland airport to OHSU.

The drill will take place from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., with ambulances, fire trucks and emergency and medical personnel in full protective gear on our Marquam Hill campus. Other hospitals will also be participating in drills with the MCEMS over the coming weeks.

Please remember, this is not a real Ebola patient, and this drill does not mean that OHSU has been designated as a hospital to receive Ebola patients.

We are working very hard to ensure that employees are protected while providing care for patients. If or when a patient with suspected Ebola virus disease is identified, we will deploy a highly trained and experienced team to care for the patient, thereby limiting exposure to others.

We are putting protocols in place to rapidly identify potentially infected individuals across OHSU, including the Emergency Department, inpatient services and clinics on and off campus.

Our multidisciplinary response plan allows us to provide the necessary medical care while minimizing the risk to health care workers and our community. We know from experience that good infection control practices can prevent the spread of viruses like Ebola.

OHSU has conducted tabletop emergency preparedness exercises and continues to participate in regional preparedness discussions with local, state and federal health officials, as well as peer hospitals and health systems citywide. Our collective goal is to ensure a collaborative, citywide response to Ebola virus.

Learn more:


John Townes, M.D. is the Medical Director, Infection Prevention and Control at OHSU and Associate Professor of Medicine,
 Division of Infectious Diseases at OHSU and the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Back to basics for women

In a recent National Institute of Health study on pain, nearly 1/3 of respondents listed low back pain as the most common type they experienced. Aside from being frustrating and costly to treat, back pain can also keep you from your favorite activities. Women, especially, can suffer in conjunction with other life events, including pregnancy and menopause.

So, how can women of all ages can benefit from easy ways to prevent or fight back pain?

In your teens: If it’s painful, stop. Pain can be a warning sign that you need to seek help. You don’t want something that happens in your teens to turn into a chronic injury lasting years.

Pregnant woman with backacheIn your 20s–40s: Pregnancy is an easy way women can injure their backs. Toward the end of pregnancy, ligaments and tendons loosen to help the birthing process. But that tightness is what helps prevent injury. Also, make sure to keep your core muscles tightened when you lift or carry a child.

50+: After menopause, estrogen production begins to wane, giving women a higher risk of conditions such as compression fractures. Try yoga or Pilates to keep core muscles strong and protect your back. If you garden, take breaks often: None of us are made to be hunched over for more than a few minutes, unless you’re a master yogi!

There is good news about back pain, though it may not seem that way when you’re going through it: It will often resolve on its own. Heat, ice, physical therapy, massage, acupuncture, and over-the-counter pain medications — taken as directed — can help.

But there is some back pain that does need urgent care: See a doctor if your pain is so acute you can’t walk or turn your body, if you feel numbness or weakness, or if you lose control of your bladder or bowels.

A leader in the latest techniques and technology, the OHSU Spine Center treats every back and spine condition, with a wide range of treatments, including physical therapy, corticosteroid injections, acupuncture, surgery, and more. To make an appointment, visit


Grace Chen, M.D., joined the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine in 2004. Her primary clinical interests are in the non-surgical treatment of back pain, spinal pain that is not alleviated by surgery, and non-opioid treatment of pain.



Join us for OHSU’s 5th annual “Night for Networking”

Wednesday, October 22nd, the OHSU community, along with local partners, employers and job seekers, will come together to celebrate the fifth annual Night for Networking.

This free event highlights job candidates with disabilities, introducing skilled, potential employees with Oregon-based employers and businesses that are truly committed to workforce diversity.

Organized by OHSU’s Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Department (AAEO), the event is expected to draw more than 400 people. Workforce diversity strategist Steve Hanamura and Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick will attend and speak to the importance of enhancing workplace diversity and inclusion to ensure success for people of all abilities.

Night for Networking V
October 22, 6-9 p.m.
Collaborative Life Sciences Building
2730 SW Moody Avenue
Portland, OR  97239

RSVP here by October 17

A big thanks to our executive sponsors: Kaiser Permanente, Diversity & Inclusion, Human Resources; Oregon Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Equity and Multicultural Services;  Oregon Health Authority, Office of Equity and Inclusion; Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe LLP; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Pacific Region; and the U.S.D.A. Forest Service.


Maileen Hamto is Communications Manager for the Center for Diversity & Inclusion, which leads and supports university-wide initiatives to create a culture of respect and inclusion for all people.

Your health questions answered: Cancer treatment and your heart

You ask. OHSU health experts answer. This month, our cardiology and pediatric specialists are on the hot seat.

Q. Can cancer treatments damage my heart?

A. While cancer treatments including radiation and chemotherapy may help fight the disease, they may have negative side effects on your heart. Although this is rare, treatment can weaken your heart muscle or affect your heart’s ability to pump blood.

Before you begin a cancer treatment that might affect the heart, you will have basic tests like anelectrocardiogram (ECG) or tests to measure your heart function like a cardiac ultrasound (echocardiogram). By finding heart problems before starting treatment, and by monitoring them during carefully, we can help to prevent heart issues. Make sure to talk to your oncologist if you have a pre-existing heart condition or if heart disease runs in your family.

Prepare your child for surgery

Q. How can I help my child prepare for surgery?

A.  Although specific details will depend on your child’s age and the surgical procedure, it’s always best to be clear and honest, as well as reassuring. In other words, don’t baby your child—explain what the surgery is for, what’s going to happen during it, and how he or she might feel after waking up.

You don’t need to explain every potential complication, but you do need to be truthful so your child knows what to expect: Kids are tougher than we sometimes give them credit for.

If you are concerned about your child’s fear or apprehension regarding surgery, our OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital’s Child Life program specialists use age-specific approaches to help lessen a child’s anxiety about any aspect of a hospital or surgery.


Maros Ferencik, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Maros Ferencik, M.D., Ph.D. sees patients at the OHSU Beaverton Cardiology Clinic, where he specializes in cardio-oncology (treatment of the cardiovascular side effects of cancer therapy) and general cardiology. U.S. News & World Report ranks the OHSU Knight Cardiovascular Institute as the top cardiology and heart surgery hospital in Oregon.



Dr. Kenneth Azarow, M.D. specializes in pediatric surgery and is the surgeon-in-chief at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. Doernbecher has the most pediatric specialists in Oregon and ranks among the nation’s best children’s hospitals.

Celebrating National Nurse-Midwifery Week

The term Midwife means “with woman,” and each year we celebrate Midwifery Week by recognizing the contributions of midwives and the experiences of the women they serve.

This year, OHSU School of Nursing and the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) invite you to learn more about midwifery and its rich 80-year history here in the United States.

At OHSU, we have a thriving faculty midwifery practice. Our midwifery graduate program was ranked number one by U.S. News and World Report consistently since 2004.

Since 1975, students and staff have educated the community on a broad range of women’s health issues, including nutrition, sexual health, menopause and osteoporosis. OHSU midwives also offer a water birth program, established in 1997.

To learn more about becoming a Nurse-Midwife, please take a look at the OHSU School of nursing program pages. Or to learn how to receive care from one of the OHSU midwives take a look at these web pages.

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


Christi Richardson is the Web and Communications Specialist for the OHSU School of Nursing. She manages the School’s newsletter, maintains the website and manages all social media and communications.


8 things to know about Ebola virus

The tragic Ebola outbreak currently ravaging West Africa is heartbreaking, and the news of the first confirmed case diagnosed in the U.S. had many in the Portland region questioning Oregon’s preparedness should Ebola reach our home state. Although the odds of seeing a patient with the virus in Oregon are very small, OHSU is prepared to safely house and treat any patient with suspected or confirmed Ebola virus.

It’s important to be informed about the virus, the symptoms, and the probability of seeing even a few cases anywhere in the United States, including Oregon. Here are some important points to keep in mind about the Ebola virus:

1. What is Ebola?
Ebola is a virus that can cause a severe, often-deadly illness that can spread from person to person.

2. How does Ebola spread?
People can catch Ebola by touching the blood, vomit, diarrhea, urine, or other body fluids of an infected person. Coming into contact with objects like soiled linens used while caring for a person sick with Ebola can also spread the virus.

An infected person does not transmit the virus until after symptoms develop.

Ebola is not spread through the air or by water.

3. What are the symptoms of Ebola?
The first symptoms of Ebola are fever, weakness, muscle aches, headache, and sore throat. Vomiting and diarrhea usually follow these initial symptoms. People sick with Ebola may also have bleeding inside and outside of the body. The average onset of symptoms is typically within 8 to 10 days but can appear anywhere between 2 and 21 days. People may die of Ebola if their bodies lose too much blood and fluids.

4. Where is Ebola occurring?
The countries where Ebola virus has been identified recently include Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Nigeria, and Senegal – all in Africa. Only one case has been diagnosed in the U.S., when a man traveling from Liberia started experiencing symptoms after he arrived in Texas.

5. How is Ebola treated?
There is not yet a cure for Ebola; to treat it, doctors provide supportive care, such as intravenous fluids, to those who are sick while their bodies work to fight and kill the virus. An experimental treatment was given to two Americans, who are alive and have been released from the hospital, but it is not known if the new treatment truly “cured” these patients.

6. Is it likely that Ebola will appear in Oregon?
It is highly unlikely that Ebola will appear in Oregon. However, in the unlikely event a case is diagnosed here, it’s important to keep in mind that past experience with controlling Ebola virus outbreaks has shown that good infection control practices can easily prevent spread of the virus

Hospitals in the United States are equipped with advanced protective equipment and preventative methods that are very effective in blocking the transmission of viruses. Therefore, the spread of Ebola similar to what’s happening in West Africa is infinitely less likely here.

7. What is OHSU doing to prepare for a possible case of Ebola?
Portland-area hospitals, Emergency Medical Services, and county health departments are working together to be as prepared as possible to safely care for any patient with suspected or confirmed Ebola in the Portland region.

The OHSU Infection Prevention and Control Department ran a tabletop Ebola virus drill earlier this month, where several Ebola virus patient scenarios were discussed, from how an Ebola patient would be isolated to the cleaning and disinfection of contaminated items.

Although Ebola virus infection often causes severe illnesses and deaths, preventing contact with infected body fluids can prevent transmission. Personal protective equipment such as gowns, gloves, face masks and goggles are sufficient to protect healthcare workers who come into contact with patients. The virus is also killed easily by the disinfectants used in hospitals. OHSU hospitals already utilize disinfecting and sanitary measures in day-to-day operations. Health care staff is prepared to expand on the preventative measures already in place, if necessary.

8. What if someone in my family has a fever or other symptoms similar to Ebola?
Unless you or someone in your family has recently traveled to any of the West African countries affected by the Ebola epidemic, or been in close contact with someone who has, you are not at risk for contracting the Ebola virus.

If you or someone in your family has traveled to any of these locations and you start to have symptoms, notify your healthcare provider immediately and disclose all travel history.

Remember, the beginning of flu season is quickly approaching and many flu symptoms are similar to the initial symptoms caused by the Ebola virus, such as:

  • A fever of 100 degrees or higher
  • A cough and/or sore throat
  • A runny or stuffy nose
  • Headaches and/or body aches
  • Chills, fatigue and/or weakness
  • Nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea (most common in children)

If you or someone in your family experiences any of these symptoms, notify your healthcare provider. And, don’t forget to get the flu vaccine!


John Townes, MD
Medical Director, Infection Prevention and Control
Oregon Health & Science University
Associate Professor of Medicine,
 Division of Infectious Diseases
Oregon Health & Science University and Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center


Oregon Health Authority Frequently Asked Questions
CDC Ebola Information

Your health questions answered: A woman’s risk for stroke and “normal” periods

You ask. OHSU health experts answer. This month, our stroke and pediatric specialists are on the hot seat.

Q. Is a woman’s risk of stroke higher than a man’s?

A. Yes. Of the 6.8 million stroke survivors in America, 3 million are men, while 3.8 million are women. The American Heart and American Stroke Associations recently released stroke guidelines that suggest how woman can lower stroke risk. Women who’ve had pre-eclampsia during pregnancy should talk to their doctors about blood pressure since it can mean a higher lifetime risk of high blood pressure or stroke.

To avoid stroke, women on the pill should be screened for high blood pressure; women who get migraine headaches with aura should quit smoking; and women older than 75 should be screened for an irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation). Existing recommendations to reduce stroke risk for women and men still apply; manage blood pressure, control cholesterol, exercise moderately, eat healthily and quit smoking.

Q. My 12-year-old daughter is worried her period is too heavy. What’s normal?

A. If your period lasts longer than seven days, requires changing a pad or tampon more often than every hour, or occurs more frequently than every 21-45 days, that may be cause for concern. While heavy periods can be common for the first few years of menstruation, if your period causes you to miss out on daily activities or you have the above symptoms, talk to your primary care provider. Bleeding disorders are a common cause of heavy periods, but they are often easily treated with medications such as birth control pills that regulate menstrual cycles and reduce blood loss. If you have heavy periods, please speak up: Untreated bleeding disorders may lead to related problems such anemia (low iron) which can decrease concentration and increase fatigue.


Dr. Helmi Lutsep, M.D., is Vice Chair of Neurology and sees patients at the OHSU Stroke Center, which was recently recognized by the American Heart and Stroke Association for achieving the highest level of performance in stroke care.



Dr. Kristina Haley, D.O., of OHSU’s Doernbecher Children’s Hospital and our Center for Women’s Health, specializes in caring for children and young women with bleeding and clotting disorders and cancer. U.S. News & World Report recently ranked Doernbecher one of the nation’s best in 10 out of 10 pediatric specialties.


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.

Read more

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