Seven tips for spreading cheer, not chocolate, this holiday season

‘Tis the season for overindulging on treats! If you’re hoping to make it through the holidays without adding a notch onto your belt, get out of the mindset that cookies, candies, and treats are the reason for the season.

To be jolly without waking up to a belly that shakes like a bowl full of jelly, try these seven tips for spreading cheer and joy (instead of sugar and fat) this year:

  1. Write a heartfelt note letting the person know how much you appreciate them.
  2. Have your kids create handmade crafts that the recipient will cherish.
  3. Make a small donation in the recipient’s name to a meaningful charity.
  4. Offer to wrap gifts (or do some other needed chore) for an elderly neighbor or a friend with small children who may not have the time or energy to do it themselves.
  5. If you can’t give up the notion of delivering holiday goodies, try this recipe for Spiced Spanish Almonds instead of the usual cookies or candy. Or take it up a notch and deliver a meal to a neighbor who may not have time to cook.
  6. Is there a coworker you’ve been meaning to get to know better? Invite them to lunch to spend some quality time away from the office.
  7. Instead of an office potluck, try organizing a food drive to collect nonperishable food items for those in need (follow these easy steps from the Oregon Food Bank). Similar ideas include a toy drive or a coat drive. Your coworkers will still come together during the holidays, but with a more meaningful and helpful outcome.

If you’re looking for more ways to give back this season, check out this great calendar of volunteer opportunities in Portland. For a special and memorable day, you and your kids can deliver holiday meals to those in need or spend an afternoon helping at the food bank, then take a drive that evening to look at Christmas lights—maybe you’ll even create a new holiday tradition.

Enjoy the holidays – see you in 2014!


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’s Most Read Blog Posts of 2013

2013 was a momentous year for OHSU researchers, faculty, students and patients. From state legislation and a new Portland walk-in clinic, to the story of a baby’s life saved by technology, here’s what you may have missed; a round-up of our most read blog posts of the year:

1. No appointment necessary: New Richmond Walk-in Clinic

Open for business! We were proud to announce the opening of our new OHSU Family Medicine at Richmond Walk-in clinic, offering a number of non-emergency services to local residents – both insured and uninsured.

2. I never imagined I would be diagnosed with cancer at age 23

One of our own, Katie Wilkes, manages the Research Funding and Development Services program at OHSU. On her third day of work on the hill, Katie was also diagnosed with melanoma.

3. Our children deserve stronger protections from cancer-causing tanning devices

Head of the Knight Cancer Institute, Brian Druker led the charge in support of new Oregon legislation that would prohibit kids younger than 18 from accessing indoor tanning devices.

4. The skinny on gluten-free diets

Could a gluten-free diet help with weight loss, digestive issues or other ailments? Is it right for you and your family? OHSU Nutritionist, Tracy Severson, demystifies the popular trend of “going GF.”

5. Visualize this: Telemedicine shows physicians the whole picture

The incredible story of one Doernbecher neonatal fellow, who used telemedicine to save a baby’s life.


Jessica Columbo is OHSU’s Social Media Manager. She can be reached at You can also join the conversation on Facebook or follow OHSU on Twitter.



The First Patient: Reflections on OHSU’s Body Donation Program

 “I am grateful for the opportunity that I have to learn from the donors that which cannot be taught from a book – what it means to be human.” - OHSU Dental student

It is with tears in my eyes that I write this tribute to OHSU’s body donors and their families, whose contribution makes the first year anatomy class both an educational and deeply emotional experience.

Each year, roughly 250 OHSU medical, dental, physician assistant and radiation therapy students take a detailed anatomy class; one with a rigorous academic reputation that requires focus, attention to detail and mastery of the complexities of the human anatomical system.

But our students learn so much more than the names of the bones and muscles – our students learn about the power of sacrifice and compassion during their experience with their donor, their “first patient”. 

I recently attended the 2013 Body Donor Memorial Service, a student-organized event that gave our community an opportunity to express its gratitude and deep respect for donors to the donors’ friends and families.  Many student spoke to their personal experiences in the class, others wrote tributes.  I am amazed at the professionalism and sincerity that our students displayed.  Our future medical professionals are exceptionally empathetic and mature beyond their years.

Even more striking than the student statements was the Presentation of Remembrance, followed by an open forum for family members and friends to speak about their loved ones. Photographs of the donors were displayed, ranging from formal childhood portraits to candid moments. On the screen were images of loving fathers, strong mothers and doting grandparents. Uniformly, all of the pictures captured a bit of the donor’s personality and generosity, something that will be forever carried in not only the hearts of their families and friends, but in the medical practice of our students.

As the families and friends of the donors shared their thoughts, I was struck by the incredible trust they have in our educational system. One woman commented that her family has placed their health in the hands of OHSU numerous times, from the birth of her children to the treatment of cancer, ultimately culminating in her grandmother’s donation. Each time her family has believed that OHSU will provide the best patient care possible; it is incredibly humbling to know that her grandmother trusted that her gift would help educate the next generation of doctors, dentists, Pas and RTs.

I am inspired to know that so many are willing to donate their bodies to help teach not only about anatomy, but about the human experience. Click here for more information on the OHSU Body Donation Program.


Jackie Wirz, Ph. D., is an Assistant Professor and the Biomedical Sciences Information Specialist at the Oregon Health & Science University Library. Her research career has covered diverse topics in molecular biology and biophysics; her professional interests include data visualization, information and data management and research ethics.  Jackie believes in evolution, salted caramel buttercream and Jane Eyre.

OHSU discovery makes TIME’s Top 10 Medical Breakthroughs

OHSU researchers have been on a roll in 2013, continuing to make significant scientific discoveries that make big news, nationally and internationally. In fact, OHSU’s Shoukhrat Mitalipov just made #4 on Time magazine’s list of of Top 10 Medical breakthroughs in 2013, for his work in embryonic stem cells.

Mitalipov led a group of scientists at OHSU’s Oregon National Primate Research Center, who announced in May that they had successfully reprogrammed human skin cells to become embryonic stem cells, capable of transforming into any other cell type in the body. It was the first time scientists had achieved this success, and the accomplishment generated thousands of stories from around the world. The discovery, published in the journal Cell, could be a major step toward stem cells someday being used to treat or cure Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries and a host of other conditions and diseases. This was the second time Dr. Mitalipov made Time‘s Top Ten list. He made the list in 2007 for his lab’s cloning of embryonic stem cells from monkeys.

Mitalipov is hardly alone at OHSU in making big science news in 2013. Dr. Louis Picker, from OHSU’s Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute generated international attention in September for the publication of a paper detailing his development of a vaccine candidate that completely cleared an AIDS-causing virus from the body. Picker’s vaccine worked in monkeys but has huge implications for AIDS in humans, since the viruses that cause the disease in monkeys and humans are so similar.

Another piece of big news came from OHSU’s Knight Cancer Institute. Nike Co-founder Phil Knight recently pledged to donate $500 million to the Knight Cancer Institute, so long as OHSU can raise an additional $500 million by 2015. OHSU and the Knight Cancer Institute have now embarked on a two-year fundraising campaign to end cancer as we know it.

The bottom line? There’s amazing work happening at OHSU, and there’s much more to do.


Todd Murphy is a senior communications specialist with OHSU’s Strategic Communications office. He is the lead communications specialist for the OHSU Brain Institute and also communications about the work of scientists at OHSU’s Oregon National Primate Research Center.

CEO of the Year award

By Joe Robertson, OHSU President

[Editors note: The Portland Business Journal recently named OHSU President Joe Robertson CEO of the Year across all industries. You can read the story here.]

I find individual awards like this embarrassing, in part because I’m by nature an introvert and in part because it’s so obvious to me that the real credit for OHSU’s success goes to our dedicated employees and to our supporters around the state. I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by tremendous talent throughout the organization, including an outstanding faculty and staff, strong mission leaders and an excellent executive team. This is truly a collective effort, truly a team victory for all of OHSU and all of our partners. I share this award with all of you.

This award also reflects the community’s recognition that OHSU is grappling with big challenges and embracing big opportunities.

As we enter the Golden Age of Biomedicine, there is an increasing demand for everything OHSU does – patient care, biomedical research, health professions education, and community service. But as demand rises there has been a corresponding decrease in funding available from traditional sources such as government. This has challenged us in many ways, but it has also created opportunities for us to innovate and lead, to demonstrate our value and attract new sources of funding, to find new and more effective ways to help those we serve.

OHSU is rising to the occasion, and it’s no surprise – we have an extraordinarily collaborative culture and a tenacious and relentless drive to make an impact. We believe we can and will change the landscape of health, and the community has taken notice. This recognition really belongs to all of us, and I truly believe that this is the beginning of a wave of local and national recognition for everything OHSU has to offer.

Stay tuned. The best is yet to come.

Gratitude over gluttony

Do you spend Thanksgiving morning looking forward to the food, only to spend Thanksgiving evening regretting how much you ate? If you’re like most people, this holiday is all about the meal (okay, and maybe a little football too!).

This year, I’m trying a new tactic. I’m spending Thanksgiving thinking, really thinking, about how grateful I am—grateful for my health, for having delicious and nutritious food available to me, for the knowledge and ability to make healthy choices, for having loved ones to share it with, and for this wonderful job that allows me to share it all with you and hopefully make a small difference in the choices you make.

Practice Mindful Eating

In order to maintain this attitude of gratitude when staring down the bird, I’ve begun practicing mindful eating. Mindful eating arose from Buddhist teachings and involves using all of the senses to eat. For more tips on eating mindfully, check out this handy chart.

Try these other tips to ensure you eat more slowly and avoid the overstuffed post-meal stupor:

  • Have a light meal 3-4 hours before Thanksgiving dinner so you’re not famished once the meal is served.
  • Use your non-dominant hand to eat, which slows you down and, when snacking, can reduce your overall intake by 30%.
  • Put your fork down between bites, while you chew.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water before the meal and take sips between bites.

This is arguably the most memorable meal of the year—why not spend it truly focusing on the flavors and texture of the foods instead of seeing how quickly you can reach for seconds?

Think about the traditions and family members that have led to each dish finding its way to your table. Think about how the food is nourishing your body. Eat until you are comfortably full, then stop. You can always have leftovers for lunch the next day. And throughout it all, be grateful for this day that brings together family and friends over one delicious meal.

Happy Thanksgiving!


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 Honored with Oregon Native Chamber’s “Warrior Award”

Oregon Health & Science University is honored to be recognized by the Oregon Native American Chamber “Warrior of the Year” award, which recognize business organizations that have made significant contributions to the Native American community.

OHSU has been a long-time partner of the local Native American community, supporting groups like the Native chamber, NAYA Family Center, the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board, and the Native American Rehabilitation Association.

One of the ways that we have demonstrated support for the Native community is by helping American Indian students achieve their academic and career goals. Over the years, the Center for Diversity & Inclusion and the Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity (AAEO) Department has partnered with the chamber to fund a number of scholarship grants.

Our Native American Employee Resource Group provides support and networking opportunities for Native employees and others who are interested in tribal health issues. To commemorate Native American Heritage Month, the group is hosting a lecture by Thomas Weiser, M.D., M.P.H., medical epidemiologist with the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board. The event is scheduled for 12-1pm on Thursday, Nov. 21 at the Old Library Auditorium.

Read more about OHSU’s contributions to Native American communities here.


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.

Knight Cancer Institute honored as Center of Excellence

We at the Knight Cancer Institute AYA Oncology Program at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) are deeply honored and excited to be named the first Center of Excellence by the Change It Back AYA Cancer Alliance, a program of the Health Care Rights Initiative. This designation reflects OHSU’s ongoing commitment to improve outcomes and quality of care for adolescent and young adult patients, or AYAs.

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As Change It Back explains, these are the people who should be out laughing, loving, crying, hugging, traveling, eating, falling in love… living their lives. We get that. The people involved in the OHSU AYA Oncology Program and the services we facilitate are aligned with the idea of supporting that young adult life through the cancer experience.

In the OHSU AYA Oncology Program we say that cancer doesn’t care how old you are, but we do! Our idea is to bring services to AYAs with cancer that address what is different about having cancer as a young adult. We strive to study of the biology and psychology of the young adult with cancer, defined as a patient between the ages of 15 and 39, to adapt therapies to maximize response based on age, and engage young adults and their supporters throughout care and follow-up. We believe that this is the approach that will improve the outcomes and quality of life for these AYA patients.

To earn this designation, the AYA Oncology Program demonstrated that we have acted to translate ideas into action by facilitating services to AYAs with cancer along these five domains:

  1. Fertility counseling
  2. Health insurance and financial counseling
  3. Clinical trial education and facilitation
  4. Psychosocial support
  5. Transition to surveillance and survivorship services

Many of the efforts of OHSU’s AYA Oncology program have been considered innovative, including:

  • Bringing AYA-aged peer “ambassadors” to patients’ bedsides
  • Distributing what we call fertility toolkits to each cancer ward and clinic that provide information about fertility preservation
  • Partnering with outdoor adventure companies for patient retreats
  • Embedding AYA-directed policies in our institutional review board IRB) submission process, which is how we monitor research programs, as well as our Cancer Committee reviews, and many more processes.

But it has been said that innovations are often ideas, not just things. We are proud of OHSU’s AYA cancer services, but we are equally proud of the unique culture we have fostered towards serving AYAs with cancer at OHSU. It is the AYA-relevant attitude we share and behavior we model that is also being recognized with this Center of Excellence award, and for that it is the people of the AYA Oncology Program who deserve hearty congratulations.

We are always seeking partners to join the AYA Oncology movement. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter, and if you know of a patient in need or you’d like to join our work, email us at


Brandon Hayes-Lattin, MD is a board certified oncologist specializing in blood cancers and stem cell transplants. He established and is the Medical Director of the Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology Program. As a cancer survivor himself,  Dr. Hayes-Lattin is in a unique position to empathize with and understand the needs the young patients he treats.

OHSU School of Nursing and Veterans band together

A new collaboration, dubbed the Veterans Affairs Nursing Academic Partnership (VANAP), will open new channels for OHSU nursing students and create a pool of nurses well-versed in the health care needs of Veterans.

One of only six programs selected by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Oregon collaborative will receive $4 million in funding to promote safe and effective care of Veterans throughout the state. The program funds five faculty positions the first and fifth years of the program, and a total of 10 positions in years two, three, and four.

From OHSU, faculty can provide coaching and mentoring on teaching-learning to clinical experts in the VA system. Conversely, VA nurses will help faculty and students become better versed in the special needs of Veterans.

The VA faculty who are experts on Veteran care will pair up with OHSU’s excellent teaching staff. The cool thing about this grant is it allows staff nurses who have worked in the VA system for years to gain faculty appointments with the OHSU School of Nursing while remaining VA employees.” 

- Michele Cooper, R.N., M.S., nurse educator at the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center

In addition to common acute and chronic medical problems seen in the civilian population, Veterans have conditions associated with military service, such as traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, military sexual trauma and complications from exposure to nuclear, biologic and chemical warfare.

VANAP will impact all undergraduate  nursing students, not just those selected for the program. It will introduce Veteran-centric concepts within the curriculum so that all of our graduates are familiar with the specific needs of the growing vet population.

More from the OHSU School of Nursing in their Fall Connections newsletter.


Lee Lewis Hulk lives and works in Bend, Oregon. She was the Media Relations Director and spokeswoman at OHSU from 1984-1997 and has been writing for the School of Nursing since 1998.

The Casey Eye Institute’s van with a vision

As a resident physician at the Casey Eye Institute, I am afforded many opportunities in my training – not the least of which is the chance to learn from world-renowned faculty. I surgically train in an amazing facility and have the good fortune to be surrounded by an overwhelmingly supportive work environment.

But I have to say, my favorite aspect of training at OHSU hasn’t actually occurred within the walls of the Casey Eye Institute.  It happens on the weekend, when I have a chance to volunteer on the Casey Eye Institute (CEI) Outreach Van.

Eye Care on Wheels

A mobile ophthalmology office, our team travels across the state offering free eye examinations to those who would not otherwise be able to access care.  Through the hard work of the CEI van coordinator, Katie, and our fearless driver, Francisco, we’ve performed thousands of dilated eye exams and dispensed more than one thousand eyeglass prescriptions.  The CEI van does screenings for diabetic eye disease, cataracts and glaucoma and, most importantly, connects our patients with local ophthalmology clinics if they are in need of treatment or follow-up care.

A Lasting Impact

In my three years as a resident, we’ve traveled beyond Portland to Astoria, Hood River, Sisters, and Central Oregon.  I have so many great memories of my patients from the eye van, but my favorite memory is of a young man who was legally blind due to cataracts in both eyes. I eagerly referred him to a local ophthalmology practice for cataract surgery.

Little did I know that that this same patient would return to my clinic two months later on that very same referral! I walked into the exam room and we smiled with mutual recognition. It was an amazing moment. I was privileged to perform both of his cataract surgeries at OHSU, helping this man to see again. In his post-op visits, he told me his restored vision allowed him to get a job at a local restaurant and support his family once more.

It takes a village

The CEI van is so much more than the physicians who volunteer there. On any given weekend there are about 10 volunteers that help to register patients, take histories, hand out readers and keep things working smoothly.  Without their efforts and generous donations from the community, we would not be able to do this important work. It is truly the best part of my job and embodies every reason why I first went into medicine.

Click here to learn more about the Casey van or to become a volunteer.


Stephanie Cramer is a third year Ophthalmology Resident at OHSU.  Stephanie’s  passion is to work in rural Oregon as an Ophthalmologist, and she enjoys volunteering on the Casey Eye Outreach Van.  She will begin her professional career this upcoming August in Astoria, OR as an OHSU Faculty member.

OHSU Health Fair at Pioneer Square.

Why 96,000 Square Miles?

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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