The evolving human: Will our kids be another species?

We live very differently than our ancestors did several hundred years ago – we have more food, have indoor plumbing and are generally more clean. We also hve more scientific knowledge to combat illnesses. Three hundred years ago, almost no one with a serious nut allergy lived long enough to reproduce.

Today, despite an environment in which food allergies have increased by 50 percent in just over a decade, 17 million Americans who suffer from food allergies survive, thrive and pass their genes onto the next generation.  We are living more comfortably, and we’re living longer.

Life may seem easier, but is it safer? 

As we began using antibiotics, bathing and living a more sanitary lifestyle, the bacteria in our bodies changed, thus making humans much less diverse. Food is more readily available and far more processed and the rate of human obesity has nearly doubled in just the last 35 years.  The rate of autism rose 131 percent from 2001 to 2010.

Modern day advances have not only changed our lifestyle and lifespan but also how our brains operate. We process more information in a day than our ancestors did in a lifetime. What do all these things mean with regard to how humans and the rest of the planet will evolve?

Meet Juan Enriquez, 2015 Tanabe Address speaker 

Best-selling author Juan Enriquez doesn’t just believe we will evolve into a different species, but that we are evolving now. Evolution used to take thousands of years and could occur because of one minute change. Mr. Enriquez believes the number of large scale changes that have taken place in just the last few hundred years is speeding up the rate of human evolution.

Though changes like these may seem unsettling, we live in a time of tremendous opportunity: New advances in biotechnology help alleviate the cruel forces of natural selection, from saving premature babies to developing gene therapies for various health conditions.

If technology can help us control our genes, what’s next? Future generations could become great caretakers of the planet, as well as a more diverse, resilient and intelligent species – but only if we make the right choices now.

Join futurist Juan Enriquez at the Newmark Theatre on Wednesday, November 4, at 7 p.m. as he conducts a sweeping tour of how humans are changing the course of evolution – sometimes intentionally, sometimes not.

Get a sneak peek by checking out these top three Juan Enriquez talks:
Are we evolving into a different species?” (via NPR)
The life code that will reshape the future” (TED Talk)
Will our kids be a different species?” (TED Talk)

For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit
Students (with ID): $10
OHSU employees (with ID): $20
General admission: $25*

*Use promo code “OHSU20″ to receive 20 percent off general admission tickets. 


About The Calvin and Mayho Tanabe Address
The Calvin and Mayho Tanabe Address was established in 2014 to offer differing perspectives on important topics. Each year a speaker is selected to bring diverse ideas to the community and encourage a free exchange of ideas.

Go Green with OHSU: Join the EcoChallenge

How does protecting the environment matter for human health? That’s something I think about a lot, along with my fellow Green Team members.

Public health and environmental protection are deeply intertwined, so it makes sense that one of the ways OHSU promotes healing is through sustainable practices.

LEEDThe Green Team is a group of employees who are committed to sustainability and the environment, and work together, many of them on a volunteer basis, to advance green initiatives at the institution.

Our members have implemented programs ranging from recycling plastics in the operating room to purchasing meat raised without added antibiotics, to the big obvious ones you can see like our energy and water efficient LEED buildings and infrastructure for public transit, biking, and walking.

Currently, we are focusing on making our sustainability agenda even more coordinated, strategic, and robust. Our goal is to help OHSU continue to promote healing throughout our region and beyond.

One way we like to show our commitment to sustainability is through the Northwest Earth Institute’s EcoChallenge. We have an OHSU team and we would love it if you joined us! For two weeks, October 15-29th, we challenge you (and ourselves) to change one habit that benefits both you and the planet.

The EcoChallenge website has many suggestions for habits to start. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • I’ll wash my clothes using cold water and air dry them.
  • I’ll disable screen savers — they use 28% more energy; I will put the computer to sleep instead.
  • I plan to check for leaks: dripping faucets can waste 20 gallons of water per day.

Remember: start small, from wherever you are, and don’t let perfect get in the way of good. Change is hard – but rewarding – and any progress helps. Thanks for all you do to protect the environment and advance public health! The OHSU Green Team salutes you.


Orly headshot (2)Orly Stampfer is the OHSU Sustainability Coordinator. Along with her fellow Green Team members, she promotes sustainable initiatives at OHSU which advance environmental health for our patients, our staff, and our larger community.

The Tragedy in Roseburg

The awful events at Umpqua Community College have profoundly affected the nation and amplify the fear and foreboding of other tragedies too close to home. The rapidity, intensity and repetitiveness with which the news about these events has been spread is symptomatic of the deep wounds inflicted by this senseless violence.

The families that have lost their children and loved ones, the traumatized friends, townspeople, police, and health care personnel are burdened with the unbearable. Others who have experienced tragic losses struggle with re-awakened pain.  And parents, sometimes overwhelmed with a sense of dread, try to reassure their children as they send them off to school while their heart’s desire is to keep them home and safe.

What can anyone do in such tragic circumstances?

Photo via

Photo via

First, we can help the victims.  

And we need to recognize that the victims of such events are not only local.  The genius of our capacity for imagination and empathy carries with it a dark side, our ability to suffer emotionally when confronted with the suffering of others. This guide, from the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress, can be a help to physicians dealing with patients and parents helping their children.  Those who have been more severely affected should not hesitate to ask for help.

Second, we can seek to understand. 

It helps us, in dealing with tragedy, to understand why and how it occurred. The focus we see in the media on the law enforcement investigation of the event, the search for background information on the shooter, the multiple radio and television interviews of psychiatrists and psychologists represent this deep need to understand and explain.

In part, our desire for explanation helps with a sense of control. We know from studies of the victims of disasters, abductions and assaults that people will often blame themselves rather than accept the alternative that they were actually helpless to control what happened to them. The acknowledgement of helplessness and blamelessness is essential in resolving the guilt that survivors of an attack or disaster often feel.

It is also helpful to understand that our sense of vulnerability is not an accurate reflection of objective risks.  Typically we substantially overestimate the risks of events like shootings and plane crashes while underestimating the risk events that are much commoner such as automobile accidents.  This realization can help to reestablish a sense of safety and trust in the environment.

Third, we can seek to prevent such tragedies. 

There is much to be done in this regard, some of it politically controversial, and much of it a question of societal priorities. But that is a discussion for another day. For now, we must grieve the dead, comfort the living and tend to our own emotional health.

Find additional guidance for parents on our Healthy Families blog to help children understand and process tragedy.


KeepersGeorge96Dr. George A. Keepers is a Carruthers Professor and Chair of OHSU’s Department of Psychiatry.

A healing duo: Meet Hunter and Belinda

Belinda and HunterWhen Belinda and Sean McCully went to adopt a dog, they knew Hunter was the one.

“We instinctively knew he was going to be a good dog,” Belinda said.

Hunter, a 6-year-old Labrador/hound mix, has proven to be much more than a gentle, loyal pet. He and Belinda, a Research Assistant Professor with the Division of Trauma in the Surgery Department at OHSU, team up to provide animal-assisted therapy to Cardiovascular ICU patients, families, faculty and staff.Hunter

“He’s very intuitive,” Belinda said. “This is true for a lot of animals – they go straight for a person who needs some love. He’s definitely the kind of dog who loves to please and he knows that he can help.”

Before they began volunteering, Hunter and Belinda completed a 6-week animal therapy course through Pet Partners. The course included general obedience training and various scenarios designed to demonstrate Hunter’s ability to avoid distractions and keep calm in busy environments. As Hunter’s handler, Belinda also learned how to assess situations and instruct Hunter to respond appropriately.

Belinda and Hunter volunteer every other Friday, checking in with care teams to see if there are patients who might benefit from a visit. It’s difficult to make it down a hallway without being stopped by curious visitors and staff, Belinda said. The three things she hears most often from friendly passersby are “He’s so soft,” “I love his badge!” and “Can I take him home with me?”

One of the most important kinds of support Hunter and Belinda provide for patients is a sense of normalcy for patients missing their home routines.

“The patients who really love to see him are the ones who have pets at home they can’t be with,” Belinda said.

Faculty and staff (including Sean, who is a surgical resident) also cherish their time with Hunter, often stooping down next to him for a few moments of peace with the surprisingly soft dog.

“These visits are just as beneficial for staff as they are for patients,” Belinda said. “Families, too, are able to have a few moments of relief and detach from the situation a bit.”

Seeing relief on people’s faces – even if it’s just for five minutes – makes the volunteer work well worth it.

Paying it forward on the Casey Outreach Van

I came to the United States from Korea when I was 14 years old. I did not come from a wealthy family, and frequently needed a place to stay during school breaks. When people kindly opened their homes to me, I asked how I could repay them. Their answer always was, “Help others in need when you can.”park-casey

Fast forward to 2014, when I became a resident at OHSU Casey Eye Institute. Casey’s commitment to community service was one of the reasons I was attracted to its residency program.

For example, Casey operates an outreach van that travels across Oregon to provide free dilated eye exams to medically underserved adults.

When I was given the opportunity to have an elective rotation on the Casey van, I jumped at the chance to be part of this effort.

In August, a team that included Casey outreach medical director Mitchell Brinks, M.D., M.P.H., my wife, sister, and three other volunteers spent a week traveling to three tribal health clinics in remote areas where the van had never before visited.

DSC08015Each tribal health center partnered with the Casey team and worked hard to gather event participants, organize logistics and help out with the screenings.

The team was met with enthusiasm and gratitude. One woman, when asked what the van meant to her, began to cry and said, “Tears of joy.”

Another patient considered us a godsend. Despite blurry vision, she had not seen an eye doctor in 15 years because she could not afford the cost of an eye exam or eyeglasses.

The word “godsend” means a lot to me. It reminds me of when people helped me in times of desperation. I believe they were literally sent to me by God.  And I feel very privileged that I can pay that generosity forward.

Yet many may not realize how much we gain from the experience. The van is literally a vehicle for Casey and its volunteers to make a positive impact on the lives of individuals and the health of their communities.

It’s truly an honor and privilege to be part of Casey, which has empowered me to make my dream and passion become reality!



Dong-Wouk Park, M.D., is a second-year ophthalmology resident at OHSU Casey Eye Institute.

Three Common Misconceptions about Melanoma

Former President Jimmy Carter shared recently that he is being treated for four spots of melanoma on his brain, sparking a national conversation and revealing some misconceptions that persist about melanoma.

In light of this conversation, we asked renowned melanoma researcher Dr. Sancy Leachman to dispel some of the most common myths she hears about this disease.

Myth #1: Brain cancer starts in the brain.

Fact: Often, people think that cancers that are in the brain start in the brain, but many cancers, especially melanoma, start on the skin but spread to the brain or the liver or other organs. The way that cancer kills you is through the metastasis that keeps vital organs from performing life-critical functions.

Myth #2: Men are diagnosed with melanoma more frequently than women.

Fact: Because melanoma rates are highest in men over 55, like Jimmy Carter, many people don’t realize that the rates of melanoma are increasing in young women and that melanoma is the leading cancer in women aged 26-29.

Myth #3: Sun exposure from my past doesn’t put me at risk for melanoma.

Fact: Just because sun exposure happened many years ago doesn’t mean your overall risk of developing melanoma is less, your cumulative sun damage and genetic risk (red hair, light skin, family history, etc) hasn’t changed.

Interested in helping researchers figure out how to best prevent, treat and detect melanoma? Join the new Melanoma Community Registry.


CHErFRCUYAAXaYmSancy Leachman, M.D., Ph.D., is a physician-scientist who chairs the Department of Dermatology and is the director of the Melanoma Research Program at the Knight Cancer Institute. She is a dermatologist using basic science research and state-of-the-art technology to combat skin cancer.



Intel & OHSU Announce Collaborative Cancer Cloud at Intel Developer Forum

Each year millions of people all over the world, including more than 1 million patients in the United States, learn that they have a cancer diagnosis. Instead of going through painful chemotherapy that can kill healthy cells along with cancerous cells, what would happen if those patients were able to be treated as individuals based on their specific genome sequencing, and a precision treatment plan could be tailored specifically for their disease? And what if it could happen within 24 hours?

Today, I announced at the Intel Developer Forum that we are setting our sights on making this scenario a reality through an ambitious, open Platform-as-a-Service solution called the Collaborative Cancer Cloud.

The Collaborative Cancer Cloud is a precision medicine analytics platform that allows institutions to securely share patient genomic, imaging and clinical data for potentially lifesaving discoveries. It will enable large amounts of data from sites all around the world to be analyzed in a distributed way, while preserving the privacy and security of that patient data at each site.

The end goal is to empower researchers and doctors to help patients receive a diagnosis based on their genome and potentially arm clinicians with the data needed for a targeted treatment plan. By 2020, we envision this happening in 24 hours — All in One Day. The focus is to help cancer centers worldwide—and eventually centers for other diseases—securely share their private clinical and research data with one another to generate larger datasets to benefit research and inform the specific treatment of their individual patients.

The Rise of Precision Medicine                        

Precision medicine – taking into account individual differences in people’s genes, environments, and lifestyles – is one of the biggest of the big data problems and is on the cusp of a remarkable transformation in medicine. We view genomics as the first wave of precision medicine, and we’re working with our partners to drive adoption of genomic sequencers, genomic appliances, and cloud-based genomic analytics. With the Collaborative Cancer Cloud, we are combining next generation Intel technologies and bio-science advancements to enable solutions that make it easier, faster, and more affordable for developers, researchers, and clinicians to understand any disease that has a genetic component, starting with Cancer.

Initially, Intel and the Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) will launch the Collaborative Cancer Cloud. We expect two new institutions will be on board by 2016, addressing the critical need for larger patient pools and practitioner awareness. And from there, we can open up this federated, secure Collaborative Cancer Cloud network to dozens of others institutions—or let them create their own–to accelerate the science and the precision treatment options for clinicians to share with their patients. They can also apply it to advance personalized research in other diseases that are known to have a genetic component, including Alzheimer’s, diabetes, autism, and more.

In the same timeframe, we also intend to deliver open source code contributions to ensure the broadest developer base possible is working on delivering interoperable solutions. Open sourcing this code will drive both interoperability across different clouds, and allow analytics across a broader set of data – resulting in better insights for personalized care.

A Complementary Effort

You may be asking, “Haven’t we seen efforts like this before?” There have been numerous multi-institution partnerships formed to utilize big data analytics to look for insights about cancer and its treatment. Our focus on the federation/distribution of private datasets is complementary to the exciting work that’s happening to make public data sets more accessible to research. In CCC, each partner will maintain control of its patients’ data, while the shareable cancer treatment knowledgebase grows in availability and in impact. We want to help harness the power of that data — in a way that benefits clinicians, researchers and patients with a better knowledgebase and preserves security and privacy. By securely sharing clinical and research data amongst many institutions while maintaining patient privacy, the entire research community can benefit from insights revealed in large data cohorts.

In the end, precision medicine will only be as precise as available data allows. To better understand complex diseases like cancer, the medical and technology industries must collaborate to make the growing wealth of insights resulting from secure analysis of public and private genetic datasets accessible for the patient’s benefit. And if we do, we can turn an agonizing and uncertain process for the patient into a personalized process that occurs all in one day.

We encourage you to view the links below to learn more about our work with OHSU:

OHSU’s Exacloud

Collaborative Analytics for Personalized Cancer Care

Learn more about precision medicine and genomic code research at these resources:


profile-image-display.jspaEric Dishman is the Director of Proactive Health Research at Intel Corporation. This post originally appeared on Intel’s Health & Life Sciences blog.

Three Questions for OHSU’s Dr. Karen Oh

Meet Karen Oh, M.D., associate professor of diagnostic radiology in the OHSU School of Medicine and Director of Breast KarenOh_IMG_9296-webImaging at OHSU.

Dr. Oh functions as part of a multidisciplinary breast team that includes subspecialized breast surgeons, radiation oncologists, hematologic oncologists, genetic counselors and breast health nurses.

Dr. Oh recently spoke with the OHSU School of Medicine about developments in diagnostic radiology – including the passage of new legislation that aims to educate patients on how breast tissue density may impact cancer detection – and advancements she hopes to see in the future.

What’s been the most interesting development in your area in the last two years?

The Oregon Breast Density Rule was passed and has been in effect since January 2014. This state-specific rule was first passed in Connecticut, and in the Oregon legislature was sponsored by one of our own faculty members, Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward. Senate Bill 420 mandates that mammogram facilities must provide specific lay person verbiage to patients with dense breast tissue, in an attempt to educate patients on how breast tissue density may impact mammographic cancer detection.

This paragraph of information opens discussions between patients and their providers about whether additional breast screening tests are warranted. More information can be found on this State of Oregon website.

What is the most important aspect of support that OHSU provides to you currently and how would you like this or other support to grow in the future?

The most important aspect of support that OHSU provides is the dedication to excellent patient care. OHSU encourages the multidisciplinary approach, and our patients can only benefit from this.

Within the areas where I work, including the Breast Center, Center for Women’s Health and Perinatal Center, I am lucky to work with providers and staff from many different specialties. We come together on a daily basis as peers to collaborate on patient care. Allowing providers the time and resources to continue this type of collaboration is important for the future of health care at OHSU, and I would like to see increasing support toward this goal.

A hypothetical: If you could have one tool that would solve a seemingly impenetrable problem in your work, what would it do? You have unlimited resources to design this tool, so think big.

Much of my clinical time and efforts are spent in the Breast Center. There, I interpret breast imaging studies and perform biopsies of breast lesions in an attempt to diagnose breast cancer at an early stage. The difficulty with breast cancer is that most instances occur in women who have no known genetic predisposition. Unlike smoking and lung cancer, there is no known direct cause for breast cancer. We just don’t know why women get breast cancer, which is why screening mammography was implemented.

However, there is controversy about screening mammography and much discussion about over-diagnosis, or the diagnosis of a cancer that would not ultimately be apparent to a patient if we hadn’t found it on a screening exam. While this may be true for some breast cancers, we don’t know which cancers will eventually be fatal. If there were a way to know which cancers at diagnosis would be fatal, this key information would significantly mitigate the effects of over-diagnosis and over-treatment.

This blog post originally appeared on OHSU’s internal “Inside the SOM” blog, authored by Jennifer Smith, Senior Communications Specialist in the OHSU School of Medicine.

Memories of a White Coat

white coat ceremonyLast Friday, it was my pleasure to serve as the emcee for the M.D. Class of 2019 White Coat Ceremony and the J.S. Reinschmidt Lecture.

The white coat is a time honored tradition in the medical field, marking an important step in each future physician’s journey.

I remember when I was sitting in that seat, during my own White Coat Ceremony at the University of Utah Medical School. I was filled with plenty of emotions – happiness, excitement, nervousness, fear of the unknown, but above all, hope about the future. While that was 19 years ago, it really doesn’t seem that long ago!

In my address to students, I asked them to visualize their future selves: as seasoned physicians and lifelong learners, as public servants who provide comfort, as collaborators who work seamlessly with other health care professionals, as leaders in their future fields.

In the first days and weeks of one’s medical school experience, it may be hard to see that future self. But just as countless physicians have done before, it is important that today’s students trust that the process will lead them to a crisp, clear and obvious end.

Last week, 146 students made their first step in a journey that I remember like it was yesterday. At the time of my White Coat, I had followed my dream of going to medical school, and I quickly realized that caring for children as a pediatrician was my calling.

My path through medical school and pediatrics residency training at OHSU culminated when I was fortunate to join the faculty as one of three members of a new group of pediatric hospitalists at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. As a medical student and resident, I had not heard of nor worked with anyone called a “hospitalist” and yet now the field is the fastest growing pediatric specialty in the U.S.

Today, as an educator, I’m looking forward to seeing where the road leads for the Class of 2019.


Tracy Bumsted

Tracy Bumsted, M.D., MPH, FAAP, has been the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Medical Education at the OHSU School of Medicine since 2013. Dr. Bumsted is a practicing board certified pediatrician on the inpatient unit at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, where she is a member of the Division of Pediatric Hospital Medicine in the Department of Pediatrics. 

Childhood hearing loss inspires OHSU researcher’s breakthrough

As a child, Peter Steyger, was cured of meningitis. Unfortunately, the same drug that saved him caused significant and long-lasting hearing loss.

Now a neuroscience researcher at OHSU, Dr. Steyger and his team have found patients stricken with dangerous bacterial infections are at greater risk of hearing loss than previously recognized.

We sat down with Dr. Steyger to learn some more about his research.

That’s a great photo of you with your speech therapist. Can you tell us how your personal experiences have shaped your research?

Peter Steyger underwent speech therapy in 1968 at the University of Manchester with Gordon Campbell and his mother, Peggy Steyger.

Peter Steyger underwent speech therapy in 1968 at the University of Manchester.

The photo was taken of me with my mother and Gordon Campbell, a speech therapist and coach for my mother, who was to teach me how to listen and talk. Gordon Campbell was at the University of Manchester (UK) at the time, where my mother and I would attend sessions with him to improve our own daily speech therapy sessions.

At the time of the photo, I was about six years old, and had been receiving speech therapy for close to three years.  This speech training allowed me to be mainstreamed and obtain a regular grammar school education.

I was in speech therapy because I had lost my hearing though meningitis, streptomycin treatment, and as the recent manuscript showed, the combination of infection-induced inflammation likely potentiated the ototoxic effect of these aminoglycosides.

My own experience has informed my research, primarily through the realization that most ototoxicity experiments are done in healthy pre-clinical models, and yet aminoglycosides are only given to very sick patients to save their lives.

What’s been the most interesting development in your area in the last two years?

One of the most interesting developments in auditory neuroscience that has affected our research in ototoxicity is the realization that the cochlea is not an immunologically-privileged site, and that in fact the cochlea and inner ear does in fact respond to vascular and immunological activation.

Lower power image of the cochlear coils, containing hair cells

Lower power image of the cochlear coils, containing hair cells

This has been characterized by our colleague, Dennis Trune, who established that the cochlea is immunologically activated by middle ear infections, and this could alter auditory function. More importantly, these inner ear changes may alter auditory function.

What’s next for you? What projects are you currently working on/looking forward to?

To follow up on our existing data and establish whether it is inflammation in general that potentiates drug-induced hearing loss, or if there is something specific about bacterial-induced inflammation that potentiates drug-induced hearing loss.

We also want to determine if individuals with bacterial infection and inflammation have a greater prevalence of hearing loss.

What is the most important aspect of support that OHSU provides to you currently and how would you like this or other support to grow in the future?

Peter Steyger

Peter Steyger, Ph.D.

OHSU has a vast array of research expertise in a wide variety of areas that are surprisingly integrated when it comes to translating bench science into bedside practice.

I have found our basic and clinical colleagues to be very collegial, collaborative and supportive. This is further enhanced by the seed-funding of newly-innovative ideas (acorns) into thriving translational and clinical research projects that support our communities statewide and globally.

Click here to learn more about Dr. Steyger’s work with the Oregon Hearing Research Center.


This blog post originally appeared on OHSU’s “On the Brain” blog.

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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