Health Care Equity Week 2015


Note: If you’d like to get involved with HCEW, please contact Taryn Hansen (

First and second year medical students spend a lot of time in classrooms. Despite electives, preceptor experiences and volunteer commitments outside of schoolwork, most of us spend more time than we would like listening to lectures, studying and proving our knowledge on standardized tests. During Health Care Equity Week (April 20 – 26), students from various disciplines are attempting to extend our classroom walls. During the week, we will have various lunchtime talks from local experts in healthcare disparities and efforts to provide affordable, quality healthcare for all. On Sunday, April 26, medical, dental, nursing and pharmacy students will set up camp in a parking garage in Bryant Park to provide health care for Portland’s homeless, hurting and underserved population.

One day of foot cleaning, blood pressure screenings and ten-minute doctor’s visits will not fix many problems, but we are optimistic that we can raise public awareness of health disparities, raise our own awareness and provide some much-needed services. We are studying medicine in the context of significant changes to our health care system, but it is important for us to remember, and see, those whose situations will not change through the Affordable Care Act – those who are still vulnerable due to their living situation, immigration status or reticence to engage in the traditional health care system.

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I Am Bad at Science


This was the conclusion I reached on Friday. What else could explain the fact that my previous experiment, after months of work, did not work, and my current experiment, designed to salvage that last project, is also not working? It had to be me. It is me.  I’m bad at science. There’s no other explanation.

I told this to my PI in his office at 8:30 that morning while we perused my data, my excel spreadsheet stretched to fill his entire monitor. “Well, you know,” he said leaning toward the computer, “I’m not at all convinced there’s a null effect here—”

“I’m bad at the surgeries!” I blurted out before he could finish, hoping to convince him of my ineptitude. “That’s what it is, I guess…I’m just bad at the surgeries.” His eyes narrowed and he tilted his head and told me, “I think you’re taking this too personally.”

And he was right. Of course he was right. But how do we not take these things personally when they feel so personal? How do you separate yourself from the quality of your ideas when the ability of those ideas to produce sexy, significant data is what will propel you forward? How do you “turn it off” when you’re in a career where advancing relies on your ability to quickly and routinely demonstrate that you are “good enough?” Honestly, I don’t know.

I think, like most things in life, it’s about your frame of mind. In the end, it always seems to come down to perspective. When things go wrong you can stew in the failure, or you can rise to the challenge of getting it right. For me, the difference between those two states of mind relies heavily on whether or not I’ve had lunch yet and how many of my coworkers tell me to stop moping.

So maybe I’m not bad at science. Maybe I’m just….a little sensitive. But it was the end of the week, and nothing was working, and I had just filed my taxes – the trifecta – and I just needed to let it out.

On being a medical student – and a human being

StudentSpeak is pleased to present this guest post by Sophia “Sophie” Davis, MS1. Sophie is a first-year medical student in the OHSU School of Medicine’s YOUR M.D. curriculum. She is also participating in the American Medical Association meeting at OHSU April 13-14 to share innovative ideas on transforming medical education.

For a moment, my attention was drawn away from the patient and towards the exchanges between attending and resident physicians—the transfer of surgical instruments, hushed instructions, and steadying assurances. The hand in mine tightened and pulled my body closer to the operating table. “Please, keep talking to me.” It was the dark vulnerability of fear in her eyes that broke me, dissolved my desire to join the two physicians at the foot of the table.

And so I held her hand—just slightly smaller than mine—and was drawn fully into the realm of the patient. I was absorbed with the task of monitoring every flicker of expression on her face. The moment we would stop talking, her body would tighten. When the procedure was finished, she let go of my hand and thanked me, adding that she could not have faced the experience without my company. What she could not have known was the flood of gratitude that I felt towards her. It is a rare privilege to be welcomed and needed by another person in a moment of vulnerability. The explicit trust and expression of human connection were exceptional gifts.

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Students Teaching Students: Passion, Collaboration, Innovation

“Students Teaching Students: Passion, Collaboration, Innovation” originally appeared on the blog, Wing of Zock.

Larissa Guran wrote last month about our “Leadership, Education, and Structural Competency” course at OHSU, and I would like to add to her thoughts. As a reminder, we developed the course to learn facilitative leadership skills, strengthen our understanding of social determinants of health, and develop and facilitate five small-group sessions about structural competency for the new MS1 curriculum. After a session on implicit bias, we introduced the concept of taking an “Affective Time Out” to reflect on the emotional, mental, and intellectual preconceptions we bring to each patient encounter. As we approach our final MS1 session, I wanted to take my own “time out” of sorts and reflect on this experience.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

Collaborative learning works if it’s authentic and student-driven. For this class, three to four students developed the curriculum for each MS1 session, and we workshopped each session for over two hours as a large group. I learned how best to engage with my peers on sensitive issues; for example, we had a somewhat tense discussion during one workshop after which a classmate provided candid feedback about my communication style and body language.

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“Is this the real Caesar’s Palace?” NAPNAP 2015 Annual Conference Las Vegas

This year I had the privilege to experience the 2015 Annual NAPNAP (National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners) Conference in Las Vegas! This was my first exposure to a professional conference for PNPs. I was lucky to have two of my PNP instructors in attendance so I was not completely lost. As I arrived Tuesday night at Caesars Palace, I was already overwhelmed. I was trying to figure out how I was going to experience everything the conference had to offer as well as study for finals (scheduled the Monday after I returned). My journey started on a high note with an upgrade to a spa suite for one night because the hotel was overbooked. After fully enjoying the suite and getting a good night sleep, I was ready for the conference opening session Wednesday morning.

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Interprofessionalism Outside of the Classroom

StudentSpeak is pleased to welcome this guest post from Kelsey Priest, MPH, MS1 (M.D./Ph.D. candidate). Kelsey is the West Coast Regional Leader for the Institute for Healthcare Improvement Open School.

Interprofessionalism. What does it mean? Why is it important? What does it look like? As health professions students of the twenty-first century, we are learning and exploring the answers to these questions in our newly founded interprofessional education curriculum.

I sought out interprofessional extra-curricular activities prior to starting medical school while I was a first-year public health student at Portland State University (PSU). Upon taking my first course in continual health care improvement, I was inspired because of the power of teams and quality improvement methodology to rapidly improve care at both the individual and population level. This inspiration and interest was also connected to my own interprofessional training ambitions (public health and medicine). Since that time, through leadership opportunities with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) Open School I have worked interprofessionally with exceptional learners and faculty across disciplines, institutions, and a wide variety of experiences and talents. Learning and working together around concepts of quality and population health improvement we have created and contributed to small-scale projects to improve health in our local communities.

One of our recent projects for this academic year is the creation of a large-scale interprofessional learning event for students across the IHI Open School West Coast Region. This conference, the West Coast Regional Conference, is the first of its kind and will host 200 interprofessional local and regional students on April 17-18, 2015.

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Instituting “Affective Time Outs”

StudentSpeak is pleased to present this guest post by Larissa Guran, MPH, MS2. Instituting “Affective Time Outs” originally appeared on the blog, Wing of Zock

This year, Oregon Health & Science University rolled out a new medical school curriculum for incoming first year students. YOUR MD is an innovative program, with a completely new schedule and focus; it is replacing the current curriculum, which is retiring after it serves my classmates and me. This is an exciting time to be a student at OHSU, but one of the drawbacks of this transition year is the disconnect between first- and second-year students. Our school has a strong tradition of previous classes supporting and guiding new medical students through the overwhelming experience of the first year. From our Big/Little Sib program to the Sage Books of wisdom and advice passed down to the next class, we’ve worked hard as a class to stay connected to and supportive of the new students. One way we have done it is through an elective called “Leadership, Education, and Structural Competency.”

Through this class, a group of MS2s including myself are learning about structural competency and how to lead discussions, write lesson plans, and build collaborative learning experiences. After months of training and practice, we are leading several small-group sessions to discuss structural competency. This emerging concept in medical education builds medical student skills in dealing with patients’ social determinants of health. Social determinants (like socioeconomic status, built environment, education, and social support) are often considered a “can of worms” by many medical students. In this class, we learned that contextualizing care relative to these social determinants can significantly improve patient outcomes.

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Med School Parenting Made Easy With This One Simple Trick!

When people learn that I am both a medical student and a single mom, there are a few questions they tend to ask. These include:

“Are you insane?”
“Do you have a live-in nanny?”
“How do you manage to do all that while maintaining such a gorgeous complexion and impressive personal physique?”
“Is your family nearby?”
“How do you study with a toddler around?”

The first four questions are easy enough to answer: 1) Yes,  2) HAHA,  3) …okay maybe I made that one up…  4) No. The fifth one can be a challenge, however, and not only because I’m usually cry-laughing too hard to respond.

So, for everyone who’s curious, I am now prepared to reveal the big secret behind how I study with a 2-year-old around  —  I don’t.

I’m sure there are children in the world who are content to be plopped in front of the television for an hour or two while mom makes path flashcards in the next room. There are probably also children for whom crayons and a cardboard box means a solid 30-90 minutes of independent play, as well as children who can be let loose in the backyard to entertain themselves while mom reads her neuroanatomy textbook on the patio.

My daughter is not one of those children.

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That “Oh Wow” Moment: The PNP Student’s First Intensive



There comes a time in every graduate student’s journey when you realize that you are actually going to be a health care provider. Patients will come to you looking for advice and aid, and you will be making decisions to assist them. For some students that is the first term when they are exposed to health care assessment. For me, it was when I was trying to tie a square knot as I was suturing a banana during my first intensive.

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Why cancer is like the worst employee at your company

Apologies for not blogging in a considerably long time (Even my parents have since stopped bookmarking this page. Sorry, Mom and Dad.). As delayed recompense, I thought I would include an excerpt from a small introductory speech I delivered earlier this week.

I was asked to speak about my research for five minutes to a general audience (Five minutes is nothing. Even the most socially uncomfortable scientist can bloviate about their research for hours on end.).

Instead of presenting my audience with an overwrought description of my work, I wanted to leave them with one compelling idea. Nobody except for me (and maybe my non-page-bookmarking parents, and maybe maybe my thesis committee) really cares about my research—on a deeply mechanistic level, anyway.

But they are interested in cancer. For that brief introduction, I have a responsibility to tell the audience something that they would remember, something that hopefully would change the way they thought about the disease. Grandiose, I know, but some famous person once said something about shooting for the moon and landing on the stars, and the answer is yes.

I’m writing this introduction because I want to show how important it is to consider your audience. Recently, I was fortunate enough to participate in a student lunch with a very prominent immunologist. I asked her about how she communicates her science, and she revealed that, regardless of her audience, she tailors every presentation she gives to be suitable for a group of smart high schoolers.

That was shocking to me. “Wouldn’t you run the risk of unnecessarily explaining things to people familiar with your field?” I asked. “Maybe,” she admitted, but it’s worth the fifteen seconds to explain something unnecessary in order to gain an hour of your presentation being understood by everyone.

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Ever wondered what life is like as a student at OHSU? What does it take to become a researcher? Just how gross is gross anatomy? Welcome to the blog that answers these – and many other – questions. It’s students writing first-hand about their commitment to careers in science and health care. It’s honest about the challenges as well as the joys. It’s not always pretty. But it is our story. Thank you for sharing it with us. And please, let us know what you think.

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