Incoming Students Took Unique Paths to Medical School

08/19/10  Portland, Ore.

OHSU School of Medicine’s entering class brings rich life experiences

Top grades and test scores are essential for admission to any medical school, but it takes more than academic prowess to be admitted to Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine. Life experience, motivation for medicine and a passion for helping people also weigh heavily in the selection process.

“Our students are exposed to patients within two weeks of entering medical school. That’s why it’s so important for our admissions committee to consider attributes like poise, altruism and communication skills once students have met our prerequisites for grades and test scores,” said Tana Grady-Weliky, M.D., associate dean for medical education in the OHSU School of Medicine. “Physicians-in-training need character, commitment and heart in addition to a sharp scientific mind.”

David Simmons, 39, of Portland, is a former professional opera singer with a wealth of natural talent, but he says he knew from as early as age 8 that he wanted to be a doctor. “I think the desire to be a doctor came primarily from my mom, an R.N., and her nursing school roommate, Darlene, and literally hours spent poring over mom's Taber's encyclopedic medical dictionary,” explained David. “I was side-tracked into music at college and had a reasonably successful career as a singer for a number of years. But I decided to nuke my life as I knew it in the summer of 2007 and enrolled as a 37-year-old pre-med freshman at Oregon State University. It was terrifying, but now I know I can do this. I am so unbelievably ready to put on that white coat.”

Merrit Hoover, Ph.D., 28, joins this year’s incoming class from NASA, where she worked on “space fog,” an anecdotal phenomenon astronauts report when they exit earth’s atmosphere and experience difficulties focusing and doing ordinary tasks. Merrit was part of a NASA team that investigated whether adapting to altered sensory environments (such as microgravity) reduces the availability of cognitive resources for other tasks. “I began working at NASA in an attempt to take a very research-oriented program and add a practical, human-focused component, hoping to couple science and working with people. I think all along, I knew I wanted to be a doctor, except a few brief years in junior high where I was sure I wanted to be a veterinarian!” Merritt was born in Alaska, raised in Hawaii, and, until recently, lived in the Bay Area, Calif.

Nick Blake, 24, was asked one question more than any other growing up in Sweet Home, Ore.: “So, are you going to be a physician like your Dad?” “It was such an automatic question that I ended up dismissing it just as automatically, without ever seriously thinking about it,” Nick said. After high school, Nick studied engineering at Oregon State University for two years, then got married and quit, returning to Sweet Home where he found a job operating a planer chain in the Lebanon lumber mill. When Nick was laid off, his father told him that he never wanted to be one of those fathers who pressured their children to do what they had done. “And at that moment,” said Nick, “I started to realize that I had the ability to become a physician and use the talents I had been given to help people.”

“On their journey to becoming physicians, these students will likely see many changes to the nation’s health care system as the myriad elements of reform begin to take shape,” said Mark Richardson, M.D., M.B.A., dean of the OHSU School of Medicine. “With the entering class comprising 77 percent Oregon residents, OHSU is educating a new generation of physician leaders who will be deeply engaged in helping to improve health care quality and access right here in Oregon. Already, one-third of all Oregon physicians completed all or part of their training at OHSU, and many of these students will soon join their ranks.”

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OHSU School of Medicine 2010 Entering Class

Female    69
Male        55

Academic Profile
Age (Mean)    26
GPA (Mean)
     Total         3.65
     Science    3.60

Oregon Residents        95
    Degree programs
        M.D.            91
        M.D./M.P.H.      3
        M.D./Ph.D.      1

Non-Residents            29
    Degree programs
        M.D.            19
        M.D./M.P.H.      3
        M.D./Ph.D.      2
        WICHE          5

About Oregon Health & Science University
Oregon Health & Science University is the state's only health and research university and Oregon's only academic health center. OHSU is Portland's largest employer and the fourth largest in Oregon (excluding government). OHSU's size contributes to its ability to provide many services and community support activities not found anywhere else in the state. It serves patients from every corner of the state, and is a conduit for learning for more than 3,400 students and trainees. OHSU is the source of more than 200 community outreach programs that bring health and education services to every county in the state.