Class of 2018 White Coat bios
Sophia Davis first visited OHSU when she was ten-years-old. She recalls, “My best friend at the time had cystic fibrosis and was, for neither the first nor the last time, an inpatient at Doernbecher's Children's Hospital. Perhaps it was just a side thought, perhaps it was a premonition, but I remember thinking to myself, ‘Someday, I'm going to work here.’”
After completing her undergraduate work at Whitman College, in Walla Walla, Washington, the Eugene native then volunteered in a primary care clinic serving eastern Oregon’s rural ranching and logging communities.
When choosing a medical school, Sophia was drawn to OHSU for its pioneering new take on medical education. She said, “OHSU is responding to changes within the medical field and taking on the challenge of preparing students to most effectively meet the new demands within the profession. As a student, I am encouraged to see that OHSU is willing to be introspective and critical enough to recognize that change is needed and to be a leader among medical schools in finding a solution. As the inaugural class, there will certainly be bumps along the way as the new curriculum unfolds, but OHSU has set the precedent for constructive criticism and a spirit of improvement.”
As a member of the inaugural class, Sophia said, “I am thrilled and feel extremely privileged to be going to a medical school that so highly values a hands-on, collaborative approach to learning.” As she looks toward the future, Sophia is particularly excited to explore the fields of internal medicine, primary care, public health and community medicine.
Callia and Ishak Elkhal
Portland natives Callia and Ishak Elkhal are jumping into life with both feet. Not only are the newly-married couple enjoying being in the same city again after a long-distance relationship split between Callia’s undergraduate studies at Oregon State University and Ishak’s at Portland State University, they begin their journey to becoming physicians this fall at OHSU.
Attending OHSU together is truly a dream-come-true for these high school sweethearts. As Ishak said, “OHSU has always been that target in the sky for many years (quite literally while on the Ross Island bridge).”
Both students are eager for the challenges of medical school and speak with passion about their future careers as healers. Ishak challenges himself to remain “open-minded to all the possibilities that are ahead” and looks forward to the breadth of experiences OHSU’s new integrative curriculum provides. Callia anticipates opportunities to “work with kids” and envisions a medical education that will give her the opportunity to explore everything from pediatric critical care to community settings like a neighborhood clinic.
She said, “The northwest is very innovative and OHSU is too with its new curriculum. While initially daunting, the more I learn about what we are going to be learning and why, the more I am looking forward to the start of this new adventure.”
Alex Nielson spent five years in active duty as a Marine Corps Special Operations Combat Medic. After serving in combat zones in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Beaverton native returned to finish an undergraduate degree in biology at the University of Maryland.
Back in the United States, Alex also became involved with organizations like the Wounded Warrior Project and Team River Runner, which helps veterans find healing through paddle sports. Alex’s dual passion for water sports and the veterans community culminated in the summer of 2013 when he helped a fellow veteran become the first blind kayaker to paddle the entire Grand Canyon.
The third–generation Oregonian is thrilled to return home to study at OHSU and hopes to someday help improve emergency care in underserved parts of the state. He said, “Patients and families who live in rural regions face specific challenges when it comes to receiving medical care, and I want to improve that area of Oregon’s medical system. I believe that OHSU’s focus on interprofessional cooperation throughout its curriculum will provide me with the background and skills that I will need to accomplish my goals in the rural environment after graduation.”
While in Portland, Alex plans to continue his work with Team River Runner. He said, “I am very excited about the close partnership between OHSU and the Portland Veteran Affairs Medical Center, and I hope to recruit more participants and volunteers for the program as well as promote awareness for veteran welfare within the community.”
You could say being a physician runs in the family for Kelsey Priest, M.P.H.:H.M.P. Both grandfathers, five aunts and uncles, her brother, her father-in-law (Steven J. Eickelberg, M.D. ’81) and sister-in-law are physicians. It was the experience of working in OHSU’s Balance Disorders Laboratory, however, that cemented her decision to become a physician. “Within a month of working in the lab, I realized I really enjoyed connecting with the folks who were volunteering to be in our research studies and learning about how research could be used to improve their care. I decided then that I wanted to become a physician,” said Priest.
Fast forward five years. Priest earned her Master of Public Health degree from Portland State University while working at OHSU in both the Balance Lab and the Department of Medicine’s pulmonary and critical care division, she served as the first president of the joint PSU & OHSU Institute for Healthcare Improvement Open School (IHI-OS) Chapter and is the current IHI-OS Regional Leader for the West Coast Region.
Now, she’s excited to be starting medical school just when a new curriculum is launching. “OHSU is facing today’s health system challenges head-on by preparing future physicians for the changing landscape. Our generation is well poised to make a difference.” Priest’s long-term goal is to join the faculty at OHSU, where in addition to providing patient care, she can help influence the future of health care by teaching the next generation of medical professionals and continue her already substantive contributions to quality improvement research in health care.
Alex Polston from Banks, Oregon already knows his way around OHSU. This Portland State University (PSU) graduate has worked for the past three years as a research assistant in OHSU’s Vollum Institute. With this background, the first-year medical student is particularly “interested in seeing how novel genetic and epigenetic discoveries from our research labs will translate to the clinic.” He said, “We are entering the age of personalized medicine and it’s an exciting frontier. I don’t think there has ever been a better time to join the medical profession.”
At PSU, Alex pursued undergraduate work in Political Science and the ethos of service imbues his perspective on medical school, “Ever since high school I knew that I wanted to work in public service. My mother was a single parent and our experience living below the poverty line attracted me to working in the community around issues of social justice … It was while working on healthcare policy when I realized that physicians are some of the most powerful agents of compassion and change in our communities.”
During his medical school program, Alex is excited to pursue interests in family medicine and rural health. He said, “In my opinion, there is no better place to learn how to be a skilled, yet caring, physician in the 21st century than OHSU.”
Michael Turner wasn’t always sure he wanted to be a doctor. In fact it took a lot of soul searching, a stint in the Marine Corps, an undergraduate degree in psychology from the Willamette Valley’s Corban University, and time spent working as a scribe in the emergency department at Salem Hospital before his path became clear. The California native found his calling as a volunteer in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and with the homeless community in Salem, Oregon. He said, “I realized that I felt most myself when helping others and whatever I do, it had to be a helping profession. Since health care is a very basic need which people on the margins do not always have adequate access to, medicine seemed like a great fit.”
After making Oregon his adopted home for nine years, Michael is excited to begin his medical school career as part of the inaugural class in OHSU’s new curriculum. He said, “I am excited to be receiving the benefit of a lot of intentional thinking and planning.” Michael recently spent the summer in Mexico learning Spanish so he may better serve his future patients.
Class of 2018 by the numbersTotal number of first-year students = 139
Female = 66
Male = 73
Highest Degree at Entry
Baccalaureate = 124
Master's = 11
Doctorate = 4
Oregon residents or Oregon heritage = 114
MD = 110
MD/MPH = 4
Non-Resident = 25
MD = 16
MD/MPH = 2
MD/PhD = 4
WICHE = 3
Age (Mean) = 26