OHSU History

Archive photo of the Marquam Hill campus.

Thank you, Oregonians, for supporting OHSU in our pursuit to translate complex information into better health since 1887. Because of you, we have built a world-class academic health center where healing, teaching and discovery come together every day to improve the health of people in Oregon — and around the world.

In October 1887, the University of Oregon established a department of medicine in Northwest Portland. Since those first building blocks were laid, the university has dramatically expanded both in form and function, but its core values and mission remain the same.


1867: Less than a quarter century after the Oregon Trail opened, and only eight years after Oregon joined the Union, Willamette University welcomed its first medical students to its Salem campus.

1877: Willamette University’s medical program relocates to Portland.

1880: The Oregon Railroad and Navigation Co. buys 360 acres, sight unseen, atop Marquam Hill. The plan was to build a railroad depot, terminal and more.

1887: The University of Oregon charters a state medical school in Portland and begins the University of Oregon Medical Department.

1898: The Oregon College of Dentistry is founded in Portland.

1899: The Tacoma College of Dental Surgery moves to Portland. The following year, both schools merge to form the North Pacific Dental College, later renamed the North Pacific College of Oregon.

1915: Willamette University and the University of Oregon merge programs to form the University of Oregon Medical School.

1917: The present 116-acre Marquam Hill campus gets its start with a 20-acre tract donated by the Oregon-Washington Railroad and Navigation Co. and an 88-acre tract donated by the family of C.S. Jackson, former publisher of the Oregon Journal. The statewide Child Development and Rehabilitation Center Service Program is established, initially in the School of Medicine to provide diagnostic, treatment and rehabilitation services for disabled children.

1919: The University of Oregon Medical School moves from downtown Portland to its present location on Marquam Hill in Southwest Portland. The first building, Mackenzie Hall, was named after Kenneth A.J. Mackenzie, M.D., the school's second dean. Mackenzie was also the railroad’s surgeon. He convinced the railroad company to donate the as it had proved useless for the railroad's purposes. The University of Oregon in Eugene begins offering courses in nursing.

1920: The Portland School of Social Work begins offering courses in public health nursing.

1923: Multnomah County Hospital opens on the Marquam Hill campus and contracts with the medical school to provide services to indigent patients.

1926: The University of Oregon establishes a five-year program leading to a degree in nursing. The following year, a nursing dormitory is built on campus. Doernbecher Memorial Hospital for Children is built on the Marquam Hill campus and becomes the first full-service children's hospital in the Pacific Northwest.

1928: The University of Oregon Medical School takes over operation of Doernbecher.

1931: The outpatient clinic building is constructed and opens on Marquam Hill, allowing medical and nursing students and residents to gain practical experience.

1932: The Department of Nursing Education begins.

1945: The University of Oregon Dental School begins.

1954: The Child Development and Rehabilitation Center facility is built on Marquam Hill.

1956: The Medical School Hospital is built on Marquam Hill. The University of Oregon Dental School moves from Northeast Oregon Street to its present location on Marquam Hill.

1960: The Department of Nursing Education becomes the University of Oregon School of Nursing in Portland within the Oregon State System of Higher Education.

1973: University Hospital is created through the merger of Multnomah County Hospital, Medical School Hospital and the outpatient clinics.

1974: University of Oregon Health Sciences Center is formed as an independent institution under the direction of the Oregon State System of Higher Education. The schools, hospitals and all of the university's programs are brought together under one umbrella to create this new center, which becomes Oregon's only academic health center and one of 125 in the nation.

1981: The institution is renamed Oregon Health Sciences University.

1987: Construction is completed on the Vollum Institute for Advanced Biomedical Research building. The institute is dedicated to the study of the brain and nervous system at the molecular level. OHSU is designated one of two Level 1 trauma care centers in Oregon.

1989: The Center for Ethics in Health Care is created to promote interdisciplinary study of ethical issues in health care. The State Office of Rural Health becomes part of OHSU to help rural areas better address their unique health care needs. The Area Health Education Centers program is established to promote better access to adequate health care and to facilitate medical student primary care clerkships.

1990: The Dotter Interventional Institute is established at OHSU to carry on the work of the pioneer of interventional radiology.

1991: Casey Eye Institute opens on Marquam Hill. Construction is completed for the Biomedical Information Communication Center, which provides library, audiovisual and teleconferencing services; public computer services; and health informatics.

1992: The Center for Research on Occupational and Environmental Toxicology building opens. CROET is one of the first facilities in the world to combine the use of molecular and cell biology to study the adverse effects of chemicals on the body and, in particular, the nervous system. The Veteran's Affairs Medical Center bridge opens. The 660-foot-long suspended pedestrian enclosed skybridge is the longest in North America. The School of Nursing building opens.

1993: The School of Nursing begins coordinating a statewide integrated nursing education system that includes programs at OHSU, Eastern Oregon State University, Southern Oregon State University and the Oregon Institute of Technology. The Oregon Health Policy Institute  an interdisciplinary center of OHSU, Portland State University and Oregon State University  is created as a resource center for collecting, analyzing and disseminating health policy information. Physicians Pavilion opens on Marquam Hill to provide modern outpatient services.

1994: The Oregon Regional Primate Research Center joins OHSU as an affiliate research institute.

1995: OHSU becomes a public corporation and separates from the Oregon State System of Higher Education. Governance of OHSU changes from the Board of Higher Education to the OHSU Board of Directors, whose members are nominated by the governor and approved by the Oregon Senate.

1996: University Hospital is renamed OHSU Hospital. The first of OHSU's primary care neighborhood clinics opens in Southwest Portland.

1997: Planning begins for the Center for Women's Health, and an interim director is named. The center offers a place where women's concerns can be addressed in a comprehensive, comforting and supportive manner. The center uses a collaborative model that encourages women to actively participate in their care. The Oregon Cancer Center is established with a grant from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

1998: The Mark O. Hatfield Research Center is dedicated. The center houses a variety of basic and clinical research programs that have the potential to spark new therapies. It includes such programs as the Clinical Research Center, the Oregon Hearing Research Center, Doernbecher Children's Hospital Pediatric Research Laboratories, the Bone and Mineral Unit's osteoporosis studies, the Oregon Stroke Center, and the Oregon Cancer Center. Doernbecher Children's Hospital's new state-of-the-art pediatric medical complex is opened. Built with private funding and bond revenues, Doernbecher provides the widest range of health care services for children in the region. The Neurological Sciences Institute joins the university as its fifth research unit. NSI researchers conduct research to advance understanding of the brain and neurological disorders. The Oregon Regional Primate Research Center becomes an OHSU research unit.

2001: The Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute and Neurological Sciences Institute buildings open on OHSU's west campus. OHSU's name changes to Oregon Health & Science University as Gov. John Kitzhaber signs legislation expanding OHSU's mission and paving the way for a merger with the Oregon Graduate Institute of Science and Technology. The merger took place July 1, 2001. Oregon Cancer Center changes its name to OHSU Cancer Institute.

2002: Oregon Regional Primate Research Center changes its name to Oregon National Primate Research Center. Marquam Hill is designated a "plan district" by the Portland City Council.

2003: OHSU breaks ground for its first building in the South Waterfront District. OHSU breaks ground for a new research building on Marquam Hill campus.

2004: The Schnitzer Investment Corp. donates nearly 20 acres of riverfront property in South Waterfront to OHSU.

2005: The Biomedical Research Building opens on Marquam Hill.

2006: Peter O. Kohler Pavilion opens as a state-of-the-art patient care facility on Marquam Hill. The Center for Health & Healing Building 1, one of Oregon's greenest buildings and winner of the LEED Platinum award, opens on the South Waterfront by the Willamette River. The Portland Aerial Tram begins operating between OHSU's Marquam Hill Campus and South Waterfront.

2008: A gift of $100 million from Phil and Penny Knight helps evolve the OHSU Cancer Institute to the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute.

2011: The OHSU/OUS Collaborative Life Sciences Building and Skourtes Tower groundbreaking takes place on the Schnitzer Campus. A gift of $25 million establishes the Bob and Charlee Moore Institute for Nutrition and Wellness at OHSU.

2012: A gift of $125 million from Phil and Penny Knight creates the OHSU Knight Cardiovascular Institute.

2013: OHSU celebrates its 125th anniversary.

2014: The OHSU/OUS Collaborative Life Sciences Building and Skourtes Tower opens on the Schnitzer Campus in Portland’s South Waterfront District.

2015: OHSU sets fundraising record by meeting a $1 billion challenge from Nike co-founder Phil Knight and his wife, Penny.

2016: Groundbreaking takes place on the South Waterfront for the OHSU Center for Health & Healing Building 2, the Gary and Christine Rood Family Pavilion and the Knight Cancer Institute Research Building.

2018: OHSU breaks ground on the 60,000-square-foot Oregon Elks Children's Eye Clinic on Marquam Hill, next to the OHSU Casey Eye Institute. The building will be the nation's first free-standing eye institute for pediatric patients. It will house patient services and research programs. 

2019: The Center for Health & Healing Building 2, the Gary and Christine Rood Family Pavilion and the Knight Cancer Institute Research Building all open. CHH2 provides space for complex surgery, cancer clinical trials, the Digestive Health Center and other services. The Rood Family Pavilion provides a home away from home for families of OHSU patients traveling from outside the Portland area. The Knight Cancer Institute building provides collaborative space for hundreds of cancer scientists.