At a ceremony on November 22, 1974, the institution that would become Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) was officially founded. Separating from the University of Oregon, the Schools of Dentistry, Medicine, and Nursing merged with the University Hospital, University Clinics, Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, and the Child Development and Rehabilitation Center to become an independent health sciences institution. It became the only academic health center in the state and was renamed the University of Oregon Health Sciences Center. In 1981, it was renamed Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU), to further clarify its separation from the University of Oregon. By the 1980s, universities such as OHSU were moving toward the academic health center model, which enabled education, patient care, and research to unite in one entity. An academic health center typically consists of a medical school, one or more schools for health professions such as dentistry or nursing, and one or more teaching hospitals.
A Public Corporation
Like most academic health centers across the country, OHSU relied on its clinical enterprise to generate revenue to help underwrite costs incurred by education programs, charity care, and community outreach, and to support research. During the early 1990s, several million dollars in deferred campus maintenance combined with the decrease in state funding with the passage of Ballot Measure 5 (a statewide property tax limitation) in 1990 to threaten the success of the university. In 1995, OHSU underwent a significant change as it became the first academic health sciences center in the country to convert from a state agency to a nonprofit public corporation. Incorporation allowed OHSU to compete more successfully with other health care institutions, without the obligation of state regulations and funding compliance. The OHSU Board of Directors, whose members are appointed by the governor and approved by the State Senate, now governs the university. As a public corporation, it earns the majority of its operating budget.
Merger with the Oregon Graduate Institute
OHSU added a fourth professional school when it merged with the Oregon Graduate Institute of Science and Technology (OGI) in 2001. This merger led to the school’s current name, Oregon Health & Science University, to better reflect the university’s broadened mission. OGI had been established in 1963, following the efforts of then Governor Mark O. Hatfield, Howard Vollum, Samuel Diack, M.D., and others to launch a graduate center for science and engineering research. When the school merged with OHSU, it became the OGI School of Science & Engineering and helped the university expand its focus on technology, engineering, and environmental science. In 2008, the School of Science & Engineering was folded into the School of Medicine.