Student Life at OHSU, 1900 to present

HCA exhibit poster for "Student Life at OHSU, 1900 to present"

Documenting the Student Experience

Title page for the 1970 student journal, Celilo: Journal of Shaman Texts and Magical Formulaes
Celilo: A Journal of Shaman Texts and Magical Formulaes vol. 1, 1970. Archival Publications. In 1970, the University of Oregon Medical School student senate sponsored the publication of Celilo, created by a group of students and faculty. The journal, which included poetry, reflective essays, and artwork, was produced as a collaborative effort between the Reed College Press and the UOMS Department of Medical Graphics.

For nearly as long as students have attended OHSU’s schools and predecessor institutions, numerous student-run or alumni-centered publications have aimed to document and commemorate their experiences. Over the years, the medical, dental and nursing schools have each published yearbooks, usually edited by a staff of students. Alumni publications, such as Medical Focus, Nursing Progress and Bridges, keep alumni informed of current student activities, but also act as a means to connect former students with fellow graduates and reflect on memories of their student years. Alongside official and semi-official publications, personal documents such as scrapbooks and photograph albums offer an intimate portrait of life as a student.

Student-run publications have a long history at the university. A group of students started The Pulse in 1966, driven by a desire to establish “a solid platform of responsible journalism” to voice student perspectives on pressing campus issues and larger social and professional debates. From the start, the paper promised, “students who will head various departments will come from all areas of medicine … medical students, nurses, and paramedical personnel.” The Pulse continues publication today in digital form. The StudentSpeak blog is another platform through which OHSU students are able to publish thoughts on their experiences.

An interest in publishing more humanities-centered student work led a group of medical students and faculty advisors to publish Celilo journal in 1970, with sponsorship from the student senate and publishing support from Reed College. The publication aimed to “open up a new avenue of communication by providing an outlet for beautiful thoughts and challenging ideas.” Though subsequent issues of Celilo have not been located, later student publications followed in a similar arts-centered tradition. In 2018, a group of students started Aerial, an OHSU arts magazine. The digital publication encompasses artwork, poetry and other creative work from OHSU students.

Athletics and Leisure

University of Oregon Medical School “Medics” basketball team pose with trophy, circa 1950s. Historical Image Collection.
University of Oregon Medical School “Medics” basketball team, circa 1950s. Historical Image Collection. The championship-winning 1955 Medics basketball team was more than just a student affair, with Dr. James Lium, assistant professor of clinical anatomy acting as coach, and Dr. Hugh Anderson, resident in pathology acting as manager. At the time, the team was sponsored by the Alumni Association, to the tune of $110 per year.

In terms of formal budgeted support, the University of Oregon Medical School (now OHSU) was not able to sponsor athletics due to enrollment limitations and the specialized nature of its academic programs. However, the School of Medicine Alumni Association sponsored a UOMS basketball team from the 1930s through the 1960s. North Pacific Dental College, predecessor institution to the School of Dentistry, officially sponsored its own baseball and football teams as early as the 1890s. Athletics for dental students continued after NPDC’s integration into the University of Oregon School of Dentistry in 1945, though without the same institutional sponsorship.

Through the 1960s, the medical and dental schools maintained individual basketball teams, who competed in the City of Portland Metropolitan League along with teams from University of Portland, George Fox, Reed and Concordia College. In 1955, the UOMS Medics became the City of Portland Metropolitan League champions, after a 14-0 season in which they defeated teams from colleges like George Fox, Reed, Concordia College, and in an intra-university rivalry, the School of Dentistry. Students from the medical and dental schools also joined forces on a varsity basketball team to compete against teams from other institutions. Intramural activities, including softball, basketball and golf, eclipsed alumni-sponsored athletics by the 1970s.

By the late 1950s, the university observed a need for a central campus hub for athletics, recreation and interest groups. The Student Activities Building opened for the 1960-61 academic year. Facilities included a full-sized gymnasium, a flexible meeting and dance space, a game room, squash court and tennis courts. The Student Activities Building board included faculty and student members from the dental, nursing and medical schools. Later additions include a pool and a media room. Now known as the Student Center, the facility offers a variety of social activities and intramural sports such as basketball, volleyball and indoor soccer.

Student Governance and Social Life

All-Hill student council founding members, 1988.
All-Hill student council founding members, 1988. All Hill Council Image Collection [2005-003]. The All-Hill Council, OHSU students’ governing organization, was formed in 1988. Representatives were elected from each school and class.

Student organizations have long been a part of life for students across OHSU’s schools. Whether operating as governing bodies or as extracurricular interest groups, these organizations are often interdisciplinary and allow students to develop collaborative relationships with their colleagues and a sense of belonging in the university’s communities.

Social interest groups help students connect with peers who share their backgrounds and interests. In an early example, at North Pacific Dental College, predecessor to OHSU School of Dentistry, Japanese-American students formed the Japanese Student Association of North Pacific College in 1911, aiming to promote the “mutual welfare of the Japanese alumni and undergraduates,” and cohesion between Japanese-American students and other alumni and students. Nursing students joined groups such as the Student Nurses of Oregon, which functioned under the auspices of the Oregon Nurses Association and sought to promote social and professional unity among the six professional schools of nursing in the state. 

The Schools of Medicine, Nursing and Dentistry retained various student senates and governing bodies from the 1940s onward, but it was not until 1988 that students formed such an organization across the university. In Fall 1988, the first student representatives elected to the All-Hill Council took office. The council included elected representatives from each school and class. The All-Hill Council still meets on campus on the second Friday of each month.

Alongside governance and operational functions, student organizations sponsor campus events to foster a sense of community and conviviality. Events such as the annual welcome back barbeque, the All-Hill Talent Show, and fundraising galas have allowed generations of students to get to know their university peers as well as faculty.

Convocation and Commencement

School of Dentistry  graduates Genevieve Chaney, Denise Johnson, and Alene de Stefanis prepare for commencement, 1980.
School of Dentistry graduates Genevieve Chaney, Denise Johnson, and Alene de Stefanis prepare for commencement, 1980. Historical Image Collection.

Perhaps the most important event for many health sciences students is commencement, the culmination of years of study and work. Throughout the twentieth century, schools held individual commencement ceremonies. The School of Nursing, for example, initially participated in University of Oregon’s commencement exercises in Eugene, then moved its ceremonies to the Marquam Hill campus. Since the late 1970s, the Schools of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, and now the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health have celebrated their graduates at an all-OHSU convocation ceremony.  

Scholarship and Service

Cover of the program for 1966 Medical Student Research Day
Cover, program for the Fourth Annual West Coast Medical Student Research Day, February 19, 1966. Archival Publications. Several years after the University of Washington hosted the first West Coast Medical Student Research Day in 1963, the Oregon Medical Student Research Association, based at University of Oregon Medical School hosted the fourth annual event in 1966 at our Marquam Hill campus.

While completing a course of study, OHSU students are simultaneously engaged in the process of developing identities as researchers and colleagues in their own right. In addition, many health sciences students are attracted to their chosen fields because of an interest in serving community needs. These intertwining interests drive a number of events and ceremonies that honor transitions for students becoming researchers, professionals and community members.

White coat ceremonies, now an accepted rite of passage for a number of health sciences disciplines, represent a relatively recent development in transition ceremonies for students. After Columbia University held the first white coat ceremony in the U.S. in 1993, additional medical schools followed suit in subsequent years, with the OHSU School of Medicine joining the tradition in September 1995. The School of Nursing, which held capping ceremonies for entering classes through the 1960s, replaced capping with a Dedication Day in 1977. Today, the school is the one of over one hundred nursing schools to hold a Gold-American Academy of Colleges of Nursing White Coat Ceremony for Nursing.

The annual Research Week event has its roots in a symposium started in the 1960s. The Oregon Medical Student Research Society, an organization of School of Medicine students, hosted the fourth annual West Coast Medical Student Research Day on February 19, 1966. Representatives from six medical schools came to Marquam Hill to present their latest research. In the 1980s, the Graduate Student Organization sponsored annual Student Research Forums. By the late 1990s, the Student Research Forum had become an annual event, with students across schools and programs presenting their research to an audience composed of faculty, post-docs, clinicians, area researchers and other students. More recently, in the 2000s, the event expanded to Research Week, offering opportunities ranging from lightning talks to poster sessions to researcher networking workshops for all students.

Community engagement and a spirit of service imbue many students’ interests as researchers and clinicians. Since 2006, the All-Hill Student Council has honored students’ volunteer efforts in local and international communities in an annual recognition event.

Text and selections by Meg Langford, Public Services Coordinator

Contribute Your Stories to OHSU History

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