Dean's Messages

Image of Mackenzie Hall with fountain

Setting a bigger table

Sharon Anderson

A Message from Dean Sharon Anderson to the School of Medicine
Sep. 23, 2020

Dear Colleagues and Students,

We suffered the loss of a gladiator for justice Sept. 18. The death of the Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg – on the first evening of Rosh Hashanah - has me focusing on the progress that individuals, and all of us working together within the great institutions of our country, can make toward equity.  

I am channeling RBG as I consider how to navigate the at-times conflicting sentiments I am hearing about our work to understand and uproot the racial and other biases inherent in our institution.  

Many faculty, learners, staff, and alumni are passionately supportive of our intensified focus on anti-racism. For many it is, quite viscerally, beyond time for change. Another refrain, however, has been a concern that in boldly owning and seeking to dismantle our racism, OHSU is shutting down dissent or narrowing “the marketplace of ideas,” because to question any of these beliefs or to do or say the wrong thing is to risk being called racist.  

The truth is, I also fear letting my racism - inherent in all of us – show. Saying the wrong thing or acting without seeing my own blind spots. Yet instead of viewing our commitment to anti-racism as narrowing the marketplace of ideas, I think it is the opposite. More voices are at the table now, and we need to make room.  

That doesn’t mean squeezing people in. It means setting a bigger table and summoning the courage to participate in real change. It starts with creating a welcoming environment, by being thoughtful about language and willing to hear things that may make us defensive or that we struggle to believe because they are outside of our personal experience.  

Fostering respect

I am not talking about suppressing debate with a blanket of politeness. I am talking about fostering a tenor of respect in order to encourage new ideas to come forward, recognizing how the way we show up may stop others from doing so. The forces that silence people are often invisible until we are on the receiving end.  

I felt those forces as a woman coming up in a male-dominated profession. But my experience was nothing like RBG’s. Aspiring to practice law, she noted the three marks against her:  she was a woman; she was Jewish; and she was a mother.  Yet, she persevered to reach the highest honor an attorney can achieve in our country.   

As women rose in the medical profession, women’s health improved. The American Medical Association recognized the contributions of Women in Medicine during September because, while of course we were not the only drivers, the growing number of providers and researchers who could bring first-hand experience to the bench and the bedside fueled change.  

We have that same kind of opportunity now. COVID-19 laid bare what we already knew but, playing out on the nightly news, could not ignore: devastating disparities in who has stayed well and who has fallen ill; who has lived and who has died. Devastating disparities directly traceable by circumstance, directly traceable to race. Then when George Floyd survived COVID only to die from another disproportionate cause – police violence - our nation could no longer look away.  

Making good on our ideals

If we are ever to make good on our ideals to advance health for all people, we need to hear all voices. I applaud, for example, leaders of the OHSU Latinos Unidos Employee Resource Group and the Latino Medical Student Association for raising awareness - amid Hispanic Heritage Month - about the specific barriers faced by Latino/Latinx communities devastated by the Rogue Valley wildfires; many of these families who propel Oregon agriculture or have built up small businesses lack a path to citizenship and don’t qualify for federal disaster relief.  

I challenge us all to stop resisting the discomfort of this moment. Change doesn’t happen when we’re comfortable. Rather than being afraid of misspeaking, be humble. Listen. Learn.  

I also challenge those further along on their anti-racist journey to avoid being self-righteous. Instead, look for educational moments. Again, be humble.  

Meanwhile I, as your leader, will avoid confusing passion with stridency in my remarks. We need everyone in this dialogue; alienating people unnecessarily is not helpful.  

And that’s really my point.  

I am a defender of freedom of speech; I want to expand not contract it. I believe that the solutions to our most persistent health disparities will come from those whose voices have not always been heard.  

This is our work. Our patients – and our colleagues, students and state - are counting on us. 

Sharon Anderson, M.D.
Dean, OHSU School of Medicine

Tackling structural racism is “on us”
Dean Sharon Anderson calls on white people to act in her June 24, State of the School Address

June 1, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

It has been one week since George Floyd was murdered by police in Minneapolis. As a country and a community, we are experiencing a special kind of pain: We have emerged from what we hope has been the worst phase of a frightening and deadly virus only to again confront an even more ingrained and pernicious one that continues to plague our society: racism.

It is really important at this time to reach out with respect and with kindness to our colleagues, learners, friends, neighbors and family members of color who experience these events with a singular level of anguish. For them, this experience is personal. For them, the rage, the fear, the very deep frustration does not recede with the news cycle. Do not tell them how you feel. Ask them what they need.

For those of us whose white privilege precludes visceral understanding, we can take action on our feelings of sadness by taking President Jacobs' suggestions to join conversations about race, listen to new ideas, declare an anti-racist stance with our friends, families and coworkers, and invite others to join us. I encourage you, if you have not had a chance, please read Dr. Jacobs' powerful statement from Saturday in which he also wrote:

"This crisis demands attention of us all — we cannot permit the loss of any more lives by sitting idly by and simply hoping for change. We must shatter the structural racism that perpetuates these cruel acts against people of color. The time to end racist-fueled discrimination and brutality is now."

We must look to our work as healers and to our commitment to public service as the channels for our emotion and the vehicles for change.

Let us remind ourselves of the Oath of Geneva which our M.D. program graduates will read as during the M.D. Program Hooding Ceremony on June 7. The Oath says, in part:

As a member of the medical profession:

  • I SOLEMNLY PLEDGE to dedicate my life to the service of humanity;
  • THE HEALTH AND WELL-BEING OF MY PATIENT will be my first consideration;
  • I WILL RESPECT the autonomy and dignity of my patient;
  • I WILL MAINTAIN the utmost respect for human life;
  • I WILL NOT PERMIT considerations of age, disease or disability, creed, ethnic origin, gender, nationality, political affiliation, race, sexual orientation, social standing or any other factor to intervene between my duty and my patient.

Take a moment to read the Oath; join us virtually on Sunday if this opportunity resonates with you or identify another reading or an activity that allows you to reflect and to make your own personal commitment to act against hate in our institution, our community and our country.

My thoughts are with you, the family of George Floyd and the families of so many before him.

Sharon Anderson, M.D.
Dean, OHSU School of Medicine

May 15, 2020

Colleagues in the School of Medicine, 

This week I gained really helpful insight from listening to our OHSU Wellness Task Force leaders, most of whom are School of Medicine faculty, give Medicine Grand Rounds. They helped name what I’ve been feeling:

Fatigue and also some disillusionment.

As a leader, it’s hard to admit these feelings; sometimes I think it’s my job to focus solely on how noble, courageous and effective we’ve been. Indeed, we have been all those things; that’s why we’re fatigued. Maybe not just fatigued, maybe at times just plain exhausted. This, our faculty wellness leaders said, is normal. We just moved heaven and earth to flatten the curve of COVID-19 infections in Oregon.

And that’s where disillusionment comes in, because you know what? The virus hasn’t gone away. It’s still in our community; it’s still impacting our lives, and we still need to cope. Oh, and we’re facing pay cuts and policy changes that are necessary to sustain the strength of the institution but are also really hard. 

So here’s some advice from two of the task force leaders, Sydney Ey, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and associate director of the Resident and Faculty Wellness Program, and Megan Furnari, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics and director of medical student wellness and leadership development:

  • Allow yourself to slow down and notice the moments of connection all around us in your family and in nature. It is often the loud dissonant negative stories and narratives that play loudest. Can you hear the quieter connections and moments of joy too?
  • Acknowledge the feelings of loss, frustration and worry that you may be experiencing and then try to slowly identify some new goals and regularly take steps towards them. A key part of building resilience is taking action toward goals that are important to you.
  • Reflect on strengths you are discovering in yourself. Consider how to build on those strengths and look for new ways of growing and finding meaning in this experience.
  • And if the first three bullet points just make you more tired, seek out a friend or schedule a tele-visit with a trained professional; options for doing that and many other resources for individuals, leaders and teams are offered on the OHSU COVID Wellness website.

I am proud of the task force, which also includes Andrea Cedfeldt, M.D., professor of medicine and assistant dean for faculty development; Abigail Lenhart, M.D., assistant professor of medicine, and M. Kai Roller, M.S.W., LCSW, social work manager, Care Management Division, OHSU Healthcare. They have marshaled an amazing array of resources including a wellness concierge service that will triage your needs from counseling to child care resources at 503-494-8800, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week, staffed in part by our medical students. Talk about awesome.

There are also a lot of other awesome things going on in the school many of which are available on OHSU Now and the O2 calendar: 

  • Travel-Free CME: Wednesdays at noon. To help meet the needs of busy providers, the SoM Division of Continuing Professional Development has developed a series of weekly WebEx talks for primary care providers on pressing topics from PPE and testing capacity to comprehensive models for treating pain.
  • Ramadan 101: Monday, May 18 at noon. This important webinar is put on by a medical student, Tajwar Taher, Med21, and dental student, Syed Umer, SOD21, with special guest neurosurgery resident Dr. Nasser Yaghi, offering all of us insight on the meaning and practices of Ramadan and how we can support our observant colleagues and patients. 
  • AMA Tribute to the M.D. Class of 2020, May 20, 4 pm PT: OHSU's own Dr. Esther Choo joins the likes of Dr. Anthony Fauci and current and former surgeon generals in this special American Medical Association tribute on their Facebook and YouTube channels. Don't miss this!
  • OHSU Convocation and Hooding Ceremonies: The virtual OHSU Convocation is Sunday, June 7 at 10 a.m. The M.D. program will hold its virtual hooding ceremony at 11 a.m. In Graduate Studies, individual programs are planning their own ceremonies and celebrations. 
  •  School of Medicine Honors & Awards: While we are unable to hold this special event this year, the school will announce all of the honorees in the M.D. and Graduate Studies programs in an OHSU Now story with an online PDF program in early June. Having had a sneak peek, I can say that we have really fantastic students and faculty receiving honors!
  • State of the School: Please join me Wednesday, June 24, 4:30 pm to 5:30 pm for my virtual address, "Equity, Innovation and Service: Shaping Our New Normal around Positive Change." My address will also serve as our annual all-faculty meeting. I plan to make the hour worth your while, including honoring a faculty member with the first Dean's Award I've given since taking this role in 2017. I'm disappointed that we can't enjoy some in-person camaraderie afterward, but feel free to bring your own snacks and beverages; next year I hope they will again be on me. 

Transitioning from modified operations

I also want to make sure that people are seeing and following the updates around our phased transition from modified operations, posted every Thursday on OHSU Now. OHSU Strategic Communications is now evaluating how to increase connection and updates in the coming weeks.

I know that there is anxiety, pent up frustration, eagerness and the whole gamut of emotion around these next steps. I thank you for your patience during this time and for abiding by the processes and requirements we are putting in place for the protection of ourselves, our patients, and our community. Transitioning from modified operations can only happen if we all follow the rules.

Racism has no place here

I want to leave you with what I view as one of the most important reminders and clarifiers of our work ahead that has come out of the COVID-19 pandemic: the glaring, disparate impact of the virus on communities of color, and the racism and xenophobia that our colleagues and so many other community members continue to experience.

Thank you to a faculty member who brought to my attention the experience of two Asian American staff members who were openly disparaged in a Center for Health & Healing elevator this month by patients angry about having to wear masks in the building.

To those staff members: This racist behavior has no place at OHSU. I am sorry that this happened to you. Thank you for the care and service that you give to all patients and to OHSU every day.

Thank you to our medical students, who are honoring Asian & Pacific Islander Heritage Month by delivering care packages to elders in the community, many of whom have quarantined since the outbreak in China.

Thank you also to the OHSU Center for Diversity and Inclusion staff who continue to offer Unconscious Bias Training via WebEx and will soon offer Bystander Training OHSU-wide to educate how to appropriately intervene when racist incidents occur. Both of these trainings remain extremely important and timely. 

And congratulations to Erik Brodt, M.D., assistant professor of family medicine, and the faculty, staff and students in the OHSU Northwest Native American Center of Excellence and partner organizations for creating an extremely compelling culturally specific public service announcement intended to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 in Indian Country, which has been devastatingly hard hit by the virus.

Empowering all of our communities to thrive is the beginning of positive change.

Take time out for yourself this weekend. Stay safe. Be well.

Sharon Anderson, M.D.
Dean, OHSU School of Medicine

Apr 23, 2020

School of Medicine Colleagues and Students,

This week President Danny Jacobs shared some hard news about the budget actions we will need to take to maintain the stability of our workforce, and our ability to continue to lead and serve our state across all of our missions at this unprecedented time.  Maintaining our workforce to the greatest extent possible is at the heart of this financial response plan to best position OHSU to continue supporting the health and well-being of Oregonians, and to remain a strong university post-recession.

These budget actions reflect careful thought, deliberation and collaboration with leaders across the institution, including my Dean’s Office leadership team and all of our department chairs. I not only stand by these actions, I am proud of and I appreciate the inclusive process that President Jacobs and Chief Financial Officer Lawrence Furnstahl led.

I also want you to consider that we will get through this time the same way we got to where we are now: together.

Achieving an incredible goal
Because of OHSU’s swift, definitive and comprehensive action to shift all of our focus and resources to prepare to care for patients with COVID-19, while also locking arms with state leaders to promote aggressive stay at home policies, we have achieved an incredible goal: we have flattened the curve. Untold lives have been spared. 

This outstanding outcome comes at a deep financial cost. Yet at no time have we more powerfully demonstrated our commitment to our mission to advance the health of all Oregonians than now. We did it by banding together around a shared purpose, buoyed by President Jacobs’ pledge of full compensation through June 30, come what may. 

Now we must go forward with that same shared resolve, even as we make sacrifices.

As Dr. Jacobs has stated, OHSU must and will navigate the pandemic and economic recession and then be prepared to succeed in a new world.  I know we will do our part in the School of Medicine, because I have seen what you are made of.

 Rocketing into tele-health
I have seen OHSU Practice Plan leaders and our clinical departments flip a switch and go from 1,100 tele-visits in February to 13,000 in March, far outpacing in-person visits for the first time ever, while partnering with nurses and healthcare team members to stand up a Connected Care Center now handling calls from patients, other providers, and residents across Oregon. 

I have seen the Knight Cardiovascular Institute successfully complete the first heart transplant since reactivating our program, providing the patient safe and effective care even amid COVID-19.

I have seen Native American faculty leaders tell of the disparate impact of COVID-19 in Indian Country, just one part of a larger story - told in part by President Jacobs - about sharp, racial disparities starkly evident in this pandemic.

I have seen faculty leaders join health care team members to bring together wellness resources across OHSU in support of OHSU community members impacted by the pandemic. 

I have seen the Department of Pathology, led by Chair Donna Hansel, collaborating departments and institutes and the hospital lab staff, stand up a microbiology lab from scratch in 14 days to process COVID-19 tests, shortening the turnaround time from many days to 36 hours. 

Researchers sacrifice
I have seen researchers and graduate students suspend their life’s work and temporarily shut down their labs to ensure the safety of our researchers, laser focus our support services on the clinical enterprise and repurpose their personal protective equipment, reagents and other supplies to the hospital.

I have seen educators set the pace nationally for removing medical students from clinical rotations while also shifting to virtual instruction across our programs, addressing the impacts on graduate students displaced from labs, attending to the needs of residents and fellows caring for patients, and graduating two-thirds of the M.D. Class of 2020, thanks to the new curriculum, while supporting a half dozen of them to help out by starting their residencies at OHSU immediately. (Check out the TIME magazine article!)

Meanwhile, I have seen the Continuing Professional Development Division and the Oregon Rural Practice-based Research Network (ORPRN) provide the information and counsel so crucially needed by primary care providers across the state, using the ECHO network to hold weekly COVID-19 calls attended by as many as 950 clinicians. Questions raised there are now fed into the FAQ used by the Connected Care Center and the public.

Students set the bar
And I have watched with admiration as our medical students, sidelined by the pandemic, offered child care for front-line healthcare workers, wrangled resources for individuals dealing with substance use disorder, and sewed hundreds of masks for vulnerable community members, while our physician assistant students leapt into community volunteering and advocacy for students and others experiencing impacts from the pandemic. 

And on Wednesday, Administrative Professionals Day, I took a moment to consider how professionally and selflessly our administrative team members have transitioned to working from home, holding all of us up so that every accomplishment I’ve mentioned became possible. If you haven’t thanked your admin team, please do.

Kindness is a part of wellness; so is reflecting on your lessons learned. Thank you to those who have offered your reflections during this extraordinary time through the new OHSU Now feature called RISE; I encourage you to share your insights and stories. It feels good.

As we navigate the coming months and look to come out of modified operations in a safe manner across missions, know that at no time have I felt more proud than I do today to be at OHSU and to be among you in the School of Medicine. 

We got this.

Sharon Anderson, M.D.
Dean, OHSU School of Medicine

Dec. 19, 2018

Kindness promotes wellness, and that’s why we wrapped up the calendar year with the Gratitude Tree Project in the School of Medicine.

The holiday season is also just a great time to reflect on the people and the values that make being at OHSU so rewarding and to spread that warm feeling we all get when we recognize and appreciate others.

The Gratitude Tree Project involved inviting colleagues to post messages of appreciation for each other in their departments or offices.

Many departments and programs responded and got really creative including Neurology, Neurological Surgery, several divisions of the Department of Medicine, the Dean’s office, the M.D. program and many more.

I especially love these:

  • The OHSU Spine Center taped stars on a wall and called it “Spine Shout Outs!”
  • Dermatology created a Snowflake Gratitude Wall in the CHH patient lobby
  • The Division of Hospital Medicine decorated a beautiful Christmas tree
  • The Division of General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics created an “Espresso your Gratitude” display with little coffee cups for the messages

So cool!

“I love you all”

The appreciation messages tell a story about what makes a workplace a community. Recognition of our administrative and support teams was a major theme.

Here are two from Dean’s office colleagues:

  • “We are grateful for Sulma Ramos from the OHSU Housekeeping staff who keeps the Dean’s office so clean and nice.”
  • “So grateful for the OHSU Catering Team! Always smiling, working hard to ensure all goes smoothly. You all Rock!”

I need to insert my own gratitude here: thank you to the Dean’s office admin team. Your professionalism and dedication allow us to provide the support that our faculty and departments deserve.

Targol Saedi, M.D., associate professor of medicine (hospital medicine), wrote several messages including this one that recognized Environmental Services: “The commitment to their work is inspiring and they do it with a smile.”

Linda Strahm, human resources director in the School of Medicine, recognized her team: “Thank you for your hardworking, customer-focused, great spirit!”

In the M.D. Program, Administrative Manager Emily Larson wrote: “I’m grateful for my caring, kind, funny, smart, hard-working co-workers. They make coming to work feel meaningful and fun!”

A Dermatology team member expressed gratitude for “having a job, a home and food.”

Among the Spine Shout Outs was a message to Elbert Mondaine, a medical assistant in the Spine Center whom his colleagues call “Elbs.” This shout out exemplifies so many of our coworkers especially in the health care mission:

“Thank you for all your help in clinic today and for all of the fires you put out daily; I couldn’t imagine anyone else in your role!”

Here’s one that was powerful in its simplicity: a Neurology colleague recognized fourth-year resident Victor Tseng, M.D., “for being an awesome doctor.”

Another Spine Shout Out was equally short and compelling: “I love you all!”

Grateful for opportunity to serve

Strong yet compassionate leadership was another theme. An especially moving tribute, that I feel describes all of our leaders who bring their best selves to work, was written by Arthur Vandenbark, Ph.D., professor of neurology, about Dennis Bourdette, M.D., professor and chair of neurology:

“Dennis has become a trusted friend and long-time collaborator who has given much to promote new therapies for MS. His guidance and enthusiastic support have helped to develop a great clinical and research department that is one of the best in the nation.”

But the theme that most distinguishes OHSU is our gratitude for the chance to make a difference in people’s lives. This one, written by James Clements, M.D., assistant professor of medicine (hospital medicine) and paraphrased here, really summed it up for me:

I’m grateful for the people at OHSU. Across the board, the values shown by the people I work with resonate with me. We find joy by connecting to our purpose of providing compassionate health care, teaching others to do this well, and researching new solutions to decrease suffering. I am energized by this place every day.

Allow me to add my appreciation for your work across missions and my special thanks to those who go above and beyond during the holiday season to take care of each other and to maintain our dedication to our patients, our research and our students. Please be sure to also carve out some time outside work for the things that bring you joy and restore your spirit for the new year.

In gratitude,

Sharon Anderson, M.D.
OHSU School of Medicine

Nov. 20, 2018

Thanksgiving is nearly here, and I hope that means some respite from your normal schedule and time with family and friends. Taking a break is part of being well.

I am inspired by the many ways that we are working across the school to support resiliency over relentlessness; I want to share just a few examples.

Many paths 

Our students showed that there are many paths to well-being through their creative applications for what our education mission leaders are calling "happiness" grants.

Cooking classes, art exhibits and the First Do No Harmony choir were among the projects that leaders selected for $500 mini-grants to foster community and wellness.

A project that especially stood out for me: Students in the Graduate Programs in Human Nutrition are creating emergency meal kits to distribute through a free, community clinic. Because helping others isn't just the right thing to do; it feels good.

Learning to see multiple perspectives can also improve wellness – and patient care.

Patrick Bowden, M.M.S., P.A.-C., assistant professor of physician assistant education, OHSU School of Medicine, is teaching students to broaden their clinical and professional perspectives in partnership with the Portland Art Museum. The students hone their powers of observation by analyzing paintings, sharing their interpretations and learning about the artist's intent. And: it's fun.

More time for healing

Optimizing clinic workflow is a tactic the OHSU Practice Plan is perfecting to maximize the rewarding aspects of clinicians' jobs: time with patients. The OPP has begun using sprints – two-week analyses of staffing distribution and internal processes, including the electronic health record, to rapidly identify and make improvements.

The OPP is also partnering with the School of Medicine Division of Continuing Professional Development to provide tailored leadership development for OPP members, investing in clinicians' career satisfaction and fostering leaders who cultivate a healthy work environment.

Being well is linked to doing good. Lillian Navarro-Reynolds, P.A.-C., assistant professor in the OHSU School of Medicine physician assistant program, volunteers with the ¡Salud! mobile clinic to bring health services to Oregon migrant and seasonal vineyard workers and their families. Soon the mobile clinic will expand and involve P.A. students and eventually more providers. The clinic is an OHSU Tuality Healthcare program funded by the Tuality Healthcare Foundation in partnership with the Oregon Wine Industry. Watch video

Getting real

I want to recognize our residents and fellows who brought forward concerns last winter and spring about burnout. Chris Swide, M.D., associate dean for graduate medical education, OHSU School of Medicine, and his team responded by partnering with the House Officers' Association to conduct 16 listening sessions with more than 200 house officers.

From this honest and productive dialogue has come collaboration between the HOA, GME and OHSU Healthcare senior leaders to make improvements. These include systemic issues like better two-way communication and following best practices for paging to avoid unnecessary interruptions, especially overnight. They also include simpler – but impactful – solutions, such as ensuring trainees have access to snacks. 

As Stuart Slavin, M.D., senior scholar for well-being at the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, said when our Resident and Faculty Wellness Program hosted him in September: comforts matter. When we do the hard work that we do – from painstaking perseverance in the lab to juggling demanding course loads to keeping our offices running to caring for patients with complex conditions – we must take care of each other.


I'm inviting School of Medicine departments, labs, programs and offices to join the Dean's office in the Gratitude Tree Wellness Project: notes of gratitude or recognition about an individual or a team, especially those who do great work with little fanfare.

Hang the notes from a tree, tack or string up the notes clothes-line style or place them in a basket. Share some of the messages with my office by Friday, Dec. 14.

On Wednesday, Dec. 19 at 3 p.m. in Mac Hall Café, join me for hot chocolate and cookies. I'll read a selection of messages, and we will have some seasonal entertainment.

If you can't manage the whole tree production, just come for hot chocolate.

If you are feeling worn out or discouraged, please reach out. Our wellness O2 page is a start for resources.

We have work ahead to foster a healthier climate in academic medicine. I won't pretend that our current efforts are sufficient. But I am encouraged by our deepening understanding of the steps needed and grateful for your contributions. Don't stop sharing your concerns and ideas. It will take all of us.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sharon Anderson, M.D. 
OHSU School of Medicine

Oct. 31, 2018

Let me begin by encouraging you to attend OHSU President Danny Jacobs' town hall at noon Thursday in the OHSU Auditorium.

He will report back on themes from his cross-campus listening sessions and will kick off strategic planning. There are opportunities for all of us to get involved starting Nov. 6 and 7; we need everyone's best thinking to shape OHSU's future, so please participate.

I also want to appreciate Dr. Jacobs for reaffirming OHSU's commitment to a safe and welcoming environment for all. There is so much strife in our nation right now; the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh was almost too much to bear. OHSU's clarity around our values is grounding.

I have several acknowledgements I'd like to make. Top on that list is the multidisciplinary team in the Knight Cardiovascular Institute.

Strong work across missions

The skill and dedication to patients of every clinical team member since the heart transplant program inactivation Aug. 31 has been exemplary. This includes not only transitioning patients impacted by the inactivation, but also maintaining the broad range of cardiac care and highly specialized procedures that this team continues to perform.

In the research mission, in just the last three months, a half dozen KCVI-affiliated research faculty have either landed, or scored sufficiently high that they are likely to land, an R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health. These are the major funding packages that every investigator strives for to pursue cutting-edge research. Hats off and fingers crossed!

I also want to acknowledge our 19 KCVI fellows in cardiovascular medicine, electrophysiology, adult congenital heart disease, interventional cardiology and advanced imaging. They and their program team, led by Dr. Hind Rahmouni, are integral contributors.

President Jacobs, Dr. John Hunter, CEO of the OHSU Health System, and I met with all members of the KCVI last week to announce the external peer review team. The peer review will assess the whole institute. We will consider the reviewers' recommendations alongside input from faculty and staff, insights gained from a self-study and an organizational assessment to help structure the KCVI for continued success, including rebuilding the heart transplant program.

Collaboration pays off

The Department of Behavioral Neuroscience in collaboration with more than 60 OHSU neuroscientists from School of Medicine basic science and clinical departments, the Oregon National Primate Research Center and the Vollum Institute has competitively renewed three institutional training grants from the NIH, totaling $7 million over the next five years.

OHSU is focused on reversing a decline in institutional training grants, known as T-32s, which Ph.D. programs use to recruit students and postdocs in specialized areas to contribute to key research projects. This is a great step in the right direction. Congratulations to the Behavioral Neuroscience Graduate Program and all collaborators!

As we near Veterans Day Nov. 11, I wanted to share how pleased I was to see Sahana Misra, M.D., F '98, associate professor of psychiatry, named chief of staff for the VA Portland Health Care System Oct. 1. I then named Dr. Misra associate dean for veterans affairs.

I have had the good fortune to work with Dr. Misra for many years; she is a revered and extremely effective clinician leader. It's great to see her rise to this top role at the VA, and I'm thrilled to have her join my leadership team.

Toward a more inclusive climate

I'm also pleased to report that we are solidifying supports and infrastructure that will help us develop a more welcoming and inclusive climate in the school.

We are moving into interviews for an assistant dean for diversity and inclusion who will collaborate with the OHSU Center for Diversity and Inclusion on efforts in the school. In the M.D. program, we are hiring two diversity navigators to mentor students who self-identify with diverse or underserved groups. We're also launching post-baccalaureate opportunities to prepare diverse, aspiring M.D. and Ph.D. students to pursue careers in health and science. You can read more about these and other efforts underway.

Students – and postdocs – have been at the forefront and are continuing to shape this work.

The Alliance for Visible Diversity in Science, an affinity and ally group of Ph.D. students, postdocs and faculty, last month hosted Dr. John Matsui, co-founder and director of the Biology Scholars pipeline program at UC-Berkeley. He spoke frankly about academic institutions' struggles to walk their talk, while also offering strategies to do just that.

M.D./Ph.D. students Kelsey Priest and Caroline King delivered a stark yet solution-oriented presentation at Medical Grand Rounds Oct. 23 about the nature and magnitude of gender violence in academic medicine, including at OHSU. I can't tell you how inspired I am by these young women who are true change agents at such a crucial time.

Service inspires hope

This weekend, our students will again do us proud. Students from across OHSU will team up to offer free medical, dental, vision and hearing exams in Pioneer Square on Saturday as part of their annual Health Equity Fair.

Saturday evening, the student-run Bridges Collaborative Care Clinic is holding a gala fundraiser.

These students are just amazing. In one short year of offering free, basic medical care and social services in partnership with the nonprofit Transition Projects, the clinic has attained its own nonprofit status. Last Saturday, the students added tooth fillings and extractions to their array of services.

I am lifted up every day because I work with people so committed to bettering our world through teaching, healing and discovery.

Take care of yourselves, your families and each other, engage in issues that you are passionate about and remember to vote.

Sharon Anderson, M.D. 
OHSU School of Medicine

Aug. 8, 2018

It's a moment of beginnings at OHSU and in the School of Medicine.

The first thing to mention is that, starting today, we are sending the e-newsletter Inside the School of Medicine to all students in the school, in addition to our faculty and staff. Students want to be more informed and engaged in the work of the school. This is just one of several initiatives we will undertake to do that.

Also this year, we are expanding the number of school committees that students can serve on – including search committees for our department chairs.

Celebrating a new president, new trainees and new students

On Aug. 1, we welcomed OHSU's fifth president, Dr. Danny Jacobs, with a truly touching handoff of the OHSU presidential mace from Dr. Joe Robertson to Dr. Jacobs.

At the ceremony, Dr. Jacobs offered a first glimpse of his priorities. In addition to his plans to do a lot of listening to learn OHSU's strengths and needs, Dr. Jacobs noted his focus on wellness. He understands the interconnections between wellness and excellence across missions, and I look forward to supporting this and his other priorities.

In June, we celebrated our 276 new residents and fellows with a mixer on the Mackenzie Hall lawn.  

I want to especially recognize the efforts of the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine (APOM) and the Department of Surgery for the graduate medical education second-look programs they launched in partnership with the OHSU Center for Diversity and Inclusion, and on which we hope to build.

This approach gives diverse prospective trainees a chance to visit, meet leaders and peers, learn about resources and decide if OHSU is a fit. Kudos to APOM and Surgery for building a pipeline for a more diverse faculty, fueling innovation and best serving all patients. 

On Aug. 6, we welcomed the M.D. Class of 2022. Kudos to the Class of 2021 whose members greeted their new peers with cheers and applause as they entered the Robertson Life Sciences Building to begin their Transition to Medical School course. And thanks to current medical students for all they're doing to help new students begin putting down roots here, including hosting a brunch cruise on the Portland Spirit last weekend. I am looking forward to the White Coat Ceremony Friday at the Oregon Convention Center.

The welcome mat will remain as we eagerly anticipate the arrival of new Ph.D. and other Graduate Studies students, including those in the Physician Assistant Program. Looking to the future for our Ph.D. program, I want to recognize our Graduate Studies leaders, faculty and students for gaining approval for a transformed Ph.D. curriculum. Graduate Studies is now hiring leaders and pursuing accreditation for the new program, and expects to admit its first students in fall 2020.

Congratulations to our newly minted physician assistants

While many new students are coming in to the school, an important group has now gone. On Aug. 4, we celebrated the graduation of the Physician Assistant Class of 2018 at RLSB.

I am exceedingly proud of our 41 P.A. graduates and of their program, founded in 1995 and now ranked #5 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Physician assistants are practicing not only in primary care, but across multiple specialties and in a broad range of patient settings.

In June, the OHSU Practice Plan elected its first physician assistant member to its board of directors. Alex Nydahl, M.P.A.S., P.A.-C., is a 2015 graduate of our P.A. Program and an instructor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Hospital Medicine. In addition, the Oregon Medical Association appointed its first ever P.A. to its executive committee, Pat Kenney-Moore, Ed.D., P.A.-C., associate professor and associate director in our P.A. Program.

New leaders and great recognitions 

We also have new faces among our School of Medicine leaders.

I was delighted to welcome Dan Marks, M.D., Ph.D., as our new senior associate dean for research on July 23. Dr. Marks is an outstanding physician-scientist. He is professor of pediatrics, OHSU School of Medicine; Credit Unions for Kids Professor of Pediatric Research, OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital, and a pediatric endocrinologist, Papé Family Pediatric Research Institute. Dr. Marks is diving in. He will work closely with faculty, chairs, Senior Vice President for Research Peter Barr-Gillespie and me to hone the vision for research in the school.

Additional recent accomplishments in our research realm include Alejandro Aballay, Ph.D., professor and chair of molecular microbiology and immunology, who was appointed on July 30 as the inaugural recipient of the William A. Whitsell Dean's Leadership Professorship. Also in July, Kent Thornburg, Ph.D., professor of medicine and director of the Bob and Charlee Moore Institute for Nutrition and Wellness and of the OHSU Center for Developmental Health, received the March of Dimes Agnes Higgins Award.

I also want to recognize Stephen Robinson, M.D., professor of anesthesiology and perioperative medicine, who is serving as interim chair of APOM and to thank Jeff Kirsch, M.D., professor of anesthesiology and perioperative medicine, for his service as chair of APOM since 2002. APOM is an outstanding contributor to OHSU across missions, and I look forward to working with Dr. Robinson to build on the department's excellence.

Congratulations also to David Jacoby, M.D., who became chair of medicine July 1.

I'm grateful for our many talented male leaders and also gratified by the number of women in executive roles on the OHSU leadership team. It's an honor for me to join colleagues like Provost Elena Andresen, Chief Medical Officer Renee Edwards, General Counsel Alice Cuprill-Comas, and Chief Administrative Officer/Chief of Staff Connie Seeley to fulfill OHSU's mission.

I'll end with a special call out the Department of Surgery and Doernbecher Children's Hospital, which just received the official notification recognizing Doernbecher as the first hospital in the Pacific Northwest to be verified by the American College of Surgeons in both pediatric trauma and pediatric surgical care.

For our youngest patients, this verification confirms that we are providing the highest quality multidisciplinary care tailored specifically to their needs, including the state's sole children-only operating rooms. I encourage you to read more to understand the value and the accomplishment of this designation and to congratulate our Department of Surgery and the Doernbecher team.

We have much to celebrate and anticipate. I hope that the summer months have meant at least a change of pace for you, including some time to enjoy our beautiful state, your friends and family.

Thank you for all you do for OHSU and the School of Medicine.

Sharon Anderson, M.D. 
Dean, OHSU School of Medicine

July 3, 2020

For those of you taking time to catch some of the World Cup this summer, I'd like to borrow a word to describe your performance when it came to OHSU's budget this year: Goooooooooooaaaaallllllll!

As you know, OHSU sets targets for revenue and expenses each year; maintaining the margin between them is what funds investment in programs, technology, facilities and equipment upgrades and space to meet demand for OHSU's services. We are in the midst of making significant changes in how we operate – the initiative is called Accelerate OHSU – in order to better weather swings in our budget. But those changes and savings take time and, again this year, we faced shocks to our budget that meant we had to adjust.

I just want you to hear me say: Faculty and staff were already working hard when we asked you this winter to tighten your belts some more and double down where you could to produce more revenue. And we asked this even as we talked about how important it is to safeguard your wellness and resiliency.

A remarkable team effort

As a result of the many ways in which departments and teams across the organization pulled together - and continue pulling together to close out the books for fiscal year 2017-18 - preliminary financial results indicate that OHSU will finish the year better than budget. The research and education missions exceeded revenue targets, and clinicians and our billing team posted patient care volume and collections records in May. I hope you will read the series of stories called The Bottom Line, starting this week on Staff News to understand our larger budget picture, including looking ahead.

As an academic health center, OHSU is a complex place. But as the OHSU Board of Directors noted June 28 following Chief Financial Officer Lawrence Furnstahl's presentation of the budget, we have established our ability to think creatively and evolve operationally. 

Listen: CFO Furnstahl on the OHSU Week podcast

Doing the work that you do at the level at which you do it is often stressful. I want you to relish the feeling that your work is noticed. It is making it possible for us to continue to serve patients, fuel discovery and educate the next generation of clinicians and biomedical scientists across Oregon and beyond.

Thank you.

More victories worth celebrating

And as we head into the Fourth of July holiday, there are more victories to celebrate.

The OHSU Faculty Senate gave the school the green light to pursue accreditation for a transformed Ph.D. program that offers a more flexible approach in which students can choreograph their studies to follow the path of discovery.

Congratulations and thank you to Allison Fryer, Ph.D., associate dean for graduate studies, OHSU School of Medicine; the Creative IDEAS Committee, and all of the faculty, staff and students who worked so hard to shape this new approach. This work will serve our ability to fuel advances in the biomedical sciences into the future.

Apply by July 16: seeking applicants for administrative positions to help build and run transformed Ph.D. program

And congratulations to David Jacoby, M.D., for becoming permanent chair of the Department of Medicine. David has done an outstanding job as interim chair, and I'm excited for him to continue as permanent chair.

I am also pleased to be making progress in filling out the school's leadership team and will have additional announcements in the coming weeks. I look forward to welcoming our new president, Dr. Danny Jacobs, on Aug. 1 with a School of Medicine team ready to help support him.

Finally, a victory of a different kind: I was honored to join in an OHSU leadership decision in June to clear a path for the OHSU Hospital auditorium 8B60 to better reflect the OHSU of today by taking down the portraits – all of white, male leaders – that lined the inner and outer walls of this popular meeting room.

While these men who built our departments of surgery and medicine contributed greatly to OHSU's success, many faculty members and staff have shared their discomfort about using a room with such an exclusive representation of who we are. The OHSU leadership team agreed that it is important that our meeting spaces – along with our public spaces – feel welcoming and inclusive, a trend that we are seeing at other academic health centers nationally.

Efforts are now underway to identify new art to replace these portraits, which have been returned to their departments for display.

On so many levels, I am proud to be your dean, and I am grateful for your dedication and for the work that you do every day.

Sharon Anderson, M.D.
OHSU School of Medicine

June 6, 2018

his is Dean Sharon Anderson's address from the 2018 OHSU School of Medicine M.D. Hooding Ceremony.

Good afternoon, my name is Sharon Anderson and I am the dean of the OHSU School of Medicine. It is truly my pleasure to welcome you to the Hooding Ceremony for the OHSU School of Medicine, M.D. Class of 2018.

Before I say a few words to our graduates, I want to say something to their family and friends.

Thank you.

I know that for many of you here today, the dream that your students are about to realize has been a shared dream, one for which you have put your own needs aside in order to make possible. Your steadfast belief in your students has been the wind in their sails. You helped them get through.

I also want to thank our teaching faculty, medical school leadership and staff.

I want to acknowledge that in the extremely demanding clinical world, it has become increasingly challenging for our faculty to carve out time to teach.

Your commitment to giving back and to keeping your own skills on the cutting edge by teaching the next generation is exemplary.

My gratitude extends to our many volunteer faculty, community providers and alumni who give their time to teach in the medical school.

And I want to add that for this class, like no other, the faculty and staff were not only our students' mentors, leaders, teachers and fan club, they were learning alongside our students as they ushered in the YOUR M.D. curriculum.

Now I have some words for our students.


You did it.

Medical school is hard. It was when I went through, back in another lifetime, and it has only gotten more so.

Yet you have not only surmounted the everyday challenges of medical school; you have learned to do some very hard things well.

As part of the new curriculum, you have actually been tested on your ability to deliver bad news to patients and families.

You participated in a simulated encounter and had to show your compassion and clear communication skills in real time.

There is nothing more elemental in medicine than the moment that you have to acknowledge that there is nothing more you can do for your patient. 

Even harder still is recognizing that there is more you could do, but doing it is likely to create misery for the patient and not significantly lengthen life. 

I am a nephrologist who has treated kidney disease my whole career.

No one taught me that I could actually discuss with a patient, who had already been through a lot and is near the end of their life, that going on dialysis may not be worth it to them. But I learned to have those conversations because, ultimately, it is my responsibility to help my patients not only have a good life, but a good end of life.

You are starting your career in medicine knowing that being a compassionate communicator in the hardest of moments is a part of being an excellent physician. Your patients – and their loved ones – are counting on you and, because of your preparation, I know you will not let them down.

You are also doing other hard things well.

You and the classes following you have found your voices.

You've taken a stand for access to healthcare and against gun violence.

You have participated in Health Equity Week, providing free, basic medical care to people in Pioneer Courthouse Square.

You have gotten involved with the Bridges Collaborative Care Clinic, an entirely student run clinic that students across OHSU launched last fall to provide health screenings and primary care coordination for residents living in transitional housing.

And you are tackling some of the hardest topics.

You talk openly about institutional racism. About hardship and injustice for immigrants. About gender. About sexual abuse and harassment. And about your role as physicians in all of these things.

In doing so, you call out and hold to a higher standard all of us who came before you and were less equipped to do as you are doing.

But there is one really hard lesson that I am pretty certain you still need to learn:

You must learn to harness the incredible drive and passion that brought you to this moment of becoming a doctor. To truly succeed in taking care of others, you must also take care of yourself.

You must learn to recognize when you need a break and then you must take that break. I am the Dean of the School of Medicine. Consider my words your hall pass.

Because of the many hard things I have seen you do, I believe that you can do this too. You will help expand the national movement to reconnect with the joy in our work as physicians.

Use your passion as your beacon. Use it not only to care for your patients but also to go take a hike, get on your bike, listen to music, call up a friend.

In closing, on this day, I wish to offer you not only my congratulations but my gratitude. For the ways that you are, and the ways that you will, shape our profession and improve the care of all patients.

Before I return the microphone to Dr. Bumsted, I just want to repeat how proud I am of you and how pleased I am to be here to recognize your accomplishments and join your families and friends in celebrating this very special day. 

Apr. 24, 2018


The recent sunshine has reminded us all how much we've needed some blue sky days. While there is a lot of hopefulness in the air as we prepare to honor OHSU President Joe Robertson and select from an outstanding field of finalists to succeed him, we also know that the stress level for many in our School of Medicine community is high.

For this reason, we want to talk about wellness. Your well-being and ability to be resilient in the face of the demanding and important work we do is our highest priority as your leaders.

Safeguarding our wellness is important for every learner and every faculty and staff member across missions. It is particularly a matter of national focus for clinicians. More than half of U.S. physicians report symptoms of burnout, and the problems starts early, in medical students and residents. 

Burnout has serious consequences. Not only are clinicians' well-being and even lives at risk, but so is patient safety: clinician well-being is essential for safe, high-quality patient care. 

Recently, the National Academy of Medicine, the AAMC, and the ACGME launched a national Action Collaborative on Clinician Well-Being and Resilience. The goals: improve our understanding of challenges to clinician well-being; raise the visibility of clinician stress and burnout; and elevate evidence-based, multidisciplinary solutions that will improve patient care by caring for the caregiver. The School of Medicine is submitting a statement on wellness as part of this effort.

In response to concerns about burnout voiced by our house officers, our Graduate Medical Education leadership team is embarking on safe-space listening sessions in which house officers can speak honestly about practices and experiences contributing to stress. We will use this insight to shape recommendations and an action plan for improvements.

Faculty engagement and wellness: lots of work in progress

A number of initiatives are underway at OHSU to address well-being and a related factor, engagement. Engagement and feeling connected with our work and our coworkers is the positive antithesis of burnout and can re-invigorate excitement about doing our jobs.

As part of a focus on faculty engagement and wellness, the OHSU Practice Plan has allocated $375,000 to support early phase clinician engagement and wellness projects, including:

  • The eConsults program that allows clinicians to consult each other within the electronic health record and earn wRVUs.
  • The use of scribes and Dragon voice recognition software to lessen the burden of charting.
  • Piloting a clinical workflow solution team at one primary care and one specialty clinic, to improve the clinical work environment.
  • Piloting a modified clinical support staff model in Family Medicine to decrease the EHR burden and improve clinician burnout.

The EHR – and more specifically, the related documentation requirements – are a major source of clinician dissatisfaction. Jeff Gold, M.D., professor of medicine and medical informatics and clinical epidemiology, OHSU School of Medicine, is a pioneer in using simulation to analyze how providers use Epic in order to improve their experience, as well as improve EHR training and software.

In addition, School of Medicine leaders are working to organize, coordinate and enhance our faculty career development opportunities, a key factor in professional satisfaction and resiliency for scientists and clinicians alike. The SoM Faculty Advancement and Development Committee led by Niki Steckler, Ph.D., associate professor in the Division of Management, is playing a major role in this process. 

Many great department-level initiatives

Many departments and cross-departmental teams have also initiated programs to promote faculty engagement and career development and can serve as models. As just a few examples:

  • The Educators' Collaborative is a cross-departmental community of practice for faculty interested in education, including teaching, innovation, scholarship, curriculum design and mentoring. Their 2018 Symposium on Educational Excellence is Friday, April 27.
  • In Pediatrics, Professor Ben Hoffman, M.D., pioneered a highly successful program called Mentoring/Peers across the Career Trajectory (MPACT) that has spread to the departments of Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Ophthalmology. Cohorts of junior faculty participate in structured career advancement activities and, even more so, serve as a sounding board for each other, building an important and lasting support system.
  • In Medicine, Associate Professor Andrea Cedfeldt, M.D., created "DOM Cares" (Department of Medicine Career Advancement, Renewal and Enrichment Seminars), a series devoted to career development topics. Targol Saedi, M.D., assistant professor of medicine and director of the Clinical Hospitalist Service, appointed Michael Hendricks, M.D. instructor of medicine, as chair of morale. He leads a faculty recognition program to highlight excellence on the service, from outstanding patient care to exceptional teamwork. Also, on May 1, Don Girard, M.D., professor emeritus, is discussing burnout at Medical Grand Rounds, 8 a.m., OHSU Hospital 8B60.
  • In Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine, Chair Jeff Kirsch, M.D., promotes wellness through faculty and staff recognitions, departmental gatherings and by sharing strategies as simple but impactful as encouraging colleagues to smile more and greet each other and even people they don't know. Simple acts of kindness can just make the day better.

It's also been encouraging to see intentional efforts to foster a welcoming and inclusive culture at OHSU. From such long-term, institution-wide priorities like the Center for Diversity and Inclusion's Unconscious Bias Initiative to more discreet undertakings like Gratitude Week, which the M.D. class of 2021 sponsored last week, each helps make OHSU a place where people can bring, and feel appreciated for, their talents, perspectives and life experiences.

A word about financial pressures

We also want to acknowledge another area of stress and that's about money.

Nationally, academic health centers face uncertainty in health care and research funding and must work to adjust our financial model to remain competitive.

At OHSU, we are taking specific steps to keep our increasing expenses from outpacing revenue, while also growing our infrastructure to expand our clinical enterprise. We are systematically examining ways to develop a sustainable financial structure through the Accelerate OHSU initiative. This will involve improving efficiency, and together with another initiative focused on funds flow, is intended to improve our systems to align faculty effort, compensation and incentives across all missions. 

We know that workloads are high and that we need to work smarter, protect against burnout and allow for the stability that supports faculty to do their best work.

Confronting our vulnerabilities

To sum it all up, we want to be clear about a few important things.

At OHSU, and in academic medicine in general, our jobs are steeped in teamwork, but our work ethic is more about "I got this."

Please hear us say: Our greatest strength comes from our ability to ask for support when we need it. Our ability to create a culture with zero tolerance for discrimination or harassment depends on building accountability by reporting mistreatment.

Suffering in silence is not noble. It not only perpetuates the very environment we want to change; it can be downright damaging to us as individuals.

If you are struggling or feeling hopeless or overwhelmed, or if you are seeing these signs in a colleague, trainee or student, please reach out.

Sometimes just asking, "Hey, are you doing OK? How can I help?" can make a difference. Sometimes you – or the person you are concerned about – would benefit from a conversation with a caring professional.

The school has created a new wellness resource page to make it easy to identify supports and other offerings you can take advantage of. A new flow chart offers direction on how to get support if you are feeling mistreated in your work setting.

Leaders, please share this new webpage with your department or division. And, faculty, please consider attending The Foundation for Medical Excellence and the Oregon Medical Association's conference on Physician Well-Being May 4. The conference will feature strategies on everything from creating a positive work environment to self-care.

Thank you for being part of a community that cares, for our patients, for each other and for ourselves.  

Sharon Anderson, M.D. 
OHSU School of Medicine

John Hunter, M.D., F.A.C.S.
OHSU Health System

Dec. 5, 2017


I've been thinking this month about what it means to find your voice, how important storytelling is and how the ability to speak up and speak out is core to the university culture.

OHSU President Joe Robertson has become the teller of OHSU's story through his Directlines. In his latest last week, he reflected on the collegial culture of OHSU and the importance of preserving that. Faculty voice is a crucial part of that culture. I want to thank our faculty for all you do to share your views and create a dialogue with leadership when a dialogue is needed.

Speaking of Joe's Directline, I want to congratulate Dr. John Hunter on his new role as executive vice president and CEO of OHSU Health System. I know it might feel like we need more leadership change like a hole in the head, but let's step back a minute. OHSU is expanding. We are in the process of finalizing an agreement with Adventist Health Portland to integrate our clinical activities and services in the Portland metro area. We will be expanding our residency slots in communities across the state. We need our leadership structure to evolve to meet these challenges. Standing still is not an option. Joe's appointment of John in this position is clear affirmation of our collective recognition of the importance of having a faculty-led organization, and I look forward to continuing to work closely with John in his new role.

In the last week, we've also seen our graduate students find – and use – their voices. We have 227 Ph.D. students in the School of Medicine. Because many of them are toiling away in labs, they sometimes feel invisible. Yet when the federal tax bill took aim at their (and our) way of life – jeopardizing the graduate student tuition tax waiver that would render staying in school unaffordable for many – they stepped into the spotlight with a Graduate Student Organization-sponsored letter-writing campaign and on Dec. 6, in the Research Courtyard, the noontime #SaveGradEd rally.

While the U.S. Senate passed its version of the tax bill in the wee hours of Saturday morning, Dec. 2 Eastern Time, it's still possible that the graduate school tuition tax waiver could be reinstated during the reconciliation process with the House bill. OHSU is working with Oregon's Congressional delegation, the AAMC and institutions around the state to apply pressure on this and other aspects of the legislation. If the tax waiver is in fact repealed, OHSU will look at how to cushion the blow. But our students have made it clear: that waiver won't go down without a fight.

On Saturday morning, not many hours after the Senate vote, I attended an event called Strength Through Stories, led by the OHSU chapter of the American Medical Women's Association. It was a networking and mentoring workshop intended to help address the attrition of women in STEM fields as they progress in their careers. The focus was on reclaiming the stories that underlie every aspect of science and medicine, yet tend to get lost in our focus on data.

I was invited to share the story of my career path. I advised attendees to figure out their passions and then seek opportunities, being open to possibilities not previously considered; there is no GPS in life. My circuitous route from political science major to physician scientist is a testament to that. It wasn't until I suffered a traumatic injury while attempting to find my way after college that I realized I wanted to be a doctor. Lying in a hospital bed for a period of many weeks gave ample pause for reflection. After you get past the pain part, being a patient in the hospital is really boring. I was struck by the kinetic energy of my medical team, how much they seemed to thrive on what they do and were happy learning and serving their patients, despite working all hours of the day and night.

My story is not unlike that of some of the women who organized Saturday's event. Mollie Marr is an M.D./Ph.D. student who started out as a theater arts major. And it's no accident that she was also an organizer of the Graduate Student Organization's letter-writing campaign to Congress last week. She took on a lot of tasks to support that campaign, but perhaps the most powerful was sharing her story: without the tax waiver, she estimates she would have $500 a month to live on.

"I am more than willing to sleep on couches and find a way to make it work," she told our School of Medicine communications team, "but I would not be able to cover the cost of my asthma medications and still have money remaining for food."

OHSU is at a crucial moment in its story. As Dr. Robertson hands the reins to a new president, each of us plays a role in making that a story not only of continued, strategic growth, but of continued focus on, and stewardship of, who we are as Oregon's only academic health center. So use your voice. Not just to hear yourself speak, but to contribute when you have something to say.

This holiday season, I am feeling inspired by our students, faculty and staff. It is an honor and a privilege to serve alongside you.

Sharon Anderson, M.D. 

OHSU School of Medicine

Nov. 8, 2017


We teach our medical students to get to know their patients as people but, too often, we fail to do that in our working relationships. I was reminded of that last month when I read the memorial message and attended the service for Doug Weeks, M.D., professor and former chair of pathology, who died Oct. 16 of complications from familial hemochromatosis.

I knew Doug from academic administrative interactions and later as a fellow department chair. He was a kind and thoughtful man. But I never knew he was an enthusiastic amateur astronomer and eclipse chaser. With his wife and fellow faculty member Richelle Malott, M.D., he regularly watched the skies when Oregon weather permitted. They got up early or stayed up late to see conjunctions and interesting alignments of planets and stars, and tracked several fly-bys of the International Space Station (a couple of times when the shuttle was attached). They viewed the skies from the Concorde and watched a total eclipse from a cruise with their then-six-week old daughter. A photo of this youngest eclipse watchers was even published in Sky and Telescope magazine. On Aug. 21 this year, Doug viewed the (almost) total eclipse from his hospital bed.

Doug was also a fellow Star Trek fan, and autumn was his favorite season. On the morning of Oct. 16, when Richelle saw that it would be a beautiful autumn day and that the days to follow would be rainy and dreary, she texted their daughters with a quote from Worf, Star Trek Next Generation: "Today is a good day to die."

She and Doug had often laughed about Worf's quote in various permutations. Richelle told their daughters that she thought Dad would stop breathing that day. He died at 1:41pm. He would have appreciated the reference and been glad that his family could deal with the immediate shock and mourning of his passing on a day with a clear blue sky and golden leaves.

So: get to know your colleagues; we work with amazing people.

Staying connected

Knowing our colleagues is partly about listening. And that's something I will be doing more of as we both solidify our focus and priorities for the school for this academic year and beyond and begin to contemplate a transition to a new university president. Whenever possible during chairs' and other regular meetings, we will set aside time for open discussion so that I stay connected with what is on your mind. I will also be organizing listening sessions in coming months to learn the challenges and opportunities in the school that you see from your vantage point. You can also always share these insights with me via email.

I want to recognize our basic science chairs for already engaging me. In the October Basic Science Council, they shared their concern that few women and no basic science chairs were on the search committee for Chief Scientific Officer/Vice Dean for Research. I have now appointed Bita Moghaddam, Ph.D., chair of behavioral neuroscience, and Lisa Coussens, Ph.D., chair of cell, developmental and cancer biology, to the search committee. No, I won't always snap my fingers and do what you ask. But where I can and believe I should, I will.

Celebrating our victories

Knowing our colleagues is also about celebrating our victories. We have so many great people and so much great work being recognized. To mention just a few examples, the Oregon Medical Association named our own Don Girard, M.D., professor emeritus, Doctor-Citizen of the Year. Norman Cohen, M.D., professor of anesthesiology and perioperative medicine, received the 2017 Distinguished Service Award from the American Society of Anesthesiology. "The Doctor Fix: A New Era of Modern Medicine" documentary aired last week on PBS, featuring our transformed M.D. curriculum, including a cameo by our late Dean Mark Richardson. And students across OHSU, including our M.D. students, brought free care to the community during Health Equity Week, garnering great TV coverage.

Our clinical enterprise is also doing some important work. I joined John Hunter, Mitch Wasden and Anthony Masciotra to roll out the strategic plan for the clinical mission at the first quarterly leadership meeting Oct. 27.

Our OHSU Practice Plan and the hospital have come up with core goals, strategies and metrics that make sense and provide a clear focus. And I applaud the concrete behaviors around engagement, accountability and dedication to our mission embedded in the culture vision that Mitch and the team laid out.

Serving those who served our country

A final recognition before I close. Saturday, Nov. 11 is Veterans Day.

Increasingly, the Veterans Affairs Health Care System is investing in "grow your own" initiatives to ensure health care providers for those who have served our country. The School of Medicine's Physician Assistant Program is a part of this effort.

The physician assistant profession dates to the 1960s when medics returning from Vietnam wanted a way to use their skills to continue in the medical profession. Now one of our P.A. students, Rick Sander, a former Navy Corpsman/medic, has become our first to receive a VA scholarship that pays for his schooling in exchange for his commitment to practice with the VA. Welcome and congratulations, Rick! 

I also want to thank our 90 faculty members who have joint appointments with OHSU and the VA Portland Health Care System. They, like I, care for patients or conduct research in the VA. My work includes continuing to drive to Roseburg monthly to care for patients in the VA renal clinic there as I've done for the past 19 years. As any of us can tell you, it is immensely rewarding to give back to those who gave to our country.

Thanks for all you do.

Sharon Anderson, M.D.

OHSU School of Medicine

September 11, 2017

I am guessing that I’m not alone in wanting to hear some good news amid the hurricanes, smoke, ash, heat, floods and ongoing federal divisiveness. Gratefully, we have plenty to share. 

In the spirit of progress, I’m really pleased to report that among a number of excellent new recruits and promotions – including Alejandro Aballay from Duke as chair of MMI, Joaquin Cigarroa as head of cardiovascular medicine, David Jacoby as interim chair of medicine, Greg Landry as head of vascular surgery and Erik Mittra of Stanford as head of nuclear medicine – are some outstanding new women leaders. Farah Husain is our new head of bariatric surgery and Susan Gurley, also from Duke, will become head of nephrology and hypertension.

Dr. Husain has proven herself as a clinician leader, teacher and team builder at OHSU. She came to us after a decade on active duty in the U.S. Army, a fellowship at Emory and then helping Kaiser launch a metabolic-surgical weight management department in Denver. Dr. Gurley is not only highly regarded nationally in nephrology, she is a physician scientist. Especially amid national Women in Medicine Month, I could not be more pleased to have Dr. Gurley and Dr. Husain in these leadership roles.

Speaking of great women leaders, Mary Stenzel-Poore has stepped down as the school’s senior associate dean for research to become chief of research operations in the Knight Cancer Institute, and it’s taking three women to replace her. Mary Heinricher, associate dean for research, and Maggie Jameson, director of research strategy and operations for the school, will join me in handling research administration for the school. When in doubt on who to contact, please view Maggie as a point of entry. Meanwhile, we will soon be able to share more information about plans for recruiting a chief scientific officer to integrate and lead research across OHSU.

While I’m talking about research, I want to congratulate the Oregon Clinical and Translational Research Institute for being refunded. OCTRI is a crucial resource, a catalyst for scientific collaboration and innovation and a bridge builder from bench to bedside. I also want to say thank you to the group known as the G-5 who hosted me at their meeting this week. This group of our five clinical and research leaders in neuroscience – Dennis Bourdette (Neurology), Marc Freeman (Vollum), George Keepers (Psychiatry), Bita Moghaddam (Behavioral Neuroscience) and Nate Selden (Neurosurgery) – are shaping the vision for OHSU neuroscience, and I’m excited about their efforts.

In our clinical mission, I want to recognize Esther Choo (Emergency Medicine) for her New England Journal of Medicine piece last year and her tweet in August about dealing with racist patients in the ER, as well as her subsequent, solutions-oriented viewpoint piece and participation in a panel put on by our chapter of the Student National Medical Association. Dr. Choo is an outstanding example of courage and clarity around what it really takes to honor and uphold both diversity and inclusion – for women and for minorities.

I am also really proud of our medical students who, after the violence in Charlottesville, partnered with the OHSU Center for Diversity and Inclusion, Drs. Choo, Brian Gibbs and George Mejicano on the “In the Face of Hate” panel, as one of many activities they are undertaking to understand and combat racism. Likewise, our graduate students have created the Alliance for Visible Diversity in Science to focus OHSU efforts on recruiting, retaining, and most importantly, supporting graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, staff, and faculty members from underrepresented backgrounds. Our students are at the forefront of this necessary culture change in medicine and biomedical research. Their efforts support growth in all of us, and they give me great hope for the future.

I’ll end with a wistful yet celebratory note. On Sept. 6, just a few days after the anniversary of Mark Richardson’s untimely death, OHSU leaders, community members and Dean Richardson’s widow Ellen Richardson came together to dedicate a sculpture in Mark’s name. The sculpture, donated by Northwest artist Bruce West, who also attended the ceremony, stands in the courtyard behind Mackenzie Hall and will soon have an engraved plaque affixed to it.

Mark enjoyed the sounds of campus life that drifted up from the courtyard, where his sculpture now stands, to his office on the fourth floor of Mackenzie Hall. OHSU President Joe Robertson remarked that now "future deans will look down on the sculpture and be inspired by Mark's memory.” As the first dean to have the privilege of doing so, it was comforting to me in the days after the dedication to realize that the light reflected off of this stainless steel sculpture changes throughout the day - as if Mark is still here, tracking time as we work to build on his legacy.

Thanks for all you do for our school and for OHSU.

Sharon Anderson, M.D.

Jul. 19, 2017


I want to begin by telling you that I am honored to be your new dean. While it was not a role I anticipated playing, it is a role I am proud, humbled and prepared to accept. As I've been telling faculty and staff groups that I've started meeting with, in my second full week as your dean, it would be presumptuous to articulate a fully crafted vision for the school so early in my tenure. But I do know what I'm passionate about.

I'm passionate about all of our missions and have spent my career pursuing each. I'm also passionate about improving the lives of physicians and scientists – focusing not only on recruitment, which is important, but also on retention. That means not only time-saving supports like Dragon voice recognition software and scribes, but also getting us to think beyond the next patient or grant application to see ourselves as part of a bigger whole.

Finding meaning, supporting development

Part of that is about engaging in scholarship and in training the next generation of clinical and research leaders. The Dean's office now has a work group to look at how we define teaching and service in the faculty compact. It's an opportunity to construct standards about when compensation should be adjusted. More than that, it's a way to explore and better define what is expected of us, why we are here and how engaging in the opportunities at OHSU can drive success and help us thrive.

Faculty development is an important aspect of this. A decade ago, I was associate dean for faculty development and faculty affairs here in the school, but that focus on a comprehensive faculty development strategy fell off over time. We need it back. A lot of folks in the school have been looking at models, and I intend to work with them to see what we can do.

My passion for expanding the ranks of physician scientists is related. Combining discovery with healing and healing with discovery connects you to the power of both – in addition to advancing human health. Another Dean's office initiative I am already engaged in is forging a plan for expanding our ranks of physician scientists. More to come.

The last piece I'll mention is the importance of recognition.

I attended my first function as dean on July 6, the OHSU Professional Board meeting and award ceremony. It was inspiring to see the range of deserving clinicians honored – a nurse, a physician assistant, a resident physician and a number of faculty providers, emphasizing the degree to which health care is about teamwork. It was also moving to me to see the OHSU Transgender Health Program recognized for new models of clinical care and interdisciplinary teams.

Gender front and center

As only the second female dean in the 130-year history of the School of Medicine, I am aware that gender is what people younger than I describe as "still a thing." I have appreciated the many female colleagues and students who have said they feel inspired by my appointment. Yet for me, it is physician colleagues like Paula Amato, Jens Berli, Carol Blenning, Kara Connelly, Daniel Dugi, Juliana Hansen, Christina Milano, Lishiana Shaffer and the other professional team members of the Transgender Health Program who are on the front lines of equity and of freeing ourselves from labels to focus on humanity and human potential.

The Transgender Health Program provides the complex and crucial supports and procedures for individuals to become who they are. The program is also a gateway for transgender individuals to find other affirming health care providers and for their families to gain information and resources.

These colleagues are changing how we think and how we talk about gender. The level of nonjudgment inherent in the terms cisgender – when one's gender identity matches the sex assigned at birth – and transgender is simply fantastic. These terms also reflect a level of frankness that I identify with. As my colleagues in the Department of Medicine will tell you, I will nearly always ask for input, and then I will call it how I see it. I am decidedly Vulcan in this way.

I am proud that OHSU is on the leading edge of not only providing but celebrating such work as gender transition health care. Oregon is joining the cause, becoming the first state to allow residents to identify as nonbinary, or identifying outside of the male/female binary, on their driver's license. And, worth noting, the U.S. House of Representatives just this month refused to ban insurance coverage for transition health care for transgender troops in the U.S. military, citing the effectiveness and medical necessity of treatment for individuals with gender dysphoria.

Moving into a new era

As a school, we are emerging from our own time of transition. We were fortunate for Dr. John Hunter's service as interim dean. I am pleased that he remains part of the team as chief clinical officer overseeing, along with OHSU Practice Plan CEO Anthony Masciotra, our clinical integration with partners, including increasing access to our specialized care, and expanding and streamlining access to primary care.

Going forward, I will be focusing my time on strengthening and working with colleagues to provide direction to all our missions. Integration will be a theme not only in our clinical enterprise but everywhere else – from continuing to leverage the faculty and resources that OHSU has invested in to improve collaboration and ignite discovery across the campus, to expanding graduate medical education and the sites where our residents and fellows serve, to building out our new Ph.D. curriculum to create truly multidisciplinary programs better aligned with today's careers in science.

I want to acknowledge and thank you for pulling together during our time of change and appreciate all you are doing and will do to support me in my new role. Be patient but don't be afraid to challenge me. I look forward to growing together.

Sharon Anderson, M.D. 
OHSU School of Medicine

Jun. 27, 2017


As I transition July 5 to the chief clinical officer role, I want to take a moment to express my gratitude for your energy, support and great work this past year.

My year as dean was made memorable by the many faculty, staff and students that I got to know better and the opportunity to understand the incredible range, reach and caliber of the work going on in the school.

Those experiences included participating in the recruitment process for chairs for the Departments of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Molecular Microbiology and Immunology and touring basic science labs, deepening my understanding of the impressive science happening at OHSU. I hope to continue these lab tours for my own curiosity and to continue building my understanding of the rich academic tapestry that makes working at OHSU so exciting and seeking care here so attractive.

Other rewarding projects included supporting Drs. David Ellison, Sharon Anderson, Mary Heinricher and their ad hoc committee in updating and improving the faculty appointment and promotion policy, as well as working with Jamie Thayer, Rebecca Auman and John Hembroff at the OHSU Foundation to better define the philanthropic needs of faculty and the school. Our philanthropic projects included the DeNorval Unthank Health Equity Lecture with donors William and Nathalie Johnson; welcoming Dr. Jennifer DeVoe as the inaugural John & Sherrie Saultz Endowed Professorship in Family Medicine, and presenting Dr. Paul Flint with the Dean's Award for his outstanding leadership of our professional board and several other initiatives critical to the success of the School of Medicine.

Among the events that I took the most pride in were the School of Medicine Honors & Awards Ceremony, the OHSU Convocation and M.D. Hooding Ceremony, the investiture of new endowed professorships, the OHSU Diversity and Inclusion Awards, and the Gun Violence as a Public Health Issue forums so powerfully led by Drs. Brian Gibbs and Alisha Moreland-Capuia and Leslie Garcia, M.P.A.

It was an honor and a pleasure to work on OHSU President Joe Robertson's executive team, a team of "seasoned hands" Connie Seeley and Lawrence Furnstahl, and "newbies" like myself, Provost Elena Andresen, Alice Cupril Comas (our new chief legal counsel), and Hospital CEO Mitch Wasden. I have especially enjoyed working with Mitch to close the 'whitespace' between the clinicians and the health system. Whether sharing a cup of coffee and a Diet Coke at 6:30 a.m., molding a clinical enterprise retreat focused on culture, strategy and metrics, or making road trips to our community health system partners, it has been an enjoyable education and partnership.

I am especially grateful to the four senior associate deans, who could run the school ably (and without interference!) on their own. I will remember joining Dr. George Mejicano in Southern Oregon to meet with more than a dozen Medford physicians for a dialogue about medical school admissions last November and participating in the recruitment process for a new associate dean for graduate medical education (GME), and collaborating with Dr. Mary Stenzel-Poore on a vision for the enhancement and integration of science across the school, on chair recruitments and on other programs to advance science such as a new Dean's Innovation Fund to support trainees across labs (more to come on that soon) and a proposal to recruit new physician-scientists to OHSU via the school's Collaborative Recruitment Pool program. I have been pleased to increasingly partner with Anthony Masciotra and his team on clinical integration across our expanding network, as well as beginning to solve some – if not all – of our capacity and access challenges. The two clinical retreats, the icy OHSU Practice Plan retreat in February, and the sunny clinical enterprise retreat in June were also high points. And, when budget time came around, I marveled at the steady hand of Irene Barhyte and her team, who despite the complexity of this year's budget puzzle, remained unflappable and solution-oriented, with Irene always leading with her trademark, "We can do that."

These four could not be as effective without the larger Dean's office team and the work of administrators and so many others in our departments who make operations hum. Special thanks to Nicole Lockart, who in addition to serving as assistant dean for Faculty Affairs and Administration, is also our representative on the OHSU emergency operations team; Cathy Villagomez, our outstanding administrative manager in the Dean's office, and Shawna Shope, executive assistant to the dean, who handled my impossible calendar and set me up for success.

Thank you also to our excellent communications team of Erin Hoover Barnett, Rachel Shafer and Jennifer Smith, who stitch us all together by telling us what we need to know and sharing the news with our community, whether the news was good or not quite so uplifting.    

It has been a hard yet good year, and I am excited for the future with the leadership of incoming Dean Sharon Anderson and the work we will do together to become more interwoven with our clinical partners and truly create a web of care that will serve more Oregonians.

Thank you again and I look forward to our continued accomplishments.

John Hunter, M.D., F.A.C.S.
Interim Dean
OHSU School of Medicine