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Recent Messages from Dean Sharon Anderson

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

Reach out with respect and kindness
A Message from Dean Sharon Anderson to the School of Medicine
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