Community Connections Fall 2011

All Oregon communities share the common desire to have access to the best available health care and health education.

OHSU helps by providing care to the underserved, extending the reach of health care, engaging in research vital to public and community health issues, and sharing the latest in medical advances.

OHSU hope to learn how it can connect with your community to improve the health of all Oregonians and provide learning opportunities to people who are interested in careers in health and science.

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Photo by Michael McDermott
Aaron Grossberg, at left, worked closely with Elena Jesus Hernandez, at right, as a mentor during her studies in Dr. Daniel Marks lab in the Pape Family Pediatric Research Institute.

Inspiring and creating young scientists 

Elena de Jesus Hernandez entered school for the first time in the fifth grade, when her family moved from Mexico to Hillsboro. By age 18, she had finished a two-summer internship in an OHSU biomedical lab researching cancer cells and the correlation between illness and fatigue. Her work — which she chose after her mother died of cancer in 2006 — was possible through the Ted R. Lilley Cancer Continuing Umbrella of Research Education, or CURE, Project. 

CURE is a mentorship program designed to give high-achieving teens from economically or socially disadvantaged backgrounds hands-on experience with cancer-related biomedical research. The bonds forged between mentors and students in the program are lasting, and include everything from help applying for college to securing work-study positions. “It increased my interest in research,” Hernandez says. 

“We have a responsibility to create the next generation of scientists and health care workers,” says Leslie Garcia, OHSU vice provost for diversity. “We hope to inspire students to use their new knowledge and training to serve their communities.”  The CURE Project relies on philanthropic support and the commitment of staff members from the OHSU Center for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs and the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute. 

OHSU invests in tomorrow’s leaders today through more than 40 student programs and science education opportunities.

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Photo by Keith Valachi, D.D.S.

Tyler Bendixsen, at left, and Stevenson Smith, at right, both fourth-year dental students at OHSU, made themselves at home, and of use, in a clinic on wheels.

A visit to the dentist — Long Creek style

Long Creek, located about 40 miles north of John Day, doesn’t have a single dentist in town.  The 220 people that reside in Long Creek, and their teeth, look forward to the arrival of the Medical Teams International mobile dental van each year.

The School of Dentistry was there in force in July, with three dental students and an OHSU dental school faculty member joining with two OHSU alumni.

The volunteers, with the help of their mobile mini clinic, were able to treat 82 patients during their four-day visit. More patients could have been seen if the stay had been longer. “The need in Grant County is endless it seems,” said Dr. Keith Valichi, an OHSU alumna and organizer of the visit.

The students’ work in Long Creek helped an immediate need yet the experience taught them much more than the value of a good day of dentistry. Exposing students to rural settings allows them to understand the health care needs of communities around the state. Often students with this exposure seek out rural locations to practice after graduation — a major goal of OHSU’s education mission.

Student Tyler Bendixsen felt he gained an appreciation for the access to care that is available, and sometimes taken for granted, in more populated areas. “Those who received care on the dental vans were very appreciative, even if in some cases the vans lacked the resources of a clinic. I was amazed to see the way people came together to help each other out and sacrificed their time to allow the dental vans to function effectively. It was a great experience for me.”

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Photo by Chris Pietsch

Dylan Smith has more time to enjoy the outdoors and the fantastic view of Mt. McKinley that he shares with his neighbors, thanks to the collaborative efforts of Rogue Valley Medical Center and OHSU.

Keeping kids home for specialty care

What if your child is sick? Really sick. Compound that thought with the fact that you live in an otherwise idyllic setting in rural Oregon, where access to the special care your child needs could be almost nonexistent. This scenario plays out too frequently for families across the nation. In Oregon, many communities have come to know the doctors and other care providers from OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, who bring traveling clinics and specialty care to towns around the state, and help ease some of the burden of finding a specialist close to home.

Diagnosed at age 2 with congenital heart disease, Dylan Smith — now 17 — is a veteran of numerous procedures and countless appointments with specialists. Thanks to traveling outreach clinics sponsored by Doernbecher, Smith has been able to see specialized pediatric cardiologists while staying close to his rural Jackson County home. “It is a huge benefit,” says his mother, Brenda. For Dylan, it means more time to spend hunting and hiking in the hills with his dog, despite the three heart surgeries, three treatments for recurrent arrhythmias and countless appointments with specialists. While the surgical procedures occur in Portland, Smith sees pediatric cardiologists in nearby Medford every few months..

The cardiologists’ visits are part of the traveling outreach clinics and are held in collaboration with Rogue Valley Medical Center, so that children and teens with congenital heart disease in Medford can get specialized consultation while staying close to home.

Doernbecher Children’s Hospital operates traveling clinics in cardiology, endocrinology and pulmonology, reaching some 3,000 patients annually in 13 locations throughout the state.

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Photo by Michael McDermott

OHSU’s Division of Continuing Medical Education is the School of Medicine's primary resource for the education of physicians throughout the Oregon and Northwest medical practice community.

Oregon’s doctors access nation’s best continuing ed through OHSU

Twenty-thousand times. That’s how often doctors turned to OHSU last year for educational updates. These doctors care for patients throughout the state and count on OHSU to help them keep pace with the ever-changing world of medicine.

The Association of American Medical Colleges thinks other medical schools could benefit from OHSU’s expertise in supporting these life-long learners. OHSU’s School of Medicine Division of Continuing Medical Education was asked by the association to participate in a national project called Aligning Education for Quality. The project’s objective is to learn and share the secrets for success from innovative programs like OHSU, while developing new and better methods for enhancing the ways in which doctors learn.  OHSU is one of only 12 academic medical centers invited to participate in the pilot project.

The accrediting body that keeps tabs on the nation’s continuing education programs thinks pretty highly of the division as well. The Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education awarded OHSU’s School of Medicine its highest honor, a 6-year accreditation with commendation. Of approximately 700 ACCME-accredited organizations, few typically receive accreditation with commendation. In the council’s words, OHSU “is a learning organization and a change agent for the physicians (they) serve.”

The OHSU School of Medicine offers approximately 100 activities to address the educational needs of both generalist and specialist physicians and other health care practitioners. Programs are developed and led by OHSU faculty and range from traditional primary care review to rural trauma team development in collaboration with regional hospitals to provide onsite, multi-disciplinary training in locations around Oregon.

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Aging in Place

Thanks to a grant from the National Institutes of Health, Alzheimer's study participants around Oregon are receiving free care they may not have access to otherwise, while testing the effectiveness of two natural supplements.

Aging in place

A research study at OHSU is playing out in several corners of Oregon. Through collaborations with clinics in Klamath Falls, Bend, Medford and Salem, a group of patients with Alzheimer’s from many walks of life will help to test the effectiveness of two natural supplements.

The research is a follow-up to an earlier pilot study that showed some success in day-to-day function of patients with Alzheimer’s who were given the supplements. The study is looking at whether taking lipoic acid and fish oils delays decline in memory and daily function. “It’s the combination that seems to have an effect and has improved some people’s ability to stay at home and be more functional,” said Lynne Shinto, N.D., M.P.H., who is the investigator leading the study. “We find that people are interested in natural products as an intervention. And because the supplements are easily available, it’s a more open-access kind of therapy.”

Chris Toomey, R.N., sees the community link-ups with OHSU as a good fit, both for the patients and those who care for them. Toomey is a practice enhancement research coordinator for the Central Oregon Region of the Oregon Rural Practice Research Network, founded by OHSU to help create these types of collaborations between the university and health care providers around the state.

Toomey, who is coordinating the study in Klamath Falls, feels that the patients get a lot of benefits from the study, and their caregivers do, too. “Patients receive two MRIs and many memory tests to track if the supplements are having any effect on them. Many Alzheimer’s patients have never had an MRI, and all the costs of these things are covered by the grant —and provided free to the patients,” Toomey said.

In addition to the care the patients receive, the caregivers have a sounding board and access to information they may not have been able to obtain without the connection to the study.

The National Institutes of Health is providing the $1.3 million funding for this three-year project. Although the study is already under way, additional patients are being recruited.

If you know of someone interested in participating in the study, contact Lauren Bumgarner, head study coordinator, at 503 494-7240.

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OHSU Community Connections is a quarterly newsletter. To access other stories any time about the power of teaching, healing and discovery working together, visit the OHSU Effect website.