In memoriam: Edward J. Keenan, Ph.D. (1948-2014)

Dr. Edward KeenanThe OHSU School of Medicine announces with great sadness that Ed Keenan, Ph.D., professor of physiology and pharmacology/surgery, OHSU School of Medicine, died suddenly Aug. 14.

Dr. Keenan played an enormous and influential role in the School of Medicine for many years.

After completing his doctoral degree in pharmacology at the West Virginia University School of Medicine, he conducted postdoctoral research in the School of Medicine’s Department of Surgery before joining the OHSU faculty in 1975. He served as associate dean for medical education from 1995 to 2009.

Dr. Keenan was an important catalyst of change and innovation within the School of Medicine. Among other contributions, during the 1990s, he was instrumental in the development of a new medical school curriculum which earned national recognition. In 1997, he led the introduction of the holistic M.D. admissions process that highly values non-cognitive applicant attributes. Dr. Keenan was also passionate about his research, which was focused on identifying molecular markers of prognosis in breast cancer.

Where Dr. Keenan made such a significant mark was on individual students. He was beloved by his students and received many teaching awards, including four annual Excellence in Teaching Awards. But he was more than a teacher. He was an adviser, friend and colleague to thousands of medical students. He continued this dedication in his subsequent role as President of The Foundation for Medical Excellence where he was a champion for physician wellness and health care quality.

At a 2008 event honoring Dr. Keenan when he moved into his role at The Foundation for Medical Excellence, students shared stories about his time as associate dean. The quote below summarizes the broad attachment students felt for Dr. Keenan and his impact:

He has been an advocate and leader, showing each generation of new students the ropes, helping to ease them through the trials and tribulations of their medical educations, all the while staying cool and – well coiffed. We all appreciated Dr. Keenan’s teaching and leadership skills, but what truly set him apart was the respect he afforded students by having high expectations and treating us as professionals, telling it like it was and providing us with the tools but then sending us out to educate and empower ourselves. Great teachers inspire, great leaders bring out the best qualities of those around them, and Dr. Keenan is a master of both.

In 2010, the student body invited Dr. Keenan to deliver an address at the Hooding and Commencement ceremony. In this moment of grief, we share that address here as it captures Dr. Keenan’s spirit so well,“Do Well by Doing Good for Others.”

Dr. Keenan will be greatly missed.


The memorial service for Dr. Keenan was held on Wednesday, Aug. 20, at 1 p.m. at  Finley Sunset Hills Memorial Park.

For remembrances and in lieu of flowers, the family has established a TFME Edward J. Keenan, Ph.D., Medical Student Scholarship fund. These funds will support scholarship(s) for OHSU medical student(s). If you would like to contribute, you can do so by either sending a check to The Foundation for Medical Excellence, One SW Columbia #860, Portland OR 97258, or you can visit the TFME website at and submit your contribution. The Foundation for Medical Excellence is a non-profit 501c entity.