Message from Dean Richardson: Constancy, in the midst of constant change

August 20, 2013

Dean RichardsonDear School of Medicine Community:

As our newest students begin arriving on campus, they bring a unique mix of excitement, enthusiasm and nervous energy as they set a new course for their future. I congratulate all of our students on reaching this milestone in your journey, and welcome you to the OHSU School of Medicine.

For those of us who have the privilege of watching firsthand as this moment unfolds year after year, sharing in their excitement and shaping their education, we are affirmed by the constancy of matriculation and then graduation.

And yet, this year more than any before, all of our missions exist within another type of constancy: change. I recently had the opportunity to discuss this topic with colleagues from around the nation at a leadership forum. The key question uniting our conversation: What is the future of the academic health center?

There is little disagreement that the value and importance of our missions continue to expand, even – or especially – as a full-scale reconsideration of the future of health care, education and research takes place across the nation. For us, this means focusing on how to best organize ourselves for continued and future success, while always building on and protecting existing attributes and emerging strengths.

We will undoubtedly be talking about this topic for some time, because the pace of change is so rapid and the future of the external environment remains far from clear. In this message, I want to focus now on three attributes that will be – must be – part of a successful medical school of the future:

1. Partnerships and collaboration will be foundational. The era of public funding –government funding from a variety of sources that together can sustain academic medicine – is ending. We cannot ignore this reality. And simultaneously, the need to rapidly evolve aspects of how we meet our missions due to advances in technology, health care reform, changes to the education paradigm, the growing complexity of scientific questions and the shifting needs of our constituents is paramount. Partnerships and collaboration – with industry, philanthropy, other academic institutions, community and others – will help address both our need for new funding and maximize our ability to meet our missions. We are already strong in this regard, and becoming stronger. Working with faculty, I am developing specific goals to move our culture into this new era, while ensuring ongoing stability.

2. The integration of clinical care, research, education and community service will increase. The innovations that emerge – continuously – with ever-closer mission integration represent the greatest potential to advance human health and ensure relevance in a fast-changing, highly connected world. Consider just this one example: It takes years, sometimes decades, to move a new discovery into clinical practice. Better integration of our research and clinical missions has the potential to lower the barriers preventing rapid translation of new knowledge.

3. In this modern era of complex challenges, we must develop "modern" leaders. We need strong, steady leadership to guide us through challenges of a size and scope unknown to our predecessors. Leadership is a skill that can be learned, but it requires specialized training outside our traditional career focus areas. Successful medical schools will routinely educate, recruit and develop their own students, trainees and faculty to be effective leaders in this new era defined by complexity and constant change. Modern leaders will be value-driven, nimble, focused on teamwork/collaboration and knowledge translation, and able to find alignment with broad institutional, mission and community goals.

This last area – leadership – brings me back to an observation about our newest students. I attended the M.D. White Coat Ceremony last week where the medical students receive their first white coat and recite the Oath of Geneva – two symbols that mark the beginning of their journey to becoming a physician. Witnessing their excitement and commitment, along with the support of their friends and families gathered for the occasion, gives me a great deal of confidence – our future is in good hands: our students. And their future is in good hands: ours.

I am proud to be part of an institution where we work together to educate the next generation of leaders – physicians, researchers, physician assistants, pharmacists, policymakers and many other health care professionals. Thank you – faculty, alumni, friends and students – for the essential role you play in all our missions.

Best Regards,

Mark Richardson

Mark Richardson, MD, MBA
Dean, OHSU School of Medicine
President, Faculty Practice Plan