New M.D. students selected for prestigious Swindells Scholarships

September 25, 2012

In August, six more OHSU M.D. students were selected as Swindells Family Scholars, one of the School of Medicine's most prestigious M.D. scholarship awards. The new scholars are Ethan Beckley, MS2, Andrew Dworkin, MS3, Benjamin Larson, MS3, Heidi Schroeder, MS1, Karl Tjerandsen, MS1 and Katherine Watson, MS1.

They join inaugural scholars Katy Schousen, MS2, Danielle Babbel, MS2, Brian Garvey, MS4 and Rachel Pilliod, M.D. '12, who were selected in 2011.

These students have distinctive histories and strong connections to Oregon, reflecting the goals of the fund. (Read their bios below.) Each scholarship provides $20,000 in support per year.

The scholarships got their start in 2010 when the school received the largest single scholarship gift ever in its history. Made by an anonymous donor, the $10 million gift to establish an endowed M.D. scholarship program establishes a perpetual source of financial assistance for exceptional and distinctive students who have a high probability of positively contributing to Oregon's future.

The anonymous donor named the fund "The Swindells Family Scholars Program" in honor of the long history of support OHSU has received over multiple generations from the Swindells family.

"The value of the Swindells scholarships to both the recipients and Oregon will be profound," said Dean Mark Richardson. "It's through the visionary investment of generous donors like this that we can support and grow future medical leaders, leaders who hold the promise to make a deep and long-lasting impact on the health of Oregonians."

These 10 scholars will be joined by new recipients each year, thus multiplying the scholarship's impact throughout the state over time.

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Beckley, EthanEthan Beckley, Class of 2015

When he was a graduate student at OHSU in behavioral neuroscience, Ethan Beckley, Ph.D. '09, age 31, worked on research that sought to increase our understanding of how steroid sex hormones might contribute to mental illnesses such as postpartum depression. His project brought him into contact with patients and the medical environment. Though he'd always planned to be a researcher, the encounters changed him. He realized that, for him, "The real thrill is making a direct difference in someone's life."

In his second year of medical school, Dr. Beckley's primary interest is in mental health (psychiatry), with special emphasis on mood disorders like depression and anxiety, as well as addiction medicine and women's mental health. Having been raised in a small town, Dr. Beckley says he would eventually like to put down roots somewhere in the Willamette Valley or along the coast.

"Growing up in a small farm town, I knew families caught in the cycle of poverty and low educational achievement," he said. "Seeing how these conditions can lead to poor health shaped my priorities as a future physician. In every part of Oregon, there are still people who are facing these challenges, and my goal is to serve rural Oregonians as one step in improving the health of this state."

"I am deeply honored and thankful to receive a Swindells scholarship. Creating scholarships specifically for medical students shows that the people of Oregon understand that medical school is where the foundations are laid for future excellence in health care. Medical students should be focused on developing their clinical knowledge, reasoning and skills, not worrying about the rising costs of education. For that reason, a gift like this is both a smart investment for health care quality and a show of support for our dreams of helping people."

Dworkin, AndrewAndy Dworkin, Class of 2014

Andy Dworkin, age 38, grew up in Bloomington, Ind. He earned a history degree from Stanford and after graduation took a job in journalism, which eventually brought him to Portland. While reporting about medicine, he became fascinated with the gaps in the health care system and the experience of illness. "In particular, I grew interested in the increasing burden of chronic illnesses, such as obesity and diabetes, and how those illnesses and increasing life spans pose huge challenges for health care and society," he said.

Dworkin traded his reporter's notebook for a stethoscope. At OHSU, he volunteered at the Southwest Clinic (a free clinic run by the Department of Family Medicine) and coordinated communications for Health Care Equality Week last year. He also helped lead the Geriatrics and Palliative Care student group and the Healers for Human Rights student group and has volunteered at food banks.

After medical school, Dworkin plans to pursue an internal medicine residency. After a fellowship in geriatrics, he wants to return to Oregon to practice, with a focus on geriatric care. "I would love to work in a setting that uses tools such as home visits, care coordinators, group visits and other non-traditional methods to improve access to health care, including preventive care," he said.

"This is an enormous benefit. I'm a single parent and have extra high expenses for my child's schooling and health insurance. Getting a generous scholarship makes me worry less about debt and focus more on my studies and academic interests."

Larson, BenjaminBenjamin Larson, Class of 2014

A fourth-generation Oregonian, Benjamin Larson, age 27, was born in Eugene and grew up in Portland, graduating from Sunset High School. As a classical Hebrew major at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., he seemed destined for a life of studying the ancient past. Case in point, Larson wrote a poetic analysis of the first chapter of Lamentations for his senior year thesis and considered archaeology or classical languages as the next step in his career.

Yet during a fellowship in Poland following graduation, he wrote a research paper on the health care for undocumented migrants there. After he returned to the U.S., he worked as an emergency department scribe for Legacy Health System and later as a wilderness therapy field instructor in the desert of south-central Idaho. "I could have happily taught classics as a career, but I wanted deeper involvement in the lives of the living," he realized. After shadowing several internists one summer, he confirmed that medicine was a good fit. "How many other careers allow you to serve people in such an intimate and tangible way, and also spend your life learning and teaching at the highest levels?"

At OHSU, Larson served as class president for two years and will take an extra year to complete a pathology student fellowship. He plans to pursue a residency in either internal or family medicine and practice in Oregon. "I feel a strong connection to this state and its reputation for innovative and compassionate medicine."

"I'm humbled to be counted among such impressive students, and very grateful for the assistance."



Schroeder, Heidi Heidi Schroeder, Class of 2016

Heidi Schroeder grew up in Portland and earned a B.A. from Northwestern University in anthropology. Prior to medical school, she taught middle school science for two years through Teach for America in an underserved community in central Phoenix, Arizona. In addition to planning lessons and labs, she organized the school's science fair, coached the middle school soccer team, implemented a health education program and established "application nights" throughout the year for students and families to encourage them to seek enrollment at high-achieving high schools in the area. "Though I appreciated the many challenging aspects of teaching, I found the most joy when I was working directly with students and their families to help empower them to make informed educational, social and health decisions."

Schroeder found satisfaction in serving others through teaching, but discovered a particular interest in how health impacted on all aspects of a person's life. "Students who were healthy were able to make more substantial academic growth," she noted. "This reaffirmed my interest in practicing medicine. Teaching in Phoenix demonstrated the importance of accessing adequate health care and education, and I am transferring that understanding to my practice of medicine at OHSU."

After medical school, Schroeder plans to pursue a family medicine residency and return to Oregon to practice.

Tjerandsen, Karl Karl Tjerandsen, Class of 2016

Karl Tjerandsen, 33, comes to medicine not only as his second career, but also as the achievement of a more than decade-long dream to make a beneficial and lasting impact in the lives of others. A Seattle native, Tjerandsen has called Oregon home since 2008. In his previous career, Tjerandsen served as in-house and outside counsel to hospitals, health systems and single- and multi-specialty physician groups, with a focus on health care regulation. He is fascinated by the impact that organizational culture and values have on both patient and provider, and by the ways in which an organizational culture is built – and what causes it to break down.

Several experiences in 2011 solidified Tjerandsen's change in direction. He volunteered with Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center in Hillsboro, lending his perspective to a committee tasked with process improvement. He volunteered for two months in a pediatric hospital in Bolivia, rotating through five different service lines. He also spent more than three months serving as an emergency medical technician on a remote atoll in the Pacific Ocean. "I was left with a deepened appreciation for the art and science of medicine, and the conviction that medicine is where I have always belonged," he said.

After graduation from medical school, Tjerandsen plans to pursue a primary care residency and hopes to remain in or return to Oregon to practice. He holds a J.D. from the University of Washington School of Law and a B.A. from Whitman College.

"Being named a Swindells Family Scholar is an unbelievable honor, and one that will help facilitate a career that is dedicated to the service of this state and its residents."


Watson, Katherine (Kate)Katherine Watson, Class of 2016

Kate Watson, age 26, grew up in Olympia, Wash. At Wellesley College, she discovered an interest in health economics and explored a career in that field. She realized, though, that she wanted to "work more intimately with people and to be involved in discovery."

After graduating from college, Watson volunteered as researcher at OHSU before taking research jobs in the OHSU Department of Orthopaedics & Rehabilitation – Spine Center and later in the Department of Surgery – Division of Trauma Critical Care. "Working in research has really stressed upon me the magnitude of questions that still need to be answered and has driven me to pursue a career in academic medicine."

Despite the full-time demands of medical school, Watson still works part-time conducting trauma research at OHSU. After graduation, she plans to pursue a residency in general surgery and then a fellowship in trauma and critical care. She hopes to come back to Portland for her career.