Q&A with Mark O’Hollaren, MD '80, new OHSU VP for strategic outreach

Dr. O'HollarenOHSU President Joe Robertson, MD, MBA, recently announced the appointment of Mark O’Hollaren, MD '80, as OHSU’s new Vice President for Strategic Outreach. The position will report both to Dr. Robertson and OHSU Healthcare Executive Director Peter Rapp.

In his new role as OHSU’s vice president for strategic outreach, Mark O’Hollaren, MD, will be charged with matching the full breadth of OHSU’s health care, education and research programs to areas where we are uniquely able to impact the health and well being of Oregonians.

Q&A with Dr. O'Hollaren

We caught up with Dr. O’Hollaren recently to ask more about what the role will mean for Oregonians and OHSU.

Q. Why does OHSU need a vice president for strategic outreach?

One of the great things about my current position—serving as director of clinical outreach for OHSU Healthcare—is that I get to spend a great deal of time listening. I hear from community leaders, healthcare professionals and patients about what’s going on in communities around the state, and a common refrain is that they want to partner with OHSU in ways that fit with, but often extend far beyond, our clinical enterprise.

OHSU is unique, and Oregonians know that. No other institution has the unique breadth of clinical, educational, research and other services that we provide, and this new position can be really helpful in coordinating all of those things in a way that feels seamless from the perspective of the communities we serve.

Although I think philosophically many of us might wish we could be all things to all communities, we just can’t—that’s the “strategic” part of the job. This role won’t replace any of the great work OHSU is already doing. But we will focus on areas where we have tools for improving the health and well being of Oregonians.

Q. What’s an example of the kind of role this position might play in OHSU and a community?

I think a great example is our work with Astoria, which really started out as a discussion about a small-scale clinical relationship between Columbia Memorial Hospital and OHSU. Those initial conversations grew into the Columbia Memorial / OHSU Community Cancer Center and, on a parallel track, a partnership to offer cardiology care.

Along the way we involved hospital administrators, medical directors, community leaders and many others in Astoria and at OHSU. Both programs are expanding, and we’re now talking about how to add components like medical education and other research or outreach activities to the work we do together.

Ideally we’d be able to help communities like Astoria connect the dots inside OHSU, around the issues where we’re able to make a real difference in health outcomes.

Q. How will this position work with OHSU’s existing outreach programs?

Collaboratively. We won’t be adding any staff, so my office will still remain very small. Our role inside OHSU won’t be to replace or administer or regulate—we already have a fantastic suite of outreach programs, so we’ll only be focused on coordinating selected outreach activities so that the experience of communities working with us will be a smooth and seamless one.

Q. What’s your previous experience with parts of OHSU other than our clinical mission?

I actually graduated from our School of Medicine—class of ’80—so my history with OHSU goes back quite a ways. I completed my internship and residency in internal medicine at Stanford and then did a fellowship in allergy and clinical immunology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, but I always wanted to come back to Portland and teach. Teaching is one of my great passions—I just really love it.

I was appointed as a faculty member here in ’86, and served as director of the Allergy and Asthma Clinic from ’94-’98. I was also the Lawrence Selling Professor and vice chair of the department of medicine, and vice president of our medical group, but in ’98 my partner in private practice died unexpectedly and I left OHSU to run a single specialty clinic full time.

I’ve remained active in teaching, lecturing and publishing, and still have a small clinical practice. In 2007 I welcomed the chance to return to OHSU as the director of clinical outreach for OHSU Healthcare. It was immensely rewarding to see how OHSU had grown since I left almost a decade ago, and to hear from people around the state about the ways that all kinds of OHSU programs touch their lives.

Q. What are some of the long-range impacts you would hope this position to have?

First and foremost, we want to improve health. We’ll be measuring ourselves around some time-limited projects that are tightly focused on improving outcomes for specific issues in specific communities. As we learn what works, we’ll work at translating those projects to a larger canvas—seeing how they can be scaled to improve the health and well being of all Oregonians.

I also really want to focus on the kinds of relationships that OHSU has with Oregonians—and vice versa. We have incredibly talented people at OHSU, who have built a great range of programs that touch many others. Sometimes we often think about those programs in isolation—how we create an effective educational experience for medical rotations in Burns, a great nursing program in La Grande, excellence in clinical care in the Dalles.

I’d like us to also be thinking about communities as a whole—how we can partner with the Dalles, or La Grande, or Burns, for example, to improve health outcomes in specific areas. Part of that is just being a good partner—listening closely to communities and then determining, from the full breadth of programs that OHSU has to offer, the right mix and the right time for working on specific issues. Each of our interactions is an opportunity for us to continue building a relationship that will not only affect health, but also perceptions of what kind of an institution we are.