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Retiring OHSU President Dr. Peter Kohler Receives Honorary Degree

Oregon Health & Science University President Peter Kohler, M.D., received an honorary degree from OHSU during his final commencement ceremony on Friday, June 2. The honorary Doctor of Science degree recognized Kohler’s dedication to the improvement of health care delivery systems and patient access. Kohler will retire from his post as president, a position he has held for the past 18 years, at the end of 2006.

In his speech to graduating OHSU students, Kohler spoke of his vision to transform health care access and counteract the forces impeding patients from obtaining the care they want and need. Kohler also spoke of the important intersection of health science, engineering and information technologies and how these expanding fields will continue to merge to serve an important role in improving health care. Kohler’s speech can be read in its entirety at
Kohler is one of the longest standing presidents at an academic medical center in the United States. The many accomplishments that occurred during his tenure include:

  • The expansion of rural health care in Oregon through OHSU’s Area Health Education Centers.
  • The creation of the Center for Women’s Health, offering women throughout the region a level of specialized health care found in few other places in the country.
  • The conversion of OHSU into a public corporation, helping ensure its future healing Oregonians.
  • An expansion in OHSU’s research funding from $40 million to $274 million per year.
  • An increase of annual patient visits from 245,000 to 751,000.
  • Growth in the number of employees from 5,800 to 11,500.
  • The Oregon Opportunity public-private partnership to expand OHSU research. The project benefits
  • Oregonians through access to the latest, promising health care technologies and through economic benefits.
  • An increase in the university’s operating budget from $254 million to $1.2 billion.
  • The physical plant of the university has increased from 3 to 6 million square feet.

In addition, the university is currently completing a series of facilities expansion projects including the university’s new Biomedical Research Building and the Peter O. Kohler Pavilion, which greatly expand research and hospital and clinic capacity on Marquam Hill. The OHSU Center for Health & Healing will open this fall in Portland’s new South Waterfront neighborhood to provide research, clinical and education space. It will be linked to Marquam Hill via the Portland Aerial Tram.

 “It was a great honor to receive this degree and to be invited to address the next generation of OHSU’s medical, nursing, dental and engineering graduates, many of whom will work or practice within the state of Oregon,” said Kohler. “I look forward to watching these students and OHSU as a whole continue to transform the face of health care in the state, region and nation.”

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