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State audit of OHSU research expansion finds program successfully 'met or exceeds' goals

Oregon Opportunity goals included improved health access for rural Oregonians, job creation, improved research facilities

According to an audit report issued today by the Oregon Secretary of  State, Oregon Health & Science University’s Oregon Opportunity  research expansion project successfully met or exceeded its goals and  measurable targets. These goals included job creation, the construction  of improved research facilities and improved technology to increase  health care access throughout rural Oregon. The audit report is  available online:
The Oregon Opportunity program, which is now in its ninth year, is a  public-private partnership launched to accelerate and expand OHSU  research. In 2001, the state of Oregon approved $200 million in state  bonds for the program to be paid back by tobacco settlement funds  issued to the state of Oregon from tobacco companies. OHSU promised to  raise $300 million through the OHSU Foundation and successfully raised  $378 million in private donations. These contributions came from 78,000  donors representing every Oregon county.

According to the state audit, the Oregon Opportunity has met or exceeded its goals by accomplishing the following:

  • Recruitment of 94 scientists.
  • Employment of 175 additional research staff.
  • Expansion of OHSU’s research centers and programs.
  • Achievement of a top 20 (20th) ranking in overall research funding for  OHSU’s School of Medicine; OHSU ranked 32nd in this category in 2003.
  • Successfully winning an additional $177.6 million in research grants  (through the end of fiscal year 2008). These were additional research  monies awarded to OHSU scientific staff recruited through the Oregon  Opportunity. This additional funding was achieved at a time when NIH  funding levels remained flat.
  • Construction of the 275,000-square-foot Biomedical Research Building,  providing researchers with greatly needed facility improvements.
  • Purchase of much-needed research equipment, including three MRI research machines that serve research projects institution-wide.

As part of the Oregon Opportunity, OHSU created a network of 157 rural  physicians throughout the state to participate in clinical research  relevant to their communities and assisted in the creation of a  high-speed communications network that will support the delivery of  telemedicine services to Oregonians.

Several notable researcher-clinicians came to the state of Oregon to  treat patients and conduct research thanks to the Oregon Opportunity.  Those recruits include Sanjiv Kaul, M.D., who came to OHSU in 2005 to  lead OHSU’s cardiovascular medical division. Another leading recruit is  Patricia Hurn, M.D., who came to OHSU from Johns Hopkins University  along with four members of her team. Together, they built OHSU’s  Department of Anesthesiology and Peri-Operative Medicine. Along with  dozens of other Oregon Opportunity researchers, these scientists are  responsible for a significant amount of job creation as their health  research labs require technicians and other skilled positions.  
“During the current economic downturn, it is encouraging to take stock  of how the Oregon Opportunity led to the recruitment and retention of  scientists, students and highly trained technical staff in our state,  and these positions are now supported by federal research dollars,”  said Daniel Dorsa, Ph.D., vice president for research at OHSU.  “Oregon’s investment paved the way for job expansion at a time when it  is needed most and better yet, these jobs are engaged in basic,  clinical and applied research yielding discoveries which are improving  the health of all Oregonians. This expansion also resulted in a  significant jump in federally funded research of OHSU. These funds pay  for the studies that are conducted by these individuals, and, as they  improve the health of our citizens, many of these dollars also flow to  Oregon’s local businesses through equipment, supplies and service  purchases.”

The construction of the Biomedical Research Building provided OHSU with  additional space to house researchers recruited through the Oregon  Opportunity. It also replaced aging research facilities at OHSU and has  assisted in attracting additional research grants through the new  capabilities afforded by this building and the staff within.      

Several OHSU research institutes were also created or expanded thanks  to the Oregon Opportunity. For instance, the program funded the  creation of the OHSU Advanced Imaging Research Center which is located  in the Biomedical Research Building. This unique facility offers  researchers in specialties across OHSU’s two campuses with access to  MRI facilities and expertise located in few other places in the world.  The Oregon Opportunity helped positioned OHSU to win a $55 million  grant that created the Oregon Clinical and Translational Research  Institute. This partnership between OHSU and Kaiser Permanente was one  of only 12 applications to receive one of these highly competitive  grants the first year.   

“I would once again like to thank the state of Oregon for providing the  leadership and having the foresight foresight nine years ago to  recognize the promise that the Oregon Opportunity offered. I would also  equally like to thank private citizens who collectively donated $378  million. The Oregon Opportunity provides benefits that we can see now  and will continue to see on into the future,” said Joe Robertson, M.D.,  M.B.A., OHSU president.

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