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National survey ranks OHSU as one of the best for training most-needed doctors

OHSU School of Medicine scores 11th nationally for its success in meeting its social mission

Oregon Health & Science University is one of the best in the nation for meeting the social mission of medical education, which is based on an institution’s training of primary-care physicians, graduates who work in areas without enough health care professionals and underrepresented minorities, according to a study published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The OHSU School of Medicine is ranked 11th nationally out of 141 schools, based on its composite score in these three areas.

The results have significant implications for the future of health care. “As citizens and policymakers reconsider the U.S. health care system and seek ‘quality, affordable health care for every American,’ the nature of the physician work force is becoming a key concern,” the study said. “Beyond their educational missions, medical schools are expected to have a social mission to train physicians to care for the population as a whole, taking into account such issues as primary care, underserved areas and work force diversity.”

OHSU is the only Northwest school to be ranked in the top 20 for meeting its social mission. It also is one of only two medical schools in the Western United States to receive this recognition. The findings were based on data about 60,000 practicing physicians who graduated from U.S. medical schools between 1999 and 2001.

OHSU’s high ranking is the result of its dedication to training the best health care work force, university officials say.

“I am proud of the dedication all of our faculty and students demonstrate in fulfilling our social mission. This commitment to improving health care is part of what makes OHSU exceptional,” said Mark Richardson, M.D., dean of the OHSU School of Medicine. “Not only are we a top-tier research institution, we continue to excel in primary care education, and our graduates play an essential health care role in Oregon and beyond. This demonstrates that OHSU is meeting some of Oregon’s most critical health care needs while balancing all of its missions.”

“OHSU is committed to its public missions, which include preparing a health care work force that is best able to serve the diverse needs of patients throughout all of Oregon and the nation,” said Joe Robertson, M.D., M.B.A., president of OHSU. “This is an affirmation of our success in meeting these critical needs. My goal is for OHSU to build on this success by recruiting a more diverse student body through our Equity Program and other efforts.”

This year the Summer Equity Program has a talented pool of diverse participants. The Center for Diversity & Multicultural Affairs (CeDMA) was able to grow the program from four to 14 summer interns with support of internal partners. All 14 Equity students are matched up with mentors from the School of Medicine and Oregon Clinical Translational Research Institute (OCTRI).  The OHSU Equity Summer Program offers opportunities to talented undergraduate students to spend eight to 10 weeks over the summer working with faculty and OHSU students in a research and medical setting. Students are paired with faculty mentors and participate in weekly seminars and meetings, and receive career mentoring and support. Students also learn the importance of social service and needs of our communities.  

OHSU also has succeeded in meeting this social mission in part by developing educational programs that both emphasize primary care and that train future doctors in rural communities, in partnerships with regional Area Health Education Centers (AHECs) covering the state and with community physicians. These types of programs spur interest in primary care and rural health among young professionals.

Not only do these and other social mission programs help deliver medical care to underserved areas, but they also help OHSU attract and retain some of the most qualified medical students for meeting the challenges of delivering health care in the 21st century.

“I came to OHSU from one of Oregon’s many small towns,” said Jenna Emerson, who is finishing up her first year in medical school. “I love that lifestyle and have seen the essential role that service providers occupy in sustaining those communities. As a physician, practicing rural medicine also gives you a unique connection to your patients. You develop close relationships with them that would be very hard to replicate in a major metropolitan area.”

More than 50 percent of OHSU’s graduating medical students this June – 82 – are going on to residencies in primary care specialties, including family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics or emergency medicine. Some of these new graduates may end up sub-specializing but the numbers initially attracted to primary care are encouraging and moving in the right direction. Physician assistant and nurse practitioner graduates – who are licensed to provide a wide range of basic health care services including prescribing medications and performing minor surgeries – will further bolster the primary care ranks. The School of Medicine granted 33 Master of Physician Assistant Studies degrees in June.

OHSU’s top social mission ranking comes just a month after U.S. News & World Report ranked the School of Medicine’s primary care education programs the third best in the nation, its rural medicine program fourth best in the nation, and the family medicine program at number two nationwide. In addition, U.S. News & World Report’s Best Children’s Hospitals recently ranked the children’s cancer program at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital 28th in the nation out of 200 children’s cancer programs.

About OHSU     
Oregon Health & Science University is the state’s only health and research university, and Oregon’s only academic health center. OHSU is Portland's largest employer and the fourth largest in Oregon (excluding government). OHSU's size contributes to its ability to provide many services and community support activities not found anywhere else in the state. It serves patients from every corner of the state, and is a conduit for learning for more than 3,400 students and trainees. OHSU is the source of more than 200 community outreach programs that bring health and education services to every county in the state.

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