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Medical school’s 125th class will be educated in an era of health care transformation

Students from diverse backgrounds and work experience will help lead reform

This Friday, 132 Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine students will begin their journey into the medical profession by receiving their time-honored white coat — a traditional symbol of medicine.

This class also marks a unique milestone for the medical school — in October the school will celebrate its 125th anniversary.

“This class is entering medicine at a truly remarkable time in our nation’s history, when the nation’s health care system is undergoing rapid and significant transformation,” said Mark Richardson, M.D., M.B.A., dean of the OHSU School of Medicine. “The OHSU School of Medicine is preparing the next generation of physicians to not only flourish in this climate of change, but to lead the evolution. With Oregon in the vanguard of national health care reform, these students will become agents of change.”

The ceremony also marks the arrival of George Mejicano, M.D., M.S., the school’s new senior associate dean for education. Mejicano, a national leader, educator and award-winning clinician, will give the Oath of Geneva to the incoming students. The J.S. Reinschmidt, M.D. Lecture, a special message to the students presented by a guest speaker each year, will be delivered by David A. Nardone, M.D., professor emeritus of medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine & Geriatrics.

“We are thrilled to welcome this highly accomplished class to OHSU. They bring a wide variety of life experience that lends itself to becoming a well-rounded physician,” said Molly Osborne, M.D., Ph.D., associate dean for student affairs and interim associate dean for undergraduate medical education.

The OHSU School of Medicine’s 125th class is characterized by a wide diversity of students, all of whom have already distinguished themselves in the health care field and have accomplished many things in other areas. The 2012-13 entering class includes military veterans, a journalist, an animator, teachers, nurses and EMTs, a scientist, policymakers, a former sheriff, a drummer, ranchers, world class athletes, and many others.

Following are select snapshots of how some of these soon-to-be first-year medical students found their way into medical school.

Taryn Cansler Hansen

Taryn Cansler Hansen, 35, grew up in Longview, Wash. Cansler Hansen holds a biology degree from Portland State University and a biochemistry degree from the University of Kansas. Prior to medical school, she worked in public policy and research, and as a legislative staff member for Sen. Ron Wyden. She has traveled to developing countries, including Kyrgyzstan, which she said showed her “how a dysfunctional economy and political system” can inhibit health care.

Most recently, she spent a year as an Americorps volunteer assisting low-income and minority patients at a clinic in Salem, Ore. The experience, she said, reinforced that similar cultural disparities and barriers to care exist in the United States. Her decision to pursue medicine initially stemmed from her public policy background.

“Working in the U.S. Senate and listening to Oregon's constituents, I saw on a daily basis the challenges that exist within our current health care system and the need for improved health access.”

After medical school, she hopes to practice in Portland working with the underserved community.

“Oregon has not been afraid to lead the nation in innovative solutions to health care,” she said. “I am excited to train to practice medicine in a state engaged in the policy debates that will critically shape my future as a physician. In addition, I hope to devote a portion of my time volunteering for global health organizations.”

Geoffry Gillespie

Geoffry Gillespie, 36, was born in Longview, Wash., and grew up in the Portland/Vancouver metro area. The son of a firefighter and nurse, Gillespie says he “always had a respect for public service,” which led him to become a police officer — and a SWAT team member. While serving on the force in Georgia, his roommate was in the first year of his emergency medicine residency.

“Watching him work at the hospital and at home was intriguing. That was when I began to think I might be interested in medicine.” It was when he joined the police force in Vancouver that the call to become a physician hit hard. However, first he needed a college education.

Gillespie went to community college, then to Washington State University-Vancouver. He worked on the police force at night and went to school during the day, finishing his undergraduate work in three calendar years. He graduated summa cum laude from WSU with a bachelor’s in biology and a minor in chemistry. After medical school, he hopes to work in emergency medicine and someday to carry on his joy of teaching by training new residents, possibly in Portland/Vancouver.

Ann Oluloro

Ann Oluloro, 23, was born in Portland, Ore., and attended the Robert D. Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon. During college, Oluloro completed medical internships in Bolivia and the Dominican Republic, with a focus on public health. She has a strong desire to help the underserved population and will enter the OHSU M.D./M.P.H. program.

“After medical school, I am looking forward to putting my M.P.H. degree to good use by helping to design and implement public health programs in Portland geared toward reducing health disparities,” she said.

She would also like to do some form of international medicine, like helping the people in her home country of Nigeria, where her parents were born. Attracted to the humanism behind medicine, she said, “When done with respect and compassion, medicine allows those who feel like they have been neglected by society to feel loved, and most importantly like people and not inanimate objects.”

Elizabeth Suh

Elizabeth Suh, 28, is from the Washington, D.C. area. She received a bachelor’s in journalism with a minor in biology from the University of Maryland and completed her post-baccalaureate pre-med coursework at Portland State University. Prior to entering medical school, Elizabeth worked as a print journalist writing about health and medicine, as well as serving as the night “cops” reporter at The Oregonian. She has had an interest in medicine since during high school, but says out of college, “journalism was the right path” for her at the time.

As a reporter, she met and wrote about many physicians, which impacted her decision to make a career change to medicine. Suh loves getting to know different cultures and is passionate about helping diverse people. After medical school, she hopes to work with the underserved and minority populations.

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