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What’s all the hoopla about?

David Yaden
David Yaden, vice chairman of the OHSU Board of Directors. (OHSU)

Maybe you missed it in all the crowd noise surrounding the ups and downs of political polls and football rankings, but there is some quiet good news important to Oregon. Oregon Heath & Science University has emerged as one of the most innovative research institutions in the world. It's not just a matter of pride. Doing cutting-edge research and getting it to the bedside faster means patients heal better and faster. Lives are saved and fewer people need to go to the hospital in the first place.

A new, rigorous ranking of the 100 most innovative research institutions in the world places OHSU at number 35, just ahead of the entire University of North Carolina system. It is truly remarkable for an academic medical center that is not part of a larger university system to be rated so highly for the research and patents it produces.

The recognition is nice but in my seven-year affiliation with OHSU, the institutional North Star and the water cooler conversation both have always revolved around making it better for the individual patient and fulfilling the mission to improve the health of all Oregonians.

Neither the international recognition nor making Oregon a healthier state is a matter of just good intentions. The absolutely essential foundation are the doctors, researchers, nurses and staff at the school. The leadership of OHSU gets credit for attracting and supporting such talent.

That would not be possible without the growing and generous philanthropic support (thank you Phil and Penny Knight – and many others) that has been attracted by the very excellence of the work OHSU produces. A virtuous cycle: excellence brings support which brings more excellence.…

But wait, there's more. Portland State, despite its small endowment consistently rates as one of America's most innovative urban universities. PSU and OHSU are pioneering ways to collaborate in the classroom and in the laboratory. A new joint School of Public Health holds promise to both improve the health of Oregonians and add to the luster of both institutions. Collaboration and innovation – that's quiet good news for the state.

Although annual funding continues to shrink for all higher education, twice the Legislature has provided vital capital to help build the OHSU research labs that are now paying such enormous dividends. (OHSU is not in the economic development business, but each year it brings more than $300 million of outside research money into the state, and has created more than 3,000 well-paying jobs since the financial crisis.) I wonder if there is a lesson in there about the value of investing in higher education.

David V. Yaden was appointed to the board of directors of OHSU in October, 2009 and currently serves as the vice chairman. 

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