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Respect for all

Joe Robertson, Jr.
OHSU President Joe E. Robertson, M.D., M.B.A.(OHSU)

The holiday season is a time to reflect on the year that was and look forward to the year ahead. Unfortunately, many of us have heavy hearts this year in light of recent setbacks in our country in the area of diversity, one of OHSU’s core values.

In this moment, for those inclined to despair, I urge you to fight through it. I believe there is ample reason for hope. I believe that the vast majority of Americans still support fairness and equality, and I believe these fundamental values will prevail. In this moment, complacency is not an option — but neither is despair. OHSU is committed to an inclusive culture that is safe and creates a respectful and healthy environment for all. We do this for those we serve, and for ourselves, as well as to demonstrate the power of hope and perseverance for individuals and communities fearful of whether tolerance has a place in the current political climate. Providing a beacon of hope and valuing one another across our differences is more important than ever.

OHSU’s discoveries, patient care and teaching are offered for the benefit of all. OHSU is a safe, respectful and welcoming place for people of all ages, cultures, abilities, ethnicities, genders, national origins, races, colors, religions, sexual orientations and ideas. Discrimination has no place at OHSU and will not be tolerated. These principles are embedded in the OHSU culture, but we must redouble our commitment and raise our voice so that others may hear. All are welcome at OHSU.

Recently, for example, we have had a rise in the number of reports of patients requesting to opt away from a specific provider based on race, ethnicity or creed. I want to be very clear: we will not honor such patient requests. I am committed to the fundamental principle of equity and non-discrimination. Our job is to care and cure and not to judge. We will treat all regardless of bias or bigotry, but we will not let them impose their values upon us. We must rise above.

In this moment, we will be measured by our values and by our actions in support of those values. Join with me in rejecting intolerance and injustice. Join with me in embracing equity and inclusion. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Thank you for everything you do for OHSU and for the communities we serve.

Joe Robertson, Jr., M.D., M.B.A., is president of Oregon Health & Science University. His clinical focus is on vitreous surgery, with special emphasis on surgery for macular diseases. He received his medical degree from the Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, in 1978.

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