OHSU celebrates 2021 graduates who learned amid COVID-19 crisis

Education
OHSU Commencement
OHSU Commencement
five young adult in graduation caps and gowns throw their hands in the air in celebration together, in front of a white background
Graduates from the 2016 OHSU School of Medicine pose for a photo, June 10, 2016. (OHSU)

A new generation of health care professionals, educators and researchers are graduating from Oregon Health & Science University this month. A total of 1,308 degrees will be awarded.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, all ceremonies will be held virtually, with the all-school convocation starting online at 10 a.m. Sunday, June 6. The featured speaker will be Oregon Gov. Kate Brown.

Separate ceremonies for the OHSU schools of Medicine, Dentistry and Nursing, as well as the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health, will begin online at 11 a.m. the same day, while the OSU/OHSU College of Pharmacy’s separate ceremony will start online at 11:30 a.m. the same day.

To share the virtual celebration with their classmates, graduates are encouraged to use #OHSUgrad2021, #OHSUgrad and #OHSU when posting about their personal graduation festivities on social media.

“The class of 2021 has surmounted atypical and extraordinarily challenging circumstances to get to this day,” said OHSU President Danny Jacobs, M.D., M.P.H., FACS. “Their education has coincided with the greatest health care crisis of our time, and this formative experience will have a lasting impact on their careers as researchers, educators, health care providers and community members. I look forward to seeing OHSU’s growing impact on communities all over the world through each and every one of our graduates.”

The OHSU School of Dentistry will award 80 degrees this year.

“Our graduates have successfully completed a challenging curriculum, which is difficult in the best of times.” said Ronald Sakaguchi, D.D.S., Ph.D., M.B.A., interim dean of the OHSU School of Dentistry. “The knowledge and experience they have accumulated at the OHSU School of Dentistry will enable them to care for patients and our community as highly skilled dentists, health care professionals and leaders.”

The OHSU School of Medicine will award 523 degrees and certificates.

“The practice of medicine is steeped in protocol and principles, but there is a critical aspect of medicine that relates to flexibility and adaptability,” said Sharon Anderson, M.D., dean of the OHSU School of Medicine. “Nothing could have prepared our students better for what it means to be flexible and adaptable than the challenges of the past year. And nothing could make us prouder than to have witnessed how our students showed not only what it means to be flexible, but also what it means to lead and to greatly expand upon the service aspect of our professions at this extraordinary time.”

The OHSU School of Nursing will award 494 degrees and certificates.

“The COVID-19 pandemic exposed and amplified many things, in particular the essential and unique contributions of nurses across the health care continuum. This realization led the WHO to extend the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife,” said Susan Bakewell-Sachs, Ph.D., R.N., FAAN, dean of the OHSU School of Nursing. “We need nurses – as registered nurses, advanced practice specialists, leaders, educators, and scientists – to improve care and patient outcomes, prevent illness, combat inequities and disparities, educate students and society, and discover new science. OHSU School of Nursing graduates are prepared to fill these needs and to lead for a preferred future.”

The OHSU-PSU School of Public Health will award 127 degrees and certificates.

“The events of the past year - the COVID-19 pandemic, the health inequity it has exposed, the racial inequity and injustice, the poverty, and houselessness - have elevated the field of public health into the national consciousness,” said David Bangsberg, M.D., M.P.H., dean of the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health. “In a world that needs public health practitioners now more than ever, the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health is proud of our new graduates and confident they leave with the knowledge, the determination and the power to shape a healthier, more just and more equitable society.”

The OSU/OHSU College of Pharmacy will award 84 degrees.

"It is with great pride that I, along with our entire faculty and staff, congratulate the graduating class of 2021 for their tremendous achievements,” said David Bearden, Pharm.D., interim dean of the OSU/OHSU College of Pharmacy. “When faced with COVID-19 lockdowns, they quickly adapted to remote learning and have been on the frontlines of the pandemic response and vaccination efforts. They are joining the profession at a crucial time as the scope of practice for pharmacists continues to expand. Their perseverance and dedication to patient care has prepared them to advance the profession of pharmacy and become innovative health care leaders in Oregon and across the country."

 

Meet some of OHSU’s 2021 graduates

 

Christopher Pham, D.M.D. – OHSU School of Dentistry

head shot of Andrew Christopher Pham, D.M.D., an Asian man with short black hair
Andrew Christopher Pham, D.M.D.

Andrew Christopher Pham developed an interest in dentistry while living as a refugee and seeing many people afflicted with dental diseases.

Around 1988, Pham left his native Vietnam when he was 16 to pursue a better life and stayed at a refugee camp in Bataan, Philippines, for more than a year. He volunteered at the camp’s free dental clinic, where he assisted a dentist, known as Dr. Rose, during procedures, sterilized instruments and cleaned the operating area.

At the time, Pham wished he could have been a dentist to help more children, women and older people suffering from various dental diseases. He shared this with Dr. Rose, adding his hope felt like an impossible dream to achieve. She encouraged him to pursue dentistry in the United States.

After arriving in the U.S. in 1991, Pham worked several jobs to save the money needed to attend Portland State University. "I signed up for evening and weekend classes to study electronics, photography and cooking. After saving enough money, I started taking daytime classes at PSU to prepare for dental school while working a part-time job seven nights a week," Pham said. He eventually earned a bachelor’s degree in science and organismal biology in 2017 and was accepted to his dream school, OHSU School of Dentistry.

During these past four years as a student in the OHSU D.M.D. program, Pham has worked for the Oregon Department of Human Services as a home caregiver for people with disabilities. In his spare time, he enjoys taking beautiful pictures and spending time with family and friends.

After graduation, Pham will pursue a community dentistry career and plans to work at a public health clinic.

"Thank you to Dr. Rose and the many others at OHSU, who have given me the chance of a lifetime to turn a forgotten dream into a reality," he said. "Thank you all for believing in me!"

 

Brett Lewis, M.D. – OHSU School of Medicine

Close-up head shot of Brett Lewis, M.D., a smiling woman with curly hair
Brett Lewis, M.D.

Brett Lewis left high school in the small town of Scituate, Massachusetts, with a GED instead of a diploma and a belief that there was a much broader world from which to learn.

At UC Berkeley, Lewis studied anthropology and public health because she said she was interested in “the intersection of the macro and the micro – big systems and communities and how people experience the world on an individual level as well.”

As part of a global health equity fellowship program after college, she worked in the Navajo Nation, India and Mexico. She saw how systems can tear down health and how communities know what they need to heal. She pursued medicine in order to change that contradiction.

Between her second and third year in the OHSU School of Medicine, she took a year’s leave from medical school to work in Botswana. In her third year, she did a three-month rotation with the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. “So many patients came in with complex psycho-social issues, and there just weren’t the resources or providers to address those intersecting needs," she said.

That spring, as COVID-19 bore down, she set out to create more human-centered solutions. She helped launch the Social Connection Project, which paired 50 students with 50 vulnerable patients for weekly phone conversations over nine months to combat social isolation during the pandemic. She also staffed a hotline for Navajo Nation members who had COVID. Her efforts earned her the School of Medicine's Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award.

For her residency, she identified the six residency programs in the country that combine psychiatry with family medicine. Each admits only two residents a year. She was one of them. After 11 years away, she has headed back to Massachusetts, where she will join the Family Medicine and Psychiatry Residency Program at Boston Medical Center. It is a safety net hospital. Its motto: Exceptional care without exception.

“I think it will be a place for a lot of learning and a lot of unlearning,” she said. “The unlearning piece is just as important.”

 

Justin Davis, B.S. OHSU School of Nursing, Monmouth campus

Close-in shot of Justin Davis, B.S., a smiling Black man with a beard
Justin Davis, B.S.

Justin Davis hopes to follow the footsteps of the skilled health care professionals who cared for his father as he fought, but ultimately lost, a battle with cancer.

Davis had already worked as a certified nursing assistant and helped middle school students who had disabilities or cognitive or physical impairments. But he attended the OHSU School of Nursing Monmouth Campus so he could build the communication, leadership and other professional skills he had seen displayed by the OHSU health care workers who cared for his father.

“The holistic approach that OHSU staff used during his hospitalization and teamwork are why I choose to learn from OHSU,” Davis said.

Attending nursing school wasn’t easy, however, as Davis grappled with learning how to be a student again after being out of school of nearly four years, and he had to spend long hours away from his newborn son and 3-year-old daughter to study. The racial divisions and inequities that became increasingly evident last summer also affected him emotionally as a Black man, and forced him to be more disciplined in his school work. Expenses were a concern, although a scholarship from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration helped alleviate financial worries. The COVID-19 pandemic also created additional stresses, but the global crisis further motivated Davis to become a nurse.

After passing his national nursing licensing exam, Davis plans to work at Samaritan Albany General Hospital.

 

Jennifer Ku, M.P.H., Ph.D. – OHSU-PSU School of Public Health

Close-in headshot of Jennifer Ku, M.P.H. Ph.D., a smiling Asian woman with long, dark hair
Jennifer Ku, M.P.H., Ph.D.

The coronavirus pandemic enabled Jennifer Ku to directly put into action what she has learned as a doctoral epidemiology student at the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health.

Through a partnership with the Oregon Health Authority that began in 2020, public health graduate students worked with state and county health officials to gather information about confirmed and potential COVID-19 patients. The partnership offered a wealth of real-world experience for the students, providing a pathway to potential careers after graduation, while also providing hands-on experience with health equity. Ku served as the student lead for case investigation and contact tracing for the state-sponsored project.

Ku was born in South Korea and raised in Portland. After receiving an M.P.H. in epidemiology and biostatistics from OHSU in 2011, she continued her education for the opportunity to study with her mentor and doctoral adviser, Kevin Winthrop, M.D., M.P.H. She has worked with Winthrop at the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health’s Center for Infectious Disease Studies as part of her doctoral training. Her current research interests are the epidemiology of nontuberculous mycobacterial, or NTM, pulmonary disease and pharmacoepidemiology of NTM therapy.

In addition to her own research, Ku served as the co-chair of the School of Public Health Student Leadership Council for two years. She also helped showcase the research of public health students by serving as a lead organizer for the Annual Public Health Conference for three years.

After graduation, she will move to Los Angeles to start a new position as a post-doctoral research fellow at Kaiser Permanente Southern California. She will work in the Vaccine Research & Effectiveness research group there, which is directly aligned with both her research interests and her doctoral training in infectious disease epidemiology.

 

Neda Kazerouni, Pharm.D. – OSU/OHSU College of Pharmacy

Close-in head shot of Neda Kazerouni, Pharm.D., a smiling woman with dark hair
NedaKazerouni, Pharm.D.

Throughout her time in pharmacy school, Kazerouni has been actively involved in patient outreach, student competitions and research to expand the scope of practice for pharmacists and to reduce barriers to care for patients.

Kazerouni served as local chapter chair of the American Pharmacist Association’s Operation Heart, which organizes outreach events where student pharmacists provide blood pressure screenings and engage patients in cardiovascular health and wellness. She also served as a pharmacy volunteer in Bocas del Toro, Panama, where she connected with international medical providers.

Kazerouni was also a member of the championship team for the 2019 American College of Clinical Pharmacy’s Clinical Research Challenge, where she and two classmates designed a research proposal to demonstrate the value of clinical pharmacists in the field of endocrinology. Kazerouni worked with her mentor, Daniel Hartung, Pharm.D., M.P.H., to publish a Drug and Alcohol Dependence paper exploring the limited availability of the opioid use disorder drug buprenorphine that was also featured in an OHSU news story.

Researching barriers to care for patients with opioid use disorder has prompted Kazerouni to seek additional training in substance use treatment, pain management and mental health. After graduating with a doctorate of pharmacy, she plans to pursue pharmacy residency training at the Boise VA Medical Center in Boise, Idaho.

“I hope to contribute to the growing movement to expand the scope of practice for pharmacists nationwide and to demonstrate the value of clinical pharmacy services on interdisciplinary care teams,” Kazerouni said.

Anastasia Bennett, Erin Hoover-Barnett, Christi Richardson-Zboralski, Beth Sorenson and Lauren Gerstner wrote the graduate profiles in this report.

 

OHSU 2021 Degree Data

Total degrees given during 2020-21 school year: 1,308

 

OHSU School of Dentistry – 80 total degrees

Doctor of Dental Medicine – 71

Master of Science – 4

Advanced Education – 5

 

OHSU School of Medicine – 523 total degrees and certificates

Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) – 153

Doctor of Medicine and Master of Public Health (M.D./M.P.H.) – 5

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) – 53

Master’s degrees – 181

Graduate certificates – 54

Bachelor’s degrees –77

Associate of Applied Science in Paramedic – 24

 

OHSU School of Nursing – 494 total degrees and certificates

Doctor of Nursing Practice – 37

Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing – 4

Master’s degrees – 48

Bachelor of Science – 405

 

OHSU-PSU School of Public Health – 127 total degrees and certificates

Doctorate degrees – 3

Master’s degrees – 118

Certificates – 6

 

OSU/OHSU College of Pharmacy – 84 total degrees

 


Franny White
Senior Media Relations Specialist
OHSU
503-494-8231