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OHSU board of directors gets updates on diversity, inclusion, anti-racism efforts

University leaders also hear update on financial impacts related to COVID-19 pandemic
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Oregon Health & Science University continues on the path toward becoming an anti-racist institution that both reflects and serves Oregon’s diverse population, the university’s board of directors heard during its quarterly meeting Friday, Jan. 28.

Highlights from the virtual meeting include:

  • Legislative update: OHSU unveiled a plan to increase by 30% the number of graduates in key health care professions by the year 2030, with 30% of all graduates identifying as underrepresented minorities. To that end, OHSU will request $45 million from the state Legislature during the session convening Tuesday, Feb. 1. The proposal would result in the university graduating more than 2,000 additional clinicians for Oregon by the year 2030.
  • Diversity, equity and inclusion: OHSU has committed itself to addressing structural racism through a series of initiatives designed to mitigate health care disparities for patients and enhance opportunities for students of diverse backgrounds, Derick Du Vivier, M.D., M.B.A., OHSU senior vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion, reported. In addition, the university continues to lead in expanding access to COVID-19 vaccinations through numerous community-based vaccine clinics, in partnership with 61 community organizations, to reach communities historically underserved by health care.
  • Diversity in the OHSU School of Medicine: Interim Dean David Jacoby, M.D., described several initiatives undertaken by the school’s faculty and departments. For example, OHSU has strengthened its efforts to reduce disparities in health care by establishing systems to measure outcomes and access among underrepresented groups, including access to telehealth tools.
  • Covington report: The board heard an update on the implementation and oversight of  recommendations resulting from an investigation by the law firm Covington and Burling, LLP, regarding changes in OHSU’s institutional culture to eliminate inequitable treatment, discrimination, harassment or bullying for any reason. An oversight committee will be co-chaired by Alisha Moreland-Capuia, M.D., an expert in trauma-informed systems change and a member of both the Harvard Medical School and OHSU faculty, and Michael Alexander, M.S.S., former president of the Urban League of Portland, vice president of the Port of Portland Commission, and board chair for the Black United Fund.

In addition, the board heard a report about how the COVID-19 pandemic continues to negatively impact OHSU’s financial results, with the surge in hospitalizations from the delta variant, and now the omicron variant, prompting the health system to reduce nonurgent surgical procedures that normally generate revenue while boosting contract, overtime and incentive payments to cover shifts in Oregon’s largest hospital.

OHSU’s latest forecast of statewide hospitalizations for COVID-19 shows a steep reduction in cases as the virus finds fewer people susceptible to infection and severe illness.

“The greatest unknown is how quickly health care can recover this spring toward normal operations, staffing costs and surgical volume, especially given how exhausting the recent surges have been,” according to Lawrence Furnstahl, OHSU executive vice president and chief financial officer.

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