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Everyone has a story. And many stories at OHSU have been made possible by the generosity of donors.

More than 50,000 donors gave $2 billion to support the missions of OHSU and Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. The impact of those gifts is seen far and wide. Philanthropy has improved the lives of many through research, education and patient care — making thousands of stories possible these past seven years.

We invite you to read a handful of selected stories throughout the ONWARD campaign.

The comeback kid

When Kya was seven, an ordinary trip to the beach almost killed her. A sneaker wave buried her under a log — her skull was fractured, her heart stopped and her lungs filled with sand. When Kya arrived by life flight to OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, a world-class team of doctors and nurses flew into action. After 10 days of life-saving care, Kya opened her eyes, beginning the road to recovery.

The gift of life

Hai Pham was about to begin his residency program in dentistry at OHSU when he learned he had cancer. The OHSU Knight Cancer Institute provided Hai a targeted cancer therapy, turning his chronic myeloid leukemia into a treatable condition.

People will talk

Seven years ago, OHSU launched the Knight Cancer Challenge, an ambitious $500 million match to advance cancer research. An anonymous $100 million gift was given to the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute — and rumors flew about who it was. Brian Druker, MD, and his friend Gert Boyle hinted that cancer was up against one tough mother.

Inspired by

Teen Jeopardy! champion Avi Gupta donated more than $10,000 of his winnings to the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute for pancreatic research in honor of his childhood hero and the show’s host, Alex Trebek, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in early 2019. This young philanthropist rallied more than $200,000 in community support for cutting-edge treatments and research into the early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer already underway at the institute.

Courageous advocate

Liam Directo is a driven, lifelong learner. An ambitious goal-setter. And a passionate OHSU School of Nursing student who is blazing a trail to provide accessible transgender-affirming care as a transgender person. Liam received a full-ride scholarship, easing their financial burden and providing an opportunity to focus on school.

Pathway to medicine

Since the age of six, Jacob Smith remembers wanting to be a doctor. Growing up with an autoimmune disorder, Jacob was in and out of OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital as a child. He is now a second-year student at the OHSU School of Medicine, thanks in part to the Wy’east Pathway, a post-baccalaureate program for American Indian and Alaska Native students to prepare them for successful application to medical school.

The return of Ana Wakefield

After a horrible car accident that left Ana Wakefield with a traumatic brain injury, she came back to OHSU to visit the neurosurgeon and critical care team she had never really met before — the ones who saved her life. Philanthropy plays a crucial role in making stories like Ana’s possible by ensuring OHSU has the technology and talent to offer the best care possible.

An eye-opening era

Throughout her life, Annie Joiner has seen the world in black and white — until a gene therapy clinical trial gave her a first glimpse of color. The OHSU Casey Eye Institute is among a handful of sites in the nation that perform gene therapy for genetic disease, helping to improve hard-to-treat eye diseases.

Live and learn

COVID-19 didn’t shut down OHSU’s educational mission, but changes necessitated by the pandemic happened quickly. After quickly transitioning to remote learning and shutting down onsite work, OHSU students have since adapted to new realities with a global pandemic.


Jordan Young was born with a bad heart valve and faced the possibility of never being active. But Jordan didn’t give up and neither did his team at Doernbecher. Over 15 years and through two open-heart surgeries, they made sure Jordan stayed in the game.

Beat by beat

Five months before Bianca Anderson was due to give birth, her baby, Jacob, was diagnosed with a severe congenital heart defect. With the help of OHSU Doernbecher’s fetal therapy program, Bianca’s health care team created an individualized health care plan to treat Jacob’s disease.

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