Progress Report: 2021 | OHSU Foundation

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This past year, we watched as the world continued to address the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. In December 2020, a massive rollout of vaccines for COVID-19 began, the endeavor rivaling that of previous vaccination efforts such as smallpox and polio.

Along the way, health care leaders and infectious disease experts realized the virus was affecting communities of color and other marginalized groups especially hard. It was another reminder that health disparities and racial inequities still exist within the health care landscape.

In response to this disparity, OHSU created a vaccine equity committee to help ensure access to vaccines, as well as provide education, support and vaccine clinics specifically for these communities.

OHSU has always believed in making health care and education more easily accessible for all. From vaccine outreach in big cities to eye care in rural communities, OHSU leaders, students, faculty and community partners meet people where they are. And OHSU is committed to creating more access to education so the next generation of health care providers reflects the communities they serve throughout Oregon and the region.

In this year’s report, the stories of impact showcase OHSU’s ongoing work to create a healthier world. This work would not be possible without philanthropy. Together, more than 11,000 supporters gave more than $142 million in support of OHSU and OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. Our donors’ generosity and dedication are creating a better and healthier future for all. Thank you.

Pandemic Response

Kay Phillips-Hamblett, BSN, RN, pediatric cardiology, vaccinates Sandy Chen, a family caregiver. (OHSU/Fritz Liedtke)

OHSU continued to play a critical role in Oregon’s efforts against COVID-19 through vaccinations, testing and care — with a focus on some of the state’s most vulnerable communities.

OHSU joined with other health systems and organizations beginning in January to vaccinate as many Oregonians as quickly as possible through numerous mass vaccination sites, including the Convention Center and Portland International Airport. Counting OHSU Health’s Hillsboro site along with additional community vaccination events, OHSU’s community vaccination efforts amounted to more than 900,000 doses into arms — and played a key role in helping to vaccinate the elderly, who were among the first eligible to receive the vaccine.

Scientists and community activists also came together to vaccinate communities of color who have been hit hardest by the pandemic. Community partners and OHSU’s Vaccine Equity Committee held nearly 40 culturally and linguistically specific clinics all over the metro area for Black, Latino, Asian, Pacific Island and Native American communities.

OHSU’s Health Equity Committee and the OHSU Foundation created a series of videos to reach and encourage Black communities to get the COVID-19 vaccine. This video showcases OHSU surgeon Dr. Donn Spight, who is doing everything he can to make sure that people of color are not left behind, because this vaccine is safe and it’s for everyone.

Spotlight: Juan Guzman, CMA

Since the beginning of February, certified medical assistant Juan Guzman, CMA, worked months on end to help people get vaccinated. He volunteered every weekend at the OHSU Portland International
Airport mass vaccination site — going above and beyond to help end the pandemic.

“I really wanted to get things back to the way they used to be, and what better way to do it than by administering vaccinations to the public?” Guzman said.

“My experience at PDX was absolutely wonderful — and working in that environment didn’t make it feel like it was work.” Read more.

Cancer Research

Knight Scholars touring the Knight Cancer Research Building in Portland, July 2019. (OHSU/Joe Rojas-Burke)

Building on longstanding support from the Kuni Foundation, the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute recently received two grants to better serve rural communities. One grant helps expand the Knight Scholars program throughout rural Oregon, introducing underrepresented high school students to careers in cancer research, treatment and prevention. The second grant benefits SMMART, a clinical trial that uses test drug combinations to stop tumors before they adapt, and will help researchers make this groundbreaking trial more accessible to patients from rural Oregon and Washington and the BIPOC community. Support cancer research.

Eye Health

In December, the OHSU Casey Eye Institute opened the doors to the new Elks Children’s Eye Clinic. This new 60,000-square-foot facility provides additional space and resources to advance work in children’s eye care, macular degeneration research and patient care, gene therapy, community outreach and more. The building reflects the generosity of many donors, and is named in recognition of the Oregon State Elks Association, which generously gave $20 million for the eye clinic and has supported children’s eye care at the OHSU Casey Eye Institute for 70 years.

After 10 years and more than 10,000 free eye exams throughout Oregon, Casey’s mobile eye clinic was able to expand its reach, thanks to significant gifts from philanthropist Heather Killough and the Roundhouse Foundation. The expansion provides a second mobile eye clinic to provide eye care in communities statewide, and uses technology to connect experts at OHSU to local providers across Oregon.

Spotlight: Aliyah

Three-year-old Aliyah was at home with a babysitter when she noticed an exercise band tied to a pole. As a naturally curious toddler, she tugged on it. Then the band snapped off and hit her right eye. The damage was severe. Aliyah was at risk for permanent vision loss. She was recommended to the OHSU Casey Eye Institute, where she received specialized care.

Aliyah’s medical journey lasted two years — with three surgeries, countless eye drops and hours of wearing an eye patch. Today, Aliyah’s vision is 20/25 and has been holding steady for a year. Read her story.


Because of a generous grant from the Meyer Memorial Trust, On Track OHSU! will continue to expand their work with middle and high schools in Oregon to increase the number of students from historically marginalized communities in health and science careers. This grant will continue to support the program’s work with Tribal students in Klamath County — helping to inspire, mentor and empower the next generation of health leaders.

Building a diverse workforce is critical to meeting health care needs in underserved communities — and support for students is more important than ever. Scholarships, long-term partnerships and hands-on, culturally relevant curriculum are the best available tools to help OHSU attract the best, brightest and most diverse students to meet the region’s changing health care needs.

Spotlight: Jacob Smith, Student

Generous philanthropy has helped students like Jacob Smith, a second-year medical student. Smith, a Wy’East Pathway scholar, is part of a program that helps prepare American Indian and Alaska Natives for medical school.

“Receiving a scholarship at OHSU has meant everything to me. It gave me the confidence to succeed in ways I never thought possible,” Smith said. “I want to work with my Native communities in any way I can and make health care more accessible to these underserved populations.” Read more.

Children’s Health

OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital was recognized as Oregon’s No. 1 children’s hospital for the 12th year in a row and among the best pediatric medical centers in the nation in U.S. News & World Report’s 2021-2022 Best Children’s Hospitals rankings. Five of Doernbecher’s pediatric subspecialties were also nationally ranked: diabetes and endrocrinology, nephrology, neonatology, neurology and neurosurgery, and cancer.

Spotlight: Ella

Ella was born with a broken heart. She was immediately transferred to Doernbecher’s neonatal intensive care unit where her specialized health teams surgically pieced the two pieces of her heart back together. Today, Ella is an energetic kid who loves soccer, animals and her family. Her journey has been nothing short of amazing. Watch her story.

Brain Health

OHSU is the first Pacific Northwest institution to install a state-of-the-art scanner that combines two of today’s most powerful imaging technologies — positron emission tomography (PET) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). By pairing the complementary images obtained by both techniques, PET-MRI can reveal the fine details of structures and functions of tissues and organs — both in the research and clinical setting with patients. The technology is especially useful for studying diseases such as epilepsy, brain tumors, heart conditions and various cancers.

Your philanthropy makes this possible. Thank you for helping to create a healthier world.