Alumni Miles: A lesson learned over a muffaletta

I was gifted a profound insight this past October. Over an outstanding muffaletta sandwich, shared with a very recent MD program grad in a New Orleans park, I had a chance to see the impact of OHSU’s teaching at work in a community vastly different from the Pacific Northwest.

Hearing my lunch colleague discuss the role of the southern diet on child and adult health, and the measures he was taking to change this through a school gardening program, filled me with admiration; admiration and pride, that something of the impact he was having on his New Orleans community was likely being played out in some form 35,000 times over across the nation. As we parted company, I realized that I had stumbled across a new measurement of distance – the Alumni Mile.

Stay with me on this. Regular miles describe two locations separated. Portland and New Orleans, for instance, are over 2,500 regular miles apart. Alumni Miles, however, describe two locations joined, through the individuals common to those communities, no matter how far apart in distance and culture. The impact of one OHSU alum on his or her community shrinks the distance between OHSU and that community to a negligible number. That is the magic of the Alumni Mile.

The Alumni Relations team has put in many regular miles this year, finding the pioneering spirit of OHSU alumni shrinking the distance between OHSU and communities as diverse as Klamath Falls, San Francisco and Birmingham. Within Oregon, we expanded our Specialty Speed Dating program to all four of the School of Nursing’s non-Portland campuses. Alumni and nursing professionals in Monmouth, La Grande, Klamath Falls and Ashland volunteered their time to meet with nursing students and spend a few minutes answering the questions about the specialty they had chosen for their careers. Thank you to all who helped our students through these sessions.

March saw us celebrating the national impact of OHSU-trained cardiologists at an American College of Cardiology gathering in San Francisco. In November a large number of OHSU alumni and friends joined Provost Jeanette Mladenovic at a reception in Klamath Falls to discuss OHSU’s rural campus proposal. That same month we greeted dental alumni, faculty and friends at the American Dental Association Annual Session in New Orleans, taking advantage of our new contracting mileage metric to connect us with alumni from a region many regular miles away from Portland.

Alumni Miles work for students, faculty and staff as well. In September, alumni in northern California responded generously to an institutional request to help our student and faculty recruitment efforts there. Our Help Our Students Travel (HOST) program has been particularly active this year, bringing fourth year medical students on residency interviews closer to 32 alumni nationwide who are orienting them to Birmingham, AL and many other home cities.

So what is your Alumni Mileage?  We’d love to know. Until we refine the concept of apparition you can use the magic of to tell us. And please accept our closest wishes for happiness and prosperity in the new year.


Mark Kemball and the alumni relations team are proud to count almost 35,000 dentists, nurses, physicians, researchers, technicians and other health professionals as OHSU alumni. The team strives to keep them all connected with the university, with its students and with each other.

You can also follow Mark on Twitter @mark_kemball.