Who’s the snow boss?

Record snowfall proves no match for OHSU’s mission-driven operations

Mother Nature walloped the Portland area Jan. 10 with 8 to 12 inches of snow overnight. Heavy, sticky, not-melting-anytime-soon snow. Yet faculty and staff across OHSU responded with acts large and small to care for patients, protect crucial lab experiments and keep students on track, even if remotely.

As Oregon’s academic health center and a level 1 trauma center, reliable access to OHSU for patients and employees is critical. Last summer, the OHSU Road Crew was formed to help ensure access to the Marquam Hill campus during inclement weather. Employees were recruited and trained to operate equipment owned by OHSU to supplement city-run road clearing efforts if necessary. This week, it was very necessary.

Dylan Thomas with A1 Integrity clearing the skybridge between OHSU and VA hospital
Dylan Thomas with A1 Integrity clearing the skybridge between OHSU and VA hospital

Ellen Pillow, research associate at the Clinical and Translational Research Center within the Oregon Clinical and Translational Research Institute at OHSU with 30 years of service, is one of 15 employees now trained to operate OHSU’s snow plow and support equipment.

“I applied for the OHSU Road Crew for two reasons: to do something completely out of my comfort zone and to serve my institution. It has been a really interesting ride, going to truck driving school, getting a commercial driver’s license, and getting behind the wheel of that enormous truck!” said Pillow, who worked 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. on the machine Jan. 11 and 12. “I am grateful that my OCTRI team has also been very supportive of me when I have to leave my desk to go clear the roads.”

“The road crew is a really interesting team – all ages and types of careers,” said Rod Taylor, executive assistant in the School of Medicine Dean’s office, who was out driving OHSU equipment in the wee hours this week. And after plenty of training and practice on how to operate a commercial vehicle, he said, “it’s easier to drive than I thought it would be. My method is to do everything slowly until I’m comfortable.”

The crew is made up of employees from across OHSU who otherwise wouldn’t have a role to play during inclement weather and want to pitch in to keep OHSU accessible. They’re not the only ones who helped keep OHSU operating.

“After getting to work on Tuesday morning, I found Chris Conrady [nurse practitioner in pediatric hematology and oncology], shoveling and salting the area outside Doernbecher’s tenth floor entrance before beginning his morning clinic,” shared Dana Braner, M.D., F.A.A.P., F.C.C.M., chair of pediatrics. “Chris embodies our can-do spirit and our willingness to go the extra mile for our patients and their families. We are so lucky to have his passion and dedication here at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital!”

Other employees submitted the following kudos:

“Out here at West Campus, our facilities staff have worked hard to clear sidewalks, roads, and parking lots. Our animal care staff have been incredible as well – working all hours. They are all amazing!”

“I want to give a shout out to the ladies in Pediatric specialties, especially our Lead Medical Assistant Denise Kiel. Denise not only got the messages out at 6 a.m. by phone, but she made it into clinic with several other co-workers, and they handled all the clinics within our floor. Denise always has a smile on her face and rises above adversities. She truly is a terrific leader and works by example.”

Do you have an OHSU snow experience to share? Leave a note of thanks or tell your story in the comments below.

3 responses to “Who’s the snow boss?

  1. So grateful for our Snow Boss updates and team! A huge thanks to Rod Taylor here in the SoM Dean’s Office for taking on very long shifts driving a snow plow!

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