From Dean Sharon Anderson: Courage and leadership at a momentous time

We are living at a time when courage is among our most important virtues, especially the courage to speak the truth.

Earlier this month, as the Supreme Court commenced oral arguments on the legality of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration program, Christopher Ponce Campuzano, the first DACA student in the OHSU M.D. program, traveled to Washington D.C. at the invitation of the justice advocacy nonprofit

Ponce Campuzano not only attained DACA status as a freshman at Texas Tech University, he became active on a national stage in describing the value of the program – in providing the legitimacy that allows individuals to reach their potential and in ensuring that the many talents they are able to realize are then deployed in service of the country they have come to call home.

As Dr. David J. Skorton, president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges, laid out in his impactful opinion piece in The Washington Post Nov. 6, there are approximately 27,000 doctors, nurses, dentists, physician assistants and other professionals with DACA status who care for patients in this country and nearly 200 students like Ponce Campuzano in medical school or residency today.

DACA students fighting a changing tide

Christopher Ponce Campuzano traveled to Washington D.C. as the Supreme Court commenced oral arguments on the legality of the DACA immigration program.

Ponce Campuzano’s advocacy while in college included a visit to the Obama White House. But his visit to D.C. this month was different: rather than affirming the value of a program to the President who created it, he is fighting a changing tide that would squelch his dream of becoming a physician serving communities like his own in the U.S.

Dressed in bright yellow “Home is Here” t-shirts, he and his fellow advocates descended on Capitol Hill, meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer among others. Ponce Campuzano summarized their message in an email:

“Our temporary status puts us at risk every two years, but we must now live with the constant threat of losing our protection from immediate deportation depending on the Supreme Court outcomes in less than a year.”

Lobbying on Capitol Hill may seem glamorous; the reality feels onerous.

“Despite having been thrown this extra weight on my back and studying viral infections on an airplane tray table for five hours flying back from D.C.,” he wrote, “I have continued to push through medical school with the support of my classmates, mentors, friends and family.”

Ponce Campuzano chose OHSU in part because of its stated support for DACA students and Respect for All messaging and policies that he saw while applying for medical school. Read more about his experience in our most recent Bridges alumni magazine.

Voice your support

We must all remember the importance of our words and of voicing our support for all of our community members. I encourage you to use the comments section on this blog to show your support for him and for all of our OHSU community members with DACA status or other statuses that have made them feel vulnerable in these times.

There are many other faculty, staff and students in the school who are speaking out on important causes, including meeting with lawmakers to stand up for science.

Just one example is Owen McCarty, Ph.D., professor and chair of biomedical engineering, OHSU School of Medicine. Dr. McCarty joined American Heart Association leaders, cardiovascular disease researchers, patients and survivors in Washington earlier this fall to advocate for policies that lead to longer, healthier lives. Messages included increasing funding to the National Institutes of Health.

The AHA funded the first grant of Dr. McCarty’s research career, and he has gone on to create and bring two cardiovascular disease therapies to clinical trials. His testimony to lawmakers: “We are now at the crucial point to demonstrate efficacy in order to translate these drugs and make them available for patients. It is at this point that NIH funding is so critical; without support potential therapies go unrealized.

I want to end with some important recognitions.

First I want to congratulate Derick Du Vivier, M.D., M.B.A., on his appointment as interim vice president for equity and inclusion.

I have seen, even in his short tenure as assistant dean for diversity and inclusion in the School of Medicine, his effectiveness and passion for widening OHSU’s path as a welcoming and inclusive community. We intend for him to continue his targeted work in the school while he broadens his reach institution wide.

Dr. Du Vivier succeeds Brian Gibbs, Ph.D., M.P.A., who is leaving OHSU Dec. 31. I am grateful for the impactful contributions that Dr. Gibbs has made to OHSU, including the rollout of unconscious bias training across OHSU, and the ways in which he supported my own personal growth as a leader. I know you will join me in thanking Dr. Gibbs and congratulating Dr. Du Vivier.

While we are not always able to recognize all of our outstanding leaders at every level, I want to call attention to two recent leadership recruitments that I, and I know their chairs, are very proud of:

Welcome to Drs. Brody and Hough.

Your talent makes OHSU so special

The holiday season is when who we are as an academic health center is really evident; we are a 24-7-365 operation and that means that many of you will be caring for patients, tending lab animals and experiments, studying or attending to other crucial operational duties on days when others have time off.

I want to thank each of you for bringing your talents to serve OHSU and our stakeholders and hope that everyone takes some time for themselves and their families during the holidays.

As one opportunity for recognizing each other, especially individuals who give a lot but don’t get a lot of praise, I encourage departments, clinics and offices to get involved in the Gratitude Tree project again this year.

Simply construct a display with small cards for team members to share their appreciations. If you need materials or ideas, please email to I will share some of these messages, and we will celebrate the season together Dec. 16 at 2 p.m. in Mac Hall Café with cocoa, cookies and caroling (add to your calendar).

During this week of giving thanks, I am thankful for you.

Sharon Anderson, M.D.
Dean, OHSU School of Medicine

Pictured, top: Christopher Ponce Campuzano (far left), the first DACA student in the OHSU M.D. program, joined fellow advocates in Washington, D.C., speaking here with U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas.

One response to “From Dean Sharon Anderson: Courage and leadership at a momentous time

  1. Thank you for the encouragement to lead, Dr. Anderson. As you have amply illustrated above, leadership is essential at any level, and at any time.

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