Oral History: Dr.  Mary Stenzel-Poore

Image of Dr. Mary Stenzel-Poore

This post comes from Meg Suhosky, Student Archives Assistant in the Historical Collections & Archives.

Today’s post is a highlight from our Oral History Collection, which features an interview with Dr.  Mary Stenzel-Poore. From an administrative viewpoint, this particular oral history is rich with unique insights into particular times and events that shaped OHSU into what it is, and what it’s still becoming today. As mentioned in the interview, Dr. Stenzel-Poore came to OHSU as a graduate student. She has seen its progression as she advanced in her own career and grew into her current position as the Director of Research Opportunity at the Knight Cancer Institute. Dr. Stenzel-Poore reflects on the foundations of the university and its unique culture from her own point of view:

I think if you look at the beginnings of OHSU, the beginnings of OHSU was comprised of pioneering, non-egotistical faculty who came here because they wanted to make a difference in their research. They didn’t come here because this was a prestigious institution. So, they came here for a specific reason. And it’s different than the way other institutions attract individuals. And we were small, relatively, which required then, in order to make significant contributions, you had to collaborate. So, the motivation to come created a faculty group that were interested, really interested, in doing research, very interested in collaborating … That foundation, I think will define us probably forever.

Apart from her interesting stories about OHSU, the interview includes dialog on more personal topics such as her research interests, what inspired her to make certain career moves, and the challenges of being a woman in the world of health and science. She discusses what it was like  growing up attending an all-girl’s school, to then continuing her higher education and her experiences with important women who mentored or influenced her, and the hard questions in balancing family and career.

This interview really has something that speaks to everyone, as it tells more than anything a story of passion and purpose. Additionally, this record is an invaluable narrative and inspiration to students currently pursuing a career in health and science, and perhaps outside of these fields as well. The dialogue between Dr. Stenzel-Poore and her interviewer, Dr. Susan Smith – a friend and colleague – humanizes the typical ‘success story’ in a way that is invitational to the reader, yet still appreciative of the subject. As Dr. Smith paraphrases in agreement with her:

I think it’s a good message to get out to people that, and we’re very much the same in how we got to where we are … It wasn’t planned. We didn’t grow up wanting to be a professor at a medical school. It’s more than serendipity. But there’s a lot of aspect of that. Of taking advantage of the opportunity of where you are at the time. I mean, you sort of, I really like this. So, you came here. You did some research. You really liked it. Someone said you could go to graduate school. It was kind of like with me. Someone said, ‘You should go to graduate school.’ So, you do that …

There is a tone of pride in the community, its endeavors and accomplishments, yet humility and candor towards one’s own journey that truly makes this interview stand out. I highly recommend checking it out!

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