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OHSU announces a change at the top position

The Oregon Health and Science University Board of Directors last week unanimously appointed Joseph Robertson Jr., M.D., M.B.A., as the university's next president.

Robertson, a Portland resident, currently serves as dean of the OHSU School of Medicine. He is also the university's vice president for medical affairs. Current OHSU President Peter Kohler, M.D., plans to retire in mid-September after serving in the post for more than 18 years.

'I am honored to be given the opportunity to lead OHSU,' said Robertson. 'Under Dr. Kohler's leadership, OHSU witnessed tremendous expansion in all four of its core mission areas: Health care, teaching, research and community service. We will build upon these achievements to continue OHSU's path toward excellence as we meet the needs of Oregonians. Doing this will require new sources of revenue, enhanced faculty support and stronger partnerships with the state of Oregon, community leaders and other health care providers.'

As dean of Oregon's only medical school, Robertson has led numerous initiatives aimed at providing improved health care access to Oregonians. He proactively responded to Oregon's physician work force shortage by increasing enrollment in the medical school and developing a partnership with the University of Oregon and the PeaceHealth system, Oregon region, to expand medical education to the Eugene-Springfield area.

'There is no person better equipped to take over the reigns of OHSU than Dr. Robertson,' said Keith Thomson, chairman of the OHSU Board of Directors. 'As dean of the OHSU School of Medicine, Dr. Robertson has demonstrated tremendous leadership and problem-solving abilities. In addition, his firsthand awareness of the health care issues currently facing Oregonians will be of great value to OHSU as the institution works to respond to these challenges.'

Robertson has a long history at OHSU. He first came to the university as a resident in 1979. In 1987 he became director of the Vitreous Surgery Service in the Casey Eye Institute. He then went on to become professor and chairman of ophthalmology in the OHSU School of Medicine and director of the Casey Eye Institute in 1998. In his time at Casey, Robertson treated hundreds of Oregon patients from a broad variety of backgrounds.

'Treating Oregonians on a daily basis gave me a unique insight into the challenges of health care access throughout the state of Oregon and beyond,' explained Robertson. 'In treating newborns suffering from vision loss due to retinopathy of prematurity, I have seen firsthand the difficulties that some uninsured families can face in seeking necessary health care for their children. As president of OHSU, I plan to partner with others in finding better solutions for these families.'

From July 2001 to January 2002, Robertson served as interim dean of the OHSU School of Medicine. In July 2003 he became the permanent dean and was appointed OHSU's vice president for medical affairs.

'As a university, we must take advantage of existing partnerships but also forge new ones in order to have the greatest effect on Oregonians' lives,' said Robertson. 'While OHSU's physical campus spans a few hundred acres, we must serve all 98,000 square miles of the state of Oregon.'

Robertson said OHSU research will expand in the future, both in quantity and quality. He will encourage increased commercialization of the knowledge gained through these research efforts, benefiting Oregonians by expanding their access to state-of-the-art heath care and by helping Oregon share in the economic benefits derived from emerging technologies.

Robertson said transformation of the Schnitzer Campus in Portland's developing South Waterfront will be another challenge. He believes the new campus will feature cross-disciplinary education, providing future students with a unique health and science education experience. He also will promote expanded collaboration within the university between researchers and clinicians and across the schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry and engineering.

Robertson was selected from a large pool of applicants in an extensive process that began in late 2005. The final selection was preceded by campus visits by three finalists for the position. OHSU administration, employees, students, community leaders, the OHSU Presidential Search Committee and the OHSU Board of Directors provided input during these visits.