In 1995, Oregon Health & Science University broke from the state university system and plunged into the health care marketplace as a public corporation. Stuck in the backwaters of the nation’s academic health centers when Dr. Peter Kohler became its president in 1988, OHSU soon emerged as an entrepreneurial power after Kohler and his team delivered on a radical plan to transform it into a semi-independent public corporation. After it was freed from the constraints of the state and its university system, OHSU more than doubled its research, clinical, and classroom space; tripled its employees; quadrupled its research grants; and expanded its operating budget five-fold, reaching the top echelon of the nation’s medical research universities. This remarkable story offers a case study and possible model for other public universities and academic health centers now facing the same social and economic forces that drove OHSU to transform.
William Graves has worked more than three decades as a daily newspaper journalist, including 23 years at The Oregonian in Portland. He is co-author of a book on education reform, Poisoned Apple, a graduate of the University of Puget Sound and Western Washington University, and a former Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. He and his wife, Karin, have three adult children and live in Beaverton.
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