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New OHSU leader says partnerships can improve health care

Oregon Health & Science University’s new president wants even more partnerships between the Portland research, education and health care institution and Southern Oregon.

Dr. Danny Jacobs is making the rounds this week in the Rogue Valley, visiting with health care, business and education representatives about partnerships already in place and what more can be done.

“One of the things that was compelling to me when I was being recruited was the idea of service to the entire state,” Jacobs said Wednesday during an interview at the Mail Tribune. “We want to improve the health and wellbeing of all Oregonians.”

In 2018, the OHSU board of directors unanimously approved the selection of Jacobs to helm the institution after a national search. He previously had served as the executive vice president, provost and dean of the School of Medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.

Jacobs began his medical career as a surgeon before taking on administrative roles.

Now living in Portland with his wife, a nutritionist and Oregon State University graduate, Jacobs enjoys cycling, fly fishing and hiking.

Jacobs said there is a constant flow of patients and medical expertise between Southern Oregon and OHSU.

Each year, about 10,000 local residents travel to OHSU for care, he said.

But OHSU also works to help Southern Oregon residents stay close to home for care when possible. Jacobs said most people prefer to avoid the stress and hardship of traveling for treatment.

OHSU providers offer advice and expertise to Rogue Valley providers for specialized care, often using telemedicine to communicate.

“We provide access to our folks. There may only be 100 people in some specialties in the nation. They can communicate and do it remotely, efficiently and effectively,” Jacobs said.

The best-known local partnership is OHSU’s School of Nursing at Southern Oregon University.

Jacobs said OHSU has nursing partnerships around the state to allow students to train through local community colleges and universities.

“People can stay closer to home while pursuing their education,” he said.

OHSU is also committed to putting appropriate curriculum online to improve the accessibility of education, he said.

Spreading nursing education around the state helps address the shortage of nurses, and also attracts nursing instructors who want to remain in their local communities, Jacobs said.

OHSU-trained doctors also work at Southern Oregon health care facilities to complete their residencies. Research shows doctors are more likely to stay in communities where they have done their residencies, which helps address the shortage of doctors in rural areas, Jacobs said.

With so many specialists and the ability to provide advanced care, OHSU cares for the sickest of the sick among Oregonians, he said.

But OHSU also wants to prevent the need for hospitalizations. The institution backs efforts to provide preventative care and to address what’s known as the social determinants of health — social and economic conditions that impact people’s health and wellbeing.

“We want to provide the right care in the right place at the right time,” he said.

Jacobs said Oregon has long been a leader in trying to provide more access to health care for more residents, and to coordinate physical, mental and dental care.

He believes the future of health care is interdisciplinary.

OHSU has formed an Interprofessional Care Access Network that is housed at its School of Nursing. The network spans academic departments, bringing together students in nursing, medicine, dentistry, public health and pharmacy. They form teams to help individuals and families in under-served areas overcome barriers to health that are related to social and economic problems.

OHSU wants to be part of the solution when it comes to reining in the rising cost of health care, which is consuming more and more of the budgets of families, businesses and governments.

Jacobs pointed to a study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The United States spends more on health care than any other country, with costs approaching 18% of the nation’s gross domestic product and more than $10,000 per person. Yet about 30% of health care spending is waste, according to the JAMA article.

Sources of waste include providing expensive care that doesn’t improve patient outcomes, failure to control drug prices, overly complex administration and failing to prevent diabetes, obesity, smoking and cancer.

“We can’t just keep pushing costs onto families,” Jacobs said.

He said pharmaceutical companies deserve to earn a fair profit off the drugs they develop, but there have been too many examples of price gouging, including by outsiders who buy up life-saving drugs and raise prices sky-high.

“I find it despicable,” he said.

Jacobs said America needs to rethink its ban on the import of drugs from other countries and consider the feasibility of lifting restrictions where appropriate.

When it comes to addressing the opioid addiction epidemic, Jacobs said, OHSU is a resource for local providers. They can consult with experts on addiction, alternatives for managing pain and the appropriate use of narcotic pain medicine.

With life expectancy down in America for three years in a row despite increased spending, Jacobs said everyone from health care professionals to the business community to elected leaders needs to work together to improve health care.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

OHSU President Dr. Danny Jacobs. Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune