Friday, February 27, 2009

"Grace and comradeship"; "Profound gratefulness": two more in the can

[You know, I still like that phrase, "in the can", for film. Of course, digital film doesn't come in cans, but we'll pretend as long as we're able to, until kids lose all mental imagery of film reeling.]

Two very successful oral histories were captured yesterday, as planned--despite the dusting of snow on Marquam Hill! Below are short impressions/precis(es); stay tuned for complete transcripts to follow soon.

"Grace and comradeship"
Pam Hellings, RN, PhD, CNP-P, talked about her early desire to go into health care, after babysitting a young boy with cerebral palsy. Her BA from UCLA was just the beginning, and Pam soon found herself one of the pioneers of advanced practice nursing. She was recruited to Oregon by Kathy Burns, another UCLA graduate, who had written a successful grant to establish a nurse practitioner program here at OHSU. Kathy lacked a master's degree, and so was not eligible to lead the program; Pam fit the bill, having earned both a master's degree and a PNP certificate at UCLA. She came because "there was lots of room to make a difference in Oregon"--and she definitely has. Oregon's program became a model for the nation, and Pam was asked to testify before other state's legislatures on developing rules and regulations for nurse practitioner practice.

An administrator within the OHSU School of Nursing for many years, Pam talked about her role in moving the school forward and shared anecdotes about the deans and directors under which she served, including Jean Boyle, Carol Lindeman, and Kate Potempa. She described her work in establishing the Breastfeeding Program and on the Nursing Faculty Practice Grant. Her role as a several-term senator on the Faculty Senate gave her unique insight into the financial challenges the university faced. How did they get through it? "Grace and comradeship," qualities fostered by then-Dean Carol Lindeman.

"Profound gratefulness"
In the afternoon, Cecille Beyl, MD, shared some anecdotes from her remarkable life in medicine. From the story of her mother, middle child of 13 born to Russian Orthodox Jewish immigrants in New York, who went on to surmount inconceivable odds to become a physician; to Cecille's childhood in New York and her early work on the stage (playing Virgin Mary in the school play, without irony); to her schooling and entrance into medicine, Cecille professed a sense of "profound gratefulness" for the good fortune of her life. Her lifelong love of learning was not only verbally expressed, it was nearly palpable: since retiring, Cecille has taken two masters degrees in languages and literature and continues to attend classes at Portland State.

Her tenure in pediatric cardiology at OHSU coincided with a period when Oregon was a leader in cardiac research (Dotter, Judkins, Starr, Edwards, et alii), and she herself contributed to that success. But she hasn't limited herself to medicine, and we heard about her first climb (Mt. Adams, straight out of the gate!) and about what she might have been if she had it to do all over again (a folksinger). Her final advice to anyone starting out in medicine: "Believe in yourself."

Two extraordinary women, two fantastic interviews!

1 comment:

Sara Piasecki said...

As an aside, the crew that does our oral history filming now has a website where you can check out their work. Go to