Student blog: finding my family at a small medical school

A nursing student originally from Hawaii says that Oregon Health & Science University, one of the world's best small universities, has given her a new family.
January 25 2016

See the Times Higher Education World’s Best Small Universities 2016 table here.

Angelina Pham, a nursing student at Oregon Health & Science University, tells her story:

Angelina Pham OHSU

Having attended the University of California, Los Angeles for my first degree, I was initially drawn to Oregon Health & Science University for its reputation as one of the nation’s leading medical institutions. Upon the completion of my undergraduate career, I explored avenues in nursing-related research that worked mostly with underserved populations. OHSU’s outstanding research accomplishments pushed me to apply to its School of Nursing. 

Being from Honolulu, Hawaii, I was initially hesitant to attend OHSU because I had never been so far removed from the comfort of family or friends (or the ocean). However, I ultimately chose OHSU because of my interview experience; I was especially impressed with the admission committee’s emphasis on working with the underserved. In my own life, I have undergone a range of meaningful experiences that have empowered me with the sensitivity to better understand the structural causes of health disparities. I have made it a priority to maintain this social awareness in a way that prioritises a balance between professional growth and personal health. OHSU wants to help its students maintain this balance. Students are given a plethora of resources that promote self-care and personal attentiveness. There are meditation rooms, student lounges stocked with coffee and tea, counselling services, and even a light therapy room – all places where students can give themselves “personal attention”.

One reason why I love OHSU is because of the close-knit relationships that I have developed throughout my time here. OHSU nurtures a welcoming community that encourages personal growth while providing students with a safe space to explore their academic interests. The dedication to the refinement of modern medicine is impressive, and having the opportunity to surround myself with so many passionate and open-minded health professionals is incredibly inspiring.

On a smaller scale, it is quite comforting to be able to walk through the halls of OHSU and be greeted with familiar faces and kind smiles; as an island girl, it makes my transition to the mainland not as intimidating and so much easier. The smaller university setting provides the opportunity for the cultivation of genuine relationships between the instructors and their students. Here, professors know your name, and questions are not considered a nuisance or a disruption during class time. OHSU gives students the opportunity to develop quality connections with clinical instructors and academic advisers because the small student-to-faculty ratio provides faculty with the space to be attentive to each student’s individual needs.

What I find most special about OHSU is the amount of care and thoughtfulness that goes into crafting incoming class cohorts throughout the admissions process. It seems that each year’s cohorts are selected to weave together a group of intelligent individuals who are all so different, yet all so inspiring in their own ways. There is absolutely no competition; instead, there is an implicit understanding that the best learning is done collaboratively, for nothing great has ever been achieved alone.

My feelings may be best encapsulated through a quote from the film, Lilo and Stitch. Lilo reminds us, “Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.”  In Hawaii, your ohana means everything, and I am so eternally grateful to be a part of the OHSU ohana, because boy, we sure do stick together!

A native of Honolulu, Hawaii, Angelina Pham is a first-year student at the OHSU School of Nursing. She earned her first degree from UCLA in human biology and society, with a concentration in public health. Angelina is drawn towards maternal health and health promotion. Prior to attending OHSU, she conducted several research projects working with vulnerable populations that are often overlooked. She was a lead investigator of an AHA-funded study that examined cardiovascular health among premenopausal women. She is also a published author in a study that analyses the comorbidities among indigenous Native American cancer patients.

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Related articles