SH man among new medical class at OHSU

Nick Blake, 24, was asked one question more than any other growing up in Sweet Home: “So, are you going to be a physician like your Dad?”

“It was such an automatic question that I ended up dismissing it just as automatically, without ever seriously thinking about it,” said Blake, the son of Dr. Alan and Zsuzsa Blake.

Blake, 24, is one of 124 students entering Oregon Health and Science University’s School of Medicine program this fall. The class, which is 77 percent Oregon residents, includes a former professional opera singer from Portland and a NASA scientist.

Blake’s path to medical school was a bit convoluted. After high school, he studied engineering at Oregon State University for two years, then got married and quit, returning to Sweet Home where he found a job operating a planer chain in the Lebanon lumber mill. When he was laid off, Blake’s father told him that he never wanted to be one of those fathers who pressured their children to do what they had done. “And at that moment,” Blake said, “I started to realize that I had the ability to become a physician and use the talents I had been given to help people.”

Blake is one of two local medical students, both the sons of local doctors, who have been named 2010 Girod Scholars by the Lebanon Community Hospital Foundation and Girod Scholarship Committee. The other is Ross Wopat, son of Dr. Rick and Ellen Wopat of Lebanon, who is completing his second year at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California.

Both received $6,000 toward their medical school tuition during the 2010-11 academic year.

Both students have also spent many hours volunteering locally and internationally. Blake has volunteered in clinics in Mexico and Bolivia.

Dr. Mark Richardson, dean of the School of Medicine, said top grades and test scores are essential for admission to any medical school, but it takes more than academic prowess to be admitted to the program. Life experience, motivation for medicine and a passion for helping people also weigh heavily in the selection process.

“On their journey to becoming physicians, these students will likely see many changes to the nation’s health care system as the myriad elements of reform begin to take shape,” Richardson said.

“Our students are exposed to patients within two weeks of entering medical school. That’s why it’s so important for our admissions committee to consider attributes like poise, altruism and communication skills once students have met our prerequisites for grades and test scores,” said Dr. Tana Grady-Weliky, associate dean for medical education at OHSU.

“Physicians-in-training need character, commitment and heart in addition to a sharp scientific mind.”