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OHSU President Joe Robertson Retires After MS Diagnosis


The president of Oregon Health & Science University, Joe Robertson, is retiring after nearly 40 years of service.

He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis a couple of months ago and had hoped to stay on the job.

“To optimize the outcome with MS, there is not one cure. But there are a constellation of things you can do regarding lifestyle and diet. And it took me a while to internalize that,” he said. 

Joe Robertson will retire from OHSU at the end of the month. ”You know I’m very nervous about him leaving because this place has really evolved into being an extraordinary health facility nationally and internationally," said Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney.

Joe Robertson will retire from OHSU at the end of the month. ”You know I’m very nervous about him leaving because this place has really evolved into being an extraordinary health facility nationally and internationally,” said Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney.

Kristian Foden-Vencil/OPB

“My diagnosis was a shock to me and my family,” he said. “While my doctors assure me that I could continue to execute my role as president, this news has compelled me to re-evaluate my future and my family’s well-being.”

Robertson is retiring at the end of October. He has offered to continue serving as president through the academic year without salary. He’ll begin receiving his PERS retirement benefits in November.

“My purpose in offering to serve into retirement is to ensure continuity for OHSU during the search for the next president,” Robertson said.

Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney, a good friend of Robertson’s, said Robertson has been a great asset to OHSU.

“You know I’m very nervous about him leaving because this place has really evolved into being an extraordinary health facility nationally and internationally. And you’re not going to replace him,” Courtney said. “So this is really a devastating loss.”

Courtney said he hopes Robertson will continue working with OHSU in some capacity.

The teaching university has seen extensive growth under Robertson’s leadership in Southwest Portland and across the state.

Messages of thanks have been coming in from organizations as varied as the Portland Business Alliance and Gov. Kate Brown.

She thanked Robertson for his service, and said, “President Robertson was committed to make sure that the important work being done at OHSU benefited the entire state. Thanks to his leadership, I’ve seen doctors based in Portland practicing hundreds of miles away in our rural communities and expanding access to care to those who need it most.”

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