Dear OCOM Community,

I’ve been wearing an enamel pin on my jacket lapel. It’s a red dragon, a symbol of happiness, strength, and good fortune. It was a gift from Valerie Hobbs, our Vice President of Academic Affairs. I was born in a dragon year, and I wear the pin to honor the medicine, our community, and this Year of the Dragon. 

Without question, significant change is coming in 2024.

You — our staff, faculty, and students — have asked for change, and we are planning for it. Based on our strategic plan, we will certainly change the college’s name. Given feedback from you, along with financial pressures, it’s increasingly clear we must leave Old Town. Four years into the pandemic, the neighborhood still feels unsafe and unsanitary — and increasingly empty as some of our neighbors, including the University of Oregon, move out to settle into new homes in Portland and across the region. Deteriorating conditions in Portland broadly and Old Town  specifically have significantly reduced our building’s assessed value.

Even bigger changes may also be ahead. OCOM may merge with another Chinese medicine program or find an academic partner where we can share a campus and some operational costs.

We must change. Like many U.S. institutions of higher education, OCOM is facing financial headwinds. Due to market forces largely driven by the COVID-19 pandemic and significant, recent shifts in higher education, and market changes for schools of acupuncture and herbal medicine, revenues are declining and expenses are rising. There is an ever-increasing supply of education options, and a shrinking supply of students. Fewer people want to take on student loan debt, or commit to four-year, full-time programs.

Let me make this clear: There are no plans to close the college at this time. OCOM is current on all its financial obligations and has a modest reserve fund. Your leaders — the executive team and Board of Trustees — are strongly committed to you and to providing the high-quality, community-focused education and clinical care that is the hallmark of OCOM.

We are exploring strategic options that are in the best interests of the college and its students, faculty, and staff. We will leave no stone unturned. I am meeting with elected officials, attorneys, and financial experts to find ways to minimize our financial burden and maximize our chances for stability and sustainability.

The goal is to keep OCOM traditions alive for another 40 years. I will do everything in my power to make this so.

I will also issue a campus-wide email update every two weeks to answer your questions and listen to your concerns and ideas. We are making plans to create a special page on the OCOM website for these updates and other information about the building and other potential changes, so there will be a single place to get trusted news and information at any time. I can’t answer all the questions you may have right now, but I promise to be open and honest -- always.

The OCOM board will meet on April 4 and our financial situation will be on the agenda. In my next update, I will let you know the substance of that discussion and the operational choices trustees will want to pursue in the coming weeks and months.

Change is uncomfortable. It is also hopeful. Dragons are a classic East Asian embodiment of wisdom matched with the power to grow and change. They emerge every spring from their frozen celestial lakes, carrying with them lessons from the preceding ages in order to direct the coming year. In this sense, dragons represent hope and renewal. I think about this when I wear my pin. I also think about you, and working together to create a clear, smooth, and sunny road ahead.

Philip H Lundberg, PhD, President/CEO