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2016 Herbert W. Nickens Award

Somnath Saha, MD, MPH, Oregon Health & Science University and VA Portland Health Care System

Saha Through his scholarship, mentorship, and service, Somnath Saha, MD, MPH, has been a highly influential advocate for health equity in classrooms and clinics.

Dr. Saha’s scholarship has been integral to developing a body of evidence that demonstrates the critical imperative for diversity and inclusion in medicine to improve both patient outcomes and medical student preparedness. Early in his career, Dr. Saha led a study that found that underrepresented minority patients who are cared for by physicians of the same race are more likely to receive appropriate preventive services. Later, he published a highly influential study demonstrating that diversity in medical schools leads to increased confidence in students’ feelings of preparedness to care for patients from other racial and ethnic backgrounds. These studies and his other work have been foundational to many national reports, including those by the AAMC, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). For example, Dr. Saha’s systematic review of racial disparities within the VA health care system is credited as the basis for the department’s disparities research portfolio.

Dr. Saha’s commitment to enhancing diversity and inclusion in medicine continues in the classroom in his role as professor of medicine at the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU). At OHSU, Dr. Saha serves as course director for curricula on health disparities and community-based research for fellows and junior faculty and served for several years on the OHSU admissions committee. He is also known for his mentorship, practicing an “open door policy” for anyone interested in diversity and health equity research. One mentee attests, “Som is a sharp and talented physician scholar, but he is also a kind, wise advisor.”

In addition to his faculty role and position as a staff physician at the VA Portland Health Care System, Dr. Saha provides regional and national leadership in furthering diversity and inclusion in medicine. He served on the VA’s National Cultural Competence Task Force and National Ethics Committee Task Force on Ethnic Disparities. He previously served on several AAMC committees, including the Holistic Review Project Advisory Committee. Today, he also serves as the gubernatorial-appointed chair of the Oregon Health Evidence Review Commission, which works to maximize the value of care in Oregon’s Medicaid program. Further, Dr. Saha has worked with the leadership of both the Oregon Latino Health Coalition and the African-American Health Coalition, which work to improve community health education and access to care.

After graduating from Stanford University, Dr. Saha received his MD and postgraduate training in internal medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. He was a fellow in the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program at the University of Washington, where he obtained a master’s degree in public health.


Press Contacts
Tamara Hargens-Bradley
Brooke Bergen

More About Dr. Saha

Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities - OHSU School of Medicine External Link

Oregon Health Evidence Review Commission External Link

Herbert W. Nickens Award

Named in honor of the late Herbert W. Nickens, MD, MA, founder and past vice president of the AAMC's Diversity Policy and Programs unit, the Herbert W. Nickens Memorial Fund was established by the AAMC to continue advancing Dr. Nickens' concerns about the educational, societal, and health care needs of minorities. The fund supports an annual Nickens leadership award, an annual faculty fellowship, and five annual student scholarships.