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Oregon’s only burn center turns 50

PORTLAND, Ore. (Nov. 13, 2023) – One of this area's most significant historical events for the Legacy Oregon Burn Center was the 1980 Mt. St. Helen’s volcanic eruption. Five patients arrived by helicopter at Emanuel Hospital’s small burn unit housed in the main hospital. The burn center had been opened only seven years.

The Legacy Oregon Burn Center (OBC), the only burn center in Oregon and Southwest Washington, is celebrating a half-century of providing groundbreaking surgical, critical, and specialized wound and burn care to pediatric and adult patients. Each year, the OBC treats more than 400 patients from all over the state and region. The physicians and nurses receive over 1,400 calls a year from professionals nationwide seeking advice on burn injuries.

“We are dedicated to burn injury treatment, research, education, and prevention,” says Dr. Nik Eshraghi, the Legacy Oregon Burn Center's burn surgeon and medical director.

The OBC is a national leader verified by the American Burn Association, which confirms the ability to provide optimal care to wound and burn patients. It is one of 123 self-designated burn care facilities in the country and is one of three verified burn centers on the West Coast (Seattle and Sacramento are the others).

Shaela Rivers spent three months at the OBC in a medically induced coma. In 2019, a neighbor pounded on her door, to alert her that her mother’s house was on fire. Instinctually, she ran into the burning house. Fortunately, her mother was at work, but Shaela sustained burns on 80 percent of her body. Shaela is still connected to the OBC through the burn survivor program. The OBC provides aftercare programs that continue after a patient is discharged to help survivors heal from the physical and emotional scarring of burns.

Anne Scott, the aftercare coordinator, is a burn survivor and a peer supporter. “I sit on the unit and visit patients, loved ones, and parents,” says Scott. “I help them learn about life after burns and our support programs. Sometimes, it takes a while to consider what life as a burn survivor is for them.” Right now, Scott is tracking 400 adult and pediatric survivors.

Shaela participated in a makeup session at the Legacy Oregon Burn Center for burn survivors.

(Photo Credit: Shaela Rivers)


The Legacy Oregon Burn Center was established in 1973 in the main hospital with a few beds. Since then, the OBC has moved to a separate building on the Legacy Emanuel campus, which includes 16 intensive care patient rooms, a large treatment room, a hydrotherapy room, and laser scar treatment. A lot has changed since 1973. Fewer patients are severely burned, thanks to safety enhancements. Those burned are more likely to survive. Also, clinical trials and research programs play a significant role in burn care. A study is underway seeking the effects of nitrous oxide on pain.

The OBC also treats complex wounds (from diabetes) and rare infections. It is positioned for the future to face environmental challenges like wildfires and social issues like homeless population-related burns and wounds. Dr. Eshraghi says the OBC will continue to serve the community with cutting-edge technology, research, and the latest treatment options. “We must give hope to our patients by providing compassionate care. That is our today and our future.”


About Legacy Health
Legacy Health is a locally owned, nonprofit health system driven by our mission to improve the health of those around us. We offer a unique blend of health services—from wellness and urgent care to dedicated children's care and advanced medical centers. We care for patients of all ages when and where they need us across the Portland/Vancouver metro area and mid-Willamette Valley. With an eye toward a healthier community, our partnerships tackle vital issues such as housing and mental health. Legacy strives to help everyone live healthier and better lives, with the vision of being essential to the health of the region.

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Vicki Guinn