Friday, October 20, 2006

Remembering Harold Osterud

Yesterday, we received a patron request for materials on the history of the OHSU Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine. The mere question brought back a flood of memories of Emeritus Professor Dr. Harold T. Osterud (1923-2004), longtime chair of the department (1967-1990) and unofficial OHSU historian.

In the short time I knew him, Dr. Osterud was always working on a history of the university; in that endeavor, he sought to follow in the footsteps of another former faculty member, Dr. Olof Larsell, who wrote the magisterial book The Doctor in Oregon in 1947. As a matter of course, Dr. Osterud was also working on a history of the department of PH & PM, and I didn't realize that he had never finished that project until we got the call from the current departmental staff. Luckily, we received many of Dr. Osterud's working files after he passed away (Accession 2004-004). Although the collection remains unprocessed, we have a brief inventory of the contents and can provide access to the materials. (Incidentally, we also have many of the working papers of Dr. Larsell, in the Olof Larsell Papers, Accession 1999-011.)

Most everyone who knew Dr. Osterud spoke fondly of him; an obituary that ran in the Oregonian reads (in part): "Dr. Osterud's southern roots gave him two more skills that pleased and enriched the lives of his friends and colleagues. He was a gifted jazz pianist (playing by ear) and a colorful storyteller who knew how to weave a good yarn and a public health lesson into an unforgettable image." Experience some of his stories yourself by checking out his oral history interview.

What I remember most was his fascination with the details of the school's history, his extreme care and attention to detail. Some time ago, before we had in place the proper technology for safely scanning or copying fragile materials, he copied by hand the entire Record of Deaths, 1891-1901 (Accession 2001-010) in the hopes of elucidating patterns in the City's public health efforts. A bit like Tristram Shandy, his book on the history of OHSU never did get much past the birthing, but it was a wonderful tale.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Deja vu, or, the perspective afforded by 65 years

In the project to sleeve our unprocessed glass lantern slides in their little paper jackets, I have moved beyond the first two boxes and into the next on the shelf. When I opened "Miscellaneous" Boxes 2 and 3, I received a jolt of deja vu. In those two containers were slides which, according to the note, had been discovered in the Mac Hall Vault (Mac Hall has a vault??) nine years ago this month. All contain text or charts, and as I looked through them, I realized that the topics discussed in this speech (or speeches) were very much the same as the topics discussed in speeches donated to us last month on 35 mm slides.

In September, as he was transitioning into new offices here on campus, President Emeritus Dr. Peter O. Kohler donated to us five boxes of slides from presentations he made circa 1987-1998. While the collection remains unprocessed, we did make a short inventory of the contents. Broad topics include: budget, planning, and construction; physician workforce and medical education; and health insurance, particularly universal health care plans.

Looking through the glass lantern slides, which date from the period 1929-1931, I see many of the same topics repeated: medical education, physician specialization, medical economics, socialized medicine. It is fascinating to see the charts of gross physician income from 1929, or the graphs of growth in specialization over the fifteen years preceeding 1930, and to compare the ideas expressed then with the ideas expressed now.

Is there something about this particular University, or with Portland as a city, that has made faculty here so thoughtful, so committed, so active? Or is this the badge of healthcare professionals the world over? Comparing Oregon's Doctor Train for the 1906 earthquake with Northwest Medical Teams, or Esther Pohl Lovejoy's interest in universal health care with the Rx for Healthcare project in which Dr. Kohler is involved, highlights the fundamental principles that have guided healthcare from the earliest days to the present.

By the way, if you're interested in learning more about Lovejoy and her bold ideas, check out the great list of resources on Dr. Kimberly Jensen's website. Professor Jensen will also be presenting a talk on Lovejoy for the OHSU History of Medicine Society Lecture Series, on April 20, 2007. Save the date!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Basketball fever

While the season for the Portland Trailblazers doesn't start for another two weeks, I had a sneak peek at another season and a different team: the 1945 University of Oregon Medical School Medics. I had stopped by the office of Jill Smith, Director of Annual Giving and Alumni Relations for the OHSU School of Medicine, on an unrelated errand when she pulled out a wonderful scrapbook created by the members of that team for their 50th class reunion.

Among the players that year was freshman Walt Reynolds, a great athlete who had played both in high school and for the University of Oregon as an undergraduate. Dr. Reynolds went on to graduate from the medical school in 1949, becoming the first African-American man to graduate from UOMS. Reynolds then joined Dr. DeNorval Unthank as one of only two African-American physicians in Portland. Active in the community as well as in his profession, Reynolds was named president of the Urban League of Portland in 1959; served as president of the medical staff at Emanuel Hospital; served as president of the School of Medicine Alumni Association; and worked with the SOM Dean on minority student recruitment.

Although we don't have the scrapbook here in Historical Collections & Archives, you can read about Dr. Reynolds elsewhere: his biography is used to illuminate the racial barriers in medicine in a book by Dr. Leonard Laster (second President of OHSU) called Life After Medical School. Check it out at the Main Library, or another library near you.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

We are the champions

Yesterday, a patron contacted us for a class photograph which would include a 1909 graduate--of the Willamette University Medical Department. She was aware that Willamette's medical school had merged with the University of Oregon Medical School back in the day, and assumed (hoped) that we would have records from Willamette. Alas, the merger took place in 1913, four years too late, and we never have received much in the way of records from the defunct medical school. One outstanding archival collection which we do have, the WUMD records in Accession 1999-001, dates from a period earlier than 1909. So, sadly, we had no photo or other record of the graduate in question, John Irving Russell, who went on to found a hospital in Lakeview, WA.

The story of the merger of the two schools is itself an interesting topic. The founders of UOMS had, of course, broken away from Willamette's medical school in 1887 to start a rival institution (a nice short history of the break is included in the guide for the UOMS Faculty Minutes Collection, Accession 1999-003). Competition in this case was apparently detrimental to both schools: in 1910, the Council on Medical Education rated Willamette as a C, and although UOMS was given an A rating, Abraham Flexner slammed the school in his report on medical education. So, in 1913, the schools came together again to pool resources and improve medical education in the Pacific Northwest.

Thus, UOMS went on, became the University of Oregon Health Sciences Center, then Oregon Health Sciences University, now Oregon Health & Science University. The name has changed, but the records remain. Looking in the library catalog, there are hundreds of publications by and about UOMS.

Looking in the library catalog of the Mark O. Hatfield Library at Willamette University, you'd never even know they once had a medical department!

I guess the old adage is true: history is written by the victors. Write your version of events: donate your historical materials to an appropriate repository near you!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Lecture now available

[An abbreviated message today, since the majority of my activity this Monday is outside of the scope of Historical Collections & Archives responsibilities.]

For those of you who were not able to attend
the first lecture in the History of Medicine Society Lecture Series on October 6, the streaming video of the presentation is now available on our lectures page.

Dr. John Barry, Professor of Surgery and Head of the OHSU Division of Urology and Renal Transplantation, spoke on the history of the kidney transplant program at OHSU. The program, which started in 1959, is also discussed by Dr. Clarence Hodges in his oral history interview.