Terrible, Treatable TuberculosisA wonderful, but woefully short, documentary on tuberculosis in Oregon, “OREGON EXPERIENCE: The White Plague”, aired May 17 and 18th on OPB. But if you missed it, don’t despair; you can view it in its entirety on their Web site. I was not only excited to see photographs and artifacts from our collections in the film, but also portions of an interview with our own Dr. Harold T. Osterud (1923-2004), a frequent visitor to the HC&A. As the film ended, it was touching to see a clip of Dr. Osterud climbing the steps of the Old University Tuberculosis Hospital, where as professor emeritus and former chair of the Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, he had his office. The film was dedicated: “In Memoriam - Dr. Harold T. Osterud.”
A related article in the Oregonian, dated August 1954, describes briefly a report written by Dean David W. E. Baird regarding the status of the patient population at the University TB Hospital on Marquam Hill. The report stated that the waiting list of patients had all but disappeared for the first time since the hospital's opening in 1939. It appears that early detection, due to improved x-ray diagnostics, the use of new antibiotic drugs, that arrested the disease, and the increased efficacy of surgical procedures, coupled with a reduced length of hospital stay, opened up more space to receive new patients with active TB. The statistics showed that the number of cases had not decreased, but were still on the increase at the time. Other interesting statistics were that housewives made up the largest population at the hospital, while 38 states, 14 foreign countries, a wide range of occupations and geographic regions and *races* were represented on the patient roster. (*Not my word.)
For those of you who might be inclined to do more research on the hospitals, you can check out our complete collection of photographs and other materials that did not appear in the film. The Oregon State Tuberculosis Hospital and University State Tuberculosis Hospital Collection, Accession # 2000-001 consists of photographs and scrapbooks, hospital record books and correspondence pertaining to the operation, staffing and publicity of the Oregon State Tuberculosis Hospital, and its assimilation into the University of Oregon Medical School. The majority of the materials are dated between the early 1920’s and mid 1960’s. Record books are dated from 1939 to 1973.
There is also an online exhibit available on our Web site titled: "Housing the Victims of the Great White Plague: The Oregon State Tuberculosis Hospital", which will point you to a good many other materials that are housed here in the Archives pertaining to TB in Oregon.
Articles referenced: f1 p41 a10-11