Harold T. Osterud, M.D., a friend of history

Dr. OsterudDr. Harold T. Osterud, former chair of the OHSU Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine (1967-1990), was born in 1923 in Richmond, Virginia. He graduated salutatorian of Ashland High School and went on to attend Randolph-Macon College in 1940 in Virginia. In 1947, he earned an M.D. from Medical College of Virginia where his father was a professor of anatomy.

In 1948, he became a health officer for Wasco-Sherman Health Department in the Dalles, Oregon. From 1951-1953, he served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps during the Korean War. After he was stationed for 18 months in Korea, he returned to the U.S. and was employed as a health officer in Coos and Lane counties in Oregon. He joined the OHSU Department of PHPM in 1961. While serving as the department chairman (1967-1990), Dr. Osterud initiated the Preventive Medicine Residency Program at OHSU in 1974.

To his colleagues, Dr. Osterud was remembered as outgoing and full of life. He participated in numerous county, state and national organizations. His research interests encompassed a variety of topics, such as epidemiology of communicable and parasitic diseases, international public health and medical manpower in Oregon. He also was an exceptional teacher and his students recalled his easy manner and approachability. Even after retiring in 1990, Dr. Osterud continued to teach in the department and serve as the health officer in Washington and Clackamas counties.

Harold, as he was known to me, was a great friend of the OHSU Historical Collections & Archives. He was OHSU's unofficial historian, following in the footsteps of Olof Larsell, author of the Doctor in Oregon (1947). He spent many hours in the History of Medicine room, poring over the documents, manuscripts, registers, photographs and records. One such record was a very large volume, almost too heavy for me to lift, titled Record of Deaths -1891-1901. The information contained within includes the date of death, name of person, age, place of death, cause of death, name of undertaker and remarks, which include cemetery, place of nativity, race and whether the coroner was called. The bulk of "place of death" is either in or in close proximity to Portland.

Before we had the proper technology to scan fragile materials, it was a rare pleasure to have Harold in the room quietly copying the book by hand. Yes, by hand. Harold taught me a lot about diligence in research, and as well, his comments regarding Oregon history kept me engaged for hours. His history of medicine in Oregon was never completed; however, we are the proud repository of the Harold Osterud Papers (#2004-004), which contains a good amount of his historical research.

Dr. Osterud died December 31, 2004. We will always miss him.

Karen Lea Anderson Peterson, Assistant Professor, OHSU Archivist