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News & Press: History of the Osteopathic Profession

History of the Osteopathic Profession - Herbert Tirjer, DO

Friday, October 25, 2013   (0 Comments)
Posted by: John Stiger, DO
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John Stiger, DO continues to document his interviews with pioneers of the osteopathic profession in Oregon. Below is his latest essay from an interview with Herbert. Tirjer, DO.

Herbert. Tirjer, DO FACOS

When an osteopathic subspecialist came to the State of Oregon he faced challenges that the osteopathic general practitioners would never have to face. As the only osteopathic specialist in their particular area they had to win the support of the osteopathic community and then the allopathic community as well. The latter was very important because the specialist would invariably face situations where a fellow specialist’s opinion or assistance was essential to assure quality patient care. If the subspecialist did not achieve that acceptance his career would be difficult at best. As the first osteopathically trained board certified urologist in the State of Oregon and in the entire Pacific Northwest Dr. Tirjer had a distinguished career in which he commanded the respect and referrals of the osteopathic community and the allopathic community as well!

Herbert John Peter Tirjer was born in 1949 in Vienna Austria. His father, an immigrant from Romania to Austria, was a barber and mother Hedwig, a native Austrian, was a hairdresser. An only child he was nurtured by a family of doting aunts and uncles and his grandparents. It was time of post WWII recovery and jobs were very scarce and opportunities for employment in Canada and USA were plentiful. His parents decided to immigrate to Canada to seek a better and more prosperous life for themselves and their young son. The family’s first residence was an apartment in Montreal where there were few children. There were no ESL programs at the time so the way he learned English was from his classmates in school and television. His parents worked literally from dawn to dusk making a living leaving young Herb to his own devices. He was alone so much his parents enrolled him in a French Catholic Boarding School where the environment was foreign, discipline was harsh, and the language spoken was French. He did so poorly that in desperation his parents invited his grandmother from Austria to come to Canada to care for him.  The family moved to a new neighborhood with good schools and plenty of children to befriend.    After a year, his grandmother had to return to Vienna and the decision was made to send young Herbert with her. For the next two years he lived with his grandparents and attended elementary school in Vienna, Austria. School was rigorous however, he thrived in an atmosphere of discipline and daily classes including on Saturday!

In the interim his parents found a sponsor to enter the United States and traveled to find a suitable state in which to settle. His father’s uncle, also an immigrant from Romania, sponsored the family, which allowed them to stay and work in the US. They spent time visiting and working in various cities around the country they finally decided to move to Chicago where many of his father’s family settled. In 1959, Herb was reunited with his parents ultimately settling down in Evanston, Illinois. He was enrolled in St. Mary’s school and found the contrast between the education system in Illinois and Austria to be profound. In Austria he had learned to perform mathematical computations in his head when he did this at the parochial school he was accused of cheating.  Eventually a relative had to teach him to do math in such a way that all the steps leading up to the answer were documented. Finally, in 1963 his parents purchased a home in Evanston, Illinois for $22,000 and Herb now lived in a neighborhood with other children. He was enrolled in the Loyola Academy, Willmette, Illinois, a prestigious high school where he had excellent grades and still had time to be on the swim team and in the "Art Guild” and enjoyed many friends. He graduated from high school in 1968.

He enrolled in the University of Illinois Circle Campus in Chicago, majoring in Biology and minoring in Chemistry. The fall of 1968 and beyond was a very difficult period in the history of our country. Anti-Vietnam War protests, race riots, SDS burnings of buildings and various disruptions made it difficult to focus on getting a good education. In fact, Herb’s first year at college was interrupted by so much upheaval that he dropped classes. This in turn alerted the draft board and he was notified that he had lost his college draft deferral and was now #113 in the draft lottery!  The draft board was inducting individuals up to lottery #160. Fate intervened, however. Coming from Austria, Herb was an avid skier. It turned out that skiing would now solve the issue of the draft status. Herb sustained a severe tib/fib leg fracture in a skiing accident in 1971 requiring hospitalization for three weeks and a full leg cast for three months. When he reported for his draft physical he was still wearing the cast and given a 1F medical deferment classification. Six months later after the cast was removed he had another draft physical and X-rays were taken showing that the leg was still not healed. By then the Vietnam War was winding down and the threat of the draft was no longer present. The remainder of his college career was excellent.  He was involved in a biology research project which provided him with training in histology and tissue preparation for microscopy. He graduated from the U of I in 1972 with honors and a degree in biology.

From an early age Herb knew that he wanted a career in healthcare. At first, dentistry was attractive, but when in 1970 the dental school curriculum was changed from two years to four he decided that a career in medicine was much more attractive. In the 1960s and 70s medical schools were inundated with highly qualified applicants for a limited number of training slots.

Throughout his high school and college years, Herb worked after school and during vacations and learned values and people skills, which helped him during his entire medical career. Following college graduation, Herb worked full time for the company he worked for since high school. He also attended night school to maintain his knowledge in the sciences, biology and chemistry. He held several positions during this time including purchasing agent for a large company and accounting manager for another Chicago company. Herb continued to apply for admission to medical school however, competition was fierce and rejection was not unusual.

A close friend told Herb about a job as a pathology tech at the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine that he was leaving to enter CCOM and that Herb should apply. The job entailed assisting during autopsies and the preparation of tissue materials for microscopic study. Herb’s college experience in tissue microscopy impressed the pathologist and Herb was accepted for the position at a significantly reduced salary compared to his business salaries in the past.  His job description included a great deal of involvement with the medical students at CCOM during their pathology courses. He learned a great deal from lectures, tissue pathology and autopsies, which prepared him well for medical school. He was accepted to medical school at CCOM in 1976.

With his science background and practical experience he excelled at CCOM. It was a rigorous curriculum with weekly examinations covering every topic. Study was a seven-day-a-week proposition and every weekend was spent preparing for the Monday exam. It was here that he and his fellow students learned the study habits that they would use for the rest of their careers!

He graduated in 1980 and was accepted for a rotating internship at the Chicago Osteopathic Hospital/Olympia Fields Osteopathic Hospital. Both hospitals were closely affiliated with CCOM. After completion of his internship he applied for and was accepted for a general surgery residency program at the same hospitals. He developed a passion for urology and applied for and was accepted as resident in urology under the mentorship of Anthony Grimaldi, DO. Along with his training at Chicago Osteopathic and Olympia Fields Hospitals he did part of his training at the Cleveland Clinic and at the Chicago Children’s Hospital. It was a very busy surgical and consultive training program and prepared Herb for his certification boards and to practice urology in the most up to date manner. Including internship Herb spent six years in postgraduate training!

At the new Olympia Fields Hospital he met future wife Diana Griener, RN in 1979 and in 1982 they married. After completion of his training program in 1986, the young couple and their first child, one year old Kristina, took a month to travel to Europe.

During his final year as a urology resident, Herb was investigating several job opportunities around the US. In September of 2005, Herb received a call from John Cochran administrator at Eastmoreland Hospital. Mr. Cochran told of the wonderful opportunity for a DO urologist to practice in Portland, Oregon. The offer was attractive because of the beauty of the Portland area, the recreational opportunities, and the large number of osteopathic GPs in and around the Hospital community. The Tirjers made a trip to the area and were so impressed that they made the decision to move.

Although he had been warned by a friend in Portland who was an administrator of a local hospital that there were already too many urologists in the area Herb found himself busy from the day he opened his practice! He quickly learned that the other urologists in the community were friendly to him and accepted him into their study group that met weekly at the Oregon Health Sciences University Medical School. He met no resistance in applying for staff privileges at other hospitals and in time established relationships with other urologists that he could call upon for advice and to share call. At times the urologists collaborated to purchase new equipment such as a lithotripter they all utilized at a neutral hospital in Portland. Later, lasers and other devices were also introduced. The only caveat was that the person using the equipment was trained and qualified to use the equipment.

Dr. Tirjer served in many capacities at Eastmoreland Hospital including chief of staff, chief of surgery, education committee etc. From the time he joined the staff until he retired he had students, interns and residents working with him at the hospital and in his office. On the state level he served on the OPSO board, the N.W. Osteopathic Medical Foundation board as a member and for two terms as president. He also produced and moderated eleven episodes of Medical Roundtable a foundation sponsored program which addressed family health issues and appeared on cable TV in the Portland area.
The Tirjer’s second daughter Danielle was born in Oregon in 1987 and despite the many demands on his time Dr. Tirjer found time for his family. Both the daughters attended Jesuit High School and later college. The family enjoyed skiing, boating, and travel. Their daughter Kristina is newly married, living and working in Denver with her husband. There are no grandchildren as yet. Daughter Danielle has a passion for the healthcare field and currently applying.

In recent years Dr. Tirjer developed a physical condition which made it difficult to perform the full duties of a urological surgeon. Despite three surgeries the condition worsened to the point that he was forced to retire in 2009.

His greatest satisfaction has come from taking care of his patients. He feels blessed to have been able to care for so many patients most of whom came as referrals from osteopathic physicians in the greater Portland area. He is also very appreciative of the affiliation and friendships he has developed with the Osteopathic physicians over the years. He feels that he did his very best and that the patient always came first. His greatest disappointment was that he was not able to bring more osteopathic urologists to the Northwest.  The practice he so lovingly built is no longer in existence.

His advice to future osteopathic physicians is simple and uncomplicated. If you are a specialist appreciate your fellow men and women physicians who put their trust in you to do the right thing for their patients. Be prepared to give your very best to every patient every day at any time. The gratitude and rewards will come without question.

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