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News & Press: History of the Osteopathic Profession

John Aaronson, DO - History of the Osteopathic Profession

Tuesday, June 28, 2011   (0 Comments)
Posted by: John Stiger, DO
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John Aaronson,DO

Nov 6,1922—June 28, 2014

One of the enjoyable aspects of this history project has been getting acquainted with and listening to the stories of the DOs who practiced outside Portland. I recently interviewed Dr. Aaronson and his wife Carol at their home in Myrtle Creek, Oregon. Aaronson is a lively ninety-year-old, still practicing osteopathic manipulation techniques (OMT) once a week at nearby Canyonville and every other week in Central Point. This is his story. 

John was born into an osteopathic family in California; his father, a Kirksville graduate, worked until he was eighty-four, then shortly thereafter passed away. John entered the University of California but “flunked out.” Shortly afterward, he was drafted into the US Navy as a corpsman. He was shipped to Hawaii and was scheduled to enter the war at Guam. Because he was quite proficient with paperwork, he instead became a clerk and stayed in Hawaii. The rest of his unit shipped for Guam, where most of the men he trained with lost their lives. 

He was then approached and asked if he would like to become a doctor. Aaronson said he spent the night deliberating;  in the morning he said “yes.” He was then sent to Gonzaga University to complete his premed. While there, his skill as a trumpeter allowed him to form a band that was so good they had a weekly radio broadcast playing dance music! 

Premed completed, he was accepted at the Medical College of Virginia to be trained as an MD. By that time, WW II had ended, and as soon as he could he transferred to Kirksville, graduating in 1949. 
He interned at Burbank Osteopathic Hospital in California and it was here that he began his career as an anesthesiologist. His trainers got him started administering anesthesia, and once he became proficient, they would leave the hospital, turning the responsibilities over to intern Aaronson. He also had all of the usual responsibilities of a DO intern in those days, which was everything or anything that might happen in the hospital while the intern was on duty. 

After completing his internship, he decided to locate in Milwaukie, Oregon, and he practiced there for a brief time until he injured his back while constructing his own clinic building. He needed surgery, so he returned to Burbank and had the required procedure. 

While recovering he was contacted by Weldin Falk,DO,  who had a practice and hospital in Canyonville, Oregon. When Aaronson arrived in Canyonville, Falk informed him that he would be in charge for the next month. During that month, he delivered babies, set bones, and attended injured loggers. He even had to perform an emergency appendectomy, something he had seen performed but had never done. (One hears the old adage “see one, do one, teach one” mentioned in the process of training young doctors, but until now I always thought it was some kind of legend.) He didn’t have an anesthesiologist present, so one of the OR nurses gave the anesthetic under Aaronson’s supervision—the patient lived! As was typical for the times, in addition to his surgical duties, he would see on average sixty patients a day. 

He served in Canyonville from 1952 to 1967. In addition to his duties as house anesthesiologist for Falk, he enjoyed obstetrics and delivered an estimated 2,000 babies. In addition to his medical duties, he served on the school board, was the team physician for the local high school football team, and was active in the Oregon Osteopathic Association, including a term as president. 

Following his work at Canyonville, he and his second wife Carol moved back to Los Angeles, where he practiced anesthesiology almost exclusively. When time permitted, he also continued his work as a GP and continued to play his trumpet. 

Not long after their daughter was born, he witnessed an altercation on one of LA’s freeways which convinced him to leave LA at once! That very night coincidently he received a call from Max Flowers, DO, in Central Point, Oregon, asking if he would be interested in a position at Crater General Hospital. It didn’t take the family long to move,and Aaronson worked as a GP and anesthesiologist there until 1994. 
To enhance his skills he often took courses in various subjects, such as a manipulation course in Arizona, and a cardiology course with emphasis on interpretation of EKGs in Chicago. He also invited prospective medical students to “shadow” him while he saw his patients. 

In 1994, he decided to retire and he and his wife built their dream home in the little town of Myrtle Creek. He “unretired” shortly thereafter and practiced with a nurse practitioner providing OMT skills and GP work. After six years, he slowed down to his present pace.  

When asked what was the most rewarding part of his career as an osteopathic physician, he stated that the satisfaction of being able to help nearly all of his patients in one way or another. OMT often provided instant results that were very much appreciated. His biggest disappointment was when he had to stop his general medical practice. If he could he would still be working full time.

His advice to young doctors:”Go for it!” Learn OMT well, because it is a very rewarding and unique service you can offer your patients.


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