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News & Press: History of the Osteopathic Profession

Charles Hamilton Carlstrom, DO - History of the Osteopathic Profession

Monday, November 14, 2011   (0 Comments)
Posted by: John Stiger, DO
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If one travels East of Portland, Oregon, on highway #26 toward Mt. Hood, you will pass through the little town of Sandy, Oregon.  Extensive forests provided the timber making this place a logging/timber town.  It was the perfect location for a D.O. like Charley to set up his practice.


Dr. Carlstrom began his life in Hamilton, Montana where his parents raised three children, Graydon, Dorothy, and Charley. At an early age he worked in his father’s tavern sweeping floors and polishing glasses.  His pay was 65 cents a day, a princely sum at the time, making him the “richest kid in the high school.” After graduating High School, he worked various jobs until he had accumulated enough money to enroll at Oregon State University in 1929.  To help defray the costs of his education he also joined ROTC.  During his first semester of college, he contracted a severe case of pneumonia, which required a long hospitalization, and the expense made further education at the time out of the question.  Because he had been commissioned in the army, he became a commissioned officer and served in the army until he was able to resume his education.  His brother Graydon, who graduated from the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine (KCOM), urged Charley to apply to medical school. Charley was accepted at KCOM and completed his studies at Kirksville in 1941. He was then recalled by the army for the duration of WWII.  On the day of his graduation from Kirksville, after selling a medical book for the marriage license fee, he married the love of his life Arrah Young, a Kirksville girl.   


During those war years, he was stationed mainly on the West Coast including Alaska.  In the military, he was never allowed to practice as a physician because at the time “Osteopaths” were not considered real doctors.  Following discharge from the army as a Major, he completed his Osteopathic education as an intern at the Osteopathic Hospital in Los Angeles.  On completion of this internship, he returned to Kirksville where he practiced with his brother Graydon Carlstrom in the Malden, Missouri area.  After a while, he became disenchanted with the weather and scenery and decided to return the Northwest, an area he loved. It was during the war years he had made contact with several of the Osteopaths in the Portland area.  In 1948, he contacted one Dr. Russell Kanega and on his advice relocated his practice to Sandy, Oregon.


After an initial struggle to get things started, his practice thrived.   He and Arrah lived above his clinic and worked or took call continuously from that day forward.  As was typical of DO GPs, Charlie was able to treat just about everything that came through the door of his clinic.  He made it a career long commitment to never turn away a patient.  His granddaughter says,

“Often time his pay was a flat of berries or a chicken!”  (Yes, that did happen in those days).

He made daily house calls and never wavered from his $5.00 fee in all the years he practiced!   His chart notes consisted of a single line on a 4x8 card.  As a result, he developed a huge practice that occupied his time and energy seven days a week!  He became locally famous for the large Cadillac convertibles that he drove to work and house calls.


To deliver babies and care for his very ill patients, he traveled to Eastmoreland Hospital, a hospital he and fellow DOs financed and literally helped build.  After making rounds on his patients is was not uncommon for him to return home at midnight!  At this time, the hospital had interns and medical students.  Often one of these students or an intern would work with Dr. Carlstrom at his office.  As a result not only did he care for a large number of patients, but he became instrumental in the education of many of the DOs in the area.


One of the characteristics of osteopathic physicians is a commitment to lifelong learning.  Dr. Carlstrom was certainly no exception as he attended virtually all of the CME offered by the hospital and by the State Association.  In fact, he attended these sessions long after he had officially retired.


Dr. Carlstrom was famous as a “high energy” type of person. He made it a practice to exercise every day usually swimming nude in his pool.  In addition to the demands of his busy practice, he showed an interest in painting and sculpture.  He attended classes at Mt. Hood Community College and created sculptures and paintings galore.  In his final days, his small apartment at a local assisted living facility was decorated with many of his works which he would proudly display.


Dr. Carlstrom and his wife Arrah were strong supporters of the community of Sandy as they participated and supported a variety of community projects.  The Carlstroms were also strong supporters of the arts in the area.  They enjoyed the opera and symphony concerts and made a striking pair; he with his shock of white hair and she dressed in the very latest fashions.  Occasionally they would travel to an Osteopathic Convention or to the CME meetings of the OOA, but also other parts of the world.


Dr. Carlstrom officially retired in 1982.  Soon he reopened an “office” in the kitchen of his lovely home overlooking Mt. Hood.  There, he continued to see old patients who couldn’t seem to live without his attentions.  When Arrah died in 1990, for a few years he lived in his old place, and dug a basement under his house by hand, one shovel at a time, but eventually moved to Avamere in Sandy.


Dr. Carlstrom died at age 95, but will be remembered in Sandy by the generations he treated.  In fact, you can find the original furniture from his office and his picture on display at the Sandy Historical Museum.  What a contribution this fine doctor made to his community and to the Osteopathic profession! 


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