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News & Press: History of the Osteopathic Profession

Fred Herscher, DO - History of the Osteopathic Profession

Tuesday, July 24, 2012   (0 Comments)
Posted by: John Stiger, Do
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Fred Herscher, DO
June 18, 1908—April 28, 2008

As one drives south from Eugene, Oregon you will note that there are numerous small towns along the route.  Most of these small towns came into existence as “timber towns,” where logging and the manufacture of lumber were for many years the predominant industries. In the boom years during and after World War II these towns were in need of doctors and happily many young DOs located there, establishing practices that are still active to this day. One such DO is Fred Herscher and this is the story of how he came to Sutherlin, Oregon.

Fred was born in a farming town in Renville, Minnesota.  He was one of the younger or nine children and was raised with a strong work ethic and Christian value system.  At the age of 8 his 18 year old brother died of the complications of “lockjaw” and it was at that time that he became convinced that everyone should be immunized for tetanus! He attended the local schools and then went to college at several locations.  Typical of the times he worked, saved, attended class and when the money ran out he worked some more.  Thanks to his early farm experience he could be a “jack of all trades.”

One of his many jobs was as a baker in the Chicago area.  It was there that he met Frances Adelberg, a nursing student.  They married in September of 1941.  Francis was a strong and abiding influence in his life and over the years offered her devotion and loyalty.  Standing by him as he served in the military and then supporting his aim to become a doctor.  Later she was his nurse and continued in that capacity until the birth of their second child.

World War II changed everything.  He was drafted and during the war years served as a medic.  While serving as a medic he became interested in medicine and decided that would be his life’s work.  By the time he was discharged from the service he was 37 years old and married.  Much too old (as he was informed by some) to be accepted into a medical school.  By chance he learned that there was an osteopathic school in Kansas City, Missouri that accepted older students.  When he told his good friend about his intentions his friend replied that he would far rather dig ditches than be an Osteopath!  At the time Kansas City was a twelve month a year program for 3 years, allowing him to graduate in June of 1949.  Following graduation Fred served a one year rotating internship at the Osteopathic Hospital associated with the school.

Following graduation the Herschers moved to Georgia to set up practice in a medically underserved area.  Imagine their surprise and consternation when they discovered that old hatreds dating back to the civil war were still present!  Because of his Minnesota accent he was labeled a “damn Yankee.”  In less than a year the young family headed West, first to Los Angeles where his brother practiced, (too many people) and then at the urging of Dr. Falk of Canyonville and Dr. Fletcher of Roseburg north to Oregon.  The family was headed toward a practice opportunity in Hermiston, Oregon when they stopped for the night in Sutherlin, Oregon. The following day, the Sabbath, they attended the local Adventist Church where the people of the congregation convinced them that they were needed right there!  They found a storefront former shoe repair shop and after three months of hard work they were ready for practice.

As typical of osteopathic general practitioners, he was equipped and trained to handle most of the everyday ills that came through his door.  He delivered 500 babies, did minor surgeries and handled many of the medical problems that came his way.  He had his own lab, and also a drug room from which he dispensed many of the medications that he prescribed.  When major surgery was required he sent his patients to the little hospital in Canyonville, Oregon where he would assist.  He was also very skilled in OMT and was often called upon to treat back injuries and other musculoskeletal issues that were so common among loggers and sawmill workers.  His medical records consisted of 4x6 inch cards where he made his entries - Name, Date, Diagnosis and Treatment and charge.  He charged $6 for an office call for years. Finally at the insistence of the Douglas County Medical Society eventually $12 and not long before he retired $16. For many years he would see between 40 and 60 patients a day!

At the time there were other DOs in neighboring towns who often covered for each other.  What was unique about this group was that they were all members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church and often worshiped together and collaborated on medical cases.  Dr. Herscher was very active in the Sutherlin Church, serving in many capacities and thereby serving the community as well.  He was a generous supporter of any worthy charity in the town as well.

To keep up with medical advances he regularly attended CME conferences in Portland and Medford.  At the time medical journals were also a very important way to for a DO to keep abreast of medical developments.  Perhaps his most important contribution to the osteopathic profession and to the health care of the people of Oregon was the influence he had on his family.  Luke, the youngest son relates that by the 8th grade in school he was serving what would have been termed a medical apprenticeship; performing simple blood tests, filing medical records and counting pills from the tiny dispensary along with other tasks. He states that since his early days he and his brothers Matthew, Mark and John were in awe of their father as a doctor.  Somehow he found the time to be an excellent physician and an attentive, loving father as well.  Ultimately Luke and his two brothers became DOs and practice in Sutherlin, Grant’s Pass and Myrtle Creek, Oregon while their sister is an RN.

Dr. Hersher retired in 1983 leaving the practice to Luke.  Dr. Herscher’s greatest disappointment was that none of his sons became a preacher and he regarded himself a failure in not convincing his patients to live healthier lifestyles. If approached by a young man or woman interested in becoming an osteopathic physician he would say “go for it!”  Don’t expect to become rich but you will be richly rewarded by opportunities to help people.  His slogan was “you are never too old to D.O. anything!!

Another generation of Drs. Herscher are either in training or in practice-what a family!

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