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Bertha Sawyer, DO - History of the Osteopathic Profession

Monday, April 21, 2014   (0 Comments)
Posted by: John Stiger, DO / Research by Rhiannon Orizaga
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Bertha Sawyer, DO

Of the early the osteopathic physicians who practiced in Oregon, Bertha Sawyer was the very first to practice in Southern Oregon.  Little is known about her early life except that she was born in Fairview, Kansas on July 25, 1872 and she spent her formative years in Northeastern Kansas.  Her parents were Cyrus Alexander Sawyer and Delia Frances Hull.  She attended the Still College of Osteopathic Medicine in Des Moines, Iowa graduating in 1901.  

In 1902 she joined her sister in Klamath Falls, Oregon and then moved to Ashland, Oregon where she began her osteopathic practice at 125 Oak Street in 1903. She quickly established herself in practice and joined the AOA.  She also became active in the Oregon Osteopathic Association. In 1908, the Oregon Board of Medical Examiners issued her along with 67 other DOs a license.

Throughout the 1910s and 20s Dr. Sawyer seemed to have changed office locations in Ashland frequently.  In 1911 she had offices in the  Rhodes-Fankow Building and in 1917 she moved to the Pioneer building.  In 1919 she was practicing in the First National Bank Building.   During that time she began to develop a bedside method for treating spleens with good results (Western Osteopath, 1919).   Apparently her original work was conducted at her Sanitarium in Ashland. The record is so far is silent as to the particulars of the sanitarium.  It is well known that DOs were barred from practicing in any allopathic hospitals at that time and were often forced to form their own infirmaries or sanitariums.  Dr. Sawyer in conjunction with an osteopathic husband and wife team Drs. Jack and Gladys Crandall held a series of clinics devoted to teaching her methods of treating splenic conditions along the west coast and other parts of the country.  T.J. Ruddy, a Los Angeles DO who published a travel journal of the clinic in the “Western Osteopath”, documented this series of clinics.   According to the 1930 census she spent the remaining years of her 44-year career at 18 Main Street, Ashland.  She may have had her office and residence connected at the time.

Dr. Sawyer was an avid collector of Native American artifacts, which she donated to the Southern Oregon College and Museum in Ashland.  Some of her collection can also be found at the Southern Oregon Historical Society Library in Medford, Oregon.  
She was very involved in community affairs including Martha Gillette Guild, Daughters of the American Revolution, Hope Rebekah Lodge, the Women’s Civic Club of the Oregon Federation of Women’s Clubs, and the Ashland Garden Club.  She was an active member of First Presbyterian Church in Ashland. Throughout her career she continued to be an active member of the OOA and the AOA and she was involved in the formation of the Southern Oregon Osteopathic Society.

Little if anything is known about Dr. Sawyer’s personal life, or whether she ever married.   She retired from active practice in 1947 at the age of 75, after 44 years of practice.  She was a well-known and beloved physician, a pillar of her community and remained in Ashland for the remainder of her life.  By her 100th birthday, she was a resident at the Ashland Community Hospital. She died on January 10, 1974.

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