Bio: Olson, William A. – Dr. (Life Summary – 1963)


Surnames: Olson, Myhrwold, Gaillardet, Baker

----Source: Greenwood Gleaner (Greenwood, Clark Co., Wis.) 25 Jul 1963

It seems absurd to say "meet the folks" concerning someone who has been met by as many people as has Dr. Olson. Some 4,000 babies born in this community met him before they knew anyone else. For 30 years he has been met by the ill, the injured, and the infirm. Still there are some things which need to be said.

Dr. Olson came here from medical school in 1933, as a partner with Dr. Gaillardet. Time were hard; sometimes they collected only 25 cents during the week. Some did not pay at all. Dr. Gaillardet sold out the next year, leaving Dr. Olson alone.

The first fifteen years were a crucible in which a doctor was formed. Not only was there a depression, but the practice of medicine was crude. The doctor performed operations on bed or kitchen table, by light of a lamp held by a child, which he would hesitate to do today without staff. A human life often hung in the balance. When the snowdrifts were deep, he walked or rode with the mail carrier in the snowmobile. He says now that he would not go through it again, but would not have missed the experience. When a man comes from medical school he thinks he knows all the answers. But it takes fifteen years to mellow to learn to know people and their problems.

The public today regards the general practitioner as a "hick," a sub-standard doctor, in our age of specialists. However, one of the Doctor's teachers reminded him that anyone can be a specialist; but it takes an awfully smart man to be a general practitioner. Such a man treats a patient as a person, not as a file card. Dr. Olson believes that you must treat a person, not as a case of appendicitis, or fracture, or heart trouble. The doctor must know the patient's background and outlook on life, and what his illness means to him.

Disease is treated better today than at any time before. Recoveries seem miraculous. Yet there is a growing disregard for this personal element. People need someone to give them solace as well as prescriptions, to care about them as persons. Dr. Olson believes that when the general practitioner is replaced by the specialists, we shall have lost a great value. It would be well to remind our medical colleges that they most encourage men to give seven or eight years to general medical practice, to learn to know people and their problems, before they specialize.

Dr. Olson grew up on a farm. He liked the farm but hated milking. He had an "awful curiosity" about life, and would dissect animals to learn about them. His sister, a nurse, stimulated his interest in medicine. He turned first to teaching, however. After Platteville State Teachers' College, he taught at Colby for four and a half years. Then he married Corrine Baker, who had lived across the street in Blanchardville during their youth. Two years later, at her urging, they went back to Madison, where he studied medicine while his wife worked in private and public health nursing. He also taught anatomy at the University, while studying.

Their daughter, Janet, was born two weeks after coming to Greenwood. A son, John, was born several years earlier. The Olson's are now grandparents of six children. Janet lives in Neillsville, and John does advanced research in hematology, the study of blood, in Rochester, New York.

The doctor is a man of many hobbies. Hunting and fishing are favorites. He has hunted in Africa, Alaska, the Canadian Rockies, and has now left for the Yukon territory. He makes gun stocks and furniture, and has lately added an interest in photography of wildlife.

I add my personal thanks to Dr. Olson for his services to the community, to the thanks expressed by the community some years ago. But I think that we owe thanks also to the wife who stood beside him through school, hard and good times, for her part in making his work possible.

How should one measure a doctor's success? Dr. Olson has been able to rear a family, educate them, and for this he is happy. He has been able to help those in need of his services, whether or not they could pay. Life, simply as existence, is not beautiful. Life must be useful as well. A doctor works to help save life, the capacity for usefulness. If one can say of a doctor, that he made life a little easier, a little more bearable, he has been a success.



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