Don B. Olsen, Salt Lake City, Utah: an interview by Anne Peterson, 27 February 2012

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Title Don B. Olsen, Salt Lake City, Utah: an interview by Anne Peterson, 27 February 2012
Alternative Title No. 679 Don Olsen
Creator Olsen, Don B. (Donald B.)
Contributor Peterson, Anne P.
Publisher Digitized by J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah
Date 2012-02-27
Access Rights I acknowledge and agree that all information I obtain as a result of accessing any oral history provided by the University of Utah's Marriott Library shall be used only for historical or scholarly or academic research purposes, and not for commercial purposes. I understand that any other use of the materials is not authorized by the University of Utah and may exceed the scope of permission granted to the University of Utah by the interviewer or interviewee. I may request permission for other uses, in writing to Special Collections at the Marriott Library, which the University of Utah may choose grant, in its sole discretion. I agree to defend, indemnify and hold the University of Utah and its Marriott Library harmless for and against any actions or claims that relate to my improper use of materials provided by the University of Utah.
Date Digital 2015-07-08
Spatial Coverage Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah, United States,
Subject Olsen, Don B. (Donald B.)--Interviews; University of Utah--Faculty--Biography; University of Utah--History; Heart, Artificial--History; Medicine--Research--Utah
Description Transcript (60, 52 pages) of two interviews by Anne Peterson with Doctor Don B. Olsen on 27 February and 13 March 2012. Part of the University Oral History Project, Everett Cooley Collection tape numbers U-3127 and U-3135
Abstract Don Olsen (b. 1930) was born in Bingham Canyon, Utah. His father was a miner in Bingham city until economic circumstances forced them to move in with his father´s parents in Axedale, Utah. There they raised vegetables and a cow. The mines reopened in nineteen thirty seven but his father couldn´t find a job there, so he found a job in Park City. His father was diagnosed with silicosis of the lung, so they moved back to Axedale and started a small farm.Don talks about growing up on the farm. His father wanted him to be a farmer but he wanted to go to school to study veterinary medicine. Don joined the Future Farmers of America and studied samples of milk from eight to fifteen cows for an FFA project. He became a state farmer and earned a scholarship to Utah State with his project. He started to breed cows artificially in his senior year of high school at Brigham Young University and when he got to Utah State he helped them do the same.He studied animal nutrition and chemistry at Utah State because he wanted to be a veterinarian and these would look best on his application to schools. He applied and was accepted at Colorado State´s veterinary school. Don talks about his studies at Colorado State where he was consistently top of his classes and lead study groups with the other students. He wanted to become a private practice veterinarian in Cache County, Utah helping cows so he had tunnel vision when it came to his veterinary studies at school. He did not care about learning how to treat cats and dogs. After Don graduated he and his family moved to Cache Valley and he set up a veterinary practice. Because large animal practice is so physically exhausting, Don stopped after five years. He contacted a former teacher who had advised him to go into research and asked if there were any research opportunities. There was one in Nevada and Don and his family moved to Reno so he could work at the University of Nevada, Reno. While there he started doing heart experiments with Doctor George Smith. He was asked to be vice president of research at University of Nevada´s two year medical school. Don wanted to get a PhD before doing that so he returned to Colorado State to do a post doctoral fellowship.Before he went on to work towards his PhD, Don did research on cardiovascular systems in calves. He studied the changes in the hearts of calves before and after they were just born. He also worked to install pacemakers in sheep. After three years of research, Don returned to Colorado State to earn his PhD. He had to take algebra and trigonometry courses at the University of Denver. Don talks about how difficult his physical chemistry course was. While putting together proposals for his dissertation Don starting running out of money so he decided to get a job instead of finishing his PhD. He got a job at the University of Utah with Doctor Kolff.Don helped with research and monitored surgeries on calves and sheep. His main goal there was to know more about a calf on an artificial heart than anybody else. After the surgeon was fired, Doctor Kolff hired Don as the surgeon for their research. They were implanting artificial hearts into calves. Don estimates he was implanting artificial hearts in about fifty five calves a year. He describes the facilities in which they did their surgical research at the University of Utah. When their building burned down, Don was in charge of finding a new building for research. After searching for a while, Don found the old Saint Marks Hospital and decided it would be perfect for their research. He talks about his work with the artificial heart. They found that calves were the perfect size to test artificial hearts on. Don talks about the controversy in naming the artificial hearts. He describes Doctor Jarvik as a doctor who did not do a single surgery and who was taking credit for a lot of work he did not do. Don discusses the year he spent in Germany. He was invited to Berlin to implant one of the artificial hearts developed in Utah into a calf, and then to implant one that the Germans had developed into a calf. Don figured out the mistake the Germans were making in surgery, fixed it, and his calves survived. While in Germany he was also invited to travel all over eastern Europe to help other researchers with their artificial heart research. He also came up with an idea for a more effective blood pump and started developing the idea. Project: University of Utah Oral History Project. Interviewer: Anne P. Peterson.
Type Text
Genre oral histories (literary works)
Format application/pdf
Language eng
Rights Digital Image © 2015 Utah State Historical Society. All Rights Reserved.
Scanning Technician Niko Amaya; Halima Noor
Metadata Cataloger Daniel Patterson; Matt Brunsvik; Anna Neatrour; Ken Rockwell; Patrick Miller
Conversion Specifications Original scanned with Kirtas 2400 and saved as 400 ppi uncompressed TIFF. PDF generated by Adobe Acrobat Pro X for CONTENTdm display.
ARK ark:/87278/s6001x6r
Topic University of Utah; Medicine--Research; Heart, Artificial
Setname uum_elc
Date Created 2015-11-10
Date Modified 2015-11-10
ID 838690
Reference URL
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