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Harold Holmes Osborn (Oz)

Died: April 30, 2015

Harold Holmes (Oz) Osborn entered Yale from Kent School. Freshman year he roomed in Farnam with Dave Crosby and John Eggleston. In Saybrook he roomed with Andrew (Bip) Wolfe, who had also attended Kent. He was on the varsity wrestling team and rowed varsity crew. He was a psychology major and was a Ranking Scholar one year and on Dean’s List another. He held the Norman Hall and Princeton Club Scholarships. He was a member of Berzelius and Fence Club. Despite his establishment background he became radicalized by Vietnam War protests and racial injustice. He went on to medical school at Columbia and a residency in emergency medicine at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx, where he founded the Lincoln Collective, a grass roots effort devoted to community-oriented medicine. He helped create the People’s Drug Program, one of the first detox clinics in the South Bronx, and pioneered the use of holistic medicine in inner city hospitals. According to his obituary, “For thirty years he was devoted to improving the health of the people of the Bronx by blending medical practice and community activism. In 1984 he served as the medical witness in the wrongful death case of Eleanor Bumpurs, who was killed while being forcibly evicted by the NYPD. In 1997 Oz was a leader in the movement that shut down a polluting medical waste incinerator in the South Bronx. Two years later he founded The New Dawn Foundation, turning a large waterfront property into a space for holistic wellness treatment and a retreat for inner-city youth. He is survived by a great many loving friends, two grandchildren, Fergus and Charles, and his three children, Kyre, Jesse and Kate Osborn.”

He is remembered as a dedicated physician who was passionate about his patients and community justice. In our 25th Reunion Classbook he noted the receipt of the Salud y Paz Award for coordinating the seeding of $7 million in humanitarian aid to Central America. Steve Shelov who worked with him when he was at North Central Bronx Hospital noted: “Oz was affable, always a true character, and filled with energy and joy.”

He died April 30, 2015 in New Rochelle, NY.

Ann Barth remembers:

Ozzie was a great guy and always fun to be around. In addition, he was instrumental in teaching me two very valuable lessons that I learned early in freshman year. It was our first blue book exam in Psych 101; and like a diligent new college student, I stayed up all night studying for it. As we walked in to the room, Ozzie asked me about a particular article that he hadn’t had the time to read. I explained the details to him in just a few seconds. When the paragraphs that we wrote about that article were graded, he actually got three times as many points as I did. I learned that staying up all night before an exam was silly (and never did it again). More importantly, it became perfectly clear to me that what you know is not as useful as how you are able to explain it.

Montague Downs remembers:

Ozzie, like myself, carried out a career as an ER doctor. (Unlike me he was an amazing two sport varsity athlete). While at Yale we both dabbled in “radical” political issues. (Vietnam War protests, African-American injustices). After Yale I dug outta town, and I have conducted my ER career on the lush tropical island of Kauai. Ozzie did not dig out, and he carried out his career delivering his expert and compassionate care to the poorest of the poor in the Bedford Stuyvesant area of NYC.

My hat is off to you, my brother.

William Hazard remembers:

It was a shock to discover that Ozzy is no longer with us. At our 40th he was so alive and vibrant, it is difficult to understand what happened. He was a vital part of our heavyweight crew, and it was always a pleasure to row in his boat over the four years we spent together there. He was also in my medical school class at Columbia, and we continued to be good friends. Unlike many in the profession, he was always looking for ways to care for and help the disenfranchised and the underprivileged. He lived his philosophy with passion and, as noted elsewhere, did much good with what he had. I will miss him dearly in June.

Denis Tippo remembers:

I came to know Ozzie prior to Yale through a fellow Loomis School classmate. Ozzie and I tangled on the gridiron twice in rivalry football games between Kent and Loomis. He was a tough opponent and was made even more formidable by his heavy beard and chiseled stature. (He looked thirty years old as a high school senior!)

At Yale, Ozzie excelled in rowing and was a member of the varsity crew. He was an outstanding student with a goal to be a doctor. Harold cared about people who were less privileged economically than most Yale students in the Sixties. Most of his medical career was devoted to helping those who could not afford medical care. Ozzie lived “his beliefs.”

Allen Sandler remembers:

I knew Oz initially from rowing. We were in overlapping majors, and so had a lot of classes together, many of which were small seminars. After a class, Oz would often initiate a dialog around some issue raised in class. He would challenge me (and others) with questions and statements which often seemed elliptical or free-associative, delivered with a wry smile. “WHERE is he going?” I would think. Then I would think again and see important, even profound, ideas spinning off the topic under discussion.

He had a creative intellect and emotional intelligence as well as personal warmth and empathy. And, of course, he was a terrific athlete.

After Yale, we both went to medical school in New York City. Both of us were active in the Student Health Organization (SHO), a medical student organization engaged in the politics of the time. Some of us provided medical services at demonstrations, but the main focus was working to bring social consciousness into mainstream medicine. Oz was one of the powerful forces in the movement.

An indelible memory provides a physical metaphor for his role, melding his social activism with his athletic prowess. A group of SHO members, in white coats, attended an AMA convention in NYC. At one session, we took to the podium. A diminutive woman med student began a speech challenging the AMA to address the vast inequities in medical care. Oz stood behind, towering over her, with that familiar wry smile, obviously serving as her body guard. Someone in the audience threw a glass ashtray at her. Without any change in his position, posture or smile, Oz’s huge hand sprang out, curved around her, and caught the ashtray inches from her face.

Oz continued to walk the walk of these values. His career in medicine was always focused on bringing top notch medical care to under-served, impoverished and marginalized individuals and communities. He did this with his individual patients, but also worked with these communities to organize, become empowered, and draw improved services from the powers that be.

What a loss for all of us, and truly, the world.