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From baseball to dermatology, physician stays on top of his game with talent, passion

John E. Olerud, M.D.

John E. Olerud, M.D.
Born: Fargo, N.D., 1943
Medical degree: University of Washington, Seattle
Internship: University of Washington
Residencies, internal medicine and dermatology: University of Washington
Hobbies: Baseball, golf, photography
Family: Wife, Lynda Olerud; son, John G. Olerud; daughter, Erica Olerud; and three grandchildren

ACCORDING TO DERMATOLOGIST John E. Olerud, M.D., "Life is a lot like baseball."

In fact, Dr. Olerud often shares with his trainees the life lessons he learned as a professional baseball player. He focused on the topic in a recent acceptance speech, when Washington State University honored him last year with its Regents' Distinguished Alumnus Award. And the dermatologist's beloved sport remains a part of his daily teaching.

"My poor residents have to listen to all the metaphors about baseball," he says.

Baseball is a topic near and dear to Dr. Olerud. While earning his undergraduate degree at Washington State University during the mid-1960s, he was team captain and catcher for the WSU Cougars. The team went to the College World Series, and Dr. Olerud was named to the All-American Team.

John E. Olerud, M.D., holding his son in Albuquerque, New Mexico, after a game in 1970. (Photo: John E. Olerud, M.D.)
He continued a career in baseball while attending medical school at University of Washington, Seattle, playing professional ball every summer. After six years of medical school and seven summers playing in the minor leagues for such clubs as the Seattle Angels, San Jose Bees, El Paso Sun Kings, Tulsa Oilers and Winnipeg Whips, Dr. Olerud pursued a career in dermatology.

"Baseball was my first passion and medicine was what I knew I'd do in the long term," he says. "If I had been as good a ballplayer as my son, I probably would have played as long as I could."

After Dr. Olerud's successful run in the sport, he lived vicariously through his son, John G. Olerud, who made his mark as a major league first baseman. From 1989 to 2005, John Olerud played professionally for the Toronto Blue Jays, New York Mets, Seattle Mariners, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. A three-time Gold Glove winner, John Olerud won the American League batting title in 1993, and he was runner-up for the National League batting title in 1998.

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