Former pathologist, professor Osterberg dies at age 68

Andrew Johnson

The possessor of a great analytic mind that served his work well, former University Medical School professor Dr. Kenneth A. Osterberg died early last week. He was 68 years old.
Formerly a student trained at the medical school in neuropathology, anatomy and forensics, Osterberg fulfilled his residency in neurology at University hospitals, beginning in 1958.
It was during that residency that Osterberg had a brief, but distinguished, career as a University medical professor in the mid-1960s, specializing in general pathology.
Largely because of his enthusiasm for teaching students, Osterberg skipped becoming a University assistant professor and within six months was a full associate professor.
His wife Joan said that during Osterberg’s weeks as a resident and researcher he often worked more than 70 hours. Osterberg loved his work at the University, she said, and was almost too embarrassed to accept a teaching award for which he was nominated and selected a third time during his tenure.
Because of changes in personnel and a shift in emphasis within the department — a move toward pediatry — Osterberg took his skill and love for pathology and moved them to Hennepin Medical Center in 1971.
While there, he began a career as an assistant pathologist and assistant medical examiner, contributing his analytical skills to autopsy work — working closely with police detectives on cases involving suspicious circumstances.
Osterberg’s medical career was cut short by a stroke in 1978, one that ultimately affected his speech and physical abilities but left his mental capacities intact. Initially, doctors had presumed the stroke to be life-threatening, giving him 72 hours to live.
Longtime neighborhood friend Stephen Chamberlin of Minneapolis said when Osterberg was unable to practice after his stroke he still “read all of the medical journals and went to all the meetings. He was really a curious guy.”
“The thing that really struck me about Ken was that, (after the stroke), he never lost his sense of humor and joy for life … (And) he had the damnedest sense of humor,” Chamberlin said.
Osterberg is immediately survived by his wife, Joan, and three daughters, Christine, Carolyn and Marin.