U prof emeritus known for pediatric research dies

Dr. Robert Ulstrom was the former associate dean of the University’s Medical School.

by Tyler Gieseke

University of Minnesota professor emeritus and alumnus Dr. Robert Ulstrom died on Tuesday of dementia. He was 89.

Ulstrom was a pioneer in the field of pediatric endocrinology and from 1966 to 1970 served as associate dean of the College of Medical Sciences — now known as the University Medical School. He received his undergraduate and doctor of medicine degree at the University in the 1940s.

Ulstrom also served as chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Medicine “really consumed his time and energy,” said Ulstrom’s daughter, Jane Brissett. “He loved research especially.”

Ulstrom’s research focused on the metabolism of children and infants and was recognized around the world, Brissett said. 

Besides medicine, Ulstrom also had a keen interest in cars, Brissett said. To combine his passion for medicine and automobiles, he became the track physician at Donnybrooke Racetrack in Brainerd, Minn. — now known as the Brainerd International Raceway — where he worked from 1968 to 1973.

He retired from the University Medical School in 1990 and was a founding board member of the Elder Learning Institute in 1995. Now known as the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, the institute is an affiliate program of the University’s College of Continuing Education, said Steve Benson, OLLI executive director.

Ulstrom was also a founding member of the OLLI biking group, Benson said. The special-interest group plans bike trips with educational goals. For example, he said the group might make a museum the destination of its trip.

Benson said Ulstrom promoted OLLI as a health club for the mind.

“Bob was an enthusiastic, lifelong learner,” he said.