Dr. George Odland, Dermatology Researcher And Unselfish Doctor

Dr. George Odland was a world expert in skin research and longtime head of the dermatology division at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

More than that, he was a gentle man who had a pleasant remark for everyone he met, listened to secretaries as well as deans, and went out of his way to help the doctors he taught.

Dr. Odland died Friday (Nov. 21) from complications of a stroke. He was 75.

"The most remarkable personal characteristic of George was that he conducted his job with such kindness, and was such a gentleman," said Dr. John Olerud, who now holds the university chair bestowed in Dr. Odland's name and honor.

Dr. Odland was born in Minneapolis and moved with his family to Seattle when he was 2. His father, Henry, was the first dermatologist in the Seattle area. Now there are more than 100 dermatologists here, including Dr. Odland's own son, Peter.

"If there was one way to describe Dad, it would be unselfish," Peter Odland said. "He was kind and caring and giving. Nonetheless, he accomplished more than most of us could hope to do in his lifetime."

Dr. Odland graduated from Lakeside School in Seattle, Princeton University and Harvard Medical School. He interned at Massachusetts General Hospital and completed a residency in dermatology at Harvard in 1954, then moved back to Seattle.

He would research anatomy at the medical school in the mornings, then drive downtown to practice dermatology at his father's office in the afternoons. In 1962, he was recruited to be full-time head of the division of dermatology.

Dr. Odland was a pioneer in the use of the electron microscope and made discoveries that still bear his name, notably the Odland body, a subcellular compartment in the skin.

"He pursued research in his spare time and really built a reputation internationally," Peter Odland said. "I think the thrill of seeing things that no man's eyes had ever seen before was particularly stimulating to Dad, more so, perhaps, than the clinical aspects of dermatology."

Dr. Odland served on a peer-review panel for the National Institutes of Health. He lectured around the world.

As head of dermatology for 26 years, Dr. Odland might have grown overly impressed with his title or reputation. He didn't. At the cafeteria he made a point of talking with cashiers by name, Olerud said, and at the office he would ask the secretaries what they thought about candidates for residency positions. Those who treated secretaries with respect got the jobs.

Dr. Odland is survived by his wife of 52 years, Elisabeth; sons Hank of Whidbey Island, Peter and John of Seattle; their wives Lesley, Julia and Lindy; eight grandchildren; and sister Patricia Venables of Everett.

The memorial service is 1 p.m. Wednesday at Epiphany Parish, 38th Avenue and East Denny Way, Seattle. Remembrances may be sent to the George F. Odland Chair, c/o Division of Dermatology, School of Medicine, Health Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle WA 98195.

Duff Wilson's phone message number is 206-464-2288. His e-mail address is: dwil-new@seatimes.com