A Beloved Team & A Beloved Mentor

The last time the Cleveland Browns won, I texted Dr. Kevin Olson.

During the 2016 season, I arrived very early one morning, to a small clinic on the West Side of Columbus. As I knocked on the side door, I was greeted by a middle-aged red-headed woman named Tina. This was Dr. Olson’s right-hand woman–sweet as pie but tough as nails–knowing exactly how to give Dr. Olson a dose of his own medicine. She tried to prepare me for what would happen next, but none existed. The back door to the clinic flew open, entering a man yelling what I heard as offensive football play-calls, and the more I got to knew him, it became the most accurate assumption. After he sat his black briefcase down in his office, I went to greet him. “Good morning, sir. My name is Jason Campbell.”

“Jason Campbell, the quarterback?” he posited.

“Something like that, sir” I smiled.

I felt automatically accepted. Jason Campbell, my namesake, had played for the NFL Cleveland Browns at one point in his multi-team career. From that day forth, I was the former QB from his beloved football Browns—young Jason Campbell—as he referred to me. Each day Dr. Olson would share a piece of Browns’ history, which included rattling off the entire list of players who once carried the reigns for the Browns.

Sipe. Kosar. Ryan. Graham. Couch. Nelsen. Phipps. Plum. Anderson. Testaverde. McDonald. McCoy. Weeden. Frye. Hoyer. Kizer. O’Connell. Holcomb. Quinn. Ninowski. Dilfer. McCown. Garcia. All men who have hurled the pigskin for the Browns for at least 10 games and Dr. Olson knew each one, their college institution, and their NFL winning percentage (occasionally off by .1).

Every day in clinic was filled with yelling, laughter, frustration and insight. Once, after we had addressed a patient’s rotator cuff tear with multiple physical exam maneuvers, the patient went on to list four or five more problems he wanted Dr. Olson to assess. “You just tore up, from the floor up, aren’t ya?” Dr. Olson said, aloud. With no delay, the patient responded, “Yes sir. I am!” Dr. Olson’s patients had come to love his lighthearted demeanor interwoven with the knowledge of a medical savant.

For me, these little moments have become threads of memories, which are woven into a picture that show the legacy of a great man. A man who embodied the true character of a doctor. Family physician trained, Dr. Olson received a master faculty appointment by Ohio University for his exceptional contributions to clinical training in this sphere. But there was more to Dr. Olson than any award could describe. He made his patients feel whole even when they were the most ill, just like only a die-hard, ever hopeful Browns’ fan could. I walked into countless patient rooms where the entire family had been treated by Dr. Olson—grandmother, daughter, and granddaughter. This all-encompassing trust was shared by more than a few in the community.

If I wasn’t sure of it before the memorial service, I was absolutely certain of it after. Lines and lines of people flooded the funeral home: from the bustling main hall, the filled lobby, and through the parking lot. Multiple photographs of Dr. Olson and his wonderful family, friends, and colleagues were on display. The most lasting one…the one of him in his Cleveland Browns sweatshirt.

A beloved physician proudly representing his beloved team.

A few weeks ago, as I watched Baker Mayfield perform in his splendid brash manner, as he had done for the Sooners of Oklahoma, I knew a cheerful Dr. Olson was reliving the 1986 days of Bernie Kosar, with an incomparable grin on his face. Finally, his team looked like the team he grew up loving.

For me, Thursday September 20th, 2018 was more than a football victory & more than a team overcoming the weight of the world; it was manifested joy by a beloved and unforgettable man.

After his passing, it is near impossible to fathom a Browns’ win without imagining Dr. Olson’s excitement. I always had difficulty understanding his love for the Cleveland Browns with what I saw to be their errors, burdens and faults. But, now I realize those were the exact human qualities that made him love his team and his patients. As a physician, his passion for his patients—through their sickness, addictions, and infections—gave him purpose so, they too, would heal again.

 

9 comments

  1. Brother Doctor,

    My prayer and wish is that you will read this text.

    My 9 yr old boy is extremely talented. He scores at the highest level in the national gifted program exams.

    Once a week, he is taken from classes to attend Medical Education Simulation where he learns blood stuff, human body things, etc.

    The issue is I struggle to convince him to focus on medicine. Over 1 + yr ago, I bought him a human skeletal for him and I to learn names of bones. It’s a struggle to motivate him to learn those bones.

    He lives with his mother, who is highly educated, but things he should choose to do what he likes. She doesn’t seem concerned he could waste talent in meaningless things.

    At this phase, he does EVERYTHING the mother tells him but little to nothing I encourage him to do.

    Can you help me, please?

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  2. Jason- this is beautiful. Thank for for sharing these moments and memories. We are all hoping that his teachings will continue to be carried on by all those lucky enough to have learned from the best.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Katie, thank you for your kind words. I can assure you that his teachings will live on with me and all the medical students and medical trainees who had the pleasure of learning from your father. I will cherish the medical times with your father as well as the non-medical July 4th hang-outs. Your father always made me feel welcome and gave me much to emulate as I grow in my career. I hope we can reconnect when I am back in Columbus. Would love to see you, your family and your amazing mother.

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  3. Hi, Jason! I am Dr. Olson’s brother and fellow Brown’s fan Rex. I met you at a couple of the UA 4th of July parades a few years ago, and I wanted to express my thanks for your lovely tribute. He was truly unique in a variety of ways, and the fact that he touched your life in such a way that prompted you to write what you did gives me great pleasure. Go Browns!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mr. Olson, great to hear from you. Thank you for reaching out and for your kind words. The UA parades will certainly never be the same without your brother’s impassioned “SPIN THE BEAR!” 🙂 Know your brother will certainly live on in all of his trainees! They may not all write to share but it’s there. Trust me. Thank you again for the kind words. All the best! – Jason

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  4. Thank you Jason for sharing and writing this tribute to Kevin. He was such a wonderful man- husband, father, grandfather, teacher and doctor. We miss him all of the time as I know so many do. I know he will continue to help patients through the many doctors and students that he mentored.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Mrs. Olson! It is such a pleasure to hear from you. I am in Portland, Oregon currently but as you can tell part of my heart is still in Columbus! I certainly miss Dr. O all of the time… I hear him throughout my day especially with certain patients. I had submitted this article to THE PLAIN DEALER and THE DISPATCH in hopes of surprising you with it that way, but I am so glad you saw it. I wrote it because I’ve always wanted to share my love and learnings from your husband. I hope to see you again in the not too distant future. All the best. Warmly, Jason

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