John E. Olerud, MD

Esteemed Physician, Professor, Researcher, and Former Baseball Standout Scores Highest Alumni Award

Practicing physician, renowned dermatologist, esteemed professor, and former professional baseball player, John E. Olerud, MD, is the 2011 recipient of the Regents Distinguished Alumnus Award, the highest honor Washington State University bestows on its alumni.

Dr. Olerud was born in a small North Dakota town, and grew up with the dream of becoming a doctor. While studying zoology at WSU, he played baseball under Coach Chuck “Bobo” Brayton. In 1965, as team captain and catcher, he helped take the Cougars to the College World Series and was named to the All-American Team.

That same year, he graduated from WSU with a bachelor of science degree and embarked on a dual-career path as a medical student at the University of Washington (UW) and as a professional baseball player. In the 1965 Major League Baseball draft, he was selected in the fourth round (67th overall) by the California Angels and signed to their AAA Seattle club.

For the next seven years, during his summers off from medical school, he played professional baseball for a number of clubs, including the Seattle Angels, San Jose Bees, El Paso Sun Kings, Tulsa Oilers, and Winnipeg Whips.

After graduating from medical school in 1971, Dr. Olerud retired from baseball to pursue a career in dermatology. From 1972 to 1975 he served the U.S. Navy at a medical research laboratory in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. After completing medical residencies at Harborview Medical Center, UW, and University Hospital in Seattle, he was certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine in 1977 and the American Board of Dermatology in 1980.

During his distinguished medical career, Dr. Olerud has become a celebrated dermatologist and professor of medicine. A prolific researcher, he has published 92 refereed articles since 1974. He has served his profession in many prominent roles, such as the George F. Odland Professor of Medicine and head of the Division of Dermatology at UW, president of the Association of Professors of Dermatology, and principal investigator for numerous federal grants, including a training grant for physicians and scientists in skin biology.

Dr. Olerud has received numerous notable honors, including the UW School of Medicine Resident Teaching Award, named in his honor, and placement among Seattle Magazine‘s Top Doctors (2005, 2009), Seattle Metropolitan Magazine‘s Top Doctors (2006, 2008), WA Magazine‘s Best Doctors (2011), and the Best Doctors in America┬« (2011-2012). He was named to the WSU Sports Hall of Fame in 1986.

“John Olerud leads by inspiration and example,” says nominator Bobo Brayton. “We can be proud of his exceptional service to the medical profession.”