Contributions of Dr. Jewell Osterholm

Dr. Jewell Osterholm was appointed Professor and Chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at the Vickie and Jack Farber Institute for Neuroscience - Jefferson Health in 1974, as a Professor and Chair of Jefferson’s Department of Neurosurgery in 1974, as an experienced administrator with an active research program and a large surgical practice.  By 1980, the Jefferson neurosurgical program performed more than 1300 major neurosurgical operations yearly.

One of the biggest achievements during Dr. Osterholm's tenure was the establishment of the Regional Spinal Cord Injury Center of Delaware Valley at Jefferson under the aegis of the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine in conjunction with the Departments of Neurosurgery and Orthopedic Surgery.

An outstanding feature of the Osterholm years was the intense activity in laboratory research. Dr. Osterholm, whose research is focused on spinal cord injury and stroke, began studying alternative methods of treating central nervous disorders in the 1960s. He began examining the use of fluorochemical emulsions as a blood substitute in the late 1970s. After many years of research, he and a team of researchers developed a process involving drilling a hole in the skull and delivering oxygen, glucose, and amino acids through the brain using synthetic spinal fluid. In 2001, doctors at Jefferson treated its first patient with the new approach.  The belief is that it could revolutionize cerebral re-oxygenation, which is crucial to reducing damage to the brain during a stroke.

Dr. Osterholm was named inventor of the year in 1984 by the Intellectual Property Owners Association, and holds over 12 patents for his pioneering technique to improve the treatment of central nervous disorders.

Following his retirement, Dr. Osterholm continued to be involved in the residency training program, offering a series of workshops on performing neurological examinations, with an emphasis on interviewing and observing the patient; the only specialized devices used are the stethoscope and the reflex hammer.  These workshops have been archived on DVD so future residents can benefit from Dr. Osterholm's training.   He also continued to participate in the resident interview process every year.  In recognition of his contributions to Jefferson, the Jewell L. Osterholm, MD, Professor and Chair of Neurological Surgery was created. 

Dr. Osterholm received his MD from Washington University School of Medicine in 1957, and his postgraduate training in neuropathology, neurology, and neurosurgery at the Montreal Neurologic Institute of McGill University.   He came to Philadelphia in 1963, where he joined the neurosurgical service at Hahnemann Medical College; he became director of the Division of Neurological Surgery in 1967. He was responsible for the residency training program, spinal cord injury center and neurosurgical research laboratories.

The faculty and staff of Jefferson Neurological Surgery fondly remember Jewell Osterholm, MD, who passed away in 2017.