Allan Olson

General Information


Medical Director of Bell Behavioral Health and Reviews Treatment Plans  - Marquette-Alger Regional Educational Service Agency

Physician  - Marquette General Health System

Northern Michigan University


University of Michigan

master's degree  - 


Member  - Medical Professionals

Member, Mental Health Board  - Marquette County

Recent News  

Deep in the jungle of Peru, in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, Dr. Allan Olson of Marquette had a life-altering experience."I came back from that visit (five years ago) more relaxed than I have ever been in my life," said the fifty-nine-year-old, hockey-playing, guitar-picking, osteopathic physician."I was implacable.I was in the zone.It was the most remarkable feeling and I knew something profound had happened."I mean, it was what I'd call a Carlos Castaneda experience, there was no doubt about it," he said, referring to the author who wrote of experiencing increased awareness and expanded perception through exercise, dreams and participation in shamanistic rituals.Olson studies Incan culture, participates in shamanistic rituals and meditates in the Sacred Valley.He's returned each year since that first trip in 1999.Once the heart of the Inca civilization, the Sacred Valley, a forty-five minute drive north of Cusco (Peru) is a long way from Olson's childhood home in Hancock.His journey from U.P. childhood to a South American jungle and back has been fascinating."Our life is never boring," said his wife of thirty years, Maxine.Olson was born in Chicago and moved to Hancock when his parents divorced when he was five.He and his mother lived with his grandparents for three years, until his mother remarried and the family moved to Detroit.Olson grew up in the city, completed high school and, with academic scholarship in hand, enrolled at the University of Michigan.He dropped out during his second year."I didn't do very well," he said, describing himself as a less-than-diligent student.Maxine disagrees with the assessment, describing her husband as passionate about learning and a voracious reader as well as traveler."What I'd really wanted to do when I got out of high school was get a motorcycle and go out to California," Olson said."But my mother had other plans.That may have been why I didn't do well academically.I don't know how much of a grip I had on what I wanted to be when I got out of high school."Olson worked construction for a while and held other miscellaneous jobs."In truth, it was probably more of a learning experience for me than school would have been at the time," he said.The year of grunt work drove him back to school, first to Lansing Community College and then to Michigan State University, where he enrolled in the school's pre-medicine program.He also married, fathered a daughter and divorced while completing school.Then Olson, the self-professed unmotivated student, decided more academics were in order.He applied and was accepted into the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in Missouri.His mother, still his guiding force, told him he was destined for a career in medicine."How can you deny your mother?"he said.Osteopathic school, Olson said, taught him the art of medicine.About five percent of doctors practicing in the United States are osteopathic physicians.Olson said as his education continued, he became more intrigued with the mind-body philosophy espoused by osteopathic theory and the mind's role in healing injury.This led him to consider a psychiatric residency as he neared completion of his medical schooling.Then again, he just couldn't let go of that motorcycle thing.In the summer of 1974, Olson and then-girlfriend Maxine, who was education director for a Head Start program in Missouri, bought a motorcycle (actually two, as the first was stolen) and ventured forth on a 7,000-mile jaunt.They headed north to start, stopping in Marquette where Olson had landed an interview with Northern Michigan University to be a physician at the school's health center.From Marquette, they veered west, camping, sightseeing and surviving on what they could carry on the bike.As they toured the United States, they pondered the future.Unable to decide between the job at NMU or a psychiatric residency, the Olsons fell back on their standby decision-making tool."Somewhere out in Washington, we flipped a coin," Olson said."The coin said go to Marquette, so we went back to Missouri, got married, came to Marquette and the rest is history."The couple arrived in Marquette later that summer and Olson began practicing at NMU while Maxine pursued a master's degree in education. (She has since held a number of teaching and administrative positions in area schools.)In 1976, Olson left NMU to open a private practice in Gwinn, a venture he said didn't fare well."It was real hard times in '76," Olson said, citing a protracted ironworker strike, crisis in the steel industry, sky-high interest rates and unemployment."The economy was tanking.It was real difficult."Olson lasted five years before closing shop in Gwinn and trying again with a practice in Chocolay Township.While the work was satisfying, running a business was not his thing."I'm not cut out to be a businessman, and running a practice was really running a business," Olson said."It's not something I enjoyed, so I didn't do a good job at it."What he did enjoy, however, was being a parent, both to his daughter and to Maxine's two boys from a previous marriage."He took those kids on like they were his own and really made a commitment to be their father," she said."He's still very involved in their lives and in the lives of our three grandchildren."While Olson struggled with maintaining a private practice, and found solace restoring classic motorcycles, he began entertaining thoughts of returning to school for a psychiatric residency.At the time, he was serving on the Marquette County's mental health board and he learned that the physician in charge of medication reviews for the community mental health agency now known as Pathways was retiring.Olson applied for the job, a part-time position that would allow him to continue his private practice with the help of a physician's assistant."I was getting ready to pack it up when this came along," he said."Working in the field of mental health was something that I wanted, and more or less waited, to do for the previous ten years.I'd wanted to do that even when I was in medical school."Olson liked the new job and continues the work, though he's since closed the private practice and now, works part-time as a physician for Marquette General Health System out of a Chocolay Township office."The two things that I really enjoy in medicine are psychiatry and treating people for musculoskeletal problems with manipulation," Olson said."I get to do both of those things now and it's very satisfying."And since his visit to Peru and his experiences with shaman rituals and healing practices of indigenous cultures, he's found greater enjoyment in the art of medicine."What I came away learning is that, OK, we all know there's some mind-body connection, but the missing piece, what gets lost in Western medicine, is the spirit," he said."It's what connects the mind and the body.One could think of that as the energy that is involved in an individual.There has to be something that makes this all work and I've become convinced that your spirit, or energy linking the mind and body is a more accurate concept."In his quest to further learn spiritual concepts, Olson has returned annually to the Sacred Valley to study and participate in healing rituals with noted anthropologists and archaeologists.Olson also has worn several other professional hats in the local region.He's the medical director of Bell Behavioral Health and reviews treatment plans for the Marquette-Alger Regional Educational Service Agency (formerly known as the Intermediate School District).He also is a member of Medical Professionals Against Sulfide Mining, a recently-formed organization opposed to the extraction of metals embedded in sulfide ores on the Yellow Dog Plains in Northern Marquette County and in other areas in the western U.P.When sulfide ores are exposed to air and water, they form sulfuric acid as a waste product."We're concerned that this type of mining will have a detrimental impact on the environment and groundwater resources in the area and subsequently on the health of the populace in the area," Olson said."I don't understand how you can violate the watershed (to extract minerals) and not contaminate it."The group strongly opposes a proposed project by Kennecott Minerals Company, which is near the headwaters of the Salmon Trout River.The Salmon Trout River is a pristine trout stream that hosts the last native coaster brook trout population on the south shore of Lake Superior.The project also would be within the aquifer that supports the Yellow Dog, Huron, Dead and Mulligan river watersheds."What I really find ironic is that our state and local representatives seem to come from an iron mining and steelworker background," Olson said.Another important issue to Olson is medical access for citizens, particularly those in rural areas.He previously served on the Rural Health Task Force."I believe we're headed toward a meltdown within our medical care delivery system," Olson sa

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