Biography of Dr. Aloysius P. O'Brien
San Francisco, CA Biographies





ALOYSIUS PAUL O'BRIEN, M. D.
In many lines of duty the late Dr. Aloysius Paul O'Brien of San Francisco gave notably of his services. As a physician, both in civil life and in the army, as a health officer, police surgeon, hospital founder, and as a worker for charitable causes, he was one of the outstanding men in the history of his profession in San Francisco. He was born in Port Townsend, Washington, June 27, 1866, and was a son of Dr. Patrick Moffatt and Katherine Mary (Stanton) O'Brien.

Dr. O'Brien was descended from a prominent pioneer family. His father was a practicing physician in San Francisco as early as 1850, and about a decade later went to Port Townsend, Washington, there remaining until 1868, when he returned with his family to California and settled in Santa Clara, where Aloysius P. O'Brien was reared to young manhood. He graduated from Santa Clara College, then took up the study of medicine at the University of California, and about 1889 received the degree of Doctor of Medicine from this institution. Having received his diploma, he served an interneship of one year in the San Francisco Hospital. Soon thereafter, his splendid public career began by his appointment as city health officer, and he was fulfilling his duties in this capacity with distinction when the Spanish-American war started in April, 1898.

Dr. O'Brien's excellent war record is one important phase of his professional career. He was one of the first to volunteer his services for the national cause, and he was accepted as one of the surgeons of the First California Regiment, also was one of the examining board. He held the rank of major, and in the Manila and Philippine campaigns he made an imperishable record. Not on the field of action did he perform his best work, but in the seclusion of a smallpox hospital in Manila, where he contributed much to the eventual control of the dread disease among the American troops. In the segregated hospital where these patients were confined he worked, against hope, to save the lives of the unfortunate boys. After the close of the war, when he had received his honorable discharge, Dr. O'Brien returned to San Francisco, where he resumed his duties as city health officer and so continued until 1903. In 1913, he was appointed to the San Francisco board of health by Mayor James Rolph, Jr., and remained as a member until 1927, when he was compelled by poor health to retire from active service. He was president of the board in 1924. He did noteworthy work in local hospitals also during his life. When Mary's Help Hospital was opened by Archbishop Riordan, Dr. O'Brien served on the board of directors, a post he held until his death. On June 13, 1929, his death occurred, and in his passing the city lost one of the most valuable physicians of his generation.

Dr. O'Brien was married to Miss Veronica Derham, daughter of Bartholomew and Theresa (O'Hanlon) Derham, who were married in 1853 in the Old Mission Dolores, San Francisco.

Among the scores of tributes paid to Dr. O'Brien after his death, one of the most important is that written to his widow by Mayor James Rolph, Jr., now governor of California. He stated: "My heart will always cherish memories of my long friendship with your husband. His participation in public affairs and his long service as a member and as president of the board of public health were a distinct contribution to the welfare of the city, and all San Francisco mourns his passing. May you find comfort in memories of your husband's many wonderful traits of character, so universally admired by the innumerable friends who held him in such deep and lasting affection. I admired him in his thoughtful attention to the many public duties entrusted to him and I gratefully appreciated his tender, thoughtful care of the members of my immediate family. He had no peer in his traits of a perfect gentleman. I have grieved many times over his long siege of illness and that medical science could not give him the relief he so rightly deserved."

The many charities and kindnesses of Dr. O'Brien will never be fully known. He labored for all, rich and poor, high and low, and gave no preference to any class. To relieve the ills and sufferings of mankind was his sole aim in life; personal laudation and material wealth were not motivating inspirations in his career. His name will remain as one of the proud traditions of the San Francisco medical profession.

From:
The History of San Francisco, California
Lewis Francis Byington, Supervising Editor
Oscar Lewis, Associate Editor
The S. J. Clark Publishing Company
Chicago-San Francisco 1931


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