Home > A Life Well Lived: Remembering Dr. Stanley M. Truhlsen

A Life Well Lived:

Remembering Stanley M. Truhlsen, MD

“The way I was raised you helped your hometown. You gave back to make it better. ”

Stanley M. Truhlsen, MD, 2020


Stanley M. “Doc” Truhlsen Sr., MD, is remembered as an ophthalmologist and renowned local philanthropist. This exhibit honors his many achievements, but it does not tell the whole story. Stan walked with great humility and his legacy is one marked with incredible optimism. He could always be counted on for a good laugh and a contagious, positive, cheerful demeanor. His life was dedicated to his family, patients, and generosity to the community.

Truhlsen Family

From left: Nancy, William, Stan Truhlsen Sr., Stan Truhlsen Jr., and Barbara, c. 1999




On Display at TEI



In His Own Words

Historical moments are powerful to read about, but there is something even more powerful in hearing directly from the people who lived them. Dr. Stanley M. Truhlsen recorded three separate oral histories with UNMC, the most recent for his 100th birthday in 2020. Explore below to hear Dr. Truhlsen tell his story—in his own words.


Dr. Stanley Truhlsen - A Brief Introduction



Stanley Truhlsen, MD: I’m Dr. Stanley Truhlsen, graduate of the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Practiced ophthalmology in Omaha my entire career.


I grew up in Herman. You may not know where it is, but it’s about thirty miles north of Omaha. Omaha was the big city. We would come to Omaha to do shopping when I was a little boy trailing along with my parents.


When I was ten years old and the family doctor, and only doctor, the one who delivered me and my sisters – I got well-acquainted with my family doctor and maybe grew to admire him and considered pre-med and went to Lincoln. After I graduated from high school I enrolled in Lincoln and took pre-med and got more understood in the profession of medicine and took it from there. I graduated from Lincoln with a bachelor’s degree in 1941 which was the summer before Pearl Harbor. I was fortunate enough to be in training and got the go-ahead and proceed with my specialty training even though the war happened. I graduated medical school and took a residency in pathology which is the study of diseases under the microscope. And in the process of that, I had to spend a great deal of time looking up things in the library pertaining to the eye and diseases of the eye and the more I looked, the more interested I got. Ophthalmology happened to be the specialty that I became interested in, and I have devoted my life to.


In Ophthalmology you’re dealing with medical problems, surgical problems, visual problems – a very wide-ranging area for just one little, small organ. The challenge is to learn as much as you can about it through experience, through the library, through reading, and being associated with other ophthalmologists, residency training. The eye is a very small organ, but it’s got a lot of things going for it. Medicine, not just ophthalmology, you never get to the final solution. Training is part of it, you’re continuing a learning process. It’s an ongoing thing, it’s satisfying.


It was kind of a dream come true to go to the university, to graduate, and then return and practice, have a satisfying career and become a member of the faculty of the medical center. You know, teaching is learning – the word, “doctor,” is a – dates back to the word, “teach,” and that’s what doctors do is teach one another, that’s the progress of the profession. And I’ve always felt that being a doctor and practicing medicine is kind of a payback for what the state of Nebraska and Omaha and the med center has given to me.


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Dr. Truhlsen on his admittance to medical school



Carrie Meyer: How did you come to be in the College of Medicine? How did you get admission?


Stanley Truhlsen, MD: How did I get in? Finagling. I got my application in late and they told me that, “Sorry, we've closed it up.” They didn't have a committee for admissions. Dr. Poynter, the dean, was the one and only member of the admissions committee. And so I had taken pre-med. I was prepared for going to medical school. All of a sudden I couldn't get into medical school. I talked to a doctor in town and he said, “Do you or your father know a Dr. Morris Nielsen in Blair, Nebraska?” And I said, “Yes. My dad goes to him as a—he’s his physician.” He said, “Talk to him.” So Dad and I went and talked to Dr. Morris Nielsen. He talked to us for a few minutes and Dad was one of his patients. Explained to him that the class was closed and we couldn't get into medical school. He reached over and picked up his phone and, “Charlie, how you doing?” They talked about children. They talked about vacation and finally he said, “I got a kid up here I want to get in medical school.” “Okay.” He said, “Be there at nine o'clock Monday morning.” So that's how I got in medical school.


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Dr. Truhlsen on his first exam under Dr. John Latta



Carrie Meyer: Do you have other interesting stories like that that you witnessed during your time?


Stanley Truhlsen, MD: Oh, I suppose, if I could remember them. We—it was interesting when we started medical school, I mentioned Dr. Latta, and he gave us our initial lectures in anatomy, embryology and so forth. And in the end of eight weeks, you got an examination. And then you lined up outside of his office after the exam and corrected it and so forth to find out how you did. We had, as I said, I think upwards of 90 or 100 students in that class, but when we got through with that, when you went in to see Dr. Latta, he'd either smile at you or frown. If he smiled at you, you stayed at the class. If not, you were all through. You are not going to get to go to medical school. You could not pass the test. So it was kind of a memorable occasion to take that first eight weeks test and go get your report and find out if you're going to continue. If he smiled at you was kind of nice.


CM: So when you walked in his office to find out your first test results, what were you thinking?


ST: Thank God I made it.


CM: Did he ever—did he say anything to you guys when you would walk in or was it really just that quick?


ST: He'd look up and call you by name and look at his book and okay. That was it. But the whole class one by one went in and found out what their future was.


CM: And those of you standing in the hallway as these other people are coming back out—


ST: You either were going to continue in medical school or you flunked out after eight weeks.


CM: But when you were seeing people come out of his office, what was the look on their face—what was the like you know if they if they made it?


ST: I don't remember paying much attention to anybody else. I just knew I made it.


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Dr. Truhlsen on developing an interest in opthalmology



Gerald Christensen: Well, you seemed like you were on a course to be a pathologist, but you wound up as an ophthalmologist. So, how did that occur?


Stanley Truhlsen, MD: Well, I took pathology—pathology residency, as I intended to go into internal medicine or general surgery. And I thought pathology would be a good basis for it. So, during my pathology residency, we had an excellent technician who did celloidin sections as a type of preparation of tissues to study microscopically. And she also did celloidin sections for the eyes that were removed during—in the hospital during that time. As I studied the various diseases of the eye, I became more and more interested in the specialty. Had to consult in the library and the journals various sources for learning ophthalmology, and became interested enough that I decided that that would be a good specialty and I would like to enter it. Also, I figured out that learning about ophthalmology and the eyeball, which was about an inch in size—diameter, was a little easier than studying for the whole body, which is— has various organs, and the brain, and the liver, and so forth.


GC: Lots of information, though, even for just that one square inch.


ST: Well, for that one—one little organ, the eye, I later bought a fifteen-volume set of books written by a world-famous English ophthalmologist. So, even though it was a small area, he had fifteen volumes to write about it.


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