Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Mormon Women - Dr. Anne Osborn Poelman

By Danielle Stockton

As a neuroradiologist, Dr. Anne Osborn Poelman knows how to use her own brain to diagnose other people’s brains. However, what is extraordinary about Osborn is that her life does not merely focus upon studying brains. Rather, she also opens up her heart and soul to the Gospel and giving to others. Her gift is not only her intellect but also her charity, which can take unusual forms, such as writing an article directed to LDS singles about how they can best use their unmarried life as an opportunity to make better lives for themselves and for others.

Regarding her scientific career, Osborn’s success in the radiology field has been groundbreaking. As Elaine Jarvik succinctly writes in the March 22, 1989 article “Top Neurologist’s Goal is Helping Others Become Experts” published in the Deseret News, Osborn has seen “about 50,000 ailing brains during the past 20 years”. As a result, Osborn has had much valued practice most radiologists do not have the opportunity to experience. However, instead of hoarding this useful information, Osborn decided to generously utilize technology to share what she has learned over the years. As Jarvik describes, Osborn worked with University of Utah's Department of Medical Informatics to create a program that would simulate what Osborn learned so that it would act as a tutorial for others with lesser experience so Osborn could “make everyone an expert”. Indeed, Osborn’s genuine desire to grant unto all radiologists the knowledge she acquired over years is generous and noble. In 1999, Osborn received the prestigious position of Distinguished Professor of Radiology at the University of Utah School of Medicine, which the Deseret News described on August 16 of the same year as “the highest professional accolade a faculty member can receive from peers”. In additon, Osborn expanded her role in service when she was elected president of the American Society of Neuroradiology, which was announced in the Deseret News on August 1, 1988. In this position she is better able to continue her “reputation as an educator and researcher of head, neck and spinal imaging”. She has served internationally, such as by lecturing annually in China and being the chairwoman of the “neuroradiology course in Dalian co-sponsored by the Chinese Society of Radiology” ( In this way, Osborn has spread her knowledge and served not only in this nation, but throughout the world, which is an excellent example of true service.

Although Osborn’s action of giving valuable knowledge to her medical peers embodied the giving spirit encouraged in the Gospel, Osborn also directly reached out to a whole segment of the LDS population through her writing. More specifically, Osborn wrote an article entitled “The Ecstasy of the Agony: How to Be Single and Sane at the Same Time”, which was published in the March, 1977 edition of the Ensign ( ). An exceptional concept, this article was written as a form of guidance and solace for LDS singles encouraging them to use the period in which they are not married “as a time of active, creative waiting”. In particular, because when one is single one is generally more susceptible to being self-focused, Osborn advocates being aware of others that are in need and helping those people as it will give a deep, refreshing feeling of satisfaction to both the giver and the receiver of kindness. Moreover, Osborn gives broad advice to creatively find activities that work best for each person. Essentially, she writes that the sky is the limit regarding what one could do to pass the time away, such as traveling, exercising, reading, and, most importantly, taking “quiet time to spend with our Father in Heaven”. Instead of viewing being single as a detriment, Osborn portrays it as a unique opportunity in one’s life. Eventually, Osborn did marry a bright, lively man named Ron Poelman, who is a general authority in the LDS Church.

One of the most remarkable transformations in Dr. Osborn’s life is evidenced in her conversion story, which was published on the PBS website on April 30, 2007 from the documentary The Mormons ( At the time of her conversion, Osborn was attending Stanford University for medical school, and she came across an enthusiastic, intelligent professor, Kent Christensen, and one of her fellow students told her he was of the Mormon faith. When Osborn approached Christensen, he was more than happy to answer all of her questions, and despite her hesitancy, after visiting the church, she felt the Holy Ghost’s prompting. Although Osborn argued with the stake missionaries, she felt the simple truth of the young missionaries and truly knew and recognized that the religion is true.

In short, Osborn is astonishing in both her intelligence and her generosity. She makes the extra effort to not only serve in her career, but also to find ways to serve others in her personal life. Because Osborn and I are both new converts to the LDS faith, I especially feel humbled by her loving spirit and hope to emulate it in my daily life.


  1. I find great encouragement in hearing about Dr. Anne Osborn Poelman. I have met her and know her to not only be a remarkable physician but very beautiful. Her beauty did not diminish, or inhibit her quest for excellence or her search for truth. In her Ensign article you quoted her as encouraging singles to use their time while unwed “as a time of active, creative waiting”. I somehow, don't see her as "waiting", she was creatively and actively doing.

    I enjoyed reading her conversion story in this article. I am grateful for people like her. Thank you for sharing this.

    Marcus Southworth

  2. I really like this article. Her advice is great, and I would say very fitting with President Monson's recent counsel for us young people to get married. It makes not being married more manageable, and I don't feel unfulfilled in being single, although I have a desire to be married.