Stanislaus County’s top doctor uses new tools and old for fighting resistant bacteria

Dr. David Olson is pictured in his Oakdale, Calif. office on Thursday morning March 28, 2019. He is the physician of the year in Stanislaus County.
Dr. David Olson is pictured in his Oakdale, Calif. office on Thursday morning March 28, 2019. He is the physician of the year in Stanislaus County.

Dr. David Olson is one of a handful of infectious disease specialists in Stanislaus County. But quite a few patients simply know him as their primary care doctor.

His medical practice, established in Oakdale some 38 years ago, is certainly one of the only in the county to combine primary and infectious disease care.

Olson’s long-term commitment to medical excellence earned him the honor of the John Darroch Memorial Award for 2019. The Stanislaus Medical Society gives the “Physician of the Year” award to a doctor who exemplifies a high level of professionalism and dedication to patient care.

As an infectious disease expert, Olson may administer treatment for pneumonia, hepatitis, wound infections, fungal and yeast infections, hard-to-diagnose contagions, valley fever and sexually transmitted diseases.

One of the major concerns in health care are infectious bacteria that are now resistant to common antibiotics.

“The bacteria are much more creative at getting around what we are doing,” Olson said. Doctors have a few new antibiotic medications in their arsenal for treating illness and are using drugs that disable the defense mechanisms of tenacious bacteria.

“We are going to some of the older antibiotics developed in the 1950s that were never used because they were too toxic,” Olson added. “Now, they are one of the few things that work.”

Even while running a small-town practice in the Cowboy Capital, Olson has seen his share of rare cases. He recalled a woman from India whose hip was severely infected with a gram-negative New Delhi variety of resistant bacteria. The patient picked up the infection during surgery at a hospital in India and was brought to Stanislaus County because of family here.

“It was an interesting case. She was treated for a very long time,” Olson recalled.

Olson’s primary care practice on West F Street in Oakdale includes himself, a physician’s assistant and practice manager and seven other employees.

Olson sometimes gives lectures to the family practice residents at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto and is occasionally asked to speak on public health topics.

Olson spent much of his childhood in Delaware, where he graduated from high school. He attended Dartmouth College and holds a degree from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. He completed a internal medicine residency in Pennsylvania and an infectious disease fellowship at University of California Davis Medical Center in 1981.

He is affiliated with most of the local hospitals, including Oak Valley in Oakdale, Doctors and Memorial in Modesto and Emanuel in Turlock.

Olson and his wife have twin daughters who are 30 years old, one working as a speech therapist and the other a nurse for the San Joaquin County jail.