Retro Riley: Dr. Oscar Noel Torian, professor of pediatrics

Riley 100 |

06/27/2024

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Dr. Oscar Noel Torian, one of the first IU School of Medicine physicians to specialize in pediatrics, practiced for 62 years.

Dr. Torian was born in Evansville, graduated from the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., in 1896 and earned his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania medical school in 1900. He served on the faculty of IU School of Medicine from its beginning in 1908 as an assistant professor of pediatrics until he retired as a professor of pediatrics emeritus in 1941.

Records of the James Whitcomb Riley Memorial Association show that Dr. Torian was one of a half-dozen medical professionals whom the Joint Executive Committee consulted for advice on the design of the James Whitcomb Riley Hospital for Children. Dr. Torian was a member of the original Pediatrics Department for IU School of Medicine in 1908 and was a member of the original medical team for Riley Hospital when it opened in 1924.

Dr. Torian and his wife, Sarah Hogsdon Torian, left Indiana in 1941 upon his retirement and returned to a place they both loved, Sewanee, Tenn. The pressing need for medical care of children in Sewanee’s rural Franklin County drove his caring heart immediately back to work as a pediatrician for the next 30 years.

From 1941 until his death in 1971 when he was 95 years old, Dr. Torian, recognized as the “Albert Schweitzer of the Sewanee,” provided free medical treatment – as well as bandages, medicine and prescriptions – to families too poor to pay for care.

--Compiled by the Riley Hospital Historic Preservation Committee, photo courtesy of the William R. Laurie University Archives and Special Collections: The University of the South