Harald Østensen

Humanitarian Award 2007

TRTF's Hu­ma­ni­ta­rian Award was a fore­run­ner of the Pro Aca­de­mia Prize. In 2007 it was con­ferr­ed to Harald Østen­sen of Cluny, France:

"In re­cog­ni­tion and cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of his con­tri­bu­tions to or­ga­niz­ing teach­ing courses and sup­port­ing ap­pro­priate means of me­di­cal imag­ing, par­ti­cu­lar­ly in coun­tries with li­mit­ed re­sour­ces."

The Owl

Excerpts from the Prize Assessment

or many years Harald Østen­sen ex­empli­fied the com­bi­na­tion of ex­tra­­or­di­­nary achiev­ement with de­cen­cy and bene­­vo­l­ence by or­ga­niz­ing teach­ing courses and sup­port­ing ap­pro­pri­ate means of me­di­cal imag­ing, par­ti­cul­ar­ly in coun­tries with li­mit­ed re­sources.

Harald Østensen re­ceiv­ed his me­di­cal edu­ca­tion and train­ing in Ger­many and Nor­way. He worked as a ge­ne­ral prac­ti­tio­ner and later as a ra­dio­logist in hos­­pi­­tals all over No­rway.

Until the early 1990s, he was the Managing Director of the NICER courses — continuing education in ra­dio­logy for world regions lacking the range of medical education available in many rich countries. His group — sup­port­ed by a medical company — built up a global pro­gram, enlisting well-known teachers in radiology from all over the world. The goal was untainted education of the highest poss­ible quality.

Harald Østensen then joined the World Health Organization at their head­quarters in Geneva, being in charge of global medical imaging. Again, he put his emphasis on basic and applied teaching and edited nu­me­rous books and brochures which were distributed free of charge. One of his main goals in Geneva was the introduction of digital radiography in countries with few resources. Østensen died in 2011.

Professor Hans Ringertz, former Pre­si­dent of the No­bel As­semb­ly in Stockholm, pointed out:

"Radiology had never been strongly represented within WHO before, and Harald Østensen did a great job with very limited resources. His most important con­tri­bu­tion was the concentration on radiological equip­ment, education, and radiation protection in the least de­velop­ed parts of the world. From our earliest meet­ings, it was clear that Harald's overriding con­cerns were always those of the patient and how the resources avail­able could best be utilized to improve the health of the population.

His greatest attribute was in getting health pro­fes­sio­nals to work as a team and to respect the value of each other's contribution to the care of the patient. He was instrumental in breaking down professional barriers."

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 A summer day at Cecilienhof Castle in Potsdam, Germany.
From left to right: Robert N. Muller, Harald Østensen, Peter A. Rinck. 
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 The Prize Owl.