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John Forsyth: On death and dying

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John Forsyth. Photo courtesy of Cambia Foundation
 Posted: 2:00 AM January 09, 2013

Cardiologist John Forsyth moved to the Rogue Valley to practice medicine in 1970. When he retired in 2004, he continued to speak about the most uncomfortable of subjects: death and dying.

In 2010, Forsyth helped create Choosing Options, Honoring Options (COHO) to educate about end-of-life preferences. He wants every person facing the final stages of life "to have the opportunity to do so with the greatest possible dignity and comfort."

Today, he will be giving a free lecture through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute on advance health directives and how to start family-based conversations about end-of-life care options.

About This Series

On the Podium is a series spotlighting Ashland teachers. Send profile ideas to


Choosing Options, Honoring Options is a group facilitating end-of-life conversations through seminars, workshops and online resources at

A copy of the Oregon Advance Directive form is at

In 1998, he was named Physician Citizen of the Year by the Oregon Medical Association and he has been a longtime volunteer at the Community Health Center, a clinic serving low-income patients.

He grew up in Illinois where he learned to care for people who are sick and poor by his mother, who was a nurse, and his father, who served meals to those in need during the Great Depression.

Forsyth earned undergraduate degrees in English and philosophy at the University of Illinois. After graduating from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, he interned and studied at the University of Washington medical school in Seattle.

What do you consider your career highlights?: Being a good husband, father and doctor are still at the top of my list, with COHO being a close second.

Where do you teach? I give talks about end-of-life care and the need for health care reform at a wide variety of organizations around the Rogue Valley.

At OLLI, my teaching has largely been through the Community Lecture Series. At Southern Oregon University, I have been a guest lecturer in a variety of different classes such as philosophy, nursing and sociology.

How do you begin a presentation? Usually with a pivotal vignette about a person or situation I have encountered in clinical experience. What I hope gets my class's attention is the direct personal relevance to their own experience.

How do you introduce yourself?: I introduce myself as an old guy who's spent a lifetime listening to patients. That's still most important.

What are you favorite aspects of the Rogue Valley?: Too many to count. Read, hiking and attending symphony and theater.

What do you like to do in Ashland?: Oregon Shakespeare Festival, events at SOU, walking in Lithia Park, attending classes and lectures at OLLI (what a wonderful smorgasbord for a curious mind).

What's left on your bucket list? Learn a lot more about a lot of stuff, especially philosophy. Help our community and my profession accept and fulfill the promise of the transformation with which we are currently engaged.

How do we learn more about you? Hmmm ... Judi Drais got pretty much all of it that's fit to print in the November OLLI "Link" newsletter (at

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