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SharePrint Donald L. Rasmussen


Doctor Donald L. Rasmussen (February 24, 1928-July 23, 2015), black lung crusader, was born in Colorado. He came to West Virginia in 1962 as associate chief of internal medicine at Miners Memorial Hospital, in Beckley. Throughout the 1960s, he actively engaged in ground-breaking research in the chronic lung disease of coal miners.

Rasmussen advanced his conclusion that simple pneumoconiosis, which frequently did not show up on lung x-rays, nevertheless caused the breathlessness among miners that might be apparent only through exercises on a treadmill accompanied by a blood-gas test. By the late 1960s, Rasmussen joined with doctors I. E. Buff and Hawey Wells to hold a series of rallies at which thousands of miners demanded state and federal action to protect against high levels of coal dust and to compensate those afflicted with black lung.

In dramatic testimony as well as articles in influential medical journals, Rasmussen was a driving force in the passage of state and federal black lung legislation. He was also an active participant in the United Mine Workers presidential campaigns of Jock Yablonski and Arnold Miller against W. A. ‘‘Tony’’ Boyle. In 1969, the American Public Health Association conferred its Presidential Award on Rasmussen for exceptional service in the fight against black lung. In 1995, he was named ‘‘Civil Libertarian of the Year’’ by the West Virginia Civil Liberties Union.

Rasmussen lived in Sophia and was the director of a Beckley pulmonary lab at the time of his death.

This Article was written by Ken Hechler

Last Revised on August 14, 2023

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Derickson, Alan. Black Lung. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998.

Cite This Article

Hechler, Ken "Donald L. Rasmussen." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 14 August 2023. Web. 25 May 2024.


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