A History Of Lsu School Of Medicine New Orleans

A History Of Lsu School Of Medicine New Orleans


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781452030944
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 08/25/2010
Pages: 220
Sales rank: 1,034,566
Product dimensions: 8.25(w) x 11.00(h) x 0.46(d)

First Chapter


By Russell C. Klein Victoria Barreto Harkin


Copyright © 2010 Russell C. Klein
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4520-3094-4

Chapter One

Founding the School

Huey Pierce Long, the then Governor of Louisiana, devised a plan in late 1930 to build a medical school in New Orleans as a branch of the Baton Rouge campus. His aim was to provide a medical education for the "poor boys" of Louisiana. The presence of "Big Charity" Hospital dictated its location in New Orleans.

In his planning Long was strongly influenced by Dr. Arthur Vidrine, Sr., his appointee as Superintendent of Charity Hospital. Vidrine, a former Rhodes Scholar and National Regent of the International College of Surgeons, was a talented and politically connected surgeon from Ville Platte. He had operated a hospital in Eunice, Louisiana, and had twice been President of the Louisiana Hospital Association before accepting the Charity position. He had served a two-year internship at Charity Hospital before training in surgery in London and Paris for two years. He proved to be a valuable guide in an area unfamiliar to Long.

The idea for a School of Medicine was not new. LSU's predecessor, the Louisiana State Seminary and Military Academy in Alexandria, Louisiana, "established" a School of Medicine in 1866 and decided (for reasons lost to history) to combine it with the School of Civil Engineering and award a dual degree of engineer and physician. They advertised for faculty who could teach medicine, surgery, geology, chemistry, and mineralogy; found two, Dr. J W Wilson of Missouri and Dr. J R Page of Virginia, and hired them. Not a single student was enrolled and the offering disappeared from the catalog in 1867, never to be seen again. By 1877, the charter of the LSU System, now in Baton Rouge, allowed creation of a School of Medicine, but further action awaited the coming of Huey Long.

On January 3, 1931, members of the LSU Board of Supervisors and the Charity Hospital Governing Board were summoned to Huey's suite in the Roosevelt (later Fairmont) Hotel in New Orleans. It is said that Huey conducted the meeting in his pajamas, which was not long in any case. He proposed the establishment of a School of Medicine in New Orleans and that Vidrine continue both as Superintendent of Charity Hospital, and to serve also as its Dean.

"With little discussion," Huey's proposals were adopted. The School was born. Huey needed a site and the Charity Board obligingly donated vacant land in the 1500 block of Tulane Avenue. The matter of financing the construction was easily handled. The Baton Rouge campus would sell some land to the State Highway Department and the proceeds would fund construction. That the Baton Rouge campus did not wish to sell the land or that the Highway Department did not need to acquire it were irrelevant details. Huey had his school, a Dean, a site, and most importantly funding. With his usual flare for the dramatic Huey announced what he had accomplished in a letter to the "Citizens of Louisiana," proclaiming that he was "justly proud" of the "outstanding accomplishments of my administration."

What Huey had done to fund the construction was probably quite illegal and a newspaper promptly accused Huey of stealing a million dollars from the Highway Trust Fund. Huey is said to have retorted that he had stolen two million and to "publish what you want but we will have a medical school for the poor boys of Louisiana." A suit was filed eventually to halt the land sale but by the time it was heard the contracts had been signed, the building was under construction and the court shrugged its shoulders and dismissed the suit.

There was another predictable backlash when news of the school's approval was publicized. Some felt Tulane was being threatened and the "Spite School" theory was born. The theory postulated that revenge was Long's motive for building the school. Actually there were several versions of the theory. The first involved Huey's desire to avenge himself against Esmond Phelps, a prominent New Orleans attorney and the president of Tulane's Board of Administrators, who in 1928 had attempted, quite unsuccessfully, to have Huey impeached. The second theory involved Charles C. Bass, DDS, MD, Dean of the Tulane Medical School, inventor of dental floss and a New Orleans "blue blood," who was particularly upset by this perceived threat and said so openly to the Tulane Board, which was mostly anti-Long. Huey, it was said, had been denied an honorary doctorate from the Tulane Law School, and some guessed that building a School of Medicine was his revenge. That Huey had never sought such an honor from Tulane was irrelevant. Historian James Duffy noted that others, most notably Tinsley Harrison, the Superintendent of Education, had argued that Huey, a recognized expert on Louisiana constitutional law, deserved such an honor but no evidence exists that Huey was even aware of their efforts. How building a medical school damaged Tulane's law school was not obvious to some bystanders.

Huey was ruthless, dictatorial, and power-hungry, but there is no real evidence to support any "Spite School" theory. Rather, a love of LSU and a concern for the health of the poor, Huey's source of political power, drove his actions. In an interesting sidelight Loyola University in New Orleans did award Huey an honorary law degree.

Construction of the Medical School building began in March 1931. Organization of the School was by then already well under way. Huey, who designed plays for the LSU football team and led the Tiger Band when the mood struck him, proved equally adept at meddling in the day-to-day affairs of the School of Medicine. This tendency proved short-lived, but ultimately nearly disastrous, years later.

The method of filling most faculty positions was simply to target Tulane. Some significant outsiders, however, were brought aboard. Aristides Agramonte, for example, a Cuban physician who helped conquer yellow fever, was named the head of the Tropical Medicine Department and Rigney D'Aunoy, Head of Pathology at Charity, was named Head of the combined Department of Pathology and Bacteriology and Associate Dean. Ray McLean Van Wort, Director of the State Colony for the Feebleminded, was recruited to head Neuropsychiatry. Joseph Clark Stephenson came from Oklahoma to Chair Anatomy, and Clyde Brooks, who boasted not only an MD and a PhD but also an LLD, came from Wisconsin, to lead the combined departments of Pharmacology and Physiology.

Raiding the Greenies, however, was the order of the day. P. Jorda Kahle in Urology, Homer Dupuy in Otolaryngology, Philip Carter in Obstetrics, John Signorelli in Pediatrics, J. Bernie Guthrie in Medicine, Amadee Granger in Radiology, Henry Blum in Ophthalmology and Peter Graffagnino in Gynecology all came over to LSU from Tulane to head their departments. All were outstanding catches, and in most cases nationally known. Granger, who had served as Chief of Radiology at Charity since 1921, for example, had been awarded the Gold Medal of Radiological Society of North America for his work on sinus x-ray interpretation and had been decorated by the French Government for his use of x-rays to locate bullets in wounded World War I soldiers. Graffagnino had introduced spinal anesthesia to the practice of gynecology. Guthrie would contract pericarditis in 1932 and pass away. He would be succeeded by the equally well-known Dr. George Sam Bel, who had at one time served as Professor of Medicine at Tulane and was on the Charity staff.

Huey had particularly wanted to land Urban Maes, MD, a hero of World War I, a surgeon of national repute, and second in command to Alton Ochsner, Sr., the Chair of Surgery at Tulane, as LSU Surgery Chairman. Maes turned Huey down flat, distrusting that Huey would produce a "Class A," i.e., fully accredited, medical school and angry that the year earlier Ochsner had been summarily booted from the staff of Charity Hospital. In 1930, Ochsner had written a letter to Dr. Allen O. Whipple, an out-of-state surgical colleague in which he strongly criticized the politicized operation of Charity Hospital (read: "Huey meddling"), a copy of which somehow came into the possession of Arthur Vidrine, who apparently was not a fan of Ochsner. Three explanations have been offered for how this happened. The first is that a copy was stolen from Ochsner's coat pocket and given to Vidrine; the second is that a copy was found on the street and given to Vidrine; and the third is that someone on the Tulane faculty or staff mailed a copy to Vidrine. Take your pick.

However it happened, Ochsner, an immensely popular figure in New Orleans society, but someone who had clashed repeatedly with Vidrine over Charity policies, was soon dismissed from Charity's staff. It is unlikely that Vidrine did this without an approval from Huey. Ochsner's dismissal caused the expected firestorm and gave rise ultimately to a third alternative and equally improbable "Spite School" theory, namely that Huey formed the LSU Medical School to avenge himself on Ochsner. In an interesting footnote Huey at about the time of Ochsner's dismissal was recommending the appointment of Dr. Isidore Cohn, Sr., a Tulane clinical faculty member, to be a senior visiting surgeon at Charity. So much for Huey's blanket animosity toward Tulane.

Failing to get Maes, Huey settled on Emmitt Lee Irwin, an Assistant Professor of Surgery at Tulane, to head Surgery. This choice did not sit well with the organizations, such as the AMA, that would rate the fledgling school. The School was going to need, Huey was told, someone of real academic stature in Surgery, considered the most important clinical department, for the coveted "Class A" designation to be awarded. And that wasn't Irwin.

Hat in hand, Huey eventually went back to Maes. By now, money had been committed and a large building was under construction. They struck a deal. Maes would take the position on three conditions: Ochsner would be reinstated to the Charity Staff, Tulane would control an equitable number of beds at Charity Hospital, and Huey would quit meddling in the Medical School. Huey made good on the agreement, and Irwin's brief tenure was over. He left after sending an angry letter of resignation to the Dean.

Maes became Chairman of Surgery and brought with him a talented protégé, Dr. James D. Rives. Maes would serve as Chairman until 1954, when Rives succeeded him.

Many years later, Irwin, still bearing a big grudge, reappeared on the LSU stage. But the LSU School of Medicine officially opened on October 1, 1931.

Dedication of the School was postponed until May 1932 to coincide with the AMA convention that was being held in New Orleans. The School was showcased to many visiting dignitaries who toured it and several were invited to give speeches at the dedication. Huey brought the Tiger Band from Baton Rouge. They played before each speech. Huey spoke last, promising "friendly relations" all around. Before he spoke, the band played "Hail to the Chief," the anthem of the President of the United States. Modesty was not a virtue that Huey cultivated. Clearly, the pomp and circumstance-and there was a lot of pomp and circumstance-was designed to impress the visitors and help the campaign for "Class A" status. The School would receive full accreditation in 1933 before the first class would graduate. That class and all subsequent classes through 1939 would receive a Bachelor of Medicine (MB) and after successfully completing a year of internship, an MD would be awarded. This was typical for newly established schools.

And that's how Huey got his medical school. In the space of 10 months it went from dream to reality. Seventy-five plus years later, the School of Medicine continues to fulfill the dream of giving a quality medical education to the men and women of Louisiana and through them providing excellent care for patients around the world.

Chapter Two

The Early Years

It was warm on October 1, 1931, but the students, a freshman class and a transfer class of junior students, crowded into the unairconditioned and still-unfinished building at 1542 Tulane Avenue. LSU School of Medicine had officially opened its doors for classes. The junior transfer class came mostly from the University of Alabama, which had a two-year medical program. Between the two classes, sixteen states and two foreign countries were represented. Louisiana residents paid no tuition. All others paid $300 a year. Students had to trek up five floors to reach their classes, since only the building's fifth floor was open for business and the elevators did not work. There was only a little office and research space for new faculty members. Four departments shared a single office and a single secretary.

Still, Huey Long's shadow hovered above the medical school. Despite all of the challenges, the school that opened its doors that day changed the face of medical education in Louisiana forever. Many of its students were from impoverished rural areas, and their new medical school was a symbol of the increasing opportunities for higher education open to the poor. It was the Depression era, and most Americans were busy working for survival. The promise of an affordable medical education for everyone was exciting and important. The School of Medicine in New Orleans was an important part of Huey Long's agenda for improving his poor rural state.

It was also central to improving the medical care of Louisiana's indigent patient population. The School was situated next to Charity Hospital, which allowed students and faculty members to treat one of the largest and most diverse patient groups in the country. From its inception, LSU was intricately linked to patient care and clinical excellence.

The original School of Medicine building was a testament to its time and position. The imposing eight-story structure was designed in the Art Deco style. One of the most striking Art Deco features of the building was a metal bas-relief over the original entrance designed by noted Louisiana artist Enrique Alferez. The relief depicted the conquest of yellow fever, the result of work by the Walter Reed commission in Cuba in the early twentieth century.

Later, when the additions to the School of Medicine covered the sculpture, the art piece was hung in the school library. Over time it became obvious that it was deteriorating and was taken down and sent for restoration.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the sculpture disappeared temporarily. After the school returned to New Orleans, the sculpture was located by the Office of Alumni Affairs and now hangs prominently in the library today.

The sculpture was, in part, meant to honor Dr. Aristides Agramonte, a member of Reed's group who had been named head of the school's Tropical Medicine Department. Agramonte unfortunately died before he could take his position at LSU, but his influence continued to be felt, as the School of Medicine purchased his personal medical library and used it to form the nucleus of the Medical School's library, which was named for Dr. Agramonte. Within the first decade of the School's history, additions to the library forced its move out of its original space In 1931 it consisted of 412 books, 100 bound volumes of journals, and 128 journal subscriptions. By 1937 it had grown to 2,861 books, 3,158 bound journals, and 174 journal subscriptions. It was opened to healthcare professionals from around the city. During World War II, officers from the armed services borrowed heavily from the medical school library. It was only one of the ways in which the School of Medicine performed an important role in the medical education needs of the New Orleans community.

Upon Agramonte's death, his position as Chair of Tropical Medicine would be filled temporarily by Dr. Joseph O'Hara, who was head of the State Board of Health and Orleans Parish Coroner. In 1932, he would give way to Dr. Thomas B. Anderson, Chief of Staff at the U.S. Public Health Service Hospital in New Orleans. O'Hara, who was nationally known for his work in tuberculosis control and traffic safety, would remain on the faculty until 1940.

Medical students followed a traditional course of study. Basic science classes were taught in the first two years, including anatomy, pharmacology, physiology, biochemistry, bacteriology and pathology. The final two years of medical school were occupied with clinical instruction. Students did not receive their MD degree, however, until they finished one year of internship. This arrangement, whereby a Bachelor of Medicine degree was awarded after four years and an MD degree after the intern year, was typical for new medical schools and persisted until 1940, when the School began to award the MD degree upon graduation.


Excerpted from A HISTORY OF LSU SCHOOL OF MEDICINE NEW ORLEANS by Russell C. Klein Victoria Barreto Harkin Copyright © 2010 by Russell C. Klein. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Founding the School....................1
Chapter 2: The Early Years....................6
Chapter 3: The War Years....................17
Chapter 4: The Faculty Revolts....................32
Chapter 5: The Red Menace Invades LSU School of Medicine....................36
Chapter 6: Bill Frye and Beyond (1949-1977)....................40
Chapter 7: The Larson Regime....................49
Chapter 8: The Daniels Era (1986-1995)....................52
Chapter 9: Dr. Marier Becomes Dean....................59
Chapter 10: Dr. Hollier Takes Over....................66
Chapter 11: Katrina and the Aftermath....................68
from Allison to Zimny....................85-169 Alumni in Academics....................173
Alumni in Art and Literature....................177
Alumni in Community Service....................179
Alumni in Military Service....................186
Alumni in Politics and Government Service....................194
Alumni Missionaries....................199
The Formation of the Modern Medical Alumni Association....................201
Source Material....................205
About the authors....................209
Identities in back cover montage....................210

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