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Learn more about the five Founding Fathers of Ochsner.

Alton Ochsner, MD

Alton Ochsner was born in 1896 in Kimball, South Dakota to Edward Philip and Clara Leda Shontz Ochsner. After graduating from the University of South Dakota at Vermillion, he entered the Washington University Medical School in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1920, he graduated with an MD degree and began training in internal medicine at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis. He later completed a 16-month surgical residency under his uncle, Dr. A. J. Ochsner.

Alton Ochsner trained for two years in Germany and Switzerland before developing a clinical practice in Chicago. He later joined the University of Wisconsin as assistant professor of surgery due to his interest in education and research.

Alton Ochsner arrived in New Orleans in 1927 to assume the chairmanship of the Department of Surgery at Tulane University. He became a pioneer in the new field of thoracic surgery. Over his lifetime, Dr. Ochsner trained numerous surgeons, including heart surgeon Michael DeBakey.

This emphasis on teaching and research is the legacy of Dr. Alton Ochsner and the four other surgeons who opened The Ochsner Clinic. The Ochsner Clinic was founded on January 2, 1942 in the midst of World War II and was the first group medical practice in the Deep South. The founding partners understood the importance of research and education. All four were professors at Tulane University School of Medicine and went on to be distinguished practitioners in their fields.

Two years after opening the clinic, they also established the Alton Ochsner Medical Foundation. In 1947, the Ochsner Foundation Hospital opened in a former Army post hospital. Several years later, the 250-bed Foundation Hospital opened.

Dr. Ochsner was among the first to recognize the association between tobacco and lung cancer. His interest in this relationship began in his third year of medical school when he witnessed the autopsy of a patient with lung cancer. A rare condition at the time, Dr. Ochsner did not observe another care of lung cancer for 17 years. But when he encountered eight cases in a period of six months shortly after arriving in New Orleans, he began to consider lung cancer almost as an epidemic. He knew there had to be some direct cause: All the patients were men who smoked heavily and had begun smoking during the First World War. Prior to the war, cigarette consumption had been very low.

Alton Ochsner retired from surgery at age 70. He performed seven operations on his last day as a clinic surgeon. In 1967, he received the Distinguished Service Award of the American Medical Association for exceptional contributions to medicine.

Dr. Alton Ochsner passed away in 1981 at the age of 85.

Guy Alvin Caldwell, MD

Guy Alvin Caldwell, MD, was the first member of the Tulane faculty that Dr. Alton Ochsner confided in regarding a clinical group practice. An orthopedic surgeon who had practiced at Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children in Shreveport and Shreveport’s Charity Hospital in the 1920s and 1930s, Caldwell came to Tulane as Chairman of the Division of Orthopedics in 1938.

Caldwell did his undergraduate work and first two years of medical school at the University of Mississippi and then headed east to Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York to complete his final years of medical school. He did his internship and residency at Presbyterian Hospital in New York. Following this, he went to France, where he joined Presbyterian’s former chief of surgery at the American Red Cross Hospital No. 2 in Paris. Caldwell helped treat the French wounded in war from 1915 to 1917. When the United States entered the war in the spring of 1917, the medical staff of the Paris hospital was commissioned in the U.S. Army Reserve. Caldwell was named adjutant of the hospital.

Following the war, Caldwell headed to Fort McPherson, Georgia. While practicing in Atlanta, he met Dr. Michael Hoke, who had conceived the idea of Shriners Crippled Children’s Hospitals. Caldwell moved to Shreveport to become chief surgeon at the new Shriners Hospital. He remained in Shreveport for the next 16 years.

Alton Ochsner hired Caldwell for the vacant chair in orthopedics in 1938, partly because Caldwell shared his enthusiasm for establishing a group practice. Caldwell also had the best head for business management. His essential grasp of medical administration put the Clinic on sound footing in the early years.

Caldwell was nationally known for his work in orthopedic organizations. During World War II, he served as a consultant to the Surgeon General of the Army. From 1941 to 1950, Caldwell served multiple terms as secretary and later president of the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery. In 1951, he was elected president of the American Academy of Surgeons.

Caldwell served as a director and trustee of the Alton Ochsner Medical Foundation and found time to write a book on the early history of the Ochsner Clinic. He was a member of the American Medical Association’s Council on Medical Education and Hospitals, chairman of the Advisory Council on Orthopedic Surgery of the American College of Surgeons and a trustee of The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery.

Dr. Curtis Tyrone, one of the Clinic founders, paid special tribute to his colleague and said Guy Caldwell “was the glue that held us together.”

Guy Caldwell died in New Orleans in November 1981; three months shy of his 91st birthday.

Dr. Edgar Burns

Dr. Edgar Burns was one of the best-known urologists from the Gulf South region. Burns completed his undergraduate work at the University of Mississippi and attended medical school at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.

Burns came to New Orleans during the early 1920s to partner with Dr. Joseph Humes, an early pioneer in urology in the city. By the late 1930s, Burns, like the other founders, was a department chair at Tulane Medical School. Alton Ochsner and Dr. Guy Caldwell had conceived the idea of a group practice, and the two immediately talked to Dr. Francis LeJeune Sr. and Burns about their interest in joining the practice. It was Burns who suggested bringing in Dr. Curtis Tyrone, the city’s most accomplished OB/GYN specialist, as a fifth founding partner.

Burns chaired the committee that put a Clinic succession plan into place. Burns and his committee were later responsible for selecting Dr. Frank Riddick as the Clinic’s associate medical director, a decision that would stand the Clinic in good stead for many years into the future.

Dr. William Brannan, former head of the Ochsner Urology Department and a Burns hire in 1957, recalled that Burns “was well organized and ran a tight ship. He was a man of great integrity and was well respected throughout the United States.”

Throughout his career, Burns served as president of the American Board of Urology, the Clinical Society of Genitourinary Surgeons and the American Urological Society. In 1964, he was awarded the American Urological Association’s Ramon Guiteras Award. Five years later, the American Association of Genitourinary Surgeons honored him with the Keyes Gold Medal.

At six feet, four inches tall, Burns was always impeccably dressed, with his trademark bow tie. His daughter remembered him as “a wonderful, loving, concerned, all-encompassing father.”

Edgar Burns died in New Orleans of coronary disease at the age of 79 in 1973, just months shy of his announced retirement from his beloved Ochsner Clinic.

Francis E. “Duke” LeJeune Sr., MD

Francis E. “Duke” LeJeune Sr., MD, was the only Louisiana native among the five founders of Ochsner Clinic. Lejeune was born in Lafourche Parish and grew up in Thibodaux. He was the son of a sugar mill engineer. When he was 11, LeJeune moved to Puerto Rico with his family, where his father spent three years as the manager of a sugar property near San Juan.

The family returned to Thibodaux for LeJeune to attend Thibodaux College High School. He earned his Bachelor of Science at Jefferson College in Convent, Louisiana in 1914. He then spent a year in the United States Army before enrolling in the College of Engineering at Tulane. After two years, LeJeune discovered that calculus was not to his liking,, and he enrolled in Tulane Medical School.

LeJeune earned his degree from Tulane in 1920. Then, he interned at Charity Hospital in 1920and completed his residency the next year at the city’s Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital. He joined the practice of Dr. Clyde Lynch in 1922, where he was in private practice from1922–1942.

LeJeune was a respected professor of Otorhinolaryngology at Tulane in1941 when Alton Ochsner approached him about joining a group practice. Ochsner met LeJeune over a decade prior when heperformed mastoid surgery on two of Ochsner’s sons. “

LeJeune joined the new Ochsner Clinicdand his expertise in Otolaryngology quickly gave the clinic respectability in Louisiana medical circles. LeJeune and Ochsner became the best of friends, as did their wives, Anna Lynne LeJeune and Isabel Ochsner. “Dad and Alton Ochsner loved to go fishing,” said Duke LeJeune Jr. It was always a treat for us kids to go fishing with Dr. Ochsner, Dad and Mims Gage.”

LeJeune. saw his first two patients at Ochsner Clinic in January 1942. His reputation and skill were critical to laying the medical foundation of the clinic as one of the top healthcare facilities in the Gulf South region.

LeJeune was the second doctor in history to win all three ENT (ear, nose and throat) prizes, including the Casselberry, Newcomb and deRoaldes Awards. He passed away in October1977 at the age of 83.

Curtis Tyrone, MD

Curtis Tyrone, MD, was the last of the founders of Ochsner Clinic to join the organization. Dr. Edgar Burns told the other founders that he wouldn’t join the organization unless they extended an invitation to Tyrone.

Dr. Tyrone was one of the best-known OB/GYN specialists in the mid-south at the time and the youngest of the five founders. At the age of 27, he had been hired as an instructor of Clinical Obstetrics at Tulane in 1925.

A native of rural Mississippi, Tyrone grew up poor and wanted to be a history professor when he attended Mississippi College. Instead, he graduated from Tulane Medical School and interned at Touro Infirmary. Following his internship, Tyrone joined the well-established practice of Dr. Charles Jefferson Miller. When Miller died suddenly in 1936, Tyrone inherited the practice.

Tyrone’s charm and outgoing personality endeared him to his patients, who made him New Orleans’ most popular Obstetrician and Gynecologist, where word of mouth was everything.. In 1941, when Tyrone agreed to join the Clinic staff as a founder, he brought with him one of the city’s most lucrative practices.

“Dr. Tyrone used to say that the best referrals did not come from other physicians but from happy, satisfied female patients, who were members of the bridge clubs,” said Dr. George T. Schneider, who Dr. Tyrone hired at Ochsner in 1949. In the more than 40 years he practiced medicine in New Orleans, Tyrone delivered thousands of babies.

Tyrone was never as involved in medical societies as were his founder colleagues. “I’m no orator,” he would frequently say. Instead, his passion was work. Tyrone frequently worked nights, and his work ethic caused him to make many threats to pull his practice out of the Clinic. He told colleagues before his death that he never regretted being a part of the growth of the Clinic and its reputation.

One surgeon who knew Dr. Tyrone described his operation almost as a play, calling the operation “a symphony, an artistic as well as an effective performance.” Curtis Tyrone died in New Orleans in July 1982 at the age of 84.

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