ALTON OCHSNER, SURGEON OF THE SOUTH by John & Ira Harkey Wilds

ALTON OCHSNER, SURGEON OF THE SOUTH

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A pedestrian biography of the founder of a respected Louisiana clinic. Not all good doctors are good material for biographies. Without some dramatic straggle or discovery, some unusual place in medicine, or some particularly appealing personality, the account of the daily rounds can be tedious. Alton Ochsner was a skillful, energetic surgeon who achieved early success, apparently without much straggle or conflict. The authors recount that he performed 20,000 operations in his lifetime (sometimes as many as 14 a day), published 600 papers, trained 300 surgeons (among them Michael DeBakey), taught 3,000 medical students, was consulted by Juan Peron and Gary Cooper, among others of the rich and famous, and was one of the first to associate lung cancer with smoking. He twice married well, had several children, engaged successfully in some skirmishes with politicians and hospital administrators, was a tough teacher, an autocratic father, a daring surgeon, a hobnobber with the wealthy, an excellent fund-raiser, and adept at self-promotion. Although the authors (Wilds: a retired journalist; Harkey: a Pulitzer Prize-winning retired editor) conducted many interviews with those who knew or worked with Ochsner, and talked to him themselves, they tend to recount only the surface of his life and personality without the sort of insight and vision that would make this a vivid study of the man and his work. And although they describe many of his innovative surgical procedures in some detail, for a lay reader they lack impact. Wilds and Harkey strain to endow Ochsner and his work with sympathy, but too often they seem to be writing the kind of mechanical, in-house biography that institutions and companies frequently assign to memorialize or glorify a founder.

Pub Date: May 25th, 1990
Publisher: Louisiana State Univ. Press