1920s - 1950s

1960 to 2005




Tulane & Charity

History of Tulane SOM

The Prospectus

The Registre

Famous Alumni


The Huey P. Long Years and Louisiana Politics

These years also set the stage for the creation of the LSU School of Medicine. In 1920 Dean Isadore Dyer died, and Charles Bass was appointed dean in 1922. Frequently Bass did not see eye to eye with the administrators of Charity hospital regarding staffing and political decisions. In 1928, Huey P. Long, the “Kingfish,” was elected governor of Louisiana. He promptly punished those who had opposed him and rewarded his patrons by politicizing the Charity Hospital administrative system. Some good did come of this, however. In 1929, Bass and renowned Tulane internist John Herr Mussner argued to Long that clinical teaching at Charity was “absolutely rotten,” and that a separate Tulane service was needed. Long approved this request, and in July 1929 500 beds at Charity were assigned specifically for the training purposes of Tulane School of Medicine.

In 1930, relations between Charity and Tulane soured. Alton Ochsner, who would later first publish the association between smoking and lung cancer with Michael DeBakey, had come to Tulane in 1927 to chair the Department of Surgery following Dr. Matas’ retirement. In a letter to another surgeon friend, Ochsner wrote, “…the outlook at Tulane as far as building up a department as concerned is absolutely hopeless. The university is dependent upon Charity Hospital, a state institution which is in the control of politics. The university is merely tolerated in the hospital and there is no cooperation at all.” Ochsner was also disturbed that Tulane had no say in appointing residents to Charity; that was accomplished solely by the hospital. A copy of this letter, under unknown circumstances, eventually found its way into the hands of Huey Long. Long promptly banned Ochsner from practicing at Charity for two years.
Two other incidents fueled the fire between the governor, Charity and Tulane. First, Long made no secret of his animosity towards Tulane, predicated on Tulane’s denial of him for a honorary doctor of laws degree he desired. Second, the superintendent of Charity, Dr. Arthur Vidrine, wished to be made chair of the otolaryngology department at Tulane School of Medicine, in spite of no formal training in ear, nose, and throat diseases. When Bass and
Ochsner refused, Vidrine likely passed on his disappointment and anger to Long.

In December 1930, a short three months after Ochsner had been dismissed from Charity, Long announced that Louisiana State University would have its own medical school that would open in 1931. He bragged that “Honest boys with good records come out of LSU and can’t get into that medical school… We’re a-going to fix that.” In 1931 the LSU School of Medicine opened its doors on the grounds of the Charity complex along Tulane Avenue. Long appointed Vidrine the new president of the school, and Vidrine promptly began to siphon off qualified Tulane professors to teach at LSU. Dean Bass characterized Vidrine as having a “brazen, defiant, dictatorial attitude.” However, this animosity at the administrative level soon subsided. Vidrine recruited the eminent New Orleans surgeon, Urban Maes, to head LSU’s Department of Surgery, and Maes agreed under the condition that Ochsner be reinstated. Huey Long was assassinated in 1935, and Vidrine subsequently lost his post as the powerful superintendent of Charity, retiring to Ville Platte, Louisiana to start a small general medicine practice.

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