History of the
Prepared by Isidore Cohn, Jr. from Memory, March 2008
When Dr. Rives retired, the students, completely on their
own, presented a review based on the then current TV show
“This Is Your Life” and they arranged to have all the
people present for the occasion. It was in the main
auditorium at 1542 in the afternoon and somehow it was a
complete surprise for Dr. Rives It must have been in 1962,
or it might have been late in 1961 when he announced his
intention to retire. In addition to the roles played by
some of the faculty, there were senior surgeons who were
contemporaries of Dr. Rives, all of whom were seated in
the front row and at the time there were pictures of that
group – my Father included. The entire event was very well
done and Dr. Rives – and Mrs. Rives - seemed most
After the show a group gathered and began to think of some
kind of permanent memorial that would be appropriate for
Dr. Rives. Most prominent in the group were Don Williams,
Claude Craighead, and Will Leon.
Don Williams was Dr. Rives first resident and was always
extremely loyal to Dr. Rives and LSU, probably
demonstrating this most effectively by organizing and
heading the surgical service in Lafayette where he had
established a successful practice. For most of his life,
he continued to run that portion of the LSU Surgical
Residency program. Drs. Craighead and Leon were two of the
former residents who were most active at Touro and both
were major factors in the development of the Department
before and after this event.
Somewhere in the discussion, the idea of a society to be
named for Dr. Rives gained favor, without any clear-cut
idea of what the society would do or how it would
function. I believe Don Williams and Claude Craighead were
the first to offer some initial financing for the project
and also offered to canvas other former residents as
charter members and as a source of funding the
organization. It should be noted that there was NO list in
the School, Charity Hospital, the Department of Surgery,
or anywhere else of former residents, so it was purely on
the basis of the memory of two or three people that a list
The legal “Articles of Incorporation” were drawn up by Mr.
Eberhard Deutsch, a patient of Dr. Rives and friend of
several of the organizers. It concludes as follows: “THUS
DONE AND PASSED at my office in the City of New Orleans,
on the day, month and year hereinabove first set forth
October 7, 1964….”
The articles follow Louisiana legal language and provide
coverage for many conditions that are unlikely to be of
concern to the Society. The key objectives are outlined as
“This corporation is organized for the following objects
and purposes and to engage in and carry out the following
activities and purposes:
a) To pay
tribute and to honor a great teacher, surgeon, and
friend, Dr. James D. Rives;
b) To promote, cultivate, foster and increase the
advancement of the knowledge, practice and teaching
c) To establish and support a visiting professorship
to be named the James D. Rives Visiting
Professorship in the Department of Surgery in the
Louisiana State University School of Medicine…”
“The first Board of Directors and Officers were named as
Donald Williams, M. D.
Lawrence Strug, M. D.*
William Ogden, II, M. D.*
William Leon, M. D.
Isidore Cohn, Jr., M D.
Claude C. Craighead, M. D.
Robert Emmett, M. D.*”
(*Larry Strug ran the Thoracic Surgery Service for many
years, was a major support for the Department, and was a
leading surgeon at Touro Infirmary. Bill Ogden was
in practice with Dr. Rives at Touro. Bob Emmett was
Chief Resident when I joined the faculty in 1952, and
built a major practice in Lake Charles)
For all practical purposes, the Chairman of the Department
served as Secretary from the beginning, and it is not
clear when the change came about.
One other legal maneuver did not seem necessary until
January 1, 1999, when an “Affiliation Agreement” was
signed with the LSU Board of Supervisors giving the
Society official standing within the University and
assuring the Board that the Society would conduct its
activities in accordance with broad University policies.
From the beginning, membership was open to all who
completed any LSU Surgical Residency program, and any
member of the Departmental faculty. Honorary membership
was offered to all Rives Visiting Professors.
The first Visiting Professorship was in 1965. It took that
long to be sure we had sufficient funds to pay for the
first year and to insure the future, to get a commitment
from a recognized prospective guest for a time that fit
both his schedule and ours. It should be remembered that
even at that time highly sought after surgical guests
spent more time in the air than on the ground – as is
still true. It was also necessary that we marshal space
for lectures, classes, and other activities and that we
could mesh times for our planned activities with school
The plan, as it evolved, was to have the Visiting
Professor – and his wife – arrive on a Wednesday in time
to conduct a student class (juniors) on Thursday morning,
tour the School and Hospital facilities in the afternoon.
On Thursday evening there was a small invitational dinner
for the guest and officers of the Rives society. On Friday
the guest would observe or participate in operations at
Charity, have lunch with senior residents; conduct a
session restricted to residents, with no staff allowed.
Friday afternoon was reserved for the Rives Lecture.
Friday evening would be devoted to a cocktail party, for
many years at the Craighead’s home, for all Rives members,
residents and spouses. This allowed residents to have a
face-to-face conversation with an “established authority”.
Saturday morning was a session at Charity with all Junior
and Senior students, followed by resident presentations of
unusual cases for discussion by the Visiting Professor.
Saturday evening was a subscription dinner for members and
spouses, with residents plus spouses at a reduced rate.
The evening ended with the presentation to the guest of
some memento of his visit.
Originally there was a purpose to the Executive Committee
dinner, which was lost this year for reasons that will
become evident shortly. The original objective was to
introduce the guest to key members of the faculty and to
give him a chance to size up the people and the
institution in which he would be involved for several
days. Lectures and visits by outstanding surgeons were
almost unknown at LSU at this time, and LSU was not well
known in the broad surgical community, particularly in
view of the long history of our other medical school. Thus
an initial, social introduction of the guest and the
faculty was an important preliminary for success of the
visit and for longevity of the plan. I believe it
continued to serve this purpose for all subsequent years
except for the two years when Larry Hollier and Pat
O’Leary made “introductions” superfluous.
There were several distinct objectives in the selection of
Visiting professors. When the Rives Society started,
almost all medical students were residents of Louisiana
(still largely true), and many may never have been outside
the state. They had rarely had any contact with teachers
other than the LSU faculty. To a lesser extent most of
this was also true for residents. Providing a contact with
a name they had seen in textbooks or in journal articles
provided an extra spark to their education, even if the
views expressed were at odds with local thoughts. Seeing
our facilities and the endless clinical opportunities at
Charity Hospital gave visitors a new appreciation of LSU,
even though they had been familiar with stories and
journal reports of Charity experiences. Hearing the
caliber of student and resident presentations gave the
guest something to remember about LSU and to spread around
the country. As a very substantial benefit to us, it
provided access for our residents to find additional
training in specific fields not covered here. In time,
exposure to outside surgical thoughts was widened to
include individuals who were here for major meetings and
would come to the school for a lecture or student class.
As more meetings came to New Orleans, these opportunities
The importance of the impression the guest would take away
from LSU was stressed to students and residents throughout
the year, not just in the interval immediately preceding
the visit. This built up interest and anticipation well in
advance of the visit; and assured optimum attendance at
all sessions and superior presentations by all. As time
went on it also gave returning former residents an
opportunity to compare the performance of the current
group with their own of previous years.
The selection of speakers was essentially a personal
choice, based upon reputation of the individual and his
recognized success as a speaker. When the choice had been
narrowed down, the usual group of staff were asked to
comment on the choice and then an invitation was issued.
Arrangements were usually made one to two years in advance
to be certain we were able to fit our schedule and his.
The 44th annual meeting just concluded marks the Rives
Society as the oldest continuing group of any type in the
Medical School. It is an important milestone that I hope
will be strengthened with each passing year. The interest
of relatively recent residents in revitalizing the Society
is an encouraging step and their efforts deserve support.
My reason for putting together this “review” is to provide
background for those who are not aware of some of the
individuals who made the organization a success, and to
explain how some of the activities came into existence. It
is by no means an attempt to plan for the future.
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