The Gambit Affair         

back to MORE about Dr. Mary's Monkey


On July 17, 2007 Gambit, a weekly newspaper in New Orleans, published a cover article entitled “Missing Links,” which featured an interview with me concerning my book, Dr. Mary’s Monkey.


Click here to see Gambit’s “Missing Links” article.


On July 31, 2007 Gambit published a Letter to the Editor from Dr. Alton Ochsner’s son, John Ochsner MD.  In this letter he bitterly articulated his indignation over Gambit’s article and railed against me and my book.  Ochsner’s loyal son stridently defended his “innocent” father against what he called “false statements” and gilded his father’s lily until it shined.  In the process, Ochsner questioned Gambits journalistic practices, and launched into a round of name-calling directed at me and my research.  Within his salvo we find words like: “ludicrous, preposterous, and ridiculous.”


On August 6, 2007, I sent my response to Gambit in which I offered Gambits readers a chance to read my chapter length profile of Dr. Alton Ochsner, Sr. for themselves.


 Click here for my Letter to the Editor. 


 Click here for the Dr. O chapter of Dr. Mary’s Monkey

                        about Dr. Alton Ochsner, Sr.   


Much of the information in that chapter came from this book…

Alton Ochsner: Surgeon of the South

by John Wilds and Ira Harkey.


This is the official biography of Dr. Alton Ochsner, Sr., 1896-1981,

published by LSU Press, 1990.


As one would expect from an official biography of a famous surgeon, it chronicles his basics bio facts, his many medical accomplishments, and interviews with those who knew him professionally and socially. 


One of the authors is John Wilds a retired journalist living in New Orleans who had previously written Ochsner’s: An informal history of the South’s Largest Private Medical Facility, so this is his second book on Ochsner. 


The other author, Ira Harkey won a Pulitzer Prize as an editor and wrote The Smell of Burning Crosses.   He retired to Texas.


Beyond the predictable and copious rah-rah, we do find some surprising glimpses of editorial independence:


  • One sections documented the day Ochsner injected his grandchildren with a faulty patch of the polio vaccine from Cutter Laboratories, a tragic event which killed his grandson and gave his granddaughter polio. 


  • Another chronicles the many times he beat his children with leather belts.  To quote one son: “He beat the hell out of us.”


  • The authors caution the reader that once Ochsner got outside of his familiar medical territory, he said things that could be termed “ridiculous.” 


  • It chronicles many (though by no means all) of his contacts with high-profile political figures, celebrities, and the U.S. military.  And they discuss INCA - Information Council for the Americas - which was Alton Ochsner’s private political organization.


  • We find mention of his contacts Richard Nixon, Cordell Hull, the Lockwoods, William Frawley, Clint Murchison, Madame Chiang Kai-shek, INCA, Ed Butler, Hale Boggs, and Lee Harvey Oswald, but we find no mention of the murder of his partner, Dr. Mary Sherman.


In the final analysis this is what it is: an official biography with conspicuous omissions, but it is a good place to start to get the basics about the public side of Dr. Alton Ochsner, Sr.’s life.


Ed Haslam

August 6, 2007