Ochsner Abroad

Clandestine visits, a mysterious alligator purse, and a decades-kept secret: plot points for a television drama or only a few of the elements in Ochsner Journal’s recent editorial “The Secret Trip of Alton Ochsner”? While the first option seems more probable when considering content in a medical journal, if you guessed the latter, you are actually correct.

Beginning with brief biographies of two influential men, this historical vignette tells the story of the meeting of Ochsner’s founder, Dr. Alton Ochsner, and well-known Argentine president, Juan Domingo Perón. These two driven and successful men, though working in different spheres, shared a passion for people that translated to immediate respect and comradery at their two brief interactions over the course of their lives.

In January 1955, Eduardo Weiss, an Argentine politician and a patient of Dr. Ochsner, paid him a visit. Unknown to Dr. Ochsner, Weiss came as an emissary of President Perón who did not want his people to know of his health issues. Weiss presented Dr. Ochsner with a case of ill health not his own and then revealed that they had been discussing the president of Argentina who would like Dr. Ochsner to visit him for assessment and treatment. In Argentina, during what Dr. Ochsner described as a productive, friendly visit, Perón underwent a minor procedure and scheduled a visit to New Orleans a few weeks later to follow up for potential surgical treatment. Perón sent Dr. Ochsner home with an expensive alligator handbag as a gift for his wife, Isabella. World events being unstoppable, Perón never made it to New Orleans, but Dr. Ochsner was able to visit him years later in Madrid where Perón has been exiled. This meeting proved Perón in good health with Dr. Ochsner’s intervention (as well as the doctor’s heeded advice to quit smoking), undoubtedly contributing to this historic figure’s improved quality of life that enabled him to live to 78 years of age.

This intriguing story comes from Dr. John Ochsner’s recollections of his father’s story as well as Dr. Alton Ochsner’s description of the visits in his memoirs. Drs. Randrup and Ventura re-create an important event in history and point out how Ochsner has had an influence that reaches far beyond its roots in the Gulf Coast.

And for something of a more corporeal nature—perhaps medical articles focused on the head and neck—check out the other articles in the summer 2016 issue of Ochsner Journal.