Our Department

There are three inter-related elements to the mission of the Department of Surgery, they are: 

1)  To provide medical care to citizens of Louisiana and the surrounding regions;
2)  To provide surgical training for the next generation of physicians and surgeons who will 
     care for the citizens of Louisiana;
3)  To develop new knowledge and insights into the physiology and pathophysiology of 
    processes and illnesses relevant to surgery. 

 black/white of hospital for history section

One Hundred Thirty-Eight Years of Training Surgeons in Shreveport (1876-2014)

Surgeons have trained at LSU Health Sciences Center in Shreveport, or one of its predecessors, since the late 19th Century. In 1876, the Legislature of the State of Louisiana created the Shreveport Charity Hospital by appropriating $10,000 for a hospital whose charter was to provide care for the indigent of North Louisiana. 

The initial hospital consisted of log and frame building located at the corner of Pierre Avenue and Ford Street in downtown Shreveport. At this time, the medical staff consisted of a surgeon (T.G. Ford), an intern (W.K. Sutherlin) and an internist. Six years later, the Louisiana Legislature appropriated $20,000 to purchase a larger site for the Shreveport Charity Hospital and four acres on Texas Avenue was acquired. This is the present site of Shreveport's Municipal Government Building. Construction of the Shreveport Charity Hospital was completed in 1889 and consisted of a two-story, wood-frame building that was 215 feet by 38 feet. Dr. D.M. Clay was the surgeon and Dr. F.S. Furman was the intern. 

In 1904, a School of Nursing was established at the Shreveport Charity Hospital and it was noted that in the previous two years, 4,946 patients were treated with an overall mortality of 7.1%. Also 825 operations were performed with a mortality of 5%. At about this time, an Assistant Surgeon, a Pathologist, and a Chief of Otolaryngology, Dr. Oscar Dowling, were added to the staff. In 1919, an outpatient clinic was erected to meet the expanding medical needs of the indigent patients in the region and between 1920 and 1930, the bed capacity of the Shreveport Charity Hospital expanded from 250 to 400. A fire in the late 1920's destroyed an entire wing of the hospital; two hundred and eighteen patients were moved to safety, none were injured.  In 1925, an audit from the American College of Surgeons and the American Medical Association noted that the results at the Shreveport Charity Hospital "were second to none".

In 1930, the first cancer clinic in the State of Louisiana was planned for the Shreveport Charity Hospital and two years later the O.K. Allen Tumor Clinic opened with 961 patients treated from July 1932 to March 1934. In 1931, Dr. W.R. Matthews became the Pathologist. There were five surgical residents and twenty-five interns. By 1936, there were nine surgical residents and forty-two interns. These surgeons treated three patients with colon cancers, twelve with anorectal cancers, thirty-eight with gastric cancers and fifty-four women with carcinoma of the breast. They also cared for twenty-eight patients with gunshot wounds and seventy-three patients with knife wounds. 

Between 1940 and 1959, the Surgical Department, and the training therein, were under the direction of Drs. Joseph Heard (1940-1951) and Paul Abramson (1951-1959). In 1953, the hospital was moved to its present location on Kings Highway and because of the usage of money that remained in The Confederate Widows Fund, the hospital was renamed The Confederate Memorial Hospital.  In 1978, the hospital was transferred from the State Charity Hospital System to the Louisiana State University, and its name became Louisiana State University Medical Center Hospital.

The Louisiana State University Medical School in Shreveport was established in 1967 and Dr. Frank T. Kurzweg became the first Chairman of the Department of Surgery the following year. This signified the transition of the surgical residency from a freestanding charity hospital training program to an academic university program.  Dr. Kurzweg divided his time between developing an undergraduate surgical curriculum and an academic surgical residency. During this transition, two local surgeons with active private practices, Dr. Charles D. Knight and Dr. Charles L. Black, Sr., played a major role in the training of the surgical residents. Both had been the Chief of Surgery at the Confederate Memorial Hospital (Dr. Black, 1959-1963 and Dr. Knight, 1963-1970) and both remain very active participants in the Department of Surgery as Professors of Surgery. 


In 1977, Dr. John C. McDonald, a transplant surgeon, became the Chairman of the Department of Surgery. He oversaw a change in the mission of the Department of Surgery from the provision of surgical care to indigent patients to the development of tertiary surgical care programs in solid organ transplantation, burn surgery, pediatric surgery, trauma & critical care, surgical oncology, head & neck surgery and plastic surgery. Dr. McDonald integrated the Overton Brooks Veterans Administration Medical Center and the E.A. Conway Charity Hospital into the surgical residency at LSU in the late 1970's and early 1980's. In 1989, the Willis-Knighton Medical Center became an affiliated institution and the primary hospital for the transplantation program. Dr. McDonald expanded the faculty from two part-time surgeons to twenty-seven full time faculty surgeons.

In 2000, Dr. McDonald became Dean of the Medical School and Chancellor of the LSU Health Sciences Center in Shreveport, and Dr. Kevin M. Sittig was appointed Acting Chair of Surgery. Two years later, Dr. Richard H. Turnage became Chairman of the Department of Surgery, later renamed the John C. McDonald Chairman of Surgery. Dr. Benjamin D. Li was named Dr. Turnage's successor in 2008 and served as the John C. McDonald Chairman of Surgery until 2015.

Presently, Dr. F. Dean Griffen serves as the Acting Chairman of the Department of Surgery. The faculty consists of 30 faculty members who provide surgical care to patients in northern, central and western Louisiana, east Texas and southern Arkansas.