Dr. John Ochsner: King of Hearts


WYES-TV tells the true story of the New Orleans surgeon who pioneered modern open heart surgery and became world famous for his innovations and expertise.

Running time: 1 hour (approx.)



The late Dr. John Lockwood Ochsner, Sr., son of medical legend Dr. Alton Ochsner, grew beyond the shadow of his father’s accomplishments by inventing surgical techniques that medical schools now teach aspiring surgeons. He began with surgery on babies who would die unless he could fix congenital defects in hearts as tiny as a walnut.

Dr. John Ochsner told an interviewer it wasn’t easy. “We didn’t have anybody to teach us. It was a brand new field. Lord knows, I had to take a lot of antacids in the early days…but we had to do them. Somebody had to start somewhere.”

In time, as technology and medications improved, Dr. Ochsner and his team were enhancing, extending and saving the lives of adults and older children. He performed the very first heart transplant in the Gulf South. He gave Lee Newell a new heart almost 33 years ago when the Mississippi man was sick and afraid he would not live see his young children grow up. “Oh, it’s a blessing for me to be here with my family and everything…I seen them go to college and everything. And they got married, got children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren.”

His beloved family, colleagues and past patients are interviewed in the hour-long documentary. Dr. Ochsner himself appears in clips from interviews done over the years by Ochsner Clinic’s Creative Media Services team.

Produced and narrated by Dennis Woltering.