Dr. John Ochsner: King of Hearts

Premiered Wednesday, May 15, 2019 on WYES-TV


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 in a new documentary, DR. JOHN OCHSNER: KING OF HEARTS.

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.”

Produced and narrated by Dennis Woltering, the documentary also tells how Dr. Ochsner was more than a big fan of Mardi Gras. Like his father in 1948, Ochsner was Rex, King of Carnival, in 1990.

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.

Program Made Possible By:

A DVD of the program can be purchased by calling 504-840-4883 or click here.


-Courtney Crosby Alford, Daughter of Heart Patient of Dr. John Ochsner, Sr.

-Rayne Carradine, Former Heart Patient of Dr. John Ochsner, Sr.

-John Charbonnet, Former Captain of Rex

-Harry Crosby, Former Heart Patient of Dr. John Ochsner, Sr.

-Susan Crosby, Wife of Heart Patient of Dr. John Ochsner, Sr.

-Anne Charbonnet Goliwas, Former Queen of Carnival

-Marjory Harper, Director of Development for Philanthropy, Ochsner Health System

-Isabel “Sis” Mann, Sister of Dr. John Ochsner, Sr.

-Dr. P. Michael McFadden, Professor of Clinical Cardiothoracic Surgery, Keck School of Medicine of USC

-Donna Newell, Wife of Heart Transplant Patient

-Lee Newell, Heart Transplant Patient

-Leola Newell, Mother of Heart Transplant Patient

-Brooke Ochsner, Granddaughter of Dr. John Ochsner, Sr.

-Dr. J. Lockwood Ochsner, Jr., Son of Dr. John Ochsner, Sr.

-Lori Ochsner, Daughter-In-Law of Dr. John Ochsner, Sr.

-Mary Lou Ochsner, Widow of Dr. John Ochsner, Sr.

-Dr. Patrick E. Parrino, Chief of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, Ochsner Health System

-Professor Jan Pirk, MD, Director, Cardiac Centre, Institute for Clinical & Experimental Medicine, Prague, Czech Republic

-Christine Templet, Granddaughter of Heart Transplant Patient

-Warner Thomas, President & CEO, Ochsner Health System

-Dr. Hector Ventura, Head of Cardiomyopathy and Heart Transplantation, Ochsner Medical Center — New Orleans

-Jeff Zapata, Former Heart Patient of Dr. John Ochsner, Sr.