Charity Hospital in New Orleans was a phenomenal hospital in which to be trained as a surgeon. From earliest remembrance Pop told me stories of his 2 years of medical and surgical training at “Big Charity” during the mid-1930’s, and I never failed to enjoy hearing his stories no matter how many times I had heard them. When I completed medical school at the University of Arkansas in Little Rock, I was certain I wanted to receive my surgical training at Charity Hospital. In those days I had the option of doing a 1 year internship first, and I chose to train that year at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. I am so thankful I did because it was in Atlanta in September, 1964 I met and began dating Cathy Young from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. We were married on August 7, 1965, the month after I began my surgical residency program in New Orleans.
As a first year resident I was paid the enormous sum of $225 per month. For those who were able to physically and financially survive that first year, the salary for the 2nd through 4th years was raised to an unheard of sum of $500 per month. Cathy and I were able to live reasonably comfortable because she was teaching in one of the Orleans Parish elementary schools, and her salary combined with mine made us feel wealthy! The salary deficiency for the residents at Charity Hospital was offset somewhat by the free room and board the hospital provided. Cathy and I did not live in the hospital because we had a very nice apartment on the west bank (Mississippi River) near her school. I used my room as an on-call room in which I could rest when I had the chance. I was on call every third night and had to spend that entire 24 hours in the hospital caring for in-patients and doing emergency surgical procedures.
The Doctor’s Dining Room was a special treat and benefit for the staff. It was located in the basement of that massive 20 story hospital and served wonderful meals 4 times daily to the 350 interns and residents. All the tables were covered with tablecloths and there were servers employed by the state of Louisiana to serve us. One of the servers especially loved by most was named Maisey, and she had worked in the dining room for more than 25 years. One knew he had arrived and had some status when Maisey could call you by your first name and remember your favorite dish and meal. With the annual turnover of doctors in such a large hospital, it was an amazing memory feat on her part.
Breakfast was a special treat because we could individually order our meal. We could special order pancakes, waffles, omelets and eggs cooked to suit our tastes. Biscuits were made and available 2 or 3 times weekly. I always looked forward to a full hot breakfast after doing emergency operations throughout the night when I was on-call.
Early one morning when 3 or 4 of us were seated together enjoying one of those delicious breakfasts, one of the doctors made a comment on how much he enjoyed the patty sausage they always prepared. A pathology resident looked over and asked him; “Have you ever looked at sausage under the microscope?” The surgeon looked back quizzically and said, “I never have nor have I even thought about it.” Another listener said he never had but would like to; which was the only encouragement the pathologist needed. “Come on, let’s go look!” Four of us left the dining room and made our way to the Pathology Department which was on the 6th floor.
The pathologist had brought a piece of the sausage from one of our plates, and he froze a tiny portion to make a slide that is known in the profession as a “frozen section.” He placed the slide under the microscope and the 4 of us took a look. There were comments like, “I had no idea what we were eating,” to “At least the high temperature killed all (or most) of these creatures.” When I looked through the scope none of the creatures I saw seemed to be moving , but a few of them appeared to be looking back at me!
It was several months before I ordered sausage with my eggs and toast at the Charity Dining Room. After carefully noting the large number of healthy-looking doctors who were enjoying sausage on a regular basis, I abandoned my anti-sausage opinion and began ordering it again. Occasionally when I eat sausage now, I think about what I saw that morning. I have learned it is best not to investigate too thoroughly the things that taste good. Since Cathy is now allergic to pork, and I’m much more concerned about fat grams, I seldom have sausage anymore. And I definitely have no desire to look at anything else I eat under a microscope!