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CVT’s milestone 50th Anniversary celebration

Speech by B. Eugene Berry, M.D.

Welcome to CVT’s milestone 50th Anniversary celebration!   All of you who are here have played a significant role in the success and accomplishments of CVT.  We are so pleased to be together tonight.  This time of celebration evokes many different responses inside of us:  We have great joy in being able to look back over 50 years of service.  We feel tremendous thanksgiving for being given this unique opportunity.  We are truly humbled by knowing we were placed together in this time and place to serve, and we are extremely grateful to have been allowed this time to work together.

With us tonight is Rev. Chris Andrews.  He is many things to many of us, serving as pastor, pastoral care colleague, friend, and caring and capable minister of the First Methodist Church.  We have asked him to greet us and help us further express and put into perspective our feelings at this time.

 I’d like to take this time to briefly recount CVT’s history since our founding partner, Dr. Page Acree moved to Baton Rouge and joined the East Baton Rouge Parish Medical Society on November 17, 1957. At that time Walter had just been born, Sheely was a high school freshman and I was a freshman at Tulane (Couldn’t get into LSU as I was from Mississippi).  To further put things into perspective for our younger set, we had electricity and running water but only snowy TV, and Al Gore had not yet invented the Internet!  Page was from Mullins, South Carolina, and educated at Wake Forest University and Jefferson Medical College.  After a stint as a General Practitioner in an Alabama coal-mining town, he later trained and worked at Ochsner Foundation Hospital and Tulane before moving to Baton Rouge.  He was a very capable man of vision and integrity who through his fondness of gardening and nature maintained his respect and love of life and others.  Because of his accomplishments he would later be named the Alumnus of the Year at Wake Forest.  
Medically, there were challenges galore.  For vascular grafts, Dr. Acree would have Mrs. Acree cut and sew from sheets of Vinyon-N—the newest synthetic graft material—to make straight and bifurcating tubes for arterial grafts.  The heart-lung machine, first used on humans in 1953 by Dr. John Gibbons of Philadelphia, had been improved and used by the Mayo Clinic in 1955.  Beginning heart surgery here in 1958 at the Baton Rouge General, Dr. Acree teamed up with Dr. Johnny Stotler, a cardiologist, who ran the heart-lung machine during surgery.  After Dr. Stotler’s death, his wife, Peggy (later Peggy Bradley) took over as “perfusionist” and later ran the Baton Rouge General Cath. Labs.  In order to hone their skills, Drs. Acree and Stotler would operate on dogs in the Baton Rouge General OR, brought in quietly at night as there was no other facility available for their research.

As the heart-lung machine was being developed, early patients underwent repair by hypothermia and inflow occlusion.  Patients, usually children with congenital heart disease, were put to sleep, place in chilled water and cooled down.  This would allow the body to tolerate a brief period of clamping the vessels to the heart so that quick closure of a hole in the heart--usually an atrial septal defect--could be done, if all went well.  Preventing premature fibrillation and restarting the heart were among the other challenges of this pioneering surgery.

Starting a new practice with new procedures on newly developed machines was a daunting task.  Dr. Acree opened clinics across South Louisiana, at times flying from the old airport near the present Goodwood Library. He spoke to any groups or clubs giving him an invitation, and worked in the Louisiana Heart Association, rising quickly to state President.

Pacemaker technology was also being developed during these years and allowed Dr. Acree to implant the first pacemaker in the Gulf South in 1961.  This was a harrowing experience; done through a sternotomy as no transvenous wires or techniques had yet been developed.  The patient was so unstable that Dr. Acree had to go to Jennings, La.  Multiple resuscitations due to an extremely slow pulse were required before and during the surgery.

With further improvements in the hear-lung machine and the advent of coronary artery bypass surgery, there began a rapid growth in the field in the late 1960s.  Dr. Acree was fortunate to recruit a currently trained surgeon hailing from Scranton, Pa., who was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and had trained at Ole Miss with later valve experience in Boston.  Dr. Dave Davis (Deacon Dave, as many of us know him, Rev. Andrews) came to Baton Rouge with his family in 1971.  He added state-of-the-art knowledge and skills in cardiac surgery, especially valve and coronary procedures, as well as in vascular and thoracic surgery.  His hard work and friendly demeanor combined with excellent surgical results helped CVT to grow rapidly with the increased indication for CAB and valve surgery.

I was brought aboard in 1974 and Dr. Sheely added in 1979.  We worked out of offices on North Boulevard near the present Mid-City Baton Rouge General.  Our Lady of the Lake Hospital moved from behind the state capitol to Essen Lane in 1978 and opened its open-heart program in 1980.  With further growth, Dr. Hackler joined CVT in 1984, Dr. Thurston in 1988, Dr. Rigby in 1989, and Dr. Bringaze in 1994.  As Vascular Surgery developed into a separate specialty, we added Dr. Davis in 1998, Dr. Conners in 2004 and Dr. Craven in 2006.  Dr. Benjamin has recently joined us in Cardio-thoracic surgery from the University of Pittsburgh.

Without strong hospitals we would also have had a difficult time providing the care for our area patients we have been able to give.  We have been fortunate to work closely with our hospitals, and greatly appreciate their support through the years.  I would like to recognize and thank OLOL, represented by Mr. Bob Davidge, Baton Rouge General(Mr. Bill Hollman could not be with us tonight), and Ochsner Medical Center represented by Mr. Keith Mason.  Thank you for the good years we have enjoyed together.

Recognizing the crucial role our referring doctors have played over these 50 years, we have doctors from Baton Rouge Cardiology, Louisiana Cardiology, Southeastern Cardiology and Ochsner with us tonight.  Our heartfelt thanks to each of you for your support and collegial way you work with us to help provide the best possible care to our patients. 

Our CVT family has provided the constant support and multiple skills to ensure that all the pieces come together for success.  We acknowledge that without each employee giving 100% every day, we physicians could not function as we do.  We are deeply grateful to each of you, especially for your dedication and loyalty.

I would be remiss if I didn’t take this time to personally thank my physician colleagues who have supported each other and me through the years.  They have used their surgical skills with compassion, integrity, and dedication.  It is thrilling to see how effective it has been to have partners committed to quality care and to each other.  I don’t know how one could have a better group in which to work.  I salute you for being there for me and for what each of you has brought to CVT.



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CVT Surgical Center
7777 Hennessy Ave. Suite 1008 · Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70808
800-375-0416 - Toll Free | 225-766-0416 - Front Desk
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