Merrill Hines, the Medical Director of the Clinic at the time, had to deliver the message to Dr. Ochsner.
owed his career to Dr. Ochsner, and it was a difficult task.
waited a couple of days and then made another visit.He
reminded Dr. Ochsner that the Clinic
rules had been passed many years earlier by agreement of the founders, including himself."If you don't retire, we'll tear up the agreement," Hines
said, "but I want you to know that if that happens, I have no alternative but to resign myself."Dr. Hines
ripped the page in two.
No one was more devoted to the success of the Ochsner Clinic
than Merrill Hines
15 years as Medical Director and 10 years as President or Chairman were the most prosperous and productive years of the Clinic
presided over the transition to the second generation of Ochsner physicians as one after another of the founders and original staff retired."There were tough decisions to make," said Dr. Hines
, "I ran it with an iron hand because I felt I had to-and lots of people didn't like it.
...Merrill Odom Hines
was born in Jackson, Mississippi, on November 17, 1909.Despite his
humble upbringing in rural Mississippi, Dr. Hines
was determined to enter medical school.After graduating from Millsaps College, he
won a coveted scholarship from the Commonwealth Fund, which allowed him to enter Tulane University Medical School
, where he
studied under Alton Ochsner
and earned his
medical degree in 1936 graduating as Class President (1, p143).After an internship and surgical residency at Baroness Erlanger Hospital
in Chattanooga, Tennessee, he
returned to Mississippi to fulfil his
obligation to the Commonwealth Foundation
by practicing as staff surgeon at Tylertown Hospital
until 1944.Dr. Hines
served in General George Patton's Third Army
during World War II as a battalion surgeon during the campaigns in North Africa, Sicily, and the D-Day landing in Italy.He
contracted amebiasis with secondary pericarditis and was sent to New Orleans to recuperate in what proved to be the turning point of his
planned to rest a few months and then move to Chattanooga to practice.Instead, Dr. Hines spent a year refreshing his surgical skills as a fellow under the tutelage of Dr. Alton Ochsner at the recently formed Ochsner Clinic.
...As the Medical Director of the Ochsner Clinic, Dr. Hines presided over a major expansion of the group practice, the expansion of the Ochsner Foundation Hospital, and the consolidation of all Ochsner activities into a single campus in the early 1960s.He
initiated the expansion of both Hospital and Clinic
, and the staff doubled in size under his
watch to about 120 physicians.He
also continued to maintain an active clinical and surgical practice and was very involved in the educational programs of the Alton Ochsner Medical Foundation
.He took a major role in championing the cause of the group practice, serving as an effective spokesman on its behalf.His
efforts included a term on the Board of Trustees of the American Group Practice Association
from 1966 to 1970.Dr. Hines
also recognized the need for providing formal education in management for the physician leaders of group practices.After the creation of the American Academy of Medical Directors
was selected to serve on the advisory panel for the development of Physician in Management Courses under a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
.As a recognized medical statesman, he
was invited by President Lyndon Johnson to be present in the signing of the Medicare Amendments to the Social Security Act in 1965, and he
served as a member of the Social Security Administration's Health Insurance Benefit Advisory Committee.After proctology and colon and rectal surgery became an independent specialty in 1949, Dr. Hines was elected President of the American Proctologic Society (now the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgery) and served as the President of the American Board of Colon and Rectal Surgery (1, p145).
In 1983, Dr. Hines
was selected to be the 46th recipient of the Distinguished Service Award of the American Medical Association
.This award is one the most coveted honors bestowed on a practitioner of the healing arts (earlier recipients included Dr. Rudolph Matas, Dr. Michael DeBakey and Dr. Alton Ochsner.) After retirement, Dr. Hines continued fundraising and planning activities for the Foundation as Honorary Chairman of the Board.
After a very prolific career, Merrill Hines
died on December 16, 1999, at the age of 90.
MEDICAL DIRECTOR Return to TopDr. Hines
became involved in the management of the Clinic
in 1954 when he
was appointed Assistant Medical Director under Guy Caldwell, whom he
succeeded in 1960 (1p146).The years that Dr. Hines
led the institution were veryproductive and successful.
also demanded quality.While he
cultivated and enlarged the physician staff, he
never flinched from discharging those who did not meet his
A surgeon who had been trained in prestigious institutions and who appeared highly qualified joined the staff.He
had known the partners for years and was personally popular.In a short while he
became influential in clinic affairs.But at the same time his
performance in the operating room failed to meet the institutions' standards.
forced a showdown.He
obtained signatures from an overwhelming number of the clinic's doctors, who said they would vote to oust the surgeon from the partnership under a bylaw that provides for expulsion by three-fourths' majority.The man resigned.
"It was the most difficult decision I ever had to make, and at the same time was the most important one," Hines
said."I didn't see how we could continue in business if we allowed an unqualified surgeon to operate, no matter who he
was.When we admit a patient to our Clinic
or Hospital, we must guarantee that the patient will be in competent hands" (1, p150).
No one, including the founders, was as intensely dedicated to the Ochsner institutions as Merrill Hines
The Foundation trustees created the unique position of Honorary Chairman of the Board, allowing Dr. Hines
to continue fundraising and planning."
was tall, with an impressive presence and a strong voice.He
was not subtle.
...Dr. William Brannan, urologist and former Chairman of the Ochsner Board of Trustees, gave us some of his impressions of Dr. Merrill Hines:
was a very good, knowledgeable physician and a dedicated and capable surgeon.He
was also knowledgeable of local politics and was very close to Dr. Ochsner, Dr. Burns and the other founders-he was pretty much their spokesman.When he was the Medical Director of the Clinic, I was the first Chairman of the Board elected by the partnership.Dr. Hines
always respected my opinion and the opinions of those who came after me in that position.He
could be very blunt as well as cordial and accommodating and gave many people the impression that he
was rather domineering-he was not reticent about criticizing people.That's not all bad, but it could be irritating at times.But nobody wanted to cross him.He
could get mad, depending on the situation and what he
was being asked to do, but he
was always a loyal supporter of those who were honest, hard working and reliable.
FINAL REMARKS Return to TopMerrill Hines
spent 3 years in Tylertown, Mississippi, as a country doctor and surgeon, fulfilling his
obligation to the Commonwealth Fund.As a country doctor, he learned "what it was to bring off a difficult delivery by lamplight in a sharecropper's cabin in a cotton field" (1p145), he learned compassion, and he realized that there was more to medicine than money and fame.
These principles guided his
long career as a physician.At Ochsner, Dr. Hines
found what he
was looking for and abandoned his
plan for practicing in Chattanooga.He
told Alton Ochsner
, "Something tremendous is happening here and I want to be a part of it" (2).He
was right, and he
became a fundamental part of the success the institution enjoys today.
disagreed, "No, it hasn't been hard on me. It's been a privilege to grow with Ochsner
We believe that Merrill Hines
was "the right fellow for the job."
2. Hoffman YN, The Tall Mississippian: Merrill Odom Hines
.Jackson, MS. 1979;