The Career section contains information on the various academic and clinical positions held by Dr. John C. McDonald. Click on each section to find more extensive information about professional societies and associations, awards and honors, research activities, transplantation contributions, and organ procurement efforts.

Graduation from the Tulane University School of Medicine in 1955 provided the first step of a nearly 55-year journey for John C. McDonald, M.D. During that first summer after graduation, he substituted for a family physician in Carthage, Texas. His internship was at the Confederate Memorial Medical Center in Shreveport, Louisiana, where he met a nursing student, Martha Dennis, who would soon become his wife. They were married on September 9, 1956, just one week before he reported to basic training at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey. Captain John C. McDonald served as a flight surgeon from 1956 to 1958.

The McDonalds then moved to Buffalo, New York, where he joined the staff of the Meyer Memorial Hospital at the State University of New York at Buffalo (SUNY Buffalo), serving his surgical residency from 1958 to 1963. When his mentor, Dr. John D. Stewart, suggested that he specialize in immunology, McDonald began the Buswell Research Fellowship in Immunology, also at SUNY Buffalo. At the same time, from 1963 to 1965, he served as an instructor in Surgery at SUNY Buffalo and as an assistant attending surgeon at Meyer Memorial Hospital. It was during this time period that McDonald performed his first kidney transplant in August 1964.

From 1965-1968, he held a number of appointments, often concurrently, at several Buffalo medical institutions. He served the State University of New York at Buffalo as head of the section of transplantation and as an assistant professor of surgery. At the Deaconess Hospital he was also head of the transplantation section, as well as an attending surgeon. At the Meyer Memorial Hospital, he was associate director of the Surgical Research Laboratory, attending surgeon, and head of their transplantation section. And finally, he served as the consultant in transplantation immunology to the Roswell Park Memorial Institute and as a consultant in chest surgery at the Masten Park Rehabilitation Center, both in Buffalo.

Click here for more information on Dr. McDonald’s research and accomplishments while in Buffalo.

The McDonalds returned to their southern roots in 1968 when John joined the faculty of his alma mater, the Tulane University School of Medicine as associate professor of surgery. In keeping with his ability to multi-task, McDonald also served Tulane as an associate professor of microbiology and immunology, director of the Surgical Research Laboratories, director of the Transplantation Laboratories, and director of the Histocompatibility Testing Laboratory. He was director of transplantation and a visiting surgeon at Charity Hospital in New Orleans while serving as a consultant surgeon for Lallie Kemp Hospital, Pineville Veterans Administration Hospital, Huey P. Long Charity Hospital, Keesler Air Force Base, Touro Infirmary, Southern Baptist Hospital, and Hotel Dieu Hospital. In 1972, he became Professor of Surgery at Tulane.

Click here for more information on Dr. McDonald’s research and accomplishments during his tenure at Tulane.

1977 marked the start of his illustrious 32-year career at the Louisiana State University Medical School (now Health Sciences Center) in Shreveport. He joined the institution as Professor and Chairman of the Department of Surgery and also served as Surgeon-in-Chief for the LSUMC Hospital. He brought along a staff of four specialists who would contribute significantly to the department of surgery. They were Dr. William M. Blackshear, Jr., Dr. I. William Browder, Dr. Michael S. Rohr, and laboratory supervisor, Louise M. Jacobbi.

McDonald immediately addressed a change in the primary mission of the department from the provision of surgical care to indigent patients to the development of tertiary surgical care programs in solid organ transplantation, burn surgery, pediatric surgery, trauma and critical care, surgical oncology, head and neck surgery, and plastic surgery. He expanded the surgery faculty from two part-time surgeons to twenty-seven full-time faculty surgeons.

The Overton Brooks Veterans Administration Medical Center and the E.A. Conway Charity Hospital were integrated into the surgical residency program at LSUMC in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In 1989, the Willis-Knighton Medical Center became an affiliated institution and the primary hospital for the transplantation program.

Despite his other accomplishments, McDonald always considered teaching to be his true calling. During his 23 years as chair of the Surgery Department, McDonald taught more than 100 medical residents in general surgery and influenced the education of more than 5000 medical students. The positive effect of his educational leadership is evidenced by the fact that all of the chief surgical residents who trained in his program were certified by the American Board of Surgery.

In 1978, in an effort to further enrich the educational experience, McDonald established the visiting professorship (see also) program that provided students and faculty with an opportunity to learn from some of the foremost medical minds in the United States. His expertise in teaching was recognized with LSUHSC-S’s Clarence H. Webb Award for Outstanding Clinical Science Instructor in both 1989 and 1997. In 2004, his accomplishments as an educator were recognized with the establishment of the John C. McDonald, M.D., Endowed Chair in Surgery. In 2005, McDonald celebrated fifty years of medical practice at a reception attended by family, friends, and colleagues. 

Always a favorite with the students, McDonald was invited by the Class of 2001 to deliver their Commencement Address, (see also) with the development of the medical center as the specified topic. His opening remarks reveal his humorous side, “I find this [being asked to speak on history] somewhat ironic, since I have always attempted to interest medical students in medical history with little success. They always tolerated it as one of my idiosyncrasies, but I confess they did so with little enthusiasm. I think the aphorism is true that one’s interest in history increases the closer one gets to becoming history. I do remind the class that we are all becoming history at the same rate of speed. Some of us only started a little earlier than others.”

Dr. McDonald was a frequent speaker at LSUHSC-S’s Family Day, where he delivered a presentation that has become legend. A similar lecture entitled “Professionalism” was presented during student orientation to each year’s incoming freshman class. 

McDonald served as chairman of the Surgery Department until November 2000, when he was appointed as the first chancellor of the LSU Health Sciences Center at Shreveport. The Shreveport Medical Center, which was established in 1965 and admitted the first class in 1969, shared a chancellor with the New Orleans Medical Center until 2000. After several years of discussion and public appeals, the Louisiana Legislature established an autonomous chancellorship at LSUHSC in Shreveport, formally acknowledging the maturation of the institution.

The LSUHSC-S medical complex has grown to become a central force in the economic growth and development of the region. In October 2001, LSUHSC-S was named “Industry of the Year” by the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce. A year later, under McDonald’s strong leadership, the institution gained statewide recognition as “The Shreveport Model”, a financially successful blend of graduate medical education, research, and tertiary healthcare sought by patients of all financial backgrounds across the state. The institution’s influence continues to grow. A 2006 economic impact study demonstrated that the LSUHSC-S was Shreveport’s largest employer with more than 5200 employees and as a result, pumped $380.6 million into the local economy. In addition the institution was recognized as “an impressive source of high quality health services, education and research.”

Confidence in McDonald’s administrative abilities encouraged the Louisiana Legislature to transfer administrative control of the E.A. Conway Medical Center in Monroe to LSUHSC-S in 2003, thereby solidifying public healthcare and medical education programs in North Louisiana. Success with Conway led to a similar transfer of the Huey P. Long Medical Center in Alexandria on July 1, 2007.

Dr. McDonald was committed to expanding access to rural patients, and to that end, he was instrumental in planning the LSUHSC-S/Rural Hospital Network initiative. This plan relies on health information technology that links rural doctors and hospitals across North Louisiana with LSU Hospital in Shreveport and its physician specialists. The Legislature approved of the concept with a $13 million appropriation in 2007, allowing for the implementation of this innovative rural network.

In yet another effort to improve rural healthcare in Louisiana, McDonald was instrumental in securing 18 additional freshman medical student slots to be filled by students from rural areas of the state. This initiative is part of the comprehensive LSUHSC-S commitment, as a state institution, to produce doctors who will remain in Louisiana and practice in underserved, rural communities.

During his tenure at LSUHSC-S, McDonald was involved in the establishment of numerous facilities and services that have dramatically improved the quality of healthcare in this region. The impressive list includes a regional burn center; an organ transplant center; a cancer treatment, education, and research center; a Level One trauma center; the Women’s and Children’s Clinic, the neurosurgery residency program, an outpatient care facility; and in 2007, the opening of the new Allied Health building.

On December 13, 2007, an e-mail message was sent to the faculty, informing them of McDonald’s decision to retire no later than January 1, 2009. In his understated way, he said, “I have been privileged to serve the LSU Health Sciences Center at Shreveport for some 31 years, but I feel that it is time to retire.”  True to his word, Dr. McDonald's retirement was effective January 1, 2009.

How fortunate that an educator, surgeon, scientist, and humanitarian such as Dr. John C. McDonald chose us — the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, Shreveport and North Louisiana —  as the focus of his lifetime of considerable accomplishments, both professional and personal.

Dr. McDonald received the Pioneer Award from The American Society of Transplantation at the American Transplant Congress in Boston on June 5, 2022. The American Society of Transplantation is dedicated to advancing the field of transplantation and improving patient care by promoting research, education, advocacy, organ donation and service to the community. Click here for the presentation of the award prepared by Drs. Osama Gaber and Gazi Zibari



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