Surgeon Takes Second Chance

September 28, 2002

Heather Heilman

This isn't what Harold Erath's retirement was supposed to be like. A few years ago, when he and his wife started to think about what they were going to do after their children left for college, they decided that he would leave his cardiac surgery practice in Alabama and they would move back home to New Orleans. They would spend time with their extended families, do volunteer work and travel.

Instead, Erath is a new member of the faculty at Tulane University Medical School and his travel plans are on hold. His practice at Tulane focuses on coronary artery disease and valvular disease and the use of less invasive techniques. Erath was recruited by Robert Hewitt, chair of surgery, because of his experience in building a successful practice from the ground up.

"We concentrated on running a practice very efficiently and we had good results," Erath said. "Operating efficiently and managing processes well not only keeps costs down, but also leads to the best care of the patient."

That kind of approach is needed if a practice or a surgery department is to remain viable through these financially difficult times. For Erath, joining the Tulane faculty represented a second chance to have an academic career. He did his medical training at Vanderbilt University after graduating from Loyola University and spent two years doing research before finishing his residency. He considered several academic job offers, only deciding at the last minute to go into private practice.

"I was attracted to the chance to take another shot at academics," Erath said. "I'm not a true academic surgeon in that I'm not doing research. But I like the atmosphere of an academic practice, the conferences and the grand rounds and being around the students and residents."

He also sees his service to Tulane as a way of serving the city that he loves. "Tulane and New Orleans are a whole lot alike. They're like parallel concepts. They're grand, old, wonderful places," he said. "Like New Orleans, Tulane's got a great history, it's got great people, it's got a huge amount of potential. You just want to try to keep it moving forward."

Erath is one of many new faces in the surgery department. Other newcomers include Ralph L. Corsetti, whose expertise is in oncologic surgery as well as general surgery; Daniel J. Scott, who will direct the laparoscopic and minimally invasive general surgical program; Michael C. Townsend, whose expertise includes general surgery, surgical critical care, and the management of outpatient surgical facilities; Stephenie R. Long, whose practice includes general and critical care surgery; Sunil K. Geevarghese, who specializes in abdominal transplant surgery; and Christopher L. Lee, who will direct the surgical program at the Huey P. Long Hospital in Pineville, La.

Heather Heilman may be reached at

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000