LOUIS GOODNO BRITT, MD
1931 – 2015
American Surgical Association member, Louis Goodno Britt, died in Memphis of progressive cardiac failure on August 22, 2015. The success of his illustrious career in surgery was rewarded by public accolades, individual achievement awards, named lectureships, and elected membership to a number of prestigious organizations. He privately confided that election to the American was the most significant, tangible validation that a surgeon had risen to a level of national prominence and that the prestige of membership in this organization is exceeded by no other.
Louis Britt was born in Akron, Ohio and his family moved to Memphis when he was five years old as a result of a job change by his father. In Memphis he attended Central High School, a public magnet school; an educational construct rarely noted in America at that time. He attended the University of Tennessee-Knoxville for undergraduate education and until his dying day was a devout, committed (even though sometimes critical), Tennessee Volunteer fan. He returned to Memphis to attend the University of Tennessee Medical School where he graduated in 1954. He completed an internship at Cook County Hospital in Chicago and later returned to Memphis to complete his surgery residency at the University of Tennessee under the direction of Chairman Harwell Wilson, MD assisted by prominent faculty, Roger Sherman, MD and James Pate, MD. Between his internship in Chicago and residency training in Memphis, he served a tour of duty in the United States Army and was stationed in Okinawa.
After completion of his residency training in Memphis he joined the faculty and rose to the position of Professor and ultimately Chairman of the Department in 1989. He remained in the position of Chair for ten years, stepping down in 1998 to an emeritus role.
Louis Britt was a true general surgeon who through his career performed complex GI, biliary, vascular, trauma, endocrine and ultimately transplant surgery. Locally and regionally recognized as a “surgeons’ surgeon” for a broad range of surgical procedures, he was nationally more recognized as a transplant surgeon. He established the transplant service in Memphis in 1970 when he performed the first kidney transplant in that city. After developing that service into a mature program, his attention turned to liver and pancreas transplantation. He established the UT transplantation and research lab and in the embryonic years of that service personally drew blood from horses and goats to produce antirejection serum. The Midsouth Transplant Foundation was initiated through his leadership and was one of the first organizations to participate in the national organ procurement network.
Dr. Britt always maintained a busy personal practice of surgery but he left an indelible imprint on the practice of surgery in Tennessee and the region through his commitment to surgical education. Thousands of University of Tennessee medical students and hundreds of surgery residents benefited from his dedication and commitment to promoting their educational and personal development. One of his favorite mantras was “the student should exceed the teacher”. Very few, if any, of those of us who were his students and colleagues would agree that occurred very often, if at all. While his persona always emanated an aura of strength and at times impervious confidence, he confided to some of his personal friends that inside he really was a “teddy bear”. A lengthy article honoring him was published in The Memphis Downtowner Magazine in 2011 which included many of Dr. Britt’s personal observations on life, family, his distinguished career and his impressions of his place in the world around him. It ended with a quote that summarized his humility and self reflection. “A sense of humor will take you a long way. I’ve got a wife and children. I play golf. I’m just a human being. I’m not some sort of god in the corner. Lots of people do a lot of things that are hard to do. I just happened to do surgery.”
He left behind his wife of fifty-eight years, Betty, along with daughters Lisa Britt Colcobaugh (John), Christy Britt Taylor (Bill), Caulder Britt Clark (Chauncey) and seven grandchildren.
R. PHILLIP BURNS, M.D.