Remembering Carl Culicchia, MD

The Culicchia Neurological family is mourning the death of its founder, revered neurosurgeon Carl Culicchia. He was 95.

In 1961, Dr. Culicchia established the medical practice that bears his name and is today one of the largest neurological and neurosurgical practices in the Gulf South.

Early on, the clinic included both neurosurgeons and medical neurologists and was the primary source of neurosurgical care for approximately a quarter of a million residents on the West Bank.

“I was convinced it was a better model,” Dr. Culicchia reminisced decades later. “Neurologists and neurosurgeons working together under the same roof would result in better medicine, a more specialized staff, more focused on the needs of the patient. Neurosurgery requires indications that need to be justified with physical findings. Having neurological specialists on staff who could offer their expertise meant better care for the patient.”  His son, neurosurgeon Frank Culicchia, joined the practice in 1989 and the clinic now includes over a dozen physicians and CNC Hearing and Balance Center.

Dr. Carl, as he was affectionately called by his many patients and friends, first learned about West Jefferson Hospital after taking a drive to the hospital for curiosity’s sake in 1960 when the area was a sleepy suburb.  He had just completed a residency at Baylor University College of Medicine and was looking for a permanent home to practice.

“I’d heard about West Jefferson, that’s when someone suggested that I go over there.  I got on the bridge – I had never been on the bridge before – and I finally found West Jefferson. I had to stop off and ask, how far is it?”

Dr. Carl told the story of walking into the hospital and looking around.  As he was leaving, an announcement blared,  “Will all the doctors in the hospital, please go to the emergency room. There’s been a terrible accident.

Dr. Carl went to the emergency room and was told a school bus had been hit by a train. The driver was unconscious.

“In those days we didn’t have angiograms. We didn’t have any diagnostic studies that we have now. You could do a cerebral angiogram by injecting dye in the artery, but in this case, the [driver] was unconscious and I had to do something.  We did what we call diagnostic burr holes, where you put small openings in the cranium to look and see if you can find something that’s surgically amenable. As I was doing this procedure, a doctor by the name of Farrel Nicholson was standing over me, watching me.  At the end of the procedure, he said to me, why don’t you join the staff?”

On weekends, Dr. Carl would bring his son, Frank, on rounds in the hospital. “Dr. Carl was a native of Brooklyn, New York, and  attended Tulane University (B.S) and Tulane Medical School, and later served as a general medical officer in the United States Air Force.

He retired from Culicchia Neurological in 1998. He was preceded in death by his beloved wife of 65 years, Margaret and his son Carl F. Culicchia, Jr., and is survived by his daughter Maria C. Ferro (Salvador); sons Frank Culicchia (Cappy), Leonard P. Culicchia (Leslie), and John J. Culicchia; sister Rosalee C. Serros (Robert); grandchildren Catherine M. Culicchia, F. Michael Culicchia, Ashley C. Cash (Todd), Carl L. Culicchia (Annie), Jennifer E. Culicchia, Matthew P. Ferro (Alison), Guy A. Ferro (Kaley), and Daniel J. Ferro; great-grandchildren Ryan Cash, Brooks Cash, Sidney Culicchia, and Luca Ferro; and daughter-in-law Rhon.  Obituary in Times Picayune