The family, friends, colleagues and many patients of Dr. Walter Birdsall Jr. are mourning his sudden passing during a vacation trip to Spain last weekend.
Birdsall was a primary care and family practice physician with Ochsner Health Center in Luling and came to the area in 2009. He joined Ochsner as a physician in 1996. According to Ochsner Chief Executive Officer Austin Reeder, Birdsall oversaw 2,000 patients, the majority of which in St. Charles Parish but also numerous others from outside the area.
Reeder said the Ochsner family was in “shock and deeply saddened” by the loss of the very respected and accomplished physician.
“He was able to touch the lives of a lot of different people and provide care … he was extremely well-liked,” Reeder said. “He mentored many students and young physicians who came through his clinic at Ochsner. He really valued reaching the next generation.”
Dr. Victoria Smith, a colleague of Birdsall’s, called Birdsall a “one of a kind personality.”
“He had a down-to-earth approach and a great ability to connect with his patients,” Smith said. “He was a caring physician and very passionate about the quality of care he provided.”
Birdsall’s daughter, Lisa Birdsall Fort, said her father was with family and close to the end of their Spain trip when he passed, according to a post to her Facebook.
“Emily and I were able to travel quickly to Spain and we are satisfied that he had the best possible care,” she said in the post. “My dad had a lot of impact on the world and we recognize that many people are affected by this loss.”
She said a memorial service will be held Saturday, April 28 at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church on Camp St. in New Orleans.
Birdsall earned his medical degree at the LSU School of Medicine, and then completed an internship and residency at LSU’s Earl K. Long Medical Center specializing in family medicine. He was board certified by the American Board of Family Practice. He initially served as a physician in Lafourche Parish before transitioning into St. Charles Parish in 2009.
Fred Martinez, the longtime St. Charles Parish Hospital CEO who retired in 2015, said that people fortunate enough to come under Birdsall’s care had nothing but good things to say about him.
“He had really good bedside manner, and everyone really liked the clinical care he gave them,” Martinez said. “I don’t know anyone who didn’t. He was a really good doctor and I was really sorry to hear he passed.
“He was a really nice guy to work with. I know it’s a really big loss to the hospital.”
Martinez said one of the things that made Birdsall exceptional was his way of taking his time to explain things to patients and making them feel comfortable.
“Sometimes, physicians don’t necessarily take a lot of time with a patient. He did, he took his time and explained to people what they were facing.”