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Featured Photograph: Linda Cornette receives a standing ovation as she walks to the stages to accept her award at Friday’s Opelousas General Health System Hall of Fame Gala held at Evangeline Downs Event Center. (Photograph by Freddie Herpin)

BOBBY ARDOIN
Editor/Consulting

Legendary Opelousas General Hospital Health System professionals that included a family physician, two specialists, nurse and guest representative were recognized Friday night during a fifth annual gala event held at Evangeline Downs.

Honorees at the well-attended OGH Foundation Hall of Fame and Gala event included doctors William Briley, Fred Rodosta, John Ferrazzano, nurse Willie Mae Thibodeaux and guest liaison Linda Diesi Cornette.

Briley, Thibodeaux and Ferrazzano were recognized posthumously. Rodosta and Cornette provided comments following their inductions.

All five new members were introduced by OGH president and CEO Kenneth Cochran.

Cochran described the inductees as “extraordinary people, whose skills and personalities continue to resonate and shape the success of Opelousas General Hospital.”

William Briley
Briley, whose office was heavily-decorated with LSU memorabilia, started his general practice in 1948, during an era when the Opelousas medical establishment was at best rudimentary.

In a published 1988 Daily World newspaper article, Briley recalled that when he began seeing patients, there was one general surgeon available and a single physician that dealt with eyes, ears, nose the throat examinations.

Former Opelousas police chief Howard Zerangue, Jr. recalled that Briley was a noticeably accessible physician.

“You could just walk in and (Briley) would see you,” Zerangue said.

Daughter Kim Briley remembers that her mother Arlene, OGH colleagues and her father’s patients often commented on the ability of Wiliam Briley for providing accurate diagnoses.

Dr. Kerry Thibodeaux described Briley as “an old school physician,” whose knowledge of medicine was often startling.

“(Briley) was patient and he was always worried about his patients when they were sick,” said pharmacist Ken Savoie. 

Linda Cornette
Her passion, understanding and commitment to patients and their needs is what has established Cornette as the individual that has built the OGH guest relations department into a sustainable wing of the hospital.

Cochran praised Cornette for her “passion and underlying commitment, whose smile and personality contributed to the success of OGH>”

Linda Cornette addresses the audience after receiving her award. (Photograph by Freddie Herpin.)

Her brother, Sammy Diesi, said that Cornette has the ability to “walk-in, light up a room and make everyone feel comfortable. She really cares for other people,” said Diesi.

During a video interview Cornette said she always tries to make hospital visits a comfortable experience for patients and families..

“No one wants to be in the hospital, so we do our best to make it fun,” said Cornette.

John Ferrazzano
Ferrazzano was recognized for pioneering two gynecological procedures – epidural anesthesia and laparoscopic surgery – that he helped introduce at OGH.

However those who provided testimonials Friday night remembered that Ferrazzano “became a larger than life figure,” whose impact was created with the sheer force of his personality, an aura still recognized at the hospital.

“His work ethic and bringing two cutting edge procedures and technology to Opelousas are something that (Ferrazzano) will always be remembered for,” said Cochran.

Although he wasn’t born a Louisianan, Thibodeaux said Ferrazzano became immersed into the Acadiana culture.

“(Ferrazzano) loved Louisiana, the outdoors and associating with the Cajun people,” Thibodeaux said.

Nurse Ann Rufino said Ferrazzano was also popular with the OGH staff and his personality was admired by his patients.

“The person that he was and his personality transmitted to his staff and the people who were around him,” said nurse Jeanette Bourgeois.

Frederick Rodosta
Rodosta, who retired recently, was also remembered for introducing pioneering techniques in urology at OGH.

“He (Rodosta) was someone that you could always call your friend and count on when you needed him,” added Cochran.

Rodosta became nationally recognized as a medical specialist, often engaged in medical seminars. He also became an associate professor at Tulane University.

Dr. Michael Burnell said Rodosta quickly became recognized for his tireless dedication and energy.

Rodosta also became an admirer of the Louisiana outdoors culture and loved to experience that aspect of the state with others, according to the testimonials.

Dr. Paul Sharkey said working alongside Rodosta often became intriguing. “He was one of the most interesting individuals that I ever met,” Sharkey said.

Rodosta also had an ability to keep a listener’s interest when relating a story, said Dr. Richard Harmon.

“He could take a story and make it fun. If there was one thing you never got tired of, it was his stories,” Harmon said.

Willie Mae Thibodeaux
Thibodeaux was remembered as a nurse that exhibited qualities that made normally made patients feel comfortable.

Her son, William Thibodeaux, said that his mother displayed the ability to “walk into a room and make it obvious that she had passion and love for them. Not only that, but she had passion for all people,” said William Thibodeaux.

No matter how tired his mother was following the end of her hospital work, Thibodeaux said his mother always had time for her own children, including children she adopted.

Barbara Lazard remembered that Thibodeaux served as a universal role model for her associates and those not necessarily attached to the hospital.

Lazard said that as her supervisor, Thibodeaux still had the ability to make her feel comfortable.

“She was a role model for everyone. She was someone that just had this lovely personality and she made you feel important,,” Lazard added.

Mary Knight attested to Thibodeaux’s penchant for attending to her duties with a minimum of complaints. “She just put everything she had into that job,” said Knight.

Jackie Semien, also a nurse, said that Thibodeaux possessed the ability to be helpful, despite the circumstance.

“No matter how tough the situation was, Miss Willie Mae always could find the time for you,” Semien said.

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