Graduate Research Day 

The School of Graduate Studies held their annual Graduate Student Research Day on November 3, 2017.  During this day-long event, graduate students from a variety of labs and departments presented their research either through posters, three minute talks (also known as an “elevator talk”) and ten minute talks.  Congratulations to all of the winners of this year’s event!

Poster Winners:

  • First place – Ayesha Umrigar, Department of Genetics (Mentor: Dr. Fern Tsien)
  • Second place – Kirsten Termine, Department of Genetics (Mentor: Dr. Diptasri Mandal)
  • Third place – Paul Stoulig, Department of Physiology (Mentor: Dr. Patricia Molina)

Three Minute Talk Winners:

  • First Place – Zachary Stielper, Department of Physiology (Mentors: Dr. Patricia Molina and Dr. Nicholas Gilpin)
  • Second place – Katelyn Robillard, Neuroscience Center of Excellence (Mentor: Dr. Jennifer Lentz)
  • Third place – Thomas Flanagan, Department of Pharmacology (Mentor: Dr. Charles Nichols)

Ten Minute Talk Winner:

  • Robert Fuchs, Department of Pharmacology (Mentor: Dr. Eric Lazartigues)



New AOA Inductees 

Congratulations go out to the following 24 seniors from the LSU SOM Class of 2018 who have been selected for membership into the Louisiana Beta Chapter of the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society:

  • Taylor Dickerson
  • Edward-Michael Dussom
  • Christopher Ekker
  • Megan Fitzpatrick
  • Elaine Fleming
  • Alejandro Gimenez
  • Stephanie Hampton
  • Hoang Ho-Pham
  • Kyle Hoppens
  • Mae Igi
  • Casie James
  • Mitchell John
  • Bernard Landry-Wegener
  • Matthew Migneron
  • Aimee Moran
  • Kathryn Olivier
  • Elizabeth Owers
  • Mark Rolfsen
  • Stuart Schexnayder
  • Victoria Serven
  • Gabriella Squeo
  • Garrett Whipple
  • Ian Wisecarver
  • Blake Wittenberg

The following 8 members of the LSU SOM Class of 2018 were inducted as juniors into the Louisiana Beta Chapter of the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society in April:

  • Christopher Anderson
  • Joseph Fougerousse
  • Mark Hoppens
  • Paul Kepper
  • John Miller
  • Jonas Miller
  • Laura Petrauskas
  • Chloe Renshaw

Please join us in congratulating these students for achieving this most prestigious honor!


Gold Humanism Award 

The Gold Humanism Society extended its congratulations to the following students & residents who were nominated and elected by their peers for Students of the Month for August 2017!

  • Hiba Elasaas (Class of 2020)
  • Joshua Ortega (Class of 2019)
  • Amber Jarrell (Class of 2019)
  • Erika Arceneaux (Class of 2018)
  • Catherine Chappuis (Class of 2018)
  • Residents-Dr. Monica Hajirawala (Pediatrics) & Dr. Niki Patel (Med-Peds)

Their interactions with their peers, patients, and community have been noted, and they are to be commended on being such great members of the LSUHSC community.  These students embody the GHHS pillars of Respect, Integrity, Service, and Empathy.

Congratulations again and keep on being golden!

Students Present Research at National Conference 

Two medical students presented their research at the 2017 Pediatric Medical Student Research Forum, held in Orlando, Florida.  Samantha Karlin presented her work entitled “Bardet-Biedl syndrome due to a pathogenic mutation on CEP290 and an unreported TTC8 variant.”  Jacob Grodsky presented work entitled “Utility of Electron Microscopy in Kidney Transplant Biopsies.”  Travel to the conference was supported by the Department of Pediatrics with assistance from the Office of Medical Student Research within the Office of Student Affairs. 

Medical students can receive travel support to present their research at a conference by applying through the Student Affairs Office (on the Awards and Honors section).  The department the student worked in must match the funding.  

General information and policies are available for travel: 

 The application forms are available:  

Dr. Paula Gregory (, Assistant Dean for Medical Student Research, or Melanie Brown ( can answer questions students may have about the Travel Funding program. 


New App for LSU SOM Students! 

LSU Health AppThe LSU School of Medicine Companion App was designed to help the school manage our LCME accreditation site visit.  Students are required by the LCME to be familiar with multiple policies and services (needle stick policies, student health protocols, campus assistance, ombuds reporting, work hours, mistreatment policies, professionalism policies, diversity, emergency policies, etc.)  This is more than they can possibly remember, and these things are scattered across the Health Science Center and School of Medicine websites.  Therefore, we put all of this information and more in a single app for easy access.  The app includes 6 ‘buckets’: student services, directory of important numbers, policy and procedures, curriculum, clerkship information, and SGA and student organizations.  Most information is just 2 taps away once you open the app.  We have had good feedback from students so far, and we hope that the student technology committee will suggest improvements and updates in the future.

Faculty are also encouraged to get the app and it is available for free in the app store.  Search under “School of Medicine Companion” or “LSU Health Companion”.  You will need to use your LSUHSC email address and password in order to install it on your phone.  Discussion are ongoing for the development of a similar app for SOM faculty.  Stay tuned!


Can Assays be Interesting? 

Diana Battalgia – Ph.D. Candidate (Microbiology, Immunology, and Parasitology) 

From an outsider’s perspective, the lab is a cold and boring place where things seem to focus on the most obscure of details. While a lot of science is heavily detail-oriented, it doesn’t have to be cold or boring. There are a seemingly endless number of both complex and simple assays that can be performed.

Unfortunately, research is rarely simple. Like other areas of research, vascularization appears to be straightforward; however, while vascularization is the basis of wound healing, it also plays a role in many illnesses including cancer. Therefore, drugs blocking and promoting vascularization have a big place in research and health care. Some of the assays done to illustrate vascularization are fascinating and quite imaginative.

  • CAM (Chick Chorioallantoic Membrane Assay): This assay takes a 3 day old fertilized chicken egg and uses the developing chick embryo to model neovascularization. A small window is cut into the eggshell and a drug, a gel plug, or even cancer cells can be inserted. The effects can be viewed by a camera or by histological staining.
  • Aortic Ring Assay: Using aortas harvested from mice, new vessel formation can be measured and quantified. The aorta is collected and cleaned of all branching vessels and fat before being embedded in a matrix. After a few days, the growth of new vessels can be visualized under a microscope with additional information being provided by staining.
  • Tubule Formation Assay: Endothelial cells plated in a matrix will spontaneous form tubules and organize into a three-dimensional network of vessels. With a time-lapse video, it is possible to watch the migration and replication of these cells as they form a complex honeycomb shaped system. Image J, a program that allows the quantification of visual data, is commonly used to measure the lengths of tubules and the number of nodes formed.
  • Corneal Angiogenesis Assay: The cornea is usually avascular but by cutting a pouch into the cornea and inserting a gel plug or sponge, it is possible to measure the resulting vascularization. Removing the insert and quantifying vessel permeation then measures the effects of a drug placed in the insert.
  • Zebrafish Embryo Model: Zebrafish embryos are a fast and inexpensive method to model neovascularization in vivo. This animal model can be used to screen anti-angiogenic compounds and to track the genetic expression of vessels in the developing eye. Images can be taken under a microscope.

Human biology is so carefully interwoven and complex that it’s nearly impossible to understand a single event without understanding countless others. Assays such as these take into account the complexity of a living system. Many of these assays are used in labs here at LSUHSC.

The Dual Perspective 

Katelyn Robillard, M.D./Ph.D. Student 

The M.D./Ph.D. combined degree program is designed to educate medical students interested in a career as a physician scientist. LSUHSC is one of 122 medical schools in the United States to offer this program, and typically accepts 4 to 6 students each year. Since 2003, LSUHSC has graduated 33 M.D./Ph.D.s who have matched into residency programs at Harvard, Yale, and UCLA, just to name a few. These students are often regarded as competitive applicants due to their unique training.

An M.D./Ph.D. combined degree usually takes 7 to 8 years to complete. Students begin with the first two years of medical school followed by taking the USMLE Step 1 exam, before parting ways with their classmates. M.D./Ph.D. then transition to graduate school to complete 3 to 4 years of predoctoral training; which includes working on a thesis project in a laboratory, in addition to completing additional coursework specific to their chosen area of study.

Upon completion of the Ph.D. degree, these students return to medical school to complete the final two years of clinical clerkships and board exams. M.D./Ph.D. graduates have the option to apply for Research Residency Programs, in which protected research time is fully integrated into the clinical training. Most physician scientists will become faculty members at medical schools, universities, and research institutes, spending 70% to 80% of their time conducting research; however, the combined degree allows flexibility in allocating time to research versus clinical practice.

As a fourth-year M.D./Ph.D. student, I have completed my first year of graduate school in the Neuroscience Center under the mentorship of Dr. Jennifer Lentz. While the transition from a structured medical school curriculum to the blank slate of a thesis project was daunting, I eventually learned how to coordinate my days with class lectures, neuroscience seminars, laboratory experiments, and manuscript writing.

During my first year of graduate school, I have already taken part in unique and exciting learning experiences. I have completed in-depth neuroscience coursework, written a grant application for National Institutes of Health funding, trained to perform subretinal injections at the Schepens Eye Research Institute in Boston, MA, and become familiar with the newest genetic approaches to treating neurological disease.

My thesis project focuses specifically on Acadian Usher syndrome, a genetic cause of deaf-blindness that, for me, hits close to home. Through Dr. Lentz’s annual Usher symposium and patient studies, I have been able to interact with these patients to learn more about their family histories, as well as their experiences with this devastating disease. These interactions have motivated me at the bench and have also expanded my bedside manner to include the deaf-blind population. Furthermore, I have managed to stay connected to the clinical world by coordinating health screening events, shadowing residents through the M.D./Ph.D. mentorship program, and teaching MCAT biology prep courses to aspiring medical students.

While there are certainly a few bumps in the road to becoming a physician scientist, the M.D./Ph.D. program offers many exciting opportunities for those wanting to take part in scientific breakthroughs that will impact the clinical world. According to the American Association of Medical Colleges, “The M.D./Ph.D. dual career is busy, challenging, and rewarding, and it offers opportunities to do good for many people by advancing knowledge, developing new treatments for diseases, and pushing back the boundaries of the unknown.”


Gold Humanism Award Recipients

The Gold Humanism Honor Society would like to extend its congratulations to the following students & residents who were nominated and elected by their peers for Students of the Month for June 2017!

  • Class of 2020: Muhammad Farooq & Anna Rees
  • Class of 2019: Kelsey Quarls
  • Class of 2018: Beau Landry Wegener & Brooke Town
  • Residents: Dr. Mary Beth Hulin & Dr. Brennan Watson

Their interactions with their peers, patients, and community have been noted, and we want to commend them on being such great members of the LSUHSC community. These students embody the GHHS pillars of Respect, Integrity, Service, and Empathy.

Congratulations again and keep on being golden!

Welcome Medical School Class of 2021! 

On Monday, July 31, 2017 the School of Medicine welcomed its newest students into the graduating class of 2021.  195 students started their educational journey with two days of orientation, where they met the Associate Dean of Student Affairs, Dr. Cathy Lazarus, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs, Dr. Ham Farris, and various senior classmates, who presented information on humanism, gender identity and pronoun usage, and a variety of student organizations.  Dr. Steve Nelson, Dean of the School of Medicine, led the class in the recitation of the Hippocratic Oath, officially dedicating themselves to the medical profession.

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This year’s class is composed of 103 women and 92 men.  Further, although a majority of students are residents of Louisiana, this class also contains students from twelve additional states from all over the country.  Welcome new students and we at The Pulse wish you the best of luck in your academic career!


LSU Health New Orleans Graduates New Members of Health Care Workforce

Leslie Capo
Director of Information Services, LSUHSC

Students from LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans’ six professional health schools graduated during its 143rd Commencement on Thursday, May 18, 2017 held at the University of New Orleans Lakefront Arena.

Graduates included students from LSU Health New Orleans’ schools of Allied Health Professions, Nursing, Public Health, Graduate Studies, Dentistry, and Medicine. Dr. Larry H. Hollier, LSU Health New Orleans Chancellor, presided over the ceremony.  James Williams, of the LSU Board of Supervisors, conferred the degrees. Gregory C. Feirn, Chief Executive Officer of LCMC Health, delivered the Commencement Address.

Nearly 900 students completed degree requirements this academic year. The vast majority of students – 90% – are from 44 Louisiana parishes. Women comprise 65% of the class.

“The impact of LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans’ commencement reaches far beyond our faculty, students and their loved ones,” said Dr. Larry Hollier, LSU Health New Orleans Chancellor. “It is our graduates who take care of people in Louisiana or become research scientists whose discoveries advance treatment or prevent disease and faculty members to educate and train future generations of Louisiana health care professionals.”

The 143rd Commencement brings the total number of degrees and certificates awarded by LSU Health New Orleans since its founding to 39,454.