Another Rewarding Summer with our Summer Research Interns! 

Fern Tsien, Ph.D. (Department of Genetics) 

The Summer Research Internship Program provides research opportunities for medical students, undergraduates, and high school students.  The program directors, Dr. Fern Tsien and Dr. Paula Gregory (both Department of Genetics), match high school and undergraduate students with mentors in laboratories or clinics at LSU Health Sciences Center and the Stanley S. Scott Cancer Center.  The Summer Research Internship Program allows students to cultivate their interest in pursuing careers in either basic or clinical sciences. During the program, students conduct their own research project or work on part of an ongoing research project.

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Support for this program comes from the Baptist Community Ministries, Entergy Foundation, the LSUHSC School of Medicine Office of the Dean, LSUHSC Stanley S. Scott Cancer Center, National Institutes of Health (NIAAA), and the National Science Foundation (REU Program). Drs. Gregory and Tsien would like to extend their special appreciation to mentors, laboratory and administrative personnel, and poster session judges who helped make the Summer Research Internship Program a success. Their assistance with this project affords each student a chance to be part of a bigger, ongoing research project and allows them an opportunity to pursue their career goals.

Congratulations to all of the winners of the Summer Research Internship Program Poster Session!!!

Undergraduate Category 

Laura Carrasquilla
University of Alabama
Mentor: Jovanny Zabaleta, PhD
Dept. of Pediatrics and Stanley S. Scott Cancer Center
LSUHSC School of Medicine

2nd place (tie): 
Joshua Quintana
Loyola University
Mentor: Adrienne Katner, DEnv., MS
Dept. of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences
LSUHSC School of Public Health

Longsha Liu
Cornell University
Mentor: Francesca Peruzzi, PhD
Dept. of Internal Medicine and Stanley S. Scott Cancer Center
LSUHSC School of Public Health

3rd place (tie):
Anthony Nguyen
Xavier University of Louisiana
Mentor: Lisa Moreno, MD
Dept. of Medicine
LSUHSC School of Medicine

Aarshvi Patel
Tulane University
Mentor: Martin Ronis, PhD
Dept. of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
LSUHSC School of Medicine

High school Category 

Vanessa Chambers
Benjamin Franklin High School
Mentor: Ben Kelly, PhD
Dept. of Microbiology, Immunology, & Parasitology
LSUHSC School of Medicine

2nd place (tie):
Avni Shridhar
Isidore Newman High School
Mentor: Liz Simon, PhD
Dept. of Physiology
LSUHSC School of Medicine

Mariza Francis
Benjamin Franklin High School
Mentor: Patricia Molina, MD, PhD
Dept. of Physiology
LSUHSC School of Medicine

3rd place:
Hannah Guichet
Haynes Academy
Mentors: Michael Celestin, MA and Sarah Moody-Thomas, PhD
Dept. of Behavioral & Community Health Sciences
LSUHSC School of Public Health



Dr. Yves Lacassie Retires

lacassie, yves_2013-11Yves Lacassie, M.D, Professor of Pediatrics and a Clinical Geneticist at LSUHSC and Children’s Hospital of New Orleans retired in May. He was Head of the Division of Clinical Genetics, Department of Pediatrics, from November 1, 1986 to October 30, to 2017. Dr. Lacassie is board certified in Clinical Genetics and a Founding Fellow of the American College of Medical Genetics. He is an active member of several major US, European and Latin American genetic societies. He was the President of the Ibero-American Society of Human Genetics from 1998-2000.

His major interests are dysmorphology and cytogenetic disorders, the delineation of new syndromes, the nosology of genetic diseases, and the clinical use of dermatoglyphics which he has used for 50 years. While at Hopkins, he improved the Hopkins Score to make it possible to diagnose 99% of patients with Down syndrome by just examining the hands. In the 1990’s he published an international multiaxial diagnostic system which allows comparison of diagnoses established by different geneticists and centers, and also devised a classification of diagnostic problems in clinical practice.

Dr. Lacassie has published over 120 original papers and close to 20 book chapters. He has been invited to many national and international meetings and has been present and participated at all the International Congresses of Human Genetics (ICHG) since 1971 where he has been invited to give platform presentations. He follows the motto of his Alma Mater when meeting with patients, “more than physicians, human beings” and practices integral medicine centered on the patient’s welfare beyond seeking a genetic diagnosis.

Dr. Lacassie also served as a very much loved mentor to many Department of Genetics students.  As one of the faculty directing the Clinical Genetics course through the Department of Genetics, he had students shadow him in the clinic, interact with patients, and present a case for the finale of the course.  Often he would allow students to write up interesting case studies for submission to journals, resulting in many first-author publications in clinical journals for Genetics basic science students.


Precision Medicine CME Event – July 15, 2017

Judy Crabtree, Ph.D.

The LSUHSC Precision Medicine Program within the Department of Genetics is again hosting a CME event entitled “Precision Medicine: Integrating Genetics and Genomics into the Clinic.” The course will provide didactic coverage of the fundamentals of genetics, inheritance, and genetic testing with content delivered by MDs, PhDs and clinical genetic counselors (CGCs) with special emphasis on the role of genetics in disease risk and patient management. The overarching goals of the program are to provide a foundation in genetics and an understanding of precision medicine applications in the clinic and in any specialty.

The program will be held on July 15, 2017 from 8am-1pm with lunch included. The course costs $49 and is eligible for 4.25 hours of AMA PRA Category 1 credits. If an Internal Medicine physician also wishes to enroll in MOC credit, this is an additional $25. Additional repeats of this event will be scheduled quarterly, and this event is open to any physician or health care provider in the southern Louisiana area. The deadline to enroll is July 7, 2017.

To register, please visit For additional information, please contact the Course Director, Judy Crabtree at

The SCOPe of Science in Greater New Orleans

Patrick Greiffenstein, M.D.

The Greater New Orleans Science and Engineering Fair (GNOSEF) is one of the oldest high school science fairs in the nation and 2016 marked its 60th anniversary.  This past year, LSUHSC had an impressive showing with 35 LSUHSC students and faculty stepping up to serve as judges.  358 area middle and high school students presented their projects in what could be considered the “Play-offs” of scientific achievement.

Winners from each category subsequently attend the state-wide Louisiana Science and Engineering Fair held at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and this year, GNOSEF sent 64 young scientists and engineers to represent the region with hopes of bringing home the top prize in each of their categories. Ultimately, the winners at both the GNOSEF and state fair attend “The Superbowl”, the annual Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) that hosts the best and the brightest kids from around the world.

Locally each year, four area high school students and two teachers are selected by the GNOSEF for an all-expense paid trip to compete for more than $5 million in cash and prizes at the Intel ISEF, which is held in a different location each year. GNOSEF also presents a special Outstanding Sustainability Award and the recipient is automatically entered into the International Sustainable World (Energy, Engineering, & Environment) Project Olympiad (ISWEEP).  At this event, over 600 young scientists and engineers from almost 70 countries display their science projects about pressing issues of energy, engineering, and the environment.  The prize comes with a scholarship to cover expenses (excluding travel) for the worthy young scientist.

The GNOSE Fair is itself an impressive undertaking, directed by Tulane University engineers Drs. Annette Oertling and Michelle Sanchez and managed by the board members of the Greater New Orleans Science Fair, Inc.  Each year, they award more than $60,000 in cash and prizes to middle school and high school students.  For the past few years it has been held at the University of New Orleans Lakefront campus and this year the number of entrants prompted the event organizers to spread it out over four full days.

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The Fair is open to any student attending middle or high school in the Greater New Orleans four-parish-area, which includes Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, and St. Bernard Parishes, and entrants fall into two divisions: Junior Division is middle school students (6-8 grade), Senior Division is high school students (9-12 grade).

In an effort to promote participation in GNOSEF and help establish meaningful relationships between LSUHSC scientists and area students, science teachers, and schools, Dr. Patrick Greiffenstein, M.D. (Department of Surgery) formed the Scientific Community Outreach Project (SCOPe) and with the help of the LSU School of Medicine Student Government Association, they have identified LSUHSC students, graduate students, and faculty who have taken time out of their very busy schedules to get involved.

The goal of SCOPe is to identify interested scientists within LSU, define the degree of involvement they would like to commit, and then link them up with the student, teacher, or school in need of scientific mentorship.  The scientist decides if they would like to help with project ideas via email, come to a school to discuss the scientific process, work with a local teacher to develop a scientific curriculum, or directly mentor a student during the development of their project.  The nature and extent of the involvement is entirely up to the scientist.

The mission of SCOPe is to “Promote scientific inquiry, enhance the understanding of science, and expose children to the scientific process by building relationships between students and scientists.  We believe that a community that has a better understanding of science is equipped with a set of tools that extend far beyond the intended experimental application because we are a community more capable of critical analysis and intellectual discipline.  This is the basis of a true democracy.  We are not just teaching children science, we are helping them become responsible and capable citizens.”

Together with Drs. Paula Gregory and Fern Tsien of LSUHSC (see the two stories by Dr. Fern Tsien in the Top Stories section of this issue), we hope to broaden the impact of the scientific community’s presence in the Greater New Orleans area beyond the scientific community alone.

If you would like to participate in SCOPe, click on the Survey Monkey link and fill out the survey or contact Patrick Greiffenstein at for more information.

We would like to recognize the following representatives of LSUHSC who volunteered to judge at last fall’s Greater New Orleans Science and Engineering Fair.  It is the largest involvement of LSUHSC at this event ever (35 in all) and it constitutes a significant commitment in time and effort from each, whose responsibilities range from training medical and graduate students to division chiefs.  This is an impressive and admirable show of support for the community’s future scientists and for the educational health of our region as a whole. These volunteers should be publicly commended for their efforts and interest in fulfilling this essential part of our institution’s mission. Thank you!

  • Gerald Billac
  • Alexandra Caillouet
  • Rochelle Cole
  • John Cork
  • Judy Crabtree
  • Martha Cuccia
  • Steven Eastlack
  • Elia El Hajj
  • Catherine Fitzpatrick
  • Stephen Ford, Jr.
  • Mohamed Ghonim
  • John Hunt
  • Addie Imseis
  • Minghao Jin
  • Imran Mungrue
  • Anthony Naquin
  • Van Ninh
  • Henry Nuss
  • Jacobi Owens
  • Amanda Pahng
  • Abhilash Ponnath
  • Robert Rosencrans
  • Allyson Schreiber
  • Liz Simon
  • Fern Tsien
  • Tomas Vanugunas
  • Tom Wen
  • Matthew Whim
  • Donna Williams
  • Kirsten Wood
  • Xiaming Xu
  • Farshid Yazdi
  • Alice Yeh
  • Arnold Zea


LGBT Health Care Symposium – April 10, 2017

Marc M. Beuttler (L3)

Pushing the body out of bed to meet a sleepy reflection in the mirror is a morning routine most people take for granted. Yet this ritual can be daunting to those whose gender identity does not match the sex they were assigned at birth; the figure in the mirror may not be the one they inhabited in their dreams minutes before. If such a personal moment is problematic for a transgender or gender non-conforming individual, then navigating the impersonal complexities of our health care system can be perilous.

At the LGBT Health Care Symposiumthis past April, the first of its kind in LSU’s history, four experts from the fields of medicine, law, and LGBT advocacy explored the obstacles transgender and gender non-conforming individuals face while seeking respectful and effective health care. Brandy Panunti, MD, Jamie Buth, MD, Chris Otten, JD, and Sebastian Rey, director of the LGBT Community Center of New Orleans, came together to share their experiences and insight on the unique role that health care providers play in the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals.

The acronym “LGBT” represents a diverse community. The first three letters, L, G, and B stand for sexual orientations – lesbian, gay, and bisexual. T represents gender identity – the internal perception of one’s own gender. It may be said that sexual orientation describes who you go to bed with, and gender identity describes who you go to bed as. LGBT individuals exist across every race, age, ethnicity, religion, and socioeconomic status. One common thread tying this community together is a shared set of challenges in accessing quality health care services from understanding, respectful, and culturally competent providers.

If the fundamental role of health care is to increase fulfillment in life by augmenting the health – both mental and physical – of the individual, then we cannot deny that the health care system is failing our LGBT community. Men who have sex with men (MSM) account for nearly half of all people living with HIV in the United States, despite making up only two percent of the US population (CDC 2010). Forty percent of transgender people attempt suicide at some point. This number increases to sixty percent for those individuals rejected by their physician (US Transgender Survey 2015). Homosexuality was considered a textbook mental disorder until 1973, and transgender identity was listed as a disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) until 2013. As health care providers who take an oath to stand on the side of our patients at the intersection of science and society, we can and must do better.

Though they described many disparities and difficulties that LGBT people face, the panelists also shared successes, including some personal stories about the path to accepting and affirming their own gender identity or sexual orientation. They also made suggestions for how to provide better LGBT-conscious care: changing intake forms to allow for a preferred name and gender, designating gender-neutral restrooms, asking which pronoun patients prefer, and above all, not being afraid or embarrassed to ask relevant questions. These small but critical practices respect the whole person, and in turn nurture the trust that is central to a successful physician-patient relationship.

A central theme of the night was the idea that one’s anatomy and identity are independent variables; that we must provide anatomy-driven health care (e.g. prostate cancer screening in male-to-female patients); yet maintain a patient-centered view that respects the person as a whole. For many in the audience, conversations like these were entirely new and introduced an important vocabulary with which to address an often overlooked population’s health needs, identities, and preferences. The take-away was uplifting: health care services for the LGBT population are improving, but much work remains. While biases are human, the medical community must strive harder to treat patients as they present themselves, and not as we expect them to be.

Whether your patient is a transgender individual who knew early on that they were born in the wrong body, or a self-identifying girl who likes girls when all her friends at school like boys, or someone who does not conform to a binary notion of gender or sexuality, the fundamental goal remains the same: to align spirit and body. What nobler mission can health care have?

Special thanks to:

Dr. Brandy Panunti, Dr. Jamie Buth, Mr. Chris Otten, Mr. Sebastian Rey, LOCUS co-presidents Brandon Jones and Louis Monnig, Dr. Randy Roig, and especially to the LOCUS faculty liaison, Dr. Andrew Hollenbach, for making the night such a milestone success.


LSUHSC Participation at the YouthForce NOLA Career Expo

Fern Tsien, Ph.D.

The LSUHSC Schools of Medicine, Graduate Studies, Public Health, Nursing, Allied Health Professions, and Dentistry participated in the inaugural YouthForce NOLA Career Expo on March 9th at the Xavier University Convocation Center. The event, sponsored by the YouthForce NOLA, Junior Achievement of Greater New Orleans, and Greater New Orleans, Inc., was a hands-on career expo for over 2000 high school students from Orleans Parish public schools.

The goal of the Career Expo was to provide the students with information regarding high-growth careers, and the educational and training pathways to these careers. LSUHSC faculty, staff, and trainees volunteered their time to talk about their health science careers, training programs, and prerequisites for admission. LSUHSC event organizers were Dr. Fern Tsien (Director, Science Youth Initiative and Research Experiences for Undergraduates), Dr. Allison Augustus-Wallace (Co-Director, Research Experiences for Undergraduates), and Ms. Martha Cuccia (Co-Director, Science Youth Initiative).


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LSUHSC Partners with Esperanza Elementary School and Latino Community -based Organization Nuestra Voz

Fern Tsien, Ph.D.

The Science Partnership Program and the Science Youth Initiative are pleased to announce our newest partner, Esperanza Elementary School. LSUHSC faculty, staff, and trainees delivered hands-on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) presentations during the academic year, which complemented their school curriculum. Members from the community-based organization Nuestra Voz also participated in the initiative.

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On May 16th, a total of 83 fourth graders from Esperanza as well St. Peter Claver Elementary School, another Science Youth Initiative participating school, visited the LSUHSC campus for the annual Field Day. The day’s events included demonstrations of human organs, isolation of DNA from strawberries, and making models of blood components, all led by LSUHSC faculty and trainees.  Teachers were recognized for their commitment to the program and each fourth grader received a book of their choosing from a large selection of titles. Additional books were awarded to the Esperanza School library in appreciation of their new partnership with LSUHSC.

New Precision Medicine CME Class 


by Judy Crabtree, Ph.D.


The LSUHSC Precision Medicine Program within the Department of Genetics is hosting a CME event entitled “Precision Medicine: Integrating Genetics and Genomics into the Clinic”. The course, which was conceived and developed by Dr. Crabtree in conjunction with Laura Bell and Doug Grigsby in the SOM CME office, will provide didactic coverage of genetics and genetic testing, as well as breakout sessions for deeper understanding of how genetics impacts specialty care.


Content will be delivered by basic science faculty, clinical faculty and clinical genetic counselors (CGCs) with special emphasis on the impact of genetics on the analysis of disease risk and patient management. CGCs will inform learners about selecting and interpreting genetic tests, strategies for use, discussion of genetic tests with patients, and understanding direct-to-consumer genetic testing.


The overarching goals of the program are to provide a foundation in genetics and an understanding of precision medicine applications in the clinic.


The program will be held quarterly, beginning with the inaugural event on April 7, 2017, from 8am-2pm with lunch included. Breakout sessions for the April 7 event will include Oncology, Cardiology and OB/GYN. The course costs $49 and is eligible for 4.5 hours of AMA PRA Category 1 credits. A second event is scheduled for July 15, 2017, with more sessions to follow later in the year.


To register for the class, go to or contact  Course Director, Judy Crabtree, Ph.D. at for more information.

Creating Safe Zones at LSU Health New Orleans

By Gregory Casey, PhD, LMT and Jessica Landry, DNP, FNP-BC

Imagine the atrium between the Allied Health/Nursing building and the Medical Education building. Laughter erupts across from you as three young ladies joke. A young man, eyes glued to his computer, taps the keys on his laptop a few feet away from you.

“It’s too bad he’s gay. What a waste.” One of the ladies points her finger at him while the others laugh.

He rolls his eyes while returning to his studies.

You catch a glimpse in his eyes. A normal situation, yet a little “off.”

These kinds of scenarios happen every day. For the majority of the population, the interplay seems harmless; however, for some individuals, it hurts. The Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender-Queer (LGBTQ) community is a diverse population of people who embrace different norms that may be misunderstood by mainstream society. One of the best ways to handle “off” situations is through education, dialogue, and having an open mind.

For the past 43 years, the Gay Alliance has educated and trained individuals to bridge this “off” gap between the LGBTQ community and the majority of the population. One of their most successful developments is the Safe Zone program. You may have noticed this sticker on office doors and windows throughout the university:


The sticker indicates that an individual has attended a Safe Zone training program. During the training, common knowledge of the LGBTQ community is shared with participants. Understanding is increased, myths and stereotypes are replaced with truths and proper terminology, safe places are created, and dialogue is opened for those who are willing to learn and grow in this inclusive environment.

At a Safe Zone program, participants engage in a variety of activities such as vocabulary match up, creating inclusive spaces, didn’t/did activity when confronting LGBTQ bias. There are also one or more guests from the LGBTQ community that speak to the group about various challenges associated with personal and professional areas of his, her, hir, or their life. Each activity helps to expand the knowledge of the participant and an understanding of LGBTQ individuals and their diverse culture. Safe Zone training creates an inclusive learning environment. At the LSU Health Sciences Center, all students have the opportunity to engage in this cultural awareness training that can contribute to improved delivery of care and health outcomes in the patients seen in clinical practice.

According to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center and others, LGBTQ individuals have a higher incidence of suicide. This can be attributed to hostile environments that discriminate against LGBTQ individuals. The youth population is especially vulnerable. Youth LGBTQ individuals can feel abandoned by their care provider in a hostile clinic visit. For example:

“I’m a boy trapped in a girl’s body,” a 15-year-old girl tells her family medicine doctor.

She watches him shift in his chair causing an uncomfortable squeak against the leather.

“Um. You realize you are biologically a girl, right?”

She looks down and clasps her hands in a ball on her lap.

She hears his words, yet they elude her ears. He doesn’t get me.

Establishing Safe Zones in hospitals, universities, businesses, and schools create spaces for individuals to feel safe and free from judgement. They offer a place of refuge as well as a listening ear. In some cases, it may be the only non-hostile place for that person. Having an open and honest dialogue about LGBTQ issues can create a more inclusive environment. At LSU Health New Orleans, we are making it a priority.

Be on the lookout for upcoming Safe Zone training sessions this year!