DNA Day! 

Alix D’Angelo (Department of Genetics) 

Every April 25th, DNA day is celebrated to commemorate the completion of the Human Genome Project, which significantly advanced the world’s understanding of genomics. The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) organizes events and educational resources for DNA day (https://www.genome.gov/10506367/national-dna-day/) each year.  

For its 15th anniversary, LSU Health’s genetic counselor, Alix D’Angelo, put together a booth in the University Medical Center cafeteria to raise awareness of the role of genetics in common disorders. During the lunch hour, healthcare providers, staff, patients and their family members stopped by the booth to learn more about hereditary cancer and cardiovascular conditions, such as Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer syndrome, Lynch syndrome and familial hypercholesterolemia. They discussed features of these disorders, including young age of onset, and that accurate family history information is an invaluable tool in assessing an individual’s risk of a hereditary cancer or cardiovascular condition.  

For additional information or questions, you can contact Alix D’Angelo at (504) 568-2668 or adange@lsuhsc.edu. 


Youthforce NOLA Career Expo 

Jorge Peñas (Masters Student, Department of Genetics) 

On Tuesday March 20th, 2018 students and faculty from all six schools at LSUHSC came together to teach over 2,000 high school students about careers in healthcare at the Youthforce NOLA career exposition. The event took place at the University of New Orleans Lakefront Arena and was sponsored by the YouthForce NOLA, Junior Achievement of Greater New Orleans, and Greater New Orleans, Inc.   

Youthforce NOLA is an education, business, and civic collaborative that prepares New Orleans public school students for the successful pursuit of high-wage and high demand career pathways. 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 Office of Diversity and Community Engagement), Ms. Martha Cuccia (Co-Director, Science Youth Initiative), Daryl Lofaso (Director of Simulation Operations) and Gerlinda Davis (Office of Diversity & Community Engagement Outreach Coordinator).  


LSUHSC Science Partnership Field Day 

Jorge Peñas (Masters student, Department of Genetics)  

Throughout the academic school year LSUHSC faculty, staff, and trainees volunteered to teach STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) related topics to 4th graders at elementary schools within the greater New Orleans area. These events were part of the Science Youth Initiative, a program organized by Dr. Fern Tsien (Department of Genetics). On May 14th, a total of 75 fourth graders from Esperanza and St. Peter Claver Elementary Schools visited the LSUHSC campus for the annual Science Partnership Field Day. The children participated in various activities including human organ demonstrations, making models of blood components, drunk simulation goggles, and isolation of DNA from strawberries. Special guest Dr. Corey Hébert gave an inspirational talk to the kids. Lunches were provided courtesy of Dr. Larry Hollier, Chancellor for LSUHSC, and Dr. Joseph Moerschbaecher III, Vice Chancellor for LSUHSC. Teachers were recognized for their commitment to the program and each fourth grader received books and comics to take home. The Science Youth Initiative would like to thank all the volunteers who helped out throughout the year and anyone who donated to the campus wide book drive. 

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Moms In Medicine: Balancing Family With A Clinical Career 

Paula Gregory, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Genetics
Assistant Dean for Medical Student Research

Moms in Medicine

Each year, the School of Medicine Women’s Affairs Committee works with the student branch of Women in Medicine to organize an informal panel discussion about balancing a clinical career with a family.  The panel met on February 27th and included the following members:

  • Taniya De Silva, Associate Professor and Section Head of Endocrinology
  • Cathy Lazarus, Associate Dean for Student Affairs
  • Jessica Patrick, Assistant Professor, Pediatrics, NICU
  • Sarah Jolley, Assistant Professor, Pulmonary/Critical Care
  • Mae Igi, Medical Student
  • Natalia Arango, Resident, OB/GYN

The panelists are mothers of children ranging in age from in utero (Alexander Tinklenberg, born 3/23/18) to adult.  The panel represented a variety of medical specialties as well as representing various stages in their career development from students, residents, faculty, and administration. They addressed questions ranging from when is the best time in your career to start a family to what is your best “survival” trick.  Students who attended were interested in how they chose their field, who their mentors were during their training among many other questions.

Medical Students Host Art Show 

Hilary Gary and Sidra Syed (Class of 2020)  

Art Show PictureArt is work. This is a fact I had not fully realized until getting accepted into medical school. The fear of losing my creative momentum, and with it my creative identity, was prominent. Thus, meeting Sidrah during orientation—a ceramics major from Tulane who also had a strong artistic identity—was a relief and consolation that these two selves could coexist. It would just take work. So work I did; on weekends after big tests I would take nights to myself to listen to music and paint, setting aside more time specifically for working on art than I had in years. 

Every now and then I’d check in with Sidrah to see how she was managing these two halves of a whole self, and how she let one complement the other. We began to wonder how other artists were managing this dichotomy—if there were other artists here. Which led us to the idea of exploring how being involved in medicine would influence an artist’s work. We thought it would be really interesting to reach out to potential artists in the LSU network and show their work together, allowing for the discovery of commonalities in addition to differences present in each artist’s work. Upon sending out our first survey our expectations were low—we still didn’t know how many artists we’d be able to find, let alone if they’d be able to commit to making a piece of work in 4 months. When we heard back from 25 people, we were ecstatic, and when we finished with 73 pieces of art we were floored. 

“Art in Medicine” was very much a collaborative effort. We loved the idea of creating a space where medical students, residents, and faculty could showcase their artwork. Art has played such an important role in both of our lives. The fear of losing that as we progressed through our medical training was disheartening. As the work for the show was collected, we became increasingly hopeful. Each piece was spectacular in its own way and every artist had a very unique way of relating to art. One of the highlights from the show was a 32 in x 32 in mandala completed by fourth year medical student, Lily Truong. Lily spent the past year and half creating this immensely detailed and delicate mandala pattern. As you stand back and stare, it is truly a site to behold. The thought that someone created such a thing by hand is mindboggling. After some consideration, she titled the piece “ProcrastinART.” 

For many of us, the act of creating is an escape from the everyday stressor. It is something that stems from human nature that craves creativity. We all have something that allows us to express ourselves. Some people write, others sing and play music. We just happen to make art. We were able to share to this part of us with a great deal of people Saturday night who perhaps like Hillary and I were just looking for some inspiration. 


LGBT Group Hosts Second Annual Healthcare Symposium 

Ayesha Umrigar, Co-President of LOCUS 

LGBT Healthcare Symposium PicOn April 25th and 26th, LGBTQ + Allies Organization for the Cultural Understanding in the Sciences (LOCUS) and the South Central AIDS Education and Training Center (SCAETC) hosted the second annual LGBT Healthcare Symposium.  

This two-day symposium focused on current issues affecting LGBT individuals living with HIV/AIDS. Panelists included Christine Brennan, Project Director of SCAETC at LSU Health Sciences Center; Terry Mayers, a mental healthcare provider serving the New Orleans LGBT community; Robert Suttle, the Assistant Director of the SERO Project; and Bruce Hinton, a CrescentCare provider with a focus on expanding PrEP services and HIV/HCV treatment. The panelists covered a wide range of topics, including accessibility and effectiveness of PrEP, mental health challenges faced by the LGBT community and individuals living with HIV, and criminalization of HIV+ individuals.  

The second day consisted of a training session on criminalization and stigmatization of individuals living with HIV provided by Robert Suttle. This session discussed the impact of HIV-specific legislation on the lives of people living with HIV, and featured several personal testimonies of people who were negatively impacted by these laws. Lecture slides for this training and visual recording of both sessions will be made available at a later date to those who were unable to attend. 

We are very grateful for the all the panelists who were able to lead insightful discussions and provide insight on the challenges faced by people living with HIV. 

Gold Humanism Honor Society – Humanism in Medicine Essay Contest Winner 

Lucie Calderon The class of 2018 Gold Humanism Honor Society is proud to announce this year’s winner of the Humanism in Medicine Essay contest, Ms. Lucie Calderon of the Class of 2019.

Editor’s Note: I had the privilege and honor of hearing Lucie read her winning essay at the White Coat Ceremony on April 21st.  It truly is an amazing piece, not only representative of her humanism, but also of her writing ability.  I was moved nearly to tears, as were many people in the audience, by her words.  With Lucie’s permission, I have included her essay below.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. (Andrew D. Hollenbach, Ph.D., Head Editor, The Pulse)

 “It’s not what you look at that matters, but what you see.” Henry David Thoreau

It’s the day after Valentine’s Day. Yesterday, the unit was alive with nurses ushering heart-shaped candies and Disney cards into the hands of the patients on floor 4 West. Today, the halls are strung with remnants of red ribbon that wrap from patient room to patient room, a stinging reminder of yet another of their many holidays spent at the oncology unit at Children’s Hospital.

My patient Emily is cheerful, chewing on bits of a strawberry snowball spoon-fed by her mother, her red-stained mouth relearning the motions of how to eat– crunch, release, crunch, swallow. Emily is trapped beneath a mound of twisted blankets that reaches up to her neck and IVs that stretch across her bed, but she is beautiful, even without her hair, and her slanted palpebral fissures contouring her bright blue-speckled eyes grace her with an essence of youth and innocence.

“How are you feeling today, Ms. Emily?” I ask. Her eyes travel slowly to meet my gaze, but her head stays fixed in position as she opens her mouth for another spoonful of snowball.

“She’s feeling better today,” her mother interjects as she delicately wipes the ice spilling from Emily’s lips. “She’s really loving this strawberry snowball. It’s the closest thing to real food that she’s had in two weeks, and let me tell you, she was really heartbroken that she couldn’t eat her Valentine’s candy yesterday.” Her glance turns towards Emily’s bedside table, and sure enough, there was a small village of pink and white M&Ms and red-striped Hershey’s kisses, untouched. “She’ll be saving those for later,” her mother smiles.

We dive into our morning routine of questions. How many episodes of diarrhea this morning? Any blood in her stool? Any nausea or vomiting? Was she able to eat anything last night? Her mother has her answers down to a science after 15 days of this hospital stay for compounding problems following a bout of viral gastroenteritis, a 1 year diagnosis of acute lymphoblastic lymphoma, and a lifetime of hospital visits associated with having Trisomy 21.

We are mid-question when our interview is interrupted by three sheepish knocks. The door cracks open, and a single balloon creeps its way into the room. It’s followed by a second balloon and then another, and another, and another, and another, until finally the door is pushed ajar by an impressive bundle of heart-shaped balloons swelling with messages of love and well-wishes. At the base of the balloons was a small boy who gripped gingerly at the silver ties, followed by two adults I presumed to be his parents.

The boy skipped towards the center of the room, and without a moment’s hesitation, he began wrapping a balloon at the foot of Emily’s bed, chanting “Happy Belated Valentine’s Day!” as his parents waved, echoing their son’s wishes from the doorway. Emily beamed, her eyes fixated at the giant heart that danced happily with the beat of the air conditioning, and the boy and his parents disappeared with the bundle of balloons as quickly as they came.

The door closed. “Do you know them?” I asked.

“They look familiar… but no, I don’t think so,” Emily’s mother replied as she stroked her daughter’s scant tufts of remaining hair.

We finished our round of questions, and I placed my stethoscope into my white coat. Emily was still staring enchantingly at her balloon when I left the room.




Later that morning, I am rounding with my team outside a patient’s room. My classmate is presenting one of the floor favorites, a bright-spirited boy with suspected avascular necrosis and a devout passion for Paw Patrol.

“Excuse me!” a voice interrupts. I look down to see the same boy with his two parents, his fingers wrapped around what had dwindled down to two balloons, which were still bumping and twisting with his happy stride. Our team parted down the middle to allow the boy and his balloons through, and his parents followed along, stopping at the front of the pack to greet Dr. Varaux, our oncology attending.

“Anne! Mark!” Dr. Varaux exclaimed as she wrapped each of the parents in a full, warm embrace. “So wonderful to see you two. Looks like James is doing well?” she laughed as she watched him skip down the hall with his balloons.

“Ah yes, as energetic as ever!” Anne replied. “He has two more balloons to deliver, and then we’re joining my brother for dinner tonight. He’s making gumbo for us,” she said, a hint of solemnity ending her sentence.

Dr. Varaux’s eyes smiled sadly in response. She wished them farewell and returned her attention to my classmate, who had since resumed her patient presentation. My mind slipped away as I watched James pop into two more rooms, delivering the last of his Valentine’s balloons each with a rehearsed, “Happy Belated Valentine’s Day!” When he walked out of the last room, his mother bent down to plant a kiss on his forehead, and the three of them walked out of the hospital wing, empty-handed.

When we finished rounding later that afternoon, I lingered back.

“Dr. Varaux, who were those people with the balloons? Are they hospital volunteers?”

Dr. Varaux put down her pen and slipped her glasses into her coat pocket. “The Geralds? Oh no, no, they’re not volunteers. Their son was a patient of mine 4 years ago. He died on Valentine’s Day, so his parents and his younger brother come by the oncology unit every year and deliver balloons to the patients on the floor. It’s a tough day for them, but I suspect it brings them great joy to see a smile break on the children’s faces. Andy was such a happy kid… He loved balloons.” Dr. Varaux paused for a moment longer, and then she put her glasses back on and returned to writing her notes.

My heart dropped. Another moment of silence weighed heavily in the air.

I must have looked devastated because my attending lifted her gaze and smiled at me. “You can choose to relive the sad parts of the job, or you can see all the happiness you bring these families, all the extra time you afford them… all the kids that DO get better and can leave this hospital cancer-free. It’s a matter of perspective, I suppose. I don’t think there’s a more rewarding job in the world.” She looked at me a little while longer. “Now, don’t you have progress notes to write? We’ve got our hands full with patients to help!”

And so I walked away to write my notes, a balloon of perspective lifting my step.

Dr. Perry Rigby, Former LSU Health Chancellor, Passes Away At 85 

Leslie Capo, Director of Information Services


Following a brief illness, Perry Gardner Rigby, MD, who led LSU Medical Centers New Orleans and Shreveport campuses as Chancellor from 1985-94, passed away peacefully at his home on Thursday, May 10, 2018, at the age of 85.

During his tenure as Chancellor, the Shreveport campus was under the administration of LSU Medical Center, now LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans.

After stepping down as Chancellor, Dr. Rigby served as Director of Health Care Systems and Professor of Medicine at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine. He taught and mentored students, residents and fellows until his death.

He was also Chairman of the State of Louisiana’s Medical Education Commission and was considered to be a national expert in medical education, graduate medical education, physician demand and supply, and academic health centers, during the turbulence of health care reform and beyond.

During his tenure at LSU Health, Dr. Rigby filled a number of other leadership roles. In New Orleans, he was an associate director, as well as a director of the Hematology/Oncology Fellowship Program. In Shreveport, he was an associate dean, acting dean and then Dean of the School of Medicine, as well as Chairman of the Clinical Board. During his time in Shreveport, he also chaired the Dean’s Committee for the VA Hospital.

But perhaps the legacy closest to his heart will be the students, residents and fellows whom he taught and mentored as they carry on in his footsteps and some, in turn, will help shape future generations of highly qualified and caring physicians.

A native of East Liverpool, Ohio, Dr. Rigby served as Dean of University of Nebraska’s School of Medicine before being recruited to LSU School of Medicine in Shreveport.

He received his undergraduate degree, Summa Cum Laude, at Mount Union College in 1953 and MD at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in 1957. He completed his Internal Medicine Residency at the University of Virginia and Fellowship in Hematology at Boston University. He was selected as a Markle Foundation Scholar in Academic Medicine (1966) leading to, among other things, consulting for the World Health Organization in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Dr. Rigby was also a veteran of the armed forces, first serving in the US Army Reserve and then on active duty as a US Army Captain and Chief of the Department of Hematology at the William Beaumont General Hospital in El Paso, Texas.

In 1976, Dr. Rigby received an honorary DSc from the University of Mount Union. He has received numerous other awards throughout his career including a Mentor of the Year Award by The Southern Society for Clinical Investigation in 2017. Also in 2017, Marquis Who’s Who, the world’s premier publisher of biographical profiles, presented Dr. Rigby with the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award. He was also honored as a Laureate by the American College of Physicians in 2015, and received a Silver Anniversary Leadership Award granted by the College of Allied Health Professions at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in 1997. In 1987, Dr. Rigby received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Case Western Reserve University.

Dr. Rigby was a diplomat of the American Board of Internal Medicine, a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, a longstanding member of the American Federation of Clinical Research, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine and a member of the American Medical Association for the Advancement of Science and the Southern Society of Clinical Investigation. He was inducted into Sigma Xi and Alpha Omega Alpha.  He authored and co-authored nearly 200 articles and abstracts.

An avid tennis player, Perry Rigby was also civically active.

He is survived by his wife, Barbara Commander Rigby; three sons, Peter and Matthew Rigby, both of Richmond, Va., and Thomas Rigby of Alexandria, Va.; a daughter, Martha Rigby Nelson of Middletown, Iowa; and 10 grandchildren.


Aesculapian Report

Daniel McBride (SOM Class of 2020)  

Faculty, students, and administrators gathered March 26 in the Gallery Room at Tomas Bistro for the Aesculapian Society’s Excellence in Teaching Awards Banquet. Each year, outstanding faculty in the clinical and basic sciences are honored at the event.  (See below for this year’s recipients.)  

Though the banquet’s recognition of outstanding faculty has become an important facet of the society’s operations, it is not the organization’s primary purpose. Founded in 1963, the Aesculapian Society is a student organization that provides a formal mechanism for student feedback about the curriculum to enhance the educational, medical, and scientific standards of the School of Medicine. 

Throughout the academic year, students are sent surveys about their recently completed classes or clinical rotations. Aesculapian Society members, who analyze the resulting data, compose the surveys. The data are compiled into reports and presented by Aesculapian members during meetings of the Course Evaluation Committee held each spring and fall. 

These data are used to fulfill requirements of the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), the accrediting body for U.S. medical schools. For accreditation, medical schools must comply with 12 standards and 93 supporting elements—four standards and 31 supporting elements are curriculum oriented. 

“Many of the LCME requirements we monitor directly via questions on the Aesculapian survey,” said Dr. Richard DiCarlo, Senior Associate Dean for Faculty and Institutional Affairs. 

Just as the Aesculapians aim to continuously improve the medical education curriculum, so too must the society constantly work to improve itself. Recent years have seen the transition from paper to electronic surveys, decreasing the number of survey question to improve response rates, and the initiation of mid-course feedback to course directors. 

This mid-course feedback began under the direction of Dr. Robin English, Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Medical Education, as a way to monitor major changes to the second-year curriculum. Beginning with the Class of 2019, second-year students at the School of Medicine now learn a systems-based curriculum. During the past two years, designated course representatives from the society have met weekly or bimonthly with course directors to discuss their classmates’ kudos and concerns submitted via electronic comment box. 

These regular meetings have helped to foster a relationship between Aesculapian members and the faculty, English said. Because of their utility in quickly identifying and resolving problems, these more regular meetings are now being explored for use during the first- and third-year curricula as well. 

The reports produced by the Aesculapian Society have been responsible for “major changes” to the courses, according to Dr. Michael Levitzky, Chair of the Course Evaluation Committee. Levitzky, director of the medical school’s basic science curriculum, has reviewed the society’s work since he joined the committee in 1979. 

“It gives a formality to student course reviews, and that can be very helpful,” Levitzky said. “It’s a very valuable resource.”
But the society provides more than a framework for improving the medical school’s curriculum. It also serves as a powerful experience to its members. According to Aesculapian Society President Paul Kepper, class of 2018, his work with the society has changed his career goals. 

“My involvement as a liaison between the students and faculty provided unique insight into the development and maintenance of medical curricula,” Kepper wrote in an email. “I hope to remain in academic medicine as a result and plan to remain involved in teaching medical students and residents throughout my career.” 

  Faculty Member  Department 
L1 Fall Semester  Dr. William Swartz  Cell Biology and Anatomy 
L1 Spring Semester  Dr. Patricia Molina  Physiology 
L2 Fall Semester  Dr. Joy Sturtevant  Microbiology, Immunology and Parisitology 
L2 Spring Semester  Dr. Taniya De Silva  Internal Medicine – Endocrinology 
L3 Intern  Dr. Antoinette Laurel  Psychiatry 
L3 Resident/Fellow  Dr. Courtney Cox  Pediatrics 
L3 Staff  Dr. Chelsey Sandlin  Pediatrics 
L4 Intern  Dr. Christopher Brown  Surgery 
L4 Resident/Fellow  Dr. Alykhan Lalani  Vascular Surgery 
L4 Staff  Dr. Randy Roig  PM&R 
Junior Faculty  Dr. Shane Sanne  Internal Medicine 
Department    Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 


Second Annual LGBT Health Care Symposium

Andrew D. Hollenbach, Ph.D.
Department of Genetics 

Primary Faculty Advisor

On April 25 – 26, 2018 LSUHSC will be hosting the second annual LGBT Health Care Symposium.  Last year’s event was attended by nearly 150 people comprised of members of the health sciences center who were joined by nearly 80 members of the community.  The previous symposium discussed transgender health and was led by a panel of four individuals who are transgender and/or interact with transgender people in the community or through their health care practice. 

In addition to educating the audience on many important topics related to transgender health, the event facilitated the formation of important relationships between LSUHSC and LGBT community groups such as NO/AIDS task force, CrescentCare, and New Orleans Advocates for GLBT Elders (NOAGE).   

For this year’s event, LGBT+Allies Organization for the Cultural Understanding in the Health Sciences (LOCUS) will partner with the South Central AIDS Education and Training Center Program (AETC South Centeral) in the LSU School of Public Health to provide an expanded, two day LGBT health care symposium. 

Day one of the event will consist of a panel of four professionals discussing and answering questions from the audience related to Current Issues Surrounding the Physical and Mental Health Care of People Living with HIV/AIDS in the LGBT Community.  The panelists for this year’s symposium will include Dr. Christine Brennan, Ph.D., of the School of Public Health and Project Director for AETC at LSUHSC; Terry Mayers, LCSW, a mental health care provider serving the New Orleans LGBT+ community; Robert Suttle, Assistant Director of SERO, an organization focused on ending the inappropriate prosecution of people living with HIV; and Bruce Hinton, P.A., who works at CrescentCare and focuses on the expansion of PreExposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) services and management and treatment of HIV infection.  Day one is free and open to the public with no registration required. 

Day two of the event will be a training event entitled HIV Criminalization in Louisiana, and will be run by Robert Suttle of the SERO Project.  Day two is free and open to the public with registration for the event at the following website: 


We hope that you will join us for what we hope to be an informative and education event with vibrant discussion.  Light refreshments will be provided.