World-Renowned Bariatric Surgeon Joins Pennington Biomedical to Head New Bariatric/Metabolic Surgery Program

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Public-Private Partnership Creates Infrastructure for Next Steps to Improving Care for Patients with Obesity
Released: Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Baton Rouge, Louisiana — Louisiana is poised to transform the understanding and treatment of obesity, leveraging its 30 years of leadership in the field by recruiting one of the world’s leading bariatric surgeons to establish a new Bariatric/Metabolic Surgery program. LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, Louisiana Economic Development (LED), LSU Health New Orleans and the Office of the Governor of Louisiana joined forces to establish this new program, which will include an outpatient center on Pennington Biomedical’s Baton Rouge campus, in 2020.

Dr. Phil Schauer, Professor of Surgery at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine, and Director of the Cleveland Clinic Bariatric and Metabolic Institute (BMI), has been named Director of the program. Dr. Schauer is renowned for being the first surgeon to perform laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery (1997). He has since performed more than 8,000 operations for severe obesity and handles many of the most difficult bariatric surgery cases in the world. Besides authoring more than 350 peer-reviewed scientific papers, he is one of the three most-cited authors in bariatric surgery literature. He led the STAMPEDE trial, which found that bariatric surgery could reverse Type 2 diabetes in up to 80 percent of patients. These findings have changed the guidelines for treating diabetes around the world.

"The recruitment of Dr. Schauer represents a new day for obesity research at Pennington Biomedical, and indeed for Baton Rouge and the State," Pennington Biomedical Executive Director John Kirwan said. "We now have a unique opportunity to establish Pennington Biomedical as THE research institution in the world for metabolic surgery, and the opportunity to bring bariatric clinical research trials to the people of Louisiana."

"We are thankful to all of our partners – the state of Louisiana, Our Lady of the Lake, LSU Health New Orleans and Pennington Biomedical Research Foundation – for partnering with us on this initiative," Dr. Kirwan said. "Through their support and Pennington Biomedical’s reputation as a global leader in obesity and nutrition research, we outcompeted several large academic health centers around the country and successfully recruited Dr. Schauer and his team to Louisiana."

Obesity has a significant impact on the health of Louisianans, with almost $13 billion per year in recurring health care costs and lost productivity in the state. The importance of the bariatric and metabolic surgery center will be reflected by its economic return to the state through research grant revenue, destination medical care, new surgical procedures, reduced health care burdens, and technology development — all of which LSU economists estimate will contribute more than $100 million in economic return to the state within four years after the center is established.

"This project at Pennington Biomedical and Our Lady of the Lake will deliver great value to Louisiana by combining clinical research, advanced surgery and economic development to produce better health for our people," Gov. John Bel Edwards said. "Currently, obesity affects over 1.6 million individuals in Louisiana, and this project's most significant contribution will be to improve the health of individuals while reducing the collective health care burden on our state. We're excited to welcome Dr. Phil Schauer and his program, which will further advance Pennington Biomedical's profile as a global research leader in human health."

Pennington Biomedical’s research has shown that bariatric surgery is an effective intervention to achieve weight loss and improve health outcomes. Surgery patients have an average weight loss at one year after treatment of greater than 100 pounds.

The Pennington Biomedical HeadsUp study with the Louisiana State Office of Group Benefits showed that severely obese adults in Louisiana who received bariatric surgery experienced a nearly 60 percent reduction in medical and pharmacy costs over three years after surgery compared to those who did not receive the surgery. Recent statistics indicate that the average employer loses $1,685 per employee per year in health care costs and lost productivity due to obesity and diabetes.

The financial implications of medical tourism for the state from the new Bariatric/Metabolic Surgery program are profound. According to the American Journal of Medicine, the number of U.S. medical tourists and the number of medical tourists in the world is expected to increase by 25 percent per year, from the current estimates of $45 billion to $72 billion.

Funding for the Bariatric/Metabolic Surgery program ramp-up will come from a public-private partnership including Pennington Biomedical, Pennington Biomedical Research Foundation, Our Lady of the Lake in Baton Rouge, LSU Health New Orleans, Louisiana Economic Development (LED) and the Office of the Governor of Louisiana. Revenue dollars are expected to flow into the state’s economy from several sources as a result, including National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant dollars that will follow Dr. Schauer’s program to Pennington Biomedical.

Dr. Schauer said the opportunity to be part of a world-renowned hub for obesity-related research drew him to Pennington Biomedical.

The new state-of-the-art metabolic disease treatment facility will complement Pennington Biomedical’s existing and highly impactful basic science and clinical research, Dr. Schauer said. The facility will also bring cutting-edge treatments for obesity and diabetes to Louisiana, which has the United States’ fourth-highest rate of obesity and diabetes.

"By integrating expert psychologists, dietitians, exercise physiologists, endocrinologists, obesity medicine specialists and surgeons under one roof we will create a unique integrated care model for managing two of the most deadly diseases of our time, obesity and diabetes," Dr. Schauer said.

It is also expected that Dr. Schauer, together with two additional academic surgeons and four clinician/scientists, will create research labs that will expand the Baton Rouge workforce in the research sector by creating 55 direct professional, highly skilled, biomedical science-based jobs that will add millions to the local economy.

"An essential part of LSU’s collective mission is bringing the nation’s best talent right here to Louisiana, and that is what we have done today through the efforts of Pennington Biomedical," LSU President F. King Alexander said. "It is impossible to overestimate the importance of attracting a researcher and surgeon of Dr. Schauer’s caliber. Wins like this have a ripple effect, sending the message that LSU and Louisiana believe strongly in the power of research and are willing to invest in it."

Our Lady of the Lake will renovate an existing inpatient area on its campus to accommodate the surgical procedures accompanying the new project, which is expected to more than triple the annual number of bariatric surgeries at the hospital. The outpatient center will be located on the Pennington Biomedical campus. Our Lady of the Lake will also hire new support personnel at both locations.

"As a nationally recognized graduate medical education and research hospital, we are honored to enhance our partnership with Pennington Biomedical and the School of Medicine at LSU Health New Orleans in the establishment of this center for bariatric and metabolic surgery, " said Our Lady of the Lake President and CEO K. Scott Wester. "I am confident that the creation of this center will make Baton Rouge the leading location for bariatric surgery in North America."

To secure the project, the State of Louisiana offered a competitive incentive package that includes a $600,000 marketing grant to promote the center as a medical destination for bariatric and metabolic procedures; a $1.8 million grant for professional recruitment, relocation and retention program costs; and a $3.5 million grant for renovations, leasehold improvements and capital equipment spending for the new center. The state funds will flow directly from LED to the Pennington Biomedical Research Foundation for use in the project. The foundation will also contribute $2.5 million to support the program.

"This is a perfect example of our ability to supplement state and federal funding with private philanthropic dollars to advance groundbreaking science," said Janet Olson, Chair of the Pennington Biomedical Research Foundation Board of Directors.

"LSU Health New Orleans has worked successfully with Pennington Biomedical and Our Lady of the Lake in the past," said Dr. Steve Nelson, Dean of the LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine. "We are excited about this new opportunity to work with one of the world’s leading bariatric surgeons, Dr. Schauer, as he establishes a center that combines his surgical and research interests in obesity."

"Our School of Medicine is just the place where collaboration can take place among a distinguished group of scientists, outstanding health care professionals, their skilled staffs and our motivated students," said LSU Health New Orleans Chancellor Dr. Larry Hollier. "From medical device development to the development of new surgical procedures and training of surgical fellows, we are poised to create a global center through this project."

The new program in Bariatric/Metabolic Surgery lays the foundation for a center of excellence that will be a key asset within the Baton Rouge Health District. Created in 2016 with support from the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, the Baton Rouge Health District encompasses major health care employers spanning Interstate 10 and Perkins Road to the north and south, and Bluebonnet Boulevard and Essen Lane on the east and west.

"Helping improve the overall standard of health for our citizens is the utmost priority for my administration," said Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome. "Dr. Schauer’s groundbreaking clinical research is going to catalyze efforts for a healthier population. The world will now come to Baton Rouge for best-in-class health care of this kind. Through my Healthy City Initiative, Baton Rouge is the only city in the country where every major health care provider comes together to write one Joint Community Health Needs Assessment and one Joint Implementation Plan to make Baton Rouge a healthier place for all."

"The Baton Rouge Area Foundation has for several years been focused on developing the medical district in Baton Rouge," said BRAF President and CEO John Davies. "Districts like these build themselves around peaks of excellence – internationally recognized centers of unparalleled quality. The Bariatric/Metabolic Surgery at Pennington Biomedical will imprint our community, state and region with an enviable reputation of having the world’s best response to the pandemic of obesity."

"Pennington Biomedical’s new bariatric and metabolic program, combined with our region’s already robust health sector, solidifies Baton Rouge as the pre-eminent location for obesity research and treatment," said Adam Knapp, President and CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber. "As medical centers such as the Cleveland Clinic and the Mayo Clinic have transformed their respective cities, we anticipate Pennington Biomedical’s new center to have significant economic impact on Baton Rouge, attracting global researchers and patients looking to leverage the center’s innovations in bariatric surgery. This announcement is one of the many ways that leading researchers in Baton Rouge are solving the world’s most pressing problems."



About LSU's Pennington Biomedical Research Center

LSU's Pennington Biomedical Research Center is at the forefront of medical discovery as it relates to understanding the triggers of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia. The center conducts basic, clinical and population research, and is affiliated with Louisiana State University. The research enterprise at Pennington Biomedical includes over 450 employees within a network of 40 clinics and research laboratories, and 13 highly specialized core service facilities. Its scientists and physician/scientists are supported by research trainees, lab technicians, nurses, dietitians and other support personnel. Pennington Biomedical is located in state-of-the-art research facilities on a 222-acre campus in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.