Pennington Biomedical Research Center Announces Retirement of Donna H. Ryan, M.D.; Appointment of William T. Cefalu, M.D. as Associate Executive Director of Clinical Research

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Released: Wednesday, February 22, 2012

BATON ROUGE, LA – The Pennington Biomedical Research Center announced the retirement of its long-time Associate Executive Director of Clinical Research, Donna H. Ryan, M.D., F.A.C.P.  Dr. Ryan served Pennington Biomedical in this capacity for 23 years, playing a critical role in developing its clinical research efforts since inception.               

(L to R) Dr. Donna Ryan, Associate Executive Director of Clinical Research at Pennington Biomedical; Bill Silvia, Pennington Medical Foundation President and CEO; Dr. George Bray, Boyd Professor at Pennington Biomedical; Dr. Steven Heymsfield, Pennington Biomedical Executive Director

In recognition of her leadership and accomplishments, the LSU Board of Supervisors, at its December 2011 meeting, affirmed the designation of the Donna H. Ryan, M.D. Clinical Conference Room, located in Pennington Biomedical’s new Clinical Research Building.  A reception was held in late January marking this occasion.  Dr. Ryan was instrumental in establishing the early development of Pennington Biomedical and in crafting the plans to assure stable funding in the beginning years of the institution's history. Most importantly, she helped to shape the vast clinical research programs and interventions for obesity and nutritionally-related diseases.

Dr. Ryan also developed the military research program at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, including research focused on optimizing the health and performance of United States military personnel. Pennington Biomedical’s partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense and the Louisiana National Guard continues today.   

Dr. Ryan is widely recognized as a research scholar in obesity, having authored numerous studies, more than 130 peer reviewed articles, and serving as president of The Obesity Society, the leading U.S. scientific association dedicated to the study of obesity.  Her most recent leadership work has focused on the comprehensive clinical and translational science collaborative involving numerous institutions across the state. 

Prior to joining Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Dr. Ryan served as Vice Chancellor for Clinical Affairs at LSU-HSC New Orleans, her alma mater. Dr. Steven B. Heymsfield, Executive Director of Pennington Biomedical, lauded Dr. Ryan’s years of achievement and her contributions in placing the Center at the top tier of academic research institutions devoted to eliminating chronic diseases. 

Dr. Cefalu Named as Associate Executive Director of Clinical Research

William T. Cefalu, M.D., Associate Executive Director of Clinical Research at Pennington Biomedical Research Center 

Appointed as the new Associate Executive Director of Clinical Research at Pennington Biomedical is William T. Cefalu, M.D., a Louisiana native who was recruited to Pennington Biomedical in 2004 from the University of Vermont College of Medicine. Dr. Cefalu also serves as Chief of the Joint Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism Program, a single academic program across two distinct campuses of the LSU System, the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge and LSU Health Sciences Center School of Medicine in New Orleans.  He is the Douglas L. Manship, Sr. Professor of Diabetes at Pennington Biomedical.

Dr. Cefalu received his medical degree from LSU School of Medicine in New Orleans, LA. He completed his residency and served as Chief Resident at the University of California-Irvine Long Beach VA Medical Center and completed a fellowship in Metabolism and Endocrinology at the UCLA Center for Health Sciences in Los Angeles, CA.  In addition to the University of Vermont College of Medicine where he served as Director of the Clinical Trials Unit, Dr. Cefalu has served on the faculty at Tulane University and Wake Forest University School of Medicine, where he was Director of the Diabetes Comprehensive Care Programs.

Dr. Cefalu is actively involved in both clinical and basic research.  On a clinical level, he is working on interventions to improve the metabolic state of individuals with insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. His basic research program focuses on the cellular mechanisms for insulin resistance. In addition, Dr. Cefalu also serves as Director for the NIH-funded Botanical Research Center at Pennington Biomedical, which focus on metabolic syndrome, or pre-diabetes. 

Dr. Cefalu is widely published in journals and books, and has edited several textbooks on the management of diabetes.  He has served as an associate editor for Diabetes Care and Diabetes, the clinical research and basic research journals, respectively, of the American Diabetes Association. He now serves as the Editor-in-Chief of Diabetes Care. Dr. Cefalu lectures both nationally and internationally.


The 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. It is a campus of Louisiana State University and conducts basic, clinical and population research. The research enterprise at Pennington Biomedical includes approximately 80 faculty and more than 25 post-doctoral fellows who comprise a network of 44 laboratories supported by lab technicians, nurses, dietitians, and support personnel, and 13 highly specialized core service facilities. Pennington Biomedical's more than 500 employees perform research activities in state-of-the-art facilities on the 222-acre campus located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.