BATON ROUGE, La. — Today, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced the attraction of a major bariatric and metabolic surgery center at Pennington Biomedical Research Center and Our Lady of the Lake in Baton Rouge. Dr. Phil Schauer, who established the nation’s premier program in obesity surgery in Cleveland, will lead a new Louisiana bariatric program expected to make the state a global center for destination health care in obesity surgery and treatment.
Pennington Biomedical Research Center, an affiliate of the LSU System, estimates the project could generate more than $20 million a year in additional funding for obesity research, which is a major focus of the center. In addition, the project will create 55 new direct jobs with an average annual salary of $125,000 per year, plus benefits. Louisiana Economic Development estimates the project will result in an additional 38 new indirect jobs, for a total of 93 new jobs in the Capital Region.
“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. 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.”
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.
“By integrating expert psychologists, dieticians, 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.
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.
“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 Dr. John Kirwan said. “We now have a unique opportunity to establish Pennington Biomedical as the research institution in the world for metabolic surgery and 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. 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.”
Dr. Schauer most recently served as the professor of surgery at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine and director of the Cleveland Clinic Bariatric and Metabolic Institute. His clinical and research expertise are focused on obesity, metabolic surgery research, and technology development. LSU Health New Orleans and Our Lady of the Lake will be collaborative partners with Pennington Biomedical and the new bariatric center.
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. In addition, Our Lady of the Lake will lease space and operate an outpatient center at Pennington Biomedical, and will 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 Research Center 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.”
Working with Pennington Biomedical Research Center, LSU Health New Orleans, and Our Lady of the Lake, LED attracted the bariatric and metabolic surgery center to Baton Rouge in competition with sites in other states. 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 program costs, including the recruitment, relocation and retention of professional staff; 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. In addition, the foundation plans to raise $2.5 million to support the new bariatric surgery center while LSU Health New Orleans will contribute a research fellowship and other support.
“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,” LSU Health New Orleans Chancellor Dr. Larry Hollier said. “From medical device development to the development of new surgical procedures and the training of surgical fellows, we are poised to create a global center through this project.”
The new bariatric and metabolic surgery center 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 new bariatric center 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 President and CEO Adam Knapp 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 Pennington Biomedical
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 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. For more information, see PBRC.edu.