• Louisiana puts $5.9M into new bariatric surgery program

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    BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Louisiana is putting nearly $6 million into a new center for bariatric and metabolic surgery at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge and a nearby hospital, Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center.

    Dr. Phil Schauer, who pioneered laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery in 1997, will direct the center, which is scheduled to open in 2020, according to a news release from Pennington, an affiliate of Louisiana State University. He'll be moving from the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine and the Cleveland Clinic Bariatric and Metabolic Institute.

    "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 in a news release. "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."

    Officials said Schauer, two more academic surgeons and four clinician/scientists, will create research labs with a total of 55 biomedical science-based jobs averaging $125,000 a year. The Pennington center estimated that the project could generate more than $20 million a year in funding for obesity research, one of its major focuses.

    Louisiana competed with other states for the new center, according to a news release from Edwards' office. It did not say what other states competed, but described economic incentives from Louisiana totaling $5.9 million.

    Louisiana Economic Development offered a $3.5 million grant for renovations and capital equipment, $1.8 million for professional recruitment, relocation and retention, and a $600,000 grant to market the center as a medical destination for bariatric and metabolic surgery. The money will come through the Pennington Biomedical Research Foundation, which plans to raise $2.5 million to support the new bariatric surgery center.

    "I am confident that the creation of this center will make Baton Rouge the leading location for bariatric surgery in North America," said K. Scott Wester, president and CEO of Our Lady of the Lake. He said it's expected to triple the annual number of bariatric surgeries at the hospital, which will renovate an existing inpatient area for the new center and add staff both at the hospital and at an outpatient center at Pennington.

    LSU Health New Orleans will contribute a research fellowship and other support, officials said.

    "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.

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