A host of state and local leaders joined officials from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center to announce the launch of a major bariatric and metabolic surgery center at Pennington 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 the bariatric program that officials say will make the state a global center for destination health care in obesity surgery and treatment.
Pennington officials estimate 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. John Bel Edwards said in a 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.”
Schauer—professor of surgery at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine, and director of the Cleveland Clinic Bariatric and Metabolic Institute—has been named director of the new program. Schauer, according to a release from Pennington, 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. He’s also responsible for research regarding the reversal of type 2 diabetes and those 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 in a release. “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.”
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.
To secure the project, the state offered an 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.
Daily Report AM will have additional details.