Gov. John Bel Edwards joined LSU and Ochsner leadership Thursday, Oct. 3 for a groundbreaking ceremony at LSU Health Shreveport that served as tangible success of the 1-year-old partnership between Ochsner Health System and LSU Health Shreveport.
“I was always committed to keeping the medical school here in Shreveport and promised that it would be bigger, better and stronger than ever,” Edwards said. “I told you (a year ago) that in short order we would stabilize the medical school and deliver the best healthcare possible out of the hospital…Even I, then, didn’t realize one year later we would be back here celebrating a groundbreaking like we are today.”
Edwards, LSU President F. King Alexander, Ochsner Health System President and CEO Warner Thomas, LSU Health Shreveport Chancellor Dr. G.E. Ghali, Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins, and state legislators celebrated the groundbreaking of the new $60 million Center for Medical Education at LSU Health Shreveport. The group also paused to recognize the first anniversary of the Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport partnership, sharing remarks about expanding medical education and healthcare offerings in the state of Louisiana.
Dr. Ghali thanked Edwards and NWLA legislative delegation for “bringing in a strong partner” for the medical school, and said the new Center for Medical Education is the “icing on the cake of that partnership.”
The new Center for Medical Education will be a 5-story, 187,000-plus square foot building that will be located on the south side of LSU Health Shreveport’s campus. The public-private project will feature classrooms for up to 250 students, training labs, small group study rooms, and a state-of-the-art clinical skills center simulating a hospital ward. The Center for Medical Education plans to expand the LSU Health Shreveport medical school class size to 200 students by 2023.
Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins thanked Edwards for keeping his campaign promise that the LSU Health medical school would stay in Shreveport, saying, “LSU Health is a huge part of our economy. This new center is a welcome and much needed addition, and it will go a long way towards meeting critical demand in our area.”
Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport, established Oct. 1, 2018, is a public-private partnership jointly formed by Ochsner Health System and LSU Health Shreveport to oversee and coordinate activities between the health sciences center and the healthcare delivery system in Shreveport and Monroe.
LSU President F. King Alexander joked that north Louisiana is the hardest constituency in the state to convince because, “for six and a half years, every time I would speak up here I told you we’re not moving the med school,” he joked.
“I’m so glad we’re able to talk about not moving something but growing something. We’re going to grow and meet the needs of this area,” he said to applause.
Ochsner LSU Health System CEO Warner Thomas pointed out the progress made over the past year with clinics seeing more than 25,000 additional patients over the first 10 months of the partnership, decreased wait times for an appointment are down 33%, a $70 million investment this year to accommodate growth of the health system, and the hiring of more than 100 physicians and more than 50 full-time employees among other stats.
“We made a commitment over a year ago to increase access and quality of health care. We’re just getting started, we’ve only been here a year,” Thomas said. “We’ve got a lot more to do.”
Sen. Greg Tarver (D-Shreveport) said that as a patient, LSU Health is a life saver.
“I believe in LSU, I fight for LSU,” Sen. Tarver said. “It’s always a pleasure working with people who love LSU, and Dr. Ghali loves LSU.”
Rep. Sam Jenkins (D-Shreveport) thanked the community for their support of the school.
“Today is a reminder to all of us at the legislature and leadership at this hospital that commitment starts with you all. Let’s not look at this as an end, this (groundbreaking) is the beginning of a commitment to make NWLA the center or medical education around the globe.”
State Sen. Francis Thompson (D-Delhi), chairman of the NELA delegation, said, “We, on the other side of I-20, support LSU Shreveport. As I look back, it’s never been so good (as it is now).”
State Rep. Katrina Jackson (D-Monroe) said Edwards has made asking for the medical school easy.
“The thing our North Louisiana Delegation has always had in common is the LSU Medical School. You bring us together like no other issue.”