Jindal cuts ribbon on medical education center

On the second floor of a new building on the Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center campus Monday, a baby in an LSU onesie awaited the attention of future doctors and health care workers.

The baby — not the real thing, but a remarkable likeness that would dazzle doll collectors — pulses and breathes. Students will be put through the ropes of resuscitating it or failing and watching it die.

The LSU Health Medical Education and Innovation Center aims to drop students into emergency rooms and surgeries through high-tech simulation. They will work on mannequins that are anatomically correct down to the vocal cords.

The mannequins help the students grasp tricky procedures, such as a lumbar puncture, commonly known as a spinal tap, on a baby with a high fever, before they have to operate on an actual living being.

Gov. Bobby Jindal, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and other officials ducked out of the rain to cut the ribbon on the new facility Monday afternoon. “This truly will be a tremendous partnership,” Jindal said.

The center — on Brittany Drive near Essen Lane — came into creation because the governor helped engineer a huge shift in how the state delivers health care to the poor and uninsured. An agreement between the state and the Lake resulted in the closure of LSU’s Earl K. Long Medical Center. Patients who would have been treated at “the Earl” now go to “the Lake.”

Across Louisiana, the state is getting out of the business of running hospitals. Private hospitals are tackling patients’ health care, either at the public hospitals themselves or in private hospitals such as the Lake. The governor contends it is cheaper to let the private sector deliver the care.

At the Lake’s new education center Monday, elected officials shared the stage with a Catholic priest and a nun as well as hospital officials. The Lake built the center as part of its cooperative endeavor agreement with the state.

“I’m excited. I think this is the next step in a great partnership,” the governor said.

Dardenne characterized the center as the beginning of an expanded role Baton Rouge will play in physician training. From training roughly 77 medical students a month, the Lake now trains 165 to 190 students a month. Students going to class in the new center will study emergency medicine, dermatology, internal medicine and psychiatry, among other fields.

“It’s a place of learning, a place of teaching,” Dardenne said, praising the center’s design and innovation.

Houma native Shane Prejean, a second-year resident, said he visited other states before deciding to enroll in medical school in Louisiana. He said he wanted a program close to home.

Dr. Kevin Reed, an associate dean for the LSU Health Sciences Center, said the new building offers lots of meeting space — both indoor and outdoor — and features three large simulation rooms. He urged the crowd that gathered for the ribbon cutting to take a tour of the facility.

“It’s not about the building. It’s about the opportunities the building will allow for,” Reed said.