LSU Health New Orleans Newsroom

Dinosaurs, Alligators, Astronauts . . . and Women?

LSU Health Salutes its Women in Science

February 11, 2021

dinosaurs and the ISS

How do dinosaurs, alligators and astronauts relate to COVID, and what else do they have in common? Women, of course. Not just any women. Women scientists. LSU Health New Orleans women scientists, to be precise. LSU Health New Orleans celebrates its female faculty and students this International Day of Women and Girls in Science. They are an accomplished bunch who have made enormous contributions to science and health. They are role models for little girls everywhere, for they have shattered glass ceilings and have risen as national and international leaders to lofty heights, and beyond. They include:

Follow Us Subscribe RSS Feed

Media Contact

Leslie Capo

Office: 504-568-4806

Cell: 504-452-9166



Caroline Conquers The World!

LSU Health Team Wins Best 2020 Radiology Image Award

From the Space Station to the COVID Ward
Patricia Molina, MD, PhD, Professor and Head Department of Physiology and Director Alcohol and Drug Abuse Center of Excellence at LSU Health New Orleans Schools of Medicine and Graduate Studies, was the first Hispanic female to serve as President of the American Physiological Society (APS), one of the nation's oldest and largest scientific societies. She served as President of the Association of Chairs of Department of Physiology and currently serves as President for the Research Society on Alcoholism. Dr. Molina’s research has been funded continuously since completing her PhD degree. She is Principal Investigator and Director of the NIH-funded Comprehensive Alcohol Research Center on HIV/AIDS and Biomedical Research Training Program, and co-PI of the Enhancing Neuroscience Diversity through Undergraduate Research Education Experiences. Dr. Molina is also PI and Director of a program that provides summer research experiences for medical students and mentorship for undergraduate, graduate, post-graduate trainees and junior faculty. Currently, she is the Chair of the National Hispanic Science Network (NHSN) on Drug Abuse, which provides mentorship and training at all levels, early and mid-career faculty. Her passion and dedication to mentorship have been recognized by the NHSN Mentoring Award and the APS A. Clifford Barger Underrepresented Minority Mentorship Award.
Patricia Molina, MD, PhD
Sandra Andrieu, MEd, PhD
Sandra Andrieu, MEd, PhD, Professor and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at LSU Health New Orleans School of Dentistry, served as President of the American Dental Education Association (ADEA), the voice of dental education. Its members include all US and Canadian dental schools and many allied and postdoctoral dental education programs, corporations, faculty, and students. She is also the first female to serve as an associate dean at LSU Health New Orleans’ Dental School. In 2018, Dr. Andrieu was selected to serve on the NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health ADEA/ Office of Research on Women’s Health Dentistry Planning Group for Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Care that produced the document ADEA Women’s Health in Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Care Report. This collaboration recommended including women’s health as an interdisciplinary discipline for inclusion in interprofessional education curriculum development. Dr. Andrieu was also an invited presenter at the 2019 ADEA/ADEE International Women’s Leadership Conference in Brescia, Italy.
Lisa Moreno-Walton, MD, Professor of Emergency Medicine, Director of Research and Director of Diversity for the Section of Emergency Medicine at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine, is the first female President of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine (AAEM). During her years serving on the AAEM Board of Directors, she has focused on the development of women and underrepresented minorities in leadership positions. She participates in LSU Health’s Summer Research Program, mentoring college and high school students who aspire to careers in medicine towards the completion of basic research projects. She has mentored over 300 students, residents, and junior faculty around the world towards successful careers in research and medicine. As an emergency medicine physician, she has been on the front lines of the COVID pandemic.
Lisa Moreno-Walton, MD
Xiao-Cheng Wu, MD, MPH
Xiao-Cheng Wu, MD, MPH, CTR, is a Professor and Director of the Louisiana Tumor Registry at LSU Health New Orleans School of Public Health. She leads one of only 18 population-based cancer registries in the US chosen by the National Cancer Institute to join its Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) Program, the nation’s most authoritative voice on cancer incidence and death. The data from this program drive national cancer policy and priorities. She has chaired multiple committees of the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries, a collaborative umbrella organization for cancer registries, governmental agencies, professional associations, and private groups in North America interested in enhancing the quality and use of cancer registry data. All central cancer registries in the United States and Canada are members.
Kimberly N. Frazier, Ph.D., LPC, LMFT, NCC, Associate Professor in the Department of Clinical Rehabilitation & Counseling at LSU Health New Orleans School of Allied Health Professions, researches counseling pediatric populations, culture-centered counseling interventions and training, systemic oppression and trauma. Dr. Frazier served as the Association of Multicultural Counseling and Development Representative on the American Counseling Association Governing Council and the Chair of the Association of Multicultural Counseling and Development Mentoring Program. She served as President of the Association of Multicultural Counseling and Development.
Kimberly Frazier, PhD
Sunyoung Kim, PhD
Sunyoung Kim, PhD, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at LSU Health New Orleans Schools of Medicine and Graduate Studies, invented a technology to diagnose a potentially fatal disease in premature infants that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted a Breakthrough Device Designation. The goal of the Breakthrough Devices Program is to provide patients and health care providers with timely access to these medical devices by speeding up their development, assessment, and review, while preserving the statutory standards for premarket approval. The noninvasive diagnostic biomarker, NECDetect, more accurately diagnoses necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). Dr. Kim founded Chosen Diagnostics, a spin-out company, to advance its development and commercialization and save the lives of fragile preemies. Since 2010, there have been 19 trainees in the Kim lab. Fourteen of them have been women, and 25% of the women are from underrepresented groups.
Rebekah Gee, MD, CEO of the LSU Healthcare Services Division, is a former Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health. Dr. Gee is also a Clinical Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine and an Adjunct Professor at LSU Health New Orleans School of Public Health. A practicing obstetrician-gynecologist, women’s health and initiatives have been at the forefront of her career. Elected to the National Academy of Medicine, she was also appointed to Louisiana’s COVID-19 Health Equity Taskforce.
Rebekah Gee, MD
Leanne H. Fowler, DNP, MBA, APRN
Leanne H. Fowler, DNP, MBA, APRN, AGACNP-BC, CNE, Assistant Professor of Clinical Nursing and Program Director, Nurse Practitioner Programs at LSU Health New Orleans School of Nursing, is recognized internationally as an Institute for Healthcare Improvement Fellow (class of 2020) for leadership in quality improvement, nationally recognized in the American Association of Critical-care Nurses' Circle of Excellence for contributions to the development of critical care nurses, and appointed by Governor John Bel Edwards appointed member of the COVID-19 Health Equity Taskforce for Louisiana.
Stephanie N. Taylor, MD, Professor of Medicine and Microbiology and an Infectious Diseases specialist, is nationally known for her research published in the New England Journal of Medicine reporting an effective new treatment for a dramatically increasing sexually transmitted illness resistant to antibiotics. More recently, she has served on the front lines of the COVI-19 pandemic, participating in a National Institutes of Health (NIH) clinical trial of drugs to treat COVID while taking care of patients hospitalized with COVID-19. Dr. Taylor is also working in the community to encourage COVID-19 vaccination, especially in the African American community.
Dr. Stephanie Taylor
Dr. Angela McLean
Angela McLean, MD, Associate Dean for Admissions and Professor of Clinical Medicine at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine, was one of the first area physicians to recognize and treat long-haul symptoms of COVID-19, as well as its higher incidence among people of color. Dr. McLean is in the Section of General Internal Medicine, and serves on the Coordinating Committee for the Women in Medicine Symposium.
Their work is particularly relevant to this year’s theme -- Women Scientists at the Forefront of the Fight Against COVID-19. Which brings us back to the original question. What do dinosaurs, alligators and astronauts have to do with COVID, and what else do they have in common? The answer: Two brilliant LSU Health New Orleans women scientists working at both ends of the science spectrum and applying their unique knowledge and experience to the COVID pandemic. One is an evolutionary anatomist adapting what she has learned from dinosaurs of the Triassic period, reptiles and turtles to show what is going on inside humans with COVID. The other is a physician-astronaut who spent 197 days on the International Space Station and is now taking care of COVID-19 patients on the front lines.
As evolutionary anatomist Emma R. Schachner, PhD, LSU Health New Orleans Associate Professor of Cell Biology & Anatomy, explained in her TED Talk -- The Secret Weapon that Allowed Dinosaurs to Take Over the Planet -- she studies the anatomy -- specifically the lungs and skeleton of the living descendants of dinosaurs on the evolutionary tree. She looks at the anatomy of birds, who are the direct descendants of dinosaurs, and of crocodilians, who are their closest living relatives, and then the anatomy of lizards and turtles, who “we can think of like their cousins.” And then, she applies these anatomical data to the fossil record and uses that to reconstruct the lungs of dinosaurs, alligators and turtles. Collaborating with LSU Health radiologist Dr. Bradley Spieler, Dr. Schachner used that same scientific visualization program and techniques to create 3D digital models from CT scans of patients hospitalized with COVID symptoms to clearly visualize COVID-19 in the lungs. These models not only aided diagnosis in the early days, but also help to educate both health care professionals and the public about this novel disease., the largest and most comprehensive community website for medical imaging professionals worldwide, awarded Drs. Schachner and Spieler the 2020 Best Radiology Image for their COVID-19 lung model project.
Emma R. Schachner, PhD

Winning COVID Models

Dr. Serena Auñón-Chancellor in her spacesuit

Dr. Serena Auñón-Chancellor on the COVID ward

Space Center Houston Display
And astronauts? When Serena Auñón-Chancellor MD, MPH, Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine’s branch campus in Baton Rouge, returned to Earth on December 19, 2018, she knew exactly what she wanted to do next – academic medicine.

“I’m doing absolutely one of my favorite things, which is teaching residents and medical students. Being academic medicine faculty is one of the most, if not the most important things to me. I love being part of the critical years of a residency program where I get to take part in the shaping and molding of young physicians. That’s what I wanted to return to.”

Dr. Auñón-Chancellor, who is still also a NASA astronaut, was assigned to the COVID floor at LSU Health’s teaching hospital in Baton Rouge. “It was probably the most memorable internal medicine inpatient service I’ve ever been on. It was hard. At the peak in the spring, we had over 200 patients at our hospital, a lot in the ICU, a good number on ventilators. I think the toughest part was that because the families couldn’t be with the patients as much as they normally can, we were their families. So, we spent a lot of time certainly talking to the families on the phone, but also spending time with the patients letting them know we were there for them. It made medicine more meaningful, and it was something that definitely impacted you emotionally, impacted the team. It comes back to one of our NASA teaching lessons – self-care and team care. I felt like we were performing a tremendous service and fulfilling a sense of purpose. I’m so happy that our LSU Health Internal Medicine Residency Program has taken part in that. I think it’s important for the faculty and really important for the residents. Hopefully, pandemics come around only once a century, but this one is ours, and the number of teaching lessons that come out of this is tremendous. You walk away, and I think everyone has walked away as a different physician.”

NASA used part of that quote on a huge display at Space Center Houston. Called Mission: Control the Spread, it features astronaut Dr. Auñón-Chancellor now as an LSU Health academic physician drawing on her NASA experience to take care of patients, as well as her residents -- all the way from the International Space Station to the COVID Ward.

The heights to which LSU Health New Orleans Women in Science have soared provide powerful inspiration for what women can be and do. They fuel motivation for girls the world over to look up and fly high.