LSU Health New Orleans Newsroom

Governor Emphasizes Importance of Investment in Higher Ed and Health Care at LSU Health New Orleans

September 8, 2023

Governor Edwards speaking at LSU Health

Governor John Bel Edwards chose to celebrate the best budget for education in Louisiana history and the state’s investment in health care on the LSU Health New Orleans campus this week.

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Dr. Steve Nelson speaking
LSU Health New Orleans Interim Chancellor Dr. Steve Nelson welcomed him, At-Large Member of the Louisiana Board of Regents Terrie Sterling, and District 100 Louisiana State Representative Jason Hughes, along with LSU Board of Supervisors Past Chair Rémy Voisin Starns, Louisiana Board of Regents Vice Chair Gary Solomon, Jr, and District 4 Louisiana State Senator Jimmy Harris to the Isidore Cohn, Jr, MD Student Learning Center.
Before faculty, staff and students from LSU Health New Orleans’ six health professional schools, while medical students practiced caring for “patients” in a human patient simulator lab behind him, Governor Edwards talked about the sea change in prioritizing higher ed.
“It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come after leading the country in disinvestment in higher education before I became Governor. These are historic investments that support our students and faculty, improve our campuses and invest in research and critical workforce needs. We are setting our institutions on a course for success by giving them the tools necessary to create learning, teaching and research environments that will continue to help our students and state advance.”
Governor Edwards speaking
Dr. Nelson said, “Governor Edwards kept his promise of making it his priority to increase state support for higher education during his administration. Since he took office, state support of LSU Health New Orleans has risen from $72 million in Fiscal Year 16 to $91 million for Fiscal Year 24. In fact, the LSU System will receive an additional $75 million this fiscal year. This funding is vital to our six schools’ ability to educate the health care professionals who take care of your family and mine.”
Terrie Sterling speaking
Regent Sterling praised the Governor and legislature for approving more than $180 million in state funding for strategic investments and $492.3 million, the largest capital outlay allocation to higher education made up of Priority 1, Priority 2 and Cash Funding.

Dr. Nelson also remarked on the economic benefits of higher education. “It is an investment that provides an impressive return. LSU Health New Orleans generates more than 9,000 jobs and an economic impact of $1.6 billion. It also supports our robust research enterprise, which attracted nearly $200 million in federal and outside funding over the past several years. Our research scientists are focused on solving some of society’s most devastating diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s Disease.”

The Governor expanded on that. “Higher education is an economic driver with the jobs that it creates. You know we talk about jobs, but really what we want and what you all deliver are careers, and so thank you for doing that.”
Rep. Hughes noted the difference between now and when he worked in higher education. At that time, there was no investment in universities. Budgets were balanced with steep cuts and on the backs of students. Instead of building, programs were being dismantled as faculty left. As a member of the Appropriations, Health and Welfare and Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget, Rep. Hughes played a key role with the Governor in turning things around to provide the resources to not only attract great faculty but retain them and put higher ed back on a path to improve Louisiana’s health and prosperity.
Rep Jason Hughes speaking
Governor Edwards told the group that higher education and health care go hand in hand. He appointed Terrie Sterling to the Board of Regents because of her background in health care. He called Medicaid expansion the easiest big decision he’s made as Governor.

Dr. Nelson reminded the audience. “In his first official act, Gov. Edwards signed an executive order to expand Medicaid coverage to over 747,200 of the state’s working poor. Louisiana’s uninsured rate has now dropped from 22.7 percent in 2015 prior to expansion to just 9.4 percent, saving lives and improving the quality of life for citizens across the state.”

The Governor noted that the investment in health care paid big dividends when the pandemic arrived. “And as tough as it was, we were better able to meet the moment. Because more people were insured, they had actually seen a primary care physician. They had had their diseases diagnosed. They had started their treatment. They had been able to get on prescription medicine. And while we have too many unhealthy people, in fact, that’s why we’re all here, right, we had people who were stronger than they would have otherwise been and they were able to withstand COVID after getting it, whereas without all of that, they wouldn’t have. And so, I’m very, very thankful for the Medicaid expansion, but also for the health care heroes. The people you had previously graduated and trained and the people you had studying here at the time, because as y’all know, everybody stepped up at a very critical moment. So, I want to thank everybody here for the role that you have played in making Louisiana a better place and making our citizens healthier and stronger and educating people not just on how to do the things that these young people are learning to do behind me, but to be selfless and to serve others. It really is the Lord’s work, and I thank you for it.”
Then Governor Edwards got hands-on experience in another lab, helping medical students led by Dr. Peter DeBlieux, Assistant Dean for Advanced Learning and Simulation at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine, resuscitate a human patient simulator mannequin. LSU Health has been a nationally recognized leader in simulation education, allowing students to perfect their diagnostic and treatment skills long before they touch a patient while also learning how to work seamlessly as a member of the health care team.
Dr Peter DeBlieux with Governor Edawards in a simulation scenario
At the outset of the case, Dr. DeBlieux told the team that the “patient” was brought to the hospital after collapsing at his desk after lunch. The Governor was amazed that the diagnosis turned out to be a fentanyl overdose. “At their office after lunch?” he asked quizzically.

Dr. DeBlieux told him, “This is not a shock to us. It’s a misunderstanding that only the indigent folks on the street do drugs. This is a phenomenon that stretches across all sorts of populations. Particularly with the related heat illnesses, we’ve seen a lot of fentanyl overdoses, particularly over the last three months. They’ve been increasing. So having our students be exposed to that, consider it in their differential diagnoses and understand it helps us save more lives.”