Our Lady of the Lake Health’s groundbreaking partnership with LSU is one of the largest investments for the state’s health in Louisiana’s history.
Catherine O’Neal, MD, chief medical officer of Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center and associate professor of clinical medicine specializing in infectious diseases at LSU Health Sciences Center, joins us on this episode of The Doctor Will Hear You Now podcast to share more about the partnership, which was first announced in early 2022.
Championship Health Partners
Our Lady of the Lake has committed $170 million over 10 years to work with LSU to set a new standard for healthcare delivery, sports medicine, research and education. It impacts students and what they’ll be learning, it impacts student athletes and their performance, and it ultimately impacts healthcare across the state.
Applying Sports Medicine Lessons
“Our relationship with LSU athletics is unique,” Dr. O’Neal says. Athletes are a unique patient population, and they stress their bodies more than anyone else. “The healthcare they need through the year is really unbelievable, and they need to be back on the field as fast as possible.”
The lessons learned through the work with student-athletes can be expanded throughout Our Lady of the Lake’s other patient populations. For a 63-year-old who fell at home, injured their knee and came in for knee surgery, Dr. O’Neal and her team need to understand what return-to-play is for them.
“We’re taking our patient care model, adding our inquisitive, academic look and applying those lessons learned to bigger populations,” Dr. O’Neal says. The partnership will have payoff for future patients.
Student Health Center
In many ways, the work Our Lady of the Lake is doing within the LSU Student Health Center mirrors athletics. Moving to college can be a big stressor, both physically and mentally, and the partnership is focused on providing students with exceptional care right on campus.
“At our core, we provide exceptional patient care,” Dr. O’Neal says. “We are giving the same access we give to anyone in the community to students, whether insured, uninsured or underinsured.”
Our health system’s goal is to make our population healthier over time, so it’s important for young people to learn about their health. While on campus, access to Our Lady of the Lake providers should change students’ experience in a couple of ways.
“If you wake up with an earache, don’t call your mom in Eunice,” Dr. O’Neal says. “I hope that you say, ‘I’m going to walk down the street,’ or pull up MyChart on your phone and ask for a video visit.” That level of access gets the student back in the game, back in the classroom faster without needing to drive home.
Pharmacy services on campus are also receiving an upgrade thanks to the partnership, including secure on-campus delivery to residence halls.
Beyond Campus and Studying Outcomes
The LSU Student Health Center provides students with easy access to healthcare, and they can continue that access even after graduation by staying in network. The immediate benefits of on-campus care lead to progressive benefits across the healthcare journey. That continuity of care, and future providers being able to access your MyChart records, can save time and improve health outcomes.
“Our healthcare outcomes are not where we want them to be,” Dr. O’Neal says of our state. Part of the partnership includes connecting academic researchers with healthcare practitioners to study the impact of the changes being made in Louisiana today.
We will start to see in 20-30 years if providing access to good preventive care and long-term healthcare options will impact their health down the line.
Training Tomorrow’s Healthcare Professionals
Our Lady of the Lake has had learners within the hospital for a long time. “Anyone training as a future healthcare professional wants to train at Our Lady of the Lake,” Dr. O’Neal says. “Most of our patients really enjoy an academic environment.”
The partnership with LSU is extending this, including construction of an interdisciplinary science building on LSU’s campus. Beyond just walking into a building featuring Our Lady of the Lake’s name, students will experience access and the opportunity to learn more about careers in healthcare.
“I was lecturing to a premed group who said ‘I love science, but I’m not sure what I want to do with it,’” Dr. O’Neal says. Through experiential learning, students can spend time in a lab or ER, see CT scans and learn about careers that they wouldn’t have otherwise known existed. “We have a lot of cool jobs, and we’re opening their eyes to the multiple jobs within our institution.”
Dr. O’Neal also sees downstream benefits of the partnership including a stronger talent pool and more opportunities for Louisianans who want to stay in-state after college.
100 Years of Commitment to the Community
Our Lady of the Lake Health will celebrate its 100th anniversary this November. The LSU partnership is an investment toward the next 100 years.
“We have to be financially secure in 100 years,” Dr. O’Neal says. Part of that includes helping people be healthier earlier in their lives through preventive care, which is a big part of the partnership. “Otherwise in 100 years we’ll say, where did we go wrong?”
Our Lady of the Lake’s current team members take a lot of pride in their work, just like the teams at LSU.
“Our state is incredibly proud of our flagship university, and sometimes in healthcare we can get a little low,” Dr. O’Neal says. “It’s a hard job, the daily grind of caring. We bring a lot of spirit into our organization.”
She sees being able to pair the LSU team with Our Lady of the Lake’s team as a gift.
“We have a great team here, and our team is excited to shine that light,” Dr. O’Neal says. “It’s something that I hope each team member feels a little bit, too.”
Research dollars will begin to roll out as the partnership continues to develop.
“We’ll pick some of the topics that will be most impactful in terms of health that we’ll choose to study together,” Dr. O’Neal says.
“What I really look forward to seeing – as a small-town kid – is seeing my niece graduate with MyChart, moving to Lafayette and easily establishing care with a doctor there,” Dr. O’Neal says. “Being caught by a healthcare provider who’s adequately prepared is a really exciting win for people, and I look forward to that making its way through our state.”