A Matter of the Heart: Connecting Community Outreach and Clinical Research

Dec 15, 2023 | Mission, Research

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As Our Lady of the Lake’s medical director of research, Dr. Hollis “Bud” O’Neal’s responsibilities include developing and improving access to experimental therapies while also providing opportunities for medical students and residents to learn how to effectively conduct research.

The Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Corporation (LWCC) Foundation launched its Louisiana Well Again grant program, which funds projects focused on reducing vulnerabilities within local communities and addressing pre-existing conditions. Through their generous grant of $40,000, Dr. O’Neal is able to replicate a landmark Cedars Sinai study that proved hypertension healthcare provided in convenient neighborhood settings has a positive impact on the Black community. 

“Our Black population typically has higher rates of hypertension, complications and death,” Dr. O’Neal says. “It’s pretty disheartening to diagnose a young patient with end-stage renal disease needing to be placed on dialysis for the remainder of their life because they had high blood pressure that went undiagnosed or untreated.” 

Dr. O’Neal gathered a team of local physicians and researchers with a goal of prevention and to help alleviate the cost of treatment. The result was the launch of the Capital Region Hypertension Outreach program, an innovative approach to care designed to address the delivery of hypertension management by partnering with local barbershops.

“Barbershops are community-based businesses that are frequented with consistency by their clients, making them a prime location for direct healthcare delivery and testing for things like hypertension and pre-hypertension,” Dr. O’Neal says. 

Untreated hypertension can lead to kidney disease that can require dialysis, which is incredibly expensive. Once identified as needing treatment, patrons are invited to receive care via telehealth visits on their cell phones. Prescriptions can even be mailed to their residence to make the process as easy as possible. “We proposed a possible solution to the problem of access to care by bringing healthcare to the population as opposed to bringing the population to healthcare,” Dr. O’Neal says. 

“The impact for our community with this initiative is huge and directly ties to the mission of Our Lady of the Lake. Extending this to other places of business is a long-term goal of this program.”

Baton Rouge area barbers during a recent training session Baton Rouge area barbers during a recent training session

Baton Rouge area barbers during a recent training session

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