We know south Louisiana is famous for its good food and festivals, a vibrant petrochemical sector, and a thriving hospitality sector. Many of us may not realize that Louisiana leads the way in certain healthcare specialties – not just the diabetes and obesity research that goes on at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, but some really innovative care for very rare diseases.
Kevin Tracy is Director of the National Hansen’s Disease Program, which is based right here in Baton Rouge and is the epicenter of Hansen’s Disease research and information in the United States.
Hansen’s Disease is better known as Leprosy. Although it’s not the biblical plague it once was, it still exists around the world today. Fortunately, a lot more is known about it today than back in biblical times or even in the late 1800s, when south Louisiana was home to one of the country’s foremost leprosy hospitals, or leprosaria, in Carville. Today, that center remains open only as a museum, but the Hansen’s Disease center is alive and well here in Baton Rouge.
Kevin Tracy has been CEO of the center since September of 2019. Prior to that, he worked for the federal government’s Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services for nearly a decade. Kevin has a degree in nursing and a graduate degree in accounting with a focus on healthcare administration.
Dr. Jonas Fontenot is Chief Operating Officer of the Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, a comprehensive cancer center in Baton Rouge that celebrated its 50th anniversary in late 2021 and recently announced some new partnerships that are reshaping the local cancer care market.
Mary Bird Perkins started out as a radiation treatment center – the first in Baton Rouge – and has since expanded to provide a range of service to thousands of patients across the region.
Jonas Fontenot is an expert in medical physics, with a Ph.D in medical science. In addition to helping lead Mary Bird Perkins, he continues to teach and do research and has been the recipient of more than $4M in research grants to support his work around cutting-edge radiation treatments.
As impressive as Jonas’s resume is, probably his greatest claim to fame in Baton Rouge is that he helped care for Mike the Tiger No. 6, when the big cat mascot was diagnosed with a rare cancer several years ago.
Out to Lunch is recorded live over lunch at Mansurs on the Boulevard. Photos by Erik Otts. And there’s more lunch-table conversation about Baton Rouge healthcare at our website itsbatonrouge.la.