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After witnessing the effects of cognitive diseases in their family, the Maurins joined the fight to find a cure. (page 4) A Thank You to our 2019 Moonlight & Miracles sponsors. (page 8) Checking in with Daniel Allemond, who has defied the odds in more ways than one. (page 10) Paul and Donna Flower help the Ochsner Neuroscience Institute expand research, diagnosis and care efforts. (page 14)

MAKING OUR OWN MIRACLES Jessica Huneycutt, the 2019 Moonlight & Miracles featured patient, uses the power of positive thinking to turn tragedy into triumph. (page 5)


D E A R F R I E N D S, There is always something to celebrate at Ochsner — amazing outcomes, clinical achievements, as well as our wonderful team and the patients and donors who keep us going. This year we introduced the inaugural Colors of the Mind, a fundraising event that benefitted Ochsner Neuroscience Institute, and celebrated our 7th annual Moonlight & Miracles Gala, which benefitted Ochsner Cancer Institute. These events are great opportunities to have a good time and acknowledge some of the incredible, groundbreaking work being done, but also to share stories of courage and determination that remind us that, no matter what, there is always hope. For me, the highlight of these events is the amazing stories I get to hear. Stories from patients about the people on their care journey who really made the difference. Stories from providers about the relationships they have formed with families. Stories from generous donors, whose reasons for giving are personal, heartfelt and so often rooted in history. It is a privilege to learn more about who they are, how they are connected to Ochsner and why they are passionate about the future of healthcare. I hope you enjoy this issue of Ochsner Magazine. In it, you will find some of the same stories from Ochsner Cancer Institute and Ochsner Neuroscience Institute. You’ll learn about the Maurin family, whose generosity is advancing care for brain health. You’ll read the moving and inspirational story of Jessica Huneycutt, yoga instructor to the New Orleans Saints and cancer survivor. You’ll get to catch up with Daniel Allemond, whose story was featured in Ochsner Magazine in 2016 when he was facing his own battle with cancer. You’ll see how the Flower family used their family’s loss and struggle to fuel the fire of innovation. You’ll also get to celebrate the sponsors who helped make Moonlight & Miracles and Colors of the Mind possible. As we celebrate the end of the year, the holidays and the people who bring joy to our lives, please know how much everyone at Ochsner appreciates you. As patients and supporters of Ochsner Health System, you help make the impossible possible.

FOUNDATION BOARD PICTURED BELOW Standing from Left: Marcel Garsaud Frank Dudenheffer Tommy Fonseca Cliffe Laborde Greg Flores Sarah Freeman Carey Dr. Joseph Dalovisio Pamela Steeg John Kennedy Wilmer ‘Bill’ Freiberg Todd Johnson John Hairston Seated from Left: Tommy Coleman Karen Stall Miles Clements Calvin Fayard Warner Thomas Chadwick Landry Norris Williams Not Pictured: Gayle Benson Robert Boh Paul Flower Leon Giorgio

From expanding research to driving innovation in care, your kindness and generosity

Desiree Harrison

truly make the difference. Happy holidays and have a wonderful and safe New Year.

Tara Hernandez Michael Maenza

Warner L. Thomas

Catherine Burns Tremaine

President & CEO, Ochsner Health System

Photo by Stephen Legendre 2

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Warner L. Thomas President and Chief Executive Off icer

Investing in Hope

Robert Hart, MD, FAAP, FACP Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Off icer Michael Hulefeld Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Off icer Scott J. Posecai Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Off icer Pete November Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Off icer Mark Muller Senior Vice President of Strategy and Business Development Michelle Dodenhoff Senior Vice President and Chief Development Off icer David M. Gaines Chief Executive Off icer of System Retail Services and Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Tracey Schiro Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Off icer David Carmouche, MD Senior Vice President and President of Ochsner Health Network and Executive Director of Ochsner Accountable Care Network Richard V. Milani, MD, FACC, FAHA Senior Physician Executive and Chief Clinical Transformation Off icer Richard D. Guthrie, Jr., M.D., C.P.E. Chief Quality Off icer



Af ter witnessing the ef fect s of cognitive diseases in their family, the Maurins joined the f ight to f ind a cure.

Searching for Silver Linings Jessica Huneycut t , Saint s Yoga Ins tructor and this year ’s Moonlight & Miracles featured patient , shares her s tor y of pain and perseverance.


Thank You to Our Sponsors Recognizing the sponsors who make the Moonlight & Miracles Gala — and continued innovation at the Ochsner Cancer Institute — a reality.


The Finish Line After a years-long battle with leukemia, Daniel Allemond is ready to go the distance.


Melissa Landry Editor


Lea Witkowski-Purl Editor

Topher Balfer Custom Publishing Editor

Grateful patients and dedicated members of the community help Ochsner continue to provide high-quality care through events and celebrations of Ochsner and the generosity of its donors.

Ali Sullivan Art Director

Thinking for Tomorrow

To support philanthropy at Ochsner, please visit:

Paul and Donna Flower hope to ensure a bet ter f uture for cognitively impaired patient s and caregivers .





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Investing in Hope

By Jordan LaHaye | Photo by Cheryl Gerber

A f ter w i t n e s s i n g t h e ef fec t s of cog n itive d isord ers in th eir family, t h e M a u ri n s h o p e to i m prove t h e q uality of c are for future patients were very impressed at the things they are trying to accomplish,” she said. “If we can help them with opportunities for researching a cure, and also just help other families, we think that’s wonderful.” The Brain Health Cognitive Disorders Program is working to streamline and improve access to timely dementia diagnosis through interdisciplinary approaches, engaging in cutting edge research studies around dementia care

Lillian & Jimmy Maurin with their dog Louie


rain health was not something Lillian Maurin spent much, if any, time thinking about for most of her life — until suddenly, it was the only thing on her mind. Over the course of the past 11 years, Lillian has watched both of her parents suffer from and succumb to neurological illnesses — her father of Alzheimer’s at age 88, and her mother of vascular dementia 10 years later, at age 95. “My mom suffered so much watching my dad, and I feel that after he finally died, that affected her,” said Lillian. “They had been married for 64 years.” And still, Lillian continues to confront the reality and consequences of cognitive diseases today. For the past decade, her younger sister has been fighting her own battle with early onset Alzheimer’s, which began during her late 50s. “There is no way to explain how it has affected my sister’s family,” she said. “Her husband took early retirement to help her. They have 10 grandchildren who will never really know their grandmother


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and what a special person she is.” With such an intimate awareness of neurological illness and its devastating effects on a family, Lillian said she wants to take every measure possible to prevent, detect and respond to the threat that is dementia and Alzheimer’s. She and her siblings, along with all of their children, have undergone genetic testing to determine if any of them possess the genes linked to the diseases her parents and sister suffered from — and learned that a few of them do, including Lillian’s youngest daughter. When considering ways to most effectively fight the disease that had already claimed so many happy moments and special people in her life, Lillian turned to Ochsner’s new Brain Health Cognitive Disorders Program. She knew that she couldn’t get back what she had already lost, but there was still hope for future patients: perhaps she could be a part of finding a cure, and if not, then she could at least make the experience easier for families going through the same situation. “We met with the doctors and

through tele-health and other technologies — in addition to exploring ways to promote brain health in younger populations to reduce dementia risk later in life. Over the past year, Lillian and her husband Jimmy have donated $500,000 to help fund the program, a donation that improves the quality of care for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and helps alleviate the negative impact the disease has on families, according to Robert John Sawyer, MD, co-director of the program. “Every day, the Maurins’ gift helps us to improve our dementia care and provides relief for families in crisis who are often not reimbursed by insurance companies or Medicare,” Dr. Margolin said. The System Chair of Neurology Richard Zweifler, MD said that this program is one fueled by innovation — and innovation requires an investment to prove its value. “We couldn’t do any of this work without the generous support of donors like the Maurins,” Dr. Zweifler said. “And it’s important work. Neurological disorders affect such a high proportion of the population today. Many of them, especially the degenerative disorders, are becoming more prevalent as the population ages, and they will only become more and more common. When you combine common diseases with high disability, it should certainly get anybody’s attention.” For Lillian, the work being done brings exciting prospects for a better future, but it also helps her to understand the inconceivable intricacies of the ill mind, and to learn even small ways to make a difference in her sister’s remaining years. “Did you know that bodily contact helps? Feeling, touching. Every once in a while, I’ll go to see my sister, and I’ll just hold her hand and talk to her,” Lillian said. “It all just gives me great hope.” If you would like to support innovations in neuroscience, please visit ochsner.org/

brainhealth or contact Lucy King, Director of Development, at lucy.king@ochsner.org.


hat does it mean to survive? The answer might depend on who you ask. For some, perhaps it comes down to meeting the most basic of necessities, while for others, perhaps it’s more about finding communities that support us through thick and thin. If you asked Jessica Huneycutt to define survival, she’d say that it goes much further than that — survival is taking the challenges life presents and making the most of them. It’s finding the silver lin-

Jessica Huneycutt

Searching for Silver Linings J e s s i c a H u n eycutt , Sa i nt s Yoga I n struc tor an d th is year ’s Moonl i ght & Mi ra cl es featured patien t , s h a re s h e r stor y of pa i n a n d perseveran ce. By Topher Balfer | Photos by Daymon Gardner

ings in the most terrible situations and using them as thread to stitch ourselves back together. Survival is turning pain into passion; it’s turning adversity into adventure. It might sound cliché, but such philosophies have carried Jessica through some of her most challenging experiences. Take, for instance, the first major turning point in her life, when she was sexually assaulted at gunpoint at just 14 years old. Up to that point, she’d been an incredibly active person, spending her free time training as a competitive swimmer in hopes to one day reach the Olympics. But the assault — and the feeling that she couldn’t tell anyone about it — led to the sudden and complete depletion of all her hopes and motivations. “From age 14 to 24, I never told anybody what happened,” Jessica said. “But I went from being a junior Olympic swimmer and straight-A student to running away from home, developing an eating disorder, depression, anxiety…all of it. It was basically a decade of a really hard life.” Through that trying time, Jessica turned toward prescription medications to treat her anxiety and depression. While they were “absolutely lifesaving” at the time, she was determined to find another solution, one that would set her on the path toward true healing.

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We g e t c a u g h t u p i n t h e d a y - t o - d a y,

in the trivialities of life. I just want to encourage people to step back and ask ourselves, ‘What really matters? What d o I c a r e a b o u t ? W h a t d o I w a n t t o d o? W h a t l e g a c y d o I w a n t t o l e a v e?

“It was when I was pregnant with my son, Dylan, that I started practicing yoga. And that was the catalyst for so much change in my life,” Jessica said. “It was not an overnight thing, but I found so much strength and hope and healing through the practice of yoga. Through studying nutrition, through meditation, through positive psychology and just really exploring all of these alternative and complementary therapies, I was able to get myself off all prescription medication and start to heal and feel whole again.” In her own way, Jessica had reclaimed the power that had been taken from her, discovering along the way a new approach to growing her spirit and her mind. That change came at just the right time, too, for there were more obstacles on the road ahead, and the power of her newly found positive thinking was put to the ultimate test.

“I was in a jungle after a week-long yoga retreat. I just traveled around by myself, and I was trying to find this new sense of direction in the throes of divorce,” Jessica said. “I remember sitting there and suddenly telling myself, ‘I have to get back to New Orleans. How can I possibly do that? Who can I teach yoga to that would allow me to even make a living as a single mother?’ And I remember saying to myself, ‘I’m going to be the yoga teacher for the Saints. They just don’t know it yet.’” It was certainly a lofty goal, but that she could achieve it was never a doubt in Jessica’s mind; however, there was another factor she had to consider. In 2015, her mother had been diagnosed with cancer, a creeping and long-undetected illness that had begun in her breasts and manifested in her bones as Stage IV. By the time the cancer was discovered, doctors gave Jessica’s mother two years to live, which left the newly single mother at a crossroads: should she go to New Orleans and pursue this new spark of inspiration, or should she go to Virginia, where her mother was living out her last days? “I told [my mother] how I was thinking about moving back home to Virginia, and she just said, ‘No, Jessica, go for it. It’s probably not going to happen — I don’t want you to get your hopes up, and don’t let your spirit be crushed — but you should go to New Orleans and try.’ And I did.” Getting the job was a challenge. There was simply no precedent in the NFL for yoga, but Jessica was determined and diligent: she showed up at the Saints practice facility for four consecutive days, waiting in the lobby with a report detailing the athletic benefits of practicing yoga until she was finally granted a meeting with the strength coach. The interview lasted two hours, and Jessica made a convincing case — six months later, she was invited back and offered a position as the official New Orleans Saints Yoga Instructor. “I remember calling my mom and telling her. She was a lifelong professor and had dedicated her life to teaching, so she was elated that I was somewhat following in her footsteps,” Jessica said. “She was so proud.” When it was time to say goodbye, Jessica traveled to Virginia to be with her


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mother during her final moments. The experience was deeply emotional, and she spent several months in a suspended state of shock. Later that year, in August 2018, Jessica began to feel like something wasn’t right. After all the time she’d spent getting in touch with her body and learning to heed the signs it presented to her, instinct now told her she needed to investigate further. “At first, I thought, ‘Maybe I’m just depressed. I’ve lost my mother, and maybe I need to go back on antidepressants,’” she said. Just to be safe, she went into a nearby clinic to make sure the breast cancer that had claimed her mother’s life wasn’t a genetic issue. The doctor did an exam and said, ‘Well, I don’t feel anything, there’s no lump, you’re under 40, and we don’t do mammograms under 40.’” Deciding to trust the opinion of the medical professional who’d evaluated her, Jessica went about her regular life, trying to put that uneasy feeling to rest. It didn’t go away — and that November, she found a lump. This time, she was taking no risks, and she turned to Ochsner for treatment. “I did the mammogram, and then they did a biopsy,” Jessica said. “It was January 14, 2019 that I found out that I did, indeed, have cancer. And so that on the heels of my mother’s death less than a year before…it was shocking, to say the least.” The day she found out was a Monday, the same day she was scheduled to help the Saints recover after the Sunday game. She did her best to hold it together, but the news proved too much to bear. “At the end of the yoga session, when we were in the final resting pose, just lying flat, breathing deeply and relaxing, I remember bursting into tears,” Jessica said. “Obviously I have never burst into tears at work. And that day I did, and I remember them saying, ‘Jess, what’s wrong?’ and I said, ‘I have cancer. I don’t know what’s going to happen, or if I’m going to be able to be here with you again.’” The Saints, though, had come to see Jessica as a part of their team, and they immediately offered her their support and encouragement. Jessica had a double mastectomy the following month, which was followed by another minor operation to remove more tissue and a final procedure to implant synthetic breasts. Looking back, she said she feels lucky: because her cancer was detected relatively early, the surgeries were enough to remove the cancer and did not require radiation and chemotherapy. “I was safely able to avoid that,” Jessica said. “And that was the turning point for me, mentally and emotionally, where I thought, ‘Okay, now all I have to do is get through these surgeries, and I’m going to be okay.” Once again, she found that searching for the good in the situation and reaching that “It could be worse”

moment was all she needed to free herself and move forward. The experience — and the fear — were still fresh, but somehow, Jessica was optimistic. “Since June, it’s just been a matter of healing,” she said. “And again, for me, that’s been through the lens of yoga. Even though I could only participate in about 20 percent of the physical practices, just the teachings and the learnings and the breathing exercises were so healing and pivotal for me.” Part of that healing also includes this year’s Moonlight & Miracles Gala, where Jessica was the featured patient and told her story of resilience to thousands of guests. Sharing such intimate details in a public setting might seem daunting, but it’s part of Jessica’s ethos to be an open book in the hopes that her journey can inspire and guide others who have been through — or may one day go through — a similar experience. More than that, proceeds from the Gala directly fund cancer research and innovation, and in light of the care she received, Jessica feels it is her duty to return that generosity however she can. “Ochsner has been amazing in supporting me and working with me. The physical challenges meant very little in comparison to the emotional support and the feeling of having the entire team behind me,” she said. “I try to dedicate as much time as possible for all of the positives that Ochsner has, through speaking and teaching events for them and raising money — just really doing as much as I possibly can to give back.” It might seem strange, but Jessica said she feels the cancer was, in some way, a blessing: it was an opportunity to refocus, to take a hard look at her dreams and try her hardest to make them a reality. It’s a perspective that didn’t come easily, but she said that with the invaluable support of the

Saints and her care team at Ochsner, she has come out of the experience stronger than ever. She is ready to persevere. She is ready to channel all her energy into spreading hope and compassion to as many people as possible. Compared to what she’s been through, it even seems easy. “We get caught up in the day-to-day, in the trivialities of life,” Jessica said. “I just want to encourage people to step back and ask ourselves, ‘What really matters? What do I care about? What do I want to do? What legacy do I want to leave?’” And that, Jessica said, is what it really means to survive. I f you wou ld li ke to sup p o r t ca n ce r re se a rc h a n d p a t ie n t ca re a t O c h s ner Ca ncer I ns t i t u te, p l e a se v isit ochsner.org/oci o r co n ta c t A n n a Co m bes, D i rector of D eve l o p m e n t, a t a co m b e s@ o c h sn e r. o rg.

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Miracle Sponsor

Thank you to our 2019 Moonlight & Miracles Sponsors. Your support helped make this year’s Gala a record-breaking success. More importantly, your generosity will help expand research efforts and patient care at Ochsner Cancer Institute. Thank you for making miracles happen. Champion Sponsors

The Gayle & Tom Benson Charitable Foundation Warner L. Thomas

Dr. Robert L. Hart and Dr. Susan E. Nelson

Touchdown Sponsors


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Gold Sponsors

Norris and Bob Williams


Star Sponsors

Dr. and Mrs. James Wray Bush Mr. Michael Hulefeld and Dr. Renee Reymond Hulefeld

Kathy and Steve Nathanson

Natasha & Ronnie Lamarque

Mr. and Mrs. Allen Schick o c h s n e r. o rg


The Finish Line

By Topher Balfer | Photos provided by Daniel Allemond

lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Funnily enough, Daniel said his first reaction was not fear or sadness, but disappointment that the timing might impede his chances of participating in the Ironman. “When my doctor was telling me, ‘You have leukemia,’ I think I asked at least three times, ‘I’ve been training for this race. I can’t wait until next week to start all this stuff?’” Daniel said. Daniel’s treatment couldn’t wait, and he changed his focus from crossing

Daniel Allemond bikes 112 miles during the November 2019 Ironman in Arizona.

After a years-long battle with leukemia, Daniel Allemond is ready to go the distance.


n September 2015, Daniel Allemond was just a week away from completing his first Half Ironman, a race he’d spent months preparing for. It was set to be his biggest challenge yet, and while he would ultimately be successful, it would be four years before he’d cross the finish line — and the race to get there would be longer and more arduous than he’d ever expected. At first, Daniel thought his increased fatigue and lightheadedness were simply results of overtraining. He’d been pushing harder and harder to ensure his success in the Half Ironman, which would see him swimming 1.2 miles, biking 56 miles and running a half marathon. He was no stranger to such rigorous training, but he knew something was amiss when his speed and energy


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began to decline dramatically. “I would have to stop running because I couldn’t breathe,” Daniel said. “I would go ride bikes with my friends, and I would get left behind because I couldn’t keep up, when normally, I could easily keep up with the guys I ride with. There were a couple of times I remember almost blacking out in the swimming pool because I just didn’t have enough oxygen.” Daniel paid a visit to his family doctor, who directed him to a cardiologist, who then referred him to an oncologist. Within a matter of days, Daniel had gone from a strict athletic training regimen to awaiting the results of a bone marrow biopsy. And barely two weeks after meeting with his family doctor, he received news he never expected to hear: Daniel was diagnosed with acute

the Half Ironman finish line to fighting for his life. The following week, Daniel received his first round of chemotherapy at the Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer and Survivorship Program at Ochsner. He would go on to have seven more bone marrow biopsies, close to 20 lumbar punctures and almost 100 chemotherapy infusions. When Ochsner Magazine last spoke to Daniel in 2016, he was nearing the end of his treatment following a long and eventful battle, during which he was honored as an Ochsner Saints Hero and was recognized as the featured patient at that year’s Moonlight & Miracles Gala. Three years later and over the incredible hurdle that leukemia presented, Daniel set his sights on the goals that motivated him before the unexpected detour. It’s his way, he said, of reclaiming what he almost lost. First on his to-do list was the Half Ironman. In September 2019 — just eight months after his final chemo treatment — Daniel traveled to Augusta, Georgia to finish what he started. He was more prepared than ever. “Now, I laugh because I’ve probably set a record for training for a Half Ironman,” Daniel said. “Because I’ve been training for about four years.” Daniel and his coach set a goal of five and a half hours to complete the Half Ironman, which was held on a hot day and required him to run and bike over challenging, hilly terrain — but Daniel was ready to close that chapter of his

TOP LEFT: Daniel Allemond with his wife, Maggie, and parents moments after crossing the finish line of his first full Ironman. TOP CENTER: Daniel celebrating the end of his chemotherapy treatments and official remission status. TOP RIGHT: Daniel and Maggie at the 2019 Moonlight & Miracles Gala.

ABOVE: Daniel, Maggie, and Daniel’s parents stand with Saints owner, Gayle Benson, and Ochsner President and CEO, Warner Thomas, at the 2019 Gala.

life. He finished in five hours and eighteen minutes. “When I crossed the finish line with the Half Ironman, it was almost like I shut the door on everything,” Daniel said. “I almost broke down into tears. When I crossed the finish line and my wife, my mom and my dad were there, they all hugged me. A couple of us were crying. It was almost like my last chemo, like all the miles, all the early mornings, all the long drives…it was all worth it at the end.” Daniel’s story had already come full circle, but he wasn’t ready to call it quits. With the Half under his belt, Daniel set his sights on running a full Ironman in Tempe, Arizona in November — a feat that challenged him to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run 26.2 miles. It wasn’t easy, especially when intense knee pain set in halfway through the run, but Daniel said cancer had taught him to “dig deep and channel the energy and pain elsewhere.” He found the drive to keep going and, when he finally crossed the finish line, Daniel joined the 0.5 percent of Ironman contestants who successfuly complete the challenge. That drive to persevere comes from something his mother has said to him since he was young, a mantra and philosophy that has guided his every decision and action.

ABOVE: Daniel and Saints coach Sean Payton at the 2016 Gala.

“My mom always told me, ‘You can start anything you want — any sport, anything, whatever — but you’re not going to quit.’ Because of that, I think I looked at the whole cancer thing as just a challenge,” Daniel said. “I was so ornery about it, like, ‘Bring it. Let it come. We’re going to go at it.’ I always told people, ‘I just had to win more days than it won. I couldn’t let it beat me.’ Mentally and physically, I couldn’t let it beat me more days than I could beat it. “I think that’s just staying positive,” he continued. “I started it. I wasn’t going to quit until either it took me, or I was done. That was the same thing about the race. I started training for this race. It truly helped me envision a lot of stuff and kept me going.” “It was not an option to give up,” he said. “There was not a choice to quit. The race — yeah, it was a choice, but it was my dream. I had to do it. Like my mom said, I started it, and I had to finish.” I f yo u wo ul d l ike to sup p o r t ca n ce r re se a rc h a nd p a t ie n t ca re t h ro ug h t h e Ad o l e sce n t a n d Yo u ng Ad ul t Ca n ce r P ro g ra m a t O c h sn e r, p l e a se v isi t

ochsner.org/aya o r co n ta c t Tra c i L uca s, D irec tor of D eve l o p m e n t, a t tra c i. l uca s@ o c h sn e r. o rg.

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The Annu a l Tra ns p l a n t Ho l i da y Pa r t y wa s h e l d at Och s n e r Jef fe r s o n Highway o n De ce mber 5 , 2019. The fes t ive eve n t b r i n g s to g e t h e r O ch s n e r phy s ician s, n u r s e s an d s taf f al o n g wit h donors and p a t ient s to ce l e b ra te t ra n s p l a n t ca re.


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Thomas Harris, Vice President of Pediatrics for Ochsner Health System; Thomas Morstead, Michelle Hennessey, Marlene Rodriguez and John Hennessey at a check presentation to Ochsner Hospital for Children on behalf of What You Give Jules Montelaro, Executive Board Member; Jennifer Fritz-Reavis,

Will Grow and Triumph Over Kid Cancer. This incredible act

Director of Programs; and Kristianne Stewart, Founder and CEO

of generosity will provide a new outdoor space that will allow

present a check on behalf of Compassion that Compels in support of

pediatric patients a place to play, get sunshine and have a breath

the Women’s Wellness and Survivorship Center at Ochsner Baptist.

of fresh air during their stay at Ochsner Hospital for Children.

W inn -D ixie P ort O r l e a n s

Lend a Helping Can was held on November 13, 2019 at Port Orleans Brewing, Co. LEFT: David Connick, Manager of Clinic Operations, Karen Wynn, Manager of the Chemo Infusion Center, Courtney Dini, RN, Dr. Brian Moore, Associate Medical Director of Cancer Services and Dr. Elizabeth Lapeyre. RIGHT: Chip Turner, Winn Dixie District Manager and Don Noel, Port Orleans Brewing Co. Manager present a check in support of Ochsner Cancer Institute to Dr. Elizabeth Lapeyre and Dr. Brian Moore.

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T h i n k i n g f o r To m o r r o w

Attendees learn about Ochsner Neuroscience Institute’s mission at the inaugural Colors of the Mind fundraiser.

Pau l an d Do n n a Flower h o pe to e n s u re a b e tte r fu t u re fo r co gnitively im pa ire d pa t ien t s an d c are g i ve rs . By Jordan LaHaye


n September 2019, Woodward Design + Build’s CEO, Paul Flower, stood onstage at the Fillmore New Orleans and told a story about his father’s decline by Alzheimer’s. “[I remember] the time he couldn’t remember my name when I came to visit. So he said, ‘You are the one who builds things.’… [Another time], Dad started talking, and though I could not understand, I listened as he went on for several minutes, then stopped and started laughing. He had told me a joke, so I thought of one of the many funny stories we had shared and laughed, too. And then, when he could not remember anything about me, but there was light and reaction in his eyes. Finally, no reaction, and hospice.” Alongside his wife, Donna, Paul was serving as the presenting sponsor for the Ochsner Neuroscience Institute’s inaugural Colors of the Mind fundraising event. Since the Institute’s beginnings, the Flowers have been some of the most fervent supporters of Ochsner’s vision for a center of excellence in Neuroscience, fueled by their own 10-year journey through his father’s battle with Alzheimer’s. That battle began 25 years ago, when resources — especially in the New Orleans area — were extremely limited. General understanding of the disease wasn’t widespread, and most assisted living facilities had no way to appropriately care for the memory impaired. “I think of what we went through with my father, and the great difficulties we had until we found one of the few people at the time who knew anything about memory impairment, a psychiatrist whose practice specialized in dementia,” said Paul. “We were one of the lucky ones.” Having access to focused, knowledgeable memory care made all the difference for the Flowers. It provided them with a diagnosis and deeper understanding of Paul’s father’s condition;


Winter 2020

training on how to best care for him, which allowed them to keep him at home much longer; access to experimental drugs, which greatly slowed down the disease’s progression; and then, eventually, entry into an assisted living home that had the resources to care for dementia patients. At that time, there were only four Alzheimer residential care homes in New Orleans caring for 16 patients. “There just was very little available at the time, and most assisted living homes weren’t trained for patients like him,” said Paul. Six years ago, when Ochsner’s President and CEO Warner Thomas shared his vision with Paul and Donna — plans to build a Neuroscience Center of Excellence, with resources to better serve cognitively-impaired patients and to explore the complex illnesses of the brain — the couple deeply understood the potential impact. In the past four years, the Ochsner Neuroscience Institute has developed into a cutting edge, patient-centered program — the only institution of its kind in the entire Gulf Coast region to achieve national ranking from U.S. News & World Report in neurology and neurosurgery. With some of the top experts in the field, its Brain Health and Cognitive Disorders Program takes a multidisciplinary approach to dementia care that is reflective of the Flowers’ own positive experience — emphasizing research, early diagnosis and comprehensive care plans geared toward increasing quality of life. “In our program, we really want to be sure that we are providing answers to the questions of patients and family members,” said System Chair of Neurology Richard Zweifler, MD. “We want to minimize the stress and anxiety that comes with the diagnosis of a degenerative neurological disease and the uncertainty of what the future will hold. Then, we want to provide as much support

throughout that journey, with interventions that will reduce any chance for complications, so that all of these things together can maximize the quality of life not just for the patient, but also for family and loved ones.” In 2016, the Flowers decided that they wanted to be involved in a meaningful way and donated $1 million to the Ochsner Neuroscience Institute. They have continued to support the program with both funding and voluntarism, and Paul currently serves on the Ochsner Health Foundation Board. “What their donations, and the donations of all of our patrons, have permitted us to do is create a multi-disciplinary team, changing the care model to be better able to provide as much care [for patients] in the home or in a care facility,” said Dr. Zweifler. “The funds also allow us to provide social support for patients and families, which is incredibly important as they continue through this difficult journey of neurological illness.” At September’s Colors of the Mind fundraising event, hundreds of guests, adorned in vibrant colors, stood together in support of people who have suffered from neurological illnesses of every kind. The event raised more than $200,000 towards expanding the Institute’s research efforts, patient resources and caregiver support. And standing on that stage, Paul offered his story as an emotional-yet-hopeful reminder of why they were all there. “The treatments that this program has developed, and the approaches they are taking today are so helpful in terms of improving life experience and helping families as they go through this journey. It just seems to me that this gives people who have to endure this the best possible life.” In watching the program’s progress, Paul said that he has been blown away at what’s been accomplished in such a short period of time. “It’s well beyond what we imagined it would be,” he said. “When you just look at the innovation that’s there in everything they do — how to care and address strokes, spinal issues, how to improve the life and care for both the patient and the family for people with memory diseases — it’s very impressive.” What happened to Paul’s father can happen to anyone, to all of us, he said. As our population’s lifespans continue to extend, we need to become better prepared to care for aging minds — an effort that everyone who can should become involved in. “What Ochsner is doing is something that our particular region simply does not have,” he said.

Event co-chairs Kris Vitrano (left) and Erin Biro, MD (right) with Paul and Donna Flower (center).

Roger Smith, MD, CJ Bui, MD and Richard Zweifler, MD.

“It’s addressing an underserved need, and if we can grow this, our area could become to neurology what Houston is to cancer. Not only would this Institute provide a needed service to our community, but it could also create significant economic development, bettering both our home and our future, too.” If you would like to support the future of brain health, please visit ochsner.org/alzheimers or contact Lucy King, Director of Development, at lucy.king@ochsner.org.

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Ochsner Philanthropy Winter 2019-2020