Aquinas community will observe 50th anniversary; a future cardinal blessed it

By Dr. Al Delahaye

The 50th anniversary of the Community of St. Thomas Aquinas will be observed at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 25, at an anniversary Mass with the Rev. André Melancon as celebrant and homilist. The observance, planned by the Pastoral Council, whose president is Billy Naquin, will include a reception in the Cotillion Ballroom beginning at 11:45. There will be food, door prizes, music, a silent auction, a historical slide show and a skit by students from the Campus Ministry.

In the late 1950s, when New Orleans Archbishop Joseph Francis Rummel included a Nicholls Catholic Student Center in a $3 million “Campaign of Progress” fundraiser, no one envisioned that the first big problem would be acquiring a building site. Nor did anyone envision a 50th anniversary Mass on Jan. 25, 2015, or a follow-up reception in a student union that back then did not exist.

Owners of property across the street from the campus half a century ago chose not to sell, most equating a student center with a fraternity house, so the archbishop knew that somehow the center would have to be built on the campus. But the state attorney general ruled that the Louisiana Board of Education had no authority to sell Nicholls land. But it did have authority to lease no more than one acre for 99 years or less, generally for fraternity houses.

Houma Mayor Leon Gary, a Catholic board member, and Nicholls President Charles C. Elkins, a Baptist, strongly favored a religious center on the campus.

Finally six plots were created on paper, a Thibodaux appraiser was called in and Gary asked the board to grant a long-term lease of about 44,800 square feet for $20,000.

Possible problems were an existing mineral lease and the site perhaps being in the path of a future road. Some board members thought the concept in violation of “the sprit of board regulations that no student center be constructed on college campuses [where there] is an almost constant demand for additional land at colleges.”

The 11-member board consisted of one member from each of eight congressional districts and three gubernatorial appointees; it controlled every aspect of Louisiana public education with the exceptions of LSU and Delgado Trade School. Elkins and Gary left the April 26, 1960, meeting after getting all but three board members to approve the religious center.

Archbishop John P. Cody, whom Pope Paul VI in 1967 would designate a Cardinal in Chicago, approved the center plans prepared by Thibodaux Architect Fernand Picou; the plans were his contribution to the project. Picou said he proposed the name that Cody accepted: St. Thomas Aquinas. The center bears the name of the Italian philosopher who lived from 1225 to 1274 and held that theology and science cannot contradict each other since truth is indivisible.

In essence, Picou explained the project as one involving two structures, each representing about 8,000 square feet of floor space – and the Old and the New Testaments.

They would rise on a lot about 300 feet wide and 150 feet deep. One would consist of a chapel adjoining a recreation or lounge facility, both sharing a flat, slanted roof. The structures would be contemporary and finite, representing the spirituality of man. The chapel would have 12 tall windows representing the apostles; the adjoining lounge area would have seven windows symbolizing the sacraments. An adjoining two-story building would have living quarters, an oval library, offices – and a horizontal roof. It would be volute in style – spiral or snail-like – and finite, representing the physical side of man.

Shortly after his 1963 retirement, Elkins returned to the campus in August from his renovated home in Jonesville to join President Vernon F. Galliano and others in groundbreaking ceremonies for what would be the 12th building project on the campus. (Baptist Student Union groundbreaking ceremonies were conducted five years later.)

On Jan. 26, 1965, Archbishop Cody blessed St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Center. He was assisted by the Rev. John Bendix, for six years chaplain to the Nicholls Newman Club, the biggest, most prestigious student organization on campus at the time. Back then, the Newman Club annually sponsored a major Christmas ball and erected in Rienzi Circle an advent wreathe 40 feet in diameter. Also assisting was the Rev. Edward L. Boudreaux, pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Thibodaux. (The Jan. 25 Mass will be one day before the actual 50th anniversary.)

The 1965 service marked the first time that a blessing in the archdiocese had been done entirely in English. The Rev. Thomas Dowling, who had succeeded Bendix as chaplain, celebrated the first Mass. A Newman Club Choir, directed by Bonnie Bourg, sang. Irby Gaudet, a Thibodaux student, was organist, and Carroll Hebert Jr., a Belle Rose student, was soloist. Elise Alleman Hughey of the English faculty was the first to receive communion.

Almost 2,000 people toured the $322,000 two-building center during an open house on the last Sunday of February. They inspected the oval library, a memorial to Gaston L. Breaux of Thibodaux. They visited the recreation or lounge area known as Grenier Hall in honor of J.L.V. Grenier of Thibodaux. It included a small stage, theatrical curtains and lighting.

Above the entrance to the 280-seat chapel was a colorful 18-foot-tall mosaic depicting St. Thomas teaching at the University of Paris; it was the work of Henrique Valderama of the University of Mexico. Anyone entering the chapel could admire the mural, but during construction the nearby street became one-way toward the bayou, thus making the mural unnoticeable to anyone in an automobile.

On the roof above the mural was a 14-foot aluminum cross. The waffle ceiling of the chapel tilted from a height of 28 feet to 14 feet at the opposite end in the recreation area.

Ahead lay many changes and events; for instance, the assistance from time to time of various priests and nuns, a Shakespearean play and a British drama, a little sandwich shop, seminars and debates, classes and lectures (including one against the death penalty by Sister Helen Prejean), retreats and missions, the dismantling of the little stage, and much more, big and small. The 11-year tenure of the Rev. Wilmer Todd, which began in 1968, took place during turbulent times on and off campus, and it helped to transform Nicholls from a placid institution to a dynamic one that advanced and respected academic freedom.

In early 1972, the archdiocese transformed St. Thomas into a parish known as the Community of St. Thomas. It would be a “mixed” parish, having no territorial boundaries but drawing its parishioners from students, faculty, staff and their dependents. St. Thomas would enjoy autonomy and conduct baptisms, weddings and funerals.

Also in the early 1970s a modest, short-lived monthly publication called Yeast shocked many campus conservatives by dealing openly with topics ranging from the plights of blacks and women to the generation gap to anti-war concerns; it also published untraditional observations: “The atmosphere for violence is not created by those who seek change but by those who try to prevent it.”

During the summer of 1979 Sister Carmelita Centanni announced plans by Aquinas to replace the familiar blue window glass in the chapel. Some panes were broken, and matching glass was no longer available. LSU students Stephen A. Wilson and Allen Cuneo received a $28,000 stained-glass assignment after their work had been on exhibit in the Nicholls Art Department.

They then created a giant, abstract oak, leafy and sun-drenched – a tree of wisdom – to represent Isaiah 61:1-3 and its reference to mourners who receive joy and gladness and are like trees that the Lord himself had planted. The installation was completed the week before Easter 1980.

In early 1999, the chapel’s 14 original little stations of the cross were replaced by 45-year-old stations about 30 inches tall and indeed artistic; they were obtained for a mere $6,500 from an old church that had closed in Wisconsin. For a few years after the turn of the century, various parishes in the diocese once a week took turns serving free hot lunches, which anyone who showed up at the center could enjoy.

Throughout the years, St. Thomas has been more than a place to hang out with friends, pray and attend Mass. It has added depth and dimension to the university and, during Todd ‘s long tenure, which began in 1968, advanced the concept of academic freedom and student comment on educational, national and world issues.

St. Thomas is a unique part of the university, and symbols of that abound. For example, a memorial gaslight bearing the name of presidential wife Betsy Cheramie Ayo has been glowing next to the chapel entrance since her death in 1997.

Performing risky kidney stone surgery

Chester Weimer 2013 Thibodaux Urology Doctors feature for Voila!Dr. Chester Weimer (BS ’75)

33 years in practice | Urology | Thibodaux Urology Specialists

“I originally went to Nicholls to study math, then changed my major to pre-med after working part time at Thibodaux Regional. The biology foundation I got from Nicholls made medical school a lot easier. I didn’t have to go back and learn things; I had already been taught the basics.”

Technology has dramatically changed how we practice medicine. When I was in medical school and residency, CAT scans were just being developed, and ultrasound was primitive. Today, we commonly treat kidney stones with Shock Wave Lithotripsy, a nonsurgical technique for breaking the stone into fragments, but before lithotripsy was available, kidney stones often required open surgery.

I remember way back when, I had a patient with a stone blocking the flow of urine from his right kidney to the bladder. The patient had undergone multiple previous surgeries, leaving his whole pelvis full of fibrotic tissue. I really couldn’t tell arteries from veins from nerves, and there are a lot of vital structures in the pelvic area. I remember it took 4 1/2 to five hours to finally get the stone because the ureter was so tortuous; in other words, the kidney tube didn’t follow the simple path that it should have. The surgery was successful, but it was real scary, tedious work that would probably only take 35 minutes today.

I also performed the first ureteroscopy in Louisiana. I knew a guy who worked for the company that created the ureteroscope, an instrument that can be passed through the urethra and bladder and look up the kidney tube to find and remove the stone. At the time, there had been no training on how to use this new scope. I told the company rep about one of my cases, and he said let’s see if it works. It did, but it wasn’t without anxiety.

I love practicing urology, but what I really love is treating patients. There’s a lot more to patient care than treating their illness. I try to spend time discussing the issues surrounding the problem — whether it’s anxiety, depression or family conflict. If you just walk in and say you need an operation and then walk out, you miss a lot

— Written by Stephanie Verdin, publications coordinator

This article originally appeared in the fall 2013 issue of Voila! magazine. Click here to read the entire issue.

Waiting for a heart to heal itself

Dr. Christopher Paris Cardiovascular Institute of the South For the feature on Doctors in Voila! 2013Dr. Christopher Paris (BS ’00)

3 years in practice | Interventional Cardiology | Cardiovascular Institute of the South (CIS), Luling

“It’s an unbelievable jump from college to medical school, but the Nicholls pre-med program gave me a head start. The curriculum included a great amount of pre-professional classes that were similar to those I took my first year of med school.”

I had just started working at CIS in Houma when I received an emergency call in the middle of the night. A man in his mid-50s with seemingly no prior cardiovascular problems had arrived at Terrebonne General Medical Center with symptoms of a heart attack.

When I arrived at the hospital, I diagnosed him with an acute myocardial infarction. This was only my second acute heart attack patient as an attending physician. When you’re in training as a resident and fellow, someone more experienced is always watching over you, so it takes a while to realize that you can operate on your own. But my eight years of training quickly kicked in as I placed a stent in his coronary artery and watched his vital signs improve.

The next day, the patient took an unexpected turn for the worse. The stent was working perfectly, but the patient’s health continued to decline. His kidneys began to shut down, and dialysis was needed. We placed a special balloon pump in his heart as well as a pacemaker in his chest to help his heart beat regularly. Sedated and on a ventilator, the patient was returned to the Intensive Care Unit.

The hardest part was telling his family that the man who had seemed completely healthy a couple of days ago now had a high chance of dying. It was difficult for them to understand that the best course of action at this time was to step back and let the body repair itself. Despite all of today’s advanced medical technology, sometimes the best medicine is just to watch and wait, but that’s not easy.

A week later, the patient was starting to improve and wake up. His heart and kidney functions were all improving. A very exciting moment for me was telling the family that the patient did not need any special equipment to sustain a pulse or breathing. Using the ventilator and balloon pump allowed his heart the time it needed to recover and repair itself.

Today, the patient is back at work and living a normal life. He and his wife hug me every time they come to the clinic. That’s why I chose the field of medicine and the specialty of cardiology. I am able to take care of critically ill patients in a hospital setting, perform procedures and follow patients in clinic. I get the immediate gratification of helping patients during some of their most dire times, as well as the long-term gratification of caring for these patients for the rest of their lives.

— Written by Stephanie Verdin, publications coordinator

This article originally appeared in the fall 2013 issue of Voila! magazine. Click here to read the entire issue.

Caring for a child with a rare genetic disorder

Sheila Pitre 2013 Thibodaux Children's Clinic Doctor's feature for Voila!Dr. Sheila Pitre (BS ’87)

21 years in practice | Pediatrics | The Children’s Clinic of Thibodaux

“I grew up in a farming family, and my parents insisted that we went to college. If we could stay local and save money, then we did. When I got to medical school, I realized that Nicholls had given me a very strong base. The pre-med classwork really helped me get through the first couple of years in med school.”

I knew one thing when I started medical school — I would never go into pediatrics. When I did my pediatrics rotation, though, I fell in love with it. I enjoyed the patients and the parents, and I guess it was meant to be.

I’ve kept a picture of one of my patients — Isabel — on my desk for a long time. I started seeing her as a newborn. We weren’t sure what was wrong with Isabel at first. She would slough her skin and hair very rapidly. She couldn’t sweat. She grew teeth very quickly and then lost them by 6 months old.

I started doing some research and sent her files to a geneticist who diagnosed her with a rare form of ectodermal dysplasia, a genetic condition with only six previously reported cases in the world. All of the tissues in her body were aging rapidly, which led to infection. There’s no cure. All I could do was try to prevent her from getting infections and to intervene quickly when she did. Because she couldn’t sweat, temperature control was critical, too, and I monitored it regularly and tried to maintain a steady balance in her body.

Isabel was a fighting little girl. She enjoyed going to Disney World and spending time at her family’s camp in Mississippi. She loved life and so did her family. Kids tend to handle illness — even fatal illness — better than their parents do. They’re more worried about their parents than they are about themselves.

We lost Isabel one year ago at the age of 5. You try your best to help, but there are those kids who you just can’t save. I believe that God put these kids on earth for a reason, and that’s to teach us how precious life is. Isabel was one of those kids. She was a blessing.

— Written by Stephanie Verdin, publications coordinator

This article originally appeared in the fall 2013 issue of Voila! magazine. Click here to read the entire issue.

Treating a man with leprosy

Ryan Matherne Dermatologist 2013 For the Doctors feature in Voila 2013Dr. Ryan Matherne (BS ’02)

3 years in practice | Dermatology, Dermatopathology | Matherne Dermatology, Lutcher, Cut Off and Metairie

“From day one, I thought Nicholls prepared me very well for medical school. In fact, my first semester of med school was an easier transition than most students experience thanks to Nicholls.”

When people think of Hansen’s disease, also known as leprosy, they usually think of the Bible story of Jesus healing the lepers. It still has a pretty significant stigma attached to it. Many

people don’t realize that the ninebanded armadillo — common in the south-central United States — carries the bacteria that causes leprosy.

During my first year of residency at the University of Texas at Galveston, I had a patient who had recently noticed red bumps all over his body. The gentleman, who had just retired from a career in the petrochemical industry, had never seen a dermatologist before, but the suddenly appearing lesions caused him great distress. I performed a skin biopsy and was able to determine that he had leprosy.

The patient remembers going fishing back in the ’60s with a friend who cooked some meat and asked him to try it. The patient ate the meat, only later learning that it was armadillo. One theory is that he may have contracted leprosy through consuming that meat. It’s caused by a slow-growing bacteria, so it’s very common for Hansen’s disease to stay dormant in the body for a long time — even four decades.

Due to the chronic nature of the disease, I was able to follow the patient for close to a year, and with antibiotics, he was completely cured. As a dermatologist-in-training, it was amazing for me to have the ability to see this uncommon disease clinically, monitor the patient’s treatment and learn about the many aspects of Hansen’s.

Generally, though, what I see the most of in clinic is premature skin aging and the development of precancerous and cancerous skin conditions. Since the early days of my training, I’ve seen a dramatic number of skin cancers — it’s become an epidemic in the South. The importance of sunscreen and sun avoidance can’t be overstressed, especially to young people. Most of our sun exposure occurs before we’re 18 years old, and once the skin has sustained damage from UV rays, the damage stays with us.

— Written by Stephanie Verdin, publications coordinator

This article originally appeared in the fall 2013 issue of Voila! magazine. Click here to read the entire issue.

Juggling gunshot wounds, toothaches and an unexpected pregnancy

Ernie Hansen 2013 ER Doctor for Doctor feature in Voila! 2013Dr. Ernest Hansen II (BS ’87)

21 years in practice | Emergency Medicine | Ochsner Medical Center, Slidell

“My freshman calculus professor told the class to go to his house if anyone needed help. Sure enough, a group of us rang his doorbell, and he invited us in to review the material. I could be wrong, but I don’t think that’s happening at many universities. The individualized attention at Nicholls gave me the best chance of getting into med school.”

The saying in emergency medicine ought to be: Go into it for the stories, and stay for the medicine. You can’t get these kinds of crazy stories anywhere else. When I first started working as an emergency room doctor, it was about 3 a.m., and I was in the back doing some reading when the nurses called me. They said, “Dr. Hansen, we have a lady out here who has burning on urination. She says she’s on her period.” I said, “OK, let’s go ahead and put in a urinary catheter.” Shortly after, they called me back and said, “When we went to insert the catheter, we found a head.” So it’s 3 in the morning, this woman is having a baby — she said she didn’t know she was pregnant — and there’s no obstetrician, so I had to deliver the baby.

That’s one of the biggest challenges of emergency medicine. It’s so broad, and sometimes you’re flying by the seat of your pants. I never know what I’m going to do on any given day. I had a guy come in one night with a bad toothache and ask for a nerve block. I said, “I’m not trained to work on teeth.” He said, You have some books in the back, huh? Go look it up. I’ll be here when you get back.” So that’s how I learned to do dental blocks.

When I first came to Ochsner Medical Center in Slidell, it was really quiet. The volume was about 30 percent less than where I had come from, so it was a nice, slow pace. Then one day, they bring in a teenager — a gang member who was probably about 16 — who went into a truck stop to wash his hands, and somebody shot him in the neck. He ended up doing fine, but it was quite different from what I was used to seeing. The craziest shift I ever had was at Thibodaux Regional Medical Center, where I dealt with two broken necks and a gunshot wound all in one night.

Through it all, my philosophy is if I stay calm, my patients will be calm. Emergency medicine is a tough job that few people can do, so it’s gratifying to know that I can do it and help people in the process.

— Written by Stephanie Verdin, publications coordinator

This article originally appeared in the fall 2013 issue of Voila! magazine. Click here to read the entire issue.

Removing a patient’s entire stomach

Dr. Mark Hebert 2013Thibodaux Regional SurgeonFor Doctors feature in Voila!Dr. Mark Hebert (BS ’88)

17 years in practice | General Surgery | Thibodaux Surgical Specialists

“The Nicholls pre-med program’s smaller classes and one-on-one instruction are fairly unique. Medical school was a little more difficult for my friends who had gone to larger universities. They didn’t have the extensive biology background that I did.”

During my first year in practice, a patient was admitted to Thibodaux Regional Medical Center after several days of nausea, vomiting and pain. We ran a series of tests and determined that he had a gastric volvulus, which is usually a catastrophic condition. His stomach was essentially twisted, causing it to lose its blood supply. Without blood, the stomach starts to die. It was the first time I had personally seen this type of case, but I had a clear understanding of how to manage it.

I performed emergency surgery to remove his entire stomach. I repaired what damage I could before putting it back in his abdomen. His esophagus could no longer function properly, so I attached it to his skin on his chest wall. For weeks, the patient had no connection between his mouth and his intestines. He was fed through a tube, and a bag collected any spit he swallowed. He spent a long time in the Intensive Care Unit and probably four to six weeks in the hospital.

After more than a year of care, he was finally ready to have his final operation, where part of his colon was used to replace his esophagus and reconnect his mouth to his intestines. Today, this patient has esophageal function and is still walking around Thibodaux.

That’s what’s really gratifying about surgery and why I love coming to work every morning. In surgery, you’re able to make a disease go away, to remove a condition and produce a cure. This case was very rare, but even if it’s just a patient with gallbladder disease who is hurting, it’s so gratifying to be able to remove the problem and know they’re feeling better.

Because I grew up in north Thibodaux, many of the patients I take care of know my parents, know my friends or know me. When I was 12 years old, I was a paperboy for the Daily Comet, and I’ve had the pleasure of taking care of several of my old paper-route customers. It’s been fantastic for me, but I think it also brings a certain degree of comfort for the patients. They know who I am; they watched me grow up.

— Written by Stephanie Verdin, publications coordinator

This article originally appeared in the fall 2013 issue of Voila! magazine. Click here to read the entire issue.

Relaying tragic news to a baby’s parents

John Heaton 2013 Anesthesiologist for Doctor feature in Voila! 2013Dr. John Heaton (BS ’81)

23 years in practice | Anesthsiology, Patient Safety and Quality | Children’s Hospital, New Orleans

“Recently, I had the opportunity to help care for the grandkid of one of my Nicholls professors. To see my career come full circle was very gratifying.”

Early in my postgraduate training, I had a patient who was born with a congenital diaphragmatic hernia — a hole in the diaphragm that allows the abdominal organs to move into the chest. The condition causes one lung to be undeveloped, the other lung to be underdeveloped and all sorts of pulmonary and cardiovascular problems. This usually fatal illness required us to put the newborn on a ventilator and on ECMO, an artificial heart and lung machine, for about 10 days. It was a battle just to keep her alive, but she finally stabilized, we were able to get her off the machines, and it appeared that she was doing well.

Days later, we did a diagnostic procedure, and the baby had a complication that she did not survive. I learned a lot that day, but the thing that sticks with me the most is the reaction of this 6-week-old baby’s parents when I told them that we had lost her. It’s never nice to deliver that kind of news, but despite their own grief, they were actually very supportive of me. I will never forget their compassion and understanding, despite the terrible blow they had received.

Even though the complication was totally unforeseen, it’s human nature that I started to think that maybe I should have done more to investigate, or maybe if I had thought the procedure through a couple of steps more, I would have approached it differently. If you don’t have the capacity to question and second-guess yourself, you probably shouldn’t be in this field.

That was 27 years ago, and that case and the events around it have shaped the way I practice medicine and how I now manage departments as an associate medical director. Most anesthesiologists want nothing to do with a sick baby, but that’s our specialty. Babies and little kids in general are resilient and bounce back quickly, but they can go into a tailspin just as fast. Safety and quality always come first. There’s a snake under every bush. You can never, ever, ever get complacent. I try to live and teach these messages every day.

— Written by Stephanie Verdin, publications coordinator

This article originally appeared in the fall 2013 issue of Voila! magazine. Click here to read the entire issue.

Taking an emergency case out of my field

Joel Comeau 2013 Gynecologist for Doctor feature in Voila! 2013Dr. Joel Comeaux (DIP ’56)

49 years in practice | Obstetrics and Gynecology | Houma OB-GYN Clinic

“Without Nicholls, I would not have had the means to even go to college. From my Holy Savior High School class in Lockport, six of us went to Nicholls and became a physician, dentist, pharmacist, school principal, school superintendent and an astrophysicist. None of us could have afforded to go elsewhere.”

While I was a medical intern and resident, I moonlighted in emergency rooms and various hospital departments and made house calls to earn extra money to support my wife and three kids. One winter night, I was working in the emergency room at a charity hospital in Lake Charles. I was the only doctor there, even though I was the chief resident in OB-GYN, not emergency.

They brought in a guy on a stretcher. The two people with him — his wife and child — were dead on arrival. He was still alive but unconscious with a maraschino-cherry red complexion — common signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. By myself in the middle of the night, I started racking my brain on what I could do to save this person. This was before there were hyperbaric (pressurized) oxygen chambers, which today can easily replace the carbon monoxide in your blood with oxygen.

I was familiar with an OB-GYN procedure called exchange transfusion, which we used for babies born with Rh incompatibility (when the mother is A- while the baby is A+). To save the baby’s life, we drew out some of the baby’s blood and replaced it with fresh blood and continued that cycle until the baby stabilized. I decided I was going to try applying that procedure to this adult man. I had never heard of it done before for carbon monoxide poisoning, but the man was going to die if I didn’t try something. So I drew off a pint of his blood and gave him a pint of blood and continued doing that. Finally, his color started returning to normal, and he recovered. It was a radical procedure, but it saved a guy’s life.

Since then, I’ve personally delivered more than 7,000 babies, but this remains my proudest case.

— Written by Stephanie Verdin, publications coordinator

This article originally appeared in the fall 2013 issue of Voila! magazine. Click here to read the entire issue.

They got their start here

Eight Nicholls-trained doctors share their most challenging cases


Ryan Matherne Dermatologist 2013For the Doctors feature in Voila 2013 Treating a man with leprosy
Dr. Ryan Matherne 
Joel Comeau 2013Gynecologist for Doctor feature in Voila! 2013 Taking an emergency case out of my field
Dr. Joel Comeaux
John Heaton 2013Anesthesiologist for Doctor feature in Voila! 2013 Relaying tragic news to a baby’s parents
Dr. John Heaton
 Dr. Mark Hebert 2013Thibodaux Regional SurgeonFor Doctors feature in Voila! Removing a patient’s entire stomach
Dr. Mark Hebert
 Ernie Hansen 2013ER Doctor for Doctor feature in Voila! 2013  Juggling gunshot wounds, toothaches
and an unexpected pregnancy

Dr. Ernest Hansen III
 Sheila Pitre 2013Thibodaux Children's ClinicDoctor's feature for Voila! Caring for a child with a rare genetic disorder
Dr. Sheila Pitre
 Dr. Christopher ParisCardiovascular Institute of the SouthFor the feature on Doctors in Voila! 2013 Waiting for a heart to heal itself
Dr. Christopher Paris
 Chester Weimer 2013Thibodaux UrologyDoctors feature for Voila! Performing risky kidney stone surgery
 Dr. Chester Weimer

















Before scrubbing in to medical school, hundreds of doctors in a number of specialties launched their careers at Nicholls. Some never would have attended college, let alone medical school, had Nicholls not existed. Others had multiple college offers but chose Nicholls because of its highly regarded pre-medicine program. Though small, the Thibodaux program has garnered an excellent reputation in the medical community for not only launching students into medical school but also preparing them to succeed once they get there.

Ask Nicholls-bred doctors about their undergraduate experience, and they mostly say the same thing — biology professors, such as Dr. Burt Wilson and Dr. Marilyn Kilgen, were demanding but encouraging, accessible and caring. Coursework in the pre-med classes, especially histology and virology, made their first year of medical school much easier for them than for class- mates from other universities.

Dr. Ernest Hansen III (BS ’87) goes as far as comparing the Nicholls pre-med experience to the NASA space shuttle launch. “There was this sense that even if someone had a menial role, they also helped launch that shuttle. At Nicholls, every professor took great pride in preparing students for where they wanted to go — to medical school and ultimately into the medical profession.”

We caught up with eight doctors in different specialties who earned their biology/pre-med degrees in various Nicholls decades. Here are the stories of their most inspiring yet challenging cases:

— Written by Stephanie Verdin, publications coordinator

This article originally appeared in the fall 2013 issue of Voila! magazine. Click here to read the entire issue.