Degrees of joy

Published 4:15 pm Monday, July 14, 2014

As those attending the opening ceremonies for Bogalusa’s Centennial celebration dodged raindrops in Cassidy Park, across town another group of people were carrying on another tradition as old as the city itself.

On that evening, the LSU Rural Family Medicine Residency Program graduated six young doctors and welcomed six more to take their places at its annual graduation and white coat ceremony. And although the program itself has not quite hit the 100-year mark, as commencement speaker William Crooks, M.D., explained in his presentation, the city already had its own hospital when it was incorporated in 1914. In fact, the city was already in the business of educating medical professionals as by 1914 a school of nursing had already opened.

As guests dined on food provided by La Shish restaurant, Crooks went through Bogalusa’s extensive medical history, highlighting the growth and changes it has undergone since pioneers first set up camp on the banks of Bogue Lusa Creek. Of course, the most recent change came in March, when the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System took over operation of the former LSU Medical Center.

Program Director and master of ceremonies for the evening Emilio Russo, M.D., said that despite the change, LSU remains as committed as ever to the health of the local community. What’s more, he said the benefits do not just run in one direction.

“It truly is impossible without the community as a whole,” said Russo, adding, “It’s easy to see the future is bright and promising.”

Russo said the program saw its largest graduating class yet this year, and locally, the residents have continued to make impacts on the community through initiatives such as the high school sports medicine program it started in May.

“We are truly dedicated to the health and wellness of Bogalusa and Washington Parish as a whole,” he said.

Those receiving their degrees included Garland Anderson, Nichole Guillory, Kartik Patel, Dianna Phan, Smitty Smith and Evangelos Sotiropoulos. Of them, five have decided to stay in Louisiana to practice medicine.

Before the degrees were awarded, six new interns received their white coats, symbolic of health and cleanliness and inextricably associated with the medical professions. The new interns, who began their tenure July 1, include Becky Batiste, Charl Ceronio, Hoangvy Le, Juan Martinez, Farhan Siddiqui and Brian Talleur. They were presented the coats by new chief residents Steven Ogden and Kelsey Phelps.