Dr. Hollis “Bud” O’Neal: From LSU Purple and Gold to Our Lady of the Lake Blue

January 18, 2022

New Colors, Same Stripes

Dr. Hollis “Bud” O’Neal is the medical director of research at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge and an LSU Health New Orleans alumnus. He is one-half of a Louisiana power couple in medicine. His wife, Dr. Catherine O’Neal (another LSU Health New Orleans alum), serves as Chief Medical Officer, also at Our Lady of the Lake. They’re both from Louisiana small towns. He’s from DeRidder, and she’s from Mamou. Together, they’re helping to steer the state through the COVID-19 pandemic, while Dr. Bud O'Neal also is developing new medical technologies to diagnose sepsis, a life-threatening condition that occurs when the body’s response to an infection inadvertently causes widespread inflammation and organ damage. Dr. Bud O’Neal describes sepsis as “an enormous problem” in health care. Every third patient who ends up dying in a hospital has sepsis, and hospitals spend a lot of money trying to prevent it.
In part, it was his childhood experiences in rural Louisiana that set him on a path toward medicine. As a teen, his younger sister died of complications from spina bifida, a defect of the spinal cord.
“Being four hours from New Orleans, there wasn’t much we could do. That has remained influential on me in my life, in everything I do, and on wanting to improve access to health care for all people in Louisiana. And not only in the cities like New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Lafayette, but in places like Mamou and DeRidder.”

Dr. Bud O’Neal

Dr. Bud O’Neal with his wife, Dr. Catherine O’Neal, in Gloster, Louisiana (lower left). Both work at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center and are LSU Health New Orleans alumni. On right, a young Bud O’Neal with his younger sister Kelly around 1988, about a year before she died of complications from spina bifida, a birth defect related to the spinal cord for which care was limited in their hometown of DeRidder, Louisiana. “I kind of watched my mother, who was the primary caregiver for my sister, and saw what kind of medical care we had, and what we needed,” Dr. Bud O’Neal said.

– Photos courtesy of the O’Neal family

“The challenge with sepsis is that it’s a lot like driving through coastal Louisiana after Hurricane Laura or Hurricane Ida. You see the damage—the downed houses and trees, the blue tarp on the roofs, just like we look at damage to the kidneys or lungs. But we can’t see the wind. We only see its effects.”

- Dr. Hollis “Bud” O’Neal, medical director of research at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge