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Michael Hagensee M.D., Ph.D.

One of MY TOUGHEST Cases: HIV Patient Faces a Cancer Scare

Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center | HOP Clinic
(HIV Outpatient Program) | 2235 Poydras St. | New Orleans | 826-2179

18 years in practice
Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry – University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Illinois
Ph.D. & M.D. – Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas
Native of Chicago

In 2011, Baton Rouge led the nation in the number of new HIV cases per 100,000 people. New Orleans came in close behind at number five.
“Data like that is really scary,” says Dr. Michael Hagensee, “but it means that this area is also a place where we have the ability to make a real difference.”

Board certified in both internal medicine and infectious disease, Hagensee serves as primary care physician for hundreds of HIV positive patients in New Orleans.

And as if one career isn’t enough, Hagensee juggles his clinical duties with research time running a lab that studies the interaction of EBV (Epstein-Barr Virus) and HPV (Human Papillomavirus) in the development of cervical dysplasia (precancerous changes in the cervix) in HIV.

“When I began working with HIV positive and AIDS patients in the early (19)90s in Seattle, my patients all died,” he says. “Now, with proper care, people with HIV can live just as long as anyone else. What we’ve seen, however, is that they tend to develop some kinds of cancers at much higher rates.”

For instance, Hagensee says that HIV positive people are 20 to 50 times more likely to develop anal cancer.

“It becomes really important, therefore, to get these patients in for screenings,” he says.

Which is why, in the last few years Hagensee has been working with LSU Health Sciences Center to develop an anal cancer screening clinic in New Orleans.

He is also part of a group called Cervical Cancer-Free Louisiana, where he works to improving uptake rates of the HPV vaccine. Virtually all cervical cancers are caused by high-risk strains of HPV.

Hagensee says that one of his most memorable cases to date was an HIV patient that, after undergoing a real cancer scare, had the opportunity to turn around and help Hagensee during a pivotal moment in his life.

“He had been my patient for about four or five years and had suddenly started losing a lot of weight,” he says. “Eventually he was admitted with swollen lymph nodes. I was thinking cancer, but luckily it turned out to be a fungal infection.”

Two years later, Hagensee ran into the same man, but in a much happier setting.

“I was out looking for flowers for my wedding with my fiancée and we walked into this shop and I could hear a voice that I recognized,” he says. “It was him – that same patient.”

Hagensee says he soon realized that it was now his turn to hand over control to the expert.

“My fiancée and I know nothing about flowers so we were so grateful to him,” he says. “He took over the whole thing and it was just beautiful.”


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