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Honoring Juan J. Gershanik, MD

Dr. Juan J. Gershanik to be honored with the Frank C. Di Vincenti, MD Community Leadership Award

Juan Gershanik

Dr. Juan J. Gershanik will become the third recipient of the Frank C. Di Vincenti, MD Community Leadership Award for his work in the community, especially for the youngest and sickest of those in our region. As the Medical Director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at West Jefferson Medical Center (WJMC), Juan J. Gershanik, MD, will be recognized by the West Jefferson Hospital Foundation at its cocktail reception on October 28.

Dr. Juan J. Gershanik’s family roots begin in Concepcion del Uruguay, Argentina, where he was raised. He received his medical degree from the School of Medicine at the Universidad Nacional de Rosario and continued his training in pediatrics/neonatology in the United States. In 1971, Dr. Gershanik came to Louisiana to head the Section of Neonatology at Louisiana State University School of Medicine in Shreveport. There, he developed the first neonatal intensive care unit with an organized transport system for sick newborns in the state. In 1979, he moved to New Orleans to serve as Director of Neonatology at Southern Baptist Hospital, later renamed Memorial Medical Center. All of his intense training was needed following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, as Dr. Gershanik helped evacuate the NICU babies to Woman’s Hospital in Baton Rouge. Today, he leads a highly trained staff in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at West Jefferson Medical Center, and is an Adjunct Professor of Pediatrics at Tulane University School of Medicine and a Professor of Pediatrics at LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans. He serves on the Advisory Councils to both the Dean of Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and to the President of Xavier University. He has also served as President of the Orleans Parish Medical Society (2019-2020) and was one of the Founders and first Co-President of the Medical Association of Southeast Louisiana in 2020.

Dr. Gershanik's significant research in the area of neonatology culminated in 1981 with his discovery about the toxicity of benzyl alcohol that helped to save the lives of so many infants worldwide. Over the decades, Dr. Gershanik has become entwined in the fabric of the Westbank community and beyond, and many of his contributions center on his passion for helping children. He is the founder of the nationally recognized Krewe of VIPs, a social action program at Touro Synagogue that offers viewing stands for children with special needs during the Mardi Gras season. He created a program that distributes children’s bilingual books to mothers delivering at local hospitals during National Hispanic Heritage Month, volunteers at local public schools for programs on the prevention of substance use disorders, and motivates children to succeed in school and life.

His education on substance use is not only focused on youths but also on expectant mothers. Dr. Gershanik works intensively to educate pregnant mothers on the dangers of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, which is the number one cause of preventable neurocognitive deficits in pediatrics. His work influenced the New Orleans City Council to pass a local ordinance requiring New Orleans restaurants to place warning signs in their restrooms on the dangers associated with alcoholic beverages during gestation. More recently, he has been very active in advocating for state legislation making illegal the sale of tobacco and e-cigarettes (vapo) to people under 21.

“Our children are our future, and sadly, Louisiana has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the United States,” according to Dr. Gershanik. While he knows the battle to turn that trend around has been going on for years, Dr. Gershanik notes, “I know with our dedicated and highly trained neonatal staff, we are making a difference, and that’s what motivates you to give it your all. The rewards come when you can discharge a once very ill infant, and you see the joy of a family going home knowing that you had a role in healing a new member of our community.”

In addition to helping children, Dr. Gershanik is also committed to helping the Hispanic community in the New Orleans area. It’s through his vision and leadership, that West Jefferson Medical Center will soon be home to a special primary care clinic for Hispanic families. West Jefferson Medical Center's Centro de Salud, which will open in the fall of 2022, will be staffed by Spanish-speaking healthcare providers and support staff with an emphasis on prevention programs ensuring equitable access to high quality health care in both clinical and community settings for Latino populations.

Dr. Gershanik’s devotion is not only to his patients but to his wife Ana Ester Gershanik, and children Alex, Viviana and Esteban Gershanik, MD, as well as to his six grandchildren. No doubt, his family will all be on hand when Dr. Gershanik is presented with his award at this year’s West Jefferson Hospital Foundation’s West Jefferson Jubilee. This cocktail reception and fundraiser, with the theme of “The World is Your Oyster,” will occur on October 28 at The Capital on Baronne. The fundraising efforts for that night will benefit patient care at West Jefferson Medical Center, including the future Centro de Salud.

Learn more about the Frank C. Di Vincenti, MD Community Leadership Award.