Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy has been outspoken about the American Healthcare Act as it heads to the Senate.
Cassidy worked as a physician specializing in treating liver disease and offers a differing opinion than some members of the Republican party. He’s come out and said that final iteration of the bill must pass the “Kimmel Test” and cover for all pre-existing conditions before it gets his vote.
Cassidy was referring to Jimmy Kimmel, the host of Jimmy Kimmel Live! when he coined the phrase.
The late-night host had an emotional monologue about the healthcare bill and how it affects his newborn son, Billy, on an episode of his show May 1.
Cassidy is awfully familiar with the healthcare system, as his wife, Laura Layden, is a longtime surgeon. The couple have remained active in helping those with serious illnesses and disorders throughout their relationship.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Laura Is a Retired Breast Cancer Surgeon
Laura was involved in the healthcare industry well before she met Bill.
She was born in Tuscaloosa and then raised in Mobile, Alabama. She didn’t go too far to start her education, as she attended the University of Alabama to obtain her bachelor’s degree before going to the University of Alabama-Birmingham Medical School.
Laura did her general surgery residency at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. After she completed her education, she served as the chief of surgery at Earl K. Long Medical Center in Baton Rouge from 1990-1992. She specialized in the treatment of breast cancer and helped expand the use of lumpectomy, an operation where a lump is removed from the breast usually when the cancer hasn’t already spread.
Laura was the first surgeon in Baton Rouge to practice sentinel lymph node biopsies.
After a long career as a breast cancer surgeon, she ultimately decided to retire in 2006, but that didn’t mean she stopped her involvement in the healthcare industry.
2. The Couple Met During Her Residency & Have 3 Children
During Laura’s residency in Los Angeles, she met Bill. The two married shortly after that and have been married for almost 30 years.
In a 2015 article with NOLA.com, Bill talked about how Laura has been a huge influence in his career path.
“She knows exactly how I think,” he said of his wife. “I think I know what she brings to the table. We are partners. I would not have run for Senate if it had not been a mutual decision.”
The couple have three children together: two daughters (Kate and Meg) and a son (Will). In 2014, it was revealed that one of their daughters — who was 17-years old at the time — was pregnant.
The family released a statement following the news saying that they were looking forward to becoming grandparents.
Earlier this year, Laura and I learned we will become grandparents this summer. Our children have been the greatest blessing of our lives and we welcome our grandchild as a joyous addition to our family. Our daughter now faces a more challenging future than her peers. She has our unconditional love and support.
3. Laura Founded a Charter School for Dyslexic Children
Laura had been so encouraged by the medical field that she’d since formed a school for boys and girls who suffer from dyslexia.
The public charter school for children who are dislexic, known as the Louisiana Key Academy, helps give those children instruction to live life everyday without any fear.
It’s a tuition-free school that was created in part because of one of her children who suffers from the disorder.
This desperate feeling about our own children despite resources and a knowledge of dyslexia led to the creation of the Louisiana Key Academy,” she said in a statement posted to the school’s website.
But a December 2016 article by The Advocate said that the school, which had an enrollment of about 300 students at the time, received an “F” rating for its 2016 state-issued letter grade.
Charter schools in Louisiana receive reviews when they’re one year away from their first authorization.
“In this case Louisiana Key Academy has not met the conditions for extension,” Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White said.
4. She’s Written Columns About Important Topics in the Healthcare Industry
In her time after retirement, Laura has made sure to not put healthcare on the wayside.
In addition to starting a school for children with dyslexia, she is also an author. She’s written several guest columns to publications over the years, including one about Angelina Jolie, who suffered from breast cancer.
She wrote in her column how she was “thankful” that Jolie told the story of how breast cancer affected her life. She encouraged people like Jolie that are directly impacted by the deadly disease to not live in fear.
“In medicine, knowledge is powerful,” she said. “If you have a family history of cancer, don’t live in fear. Talk to your doctor and gain the knowledge available and suitable for your medical history. This will allow you to make an informed decision.”
5. Laura Has Traveled Abroad to Work In Foreign Hospitals
In the time during her residency, Laura traveled abroad to work at hospitals and help the needy while also educating those new or with inexperience in the industry.
She went to Africa twice during her residency in L.A. to work as a surgeon in hospitals that were run by World Medical Missions. She’s continuously worked to raise awareness of breast cancer and the health concerns for women through numerous charitable events such as health fairs and run/walks with local hospitals.
In addition to that, she’s worked with the YWCA to help educate and encourage early detection and treatment of the disease, largely targeting uninsured and poorly-insured women.
Laura has received many awards from boards in Louisiana for her medical work and dedication toward educating.