BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – A Baton Rouge-based doctor who served as a key member of  Governor John Bel Edwards COVID-19 Epidemiology Task Force and played a role in providing guidance on the navigation of pandemic-era re-openings has been named as the Southeastern Conference’s (SEC) new Chief Medical Advisor. 

Dr. Catherine O’Neal, a Louisiana native who grew up on a farm, became a familiar face to many throughout the pandemic as she promoted the use of COVID-19 vaccines and even encouraged the SEC’s decision-makers to steer college football away from canceling the 2020 season.

Some credit Dr. O’Neal’s guidance in the use of COVID-safety precautions and medical advice as playing a major role in the SEC’s 10-game 2020 season, a reopening that many believe served the industry well.  

Now O’Neal will continue to work alongside SEC officials, but in a new role.

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey announced her appointment Tuesday, saying, “In this new role, Dr. O’Neal will continue to be a valuable resource for the SEC Office and our member institutions as we collaborate to provide world-class care for student-athletes and others around our athletics programs. Dr. O’Neal has been a vital contributor in guiding the SEC through COVID-19 realities and throughout that process has gained the trust and respect of campus leaders.” 

O’Neal will guide the Conference on all matters related to the health and safety of student-athletes, in addition to developing initiatives that will contribute to their physical and mental well-being. 

With nearly two decades of experience in the research and treatment of infectious diseases, Dr. O’Neal also serves on the faculty of Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center New Orleans and leads Baton Rouge’s Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center (OLOL) as Chief Medical Officer.

Though she leads Baton Rouge’s massive OLOL team, O’Neal still makes time to see patients at a clinic. 

The 45-year-old LSU alum and mother of three currently lives on a small farm in Baton Rouge with her husband and children.

The SEC’s 2022 football season is from Saturday, August 27- Saturday, December 3, 2022.