Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) / MDA Clinic

LSU Health New Orleans ALS Clinic Team

Rima El-Abassi, MD

University: Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge
Medical School: Jessenius Faculty of Medicine, Slovakia Republik
Residency: Louisiana State University of Medicine at New Orleans
Fellowship: Louisiana State University of Medicine at New Orleans
Board Certification: Electrodiagnostic Medicine, Clinical Neurophysiology, Psychiatry & Neurology

Stephen Kantrow, MD


Medical School: Louisiana State University of Medicine at New Orleans, 1988

Curriculum Vitae (CV)


Deidre J. Devier, LCSW, Ph.D.

Deidre earned her MSW at New Mexico Highlands University and her PhD in Psychology at the University of New Mexico. She is a Board Certified Clinical Social Worker through the State of Louisiana She has worked for many years with people who have neurological disorders and has considerable experience in research. She has worked with the LSU ALS clinic since 2018 and is actively involved in developing a research program to expand the boundaries of the clinic in partnership with the patients and caregivers. We strongly believe in providing the best care possible and working through research to improve the future for those with ALS.

Natalie Versaggi, MS, RD, LDN, CNSC

Natalie is a registered dietitian who joined the LSU ALS Clinic Team in February 2023. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition as well as her Master’s in Public Health Nutrition at West Chester University of Pennsylvania, and completed her dietetic internship at Tulane University. She is a Certified Nutrition Support Clinician and currently works as a critical care dietitian at West Jefferson Medical Center. Natalie is grateful for the opportunity to work closely with her patients and their families to provide them guidance regarding individualized nutrition and nourishment. It is a pleasure to collaborate with and learn from each member of the multidisciplinary team to provide the best care for the patients.

Natalie Thomas, LMSW

Natalie is currently a Care Services Manager with the ALS Association for Louisiana/Mississippi Chapters.   She has been working with the ALS community for the last five years and has more than 20 years of experience in medical social work.  Natalie graduated from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette with a Bachelor of Science and earned her Masters of Social Work from Southern University at New Orleans. Although Natalie does not have a personal connection to ALS, she is still very passionate about supporting individuals and families in navigating their ALS Journey.   

Maria Kay, PT 

Maria Kay is a graduate of the LSUHSC school of Physical Therapy.  She has practiced in New Orleans, Honolulu, and the Boston Beth Israel Chest PT department.  She has been the team physical therapist for the ALS and Muscular Dystrophy Clinics since 2013.  Having raised a child with a neuromuscular disease, Maria believes strongly in being an advocate for people with ALS and providing quality care for all of the patient’s symptoms. Meeting equipment needs in a timely manner is of the utmost importance to those with ALS and Maria is skilled at facilitating the coordination of wheelchair vendors and non-profit organizations. The team approach at LSU addresses the physical and emotional needs of the patient and support for the caregivers.

Helena Midkiff, Respiratory Therapist 

Helena is a graduate of the LSUHSC Respiratory Therapy Program. She also has a master’s degree in health care management from the University of New Orleans.  She is a licensed registered respiratory therapist and has earned specialty credentials in pulmonary diagnostics, asthma education and neonatal & pediatric respiratory care.  She practiced at East Jefferson General Hospital for 27 years where she supervised several sections of the Respiratory Therapy department.  She taught Respiratory Therapy at Delgado Community College for seven years and is currently on the faculty and the Director of Clinical Education for the Respiratory Therapy Program at LSUHSC. Helena enjoys working on the ALS multidisciplinary team and providing diagnostic data to assist in the monitoring and management of those with ALS.

Heidi Leffler, LCSW, BCD, BACS

Heidi Leffler graduated from Tulane School of Social Work.  She is a Board Certified Clinical Social Worker and Supervisor through the State of Louisiana. She is also certified by the American Board of Examiners in Clinical Social Work (BCD). She has practiced in a variety of mental health settings over the past 40 years. Ms. Leffler joined the LSU ALS team in 2019 and also provides outpatient psychotherapy at LSU Behavioral Sciences Center and resident clinical supervision, teaches in the LSUHSC School of Medicine, and is a member of a clinical research team.

Elizabeth Ehrensing, MCD, CCC-SLP

 Elizabeth received a bachelor’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology at Texas Christian University and a master’s degree in Communication Disorders from LSUHSC School of Allied Health in New Orleans.  She holds a Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.  

Since 1995 she has worked with both adults and children focusing on neurological disorders and early childhood development and has gained considerable experience with assistive technology and speech generating devices.  After working in hospital, home health and multidisciplinary private practice settings, she established EME Speech Therapy, LLC.  Elizabeth joined the LSU ALS Clinic Team in April 2010.  She has contributed to the growth of the LSU ALS Clinic from just a few allied health professionals to a full multidisciplinary team who specialize in caring for the individual needs of patients with ALS. 

Striving to provide the best care and referrals in the areas of cognitive communication, speech, and swallowing disorders, facilitating the acquisition of appropriate assistive technology and speech generating devices when appropriate and providing support to patients and families are one of her greatest professional joys.