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Gov. John Bel Edwards, right, and Dr. Jimmy Guidry, state health officer, center, watch as Dr. G. E. Ghali, chancellor of the LSU Health Sciences Center-Shreveport, left, talks about the importance of wearing a mask during a press conference about the status of the state in regard to COVID-19 Thursday July 30, 2020, in Baton Rouge, La. The state will remain in Phase 2 for at least another week. (Photo by Bill Feig, The Advocate)

The chancellor of LSU Health Sciences Center in Shreveport delivered a nearly four-minute speech Monday night at the Republican National Convention where he repeatedly praised President Donald Trump for his coronavirus response.

Dr. G.E. Ghali, who himself tested positive for the virus recently, has appeared alongside Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, to voice support for Edwards’ coronavirus restrictions and implore people to wear masks.

Ghali’s speech at the Republican National Convention came as Trump’s response to the virus has come under sharp criticism amid an election year where he is lagging in the polls.

In his three-and-a-half minute appearance, Ghali called Trump’s response to the virus “rapid and efficient” and said the nation’s medical institutions were “not designed for a pandemic.”

“President Trump truly moved mountains to save lives, and he deserves credit,” Ghali said. “Thank you, President Trump, for providing timely access to critical diagnostics and therapeutics during this pandemic. Thank you, Mr. President, for your strong leadership during these challenging times.”

Ghali praised the emergency regulatory approval of treatments like remdesivir and convalescent plasma therapy -- which researchers at LSU Health Shreveport have helped develop. 

The United States has failed to contain the coronavirus as effectively as many other developed countries. After experiencing a surge in cases in many parts of the country this spring, the virus roared back in the South in the summer. As of Monday the virus had killed 177,176 people in the U.S., and the country had logged 5.7 million cases.

Support for Trump’s handling of the pandemic has lagged as infections and deaths continue to climb, dropping from 44% approval in March to 31% in an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll released Monday.

That survey of 1,075 adults in mid-August also found 75% said the country is headed in the wrong direction. About 44% said they approved of their state government’s response to the pandemic, while 40% disapproved.

Ghali was appointed in 2016 to his post by then-LSU president F. King Alexander, with the approval from the LSU Board of Supervisors that at the time was controlled by Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican. 

Ghali is an oral and maxillofacial surgeon who has practiced in Shreveport for more than two decades, performing cleft repair, cosmetic surgery and head and neck cancer operations.

He stepped down as dean of LSU Health Shreveport to negotiate a joint venture with Ochsner Health System in 2018, but still serves as chancellor.

Email Sam Karlin at skarlin@theadvocate.com