Brianna Piché has had a circuitous college journey, but the Honors senior wouldn’t want it any other way.
The anthropology and mass communication major spent the first half of her undergraduate career working at LEGACY magazine, participating in student government, and playing in Tiger Band before returning to her childhood dream of becoming a doctor.
“I spent pretty much my entire childhood wanting to go into medicine, and when I got to my senior year of high school, I started wondering if that was actually what I wanted to do,” she said.
Piché’s passion for the medical field makes perfect sense, considering her own origins. The Houston native owes her life to biomedicine — she and her twin brother were conceived in one of the early in-vitro fertilization programs at Baylor University.
Growing up, Piché was also drawn to medicine by seeing her quadriplegic father flourish against all odds. When Piché was in third grade, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, and the diagnosis served as another confirmation of her chosen career path.
“It was hard growing up and being told your dad’s never going to walk. You really think anything’s’ possible when you’re younger. My mom was telling me there’s no research to be able to repair the spinal cord … you know, I didn’t understand that as a kid at all,” she said. “I wanted to be a doctor and I wanted to be a good one — I hated that I couldn’t alleviate my parents’ suffering when I was younger.”
Piché spent her summer in Montrouis, Haiti serving alongside Canaan Medical Clinic to enhance the children's malnutrition program and community health clinic. While in the clinic, she helped to screen babies for kwashiorkor and marasmus. Seeing so many children suffering from these deficiencies made Piché realize just how important nutrition is to health.
“Nutrition is the primary source of healing — food was their medicine,” she said. “The program was geared toward kids aged one to five, because before age five, you can reverse the brain damage caused by malnutrition but afterwards it’s irreversible.”
Living in Haiti for two months also taught Piché the importance of education in health care.
“Working in Haiti this summer and seeing women not have proper care for their babies was really hard,” she said. “For example, a lot of women had misconceptions about lactation; they were afraid to nurse their babies because they’d had miscarriage, and they thought that their breast milk would poison their newborn.”
Piché’s experiences in Haiti have reinforced her desire to go into the field of naturopathy, which is centered on preventative medicine, treating the whole person, and the belief that doctors must also serve as educators. Piché was recently accepted into Bastyr University, where she plans to pursue an ND and an MS in midwifery so that she can eventually open her own women’s clinic.
“For naturopathic medicine…the training is the same as all of conventional medicine and you still have to go through school and take all of the anatomy, physiology and biochemistry courses,” she said. “It’s very rigorous, but there’s more of an emphasis on prevention.”
Working a two-year stint as an electrocardiogram technician in Baton Rouge General Medical Center was also a driving force behind Piché’s desire to pursue naturopathic rather than traditional medicine.
“Seeing the same people come into the emergency room all the time in crises totally reinforced my desire to go into preventative medicine,” she said. “A lot of things had to do with education, like showing people how to take care of and maintain their bodies rather than waiting until they’re in dire condition.”
Piché said that she wouldn’t change anything about her roundabout college career, because she believes that changing majors has made her more well-rounded and given her a better experience.
“You can’t ignore the human element [in medicine],” she said. “Having a well-rounded education steeped in liberal arts and philosophy really connects you with your patients on a much deeper level … I love being able to learn about people and I don’t want to ever see a patient as the disease rather than seeing the person for the full person.”
Story by Elizabeth Clausen, LSU Honors College
For more information, contact the Honors College at 225-578-8831