Dr. Katherine Pearce, an internist at Our Lady of the Lake in Baton Rouge, has always had a fondness for science and problem solving. That problem-solving skill has served her well in almost 30 years of practicing medicine.
The variety of the work the 55-year-old Dr. Pearce does keeps it fresh and interesting on a daily basis for her. As an internist, she treats a broad scope of medical problems. She works with patients who suffer from ailments ranging from sinus infections to hypertension to dementia.
“Every day is different,” Dr. Pearce said. “Even patients I’ve seen for many years are different every time they come into my office.”
A recent case Dr. Pearce found rewarding was a young woman (Dr. Pearce treats only women in her practice) suffering from a rash. At first, the woman thought it was just allergies. She saw a nurse practitioner about the problem, but it did not get better. So, she turned to Dr. Pearce for help. Dr. Pearce recognized the rash was a symptom of a blood disorder and was able to refer her patient to a hematologist for proper treatment.
“With everything we are learning about the human genome, we’re really on the cusp of an exciting revolution in medicine.”
Since Dr. Pearce sees her patients for years, she gets to develop real relationships with them. She watches them grow and change throughout their lives, and they do the same with her.
Reading people and getting them to open up is an important part of Dr. Pearce’s job. Some people are worse than others at conveying what’s wrong, some have personality disorders, and some suffer from early onset dementia but don’t know it. As a result, people skills are as vital as medical skills. The people skills are also important when telling patients that they need further testing for a troubling issue. She has to communicate the potential seriousness of an issue without overly alarming a patient.
Dr. Pearce, a Baton Rouge native, feels that the physician workforce has become much more diverse since she started her career. When she was in medical school at LSU-Shreveport, there were less than 15 women in her class. But now, Dr. Pearce’s son (one of three children) is in med school and more than 50 percent of his classmates are women. She added that as recently as 20 years ago, you would not have seen a female orthopedist in the South. Now, there are two in Baton Rouge alone.
Even though Dr. Pearce has practiced medicine for almost 30 years, she is still excited about what the future holds in her profession. The scientific advances in targeted therapy for cancers based on individual genomic markers in the tumors will be very helpful to cancer patients.
“With everything we are learning about the human genome, we’re really on the cusp of an exciting revolution in medicine,” Dr. Pearce said.
FUN FACTS ABOUT THE DOC
Five years ago, Dr. Pearce ran in the New York City Marathon.
Dr. Pearce is an avid reader. She splits her time between fiction and nonfiction books. The last one she really enjoyed was Melinda Gates’ The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World.
She also loves to travel. In recent years, she has visited Vietnam and Thailand, as well as Costa Rica for a mother-daughter trip.