PHYSICIAN SPOTLIGHT: Dr. Rachael Roberts
Primary care powerhouse
At first glance, you’d never guess that petite Dr. Rachael Roberts packs a powerful punch. But, this primary care dynamo has a black belt in karate, and still practices the sport in her spare time. The Beaumont-bred physician, who also dabbles in golf, tennis and biking, is Texas tough.
The product of corporate-America parents, Roberts started taking medical courses in high school at Dr. Debaky High School for the Health Professions in Houston. “I remember at a young age thinking, ‘You meet these people who go work every day. They don’t like their jobs. What can I do that, at the end of the day, I would actually feel happy doing? The helping people thing felt good,’” she recalled. “I started working at hospitals in high school, fell in love, and never looked back.”
After graduating, she tried out the University of Texas in Austin, but discovered that the huge campus was a bit much for her. “I absolutely hated it,” she admitted. “I realized that I was meant for small, close, one-on-one contact with professors.” So, she transferred to the University of St. Thomas in Houston, where she attained bachelor’s in Mathematics. While completing school, she worked in the parasitology lab at the Baylor College of Medicine.
For her medical degree, Roberts attended St. Matthew’s University School of Medicine in Grand Cayman. During the summers, she treated the poor in Belize and the Cayman Islands. While in med school, she obtained her master’s in Health Service Administration from St. Joseph’s College of Maine.
From St. Matthews, Roberts transferred to the University of Chicago, where she discovered a “secret love” – radiology. Before starting her residency, she served as a research associate in the radiology department for two years.
Roberts is the first in her family to become a physician. “My mother loves to introduce me as ‘Dr.’ I just find it hilarious,” Roberts said. “We can be at dinner with friends, and she’ll tell the waiter, ‘Oh, this is Dr. Roberts.’ They are proud of me, but they are just happy that I got to do whatever I wanted to do.”
What she wanted, it turned out, was to become a primary care physician. She trained at LSUHSC’s University Medical Center in Lafayette, La. “When I came here to LSU, I wanted to specialize,” she recalled. “But, what I started realizing was that everybody wants to do a specialty. And, there are not enough people that do everything. It’s just so underserved. So, the more time I spent in my medicine clinic doing primary care, I realized that people are so grateful to find a primary care doctor that’s attentive and doesn’t want to brush them off. It just meant a lot to me to realize that, you know what? I know that I could do a specialty any day of the week. But, this is where I’m needed. It was so evident to me that they needed primary care, especially in Lafayette.”
After completing the internal medicine program in August, Roberts got her first “grown-up” job at Regional Medical Center of Lafayette on the Women’s & Children’s campus. “I had managed over the last few years to build up quite a good social network here,” she said. “I have a lot of friends, a lot of people I love and care about in this city. And I thought, this town has really grown on me. Houston is only a few hours away, and my Mom and brother have their own lives. And, I have really kind of built something here. So, I decided to stay and see what happens.”
So far, she is happy with her choice. “The Southern hospitality here – it doesn’t compare,” she said. “Even being from Houston, the people here, how nice and just how open-arms they are to you – nothing’s ever compared to that. So, I love it. Not to mention the fact that when I was looking at jobs, this facility (Women’s & Children’s), in particular, was so wonderful to me. They were welcoming, so eager. They really wanted me here, and I could tell. And, that meant a lot to me.”
In her internal medicine practice, Roberts treats adults from age 18 to the geriatric population. Her emphasis is on preventive medicine. “My biggest thing here is that when these people come to me, I need to know, ‘What’s your family history, and what do I need to worry about happening to you in the future?’”
Besides being an avid sportsman, Roberts also has an artistic side. In her last home, she had room just for painting, primarily abstract works in charcoals and oils. “Now that I’m kind of settling in, I’m trying to get back into my artwork,” she revealed. “Any chance I can get to take a deep breath and just do something for me, that’s what I like to do. My art is my escape.”