Black Stories: Cassandra Pillette, MD
Dr. Pillette is a Board-Certified Family Medicine Physician operating out of the Pillette/Orgeron Clinic here in Lafayette. A life-long native who was born within our own (then) Lafayette General and a graduate of Xavier and LSU Health Sciences Center, she has practiced and lived here for the last 13 years serving the families who live, work and play right here in our community. We sat down with her (virtually) to learn about why she works in healthcare, her advice for others wanting to join the industry and her struggles and challenges as a person of color in healthcare.
What made you want to work in healthcare?
My maternal grandfather was an avid cigarette smoker. I can even recall him giving me money at the age of 5-6 years old and I would go to the convenience store and purchase his preferred brand of cigarettes. Years later, smoking those 2-3 packs of cigarettes a day caught up with him, and he was diagnosed with emphysema. At the age of 9, I witnessed my grandfather fight for his life and struggle to take every breath for three months in a battle that he eventually lost. During this three-month hospitalization, I interacted with the nurses, doctors, and his medical team. I witnessed their dedication, medical interventions, and the compassion they gave to our family during this difficult time. That was the moment I decided I wanted to work in healthcare. My healthcare mission and purpose are to help prevent and modify disease in my community with awareness, compassion, and approachability. I always tell my patients; we are a team; I cannot help what I don’t know. I also realize that communication works both ways, I meet the patient where they are and speak in terms of understanding, leading to more successful patient outcomes.
As a Person of Color (POC), have there been any hurdles/obstacles you’ve had to overcome to get where you are today? If so, what are they?
That is a complex question and difficult to answer. I've experienced numerous hurdles due to not only being African American but also being an African American woman. I am one of two physicians in my family of postal workers. When attending medical school, most of my classmates (who were not people of color) were children of doctors/healthcare workers, so one hurdle I've had to overcome was navigating this industry without a familial advantage. I also had to quietly deal with the same students' commentary telling me that I was only accepted into medical school because of my race. Healthcare is no different from any other industry. As a person of color, there is always the concept that we have to work twice as hard to get half of what others have, and in my personal experience, that has been true. I constantly feel obligated to mute my honest opinion in fear of being labeled "An Angry Female." As a confident woman of color, I also have to deal with others being "intimidated" by my confidence, which I know would not be a factor if I was not a woman of color.
How did you overcome those challenges?
I overcame these hurdles/obstacles in the same manner as my ancestors. With strong faith, resilience, dedication, passion, and support from my loved ones, I stand here today. All of my hard work and sacrifices are for my patients and improving their health. The proudest moment of my career was being voted as 2020 Best of the Times of Acadiana- Best Primary Care Doctor- 1st Place out of over 100 nominees. Words cannot express the honor I have knowing that my work was being acknowledged for making a difference in others' lives.
What advice do you have for anyone looking to enter into this industry?
The monetary compensation from primary care will never amount to the overall reward that is received by caring for patients. The lifetime bond, influence in health, and relationship you have with your patients and their families is the epitome of joy. I love people and my community and knowing that I am instrumental in improving their health affords me the opportunity to leave a legacy that will surpass my existence.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
Every month is Black History Month to me. I love my culture, and I embrace my melanin with pride every day. I appreciate Black History Month because it gives others a chance to learn about and enjoy all of the greatness we possess.
To make an appointment with Dr. Pillette, visit her physician page at this link.