For Dr. Vanessa Cloutier, becoming a physician seemed like a natural choice. Both of her parents were in the healthcare field and she was introduced to the professional side of doctors offices and hospitals at a young age. But it took her own experiences with health issues for her to completely embrace medicine as a viable career option. When she was a teenager, Dr. Cloutier was beset by several health challenges that required ongoing medical management and a series of visits with different physicians to find one she was comfortable with. “One particular doctor took the time to explain my condition and regimen clearly, and she valued my opinion,” Dr. Cloutier says. “I decided that I wanted to be like her.”
While she set her goal on becoming a physician, Dr. Cloutier wasn’t sure what kind of medicine she wanted to practice. But after a series of rotations in medical school, she set her sights on obstetrics/gynecology. Initially, going into ob/gyn wasn’t on her radar, but she discovered that it was the perfect balance of surgery, medicine and ongoing doctor-patient relationships. “I have a special bond with all of my patients, but especially my pregnancy patients,” she says. “I see them on a regular basis for nine-plus months, and there’s nothing like bringing a new life into this world to reaffirm my commitment to medicine. And with my area of practice, there’s never a dull moment. Every day is different, and I’m always learning something — new techniques, new treatment options and constant intellectual stimulation.”
And while she enjoys the challenge of learning and applying new information, she believes that achieving patient-centered care is more about touch than technique. There are 10 physicians in Dr. Cloutier’s group and she stresses the importance of trusting her colleagues and being on the same page with regard to patient care. “It’s about putting patients first,” Dr. Cloutier says. “It’s that simple. Are we taking enough time with our patients? Do they feel No. 1? If not, we need to rearrange our schedules and back off on the number of patients we see per hour. It’s important that each and every one of them feel valued.”
One of the recent trends Dr. Cloutier would like to incorporate into her practice is robotic surgery. Although it’s been implemented in gynecological surgery for more than a decade, the field of robotic surgery has developed quickly and its use has grown exponentially. “It offers a 3D view of the organs,” Dr. Cloutier says. “The enhancement and magnification of tissues is a big draw. Robotic surgery is beneficial when you’re operating on a patient with a lot of adhesions or in gynecological oncology situations. It’s less invasive, so there’s not as much trauma to the patient with a much quicker recovery time than traditional surgery.”
On her most memorable patient: “In my last year of residency, there was a young woman with an extremely complex case,” Dr. Cloutier says. “She had debilitating pain, fluid in her abdomen and lungs, and blood clots in her arms. It took us awhile to diagnose her, and it turned out she had a very rare syndrome and needed an equally rare surgery. Her case required a multidisciplinary team effort to get her to live a normal life again. I saw her twice a day while she was in the hospital and every week for a long time after she was released so we formed a very close bond.”
Her advice to a young person who wants to pursue medicine: “Study hard, of course, but also try to get yourself into as many medical volunteer environments as you can to see if it’s truly what you want to do,” Dr. Cloutier says. “Shadow a physician; work as a medical scribe; volunteer at a hospice center. See if that’s your calling. It’s a long and hard road but worth it in the end.”
Why she loves practicing medicine in New Orleans: “I grew up in Kenner and I came to EJGH as a child, as did my whole family,” Dr. Cloutier says. “My pediatrician was here. I’m grateful to be able to give back to the community that helped raise me.”
Vanessa Cloutier, M.D.
East Jefferson General Hospital
Woman and Newborn Services
4200 Houma Blvd.
Metairie, LA 70006
University: Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge
Medical School: Louisiana State University, New Orleans
Residency: University Medical Center, New Orleans