Alumnus Feature: Dr. Brian Liu, from First Responder to Emergency Medicine

Dr. Brian Liu is a Burrell College alumnus currently completing his residency training in Emergency Medicine at the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences (Lawton). Dr. Liu’s journey to becoming a doctor of osteopathic medicine is an unconventional one. Prior to attending medical school, Dr. Liu spent time as a firefighter in his hometown of Houston, Texas. His experiences as a first responder helped him discover his passion for helping others, cementing his longtime desire to become a doctor.

Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Dr. Liu realized early on in his adolescence that he wanted to become a doctor. “I grew up watching ER on TV, so that really planted the initial seed. Then I did what every good pre-med student did and volunteered in the emergency department of a busy trauma hospital in Houston during high school,” says Brian. “Seeing the fire/EMS crews bringing patients to the ED must’ve flicked some kind of switch in my brain, because the next thing   my parents knew, I was being sworn in at the local fire department.”

Dr. Liu spent the next couple of years fighting fires, while also getting hands-on experience in medicine coupled with community service outreach. This inspired him to get involved with a non-profit disaster response organization comprised of mostly veterans and first responders. “Besides helping those affected by natural disasters recover, it was through this world did I get exposed to much of the medical challenges that many veterans are facing today, much of which doesn’t really get talked about,” explains Dr. Liu.

Dr. Liu earned his Bachelor’s degree in Government from the University of Texas at Austin in 2013. Dr. Liu then went on to earn a master’s degree from the University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNTHSC) in Fort Worth, Texas. Before entering medical school, Dr. Liu spent time cultivating research experience in a neuroscience lab at the Baylor College of Medicine. In 2017, Dr. Liu joined the Burrell College as a member of the Class of 2021.

Now, in his residency, Dr. Liu has been putting his OMT skills to good use on his own patients. “Most notably was this child in which the parents had brought in for neck pain after sleeping,” recounts Dr. Liu. “She had woken up in tears and wasn’t receptive to any therapeutic efforts by the parents. After a thorough exam, it was clear that this was musculoskeletal in nature. After a few minutes of manipulation, I was able to get an increased range of motion and the child literally clapped. That definitely made my day.”

Dr. Liu has enjoyed his time in residency so far, and despite the unique circumstances brought forth by the pandemic, he feels he was well prepared by the Burrell College for his post-graduate training. “Looking back, I felt Burrell College provided me with a solid foundation of medical knowledge to excel during my clerkships, audition rotations, even in residency,” he recalls. “Additionally, even though I may have grumbled through parts of Dr. Goldsteen’s PCP [Principles of Clinical Practice] course, the relevance of that course in terms of how to approach patients and developing my clinical skills paid dividends during my medical school clerkships and audition rotations based on the feedback I received from residents and attendings.”

Prior to applying to the Burrell College, Dr. Liu had been introduced to the principles of osteopathic medicine during a summer experience in the National Youth Leadership Forum while he was in high school. He initially gravitated toward the whole-body approach to medicine and how it applied to patient care. During his time at UNTHSC, he was further exposed to osteopathic manipulative therapy and its benefits firsthand. Dr.Liu was introduced to the Burrell College from a member of the College’s inaugural class of 2020. “After doing a bit more research, I was intrigued by the unique mission statement of College in terms of addressing the healthcare disparities and needs of the region,” says Dr. Liu. “Furthermore, I always felt that the southern New Mexico / West Texas area was one that would be unique to live in having lived in pretty much all the other major metro areas in Texas.”

Dr. Liu encourages anyone considering medical school to pursue their dream. “At the end of the day, I feel your success in medical school and beyond is effort-dependent on how much you put in,” he recounts. “By putting in the work and taking the initiative of your own learning, you’ll find yourself in a better spot when it comes to doing well in classes and your board exams.”