HOPE VALLEY — As she prepares to take over the position of medical director at Wood River Health Services, Dr. Nadia Duvilaire, who practiced medicine in New York City for the past seven years, is having no difficulties adjusting to the less frenetic pace of Rhode Island.
“I was looking to relocate, and I had looked at Rhode Island, perhaps some 10 years prior, but it wasn’t the time,” she said. “I had been coming back and forth to Rhode Island, so I knew I was going to relocate. Is it slower than New York? Yes. Do I miss the bright lights? No, because if I miss it, I can easily get there.”
Born in Port au Prince Haiti, Duvilaire, who is in her 50s, has practiced family medicine for 18 years. Her most recent position was chief of service of family medicine at La Clinica del Barrio of Metropolitan Hospital in East Harlem. In addition to English, she is fluent in French, Haitian Creole and speaks passable Spanish.
Duvilaire began at Wood River on Nov. 1 and is set to take over as medical director on Feb. 1, replacing current Medical Director Christopher Campagnari, who will continue to practice medicine at the center.
Development Coordinator David Henley said Duvilaire had been a good fit right from the start.
“She’s able to not only take patients, but because she’s going to be the medical director, Chris Campagnari can go back to patients full time,” he said. “He’s been doing it for a long time, and he just wants to be a doctor. She was totally involved from day one and already had a great handle on everything. She’s already involved in everything that goes on, discussing policy and programs. She rolls up her sleeves. She’s right there.”
Duvilaire, who is certified in family medicine, earned her medical degree from Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, N.Y. in 1994 and completed her family medicine residency in 2000 at St. Vincent’s Catholic Medical Center in Manhattan.
Focusing on underserved neighborhoods in Brooklyn and East Harlem, Duvilaire was also a member of the Faculty of Family Medicine at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center and served as Director of the LGBT Health Center at Metropolitan Hospital. In addition, Duvilaire has taken medical mission trips to Mississippi, the Caribbean and the African country of Ghana.
“For 18 years, I’ve worked in communities where patients have had issues with access and where the need has been great in New York City and at least three of the five boroughs,” she said. “The work that Wood River’s doing here, providing care to patients who otherwise would not be able to have access, and it has been doing that for more than 40 years, and also, the need to provide better behavioral health services, those are things that attracted me.”
The extent of substance abuse and poverty in southern Rhode Island, Duvilaire said, was surprising.
“The depth of issues in terms of substance abuse was more astounding than I thought,” she said. “Certainly for the area of South County, you would not think [that], because it’s a place where people come mostly for vacation. And also, the poverty issue is quite astounding, I’ve found over the last few months that I’ve been here.”
“You still have all the issues,” Henley noted. “You just have fewer people, which kind of makes it harder. One of the reasons for the problems with behavioral health is that there are not enough people to draw the providers … A medical doctor can make a living in Westerly but a therapist, a psychiatrist, not really. They have to have their main practice someplace else.”
One challenge Duvilaire faced when she left New York for Rhode Island is a dearth of behavioral health services.
“In terms of access to behavioral health, we have a need here in terms of both providers as well as hospitals,” she said. “The difference in New York is, even though mental health providers, you might not be able to have access to them as much, at least we had hospitals, we had offices where patients would go. I think that’s one of the challenges — certainly when it comes to substance abuse.”
Wood River has already expanded its behavioral health services and is planning to hire a second licensed behavioral health clinical social worker.
“We are in the midst of a search for an additional licensed clinical social worker and we are hoping to fill that position in the coming months,” Duvilaire said.
Duvilaire said she has been struck by the commitment of Wood River’s providers and staff.
“I work with colleagues who have dedicated their lives to providing excellent service here,” she said. “I have providers that have been here for over 30 years, and that speaks a lot to their commitment to the center and to the people. To me, that is a treasure. Many health centers cannot boast of that.”