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Caring for Women from Chinatown to China

Dewan Duan featured in new Gouverneur Health marketing materials.
Dewan Duan featured in new Gouverneur Health marketing materials.

When Dewan Duan starts to talk about her patients, it’s not unusual for her to refer to them as her friends. And whether that patient is a poor woman living in rural China or a new immigrant making her way through the narrow streets of Chinatown, she deserves the same kind of healthcare for herself and her baby as one would provide for a family member or close friend, Duan said.

“We know women and children are always the populations that are most vulnerable compared to the other populations, in the rural areas in China, and in the low-income areas in this country,” said Duan, a certified nurse midwife at Gouverneur Health in Lower Manhattan. “They need help. And I can help.”

Duan has devoted her 30-year-career to helping to improve the maternal health of women, first in her native China and most recently at Gouverneur. Because of her experience working with women in the U.S. and China, she was invited to go to China in June as part of a United Nations program to reduce maternal death and disability rates through increased use of certified midwives.

Dr. Morris Gagliardi, Director of the Ob-Gyn Department at Gouverneur, says Duan is a welcoming presence to women in the prenatal program, where she has a packed schedule and manages as many as 100 patient visits per week.

“She works so well with new immigrants, people who come to us looking for that experienced face that they can relate to. They find that in her,” Dr. Gagliardi said.

“She brings a great level of maturity to the practice. She’s seasoned, she’s experienced. She brings great education and knowledge,” Dr. Gagliardi said of Duan, who has a medical degree and Ph.D. from Beijing University School of Medicine and a Masters of Public Health degree from Columbia University.

The UN pilot program will incorporate many of the successful practices followed at Gouverneur, where almost 700 women received prenatal care in the last year. Duan incorporated many of Gouverneur’s midwifery practices, such as high-quality prenatal, childbirth, postpartum and well-woman care.

In Beijing, Duan met with leadership of Beijing University and other universities. She has developed a proposed midwifery education curriculum to train more midwives and promote the benefits of natural delivery. One of the goals of the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) H4+ pilot program is to reduce non-essential obstetric interventions, such as medically unnecessary C-sections, that put mothers and infants at risk for serious health problems.

Duan is also the face of Gouverneur Health in an upcoming marketing campaign to promote the healthcare center in the Chinese community. Gouverneur is among the City’s largest providers of outpatient services to Chinese New Yorkers. During Fiscal Year 2011 Gouverneur provided 325,000 visits, with Asian Americans accounting for more than 88,000 visits for approximately 15,000 individuals. Most of the women who receive prenatal care at Gouverneur deliver their babies at Bellevue Hospital Center.

Duan, who is married and has a son, graduated from Beijing University School of Medicine in China in 1984 and became interested in maternal and child health through her mentor and advisor Dr. Yan Renying, a well-known doctor and professor of obstetrics and gynecology.

Her interest continued after she moved to the United States to attend Columbia University. She completed the direct entry program for certified midwife at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in 2001. She was a midwifery intern at North Central Bronx Hospital for a year and was a midwife at Gouverneur and Bellevue from 2001 to 2004. She was senior midwife at the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center from 2004 to 2011, then returned to Gouverneur last year.

She says the role of the obstetrics team is to keep women healthy so they can have a natural childbirth experience and only intervene if it’s medically necessary for the mother or baby.

“Midwife means ‘with woman,’ ” Duan said. “The midwife spends more time with the patient. We treat them as friends or family. We give more education and attention to them. We give the woman the chance to let her body lead the whole pregnancy, labor and delivery experience. We’re here to guide women through a normal process.”



August 2012

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  • Staffed Beds: 6,684
  • Clinic Visits: 4,472,960
  • ER Visits: 1,179,436
  • Discharges: 205,791
  • Births: 18,564
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