Janelle Duah, MD, says she always knew she wanted to be a primary care physician, and that also specializing in obesity medicine was a natural choice.
“My parents still have a picture hanging up of me when I’m 3 ,wearing my mom’s white blouse and holding a toy stethoscope to my younger sister’s heart,” Dr. Duah says. “I have congenital heart disease and I grew up going to doctors often and appreciate the lasting relationships you can form.”
However, when she would accompany her parents to various medical appointments, she found that their care was disjointed. “We had to travel an hour and a half from our neighborhood in Brooklyn to get to many of their doctors’ offices, where we would have long waits, and then the prescriptions would pile up and things weren’t explained to them like they were to me,” Dr. Duah says.
This, Dr. Duah says, allowed her to see the lost opportunities in primary care. “If we start early and can instill education in patients from the get-go, they maybe don’t need specialists for their heart or their lungs later on,” she says. “And in my own family, we had obesity and all the comorbidities that go along with it like high blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes, running rampant. I’ve had issues with weight management myself since I was a little kid. I knew I needed to lose weight, and was often told to lose weight, but I was never told how to do it.”
Dr. Duah sees patients for both primary care and for weight loss and says she likes to teach patients how to make improvements in their health. “If it’s for weight management, my intakes last about 45 minutes and I try to hit all the big categories that can affect weight. First, I ask patients why they want to lose weight besides a number. Numbers are poor motivation because we can persuade ourselves that our weight is higher today because we had ice cream or because the jeans we are wearing weigh more,” she says. “Telling me you want to lose weight so you can run better or so you can run around with your kids more are better motivators.”
The best part of her job, Dr. Duah says, is talking to people. “I like to get to know my patients and their strengths and build upon them to improve their health,” she says. “It can take time to build that patient-provider relationship, but when patients trust you and know that you are actually listening, things go smoothly. They know they can believe in you and your recommendations.”
Undergraduate Education: Yale University, BA in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology
Medical Education: University at Buffalo School of Medicine, Cum Laude
Residency: Yale Internal Medicine Primary Care Residency (PGY-2 of the year awardee)
Chief Residency: Yale Internal Medicine Residency, VACT Center of Excellence