December 10, 2018
Health Care Heroes Awards 2018Category: Physician

Haddad extends training, clinical care for at-risk patients

Photos | Contributed
Photos | Contributed
Among his many roles, Community Health Center's Dr. Marwan Haddad can be found on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., lobbying for or against legislation that affects clinical care.

Dr. Marwan Haddad

Employer: Community Health Center Inc.

Title: Family physician; Medical director of CHC's Center for Key Populations

Twelve years ago, Dr. Marwan Haddad knew when he met an HIV positive patient in her late 30s that he alone could not provide the kind of care she needed. Yet, if he could coordinate care for her, he thought, she'd probably regain her health.

That woman came to him seeking treatment for advanced AIDS, Hepatitis C and an opioid-use disorder.

"She was doing what she needed to do on the streets to survive," he recalled. "I quickly realized she was not going to be able to make it to the specialists (for treatment)."

As a family physician at the Middletown-based Community Health Center Inc. (CHC), Haddad today is making an impact nationally based on what he has learned and done since then. As medical director of CHC's Center for Key Populations (CKP), he now trains primary care physicians to coordinate specialized care for the treatment of patients at risk or suffering from HIV, Hepatitis C, substance-use disorders and even homelessness.

Haddad was influenced early on by Project ECHO. The national program, which helps educate primary care physicians about how to coordinate specialized care, was founded nine years earlier by Dr. Sanjeev Arora, a gastroenterologist at the University of New Mexico. In 2012, Haddad helped establish and lead CHC's version, Weitzman Project ECHO.

The Weitzman Institute was founded as the research and innovation arm of CHC and named for Gerard Weitzman, a CHC supporter, board member and Middletown pharmacist.

Weitzman Project ECHO, which offers a training program online, is the only such project in the country run by a community health center for other community health centers, said Kasey Harding, CKP's administrative director.

Today, Haddad's struggling patient, now in her early 50s and healthy, is just one of many success stories, he said.

"Once you engage patients and retain them, that's the biggest hurdle," Haddad said. "Then you can move them along the continuum of care."

Haddad's methods have helped improve patient retention and healthy outcomes, said Harding.

Harding, who works with Haddad to secure federal funding for such programming, said that the work keeps patients coming who otherwise might abandon treatment. It helps them heal and prevents their health from getting worse.

In its latest format, the Weitzman Project ECHO holds training clinics for U.S. providers who come together virtually and learn and share information on primary care topics through a teleconferencing platform called Zoom. In these clinics, which can be held over several months, sessions include an hour-long lecture and a review of cases in which best practices are shared.

Participation is soaring. For Hepatitis C and HIV clinics, 69 medical and behavioral healthcare providers for 23 sites in six states participate. For clinics offering assisted therapy for substance addiction, including the medication Buprenorphine, 327 providers at 92 sites in 17 states and the District of Columbia participate.

"With the opioid crisis, the work he is doing is critical," said Leslie Gianelli, CHC's director of public relations and communications. (Overall, CHC itself sees about 100,000 patients annually, she said.)

Coordinating care

Born in Lebanon, Haddad grew up in Greece and graduated from Harvard University with a degree in government before getting his medical degree from McGill University in Montreal. He did his residency in family medicine at University of Toronto.

Haddad moved to New Haven in 2005 and became a U.S. citizen in 2017.

Before being hired at CHC in 2006, he undertook a Master's degree in public health (awarded in 2010) at Johns Hopkins University and went to Lesotho, a land-locked country in South Africa, with the Clinton Foundation to train local medical providers in HIV treatment.

When the CKP medical director retired in 2007, Haddad took over and began to move coordinated primary care to the forefront at CHC.

A practicing physician, Haddad embraces change. When the U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommended routine HIV testing in healthcare settings in 2009, Harding said, a week later "he was the first one to look for a way to implement it."

He was the driving force behind CHC's efforts to collect sexual orientation and gender identity data for 65,000 patients in the past two years. This enables doctors to target those most at risk for HIV and other diseases to get preventative screenings, Harding said.

He also can be found on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., lobbying for or against legislation that affects clinical care.

He is a member of the Ryan White Medical Provider Coalition, an advocacy group for people with HIV, and in March addressed the U.S. House Appropriations subcommittee on importance of funding Ryan White clinics.

In January, Haddad expects to work with the U.S. HIV AIDS Bureau as part of the President's Emergency Program for Aids Relief in Africa. Tanzania and Uganda are the countries where he will share his expertise.

Married to Frederick Altice, the busy Haddad lives in New Haven, is raising five-year-old twins, and works on physician training half the week while seeing patients for the other half in Meriden, New Britain and Middletown.

Harding said his patients routinely hug him when greeting him in the waiting room.

"That's really who he is at his core," Harding said.

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