Provider Perspective: Obiageli Duru-Anoumatacky

Obiageli “Oby” Duru-Anoumatacky came to the United States from Nigeria 20 years ago, and since then, she has been dedicated to bettering the lives of others through public health work in HIV care.

As a Nurse Practitioner at Mobile Medical Care, Inc., a non-profit based in Montgomery County, Maryland that provides accessible care for all, she hopes to show people from all walks of life that they are deserving of quality healthcare. She is passionate about serving her community and is currently pursuing a Master’s in Public Health (MPH) to further her work in HIV prevention and care.

Read the Q&A below to learn more about what inspires her work and how she helps better the lives of Maryland residents!

What inspired you to become a nurse practitioner?

“Before I came to this country, I had done a couple of things through my church – going out to the community, caring for people, providing some things for them. So when I came here, I worked in home health and the close relationships I formed with patients basically drew me to [apply to] nursing school. And my interest in HIV came as a result of my rotation. That was an eye opener for me because now I was seeing a totally different population that needed so much. 

When I finished my rotation – luckily it was my final rotation before my graduation – my boss was like, ‘When you’re done with your nursing school, would you like to work here?’ I said that would be the best thing that could happen to me. I was working at the Southeast, DC clinic, Max Robinson Center, and that was a beautiful experience for me. While I was doing the nurse care manager job – following up with patients on a daily basis, talking to patients, basically helping change their lives – I told myself I want to do more, and I really want to go to nurse practitioner school to be a provider.”

How has your work with Mobile Medical Care, Inc. impacted Montgomery County, Maryland?

“Montgomery County has what they call the Primary Care Coalition, which is a couple of clinics and hospitals that work together to provide the kind of care we provide. And the whole idea is to keep people from having to rely on emergency rooms by giving them access to every kind of care – primary care and specialty care. What we provide in Montgomery County, as a clinic and as a group, is changing lives. 

And we are also called ‘Safety Net Clinics.’ As a county that is very open to immigrants, documented and undocumented, the need to actually be able to provide healthcare to them – not just when they are sick, but the preventative [care] such as mammograms and colonoscopies – is great. It’s impacting people’s lives in a way that we can’t even really express.”

What have been some of the biggest challenges that you have faced within the past couple of years?

“The main challenge is trying to convince people, especially undocumented immigrants, that we are not associated with immigration in any way – for them to feel comfortable to come in and be seen. It’s incredible that, irrespective of clinics like ours being there, there are still a lot of people who don’t seek care because they are scared. And so our message is to let them know that we are not part of immigration. Come in and get treated.

Then the other challenge is that, yes, we give people these medications for free – PrEP is free, we test everybody every year for HIV, we give medications – but we notice that people find it difficult to [stay on] the medications. I have PrEP patients who I’ll see every three months and sometimes they disappear. Then they appear and I ask them if they took their medication, and they’ll say, ‘Oh, my partner told me to stop,’ or something. So, those are the challenges. 

You can’t really force people or make people do what they don’t want to do. But we’re hoping that with more open discussion at every level, people will understand that something like PrEP could actually protect them, and prevent them from having HIV.”

What do you think would build your organization’s capacity to do more work in the state of Maryland?

“Funding is always an issue, right? If you ask my bosses or the directors, they want more money to do more things. But apart from the money aspect, also human resources staff. You’ll find that because of the kind of organization it is, they don’t get paid much. So it’s like a revolving door. They are trained and before you know it, they find another job that pays better because our economy has changed so dramatically in the past few years. People want better lives and you can’t blame them. Staff retention is very poor and we need to do more. We also need more staff training to make it possible for people to grow in their jobs.”

What is the future of the healthcare workforce in Maryland? What should it look like?

“I wish some other counties in Maryland could be a little more like Montgomery County in providing access to care to people who wouldn’t ordinarily have it. That would help a lot. And also, I wish that a lot of primary care providers would get involved in HIV prevention. It’s so important. Primary care providers have a lot on their plate, and HIV prevention and PrEP is another thing on their plate. So they don’t want to deal with it. They just want you to go somewhere else. But I wish providers were paid better so that they could be more secure to take on more responsibilities. That would help the health of the entire state.”

Obiageli (Oby) Duru-Anoumatacky is a graduate of the Georgetown University Nurse Practitioner program with 8 years of clinical experience. She is currently working with a non-profit organization in Montgomery County, Maryland, where she cares for underserved, undocumented, and uninsured adult populations. She provides preventative, acute, and chronic disease care and coordinates the PrEP program at her clinic. Prior to obtaining her Advanced Nursing degree, Oby was an award-winning Nurse Care Manager with Whitman Walker Health in Washington, DC for five years. She has extensive experience in HIV prevention and providing care for people living with HIV. With a passion to serve the community, she is currently pursuing a master’s in public health (MPH) degree, which she plans to use to further enhance her services towards HIV prevention and care.