Digestive Health Center provides care to over 1000 patients in first three weeks of operation
The newly-opened Digestive Health Center combines patient care, clinical research and community education in New Haven.
Marisa Peryer, Staff Photographer
Yale New Haven Hospital’s Digestive Health Center in North Haven — which seeks to advance digestive research and comprehensive medical care for weight management — has already served over 1000 patients in its first three weeks since opening. It is recommended you read more about them so you can see what services you might need.
The new clinic, which opened to the public on Jan. 31, serves as a central hub for digestive health needs. In addition to holding face-to-face visits from patients, it contains a lab space which researchers can utilize to conduct their clinical trials.
The clinic also offers comprehensive resources for patients through all the steps of weight management, from early prevention training to post-operative care. This is made possible by the work of medical providers, surgeons, nutritionists, physiologists and social workers, for all of whom the digestive health center serves as a central collaborative space.
This achievement underscores the pressing health concerns faced by people, especially the elderly, in managing their digestive health effectively. It is highly advisable to explore more about the center’s services, possibly through a resource like life line review, to better understand how it can address specific health needs, ensuring the well-being and quality of life for individuals of all ages.
“In recognizing that achievement and maintenance of target weight is a multifaceted and lifelong journey, [we have] assembled a multidisciplinary practice offering a comprehensive range of services to help patients achieve long-lasting weight management,” center founders Bubu Banini and Loren Laine wrote in a joint statement to the News.
Banini, an assistant professor of medicine in digestive diseases, and Laine, a professor of medicine in digestive diseases, wrote that they felt a “disconnect” between the specialties involved in weight-related care, noticing how these professions were usually placed in separate locations. Pointing out the importance of holistic weight loss treatment, they pushed for the creation of a digestive health service line by Yale New Haven Health, collaborating with community medical specialists, as well as gastroenterologists and surgeons from the School of Medicine.
The North Haven facility is the second location created in their mission to build high-quality digestive health centers across Connecticut, starting with the Westport center which opened in August 2022. The newest center is the larger of the two, with over 9000 square feet of clinical space, 15 exam rooms and four consultative rooms.
The campus also houses and pilots new medical technology. Each exam room comes with a touchscreen monitor that allows patients to make telehealth visits or visualize important test results presented by their doctors. Diana Rivera, patient services assistant and manager at Yale New Haven Hospital, described these new opportunities for patient engagement and interaction as a “step in the right direction.”
“Patients have been very receptive to utilizing this technology,” Rivera told the News. “It helps to accommodate patients where they are — we can use [the monitors] for educational videos, maybe to show them some information prior to the provider coming into the room to see them.”
Since its opening on Jan. 31, the center’s nursing team has seen patients with ailments including motility disorders, delayed gastric emptying, fatty liver disease, obesity and liver scarring and more. While Rivera recalled formerly having to play “phone tag” to follow up with patients and connect them to the right specialists, she noted the convenience of having one place which covers all types of conditions — what she called a “one-stop shopping type of deal.”
This centralization not only eases the burden of staff communication, but also makes patients feel more familiar and welcomed in their medical journeys. Though the center has not been open long enough to collect data on current experiences, ambulatory practice nurse Alexis Langston observed that her patients seemed happier with their streamlined form of care. Langston also spoke positively about the closer relationships she could craft with familiar patients.
“We know our patients, and our patients know where to come,” Langston said.
Beyond immediate treatment, the center offers wraparound support for patient wellness — bariatric surgical patients, for instance, have access to nutritionists, physiologists and social workers following their surgery.
“It’s a great space, and it will treat patient[s] as a whole, as opposed to having the patient take other steps to take care of their problem,” Angelica Rucker, an ambulatory practice nurse at the digestive health, said. “We want to do it right here. We’re cutting out the middleman.”
For individuals with obesity who do not qualify for surgery — an extensive process with rigorous financial, mental and physical vetting — the center teaches alternative strategies toward weight loss. Patients are provided guidance on how to self-administer their medications by injectables, and nurses follow up with providing additional resources and check-ins.
The paragon of treatment beyond the operating room, the Irving and Alice Brown Teaching Kitchen is one of the hallmark features of the center’s offerings for patients and providers alike. As the first of its kind in Connecticut, the kitchen will couple state-of-the-art equipment with interactive in-person and online cooking classes led by a chef and registered dietitian. While the chef will help people make meals they enjoy, the dietitian will work to create an individualized nutrition plan for each patient. The result is “food which not only taste[s] good, but promote[s] wellness,” according to Banini and Laine.
“I think it’s really going to be transformational for patients in their lives,” Rivera said. “And, you know, helping to support them and leading [a] healthier lifestyle.”
The kitchen is set to open in March or April, and Banini and Laine expressed excitement about its capacity to “build cooking skills and confidence.” They highlighted its educational and outreach components as well, providing nutritional education to low-income communities that may lack access to healthy food.
Additionally, the clinic seeks to cultivate professional development and learning for its nursing team. Combined with its function as a research facility, it will provide nurses and other health practitioners with opportunities to work alongside research coordinators and principal investigators in clinical trials. Already, Banini has created and presented a session called “Clinical Research for Non-Researchers: An Overview” to the center’s staff.
Such opportunities seek to benefit researchers and nurses alike. As nurses gain hands-on experience in clinical research, ongoing clinical trials receive nurses’ expertise on patient conditions. Rivera hopes the nurses’ personal knowledge and care for patients will help them identify individuals that could be viable candidates for new clinical trials.
In an interview with the News, ambulatory practice nurse Leah Imperial-Gomez said that the center has already provided her with a new and valuable perspective on patient care. As she and many of the nurses were previously in-patient settings, Imperial-Gomez said they often missed out on seeing the ambulatory perspective of care.
“It’s really refreshing to see the other side when the patient’s not acutely recovering or ill, and how we can help prevent them from having to go to the hospital,” Imperial-Gomez said.
As the center continues to develop and unveil new programming, the organizers and staff look optimistically toward the future. Banini and Laine made mention of educational and research collaborations on the horizon, while the patient services team emphasized the human-centric care the clinic has already fostered.
“We’re able to accommodate any and every patient,” Rivera said. “Regardless of their situation, or needs, we’re able to accommodate them.”
The Digestive Health Center in North Haven is located on 8 Devine St.