Emily LaDuca, Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner, oversees the Women’s Health Services practice at the Community Health Center of Niagara Falls. She has been a nurse for almost 13 years and has focused on being a Women’s Health Services practitioner now approaching 11 years.
After joining CHCB, Inc. in 2018, Emily helped establish a full time Title X funded Family Planning program at CHCB, Inc.’s Niagara Falls site within a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC). She has also been instrumental in developing and implementing strategies to improve patient show rate and productivity, and she has spearheaded a collaborative effort with both adult and pediatric primary care providers, dental providers, and CHCB, Inc.’s Behavioral Health team to implement a patient centered care model.
Prior to joining CHCB, Inc., Emily served as a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner with Planned Parenthood of Western New York Inc., and with the Niagara County Department of Health STD Clinic, Niagara Falls, NY. She began her healthcare career as a Registered Nurse, Medical-Surgical with the Erie County Medical Center.
Emily earned both Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Master of Science in Maternal and Women’s Health degrees from the State University of New York at Buffalo. She holds NCC National Certification (The National Certification Corporation (NCC) is a not-for-profit organization that provides a national certification program for nurses, physicians, and other licensed health care professionals); and certifications in Advanced Cardiac Life Support and Basic Life Support.
Today, Emily is an enthusiastic, dedicated advocate for Women’s Health with a focus on Gynecology (GYN) which involves care of all women’s’ health issues, including important annual tests and exams (Pap Smear, Breast Exam, etc.); family planning and birth control counseling; pregnancy testing; and Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) testing for both men and women.
Recently, Emily was a guest on the Community Health Center of Niagara Falls Facebook Live program “All The Way Live!” hosted by Charles Walker, Project Manager/Outreach. The following is an excerpt of that interview:
Q. What do you enjoy most about being a Women’s Health Services practitioner?
Emily: I’m really fortunate to have a job that I love. What I love most is taking care of the community. I really love the community in which I work and who I serve. I really love taking care of generations of people. It’s really exciting to see a family come in. I’m seeing mom, I’m seeing the daughter, maybe I’m also seeing the grandmother. One day, I hope I’ll also get to take care of the kids and grandkids too. That’s probably my favorite part of my job right now.
Q. There’s a motto on one of your flyers that reads: “We can’t wait to get to know you!” Is that your feeling?
Emily: Of course! We’re always eager to meet new patients and to see how we can help them. My passion is to empower women and to help them to lead the life that they want to lead. I always say to patients, you can write your own story here. We can help you determine – family planning wise – what do you want your reproductive health plan to be? Do you want a baby now? Do you want a baby in five years? Do you want a baby in 10 years? What are you going to accomplish in your life while you’re waiting to have a baby? And if you are ready to have a baby now, how can we help you with that?
Q. In the area of Women’s Health Services, preventive care is very important. But we often read during this COVID pandemic that many people have not followed up with their yearly checkups and appointments. So, what would you say to those who may be afraid to keep an appointment, or maybe just because of depression, are not feeling it?
Emily: I know we’re really far into this, it’s been almost a year and I think that that’s still a really a very valid concern. First of all, we want the patient to know their concerns are valid. If you don’t feel comfortable, advocate for yourself. Call your doctor’s office and say, “I’m concerned about coming in,” and ask, “how are you going to protect me?” There’s also nothing wrong – if you feel uncomfortable in asking – “can we do a virtual visit?”, “can we do a Telehealth visit?” These are also appointments that we are offering. And if you really need to come into the office to be seen, which is sometimes the case, we are going to do that as safe as possible.
Q. Let’s talk about women’s’ heart health. What are some of the symptoms of heart attack? What are some of the things women should pay attention to?
Emily: The American Heart Association created the “Go Red For Women” platform to create awareness that cardiovascular disease does look different in both men and women. Specifically, in women, the number one sign is going to be that central chest pain. Sometimes, it’s described as feeling like an elephant is sitting on your chest. This kind of crushing pain is still going to be the number one symptom.
Women are also likely to have other symptoms. Men typically don’t have other symptoms. Women are more likely to have other symptoms such as pain that radiates to your shoulder, or your back, or your jaw. Sometimes shortness of breath. Sometimes nausea and vomiting. When you have nausea and vomiting, you probably don’t think, “I’m having a heart attack.” So it is important to be aware that there are other symptoms out there that we might not typically think of as being “heart attack” symptoms for sure.
Q. When we think about risk factors, about things that we should stop doing, what are some of those?
Emily: It all goes back to just trying to live a healthy lifestyle. We know that things such as smoking is not good for us. Eating an unhealthy diet. Eating a diet that is high in salt. Physical inactivity. Not getting some kind of physical activity 30 minutes per day. Obesity. All of these contribute.
Q. If someone is feeling any of the symptoms we discussed, what is one of the first things they should do?
Emily: If you are experiencing chest pain that is lasting a few minutes; or if it’s coming and going, you really need to seek emergency attention. You need to call 911. It really could be a life and death situation. Don’t finish the dishes, don’t do your laundry first, just go right to the ER by calling 911.
Q. Turning to African American women, if you were speaking to them what would you say?
Emily: First of all, I would go back to the statistics. One in three women total will pass away from some type of cardiovascular event; or cardio vascular disease will be a contributing factor. This is the number one killer of women… more than cancer, more than anything.
And when we look at that one in three, disproportionately we know that women of color are going to be affected.
So, I think it really starts with awareness. That there’s a really good chance that I’m going to experience a cardiovascular event in my life. We don’t know if that will be high blood pressure, heart attack or stroke, or high cholesterol. All of these are part of cardiovascular disease.
And when we are looking at this, we really have to look at our own lives. We have to ask ourselves, what are the things I can change? I can’t change my ethnicity. I can’t change who my parents are and what they passed down to me genetically. What I can change is the diet that I have. Whether I smoke or not. How much physical activity that I have. And I think that we can make really small changes, and
I think we can make these small changes to create a better life for ourselves.
I was reminded this year that life is not a dress rehearsal, and that we only have one life. And we have to take care of the one we are given. Whether that’s for our families, for ourselves, for our kids.
Q. That’s a lot of wisdom! You sound like you’ve been doing this a long time.
In this age of COVID, talk about the programs you oversee in these times, during this era?
Emily: I always like to say that yes, there’s a pandemic going on and the world may be shut down, but things like cancer do not stop. Things like pregnancy do not stop, sexually transmitted diseases do not stop. These things are still happening and we definitely are still offering these services.
If you are due for your annual checkup and you feel comfortable coming to the office, make sure you schedule that. If there’s any symptom going on that you feel you need to be seen for, we’re still here. Please know that we want you to come in, that we want to help take care of your problems.
Q. Every day, I’m aware that I’m getting older. Can you take a moment and have a heart-to-heart with women who may be getting overwhelmed by the thought that they are getting older.
Emily: For women in the older age range, I would definitely say from an overall health perspective, to consider what we have been talking about.
Sometimes, our metabolism starts slowing down, we start to put on weight, we can change those things to the best of our ability. We can make sure we go for a walk every day, that’s good for mental health too. We can make sure that the food we are putting in our bodies is nutritious for us.
From a GYN perspective, it’s very important that women come in annually for their GYN checkup. You need a clinical breast exam. You need to be sent for a mammogram every year for breast cancer prevention. If you are due for cervical cancer screening and your PAP Smear, we are going to make sure that we do that for you. As far as women over 50 and when we go through menopause, we are going to be checking for osteoporosis.
I always talk to my patients about the importance of physical activity. Going for a walk every day. Going up and down the stairs. Doing yoga. All these activities are really good for our bones and keeping our bones healthy. And just making sure we’re using calcium and vitamin C are also really good for our bones.
Q. OK, what about a heart-to-heart for young ladies?
Emily: I think that the healthy habits that you start now are more likely to last a lifetime. If you are eating at McDonald’s every day, it might be OK for now, but it’s going to catch up with you. Definitely, don’t start smoking. Make sure you’re taking time for physical exercise and doing something more active for yourself most days of the week.
As far as other things for young women, you might feel like you’re healthy now, but now is the time to make sure you start coming in for good preventive primary care. It’s a great time in your early 20s that you establish yourself with a primary care provider that you feel really comfortable with; that you go for your labs when you are scheduled; to make sure we are catching things early. You want to make sure we’re checking your blood pressure so we can catch high blood pressure as early as possible. There may be something changing in your body that we need to catch.
We also want our young women to come in for the GYN services we have talked about. Do we need to talk about pregnancy and birth control. Do we need to talk about STD testing. Can we give you condoms today? How can we help you protect yourself?
Q. This has been great. How can someone make an appointment to see you?
Emily: Our phone number is 716-986-9199, that’s the best number to call and schedule an appointment. If you are a new patient, we are taking new patients. If you are an established patient and we have not seen you in a while, we would love to see you.
One of the things that I love is that if you look at our name – The Community Health Center – we are here for the community. We offer services for the individual. We offer services for the whole family. We have primary care, pediatrics, dental, behavioral health, mental health. If you want to take advantage of one thing, you can. If you want to take advantage of all those things, you can. And that’s what I really like about working here.