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Pappathi Anbalagan, MD

Pappathi Anbalagan, MD

Interim Deputy CMO and Nursing Facility Medical Director
NYC Health + Hospitals/Carter

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A Bright Light Shining in Harlem

Growing up in southern India, Dr. Pappathi Anbalagan was familiar with living in the shadows. Her father — a farmer in a tiny Tamil Nadu village — worked outside with plenty of sunshine, but Dr. Anbalagan knew their status as have-nots. 

“We didn’t have great healthcare in our village, so he encouraged me to become a physician,” she says. 

It wasn’t that easy. She did volunteer work that sent her into medical care for folks in villages even poorer, smaller, and more remote than her own.

Once she arrived in New York, she couldn’t land any residencies so she enrolled in a Catholic nursing school in Queens where a nun encouraged her to shift tracks into pharmacy. She also volunteered to shadow a pediatrician. 

Now as Interim Deputy Chief Medical Officer and Nursing Facility Medical Director at NYC Health + Hospitals/Carter, she faces different health care challenges: caring for patients with dementia and battling uncertainty around the mysteries of COVID-19. 

“Medicine is a mystery,” she says. “We cannot really know everything or cure everything. We have to really work on it. I cannot always give 100 percent assurance that this will be done, this will be cured.”

It’s not as defeatist as it may sound. At the height of the pandemic, Dr. Anbalagan served as Chief Medical Officer at Roosevelt Island Medical Center, a surge hospital, providing care to more than 500 patients and residents. 

“During her enduring career she skillfully has transitioned between direct resident care and medical leadership duties and back, as the need arises,” says Dr. Michael Schuster, Carter’s Interim Chief Medical Officer. “An expert clinician, she has consistently demonstrated excellent leadership qualities while collaborating with other disciplines to produce outstanding patient outcomes.”

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