“There’s a Culture of Looking Out For Each Other.”
Liza Aguiar ’04 MD’08 RES’13 and Bradley DeNardo MD’08 RES’11 F’14
Her Favorite Thing About Rhode Island: Easy access to the beach
Her Favorite Rhode Island Food: Blount clam chowder
His Favorite Thing About Rhode Island: Always interacting with people you know
His Favorite Rhode Island Food: Del’s Lemonade
Liza Aguiar ’04 MD’08 RES’13 and Bradley DeNardo MD’08 RES’11 F’14 are both from Rhode Island, went to single-sex high schools in Rhode Island, and went to college in Rhode Island. But somehow they didn’t meet until their first year of med school. Aguiar entered Brown as part of the Program in Liberal Medical Education, where students apply to both undergrad and medical school while still in high school. DeNardo connected to Brown while a student at Providence College as part of the Early Identification Program, which offers provisional admittance to promising Rhode Island residents.
It took until their second year for studying to turn to romance, but once they knew they wanted to be together, the couple worked to set up their careers—and their lives—in their home state. “That process of where you go after medical school is so unpredictable, and out of your control, that we were just focused on making sure that we were training in the same city,” DeNardo says.
Normally, couples can try to match together and do residencies in the same hospital or in the same geographic region. But urology, Aguiar’s chosen specialty, matches three months earlier than most other specialties, including pediatrics, which was DeNardo’s choice. Aguiar matched first, and DeNardo hoped that he’d land close to her. They lucked out, both doing their residencies at Rhode Island Hospital. They married in 2011 and, after Aguiar completed a pediatric urology fellowship in Connecticut (while DeNardo did his in pediatric hematology/ oncology at Brown), she came back. They like the state so much that they named their dog, a Rhodesian ridgeback, Rhody.
“We both grew up in Rhode Island and we’re both close to our families. I think of it as our home base,” Aguiar says. They have a 3-year-old son, whom they want to grow up as they did, and near their relatives.
The couple also appreciates working within the Providence community, both with the kinds of patients they serve, and with the Medical School community, which has been with them from the start. “The senior-level support is there, and my mentor took me under his wings to guide me,” says Aguiar, an assistant professor of surgery and of pediatrics. “I don’t think it’s surprising that we as Brown graduates come back because there’s a culture of looking out for each other.”
DeNardo, an associate professor of pediatrics, clinician educator, adds that their lifetime in the Ocean State makes them ideal doctors to treat patients in the area. “Practicing in a community you know so well positions us at an advantage. We understand where our patients are coming from and advocate on their behalf, and we can connect them with the appropriate resources they need,” he says. “We know how to navigate not just the hospital system but also how to navigate Rhode Island in general.”
Aguiar, who speaks English, Portuguese, and Spanish, says she appreciates helping the entire Rhode Island community as part of her practice, and that she can connect with them as one of their own, not as a doctor swooping in from a big academic medical center. “I get to see patients who’ve recently immigrated to the United States and second- and third-generation families,” she says. “I see different things and different challenges during the day. It adds complexity and depth to my experiences being a doctor.”