A magazine for friends of the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

Partners in Health


A vascular surgeon works to build healthier communities.

When Carla Moreira MD’08 RES’10 was 10, her family emigrated from Santiago, Cape Verde, to Pawtucket, RI, which has the fourth-largest Cape Verdean population in the US. “Growing up in Cape Verde, it felt like a big village raising you,” says Moreira, an assistant professor of surgery.

“Coming here and maintaining that sense of community, it felt like home.” The health care system wasn’t as welcoming.

At age 14, Moreira, an aspiring doctor, helped her grandfather, who didn’t speak English, navigate his medical care. Though “most of the experiences we had were great,” she was “keenly aware” of how language barriers affected his care. “I couldn’t imagine how it much worse it would have been if I didn’t speak English,” recalls Moreira, who also speaks Cape Verdean Creole, Portuguese, and Spanish. “There’s a lot of things we do in medicine that we can do a lot better,” she adds.

Moreira, a vascular surgeon at Brown Surgical Associates, attends health fairs and other events to educate people about the health care system, and helps other providers connect with the diverse communities they serve. “If a patient feels [their doctor]is really invested in their health, understands their living situation and how their disease impacts their lives and vice versa, then that relationship becomes stronger, and you can really work as partners,” she says.

Moreira has a busy practice and serves on several hospital and academic committees—plus she’s a wife and mom to two toddlers. “I’m still trying to find that balance,” she says.

Most of Moreira’s work is disease management and preventive care. But she loves being in the OR, where as a surgeon “you’re always strategizing, you always work on trying to improve.”

At events like this one for local Cape Verdean women, Moreira tells them how they can “go back to their primary care physician and their local health centers and [build]better trust.”

Moreira is working to diversify the health workforce, which studies show can
minimize health disparities and improve patient care “across the board,” she says.

Moreira—a working-class immigrant who went to public school—regularly reminds students with similar backgrounds who want to be doctors, “If I can do it, you can do it.”


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