WELLFLEET — Outer Cape Health Services announced on Aug. 26 that Dr. Damian Archer will replace Patricia Nadle as CEO on Dec. 1.
Since April, Archer has been the chief health equity officer of OCHS. He was formerly the chief medical officer of North Shore Community Health and is also an assistant professor of family medicine at Tufts University.
As CEO, Archer said, he will bring a philosophy of “people-centered care” to OCHS and will strive to develop a supportive work environment for staff. He plans on improving managerial communication to regularly assess staff needs and ensure OCHS can adjust to suit those needs. “That’s what makes really diligent management challenging,” he said. “It is a dynamic process.”
Archer hopes that fostering a positive workplace will improve OCHS’s ability to recruit and retain staff.
Health-care organizations have faced heightened recruitment and retention challenges since the beginning of the pandemic — a time when, Archer said, the demands that health-care workers faced, from both their patients and their managers, were intense. “When people don’t feel like they’re winning at work, it’s just soul crushing,” he said.
With sustainable workloads and strong manager support, he says, OCHS “will attract great talent, and it will keep great talent.”
Archer grew up in the Bahamas. He knew he wanted to be a doctor from a young age, he said, and his family was supportive. “My mom just invested in me to achieve my academic potential,” he said. “You can’t tell a Black Caribbean woman you want to be a doctor and it doesn’t happen.”
Archer, who is gay, began visiting Provincetown in 2011. “It’s one of the most special places on Earth if you identify as someone in the LGBTQIA community, because it’s the one place where you feel like you’re typical,” he said. “That sense of safety, more than anything else, just allows you to feel free.”
He met Outer Cape Health Services Chief Medical Officer Andrew Jorgensen, who invited him to join the organization. He came onto OCHS’s senior leadership staff as chief health equity officer in April 2023.
Jorgensen is pleased about Archer’s promotion. “While Dr. Archer was hired as our first chief health equity officer, it quickly became apparent that his abilities, knowledge, and compassion could benefit Outer Cape Health Services in even greater ways,” he wrote in an email.
In his health equity role, Archer said, he focused on identifying overlooked populations of patients with unique health issues and ensuring that those people get the care they need. “We’re looking for patients who may be left behind,” he said. He also designed a program to educate OCHS’s staff about diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Archer plans to incorporate health equity into his role as CEO. He also plans to continue to see patients while serving as CEO, though just how much he’ll get to do that is not yet clear.
Archer said the housing crisis presents a challenge to recruitment on the Outer Cape. He thinks there’s a need to think creatively about solving health-care capacity issues at OCHS. That could include, he said, expanding the clinics’ capacities through telehealth services, and he notes that the pandemic showed the effectiveness of virtual visits in both chronic disease management and routine care.
A lack of mental health providers is another acute problem on the Outer Cape. On that front, Archer said, “I believe in integrated behavioral health services and collaborative care.” This refers to a health-care model that views medicine holistically, where primary care doctors are trained in basic mental health care. The goal of this is to ensure primary care clinicians have the training to handle some psychiatric conditions, while keeping psychiatrists available and accessible when they are needed, he said.
Archer said he implemented a program like that when he was CMO at North Shore Community Health and considers it a major success.
He also views elder care as “an equity issue.” He is still determining how to implement better health-care services for the elderly, he said. OCHS currently has certified adult-gerontology nurse practitioners but no gerontologists on staff.
“The care of pregnant people and women is something that I hold really dear to my heart,” he said, adding that he has delivered over 300 babies. He admits that it will likely not be possible to hire many obstetricians and midwives but thinks reproductive health care is an area where OCHS might be able to “maximize technology and telehealth services in a safe way.”
Access to abortion has long been limited on the Outer Cape, and OCHS doctors currently do not provide prescriptions for medication abortions. Archer said that OCHS “will always provide the best services we can in compliance with the law.” He would not say, however, whether the organization might change course and allow the use of nonfederal funds to provide medical abortions.
Archer also said, “I think making sure that we can provide gender-affirming services that are lifesaving is important.” He views gender-affirming care as a public health issue and said he plans to ensure those services are provided.