About Dr. Devi Nampiaparampil
Who Am I?
When COVID hit this city and we needed doctors, I stepped up to treat patients. When the economic crisis hit, I created jobs through my small business. When healthcare providers had questions about COVID, I collaborated on medical research to find answers. When the public was unsure what to believe, I provided answers in my news interviews on Fox. And most recently when the city needed a Public Advocate, I ran for office.
I am a Harvard Medical School trained pain physician and an Associate Professor at NYU School of Medicine. I have my own private practice in the Financial District. I previously served as the Chief of Pain Management at the VA New York Harbor Healthcare System and directed and developed the Interventional Pain Management program for the Tristate area. I have treated combat veterans, prisoners of war, survivors of torture, and patients with other complex pain syndromes throughout my career. I have been a doctor for almost 20 years and I am board-certified in four specialties: Pain Medicine, Sports Medicine, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, and Hospice & Palliative Medicine.
When I was 16, I caught a viral illness that caused my heart, lungs and bone marrow to fail. I spent a month in and out of the Pediatric ICU at Westchester Medical Center and Columbia-Presbyterian Babies Hospital. It took me almost eight months to return to school full-time. I believed I survived to fulfill a higher purpose. I wanted to help people who suffered from catastrophic injuries. It was a steep uphill battle, but I made up the work I had missed. I got accepted into the seven-year combined B.A./ M.D. program at Northwestern University.
Once there, I wanted to learn more about human nature and behavior. I majored in Biology and Economics. I performed basic science research in my concentration: Neurobiology. I worked in a laboratory studying Alzheimer’s Disease. For Economics, I chose Game Theory and Labor Economics as my focus and studied the marriage market. I did a summer session at Harvard to complete additional courses. I completed my double-major in three years and graduated with Honors.
In my first year of medical school, I joined a lab performing clinical research on patients with chronic pain from fibromyalgia, a condition where patients suffer from pain all over their bodies. While working on a different project managing our database, I noticed differences in opioid use among hospitalized patients. African American patients with Medicaid used fewer opioids than Caucasian patients with private health insurance. (These were the terms used at the time). I initiated my own research study in 1998, as a first-year medical student, on disparities in pain management.
That study described a scenario of a patient with chronic low back pain and sciatica. The scenario was followed by questions for the study subject (the doctor) about what the doctor would do to treat the patient’s pain. There were two different scenarios. In one, the patient was African American with Medicaid. In the other one, the patient was Caucasian with private insurance. There were significant differences in what doctors were likely to prescribe the hypothetical patient as treatment. To my surprise, the patients also received different treatment depending on whether the doctor was white or Asian American, whether the doctor was male or female, whether the doctor was relatively older or younger, and whether the doctor had had formal training in pain management or not. The study received little support at that time and I had to do the preliminary analysis myself. Luckily, my father had a PhD in Statistics from CUNY so he performed the statistical analysis using SAS for us for free. We finally got published in a high impact journal in 2009—almost 10 years later. By that time, I believe the topic had become more acceptable in medical circles. The study won awards from Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital and the American Medical Association.
The backbone of my clinical research has always been medical and procedural treatment options for patients. Because I have delivered results in those competitive areas, I’ve been able to convince people to join me in delving into social issues as well. I published research on whether medical school admissions criteria are potentially biased against people with disabilities, people who might be highly motivated to pursue careers in medicine because of their own personal experiences.
In 2012, I published a meta-analysis investigating whether opioids were effective for treating chronic pain. The study was completed years earlier but the conclusion was controversial, contributing to a delay in publication. Years before the opioid crisis was identified, my team found that the risks of oral prescription opioids outweighed the benefits in the majority of patients with chronic low back pain.
After medical school, I completed my five years of post-graduate training (internship, residency and fellowship) at Harvard Medical School where I was the only woman in my residency class (2003-2006). I was the only person from my residency class to get accepted and stay on for a Pain Medicine fellowship program at Harvard Medical School. There, I was once again the only woman in my class (2006-2007).
Afterwards, I joined the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and used my skills to treat veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with blast-related injuries including brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, amputations, and chronic pain.
I moved back to New York in 2008 and became the Chief of Pain Management at the VA Hudson Valley. There I tackled the opioid crisis before it was formally named. I was promoted to the Manhattan VA where I directed and developed an Interventional Pain Management program– offering minimally invasive spine procedures and nerve blocks– to veterans throughout the Tristate area. Our site served as the referral center for all of New York City.
One of my administrators and mentors at the Manhattan VA recounted to me the veterans’ return from Vietnam. He described how the veterans he saw were plagued with physical ailments, mental illness including post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, suicidal ideations, homelessness, and significant substance abuse issues. I was young and untested. Yet I was tasked with creating a new Interventional Pain Management program, a referral center, for the Tristate area. It was a lot of pressure and I could not fail, he stressed. Not with the veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. No one wants to hear how you failed—how it’s Vietnam all over again, and how you wasted the government’s money. Just get the job done, he emphasized. Together, with a team of VA employees I engaged, we created that program for the veterans. It served all veterans at the VA—not solely the ones returning from the Middle East. Military Medicine published the blueprint for the program so that it could be reproduced at other VA and Department of Defense sites. I also joined the faculty of NYU School of Medicine during that time.
When Hurricane Sandy flooded the Manhattan VA, closed the hospital and left me “displaced” from my home in a flood zone, I decided to use the time to obtain a masters from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. I wanted to promote health literacy. I felt like many people didn’t understand how to navigate the healthcare system or how to interpret medical research.
I already had about 50 academic publications, including over 20 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. I wanted to influence how regular people understood medical developments. During that time, I published articles in Newsweek and I won a Jury Award from the Directors Guild of America for my documentary on a controversial organ donation request from a death row inmate.
Since that time, I started my own private practice and I saw a truly diverse slice of society. I have treated people who work in the home and outside of it. I treat people who are disabled, those who are not actively looking for work, those who are retired and those who have lost their jobs. I treat children. I consulted for various law firms as well as Fortune 500 companies. I have also appeared as an on-air medical analyst in over 500 news segments for Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, NBC News, ITV, and other national and international networks. For years, I was an on-air medical contributor for Fox 5 NY.