Building Relationships to Improve Community Care: Duke HNS&CS and North Raleigh International Baptist Church


Community engagement is a pillar of the mission of Duke Head and Neck Surgery & Communication Sciences (HNS&CS), and collaborative community health partnerships are a core component of our efforts.

In December 2022, Duke HNS&CS had an opportunity to host a head and neck cancer screening event—something Dr. Trinitia Cannon often conducts with different communities. For this event, the department sought out a collaboration with North Raleigh International Baptist Church (NRIBC) and Patrick Warutere.

Patrick and his wife Pauline lead NRIBC. They, along with their two sons and daughter, moved to the United States from Kenya in 2017 to continue their education. The community they found in Raleigh consists of immigrants from the Middle East and Central and East Africa, making up a diverse group of people with diverse cultures and medical needs. As they began building their community of friends, they identified needs and opportunities. As a result, they started NRIBC, in part to help address those needs.

In planning the December 2022 screening event, Patrick felt a special connection with Dr. Cannon and Leda Scearce, a Duke speech pathologist and Director of Community Engagement at Duke HNS&CS.

“Our community is composed of immigrants, and for many, Raleigh and Duke Hospital are all new experiences,” Patrick said. “Duke HNS&CS provides care with a high degree of cultural sensitivity. This is why our connection has become so endearing. Their cultural sensitivity encourages our international community to attend educational and screening events without hesitation.”

Thanks to the collaboration, people in the community attend health screening events more frequently. And those who attend these events learn more about the care Duke provides, which providers should be seen, and how to schedule an appointment.

Many members of the community have expressed gratitude for the access to medical care and the genuine effort from Duke to understand them and address specific medical needs. Some also find empowerment and confidence knowing that they are working with Duke. If a medical need arises, they know where to go.

“Our community is now more aware of what causes head and neck cancer and how to seek care,” Patrick said.

Challenges remain for Duke HNS&CS when it comes to reaching more members of these communities. Almost everyone who is part of this community speaks in their native language and doesn’t understand English. And not everyone has the means to come to a screening event—one reason why Duke HNS&CS is looking at ways to bring screening and education to their neighborhoods.

Patrick sees the partnership as a positive one and encourages other community leaders to build similar relationships.

“My advice: First, build relationships based on trust. Second, work together with communities to tailor services based on the unique medical needs of the community. And third, include community members in the planning and implementation process. All three of these will enhance the effectiveness of a similar program,” he says.

Learn more about HNS&CS community work

To schedule an appointment with a Duke Head and Neck Surgery & Communication Sciences expert, call 919-439-1870.

To refer a patient, call 800-633-3853 or use DukeMedLink.