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New North Country doctor an expert in rural medicine

Special to the Union Leader

April 28. 2014 7:49PM


BERLIN — A primary care physician with a wide range of experience, including as a community health agent in West Africa with the Peace Corps, is now serving residents in New Hampshire’s northernmost county.

Elaine Chappell joined Coos County Family Health Services this month.

Though she had always planned to be a doctor, it was in Africa that Chappell’s interest in rural medicine caught fire, according to Adele Woods, the service’s CEO, as Chappell served in a rural village separated by several miles of rough driving through the African bush. When in Africa, Chappell had to quickly become conversant in Hausa, the local language 15 years ago, according to Woods.

“We are fortunate to gain the services of Dr. Chappell, who has experience as a family physician at a federally qualified health center and can provide culturally competent care for a wide variety of patients with diverse needs,” Woods said in a news release.

Some 85 percent of the population Chappell served in Niger was illiterate, and childhood mortality was so high there that 265 of 1,000 children didn’t survive to age 5.

Few who made it to adulthood could expect to make it past their late 40s, and 50 percent of the population was under 15 years old, according to Woods.

An avid hiker who has completed the grueling, 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail three times, Chappell was assistant project coordinator for the Center for Community Health, Education and Research in Dorchester, Mass.

She also coordinated a research unit for two Centers for Disease Control demonstration grants that focused on HIV prevention and community capacity building in Boston’s Haitian community.

Originally from Massachusetts, Chappell studied science and pre-med at Sarah Lawrence College in New York, and received her M.D. degree in 2008 at the University of Massachusetts.

She later returned to Africa for international rotations across Niger and Kenya.

It was on the Appalachian Trail that runs from Maine to Georgia that she met her future husband during a provisions stop in Gorham.

“He’s from Maine and I’m from Massachusetts, so we decided on New Hampshire as the perfect middle ground, close to both our families,” Chappell said. The couple have a 9-month-old son.

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