Devdutta Sangvai Takes on His Next Leadership Challenge at Duke Regional




(Duke University School of Medicine, Synclaire Cruel) —  Having a love of science, an eagerness to help people, and a propensity for leadership has propelled Devdutta Sangvai, MD, MBA, into the role of President of Duke Regional Hospital. It’s the latest achievement in his 22-year career at Duke.

“I’ve been really lucky with the opportunities that I’ve had,” Sangvai said. “By having groups of people put their trust in me to take on challenges, I have been able to build experience and confidence.”

Sangvai was named interim president of Duke Regional in 2022 and then named president in 2023 by a national search committee. In just two years, Sangvai has already begun to drive positive change. “This is the strongest bond we’ve had with the divisions of family medicine and community health in the last 20 years,” he said. “We have more family medicine doctors and residents taking care of patients at the hospital, and they provide all of our newborn care.”

It’s a role he’s long prepared for, having held several leadership positions while at Duke. “I always knew I was going to go into some form of administration, and family medicine provided the ideal clinical foundation for it,” Sangvai said. “It’s one of the ideal specialties needed for a community hospital because both sides are thinking about the patient, other providers the patient is seeing, and the patients’ living environment, which really takes community into context.”

As a family medicine provider and educator, he gained unique insight on how best to lead fellow providers and staff members. “Having faced some of the challenges family medicine providers experience, I can relate and put myself in their shoes,” he said.

“There’s about 2,800 people who work here, and everyone aims to deliver the best care to our patients. To be in an atmosphere where you’ve got that level of spirit around you is inspiring and uplifting, and you find it in different ways.”

– Devdutta Sangvai, MD, MBA

Sangvai also managed to further open the lines of communication and build a stronger foundation with his team. “In some cases, the role of a leader is not necessarily to bring your own expertise, but to create a framework that facilitates an environment for others to share and leverage their knowledge.”

He’s continuously getting feedback from members about what’s working well and what’s not and is able to apply that information when making decisions. However, Sangvai finds that working with his team is the best part of the job.

Devdutta Sangvai, MD in front of Duke Regional Hospital

“There’s about 2,800 people who work here, and everyone aims to deliver the best care to our patients. To be in an atmosphere where you’ve got that level of spirit around you is inspiring and uplifting, and you find it in different ways,” he said.

“You cannot walk through a hallway without strangers saying, ‘Hello, how is your day?’ That care extends to the way we care for our patients,” Sangvai said. “When we do that for each other, it makes caring for our patients that much easier.”

His interest in leadership began very early in life. “Growing up, I had a real affinity for wanting to help make the lives of others better,” Sangvai said. “But I also always liked the idea of being a leader and growing the next generation of leaders.”

He got his first glimpse into the business of health care by joining the Organization of Student Representatives, the student arm of the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC).  It’s also where he first connected with Lloyd Michener, MD, previous chair of the department.

“I got a better understanding of how much more there is to medicine than just the bedside. I started to think of it as the administrative backbone that all this clinical care is delivered on,” he said. It’s what drove him to pursue his MBA at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business after completing his family medicine and chief residencies at the Medical College of Ohio.

Sangvai then joined the Duke Department of Family Medicine and Community Health in 2001 as a faculty member. “I liked being able to care for patients not only early in life, but through the later years as well, and in many cases, even before they’re born,” he said. But it’s also where he got the opportunity to perform more administrative duties and gain leadership skills. In addition to seeing patients, he was instrumental in setting up community-based clinics, including Lyon Park and Walltown in Durham.

“The unfortunate thing is, the more administrative you do, the less time you have for clinic,” Sangvai said. Despite this, he still manages to treat patients at Duke Family Medicine Center. “It allows me to stay connected to patients, some of whom I’ve been seeing for over 20 years. It gives me a deeper appreciation of continuing to deliver care.”

He later became a faculty member in the Duke Departments of Pediatrics and Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences. Additionally, Sangvai is currently Vice President for Population Health Management, and overseeing DUHS Case Management and Duke HomeCare & Hospice. Previously he was the Director of Medical Services for Student Health, Chief of the Division of Family Medicine, Medical director of DukeWell, and associate chief medical officer of Duke University Health System.

Sangvai also chaired the Durham County Hospital Corporation Board of Trustees and held positions within the North Carolina Medical Society, the American Medical Association, and the Association of American Medical Colleges.

As president of Duke Regional, Sangvai is most looking forward to combining the needs of society and Duke’s mission to make positive change in the surrounding community.