The doctor is in at Mancini Center

The doctor is in at Mancini Center

Mayor Charles Lombardi, left, and Dr. Ibrahim Elgabry stand outside of the doctor’s new office at the North Providence Mancini Center. (Breeze photo by Ethan Shorey)

NORTH PROVIDENCE – A new doctor’s office is now open in the lower level of the North Providence Mancini Center, fulfilling a two-fold goal of providing a valuable service to local senior citizens and generating new income for the town.

Mayor Charles Lombardi and senior center leaders last Friday welcomed Dr. Ibrahim Elgabry as a new tenant at the 2 Atlantic Blvd. facility, saying they’re excited about what Elgabry brings to the table with his emphasis on preventative health and wellness.

Elgabry told The North Providence Breeze that he looks forward to creating a health and wellness program to promote improved fitness and nutrition plans designed to help seniors live longer and healthier lives.

A board-certified cardiovascular specialist and cofounder of Ocean State Cardio and Vein Center, Elgabry is the director of the Cardiac Rehab Program at Landmark Medical Center in Woonsocket, and is a clinical assistant professor of medicine at Brown University Medical School. His areas of expertise are cholesterol management, stroke prevention and heart failure, and he has hospital privileges at Landmark, Fatima Hospital, Roger Williams Medical Center, Miriam Hospital and Rhode Island Hospital.

Elgabry said he’s honored to be part of the town-run center and point out the “superb job” Director Linda Giorgio is doing in turning the center around and making it thrive.

“We’re doing our best for our seniors,” he said, adding that Lombardi’s dream has come true with a full-fledged municipal senior center.

Giorgio said the staff is thrilled to have Elgabry on board and expects to officially present seniors with everything he has to offer over the coming weeks.

Elgabry will pay $1,250 per month in rent to the town, another revenue source Lombardi says will go toward helping save taxpayers more than $250,000 on what it previously cost a nonprofit organization to run the center before the town took it over. Officials partnered with Elgabry after a town employee got to know him through a hospital visit with an older family member.

Also bringing in new revenue at the senior center is weekly evening bingo, which started up on Sept. 4, drawing 94 people for its first Tuesday, said Giorgio. Total attendance was not far off from the 114 to 120 people who used to attend the games.

“That’s just going to keep going up,” she said.

Seniors at the Mancini Center had previously complained that a doctor who previously worked there under an agreement with the former operators of what was then a nonprofit center had turned his focus more to welcoming patients from the outside rather than addressing health concerns from members.

A primary care physician, Elgabry will be at the center each Friday. He said he operates with the philosophy that better overall health in daily living leads to a longer and happier life. He said he’ll be able to diagnose many problems before they become too serious and refer patients to the right specialist.

“I believe in prevention,” he said.

The doctor will work out of a newly upgraded and repaired lower level, where a number of fitness classes also take place.

North Providence resident Kathleen Jackson, after wrapping up a yoga class last Friday, approached Lombardi to thank him for what he’s done to make the center a better place to be.

Jackson told The Breeze having the classes be free, instead of paying $3 for each – a number that increased to $5 last year when the center was in financial trouble – has made all the difference for her as she finds her way again after the loss of her husband.

“It’s just done wonders for me,” she said. “I can’t thank you enough for what you’ve done here.”

Lombardi said he sees the arrival of Elgabry as part of the continued “salvation of this facility.” The center wasn’t operating well prior to a town takeover this year, he said.

Elgabry will work in a number of areas to help overall wellness and improve quality of life for members, including revamping the food menu at the center.

The following are some of the health and wellness programs Elgabry plans to offer:

• Screenings targeted for cardiac/vascular disease prevention and early detection.

• Health care guidance to help patients better manage chronic cardiovascular illness and prevent potential complications.

• Community health lectures and enrichment programs on healthy lifestyles, as well as coordination of care that will allow members to improve their quality of life and lead a more balanced, healthy lifestyle.

• A supervised cardiac rehab program to help seniors stay healthy through exercise and wellness education, using the center’s state-of-the-art exercise equipment.

• Nutritional and culinary programs designed to provide healthy ingredients and great-tasting cuisine.

“My goal is to establish healthy eating, feeling better and living longer,” he said.

All offerings and events will be advertised in the Mancini Center’s monthly newsletter, said Giorgio.

The town reached an agreement last December to pay off the last of the former nonprofit senior center’s bills to make way for a municipal takeover of the facility this year.

Lombardi announced last March that he’d be cutting all $510,000 in town funding to the former Salvatore Mancini Resource and Activity Center, later renamed the North Providence Mancini Center to reflect that it’s now a municipal operation, and the Town Council voted 4-3 to back the plan.

The center had long been seen as untouchable by some past and current elected officials due to its perceived importance in winning elections, but Lombardi bucked that conventional thought when he took on spending issues at the center during his 2016 run for mayor.

The vote to cut town funding came after three years of back-and-forth on various questions surrounding the senior center’s budget and spending, with Lombardi and council members repeatedly expressing frustration at the lack of information provided by the former operators.

The center made a go of it after the funding was cut, relying on volunteers to help keep programs going, but that effort proved too great of a challenge. Most staffers were laid off, and the center was mostly shut down except for the occasional game of cards.