Dr. Dominic Riganotti D.O. From the colors and designs on the wall to the light club music playing on their sound system, Doctor Dominic Riganotti’s practice is anything but the usual doctor’s office. Although most people don’t like to go to doctors, the patients in his waiting room seem comfortable and happy to be there. It was a pleasure to sit down to interview one of the most trained and learned doctors in the field of HIV/AIDS and infectious disease in our continuing feature, To Your Health.
From the colors and designs on the wall to the light club music playing on their sound system, Doctor Dominic Riganotti’s practice is anything but the usual doctor’s office. Although most people don’t like to go to doctors, the patients in his waiting room seem comfortable and happy to be there. It was a pleasure to sit down to interview one of the most trained and learned doctors in the field of HIV/AIDS and infectious disease in our continuing feature, To Your Health.
Where are you from and how did you end up in Florida?
I’m originally from Rochester, New York. I moved to Boston to attend medical school which is where I met my partner Phillip, who is an optometrist, at the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center in addition to having a private practice near the Sawgrass Mall. After completing our training—we considered moving to Montreal where Phillip’s family lives—but ultimately decided to move to South Florida because of the weather. We’ve been together for a bit over 10 years.
Where did you go to medical school? What special training did you get? Tell me about the experience?
I went to medical school at the University of New England COM, and after finishing up the classes I did my internship, my residency in internal medicine and my chief medical resident appointment (PGY4) at North Shore Medical Center/Massachusetts General. I did my fellowship in infectious disease and immunology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and Medical Center and I also have a fellowship in subspecialty training: HIV care & disease management: fellowship trained and board certified.
What kind of medicine do you practice?
I opened my Oakland Park practice 1 year and 7 months ago, but I have been practicing in Florida for about 10 years. My focus is the specialized field of HIV/AIDS. I practice infectious disease medicine in consultation as well. I also do primary care medicine (for gay men’s health). The majority of my patients are men, but I do see about 10 to 15% women.
Included in my focus is immunology, concentrating on the immunocompromised host (not exclusively HIV). I see organ transplant patients, bone marrow transplant patients and other compromised people.
I have a tropical medicine travel clinic for patients needing immunization prior to travels abroad and locally alike.
I also have a strong interest in virology, including hepatitis C, for which I offer the potentially curative treatment.
Do you like what you are doing?
I love what I do…without a question. I’ve known ever since I was a medical student that I wanted to do infectious disease. I further realized during my first year of medical school that I wanted to devote my life to HIV/AIDS care and research. I worked at the Fenway Community Health Center under several amazing doctors that forever shaped my academic life. It was a warm, friendly, accepting and super-academic gay men’s health facility near the Berkley School of Music in the Back Bay/Fenway District.
I was determined from that point on to get the most thorough education possible in order to most efficiently give back to the community of HIV. I think I’ve achieved just that. I don’t believe any infection specialist can claim more completed and certified training as I’ve gone through. I’m at a point in my medical career that I can give 100% to my patients and gladly do so every day.
Tell me about the environment and the staff in your office?
I am a very upbeat person, so the environment in my office reflects that. Its fun with bright colors and upbeat dance music to keep the spirits high. Sherine is my office manager and she has been with me since I opened this office. Mimi is my medical assistant and she has been here for about a year. Both Sherine and Mimi are loved by our patients.
In regards to volume—this is my one pet peeve. I never see more than 15 patients in one day…so there’s no assembly line here. This gives each patent the opportunity to spend as much time with me as they need. Care needs to be individualized. Furthermore—I want to get to know my patients as well as I can.
Do you see patients with special needs?
Absolutely! My office is wheelchair accessible, but if a person has other special needs I can see them in the office next to mine which is much larger.
I hospitalize patients primarily at Florida Medical Center at present. I am working on staff privileges at Imperial Point Medical Center and Holy Cross Medical Center.
Do you take insurance?
We pretty much take all insurance, including HMOs, PPOs, etc. The only thing we don’t take are Ryan White and ADAP. We work with everybody and also have a sliding scale. I purposely separate myself from the economic side of the office so that I treat every patient equally.
What’s new in the treatment of HIV/AIDS?
The field of HIV and related immuno-deficiencies is a rapidly evolving one. The currently available medications are very potent. Combined with the increased potency is tolerability—prompting our field to recommend embarking on treatment earlier in the HIV disease process so to restore the immunologic environment.
Do you think people are better about safe sex?
Unfortunately no. I think that despite information that is available everywhere and the fact that people are intelligent, there is more unsafe sex being practiced than ever before. The success of the HIV virus lies in the mode of its transmission. We’re all just mammals after all. First and foremost are our genetic driving factors—eating, drinking, self-protection and sex. These can’t be separated from the human fabric of our existence. So knowledge and intelligence only go so far. HIV can just as easily infect an Ivy League college professor as a homeless street person. Passion and sex are powerful things to be respected. No one is above this disease.
What do you do in your free time?
My partner and I like to travel when possible. We just came back from Prague a few months ago and plan to go to Thailand with a close friend this fall. We enjoy cooking together and for our friends.
What’s ahead for you?
Continued growth of my practice I hope. I want to provide a solid network where people can come to and get the medical care that is deserved and needed. I just want to give back to the gay community and simultaneously combat a virus that’s taken an unfair toll on lives of people in the community not much different than myself.