Behind the Mask: Kiyanne Rivers
#BehindtheMask is a series that spotlights the faculty, staff, and trainees in Columbia University Irving Medical Center’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Today, meet Kiyanne Rivers, Care Coordinator for Women’s Mental Health @Ob/Gyn.
In a large and complex ecosystem like an academic mental center, it can be difficult for patients to find their footing. Kiyanne Rivers, a Care Coordinator with Women’s Mental Health @Ob/Gyn, has been here to help patients in our department find their way for the past 14 years, having previously worked in the General Obstetrics and Gynecology division.
“It was really important to me to make patients feel cared for, in every aspect,” Rivers said. “I cared about making their appointment, getting their test results, that they were comfortable when their blood was drawn. When a patient comes into your office, especially in obstetrics, you’re seeing the same patients for the same thing. Most of your patients, the care is routine – for you. But for that person, it’s not. You have to be able to reset yourself and see them as a new person, not just a number.”
After working first as a file clerk and then as a receptionist for the General Ob/Gyn division, Rivers joined the Women’s Mental Health @Ob/Gyn team in 2019. The program provides embedded mental health care to current patients of the department facing some of life’s most significant transitions, like pregnancy, the postpartum period, menopause, and more. Their care is coordinated with other specialists throughout Columbia University Irving Medical Center to ensure that they are receiving all the support they need in order to be healthy – physically and mentally.
Rivers strives to be a friendly face who patients can rely on for information and support and ask questions about medical terminology that wasn’t clear from their conversations with their provider. She is also an advocate for her patients, working closely with billing and insurance companies to try to remove some of that burden from busy, overwhelmed patients.
“A lot of uncertainty for patients comes from what bills they’re going to get,” Rivers said. “A lot of people think, ‘Oh, I have insurance, they’ll pay.’ Then they have to pay a $500 bill to meet their deductible. So, a big part of what I do is just calling patients’ insurance companies in advance – that way the patient knows what to expect, what their co-pays are, what their deductible is. Just giving them that clarity upfront and working with them to answer their questions makes the process easier. Especially when they just don’t have the bandwidth to deal with little things.”
The importance of mental health care has been at the forefront of many conversations lately, as we collectively struggle to process the last few years and the monumental upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, political instability, and systemic injustice and inequality. This has been a challenging time for many, and the future still feels uncertain.
“Because of the pandemic, people are struggling more, and it gives me a different appreciation for mental health and for care,” Rivers said. “Coming from my background, in Black culture, therapy was never something that we pursued. But we do need it, and I have a new appreciation for the different types of ways you can provide care. A lot of patients, especially now, need that extra support.”
The high-touch nature of the Women’s Mental Health @Ob/Gyn practice enables Rivers to give deeper attention to each individual patient, something that she is passionate about. Providing personalized care is central to Rivers’ philosophy, and what helps her find meaning in the work that she does.
“You didn’t go into work just to work,” Rivers said. “You’re not just typing, making the appointments, whatever. You went to work and you changed something for someone in a positive way. I can empathize and help you through this part of your day. Small things can make big changes in someone’s life."