Jaclyn Nunziato, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine (VTCSOM), has been described as a visionary with big ideas and an even bigger heart. What better words to describe someone you would like to have as your doctor, teacher, mentor, colleague or friend?

Nunziato has received the Arnold P. Gold Foundation Humanism in Medicine Award, a student-nominated honor that recognizes a faculty physician who exemplifies qualities of a caring and compassionate mentor in the teaching and advising of medical students. It reinforces the importance of humanistic qualities among medical students and faculty. The nominee also embodies personal characteristics that are desirable to the practice of patient-centered medicine by teaching ethics, empathy and service by example.

Nunziato is the second VTCSOM faculty physician to be awarded this honor. Carol Gilbert, associate professor of surgery, was honored in 2016. Only two other medical schools nationwide have had more than one awardee in the 24 years the award has been given.

“I feel privileged and honored to be recognized when I know there are so many providers and educators that are working tirelessly to show examples of humanism in medicine,” Nunziato said.

“This is a prestigious award,” said Aubrey Knight, senior dean for student affairs. “While every school has the opportunity to nominate someone, not all schools have a nominee every year. Because our faculty members are committed to humanism, our students have nominated a different individual each year for the past 10 years.”

“When I picture who I want to be as a future physician, I think about Dr. Nunziato,” said one of the student nominators. This sentiment is shared by many students who have had the opportunity to interact with Nunziato. Her warmth, enthusiasm and passion for women’s health advocacy not only inspires her students and benefits her patients, but impacts the local community and beyond.

Nunziato is one of the medical school’s most active advocates for and educator of health equity. The non-profit she founded, Huddle Up Moms, empowers mothers through education, meaningful connections, and support. She has spearheaded multiple events at the scool to bring awareness to the maternal health disparities in the United States.

One nominator said: “Dr. Nunziato has focused her clinical work on carefully considering how to move the needle on positive outcomes for marginalized populations.”

Her compassion also extends to her students.

“Students inspire me every day to learn and grow,” she said. “Medical school is an intense environment. I don’t think we build confidence enough in each other. I don’t think we give gratitude enough or take time to realize how special our experiences are. I try to model that.”

One student described her clerkship in Nunziato’s clinic. “She actively listened to her patients without interruption, engaged with them, and often times facilitated difficult conversations and validated their concerns. Dr. Nunziato is an inspirational force, and I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from her.”

Nunziato summed up her philosophy on humanism this way: “I think at the heart of medicine is our ability to have human interactions and to be human.”  


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