Dr. Nancy Oriol to be honored with the 2019 Pearl Birnbaum Hurwitz Award

Dr. Nancy Oriol

The Arnold P. Gold Foundation is pleased to announce that 2019 Pearl Birnbaum Hurwitz Humanism in Healthcare Award will be presented to Dr. Nancy Oriol, a renowned anesthesiologist, innovator, educator, and pioneer in mobile medicine. Her creation of The Family Van, and her leadership in studying and spreading mobile health clinics to countless other cities, has successfully delivered care to underserved populations, eased such barriers to care as cost, transportation, stigma, and fear, and educated trainees about culturally competent care and healthcare disparities.

Through this annual award, the Gold Foundation honors the spirit of Ms. Birnbaum Hurwitz, who crusaded for children with disabilities, by celebrating a woman who has been a change agent, who advocates for the vulnerable among us, and who significantly impacts the lives of innumerable people.

Dr. Oriol served as Director of Obstetric Anesthesia at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center—a Harvard Medical School affiliate—for 15 years.  She is an acclaimed innovator whose medical breakthroughs include the “walking epidural”, a type of labor pain relief that does not interfere with the progress of labor, as well as a novel technique for analyzing fetal heart rate variability, and an ingenious device for newborn resuscitation.  The Family Van is also the home of MobileHealthMap.org, a web-based network of mobile clinics across the country.

As part of the Harvard Medical School faculty since 1981, Dr. Oriol is a dedicated educator who has served students in a variety of educational and administrative roles. She has been Associate Dean of Students (1997-2004) and Dean of Students (2004 -2016), as well as co-director of the Health’s Art Course, which focuses on communication, cultural competency, compassionate care and self-care for healthcare professionals, for 13 years.

Her educational innovations include introducing the use of mannequin simulation to the curriculum for medical students, and co-creating HMSMED Science, a program that uses simulation to teach science and inspire critical thinking in high school students.  She is currently developing a four-year curricular theme in community engagement and cultural humility as the inaugural Faculty Associate Dean for Community Engagement.

Her deep commitment to providing high-quality health care to patients who are underserved and marginalized has inspired a generation of medical students and residents.

The nomination of Dr. Oriol included this quote from a medical student:

“Changing your bias will come with repeated exposure; familiarity will breed trust in both directions. You will be subject to unconscious bias, too, but your understanding of it will help you defuse the situation and redirect an encounter. If there was one amazing lesson for me after four weeks, it was that change is possible. My ability to deeply understand the working poor and disenfranchised, to connect with them as individuals, and build moments of trust and connection these were the true gems of my experience on the Family Van.”

Honorable Mentions

In addition to honoring Dr. Oriol, the Gold Foundation is recognizing two remarkable women as honorable mentions in 2019 for their extraordinary and far-reaching efforts to combat human trafficking.

Kalyani Gopal, PhD, HSPP

Dr. Gopal is the founder and president of SAFE Coalition for Human Rights, a nonprofit that had trained thousands of such “first responders” as health professionals, police officers, attorneys, and massage therapists to help identify, prevent and combat human trafficking.  A psychologist and international speaker, she has written widely on foster care and adoption, sex-trafficking, human trafficking, child sexual abuse, and many other topics. She coined the term “Displacement Trauma” to describe the complex trauma caused by frequent disruptions of attachment bonds. Her work spans the globe, with SAFE trainers now helping combat human trafficking in Tunisia, Kenya, Nigeria, Germany, India, Haiti, and many other countries. Dr. Gopal is the President of Mid-America Psychological and Counseling Services, PC, which manages six mental health clinics in Indiana and Illinois, and President of the Illinois Psychological Association.

Cathy Miller, RN, PhD

Dr. Cathy Miller, Associate Professor at the University of Texas at Tyler College of Nursing and Health Sciences, has worked with anti-human trafficking organizations for the past 15 years and has over 25 years’ experience caring for survivors in the emergency department. She writes widely, presents and offers training across the world on human trafficking, complex trauma, and child sex trafficking.  Dr. Miller serves as an expert witness for the United States Attorney’s Office Southern District of Texas on the topic of child sexual exploitation and is a consultant and trainer for the U.S. Office of Trafficking in Persons.  Dr. Miller is co-founder and co-chair of The Texas Coastal Bend Border Region Human Trafficking Task Force and the Director of Research and Scholarship for the Global Strategic Operatives for the Eradication of Human Trafficking.

About Pearl Birnbaum Hurwitz

Pearl Birnbaum Hurwitz (1907-1993) was an advocate and humanitarian who championed the needs of vulnerable populations and fought for legislation to protect and bolster the lives of individuals who, by virtue of physical, social or economic circumstances, required services. One of her sons was born with intellectual disabilities and she quickly became a leader in the movement to provide services and support for children with disabilities and their families, especially in the Massachusetts area. She was the founding president of the Arc of Massachusetts.

The award in her name was established in 2014 by a generous gift from Dr. Ronald Arky, the Daniel D. Federman Professor of Medicine and Medical Education at the Harvard Medical School and Master of the Francis Weld Peabody Society at that School. As a young doctor, Dr. Arky was greatly influenced by his time spent with Pearl and her husband, Dr. David Hurwitz. Given Dr. Arky’s close association with Harvard Medical School and with Dr. Oriol herself, he recused himself from participating in selection discussions related to Dr. Oriol.

Award Presentation

Look for a profile of Dr. Oriol coming this fall, along with details of the presentation of her award. To be notified when a celebration of Dr. Oriol and the 2019 Pearl Birnbaum Hurwitz Award reception is scheduled, enter your name and email here:

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Read more about Pearl Birnbaum Hurwitz and her inspiring essay first published in 1957

Read about 2018 honoree Dr. Dinali Fernando; 2017 honoree Dr. Veda Johnson, and inaugural honoree Dr. Mardge Cohen.

Dr. Nancy Oriol to be honored with the 2019 Pearl Birnbaum Hurwitz Award