Nani Cuadrado, leader in street medicine & human trafficking prevention and survivor ally, to be honored with the 2020 Pearl Birnbaum Hurwitz Award

Nani Cuadrado

Nani Cuadrado, recipient of the 2020 Pearl Birnbaum Hurwitz Award for Humanism in Healthcare. (Photo credit: Robert Burns, Keenan-Nagle Advertising)

The Arnold P. Gold Foundation is pleased to announce that the 2020 Pearl Birnbaum Hurwitz Humanism in Healthcare Award will be presented to Hoonani (Nani) Cuadrado, Director of Valley Health Partners (VHP) Street Medicine in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania.

Ms. Cuadrado, a physician assistant, has devoted her career to caring for the most vulnerable wherever they are, across the globe on medical missions and in her own community, on the streets, under bridges, and in encampments. She is an expert in human-trafficking and has trained hundreds of health professionals in how to help identify and care for victims of sex trafficking.

The Pearl Birnbaum Hurwitz Award for Humanism in Healthcare honors a woman who has been a change agent in her advocacy for the vulnerable among us. Through this annual award, the Gold Foundation honors the spirit of Ms. Pearl Birnbaum Hurwitz, the founder of Arc of Massachusetts, who was inspired by her son to create change for children with disabilities. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 award will be presented in a virtual ceremony, with details forthcoming.

The medical practice of Street Medicine began in 2013 at Lehigh Valley Hospital to bring free medical care to people experiencing homelessness in the Lehigh Valley, the third most populated area in Pennsylvania after Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, with about 850,000 people.

Led by Ms. Cuadrado, the VHP Street Medicine team provides many wrap-around services for their community’s homeless: (1) health care in clinics in soup kitchens and shelters (2) consultations with homeless patients who are hospitalized (3) medical respite care (4) tele-psychiatry (5) social service support and (6) street rounds – “That’s when we serve our community where they feel most comfortable,” explained Ms. Cuadrado. “We go under bridges, alleyways, into the woods, and we provide healthcare for our patients who are too ill to go into our clinics.”  All services provided are free of charge to their patients.

“Our patients can’t believe we will walk through the rain and snow, over a railroad trestle to check on someone in an encampment. We tell our patients, if we don’t see you or hear from you, we get concerned and will come looking for you to make sure you’re ok.   Not only are our patients grateful for the care but our entire team is indebted to Lehigh Valley Hospital and Valley Health Partners for supporting the work we do.  It is truly a blessing,” she said.

In her award nomination letter, Dr. Marna Rayl Greenberg, Morsani College of Medicine wrote, “Nani has tirelessly and empathetically cared for the most vulnerable of our society, those that are homeless and/or victims of sex trafficking. I have watched her sincere warmth and compassion lift up even the most troubled.  A few years ago, when she started her leadership role in the street medicine program for her network, I asked her how she felt about the work, and she said ‘It feels like I’m home.’ I truly believe she was meant to serve this important role.”

During her 18 years as a certified physician assistant and healthcare leader, Ms. Cuadrado has also developed numerous programs, including creating international rotations for the DeSales University Physician Assistant Program, providing free health care to women in a local shelter for sex-trafficked women and a developing a physician assistant team to provide healthcare for unaccompanied minors who are victims of human trafficking and at risk for homelessness.

She has served as an assistant professor of physician assistant studies at DeSales University, teaching graduate PA students such courses as Vulnerable Populations (Human Trafficking, Refugee Medicine), Intimate Partner Violence, and Travel Medicine.

She is a Board member for the Valley Against Sex Trafficking (VAST). She is also the founder and faculty advisor of the student chapter of the Christian Medical Dental Association of the Lehigh Valley. She continues to provide restorative care for sexually exploited women. Among her many honors is the Humanitarian of the Year Award from the Pennsylvania Society of Physician Assistants and the recipient of the YWCA Mission Award as well as the Lehigh Valley Human Trafficking Front Line Award.

Ms. Cuadrado has traveled around the world on medical missions, including to El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, Uganda, and Zambia. Her work with street medicine is special because it is so close to home.

“I think the thing that is probably the most impactful for me is that I am blessed to be serving my neighbors,” said Ms. Cuadrado. “When I went to Honduras, I might not see my patients for another year until I returned – it was, of course, always a joyous reunion. But because of the time that had passed, I was never sure of our impact as a team.”

On the contrary, here in our community I could literally be walking down the street and my patient would yell, “Hey Nani!” from across the street. “Hey, my rash didn’t get better! What are you going to do about it?” or [holding up her arm] “Hey, it looks good! What do you think?”

“To me, I appreciate the accountability– because we are living with each other as a community,” said Ms. Cuadrado. “It’s probably the way small-town doctors practiced in the old days when they did home visits. I feel it’s the way medicine should be.”

Honorable Mentions

The Gold Foundation is also recognizing two remarkable women with honorable mentions in 2020:

Dr. Chinazo Cunningham, Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Dr. Cunningham, a Professor at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Director of Diversity Affairs for the Department of Medicine, is being honored for her extraordinary contributions to improving the health of minority patients and increasing cultural diversity in academic medicine. She is also the Associate Chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine and Founder and Director of the General Internal Medicine fellowship. For her entire career, Dr. Cunningham has cared for mostly Black and Latinx patients who use drugs and are living with or at risk for HIV infection in the South Bronx – the poorest urban congressional district in the United States.

An internationally recognized researcher, Dr. Cunningham has developed two large ground-breaking clinical programs: a partnership with a community-based organization to provide medical outreach to HIV-infected people who use drugs, and a buprenorphine program to treat opioid use disorder in primary care and train residents to do the same. She also chairs the Substance Use Guidelines Committee of the NY State AIDS Institute and is on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Board of Scientific Counselors.

At Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine, she has been a leader in diversity, equity, and inclusion, including spearheading the creation of the Department of Medicine’s Diversity Affairs Committee and leading as its director. Dr. Cunningham’s exceptional mentorship has also garnered many awards.

Dr. Julia Arnsten, Professor and Division Chief General Internal Medicine of Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine, nominated Dr. Cunningham. She wrote, “Dr. Cunningham is a courageous and dedicated leader, and a rigorous researcher working tenaciously to expand access to high quality health care for individuals with substance use disorders who have or are at risk for HIV.”

She continued:

“Dr. Cunningham’s dedication and commitment to cultural diversity within academic medicine is unparalleled, and her enthusiasm and passion for this critically important topic is contagious. … Despite her many roles and responsibilities, mentoring has always been a chief priority for her, and, most notable about her is her drive to bring others with her as she, herself, advances.”

Dr. Ann Garment, Bellevue Hospital/NYU Grossman School of Medicine

Dr. Garment, an innovative physician at Bellevue hospital, is being honored for her transformative, empathic leadership in serving patients in great need. As the Section Chief of General Internal Medicine at Bellevue Hospital, Dr. Garment oversees nearly 200 clinicians as the Section Chief of General Internal Medicine at Bellevue Hospital, which is part of New York City’s Health + Hospitals, the largest public healthcare system in the United States.

Since 2015, Dr. Garment has served as Medical Director of her hospital’s Primary Care Addiction Medicine Clinic, where she has grown its buprenorphine program into a nationally renowned model for office-based opioid treatment programs in public hospital settings. Dr. Garment also contributed to the creation of the Primary Care Safety Net Clinic, designed for individuals with unstable housing and complex medical issues who benefit from an intensive multidisciplinary team approach – including physicians, social workers, care managers and housing navigators. Most recently, Dr. Garment mentored two junior faculty members to create the PORT (Point-Of-Reentry-and-Transition) Practice, a primary care clinic staffed by physicians from both Bellevue Hospital and Correctional Health Services to help stabilize and support patients who have recently been released from Rikers Island or other New York jails and prisons.

Dr. Garment has received numerous teaching and mentoring awards. She has also previously worked with the Program for Survivors of Torture (PSOT), providing primary care as well as serving as a key witness for more than 30 patients in their asylum applications and trials.

Dr. Richard Greene, Associate Professor at NYU Grossman School of Medicine of Medicine and a Gold Humanism Honor Society member, nominated Dr. Garment. He wrote: “Quite simply, Dr. Garment is a rare and wonderful person whose advocacy work seems to know no bounds…The patients Dr. Garment advocates for face some of the greatest challenges in our modern society. She has planted her feet firmly among the most vulnerable people in our society and declared war on the challenges of providing the best possible care for them, and she did it with the utmost respect, compassion, and humility.”

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.

Read more about Pearl Birnbaum Hurwitz and her inspiring essay from 1957

Read about 2019 honoree Dr. Nancy Oriol; 2018 honoree Dr. Dinali Fernando; 2017 honoreDr. Veda Johnson, and inaugural honoree Dr. Mardge Cohen