Three from Upstate honored as champions of humanistic care for work during the pandemic
Three Upstate Medical University employees were honored Thursday by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation as Champions of Humanistic Care for going above and beyond during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Upstate honorees are: Elizabeth Asiago-Reddy, MD, MS, division chief of infectious disease and medical director of inclusive health services; Diane Nanno, MS, CNS, RN, CCTM, NE-BC, director of nursing for Upstate Transitional Care Services; and Crystal Marshall, MSN, RN, RN-BC, assistant nurse manager of a COVID-19 floor at the downtown hospital.
All three were nominated by Amit Dhamoon, MD, PhD, division chief of General Internal Medicine and division chief of University Internists. Dhamoon, who worked with all three honorees during the pandemic, is also the Gold Humanism Honor Society adviser at Upstate.
The Arnold P. Gold Foundation was established in 1988 at Columbia University to ensure compassion, empathy and humanism in health care. The Gold Foundation recognized 200 “champions of humanistic care” at its 2021 virtual gala on Thursday, June 10. This year’s honorees include Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Chief Medical Adviser to President Joe Biden.
In his nomination of Asiago-Reddy, Nanno and Marshall, Dhamoon said, “We have countless heroes at Upstate, but these three went above and beyond.”
As director of nursing for Upstate Transitional Care Services, Nanno is always looking for ways to help patients after they leave the hospital. At the height of the pandemic, Nanno helped create Upstate’s COVID-19 care kits, which included supplies and comfort items for patients diagnosed with the virus. The kits included a thermometer, a mask, throat lozenges and even a greeting card to let them know that Upstate cared.
Nanno estimates that she and her team hand-delivered about 500 care kits to patients throughout Onondaga County.
“We were going to people’s homes, which is not something that hospitals do very much,” she said. “When I looked up the Arnold P. Gold Foundation the things that really stuck out to me were empathy, compassion, addressing suffering on a human level and dignity. I think dignity was really important to what we were doing because we were meeting people where they are.”
Asiago-Reddy said she has been fascinated by biology since she was a child but it’s the patients at the heart of medicine that have maintained her passion for the field. That tenet is at the heart of the Gold Foundation award and her role at Upstate during the pandemic – working with Dhamoon to create COVID-19 testing mechanisms and procedures for Upstate patients and staff.
“It was a challenge that I was lucky enough to have the background for,” Asiago-Reddy said. “So many others at Upstate wanted to jump in and help. It increased my respect for, my feelings of collegiality towards and my admiration of many of the people I work with.” Asiago-Reddy said it was an honor to be nominated by Dhamoon because he is a role model for humanism in medicine.
Nanno said the collaborative and compassionate work that she and her team accomplished during the pandemic was the highlight of her 41-year nursing career.
“I feel honored and privileged to be able to touch the lives of the people who were directly affected by the pandemic during a time of such fear and isolation and anxiety,” she said. “So many people felt helpless and I think we were able to offer comfort and solace and care to those afflicted with COVID.”
As an assistant nurse manager of one of Upstate’s COVID floors, Marshall said she wore silly headbands with smiley faces or bunny ears to bring some cheer during a really difficult time.
“I feel honored and blessed to receive this award for something that comes naturally to me,” Marshall said. “Treating people like people. I love being a nurse, taking care of patients and just being there. If that means being my silly self to put a smile on a patient’s face or me just taking a moment to listen, then that’s what I’ll do. I always have time. I look at all patients as if they were my family member; how would I want them to be taken care of?”
Asiago-Reddy said the award is a good reminder of what should be at the forefront of medicine – people.
“I think this award reinforces the need to continue to circle back to why we’re doing what we’re doing and continuing to, despite a lot of bureaucratic barriers that can get in the way of medicine,” she said. “We can’t allow those barriers to define everything about how we interact with our patients. We need to continue to break through and say this is about people and their good health and how we can do best by them.”
Caption: From left to right are Diane Nanno, MS, CNS, RN, CCTM, NE-BC, director of nursing for Upstate Transitional Care Services; Crystal Marshall, MSN, RN, RN-BC, assistant nurse manager of a COVID-19 floor at the downtown hospital and Elizabeth Asiago-Reddy, MD, MS, division chief of infectious disease and medical director of inclusive health services.