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National M.S. Society Honors Nursing School Dean Dorrie Fontaine

Dorrie K. Fontaine, dean of the University of Virginia School of Nursing and Sadie Heath Cabaniss Professor of Nursing, was honored Tuesday by the Blue Ridge chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society along with nursing colleague Amy Black, vice president and chief nursing officer of Martha Jefferson Hospital.

Fontaine and Black, who received the Silver Hope Award, were feted at the 22nd annual Dinner of Champions, the premiere event of the M.S. Society, which drew more than 150 people from around the commonwealth to the Boar’s Head.

The Silver Hope Award is the highest award bestowed by the M.S. Society at its annual dinner. Event co-chairs Jim Haden, president of Martha Jefferson Hospital, and Janie Heath, associate dean for academic programs at U.Va. School of Nursing, made the presentations.

“Dorrie’s definitely a very compassionate person,” said Amy Boitnott, assistant professor of nursing, who was diagnosed with M.S. eight years ago and was among those offering a toast to Fontaine’s leadership at the dinner. “She doesn’t just talk the talk, she actually does what she says, and her actions speak volumes every day – and she’s had a significant impact on me here. She’s not just always upstairs in her office, directing; she’s here with us – in the classroom, in the clinics, and she’s part of us every single day.”

“There are so many things that make Dorrie Fontaine such a phenomenal leader,” Heath said, “but I think the one thing that stands out in my mind is her ability to connect to individuals. She can connect like no one else I’ve ever seen.”

Fontaine, who has led the School of Nursing since 2008, is the founder of the Compassionate Care Initiative, which teaches clinicians about resilience and mindful practices. A former trauma nurse who has taught and held administrative positions at University of California, San Francisco, Georgetown University and the University of Maryland, she is a fervent supporter of interprofessional education – an effort that links medical and nursing students to teach collaborative, team-based care – and frequently lectures about end-of-life care, healthy work environments and critical care issues. At U.Va., she teaches leadership, medical-surgical theory, as well as a “Cells to Society” course in the School of Medicine.

Past president of the American Association of Critical Care Nurses and current president of the Virginia Association of Colleges of Nursing, Fontaine holds degrees from Villanova University, the University of Maryland and the Catholic University. A fellow of the American Association of Nursing since 1995, the American Association of Critical Care Nurses awarded her as a Lifetime Member in 2004. She received the Presidential Citation from the Society of Critical Care Medicine in 1999.

Villanova honored Fontaine with a Medallion for Contributions to the Profession in 1999 and she was named a Distinguished Alumna by the University of Maryland in 2012. In 2006, she completed Management and Leadership in Education at Harvard University.

She serves on the board of directors of Charlottesville’s Program for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, or PACE; the Thomas Jefferson Area United Way; Hospice of the Piedmont; and the Friends of National Institute of Nursing Research, and also is a member of the Southern Regional Education Board Council on Collegiate Education for Nursing.

Fontaine lives on U.Va.’s historic Lawn in Pavilion IX with her family.

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