In health care and in education, weighing options and understanding possibilities leads to successful outcomes. Professor Nancy Gauvin understands this well and models it in her interactions with clients and students. It’s the reason she counsels patients on their choices for treating voice concerns and facial differences. It’s her motive for providing students with diverse learning opportunities and career paths. It’s why Gauvin was selected to receive the UVM Women & Gender Equity Center Outstanding Faculty Award for her work in fostering bravely diverse and supportive learning environments.
“Nancy embodies the notion of reaching back as we climb. She is accessible to students and other community members as a role model willing to share her experience and encouragement for all,” wrote her nominator for the award.
A Henderson Post-Doctoral Fellow, Gauvin teaches graduate courses in voice and swallowing disorders and conducts research on therapies for resonance maladies and voice treatments.This summer, she received a $30,000 UVM REACH grant to do a pilot study on a therapy technique for treating vocal resonance disorders. She recently reintroduced a voice treatment program at the Eleanor M. Luse Center for the transgender community, working with a team of graduate students to design holistic plans that address patients’ unique physical and emotional needs through the transition process.
Gauvin strives to provide students with many diverse learning opportunities. She brings them to UVM Medical Center to observe assessments and scoping procedures and collaborates with colleagues in allied professions, including neonatology and otolaryngology, to provide interprofessional activities. She’s careful to also include cultural diversity in the learning environment, using case studies, observation and discussion to explore respect, consideration and kindness.
“I ask students to consider how to address a transgendered person or a first generation American. As speech-language pathologists we diagnose and treat patients but we also counsel them. Clients need to make many decisions, and teaching students to be compassionate and understanding — whether they agree or disagree with a client’s lifestyle — is important,” Gauvin said.
Discovering a calling
Growing up in New York City, Gauvin felt called to pursue a career in health care. “I am a very proud, first generation Haitian American. Education is very important in my family, and I wanted to make my parents proud of me,” Gauvin said. “I wanted a career where you could obtain the highest educational degree and work in the medical field without having to be a medical doctor. Health care was a good combination of achieving those goals.”
Gauvin began her college journey pursuing physical therapy, but this major didn’t feel like the right fit. Her “aha moment” came when she met a fellow student who was majoring in communication sciences and disorders, which is the bachelor’s degree for the field of speech language pathology.
“I love communication, and when I discovered that speech-language pathology focused on communication and social skills and had medical components to it, I knew that this was the field for me.”
Gauvin enjoys sharing her academic journey with young people and aims to open their eyes to the abundance of career options. At the UVM Mosaic Center for Students of Color, she speaks with undergraduate students about field of speech-language pathology and allied health professions. She recently presented a workshop for the Association for Africans Living in Vermont, giving tours of UVM to middle school and high school students — many of whom will be the first in their generation to attend college — to provide a “taste” what it’s like to pursue a health care major.
We need more diversity in health care professions,” Gauvin said. “I appreciate opportunities to talk with young people about fields they may not have considered before, as I would have benefitted from someone doing that for me.”