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Who We Are

Meet our fellowship team and our core faculty: 

  Sunita Puri, MD
Program Director 


Who I am and why I practice palliative medicine:

"This photo of my mother and I captures who I am and aspire to be. My mother is the best human I know. She came from terrible poverty, managed to become a doctor, and gives to everyone, strangers and friends alike. In this photo, we are walking along our special path near a beach in Los Angeles where my mother and I built sandcastles when I was a kid.  

Outside the hospital, here are a few things that bring me joy and make me who I am: I’m a writer of nonfiction and memoir, and the blank page can be either a best friend or a menace. I love to teach writing to all types of students, and it’s a thrill to see them get published.  I love to bake (especially cakes and cupcakes), cook (especially Indian and Thai), hang out with my loved ones, listen to rap and hip hop (Tupac is my favorite), hike, do yoga, and spend way too much time playing with my dog and two cats (and cleaning up the massive amount of fur they leave around.) 

I am a palliative care doctor because I consider it a blessing to help my patients feel seen and heard and understood. We cannot always cure people, but being seen and heard is a form of healing, and I deeply enjoy getting to do that in family meetings and while treating people’s symptoms. As a writer, I think that words are our oldest tools in medicine, and choosing them carefully when talking about delicate subjects is compassion in action. I am honored to be a part of my patients’ care and to teach learners at all levels the beauty and challenge of our specialty."


  Vandana Nagpal, MD, FACP
Associate Program Director


Who I am and why I practice palliative medicine:
"I love talking to people and helping them make sense of difficult information through listening, clear communication and sometimes humor.

Palliative care training has provided me with the tools to fulfill my passion of usi
ng medicine and psychology to help others; I see the power of showing up and human connection everyday in my work. Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with family and binging on books and streaming services." 

      Isabel Castro-Munoz, DO

Who I am and why I practice palliative medicine:

"I have thought about the most honest answer to the never ending question of why did I choose to practice palliative medicine…To me it is a beautiful field of medicine in which we are privilege to get to know our patient and their loves ones during likely one of the most challenging period of their lives.

It is a field that highlights humanity with all its beauty, suffering and life challenges.  And although, we cannot change the reality of the clinical situation, many times our presence can make a tough situation better.  Personally, I enjoyed spending time with my family and in nature." 


Rebecca Kowaloff, DO


Who I am and why I practice palliative medicine:

"I am a mother and that is the greatest thing I have ever done with my life, and I am adventurous. Outside of work I love to exercise my creative side with cooking and baking, decorating projects, and crafting. Additionally, there’s nothing like reading snuggled with a child to decompress from the work that we do.
I love to stay active with hiking, biking and travelling, though the destinations are a little different now that I have young children. Palliative care resonates with my soul. It is fulfilling to connect with patients and their families at such a difficult time in their lives and through open, honest communication and symptom management, help them navigate the journey.”


Nancy McCool, LICSW


Who I am and why I practice palliative medicine:
"I have been working in Palliative care at UMass Memorial for 5 years and it is my dream job.  Working with patients who are experiencing serious illness, and their caregivers is a privilege and it restores my faith in human nature.

I love being part of an inter-disciplinary team. My goal is
 to use my social work palliative care  skills, perspective and training to provide the best patient centered care to our patients, to listen more than I speak, to learn something new every day." 

      Carolyn Murphy, MD 


Who I am and why I practice palliative medicine:
"Outside of work I like to spend time with my family, read, and try new restaurants.  I practice palliative care because it lets me have time to spend with patients and learn about their lives.  It also gives me the great privilege to sit with people during some of the most challenging times of their lives." 

        Jennifer Reidy, MD, FAAHPM


Who I am and why I practice palliative medicine:

"I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, and worked as a newspaper reporter and magazine writer in New York, Egypt, Connecticut and Vermont before entering medicine.  I’m so grateful for those years in journalism which taught me how to explore, probe and find my voice.  

As a physician, I’m still drawn to learning people’s stories and building relationships that bring joy and meaning, especially during difficult, scary times in people’s lives.  Over 20 years as palliative care specialist and family doctor, I’m energized by our mission to bring kindness, respect and a social justice lens to transform health care and impact our larger society.

At home, I have a wonderful husband and two creative, kind and funny teenagers who play music and dance.  We are blessed with many close friends and a busy, full life.  I love to host dinner parties, dance, sing, bike with friends, and get lost in a great book, song, play or TV series."


  Shawna Steadman, NP - Lead APP


Who I am and why I practice palliative medicine:

Activities outside work: 
•    Long walks with my daughter
•    Street hockey with my boys
•    Guitar
•    Baking bread

Why I love palliative care:
•    Emphasis on humanity
•    Emotional connection with patients and families
•    Helping people navigate serious illness in our healthcare       

    Maria (Gurutze) Barluenga
Program Coordinator