By Jessica Rodriguez
Virginia Bruzzese, R.N., said she has two rules for the UF College of Medicine students she works with on the UF Mobile Outreach Clinic.
“One is to treat others as you would want to be treated — with compassion, dignity and respect,” said Bruzzese, known as “Nurse
Ginny’’ to those she interacts with on the renovated bus. “Two is to have fun. Exude joy in what you do. That makes a huge difference to people.’’
In recognition of her many years of service on the mobile clinic and elsewhere, Bruzzese recently was awarded Gainesville
Magazine’s Spirit of Gainesville Award for Medicine. Bruzzese started off as a nurse and went back to school at UF to
get a degree in health education. “I really feel like my career at 42 years of nursing has really prepared me for the work on the bus,”
For nearly eight years, the Mobile Outreach Clinic, or MOC, has helped deliver health care to medically underserved people in low-income neighborhoods and rural areas in and around Alachua County while giving UF undergraduate medical, physician assistant and other health professions students a valuable educational experience.
Bruzzese said she enjoys mentoring students, and she hopes they see medicine as much more than just providing health care to the patients. “It’s also being compassionate and providing unconditional care and acceptance to patients,” she said. The most challenging part of the job, she said, is seeing the inequity that exists in access to health care.
“To see people suffering with a condition just because of their lack of resources is very sobering and really just hard to deal with,’’ Bruzzese said. “I feel that God has just blessed me so much with what I have that I just want to share that with others.”
Bruzzese recalled one incidence of working with a troubled patient that made her realize she was doing what she loved. A woman who had been a victim of abuse was terrified because her assailant was now out of prison and had resumed stalking her.
“She had literally isolated herself in her apartment with blankets over her windows, that’s how fearful she was,” Bruzzese said. The MOC was parked across the street from the woman’s apartment that day and Bruzzese decided to reach out to help her. “We were able to care for her physical needs that day but then
we got a resource program involved with her. Her life changed dramatically.”
When Bruzzese is not working, she enjoys retreating to her lake house in Melrose, where she has taken up gardening and taking care of her five adopted children.
“It’s been a very fulfilling career,’’ she said, “it definitely fits who I am. I love people and being able to do more teaching has been absolutely fabulous.”