de Nicola Center to Award 2024 ND Evangelium Vitae Medal to Dr. Elvira Parravicini

Author: Kenneth Hallenius

Elvira Parravicini, MD

Dr. Elvira Parravicini, founding director of the Neonatal Comfort Care Program and professor of pediatrics at Columbia University Medical Center, will receive the 2024 Notre Dame Evangelium Vitae Medal—the nation’s most important award for heroes of the pro-life movement—at a Mass and dinner on April 27, 2024, at the University of Notre Dame.

“Dr. Parravicini’s work perfectly embodies the goods of unconditional love, radical hospitality, and misericordia (taking on the suffering of another as your own) that constitutes the foundation of a culture of life,” said O. Carter Snead, professor of law and director of the de Nicola Center. “Her care for mothers, babies (born and unborn), and families is a prophetic witness to the self-emptying love that the Evangelium Vitae Medal was created to honor and celebrate.”

“Dr. Parravicini’s care for children affected by life-limiting conditions reflects her steadfast commitment to cherishing every human life,” said Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., president of the University of Notre Dame. “The Neonatal Comfort Care Program that she founded is a model of compassionate accompaniment that can inspire all who witness to hope and the sanctity of human life.”

Parravicini has dedicated her medical career to caring for pre-born and newborn children. A native of Milan, Italy, she completed her pediatric residency and neonatal fellowship at the University of Milan, as well as a certification in palliative medicine at Harvard University. After moving to the United States in 1994, she established the Neonatal Comfort Care Program (NCCP) at Columbia University Medical Center in 2008 to address the complex medical and non-medical needs of infants affected by life-limiting or life-threatening conditions.

Today, the interdisciplinary NCCP program connects families with medical professionals, speech pathologists, lactation consultants, child life specialists, psychologists, and chaplains who work together to provide comfort, support, and specialized medical care for babies and their families in a compassionate environment.

Prior to establishing the NCCP, Parravicini noted that there was not a standard of care for babies who “may not live longer than a few minutes or a few hours after birth.” In such cases, mothers are often counseled to terminate their pregnancy through abortion. Parravicini was inspired to provide another option for the “significant number of parents who want to continue the pregnancy, desire to see their babies, to hold them and enjoy as much as possible their brief but precious lives.”

The NCCP provides each child with an individualized plan to create “a safe and loving space for bonding, attachment, comfort, and joy for them and their families.” Aspects of care typically include a medical evaluation and plan to alleviate pain; comfort measures such as holding, skin-to-skin contact, and feeding; memory-making activities such as handprints, footprints, photographs, and personalized keepsakes; and emotional, psychological, and spiritual care, including both short- and long-term bereavement support.

Parravicini is also actively involved with the Center for Prenatal Pediatrics at Columbia University Medical Center, where she provides prenatal counseling and coordinates postnatal care plans for high-risk pregnancies. She works closely with specialists from maternal-fetal medicine, cardiology, pediatric surgery, and other disciplines to provide evidence-based, comprehensive care to infants with complex medical problems.

Plated Medal Obverse And Reverse

The Notre Dame Evangelium Vitae Medal, named after Pope John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical, is the nation’s most important lifetime achievement award for heroes of the pro-life movement, honoring individuals whose efforts have advanced the Gospel of Life by steadfastly affirming and defending the sanctity of human life from its earliest stages.

Previous recipients of the medal include Robert P. George, legal philosopher and political theorist; Dr. John Bruchalski, founder of Tepeyac OB/GYN; Vicki Thorn, founder of Project Rachel post-abortion healing ministry; the Women’s Care Center Foundation; Mother Agnes Mary Donovan and the Sisters of Life; Congressman Chris Smith, co-chair of the Bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, and his wife, Marie Smith, director of the Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues; Supreme Knight Carl Anderson and the Knights of Columbus; the Little Sisters of the Poor; the Jérôme Lejeune Foundation; Mary Ann Glendon, Harvard Law School professor emerita; Helen Alvaré, Robert A. Levy Endowed Chair in Law and Liberty at the Antonin Scalia School of Law, George Mason University; and Richard Doerflinger, former associate director of the secretariat for pro-life activities at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Announced annually on Respect Life Sunday, the first Sunday of October, the Notre Dame Evangelium Vitae award consists of a specially commissioned medal and $10,000 prize presented at a banquet following a celebratory Mass in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. For more information about the Evangelium Vitae Medal, visit https://ethicscenter.nd.edu/programs/culture-of-life/evangelium-vitae-medal/.

*Update 11/13/2023: Corrected Dr. Parravicini's academic title, official headshot photo.