A Northwest Indiana Life in the Spotlight: Mary Puntillo

A Northwest Indiana Life in the Spotlight: Mary Puntillo
By: Kellyn Vale Last Updated: June 19, 2019

“Everything happens for a reason, be patient,” said Mary Puntillo.

As a neonatal nurse clinician at Community Hospital, Puntillo has enjoyed a fruitful career with countless memorable experiences. Though she’s held this position for more than 30 years, she’s maintained a level of excitement and passion for her work that shows no signs of slowing down.

“I can honestly say that every day is new and brings different challenges,” Puntillo said. “My role of educating staff and families regarding infants has grown to include not only Community Hospital, but St. Catherine Hospital and St. Mary Medical Center as well.”

Puntillo also is a certified registered nurse in Low Risk Neonatal and Neonatal Intensive Care, adding to the impressive level of skill and expertise she has developed in her field.

“My official title is ‘Mary Puntillo, MSN, RNC-NIC, RNC-LRN’; sometimes I add ‘LMNOP’ just for the heck of it,” Puntillo joked.

Puntillo knew she wanted to make a difference in the realm of infant health when she first learned about the astonishing infant mortality rates in the U.S., and particularly in Indiana.

“Even with our access to the best healthcare in the world, a large number of our babies in the United States are not living until their first birthday,” Puntillo explained. “Then I realized that Indiana’s infant mortality rate was one of the worst in the U.S., and that Northwest Indiana is one of the worst in the state.”

Shaken by these astounding statistics, Puntillo was inspired to enter the medical field and make a difference any way she could.

“I was appalled; this is unacceptable,” Puntillo said. “Our babies in Northwest Indiana deserve a healthy beginning and a good life.”

This pivotal moment of realization was the beginning of a passionate career that Puntillo continues to this day, driven by her advocacy for the safety of our smallest community members.

“Babies are our future,” Puntillo said. “They have a right to be born healthy, to be kept safe, and to be loved.”

It is clear that Puntillo has put years of heart and passion into her career, and her efforts have not gone unnoticed. Last fall, she was named Indiana’s Caregiver of the Year, an award given to individuals making a significant impact on the quality of healthcare in Indiana. She received the award at the Annual Indiana Hospital Association meeting in Indianapolis.

“It was an overwhelming experience to be in the presence of so many healthcare leaders and to be recognized for all the work we are doing in Northwest Indiana,” Puntillo said. “One person doesn’t accomplish this alone. It was a celebration for all of us.”

Puntillo also was named Nurse of the Year 2018 at Community Hospital.

“I was incredibly humbled, honored, and absolutely speechless,” Puntillo said. “There are so many people that I could see earning this award, I just couldn’t believe I was chosen!”

Puntillo maintains a modest attitude in light of her success, acknowledging the role that others have played in her life to get her where she is today.

“You are only as good as the people around you,” she said. “I am so blessed to be surrounded by amazing people, especially my husband and family.”

Though these recognitions are certainly a testament to Puntillo’s own accomplished career, she emphasizes that they serve an even greater purpose: drawing much needed public attention to the infant mortality rate in the Region.

“This has led to so many doors of opportunity opening for us,” Puntillo said. “I feel that our Infant Sleep Initiative is gaining momentum. I hope that one day soon we will see Indiana as a leader in infant safety. All of our little Hoosiers deserve a first birthday.”