Unlikely Politician

Siobhan DunnavantIt was around midnight when Siobhan Stolle Dunnavant ’86 was finally able to leave work. After capping off her 16-hour workday helping a patient give birth, she had only a few hours before she had to be up to speak on the Virginia Senate floor. Long hours are par for the course for Dunnavant, a respected Richmond area OB-GYN and firstterm Virginia state senator.

Dunnavant has delivered more than 2,000 babies in the last 16 years, and serves as chief operating officer for her private practice. She has even been recognized as one of Richmond magazine’s “Top Docs.” In 2007, she worked to start a second innovative, small business called OB Hospitalists, a healthcare company that provides physician staffing for in-hospital OB-GYN services.

Despite it becoming somewhat of a family tradition, she never envisioned herself as a politician.

Dunnavant decided to run for office after seeing her medical practice struggle as a result of the Affordable Care Act legislation. Running as a Republican, she won the 12th District seat by a 19 percent margin in the 2015 General Election, becoming the third member of her family elected to office. Her brother, Ken Stolle, was also a state senator from 1992-2010, and another brother, Chris Stolle, is a current member of the Virginia House of Delegates.

One of Dunnavant’s favorite parts of her role as senator is interacting with and being a voice for the people she represents.

“It’s more fun than I expected it to be,” she said. “Though I work 14- 16 hours a day, it’s very rewarding work, and I’m getting more and more comfortable with sharing my opinions on the Senate floor. I feel like I’ve been embraced for my medical knowledge and experience.”

Outside of her work in the medical field and in politics, Dunnavant is a board member and volunteer for Little Sisters of the Poor home for the elderly. She also works at Thrifty Sisters, a volunteer-run thrift store that supports the Little Sisters home. Inspired by her family’s record of military service, she helped launch the Patriot Babies program, which allows deployed military fathers around the world to be present via a secure video link during the birth of their children at local hospitals.

While at the College, Dunnavant was a member of College Republicans and helped plan Lynchburg’s Republican Convention in 1984, where she met her husband, Lloyd. She greatly enjoyed her four years at Randolph, but laughingly admits she didn’t always follow the rules. She recalls sneaking into and exploring the “off-limits” attic of Main Hall with a group of friends and ending up in Social Court as a result of playing music too loudly one Friday night.

A biology major, Dunnavant credits the College for building her confidence as a woman and preparing her for a career in which she relies heavily on communication and critical thinking skills.

“I was very focused on the sciences, but empowered by the small class sizes and individual attention and relationships I formed with the professors,” she said. “I had the opportunity to fail, but still succeed. That’s really important because the biggest lessons you learn are when you don’t do well. That experience teaches you not to be afraid of failure in the future.”

Though she jokes that work has become one of her favorite hobbies, Dunnavant still manages to spend quality time with her husband and their four children. She and her family have adapted to a busy lifestyle over the past year and now excel at multitasking and prioritizing family activities. They compare calendars and go out to dinner at least once a week, and on other evenings find an hour or two to bond over their favorite TV shows.

“I’ve always either rationalized or truly seen the benefits of being an active person,” she said. “I think that being a working mom communicated to my kids both the empowerment of women and the value of having a vocational job where you’re serving other people.”