Steadfast Determination to Help Women: Katherine Winkler

By OBOS — May 2, 2009

From 2009 – 2011, Our Bodies Ourselves honored the work of women’s health advocates worldwide by asking readers to nominate their favorite women’s health hero. View all nominees by year: 2009, 2010, 2011

Entrant: Julie Cristol

Nominee: Katherine Winkler, Midwife, Southeast Health Center, Philadelphia, PA

Kate Winkler has been a midwife in Philadelphia’s health centers and hospitals for over 20 years. She represents the huge contribution that midwives make to the health of women and babies in the Philadelphia region. She worked at Booth Maternity Center, Temple Hospital, Pennsylvania Hospital and is currently at Greater Philadelphia Health Action’s South Philly clinics.

She provides health care that is infused with a sense of social justice and empowerment at a vulnerable time in women’s lives. She is guided by a strong inner sense of fairness that strengthens the women and families she cares for so tirelessly. She considers each woman’s individual needs and provides culturally sensitive care that honors the woman and her family. She personifies the “Midwifery Model of Care,” which is based on evidence and focused on the individual as part of a larger family and social system.

For the last three years, Kate has served a largely immigrant population in South Philadelphia. She spends countless hours advocating for her clients in large and small ways. She pays for phone cards so that women can try to get medical records from Mexico that would allow them to avoid unwanted repeat cesareans. She faxes information countless times, offers a shoulder to cry on and is always someone you can rely on.  She negotiates with physicians, county assistance case managers, family members, interpreters and managed care employees with great determination and always with a strong sense of what the woman wants and needs. She is quick to discard methodology that is proven useless and always questions new practices until she is really sure they are effective. Even on the craziest, worst day, she does not complain and maintains her wry, quiet sense of humor.

She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2003 and has continued to work through a recurrence and its associated treatment for the last year. Her dedication to her work and her clients defines her. Even this horrible illness has not dimmed her enthusiasm and steadfast determination to help women.

Kate and I graduated from our Midwifery programs in 1988. We both began working in Philadelphia at the same time. Since the early 1990s, we have worked as colleagues in various settings. Currently, we work together at Greater Philadelphia Health Action. She joined my staff in 2005, which was when we began our Centering Pregnancy Program. This program offers group support, childbirth education and prenatal care in a culturally appropriate setting to uninsured immigrant women at the Southeast Health Center. It is a model program and Kate is largely responsible for its continuation and success.

Kate’s professional life has been devoted to helping women become empowered through pregnancy, birth and parenting. She has used her fluency in Spanish to help women talk about safety issues that often go overlooked in immigrant populations. She is nonjudgmental and always an advocate for reproductive freedom. She encourages women to take charge of their lives and gives them some tools to begin the journey. She represents the many, many midwives who care for poor women in the community health centers and hospitals of this country.

Kate is an unsung heroine and working with her has been one of the joys of my professional life. Her steady support and ready listening ear have been essential to me in the frustrating world of American health care.

I have observed many women struggle with cancer. Kate is an inspiration to all of us. She has a tenacious desire to live and has inspired many other women who she has met through her treatment. She continues to be a caretaker and nurturer through her own illness. She is realistic about her prognosis, but still has hope and grace with each roller-coaster ride of diagnosis and treatment. This nomination is inspired by Kate’s work as a midwife, but her attitude towards her illness typifies her inner strength and qualities. She has raised two wonderful, feminist sons who are now well-adjusted young men and is very proud of them. She never seeks recognition for her accomplishments, but she definitely deserves it!

57 responses to “Steadfast Determination to Help Women: Katherine Winkler”

  1. Kate is an absolute inspiration! She has been a wonderful mentor to me – not only in practicing obstetrical care but also in keeping things in perspective in a stressful environment and just in general being a good person. Although I have not worked with her for years now, my time spent working with Kate continues to inspire me to be my best. She truly deserves recognition and admiration for all of her hard work, dedication, perseverance, skill and kindness.

  2. I could not find a place to vote but Kate Winkler is my health care hero and she has my vote. She has been in long battle with ovarian cancer and continues to provide midwifery care for women through the ups and downs of surgery and chemo. The women she cares for are primarily Spanish speaking and her warmth and knowledge as well as the fact that Kate is fluent in their language creates a bond that helps Kate provide skilled midwifery care that really meets the needs of the women.

  3. I vote for Kate as the symbol of women all over this world who devote their lives to caring for others every day, 24/7. She is the symbol of unsung heroines everywhere who collectively use their arms to tilt the earth so that more of it gets the sun.

    Could not find a “vote” button.

  4. I vote for Kate Winkler! What a gift to know and work with Kate! She has been a midwife for many years, providing high quality care in the face of a broken health care system. Kate continues to provide personalized, quality, evidenced based care recognizing the whole person. Kate has precepted many, many midwifery students. Kate is an exceptional midwife, trusted friend, loyal advocate and wise teacher. Thank you, Kate, for the unsung work you do every day! You are truly a women’s health hero!

  5. As Kate’s 1st cousin, and only one in Philadelphia, I have been close to her most of my life. As a child, she was my disciplined older cousin who practiced and played the piano beautifully.She uses that discipline in every area of her life.

    Her willingness to take her treatments and the accompanying side affects, while continuing her work helping other women is truly remarkable. The video shows the gentle, friendly, confident way she treats patients. In doing so, she empowers them to make good decisions about their lives.

    She is the essence of a “health provider”.

    I vote for Kate !

  6. I vote for Kate. She is the most modest and most courageous woman I know. The devotion to her profession and to her family is awe-inspiring. She is indeed an inspiration for us all.

  7. I vote for Kate! She is an outstanding nominee and is already a hero to many.

  8. I abssolutely agree with everything that Julie Cristol has written above. Kate is a true blue midwife and absolutely my nominee for health heroine. She exemplifies the highest ideal of our profession.

  9. I vote for Kate Winkler.

    I have always admired her for the reasons mentioned by so many other people.

    In addition, she is a terrific tennis player, a great competitor, a supportive team player, and a model of good sportsmanship. It seems that all the qualities that make her such an enjoyable and impressive person on the court are the very same that apply to every other aspect of her life.

  10. Kate is truly one of the unsung heroes of midwifery in Pa. and in the USA. She quietly and endlessly works for improvement in the care of women and especially underserved women. She exemplifies the highest ideals of midwifery, motherhood and sisterhood. She absolutely has my vote!

  11. I vote for Kate! She exemplifies the skill and lovingkindness that define a good practitioner. Kate changes the way that many of us experience the world–for the better.

  12. I vote for Kate Winkler. Kate works, tirelessly, on behalf of childbearing women in the Greater Philadelphia area. Her dedication to the underserved is unwavering. She inspires all who have worked with her to try harder…to do more. No one deserves this honor more than Kate.

  13. “Steadfast,” is just the word I’d use for Kate. I will never forget her presence by my side as I gave birth. She has my vote.

  14. Katherine Winkler is the kindest, most clear thinking and insighful, health care professional I’ve ever known. She is also a wonderful friend, truly beyond words. I cast my ballot for Katherine.

  15. I vote for Kate Winkler as my health hero. I have know Kate for almost thirty years in her role as exemplary parent, hardworking midwife and inspiring, kind health care giver and advocate. Here is my vote for Kate. Bravo.

  16. Kate Winkler inspires all who meet her. Hard to imagine all that has been written here is true, but it is. Cast my vote for Kate.

  17. I’ve known Kate Winkler since 1995 when she worked as a midwife and I as a social worker. I continued working with her in different capacities over the years, until 2007 when I had my son. She has always been kind, warm hearted, and a tireless patient advocate. She answered my endless questions when I took interest in midwifery, and encouraged me as I returned to school to become a nurse.

    Kate deserves this honor and so much more! Un abrazo fuerte, Kate.

    I vote for Kate!


  18. Kate is an amazing person. She is a great friend to many people. As a health care provider myself, I know how unusual she is in the health care world.She is thoughtful and very smart, and open and kind-really a model for all of us.

    My vote goes to Kate.

  19. Kate is my sister-in-law and has been an inspiration to all the family. I vote for Kate.

  20. Kate gets my vote! She is truly a health hero. As a colleague, I know first-hand her determination to serve women. She is tireless! And as a client, I know first-hand her loving, comprehensive care.

    To “vote” click on the (5) stars beneath her entry.

  21. On the home front one quickly learns about the relationship one’s partner has to their work. If that works happens to be women’s healthcare, one learns how much their partner thinks about her patients, how she thinks about them and how she thinks about her chosen field. I sometimes think I know as much about Kate’s patients as she herself does, for she so eagerly speaks to me of them and their lives. She also speaks of them with the deepest personal respect. The dignity and individual worth of each of her patients, be they a physician or a 16 year old Mexican immigrant, alwyas endures in Kate’s memory… no matter how trying the patient may have been. Kate seems to believe that, “we all have a story to tell.”

    I also know how important it is to Kate to stay abreast of research and developments in her field. She is forever reading professional journals in midwifery or women’s health… even at the expense of ignoring me in bed.

    Yes, I am her husband, her admirer and her sometimes Spanish tutor. Kate insistently and incessantly bugs me for help in Spanish so that she can better communicate her suggestions and her observations to her immigrant clients.

    As a Spanish teacher at a local high school, I now find myself teaching children she delivered.

    Kate is also my teacher: I never miss a chance among new young acquaintances to recommend a midwife assisted birth to them… and if possible I hope that their attending midwife might just be my wife, for that is a recommendation I make (and this is a vote I cast) with the utmost certainty.

  22. I don’t know where I’m supposed to vote, but with this message, I am casting my vote for Kate (Katherine) Winkler. And I want my vote to count!!!! I am voting for Kate (Katherine) Winkler to be recognized as the “evolved”, serious-with a sense of humor, real, deep, thoughtful, knowledgeable, generous, caring, disciplined, athletic, green thumb human being I have known as a friend for many years. Love to you, Kate!

  23. I vote for Kate! Thank you for the gifts you give to the midwives, mothers and families in Philly!

  24. Kate gets more than my vote:

    She is an inspiring, grounded, dedicated and powerful woman who resides in my heart of hearts as a midwife who has taught me and many many before me what this whole business is of being a midwife: with women, whether they are her patients, her friends, her students or simply her sisters in this big old world.

    Thank you, Julie, for making this video to share a piece of Kate’s immense magnificence with the larger world and to Kate for the simple but tremendous gift of working with women who so desperately need and deserve all the gifts in her skills, knowledge and huge heart.

    Love and light and deep reverence for all that you have done and will do Mrs. Health Care Hero!!!!!

  25. Kate is a delightful human being, a genuine mensch, smart and fun to be around. Her caring heart is evident wherever she goes. I vote for Kate!

  26. I cast my vote for Kate! A wonderful human being and a practitioner to emulate.

  27. Please count my vote for Kate Winkler (vote function not working). Just imagine if every women’s health provider had Kate’s compassion, nonjudgmental manner, intelligence, and feminist consciousness!

  28. As her aunt, I have known her for a VERY long time. I have known her as Katherine (at birth), as Kathy, (as she grew up in Texas), and as Kate, (as Bob and all her friends in Philadelphia call her. )

    Even as a little girl, Kathy was focused and quite serious. With time, we all saw what a disciplined, bright, and caring person she was. Her commitment to those with needs ensured that her profession of midwifery would be the perfect vehicle for expressing this.

    At the same time her commitment to Bob and her two fine sons is extraordinary. They have always had a beautifiul family relationship, each one nurturing the other. Her illness has not curtailed her work or love of family.

    Yes, I vote for Kathy, but, in addition, I salute her, for being the remarkable and wonderful woman that she is.

    Kathy’s Aunt Carole

  29. I am not a close friend of Kate’s, but I wish I were! Even so, her presence has been an inspiration to me in many ways. I’m in awe of her strength and generosity. A wonderful human being and exemplar. I vote for Kate!

  30. I love Kate. I worked with Kate in the DR at Temple in 1978, pre midwife. She was a role model then for how to care for women in labor. Kate was the only nurse who stayed in the room by the woman’s side through her entire shift, never leaving to take a break. She was a trailblazer back then. I share patients with her occassionally now, and they only say wonderful things about how caring she has been with them through their pregnancy.

    She is not only a mid wife extrodaniare, but a visionary for women’s health as well.

  31. As a close friend of over 35 years and a fellow gardener, I’ve felt the skilled, loving care Kate gives to her tomatoes, her family, her patients, and her friends. Her dedication to serving women – with quiet humor and warmth – has been an inspiration to me. I vote for Kate!

  32. Kate has my vote. She’s a great midwife, mother, wife and friend to many.

    Rosemary FitzGerald

  33. Kate is a quiet inspiration to all of us who know her. She sets the highest standards for herself as a midwife, protecting normal pregnancy and birth with determination and (sometimes) ferocity. She was my teacher and then my advocate and colleague. As I enter my tenth year as a midwife, I know that I owe the high standards that I set for myself in large measure to Kate.

    And there’s no one I’d rather have on a tennis court as my doubles partner when I’ve worked all night the night before, without a wink of sleep, and down in the third set. We pulled out a couple of those!!!

    I vote for Kate!!!!

  34. Kate is a tireless care provider and a lovely human being. She’s a delight to work with and dedicated to the women she serves.

    Another vote for Kate!

  35. Kate is THE BEST! She is the essence of midwifery. Her quiet, sweet, caring, funny, strong message is clear … listen to women! Kate is a great woman, friend, midwife, person who continues to persevere at all odds and who has chosen to continue to work to serve women while undergoing treatment for ovarian cancer. She is amazing … and I hope she is smiling as she reads all these notes of love. Five gold stars for Kate! Jerri Hobdy.

  36. I wish we could clone Kate’s gentlenesss, kindness, wisdom and determination….She is truly a gift to all that know her.

    She gets my vote!


  37. I voted for Kate, but I don’t think my vote registered. Anyway, she sure deserves the recognition!

  38. I voted for Kate, but I don’t think my vote registered. Anyway, she sure deserves the recognition.

  39. As Kate’s sister-in-law, and partner in the first midwifery practice that Kate joined, I watched Kate morph into a midwife. This seemed like the inevitable culmination of Kate’s strong political convictions, and the compassionate need to serve women. Kate is particularly gifted at being able to bridge cultural, economic, and political divides. Most who are fortunate enough to know her consider her one of their closer friends. This is because Kate is so sincere in her interest and caring for those around her. Kate’s dedication to every role she plays (including friend, mother, wife, sister daughter, and midwife) is passionate. She is not an attention seeker, but it is great to have the opportunity to go all out and sing her praises.

  40. I could not find a place to vote, but I vote kate more than 5 stars. kate was my preceptor last year while she was on chemotreatment. Kate is not only a wonderful mentor to me on Ob/GYN practice, but she is also an amazing woman to me in her selfless, passion and dedication. As stated by Julie, it is so true to see her picture when I read Julie’s writing about her. I was so inspired and encouraged by her. Kate is my model and continue to insprie me to be my best. She definitely and truly deseves the recognition and admiration for all of her hard work, kindness, knowledge, skills and dedication.

  41. I vote for Katherine Winkler. You have inspired so many. It’s great to see how many women and families you have helped here in Philadelpia. I wish you the best. We knew each other many years ago in Austin. Keep strong. Adelante y felicidades en el dia de las madres.

  42. I too would vote for Kate. For me as a brand new midwife in 1989, Kate was an incredible role model, both professionally and personally. I am grateful to Julie for nominating her.

  43. Where is the VOTE button? Hey, now! Kate is probably laughing…..” hero, what hero. I just do what I do”. And she does it so well. There never was a person more generous in & of her spirit. Kate, we thank you every time we think of you. If thoughts could be registered she’d have more votes than Obama. Add mine. Thanks, Julie.

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