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Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine is presenting its highest honor - the Stritch Medal - to Katherine Walsh, MD, for inspiring leadership, contributions to medical education and her tireless commitment to compassionate, patient-centered care for all.
The Stritch Medal will be presented on Saturday, Nov. 17, at the Stritch School of Medicine's 62nd Annual Award Dinner. The event will be held at the Field Museum.
Walsh, a resident of west suburban River Forest, has dedicated her life and career to ensuring those in her own backyard and beyond receive excellent patient care no matter their walk in life. She is a retired primary care physician. As a longtime member of the Stritch School of Medicine faculty, she has been integral in shaping the professional lives of future physicians.
"The foundation of our students' education has been enriched by the compassionate and innovative teaching of Kathie Walsh," said Stritch School of Medicine Dean Linda Brubaker, MD, MS. "Generations of patients to come will benefit from her determination to ensure everyone receives exceptional care. She challenges all of us to find new ways to reach out to patients and the community, to become better physicians by becoming better people."
Born and raised in Akron, Ohio, Walsh desired to do something with her life that would make her father proud. She never met him, since he died while fighting during World War II. Still, she wanted her life to make an impact to honor his sacrifice. The influence of her friend's father, a Loyola-trained doctor, led her to medicine.
"I attended Loyola, where I was a pre-med major. But by the time I graduated I was getting married and the idea of making a commitment to medical school just seemed too much," Walsh said.
She instead taught fourth grade and went on to become a researcher at a dental school before starting her favorite job as a stay-at-home mom.
"I loved being a mom, but I started to think if I wanted to be a doctor I needed to go back soon," Walsh said.
So, at the age of 33 with four kids between the ages of 2 and 7, she entered medical school.
"I wasn't your typical student. I did most of my studying at 11 p.m. on the front porch and sometimes brought my youngest - pink-frosted donut in hand - to study groups in the library. It wasn't easy, but I was fortunate to have amazing support, especially from my husband, Joe," Walsh said. "Loyola really took a chance on me and I'm so glad they did!"
She earned her medical degree in 1980 and finished her residency in family medicine in 1983. While busy with her own practice, she also was the program director for the West Suburban Hospital Family Practice residency program and associate professor at the Stritch School of Medicine. She created the school's physician mentor program and has helped to develop its patient-centered medicine course.
"We are so grateful, and countless patients are benefiting from that admission team's decision to 'take a chance' on Kathie," Brubaker said. "She has played a pivotal role in establishing and growing our patient-centered medicine course that is at the core of training future physicians. We send out some of the finest physicians who have a passion to go beyond an illness to caring for an entire person and bringing health resources to communities. A lot of this is thanks to Kathy."
Walsh also is engaged in community-betterment activities. She developed a medical clinic at Deborah's Place, a comprehensive facility to care for women dealing with homelessness in Chicago. She volunteers for the Oak Park-River Forest Walk-In ministry, the Ten Thousand Villages fair trade store in Oak Park, and is a docent for the Oak Park Conservatory.
In addition, she is dedicated to Ascension Parish, where she chairs a program that provides religious education to special needs children ages 6 to10. She coordinates the parish's PADS overnight shelter and helps lead a monthly communion service at Oak Park Arms Retirement Center.
Katherine and Joseph Walsh have been married for 46 years. In addition to four children, they have nine grandchildren.
Also to be recognized at this year's event will be Ramsey Lewis. The Chicago jazz icon will receive Loyola University Chicago's Sword of Loyola for his support of arts education.
The Stritch Medal and Sword of Loyola will be presented at the Stritch School of Medicine Annual Award Dinner. As Chicago's oldest black-tie gala, the event has raised millions of dollars for medical education since 1950. Individual tickets are $600; tables of 10 can be sponsored for $6,000 or $12,000. Tickets are a tax-deductible charitable donation to the extent allowed by law.