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Toby's Take: Winblad, That Name Sounds Familiar

Onalisa Winbad headshot

May 03, 2022

Searching for a doc to feature this week leading up to Mother’s Day seemed impossible. How do I pick 1? As the great Michael Bublé claims in his recent song “Mother” (the tour for his new album “Higher” hits T-Mobile Center in Kansas City on September 10):

    I know everybody's saying they got the best one
    But that ain't true
    'Cause I do.

Well, he’s wrong. I do. But he might also get an argument from Anna and Rhett Winblad.

I hadn’t planned for this blog to be about me again. Really! I just couldn’t help it after seeing their mom’s name, Dr. Onalisa Winblad.

Some of her friends call her “Onnie.” She is full-on a member of a medical family. Dr. Winblad’s husband is an ER physician in Topeka, so Anna and Rhett might as well start prepping for med school now.

Dr. Winblad knew early on she’d follow in the family tradition. Her dad, Dr. John Winblad, practiced in Winfield, Kansas. Her Uncle John was an OB/GYN. And their father was a general surgeon who probably delivered half the babies of Winfield.

Growing up in a medical office, she answered the phone, called to confirm appointments and filed medical charts.

Out of more than 13,000 employees at The University of Kansas Health System and more than a thousand physicians, I noticed “Winblad” pretty fast. You see, her grandfather, Dr. Jim Winblad, delivered me and 2 of my siblings in the 1960s.

“Oh, that’s wonderful. What a small world!” she said when we first met.

The small world of healthcare

I’m sure we have dozens, if not hundreds, of connections like this. I personally knew of a father-son combo at the health system before I stepped foot in this place. This year, we specifically celebrated siblings who work here. It speaks to unique satisfaction that healthcare workers get that their family members want to follow in their footsteps.

For Dr. Winblad, this seemed automatic. She’s division director for breast imaging and radiology for the health system and a faculty member at the University of Kansas Medical School, where she also graduated in 2008. Friends and colleagues say she distinguished herself early in the process.

Oncology stuck, and so did focusing on breast cancer. After a year’s fellowship at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, she returned to our Main Campus in Kansas City as a practitioner and professor. To say she’s made a name for herself in breast cancer care is an understatement.

But she’d also be the first to call out our Physician Relations and Marketing teams. Together, they have created easier and better ways for patients to find oncologists like Dr. Winblad.

“The reality is, we were an academic medical center with great quality,” Dr. Winblad said. “But we had average volume. The community did not know what we had to offer.”

So she and her colleagues set about to change that.

“I learned from working with the team that we needed to make it easier on patients. You know, open evenings, weekends. Being online. We can’t help them if they don’t know we’re here.”

Dr. Winblad says her passion for breast cancer screening, and as a result early detection (the best weapon), fueled her for years. COVID-19 just made her mad. At the virus, not potential patients.

“During the pandemic, millions of women delayed screenings and mammograms, and they have developed consequences.”

“Dr. Winblad cares deeply about her patients and their families,” said Dr. Roy Jensen, director of The University of Kansas Cancer Center. “Her commitment to quality of care is only matched by her compassion for the women she treats."

Women who get their mammograms, even with a family history of cancer or no history at all, still feel nervous at screenings. That vulnerability means patients want and need compassionate attention. Dr. Winblad, if nothing else, promises that. She also says we have our work cut out for us.

I, for obvious reasons, am grateful her grandfather decided to pursue medicine. He taught his family well, and so many have benefited.

Onnie Winblad is a good name to know.

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