The Michael H. Winter Fund Helps UT Southwestern Secure a Highly Competitive Grant

Karen Kowalske, M.D.

Since its establishment in 2004, the Michael H. Winter Fund for Stroke Rehabilitation Research has significantly advanced stroke and traumatic brain injury (TBI) rehabilitation programs at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Established in memory of Michael Winter by his wife, Lori, the fund has most recently been instrumental in helping UT Southwestern secure a highly competitive National Institute of Child Health and Human Development grant.

Michael Winter was born in Kansas and moved to Midland, Texas, in 1981, where he worked as a pilot for Basin Aviation. In addition to his passion for flying, Mr. Winter also loved dogs. 

After suffering from a ruptured aneurysm, Mr. Winter came to UT Southwestern to undergo extensive rehabilitation with progressive recovery.

“Through a great amount of teamwork, hard work, and dedication, Mr. Winter’s rehabilitation was truly remarkable,” said Karen Kowalske, M.D., Professor and Chair of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.   

Tragically, a few years after his initial treatment and rehabilitation, Mr. Winter sustained a catastrophic brain injury after a fall. Mrs. Winter was extremely grateful to UT Southwestern faculty and staff for the wonderful care that her husband received. In a letter, Mrs. Winter stated that she wished to fulfill her husband’s legacy “by honoring the research and the researchers who made his life more meaningful.”

Since then, Mrs. Winter and other family members have given nearly $290,000 to UT Southwestern through the Michael H. Winter Fund. Her philanthropy has laid the foundation necessary to support outstanding faculty, conduct innovative research, and expand clinical programs for patients with traumatic brain injuries.

With support from the Winter Fund, Dr. Kowalske and her team have enrolled patients in the Bioness Neuroelectric Ankle-Foot Orthosis (AFO) study for patients following stroke to evaluate gait speed and balance as compared to individuals using a standard AFO. The Department also has recruited a senior faculty member with extensive research and publications in the area of gait analysis for status post TBI and stroke patients.

The development of spasticity (stiff or rigid muscle) management services for TBI patients continues to grow, both in the number of patients served and the number of physicians being trained. The Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation is now serving more than 775 patients requiring spasticity management.

Additionally, a TBI fellowship is partially supported by the fund. The fellowship training program allows the TBI fellow to gain a comprehensive understanding of TBI patient care, participate and direct the treatment of TBI patients, and begin a career in research focused on improving the quality of outcomes after brain insult.