The last two weeks I have focused on a man that was that person sitting next to me is class. I am speaking of Mike Winkler. Back in 1978, while sitting in Math class, I didn’t have a clue as to what Mike would do with his life. I can tell you this right now. He did a lot with it, especially in the area of helping people. Stay tuned.
Mike Winkler graduated from Trigg County High School in 1978. He then attended East Tennessee State University in Johnson City Tennessee. Mike graduated from there with a major in Pre-Med and a GPA of 3.98. After ETSU Mike attended Medical School at Columbia University in New York City. He served as President of his Senior Class at Columbia and graduated with the same GPA as he did at ETSU, 3.98. Mike graduated as an Oral Surgeon. He did his internship at Birmingham Alabama.
After Medical School Mike Winkler went to work for the HIS in Oklahoma.. Those are the initials for Indian Health Services. The United States Navy runs the IHS. Over a period of years Mike reached the level of Captain in the Navy, which is equivalent to a full bird Colonel in the army.
Mike Winkler was not just any oral surgeon as if that would not be enough. Mike was a maxillofacial surgeon. He specialized in taking care of the Cherokee Indians. Many of the Cherokee Tribe had cleft pallets, a condition involving a deformity of their teeth, jaws and gums. The Cherokee would ask him to perform this surgery for them. Mike had to go to the University of North Carolina to study this very unique and intense surgery. Upon returning to his practice in Tahlequah, Oklahoma Mike became a renowned specialist in transforming the faces of people with sever cleft pallets. He worked at the W.W. Hastings Indian Hospital. He would often take bones from someone’s hip and then insert them into their faces. Mike Winkler could have profited many times more by working in private practice due to the field he was in. He chose however to keep working for the IHS.
Due to his work with the Cherokee people, Mike became a revered figure. While Mike was battling cancer, the Cherokee gave him a surprise party in one of their sacred buildings. This was a building that hardly anyone not of their ethnic group had ever been allowed in. The Cherokee presented Mike with many medals and a ceremonial blanket. The blanket was one of the most prestigious awards given by the Cherokee nation. The Cherokee also had a ball cap designed by NIKE in their own language. This was the first time NIKE had ever done a baseball cap in the Cherokee language. Guess who the Cherokee gave the first cap off the assemble line to? That’s right, Mike Winkler.
What a service Mike Winkler provided to the Cherokee nation. What a surgeon he became. What a man, father and husband he became. Who would have known way back in 1978? Farewell Mike Winkler. Job well done. Better yet life well done.
Enthusiasm Makes the Difference
Mike Wright is the head coach of boys basketball and cross country at Trigg County High School. Emails concerning Coach’s Corner can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.