"The path to a career in gerontology is always interesting," said Paul Winkler, a man who has spent his entire career in the field.
Mr. Winkler, 57, of Oakmont is the president and CEO of Presbyterian SeniorCare. He was recently named the 2013 UPMC Senior Services Grand Champion in recognition of his 32 years of service to seniors.
Mr. Winkler grew up in a multi-generational home in Penfield, a tiny town in Clearfield County near Du Bois.
His Italian grandmother lived with his family and the family spoke Italian.
"I always enjoyed languages and thought it would be cool to be a translator for the U.N.," he said of his younger years.
When he started college at the DuBois campus of Penn State, Mr. Winkler worked as an orderly at a nearby hospital.
"I loved it -- I really got the health care bug from that experience," he said.
Although he was majoring in pre-law, he started researching the programs at Penn State and changed to health care administration. He continued his studies at the University of Pittsburgh and did a residency with the John J. Kane Hospital, which is owned by Allegheny County.
"It was a wonderful opportunity," he said.
Mr. Winkler stayed with Kane when it moved into regional campuses, and worked at its Ross location.
Mr. Winkler said he has found that many of those who chose a career in gerontology have had a background similar to his -- strong relationships with their grandparents.
"No one starts out as a child wanting to grow up for a career in gerontology, but then something changes that. Many of them have these intense relationships with seniors which leads them to this career field," he said.
As far as his own career path, 26 years ago Mr. Winkler began working with Presbyterian SeniorCare.
Mr. Winkler said Presbyterian SeniorCare is celebrating its 85th anniversary and has its main campuses in Oakmont and Washington and has several other locations. In addition to long-care residences, the agency has affordable living accommodations to serve low-income seniors.
Mr. Winkler also has served as the chair of the National Advisory Committee at the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public Health; is the founding director of the Greater Pittsburgh Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association; has served as the chairman of the board of Leading Age PA; has served as the board chair of Family Hospice and Palliative Care; and served on the boards of the Hospital Council of Western Pennsylvania and Southwestern Pennsylvania Partnership for Aging.
The UPMC Senior Services Grand Champion honor recognizes an individual who has improved the lives of seniors in Western Pennsylvania.
"Paul's name came from several individuals for nomination," said Deborah Brodine, president of UPMC Community Provider Services.
More than 100 nominations were made and the selection was made by a committee. Mr. Winkler was selected, said Ms. Brodine, for his dedication to seniors.
"His commitment hasn't been just to one organization or for just a few years. His career hasn't been a fleeting experience but over 30 years. He has a true commitment to senior causes," she said.
Kathleen Ganster, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.