UIHC child life specialist honored for making a positive impact

Kathy Whiteside, a child life specialist at the Children’s Hospital, received the TIAA Difference Maker Award, which honors 100 individuals for their positive impact on the world.


Katie Goodale

University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics as seen on Sept 17, 2018.

Jordan Prochnow, News Reporter

University of Iowa child-life specialist Kathy Whiteside was honored at the first Hawkeye football game of the season, becoming the first recipient of the TIAA Difference Maker award.

The award, celebrating the organization’s 100th year in operation, honors 100 individuals who have a significant effect on the world and exemplify dedication and perseverance.

According to a press release, the award will “shine a spotlight on people who teach, invent, inspire, cure, nurture, and serve others.” Honorees will also receive $10,000 to benefit the organization for which they work in the hopes of furthering their contributions.

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“[Whiteside] exemplifies dedication to the field of child life and caring for kids day in and day out,”Child Life Manager Gwen Senio said. “She puts their needs ahead of everything else. She has such a heart for the patients and families and what’s best for them.”

Whiteside decided to pursue therapeutic recreation at the University of Northern Iowa. She then completed an internship with University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, leading to her career in child life.

Whiteside is the child-life event specialist for the UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital, allowing her to work closely with families and patients during their stay at the facility. She plans a variety of events at the hospital, including having costumed superheroes visit and doing arts and crafts with patients.

“Helping children find the tools to cope with diagnoses, illness, and hospitalization and helping them be kids in this environment and have a positive experience in light of their challenges is what makes this career so meaningful,” Whiteside said.

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She orchestrates fall tailgates and activities before football games for patients and families, Hawk Night in the spring, and she has formed strong connections with student volunteers and athletes who frequently visit the hospital. She also has strong ties to Dance Marathon, as dancers and leadership personnel spend lots of time with their respective families.

“She’s been a key figure in matching up Hawkeye athletes to visit patients and creating programs that involve them, which benefits our program and the athletes as well,” Senio said. “She’s so approachable, and they all know her and know they can come to her.”

Those who work with Whiteside attest to her spirited nature and dedication to providing patients with the best care possible and a positive environment in which to receive treatment.

“I have known and worked with Kathy for most of my career at University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, and she has always been, and continues to be, a shining example of the compassion, kindness, and skill that our staff bring to work every day as they care for pediatric patients and their families,” Tom Moore, the UIHC spokesperson said in an email to The Daily Iowan. “Kathy has truly made a difference in the lives of innumerable children and their families. We are so fortunate to work with such an invaluable and caring colleague.”