Winton Wood, a consultant with the University of New Mexico’s Center for Development and Disability’s Mi Via Waiver Program, which is a self-directed care program for people with disabilities, was one of six recipients of the Gerald W. May Outstanding Staff Awards in 2021.
Guiding her pursuits for the equity and representation of people with disabilities are the many people with disabilities throughout New Mexico, their families and Wood’s own daughter.
“(I’m) a family specialist because I have a daughter who has Down syndrome and autism and is medically complex, so I know first-hand from the family point of view and the (consultant) point of view. We forget the value of our people who have intellectual disabilities,” Wood said.
Eliza Sanchez-Wilkerson, one of Wood’s colleagues at Mi Via and parent of a child with an intellectual disability, commemorated Wood for her outstanding work and compassion.
“Winton is a strong, confident woman and mother. She is dedicated to her family and her profession,” Sanchez-Wilkerson wrote to the Daily Lobo via text.
Wood is cognizant of her impressive work ethic and distinctive devotion to the community of people with disabilities in New Mexico and ascribes her passion as a necessity because people with disabilities are so often overlooked by medical and legal professionals alike.
“I'm a really, really hard worker … I really, really care about the people that I serve,” Wood said. “Some states are better than others, but most states are not great about being clear on their guidelines.”
Wood’s work as a Mi Via consultant is only the first of many self-proclaimed hats that she wears. She also participates in the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities program at the Association of University Centers on Disabilities, the Mt. States Regional Genetics Network New Mexico team as a family ambassador and is a mentor for medical students at UNM.
Though Wood feels that awards aren’t the “end-all-be-all,” she was honored to be praised with the outstanding staff award and proud of the extent to which her accomplishments made an impact on her community.
“It was very exciting to be recognized,” Wood said. “It does put a little more steam in the engine, so to speak.”
The recognition, however pleasant, is just a small portion of the personal reward Wood finds in her work.
“If I wasn't going to put into it as much as I do then I would probably switch jobs,” Wood said. “I'm just that kind of a person — I really need to love the work that I do and be fully invested.”
Sanchez-Wilkerson, after 20 years at UNM, said Wood has a unique knowledgeability and a genuine solicitude to her field.
“Winton is strong in her research skills and very knowledgeable with disability-related information. She will give her time to anyone who may be unsure of resources,” Sanchez-Wilkerson wrote. “Winton is a wonderful person and an amazing friend.”
Natalie Jude is the culture editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @natalaroni