Foundation President and Recent Patient: Why Kate Sawa Is Doubly Proud to Be Part of the St Joe’s Family

Kate Sawa is no stranger to the impact an amazing non-profit can have on people’s lives. As a new college graduate, Kate started a non-profit called On Our Own to assist young adults with developmental disabilities. Inspired by her sister’s journey with Down syndrome, Kate’s goal was to provide others like her with opportunities for fun, social engagements, and exposure to independent living skills.

“That experience chartered my path to the non-profit world as I was energized by making a difference,” shares Kate, who came to St. Joseph’s Hospitals Foundation last year after over a decade with the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.

Her years there meant she spent a good deal of time interfacing with a majority of hospitals in the Tampa Bay area, and she developed strong relationships with team members at St. Joseph’s Hospitals.

“What always struck me about St. Joe’s, aside from its excellent reputation and quality outcomes, was the culture – the level of caring and respect the team members had for one another, and for their patients. It wasn’t just something I experienced with senior leadership, but also the with the nurses, the doctors and others. The collaborative, warm, patient-focused environment was pervasive. For that culture to consistently exist from top to bottom, it had to be authentic,” explains Kate.

So, when the opportunity presented itself to become President of the St. Joseph’s Hospitals Foundation, Kate jumped at the chance, saying, “I treasured my prior work, but the chance to be part of such a diverse and forward-thinking local healthcare organization was exciting and intriguing. I wanted to be a part of that team.”

Never one to shy away from a challenge, Kate took on her new responsibilities while juggling being a mom to three children and awaiting the birth of her fourth. She decided to transition her baby’s delivery to St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital because it made sense, given the amount of time she was now spending there.

“As a new leader with St. Joseph’s, I’m hungry for every learning opportunity and experience I can have, to help truly understand and communicate the incredible work that we do. And in addition to that, I was officially part of the St. Joe’s family, so I figured I’d go all in.”

Thus started Kate’s first experience as a St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital patient. Kate’s prior pregnancies and births were all routine, and this pregnancy was no different, even if her fourth child was taking a little longer to arrive than her siblings, who each made their appearance before their due dates.

“All in the Lord’s time,” Kate recalled thinking as she patiently waited to meet her new baby, whose gender would be revealed at birth.

On the morning of April 8th, Kate knew it was finally time, and off to the hospital she went.

“Even though I was there as a patient, I couldn’t take off my Foundation hat completely, so I took notice of everything. Because I am someone who lives and breathes the commitment we have to our patients, I admit my expectations were high. Unsurprisingly, St. Joe’s didn’t disappoint. It made me proud to experience St. Joe’s compassionate patient care first-hand and understand the criticality of the Foundation’s support. I was also incredibly grateful to be receiving it as a patient.”

Kate loved little details like the beautifully knit hats handcrafted by nurses and volunteers, something given to babies born at St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital.

But it was the compassion and competency of her medical team, first as she waited for her delivery to progress, and then when her baby was in fetal distress, that impressed her both personally and professionally.

“It was so scary. I remember a flurry of activity and holding my husband’s hand so tightly. And I remember Becky, my labor and delivery nurse, who had been by my side from the moment we got there, encouraging me to remain calm because they had it all under control. And they did. They were a well-orchestrated team, and they safely delivered my beautiful – and healthy – little girl without any need for surgery,” recalls Kate.

Weighing in at as 7 pounds 9 ounces and stretching to her full height of 19 inches, Revel Rose Sawa came into the world with a hearty cry and no trace of the difficulty she’d experienced just minutes prior.

When the team members eventually realized who Kate was, they were extra excited to have been part of bringing Revel, her fourth miracle, into the world, but Kate knew the treatment she received was no different than anyone else’s. And for her, that was exactly as it should be.

“It all goes back to the culture I first experienced professionally and then experienced personally,” describes Kate. “I’d witnessed it as an outsider and now I’m beyond grateful to have experienced it as both an employee and a patient. We are so fortunate to have this family-focused hospital in Tampa Bay, servicing the simplest to the most complicated needs of expectant mothers. And like thousands of others in our community, I’m grateful for this forever memory at St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital where we first got to meet our baby girl.”