Cover photo for Gloria Sarto MD, PhD's Obituary

Gloria Sarto MD, PhD

October 20, 1929 — June 8, 2024


Gloria Sarto, a loving spouse, parent, doctor, surgeon, researcher, geneticist, teacher, grant writer and small business developer, found her rest on June 8, 2024, after a life devoted to caring for all, especially championing women’s health and equal health care access. Dr. Sarto, who was nationally recognized for her work in Obstetrics and Gynecology, was unstoppable. Yet, she was kind and compassionate, loving and generous, clinical but spiritual, and she will be sorely missed.


She was born October 20, 1929, during the Great Depression and although her family was poor, she became a nurse in Racine, WI, with the goal of becoming a doctor. She earned her BS and PhD at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW) and after an internship in Cleveland Ohio, she returned to Madison to begin her career as an OBGYN. In 1963, she added teaching to her resume and worked on getting her PhD in Medical Genetics. In 1971 as a full professor, she became Associate Director of OBGYN at the UW. Gloria went on to chair OBGYN departments at Northwestern in Chicago and the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, before returning to UW.


These are a few of Gloria’s professional accomplishments that particularly exemplify her ability to "break the glass ceiling":


• She became the first woman ever elected to the 127-year-old American Gynecological and Obstetrical Society.

• She was the first to teach the Lamaze method of childbirth in Wisconsin.

• She was among the initial female surgeons to perform transgender surgeries.

• She holds two patents for processes in genetic research.

• The first UW Women’s Health and Health Equity Research Lecture and Symposium grew out of the pioneering vision of Dr. Gloria Sarto and Dr. Gloria Johnson-Powell in 2005. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Symposium and Dr. Sarto’s immeasurable impact the UW Department of Obstetrics is announcing a new name for this important annual event, re-titling it the “Gloria Sarto Reproductive Health Equity Symposium”

• She has been featured prominently in a documentary aimed at addressing Wisconsin's alarming infant mortality rate, which spurred a special campaign to fund the Gloria E. Sarto Chair in Women’s Health and Health Equity Research.

• Even in her 90s, after retiring from clinical practice and surgery, she remained active at the UW, focusing on grant research. Her efforts resulted in the acquisition of millions of dollars in grants.



During her professional life, Gloria also managed to a have a family. She and her partner wife Dr. Lisa Fromm-Sarto, adopted 4 girls; Brittany, Brooke, Breeze and Brighton. Brittany is married and lives in Seattle with her spouse Ben, Brooke is married and lives in Japan with her spouse Yusuke, Breeze lives in New York City and has an exciting career as development manager for the Latino Commission on AIDS, and Brighton is a Medical Imaging Specialist at UW Hospital.


Lisa and Gloria first met on New Year's Eve in 1985 and were fortunate to celebrate 39 New Year's Eves together. Their enduring love has stood the test of time, especially as one of the few same-sex married couples raising a family of four ethnically adopted girls in the Midwest during the 90s Their unwavering love for one another has been evident, particularly in the past year, with Lisa serving as a constant caregiver, source of support, and comfort to Gloria.


Gloria's most recent professional achievement was establishing The Foundation for Neighborhood Health Education, a 501(C)3 organization dedicated to continuing and honoring the work of Dr. Sarto by delivering essential health information and resources directly to those in greatest need. In 1984, Dr. Gloria Sarto operated a mobile health van in Chicago’s Cabrini-Green; the brightly colored van was known as the "Health Express." Before her passing, she laid the groundwork for the Foundation, which will now oversee a new iteration of the Health Ed Express mobile unit serving the streets of Dane County, WI. Operated by her family, the Foundation for Neighborhood Health Education will be co-led by her daughter Breeze, working in collaboration with a select group of Dr. Sarto’s most trusted colleagues.


Many thanks to the Agrace Hospice Care team, where Gloria resided for her final weeks. The family wishes to express special gratitude to Robyn Shearer and the entire Memory Care unit team for their dedicated care and respect shown to Gloria during her most challenging moments. The peace of mind Agrace provided will always be remembered.


No funeral will be held, but a Celebration of Life is being planned for fall 2024. Details will be disclosed in August. In lieu of flowers and or gifts, the family is asking to consider supporting Dr. Sarto’s legacy and make a donation to The Foundation for Neighborhood Health Education, Inc., see donation info online or reach out to Breeze at for more information.

Foundation for Neighborhood Health, Inc. Donation Link:


To say the Gloria will be missed is an understatement. To say that she ceases to exist…is simply not true. Her accomplishments will live on in society as long as hospitals provide medical care. Her writings, publications, patents, films, surgical procedures and teachings will help doctors for years to come. Her love will live on in her spouse and children and all who knew her. Gone…but never forgotten.

We welcome you to share your memories of Gloria here on her tribute wall.

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