Wisconsin-based Gundersen Health System Secures $5m for Research & Clinical Trials & Other Activities

Wisconsin-based Gundersen Health System Secures $5m for Research & Clinical Trials & Other Activities

A comprehensive health system based in Wisconsin recently received $5 million in grant funds to boost critical research, medical education, and improved patient care. Gunderson Medical Foundation, part of Gunderson Health System, received the funds throughout 2020 from private foundations and government agencies specifically to improve a range of activities, such as research ($2), Telemedicine at Gundersen’s Critical Access Hospitals ($1.7m), GHS Central Campus System ($1.M), and medical education ($500k). A non-profit health care system, the operation actually operates on a thin margin hence the generation of $5 million for these types of activities would be very difficult, reported Stephen Shapiro, MD, Board Chair of the Gundersen Medical Foundation. 

Research as a Care Option comes to the Midwest

The National Cancer Institute awarded the Wisconsin National Community Oncology Research Program (WiNCORP), a Wisconsin cancer clinical trial network, with $15.6 million over six years to make the latest treatment options available to people with cancer. WiNCORP is a partnership between Gundersen, Marshfield Clinic Health System and ThedaCare that provides innovative cancer clinical trials to patients in Wisconsin. “We have participated in hundreds of clinical trials in the past that have been supported by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). We look forward to working with the NCI for this next six-year grant to bring even more cancer clinical trials to Gundersen. This is truly an opportunity that patients would not have if it were not for this grant funding,” said Kurt Oettel, MD, department chair for Hematology and Medical Oncology at Gundersen Health System and principal investigator for WiNCORP.

About Gundersen Health System

With about 7,600 employees, Gundersen Health System represents a leading regional health system located in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa. The system includes multi-specialty group medical practices, a teaching hospital, regional community clinics, affiliate hospitals and clinics, behavioral health services, vision enters, pharmacies and air and ground ambulance. 

Gundersen Health’s flagship hospital, Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center, is located in La Crosse and is a teaching hospital with 325 beds and a Level II Trauma and Emergency Center. The hospital received Healthgrades America’s 50 Best Hospitals recognition in 2015 and 2017 placing it in the top 1% nationally. Additional awards include receiving the Healthgrades Distinguished Hospital Award-Clinical Excellence recognition eight years in a row from 2008 to 2015. 

“Because Gundersen Health System runs on such a thin margin it would take significant patient care revenue to produce the $5 million of net revenue needed to fund the programs these grants funded,” said Gundersen Medical Foundation Board Chair Stephen Shapiro, MD. “These grant funded programs significantly improve our patient care.”

Research

The National Cancer Institute awarded the Wisconsin National Community Oncology Research Program (WiNCORP), a Wisconsin cancer clinical trial network, with $15.6 million over six years to make the latest treatment options available to people with cancer. WiNCORP is a partnership between Gundersen, Marshfield Clinic Health System and ThedaCare that provides innovative cancer clinical trials to patients in Wisconsin. “We have participated in hundreds of clinical trials in the past that have been supported by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). We look forward to working with the NCI for this next six-year grant to bring even more cancer clinical trials to Gundersen. This is truly an opportunity that patients would not have if it were not for this grant funding,” said Kurt Oettel, MD, department chair for Hematology and Medical Oncology at Gundersen Health System and principal investigator for WiNCORP.

Critical Access Hospitals

A $1.2 million award from the Health Resources & Services Administration will improve telehealth resources at Gundersen’s Critical Access Hospitals in Boscobel, Friendship, Whitehall and Hillsboro in Wisconsin and West Union in Iowa. Telemedicine uses technology to connect providers and patients electronically, reducing the cost of care. Gundersen physicians can provide care to patients in rural locations using telemedicine carts equipped with stethoscopes, hand cameras and other devices.

“Our neonatologists can provide emergency assistance after a difficult delivery or newborn in distress and our pediatric intensivists guide care to children in their ER in respiratory distress. Infectious Disease will provide consultations to patients admitted at the CAH,” said Jessica Easterday, Telemedicine program manager. “This is a true partnership to provide the best care as quickly as possible to patients. It also can reduce the need for transfer, if the patient is stabilized and can stay locally.”

GHS Central Campus System

A grant from the Wisconsin Department of Justice helps support Gundersen Crime Victim Services, which provides advocacy and therapy services to victims of crime and abuse at no cost. Between Oct. 1, 2019 and Sept. 30, 2020, Crime Victim Services staff provided services to 1,046 survivors of crime and abuse. Services are available to those who experience crime and abuse in any community that Gundersen serves. Advocacy services are available to people who have experienced any type of personal crime including but not limited to, domestic violence, sexual violence, robbery and assault. Therapy services are available to people who have experienced sexual violence and are seeking therapy to address it. Survivors of crime and abuse can receive emotional support and safety services, information and referral, and criminal justice support at any point in their experience. Grant funding also makes it possible for CVS staff to open referral pathways and educate Gundersen medical staff, helping enhance the medical care they provide to survivors of crime and abuse.

Education

A three-year $450,000 grant from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services helps fund two positions in Gundersen’s Family Medicine Residency program. In 2016, Gundersen developed the residency to train family medicine physicians with a special emphasis on full-spectrum rural training. Along with the training provided by our other high-quality residency programs, family medicine residents graduate with exceptional training in ambulatory care and inpatient medicine, pediatrics and OB/GYN. The Family Medicine Residency improves the lives of our patients, families and communities by training compassionate family physicians in an innovative and supportive patient-centered learning practice.

“The grant from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services truly supports Medical Education, and specifically, the Family Medicine Residency as we strive to meet our mission, to distinguish ourselves through excellence in patient care, education, research, and improved health in the communities we support,” said Greg Thompson, MD, Medical Director of Medical Education. “The financial impact of the grant supports our efforts to enhance the education of the Family Medicine residents though rural educational experiences, so that they train in an environment in which they will practice. Training in a rural environment is crucial to the recruitment and retention of Family Medicine physicians for the rural communities in our service areas.”

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