$5 million Gundersen Health System grant to improve patient care and expand research

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – Gundersen Health System will use a $5 million grant to improve patient care in rural areas, and to make sure patients here have access to the latest cancer treatments available.

We all ideally want to get the best care and medicine every time we visit the hospital.

That becomes more difficult when it has trouble turning a profit, leading to higher costs of care.

“The issue of thin margin is challenging to all healthcare organizations,” Gundersen Medical Foundation board chair Dr. Stephen Shapiro said at a media briefing Tuesday.

But those margins for Gundersen Health System are widening thanks to more than $5 million in grants.

“The benefit of grant funding is it validates the direction we’re going,” Shapiro said.

Shapiro says the funding is mainly being used for providing better access to patients in rural areas. That includes expanding telemedicine options in underserved populations.

“So that is already up and running,” Shapiro said. “And we’re going to be building it out over the next couple of years.”

About $2 million is going towards research, particularly for cancer research programs.

“Allows us to make sure the patients here in our community have the latest access to the latest treatments that are becoming available, including treatments on clinical trials,” Kabara Cancer Research Institute Director Dr. Paraic Kenny said.

Kenny mainly studies cancer, but he’s also been tracking COVID-19 spread through genome sequencing.

He says at one point, his team was doing more research understanding COVID in DNA strands than the CDC.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that part of the grant money is going towards COVID research.

“I think it puts us as an outlier, not only in the region but in the country, for the amount of skill and expertise we’ve been able to bring to bear pretty quickly on some of these genetic issues to do with COVID-19 spread,” Kenny said.

Shapiro says being granted this much money is about trust.

“It’s a very exciting day,” Shapiro said.

For better treatment and care during your next visit to the hospital or clinic.

In addition, $1.3 million will be used to support Gundersen’s crime victim services, which helps care for survivors of crime and abuse free of charge.

$500,000 is going towards medical education.