The search for a new chief medical officer at Winneshiek Medical Center is a top priority.

"We're casting a wide net," said WMC Chief Administrative Officer Gretchen Dahlen at last week's meeting of the Board of Trustees. The new CMO replaces Susan Halter who recently announced she will retire July 2.

Dahlen said she has posted the position through the Iowa Hospital Association and is hoping to get word out to alumni of Luther College.

Last month, the Board appointed Dr. William Remington and Dr. Kevin Locke to the search committee. They join Dahlen and Dave Rooney, senior director of clinics and outreach. The search committee will be chaired by officials at Mayo Clinic Health System - Franciscan Skemp.

Other recruits

In her chief medical officer report, Halter said the Medical Center interim providers to fill some physician gaps, many of whom come from Franciscan Skemp sites in La Crosse.

"We're continuing to recruit for two open family practice positions. We have been interviewing two candidates, one with obstetrics (OB) experience, one without. We're cautiously optimistic about the one with OB," she said.

From a facility perspective, Halter reported the Medical Center is working to upgrade its bone-density scanning equipment.

"Once that is done, our radiology department will be fully computerized," said Halter.

In addition, the Medical Center is now offering "high tech, soft-touch" mammography.

The new, digital mammography combines revolutionary imaging technology and provides sharper images using lower doses of radiation and features breast cushions to provide a more positive experience for women.

Halter said according to a study in The Breast Journal 2004, three out of every four women surveyed reported a 50-percent reduction in discomfort when using this type of cushioning system.

"We're hoping this will be a draw for us and women will be more willing to come in for their mammograms," said Halter.

WMC also recently began offering expanded mammography hours, including occasional evening hours.

"We're proud that WMC is the only facility in the area providing daily access to new state-of-the-art digital mammography and access to advanced individualized care ... WMC knows breast cancer can be treated most successfully when it is found early," said Richard Remark, Mayo Health System radiologist at WMC.

Building relationships

In other matters, Dahlen noted several ways WMC is giving back to the community.

"The WMC Auxiliary recently held some quilt and cross stitch fundraisers and raised $4,000 for the ambulance department, which will purchase AEDs (automated external defibrulators) for the cafeteria and our outreach clinics," said Dahlen.

Dahlen also thanked the volunteers who helped serve WMC's Christmas dinner.

"We served 204 guests that day and had nine carry outs," she said.

"Denise Duffy, WMC RN, has been initiating the Giving Wreath program for several years. She finds needy families through private contacts and people bring a gift and she wraps them and gets them into the right hands. This year they helped four families," she said.

She also noted the staff volunteered to help at Helping Service's Holiday Nights Magical Nights display and held a food drive which garnered 400 items and $400 in cash for local food pantries.

"Our people are personally community minded. Even though things are busy here, they're out in the community doing that good stuff," said Dahlen.