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Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI)

You are welcome here. All of us are working together to close health disparities and build an environment where our patients, families, staff and community members bring their authentic selves, perform their best and feel a strong sense of belonging.

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DEI at Gundersen


Diversity: An individual’s unique characteristics, human experiences and perspectives. 

Equity: Everyone is treated with respect and has an opportunity to grow, contribute and thrive without barriers. 

Inclusion: Everyone has a sense of belonging and feels comfortable and supported for being their authentic selves. 

Our vision is to close the health disparities gap while fostering belonging among patients, families, staff, and all communities we serve by pledging to: 

  • Collaborate to address health disparities and promote a culture of belonging 
  • Embody curiosity, compassionate listening, understanding and appreciation 
  • Deliver quality, safe and culturally respectful care 
  • Build relationships grounded in trust, respect and dignity 
  • Collectively own our shared DEI vision 

From our leaders

It is an honor for Gundersen to engage in strategic DEI, advancing our DEI vision: closing the health disparities gap and fostering belonging for our patients, families, staff and all the communities we serve.  
We believe each of us plays a critical role in the DEI efforts that impact our organization and beyond. We view the daily practices and behaviors that advance our DEI strategic priorities and vision as planting seeds of belonging. 

Our strategic DEI priorities are Patient Experience, Care Delivery, Employee Experience and Community Engagement. These priority areas were identified after comprehensive internal and external research to understand our greatest opportunities as we work collectively to discover, dream, design, and deliver a cohesive strategy to create, engage, and sustain improved health outcomes for all. 

The work we advance through these DEI priorities will embody the spirit of Bellin and Gundersen Health System’s mission – together, we inspire your best life by relentlessly caring, learning and innovating – and our new vision – leading with love, we courageously commit to a future of healthy people and thriving communities.  

We are grateful for the time, expertise, passion and commitment our team has already invested in this important work. And we look forward to working in unity with our team members, our patients and our community. 

chief executive officer

Scott Rathgaber, MD

Solution owner - DEI

Mai Chao Duddeck, EdD

Gundersen Region President

Heather Schimmers, MBA, RN

DEI strategic priorities

Patient experience

Our priority is to promote, monitor and support an outstanding patient experience across our organization by fostering an environment where patients receive individualized care and services. 

Focus areas: 

  • Elevating patient’s voices and individuality 
  • Educational content 
  • Culture of trust and belonging 

Care delivery

Our priority is to partner with patients and community members along their entire life journey, ensuring all patients have the opportunity to achieve their best health. 

Focus areas: 

  • Data-centered approach to improve clinical care in diverse populations 
  • Integrating DEI methodologies into all work 

Employee experience

Our priority is to create a sense of belonging and drive employee engagement, motivation, and retention by listening to employee input and advancing inclusive programs and practices. 

 Focus areas: 

  • Culture of belonging, respect and acceptance 
  • Engagement opportunities where all employees feel welcomed, safe, heard, cared for and valued 
  • Inclusive recruitment and onboarding experience 

Community engagement

Our priority is to engage with our community partners to close health disparities, helping everyone achieve their best health. 

 Focus areas: 

  • Community Relationships for Health Equity 
  • Investing for Health Equity 
  • Environmental Justice 

Honoring Ethnic Heritage with Ezana Azene, MD


DEI accomplishments

Our work touches staff and patients, but it also extends beyond our walls at Gundersen. Here are some accomplishments we're proud to share:


  • Launched 12 months of celebration initiative, observing and recognizing:  
    • January: World religions  
    • February: Ethnic heritage  
    • March: Gender equity  
    • April: Social awareness  
    • May: Differently abled culture awareness   
    • June: Pride  
    • July: Unity together  
    • August: Multigenerational  
    • September: Cancer awareness  
    • October: Community wellness  
    • November: Service to others  
    • December: Kindness celebration  
  • Partnered with the Office of Population Health for Hmong Women Aged 50+ Health Event 
  • Redesigned and updated Hmong, Native American, Hispanic and Amish e-Learning course content for staff 
  • Developed phase 2 of unconscious bias training for leadership  


  • Partnered with the Office of Population Health for Hmong Women Aged 50+ Project: Breast Cancer Screening 
  • Joined American Hospital Association Institute for Diversity & Health Equity Pledge 
  • Developed pronouns e-Learning course for staff and launched pronouns badges  
  • Launched unconscious bias training for staff 


  • Created DEI pledge and 5-year strategic roadmap 
  • Invited Dr. Sheree Sekou, DEI inspirational speaker 
  • Established internal and external groups: core leadership, strategic partners, unity, and community partners  
  • Launched unconscious bias training for leaders 

1900 South Ave.
La Crosse, WI 54601

(608) 782-7300

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