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Published on August 16, 2018

Dr. Benden in Nicaragua with Global Partners

Service beyond self with Global Partners

At her seldom-used desk in her La Crosse office, busy Gundersen gynecologic surgeon Dana Benden, MD, fills plastic tubs with leftover supplies she will bring on her next volunteer trip to Nicaragua.

The odds and ends from surgeries and procedures cannot be used stateside. But these materials are in great demand in the Matagalpa Region, where Gundersen Global Partners, a Gundersen Medical Foundation program, has maintained a presence for nearly 10 years.

Dr. Benden so deeply believes in the Global Partners mission that she's traveled with the group about 10 times since 2013. She picked up the volunteering torch from her late medical partner and dear friend, Rick Renwick, MD. Dr. Renwick died in 2013 when his small-engine plane crashed in northern Wisconsin.

"Part of my work is teaching local providers to learn and understand what they have for resources and barriers," Dr. Benden says. "They will have barriers we haven't thought of and that problem solving and collaboration is one of the best experiences I have."

Access to screenings that detect cervical cancer early, when it is most curable, is limited in the region Global Partners serves. Women in rural Nicaragua simply cannot reach distant medical centers and do not get regular gynecologic exams like in the U.S.

Dr. Benden travels to Nicaragua with Global Partners twice a year or more, where she conducts as many cervical cancer screenings and surgeries as she can and trains local providers, who in turn train others. Sustainability is at the core of Global Partners' mission.

"It is a fulfilling experience on so many levels," Dr. Benden says. "Volunteering gives insight into what it is like to be in a place with few resources, but also there are the similarities. People care about their families and helping each other. Those things feel very familiar."

To learn more about volunteering with Global Partners or donating to the program, visit

Global Partners was created in 2008 with a vision of empowering global and local communities to improve their health and quality of life. Our mission—funded entirely by philanthropy— is to improve the health and well-being of the global communities we serve by inspiring volunteerism. Global Partners is working in South Dakota, Nicaragua, Ethiopia and the Coulee Region. In return, these partnerships enhance the greater La Crosse community with new relationships and contribute to broader cultural understanding.

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