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From EMT to MD: Gundersen doctors aim to inspire healthcare careers

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Two doctors standing side by side.
From left, Mike Zimmer, MD; and Daniel Cox, MD

Gundersen physicians Mike Zimmer, MD; and Daniel Cox, MD, rely on emergency medical technicians (EMTs) to help save lives.  

EMTs care for patients on-scene and en route to our La Crosse Hospital, where Drs. Zimmer and Cox staff the Emergency Department. The critical information EMTs share with doctors leads to informed decisions that improve care.  

For Drs. Zimmer and Cox, EMT was their first step into practice. They hope their career journey inspires you to take that first – or next – step in healthcare. 

“If we can encourage and empower folks in our community to think about a career as a paramedic, EMT, physical therapist or nurse, that’s an even bigger contribution to the community than what we can do as individual providers,” Dr. Cox said. 

First a Gundersen EMT, then a Gundersen MD  

Dr. Cox’s medical career began two decades ago during his service in Okinawa, Japan. He began as a corpsman in the local hospital, then a field medic, and later, an emergency room technician.  

He joined Gundersen as an EMT in 2007 while pursuing his undergraduate degree before enrolling at the University of Minnesota Medical School. 

“When I was deciding where I wanted to practice medicine after residency, I kept going back to Gundersen,” he said. “Every other emergency department I visited just didn’t measure up. There was more bickering. The community wasn’t the same. Gundersen just has a great culture.” 

Dr. Cox returned to Gundersen as an emergency room physician 12 years after he first joined us as an EMT.  

“I love emergency medicine because you really get to see everything,” he said. “We might not have all the answers right away, but we’re working as a team to get our patients to the right place . . . to help them feel better.”  

Even now, doctor relies on EMT skills  

Like his colleague, Dr. Zimmer relies on his EMT background to help patients who need care and answers. He also serves as the medical director at Gundersen Tri-County Hospital and Clinics in Whitehall, Wis.  

“Starting any medical career as an EMT exposes you to on-the-job experience and hands-on learning. After a year or two, you can take that next step into nursing, medical school or physical therapy,” he said. “This avenue also builds trust between you and the nurses and doctors in the Emergency Department.” 

How to become an EMT

If you’re interested in becoming an emergency medical technician, explore these programs: 

Gundersen needs EMTs like you. Take your first step to join our team. 


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1900 South Ave.
La Crosse, WI 54601

(608) 782-7300

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