Making Bacon: Culinary Invention in Ministry’s Kitchen

Ministry’s culinary services department not only feeds hundred of employees, patients and visitors each day, but they also believe they can lay claim to the title of the only hospital in Wisconsin to cure and smoke their own bacon. Chef Eric VanAlstine leads a talented team of chefs, and he encourages them to do what they do best. That means pastry chefs Rebecca McDowell and Sandy Smith are always mixing up a creative dessert, while Chef John Vreeke uses homemade stocks to make mouthwatering soups. And Doug Meyer is curing the bacon.


“We acquired this wonderful Combitherm oven that roasts meats and keeps them moist. It’s great for leaner cuts such as pork butt,” says VanAlstine. One day Doug got the idea to smoke some of the pork’s “cap” to make “leaner” bacon, and it was a hit with patrons. He currently has 80 pounds of bacon curing in the walk-in cooler in preparation for Ministry’s holiday party. “We’ll use it for rumaki (bacon-wrapped water chestnuts), and to flavor other dishes as well,” he says. He will also smoke cheeses such as English cheddar and gouda to add extra flavor.

Doug’s ingenuity has led to ideas such as using the oven’s smokebox to smoke poblano peppers right on top of some of the pork bellies.  “This yielded some nice smoked poblanos, but we also tried to impart some of the pepper’s heat into the meat,” says Doug.


VanAlstine says that keeping things fresh in the kitchen is the key to keeping his employees engaged and pleasing his customers. “We really emphasize fresh-locally, made foods,” he says. And because VanAlstine has gathered culinary talent from some of Door County’s finest restaurants, there’s no shortage of creativity. “I can truly say that there’s not a restaurant I’ve worked at where I enjoyed working as much as I do here.”

Chef John Vreeke was inspired by Doug’s bacon to create this sandwich that was a hit during a recent lunch hour at the Ministry Cafeteria.


Grilled Apple, Bacon, and Cheddar Sandwich

Makes two sandwiches


4 slices bread of your choice (we use sourdough)

3 Tablespoons butter

8 oz. cheddar cheese, grated

1 apple, peeled and cored, sliced thin (about ¼ inch)

6 slices cooked, high quality bacon (or even better: Doug’s bacon!)

Butter one side of each slice of bread.  Place bread butter side down on a medium hot griddle or pan.  Top each slice of bread with 2 oz. of cheese.  Add a layer of sliced apple to two of the slices of bread, and three strips of cooked bacon to each of the other two slices.

When cheese begins to melt, combine an apple-topped slice with a bacon topped slice to make two sandwiches.  Continue to cook until golden brown, flipping once, for a total cook time of 5-8 minutes.

The Ministry Cafeteria serves breakfast from 7:00 am -9:30am (Mon-Fri), lunch from 11:30 am – 1:30pm (Daily) and supper from 5:30 pm -6:30pm (Daily). The public is welcome!


Ministry’s Nurse Navigators: Seeing patients through the journey

Arlene Junion and Jessica Kaye know that receiving a cancer diagnosis is not only life changing, but it can be mind altering, as well. “Once you hear those words, it’s hard to hear anything else,” says Junion. In their roles as Nurse Navigators at the Door County Cancer Center at Ministry Door County Medical Center, Junion and Kaye sheperd patients through the process of cancer care, from diagnosis to treatment to survivorship.

Jessica Kaye and Arlene Junion

Jessica Kaye and Arlene Junion

“We’re at the patient’s side during their initial consultations with surgeons, radiation oncology and medical oncology,” explains Junion. “Our role is to act as a scribe and an interpreter, to make sure the patient understands what providers are recommending. We’re also here as emotional support, which is so important during this process.”

Navigators stay in close contact with patients throughout the treatment process, checking in regularly both in person and by phone. “We also have a dedicated phone line, so patients can call us directly, anytime, to receive support and have their questions answered,” says Kaye.

The Door County Cancer Center, located inside the front door at Ministry’s Sturgeon Bay facility, is a collaborative including St. Vincent’s Hospital, Green Bay Oncology and other providers who care for Door County cancer patients. “We’re so lucky to have this cancer team here,” says Junion. “It’s the very same expert care you would get in a larger city, but it’s the doctor who does the traveling. It’s comfortable, and the care is close to home – which is so important for people struggling with a cancer diagnosis.”

For Jessica Kaye, working with oncology patients is its own reward. “I love helping people along the way,” she says. “For me, it’s all about the relationships. For breast cancer survivors, we are looking at up to 10 years post-diagnosis that we’ll be following up with them. It’s a great opportunity for a relationship that makes a difference.”

Arlene Junion also loves the personal nature of her work. “It’s amazing,” she says. “I’ve had patients who are going through some trying times, but they will remember what I’ve told them about my own family and asked me ‘How did your daughter’s birthday party go?’ Working with these people gives me a deep appreciation of my own life, and how generous in sprit people can be.”

For now, Ministry’s Nurse Navigators are working primarily with breast cancer patients, but there are plans to extend the services to patients with other diagnoses. “Patients have been very receptive so far,” says Kaye. “They’re grateful to have someone by their side during this process.”


Corn Cakes and Customer Care in the Ministry Kitchen

The first thing you notice when you tour Ministry’s spotless, well-appointed kitchen with food service director Eric VanAlstine is you’re introduced to every single member of the department staff. “I’d like you to meet Lori, she’s been with us for 10 years,” says VanAlstine, “she’s the gatekeeper to this place and it wouldn’t run without her.” Lori laughs and talks about her favorite part of the job. “It’s definitely the people,” she says.

The 24-person kitchen crew keeps things running smoothly, supplying food to 25 hospital patients and 30 nursing home residents. But the bulk of the kitchen’s work is to feed the hundreds of staff and visitors who come through Ministry’s cafeteria each day.

photo copy“I look forward to the salad bar every Tuesday,” says Robin Hamm-Jackson of the Ministry Foundation, who often stops in the cafeteria for lunch on the days when the chefs offer fresh salad with cheeses, veggies, meats and homemade dressings. “It’s so affordable and so tasty.”

Chefs offer up freshly made soups, pasta salads, and wholesome entrees. “We’re really all about promoting a healthy lifestyle for our employees and customers,” says VanAlstine. “And of course we like to give people what they want.”

photo 2Last week, that included fresh tuna steaks with Pico de Gallo (diced vegetable salsa). “You just don’t see that kind of food in cafeterias very often,” says VanAlstine, who, along with chef Steve Wisniewski, is a graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America. “We run this kitchen like a restaurant kitchen, not an institutional one.”

VanAlstine’s commitment to quality is evident in the feedback they receive from patients and customers. Currently, nutritional services boasts 99% customer satisfaction. But that’s never enough for VanAlstine. “We’re always looking at ways to improve,” he says. “And we all contribute ideas though our daily meetings.”

Wisniewski agrees, citing the fact that kitchen employees can multi-task and pitch in to do the work of another area of the kitchen if need be. “The right hand has to know what the left hand is doing,” he says. VanAlstine and Wisniewski themselves can often be found making rounds and delivering food to patients. “It’s a great opportunity for us to ask patients how they’re enjoying their stay, and to find out if there’s anything we can be doing better.”

Team members are a constant source for creative menu ideas. Here’s one developed by Chef Jason Nimmer. These corn cakes would be equally delicious as a brunch or lunch item served with a tossed green salad, or as a side dish with dinner.

Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 12.55.55 PM

Jason’s Corn Cakes

  • 2 cups frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha (prepared chili sauce, available in grocery stores)
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup chopped roasted red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped scallions or green onions
  • 1 teaspoon roasted garlic paste (or ¼ teaspoon garlic powder)
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
  • 2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper



Roast corn in 400 degree oven until it begins to turn brown. Remove and cool.

Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl. (if substituting garlic powder for garlic paste, add garlic powder to the dry ingredients)

Whisk the buttermilk and eggs until smooth. Whisk in Sriracha, mustard, and garlic paste. Stir in corn, peppers, and scallions. Add to dry ingredients and mix well.

Heat a small nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Pat about 1/3 cup mixture into cakes about ½ inch thick. Add to the hot skillet. Turn the cakes when the edges are browned. Cook until both sides are brown.

Serve topped with salsa.


From the Island to the Mainland, Ministry’s Nurse Practitioners Provide Quality Care

Nurse practitioner Barb Heilman takes the ferry to Washington Island each week, where she cares for many of the 700 year-round residents of the close-knit community at Ministry Door County Medical Center’s clinic. Like the other six nurse practitioners at Ministry Door County Medical Center, she works in consultation with physicians and other specialists to serve her patients. But on the island, Heilman and her counterpart, Holly Ullman-Herlache, also provide 24-hour care for residents.

“We’re the island’s urgent care, emergency care and advanced life support,” says Heilman. “We see everything from broken fingers to cardiac emergencies, and everything in between.” But for Heilman, it is building trusting relationships with patients that has yielded the greatest results. “You get to know and care about your patients,” she says, “and for me, that means all of my patients from the newborns to my oldest patient who is over one hundred years of age.”

Barb Heilman, FNP

Barb Heilman, BSN-RN, MSN, FNP-BC

Nurse practitioners (NPs) are professionals equipped with a four-year Registered Nursing degree as well as an advanced graduate degree and rich clinical experience. They can diagnose and prescribe as a physician can, and can specialize in everything from pediatrics to oncology. But the majority of NPs choose primary/family care – nationally, in 2012, 80 percent of NPs chose to specialize in primary care.

“Working in this unique setting, I really believe that being a nurse practitioner is the greatest job in the world. I have the time to spend with my patients, and the expertise to help them feel better. I have great relationships with my patients that are built over time.”

Nurse practitioner Hannah Sutrick, who works in Ministry’s Occupational Health Clinic in Sturgeon Bay, agrees. “As nurse practitioners, we are part of the team. Together, we are able to provide the most optimal patient-centered care.”

To make an appointment with a nurse practitioner, call Ministry Door County Medical Center at (920) 746-0510.



State-of-the-Art Technology Comes to Diagnostic Imaging Department

Ministry Door County Medical Center is only the third hospital in the nation to obtain state-of-the-art CT scanning technology that provides the clearest possible images for doctors to diagnose patients. CT scanners generate images that can be turned into three-dimensional pictures, enabling doctors to diagnose patients with a variety of symptoms such as headache, chest pain and abdominal pain.

CT Picture

“We’re thrilled to have this new technology,” says Amanda Feldbruegge, director of the Diagnostic Imaging department at Ministry. “This new, top-of-the-line scanner is both quicker and more comfortable for the patient, and reduces the radiation dose to the patient as well.”

One of the unique abilities of the new scanner is to eliminate the appearance of metal implants, such as artificial joints, on a scan. “It used to be difficult to obtain images from patients with everything from tooth fillings to hip replacements because the metal caused streaks on the images,” explains Feldbruegge. “This new technology allows us to see everything clearly.”

The CT scanner is just one of seven imaging services offered by Ministry’s Diagnostic Imaging department that provides services ranging from mammography and x-rays to bone density testing, nuclear medicine, ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). “We are already using the scanner to offer patients a new, low-dose lung cancer screening exam and our next step is to provide comprehensive cardiac CT testing. We’re looking forward to adding this service for the convenience and care of our local patients.”


American Diabetes Month and Your Health

Diabetes is one of the leading causes of disability and death in the United States. One in 11 Americans has diabetes – that’s more than 29 million people. And another 86 million adults in the United States are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Ministry Door County Medical Center is committed to leading community programs to prevent diabetes, as well as supporting those who are living with the disease. Ministry offers a unique program called “Living Well with Diabetes” every other month. Topics include setting nutrition goals, heart healthy dining, and understanding and managing diabetes.

Diabetes doing glucose level test. Vegetables in background

For Ministry dietitian Carmen Schroeder, the key to diabetes care is empowering patients to understand the disease and practice good self-care, especially through the foods they eat. “The class we offer is a great way to start the process of ongoing care. With diabetes, it’s all about staying informed and establishing that trusting relationship with your doctor. We’re here to teach, to support and to help diabetes patients begin the journey.”

“The incidence of prediabetes in increasing,” says Schroeder. “But the good news is, by making lifestyle changes in diet and exercise, type 2 diabetes can be prevented.” If you are overweight, have high blood pressure, or are age 45 or older, you are at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. “We’re working with more pre-diabetic patients than ever to help them make these changes and prevent this disease.”

Ministry is also working throughout the community to promote healthy lifestyles. “Ministry’s involvement in running events and silent sports, its workplace-based wellness programs, and its support of The Community’s Garden and Food for Health programs are just a few examples of how we’re leading the area in efforts that can help prevent chronic disease such as diabetes,” says Matt Luders, Health & Wellness Executive at Ministry.

The next “Living Well with Diabetes” class begins December 3, 2014. To learn more about the class or to speak with a dietitian, call Ministry North Shore Medical Clinic at (920) 746-0510.


The Door County Cancer Center Makes a Difference for Local Patients

A colonoscopy never tops anyone’s to-do list as a favorite activity. However, when local patients John Acker and Pete Evans were diagnosed with colon cancer after undergoing the routine procedure, they were grateful to have caught their cancer in the early stages. They were also glad that the Door County Cancer Center at Ministry Door County Medical Center could offer them state-of-the-art cancer care in a local setting.

Acker is an active 80-year-old who still reports to work as CEO of Therma-Tron-X, Inc. three days a week. When his routine colonoscopy with Dr. Kurt Scheer of Lake Side Surgical Associates looked suspicious, he quickly sought care at the Door County Cancer Center. In addition to surgery with Dr. Scheer, Acker was cared for by Dr. Anthony Jaslowski of Green Bay Oncology. Green Bay Oncology and Radiation Oncology Specialists of Green Bay partner with the St. Vincent Regional Cancer Center to offer patient care right on Ministry’s main campus in Sturgeon Bay.

Caring Elderly ConceptOne year later, Acker is cancer free, and still reporting to work and enjoying life in Sturgeon Bay. “You couldn’t find a more caring bunch of nurses, doctors and receptionists than at the Door County Cancer Center,” says Acker. “And it’s such a convenience having such high quality of care right here in Sturgeon Bay.”

Pete Evans of Sister Bay was prompted to begin routine colonoscopies when his older brother was diagnosed with precancerous spots on his colon. Now 64, Evans was diagnosed with colon cancer after what was only his third colonoscopy with Dr. Sean Melarvie. He too sought care at the Door County Cancer Center. “My oncologist, Dr. Mitch Winkler of Green Bay Oncology, was just fantastic,” says Evans. “And when I was in the hospital at Ministry Door County Medical Center after my surgery, the care I received was really something. Even the hospital administrators came in to check on me, to see if my stay was going well, and to ask if there was anything I needed. I think that says a lot.”

Two years later, Evans is healthy and enjoying retirement, finding time to play his guitar and mandolin. “We’re so lucky to have the Door County Cancer Center right here,” he says. “It’s excellent care, and when you’re going through a cancer diagnosis, it means so much to have it right here at home.”


Shop and Dine Raises Funds for The Healing Project

On Saturday, October 18, 2014, Shop and Dine Day will help raise money for The Healing Project, a program that provides free integrative health care services to men and women in Door County who are living with cancer.

Shop and Dine Day is sponsored by Ministry Door County Medical Center, The Community Clinic of Door County, and the Sturgeon Bay Visitor Center. Local businesses pledge to donate 10% or more of their sales on the day to provide services to local cancer patients including counseling, massage, therapeutic yoga, acupuncture, and healing touch therapy.

Local businesses participating in this year’s event are: Bliss, Bluefront Cafe, Child’s Play, Cornucopia, Door County Eye Associates, Door County Hardware, the Draft Haus, Glas, the Madison Avenue Wine Shop, Monticello on Jefferson, On Deck, Saguaro Day Spa, Scaturo’s Baking Company and Cafe, Sherry’s Hallmark, Sonny’s Pizza, T. Simon Jewelers, The Clippers Mate, Wilkins & Olander, The Hairapist is IN, and the Alley Katz Boutique.

ShopandDineWe hope to see you out and about on October 18!




Ministry’s Occupational Health Dept. Keeps Students and Teachers on the Job

Southern Door Schools superintendent Patti Vickman knows that learning begins with health. That’s why she helped build a partnership with Ministry Door County Medical Center’s Occupational Health Department that brings a school nurse and other support services to the school. “Ministry is a trusted, local source for health care, and through partnering with them, we get access to so many other resources,” she says. “The bottom line is, they’re helping our students learn and achieve.”

Registered nurse Aprill Soto leads the partnership between Ministry’s Occupational Health Department and Southern Door by overseeing care plans for children and providing health information to staff. There is also a licensed LPN is at the school daily, administering medication and handling students’ immediate health needs, and Ministry pediatrician Dr. Amy Fogerty serves as medial director for the school. “We also work with the lunch staff to keep children with food allergies safe, and monitor children’s records to make sure immunizations are up to date,” says Vicki Zenz LeFevre, manager of Occupational Health and Wellness at Ministry.

SONY DSCThe school nurse program is just one way that Ministry’s Occupational Health Program is caring for people at Southern Door Schools. “This fall, we’re busy providing new teacher and bus driver physicals, to make sure they’re ready to care for the children,” says Zenz LeFevre. Ministry provides vaccines for staff, as well as pre-employment screenings. Ministry also works closely with Door County Public Health to curtail disease outbreaks, such as the outbreak of pertussis that occurred in 2013.

Southern Door Schools are one of many Door County businesses that benefit from Ministry’s Occupational Health facility, located just across the street from Ministry’s main campus on 16th Place in Sturgeon Bay. “The goal of occupational health is to keep people – including students – safe, healthy and productive,” says Matt Luders, health and wellness executive at Ministry. “It’s a benefit to employers as well as employees.”


Breast Surgery Specialist Brings Expertise to Door County Cancer Center

Lake Side Surgical Associates and Ministry Door County Medical Center are pleased to announce the addition of Dr. Gwenn Pavlovitz to their general surgery team. “In response to community need and patient requests, we have been searching for a surgeon who specializes in breast surgery, and we’re thrilled to have found a surgeon with the outstanding qualifications of Dr. Pavlovitz,” says Mike Herlache, administrator of Lake Side Surgical Associates. “Her skills will complement our team of experienced surgeons, Dr. Melarvie and Dr. Scheer, and her specialization will ensure that local residents can get expert breast surgical care right here in Door County.”


Ministry’s chief nursing officer, Jody Boes, RN, says that Dr. Pavlovitz will add to the experience of patients at the Door County Cancer Center at Ministry. “When a women receives a breast cancer diagnosis, it can be devastating, and you can feel lost. It’s so important to have options. Dr. Pavlovitz brings expertise, compassion and dedication to women who choose breast surgery, adding to an already outstanding general surgery team.”

Dr. Pavlovitz has more than 30 years of experience in general surgery and breast surgery. She served patients in Milwaukee through Aurora Advanced Healthcare, as well as working as a clinical instructor in surgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin. As a surgeon at Lake Side Surgical Associates, she will have surgical privileges at Ministry Door County Medical Center, and serve as part of the integrated Door County Cancer Center facility.

“It’s so important to see the whole person through the journey of diagnosis and surgery,” says Pavlovitz. “Cancer patients see so many providers throughout their medical journey, and I enjoy being there throughout the process, to provide thorough follow up and appropriate care.”

Dr. Pavlovitz will perform image-guided breast biopsy, breast cancer surgery and a full complement of general surgery procedures beginning in October. “I am looking forward to joining Dr. Melarvie and Dr. Scheer to provide the best care possible to local patients,” says Pavlovitz.