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.

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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.


Simple Steps to Avoid Accidental Falls

September is Fall Prevention Month in Wisconsin. Falls threaten the independence and health of more than 100 older adults in Wisconsin every day. At Ministry Door County Medical Center, we have taken many steps to prevent falls for our patients, and we are proud to report that we’ve reduced accidental falls substantially at the hospital. But that’s not enough – we want to see the accidental fall rate in Door County homes decrease, too.

caregiverA majority of people admitted to the hospital are admitted because they have fallen. Many who are admitted to nursing homes have fallen in the past 30 days and one in ten of these individuals stay in the nursing home long-term. Even more frightening, an individual is more likely to die from a fall than a motor vehicle accident.

Here are some simple steps anyone can take to prevent falls and remain healthy, active members of our community.

  • Begin a regular exercise program that include strength and balance training. Ask your doctor or health care worker about the best exercises for you.
  • Have your medications checked by a professional. Some medicines, or combinations of medicines, can make you drowsy or light-headed, which can lead to a fall.
  • Have your vision checked by an eye doctor. Poor vision can increase your chances of falling.
  • Do a home safety check. Remove things you can trip over including small throw rugs, use non-slip mats in the bathtub or shower, improve the lighting in your home, and wear supportive shoes that with non-slip soles.

A little bit of prevention can go a long way in keeping older adults safe and active in our community. On behalf of Ministry, we wish everyone a safe September!

-Ellen Knipfer, Nurse Practitioner



A Sense of Responsibility: Becky Sickels-Wahlers Serves Orphanage in the Congo

Even as a child, Becky Sickels-Wahlers felt the desire to go to Africa to help others. “It was something I wanted to do from a very young age,” she says. “But then life happened, and I put it on the back burner for a long time.” Instead, Becky got busy raising a family and working as a registered nurse in Ministry Door County Medical Center’s Birthing Center, and later as a lactation consultant and obstetrical nurse in Ministry’s Women’s Center.

Then her mission called. “A new pastor came to our family’s church in Algoma, Lakeside Community Church, and he had connections with a grassroots movement that includes an orphanage in the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” she says. “As soon as I began to hear the story of this amazing place, the fire in me that I had stomped out was rekindled. I knew this was the right time to go.”

The orphanage, called Congo for Christ Center (CCC), also includes a church and a recently constructed school. The facility is located outside the city of Uvira, where local residents live in a subsistence economy and many orphaned children struggle to survive due to recent civil war and continued government corruption. The founder of the school, Pastor Rukukuye Jeremiah, established the orphanage in 2011, which now serves 57 children who live at the compound, located on a mountainside above the city.

Becky Sickels-Wahlers provides medical screening for a child, assisted by her daughter

Becky Sickels-Wahlers provides medical screening for a child, assisted by her daughter

Becky was granted a leave from Ministry, and in June she traveled to the Congo with her 17-year-old daughter Kaitlyn and a small group of teachers, health care workers and volunteers to spend 10 days at the orphanage. “As an RN, I was able to help provide basic health care to the children,” she says, “but there is no doctor.” Ministry Door County Medical Center donated medical supplies and multivitamins for children and staff, but Becky’s eyes were opened when she realized the facility lacked a safe and sanitary way to store the supplies. “There’s just one storage building, and it’s for everything – food, supplies and clothing. The children and ‘mamas’ (the term for the women who cook and care for the children) prayed that my husband would be able to return with me next time to build shelving.”


Becky with two young girls at the CCC orphanage.

Prayer infuses life at CCC. “Through daily worship, there is so much prayer and singing. There are three choirs, and they all sing at each service. Sometimes the teachers have to stop them or they would keep singing for hours!” Becky says that she has never felt closer to God than when she was at CCC.

During her stay, the newly constructed Mango Tree School was dedicated with great fanfare. The school serves the children at the orphanage as well as neighboring families, as local public schools are often corrupt and ineffectual. In true Congolese fashion, there were government officials, plenty of singing and speeches, and the ritual slaughtering of a cow that was cooked and shared as a meal with all of the attendees. Local families, who have endured exile, war and death, were overjoyed to have an educational opportunity for their children, and parents praised the school for its accomplishments.

Becky taught English and puberty class while visiting CCC, and she would notice groups of 12 and 13 year olds practicing what they learned with each other in the schoolyard. “How often do you see kids doing that?” she asks. “You can look at the people of CCC and truly say that they are among the poorest in the world,” says Becky. “But what I saw is that these children are incredibly goal-oriented and motivated to succeed and they can teach us that life isn’t about money or things.”

As Becky processes her experience, she knows that her trip to the Congo was not a “get it out of your system” experience. In speaking to community groups about the needs of the CCC, she shares the stories of the children who touched her. “I personally feel a sense of responsibility for the future of the CCC and specifically for the children there.” She hopes to continue to involve her church in the work of CCC, as well as support from Ministry.

Becky’s daughter Kaitlyn was also deeply affected by the trip. “She is headed to college next year, and is already looking into global health and nutritional studies programs,” says Becky.


Becky’s daughter Kaitlyn visits with a young child, with the CCC soccer field in the background.

“Becky embodies the spirit of Ministry,” says Ann Bretl, Becky’s colleague and supervisor in the Women’s Center at Ministry’s Sturgeon Bay clinic. “She understands that in caring for those who are the neediest, we are doing the most important work of all.”

As for Becky, she is changed, and grateful. “We were thanked, continually, for our work. But really, we were the ones who gained so much in forming these relationships that are given from God.”

To learn more about the CCC orphanage and school, visit and search “Mango Tree School.”