Northern Wisconsin

What in the world is wilderness medicine?
Vilas County's Great Headwaters Trails
James Beck Cancer Center
People who have a difficult time hearing can take advantage of new technology
Upgraded CT scanner accurately delivers less radiation to produce improved images
If you have acute and chronic pain, the Pain Control Center can help
Ministry Behavioral Health Offers Stress Training

What in the world is wilderness medicine?

Wilderness medicine is a rapidly evolving field of medicine that trains healthcare providers to provide vital emergency care and meet the unique challenges and emergencies that occur in remote settings far from traditional medical care.

As more people take hiking, biking and kayaking trips into back-country areas, it is a field of medicine that is gaining more interest.

Thomas Marren, MD, a primary care physician at Ministry Medical Group in Eagle River, Tomahawk and Woodruff, has been interested in wilderness medicine since he was 10 years old. “When my dad and I were on a fishing trip, he hooked his lip and tongue with the hook,” Dr. Marren said. “I had to use the rusty pliers to remove the hook. That was my introduction to wilderness medicine. I’ve been fascinated by it ever since.”

Most wilderness emergencies will not occur in the presence of a physician, so it’s prudent to at least familiarize yourself with wilderness medicine first aid before trekking into the wilds of northern Wisconsin.

 “Wilderness medicine is something that everyone should consider if they are traveling to the rugged wilderness of a national park, traveling to a third-world country or hiking in the 40-acre woods,” said Dr. Marren. “It’s relevant for rock climbers, hunters, hikers, kayakers and people who like to chop down trees for firewood. Emergencies can, and do, happen anywhere.

“For the average person, it requires a little practical knowledge of first-aid, which can be found in most first-aid guides, the ability to think on your feet, and the ability to provide vital medical care in remote locations using the materials that you have at your disposal,” said Dr. Marren.

The first Wilderness Medicine Fellowship was established by Stanford University School of Medicine in 2003 and has defined the specialty of Wilderness Medicine. The one-year program provides physicians with hands-on training in the areas of wilderness trauma, hyperbaric and marine medicine, tropical and travel medicine, rescue and survival, mountaineering medicine, and animal hazards.

Be prepared

 “You can take care of almost any wilderness emergency with supplies from a basic first-aid kit and other items that you can find at your local hardware store,” said Dr. Marren. “With these basic first-aid supplies in your survival kit, you can cover wounds, stop bleeding, make splints, remove splinters and ticks, and close open wounds. They may also help you stay dry until first responders or emergency medical technicians (EMTs) arrive or until you can get to a medical facility.

Seven precautions to consider before you venture out

  1. Always tell someone where you are going and how long you plan to be gone. Giving someone your itinerary is always a good idea.
  2. Always use sunscreen and other supplies to prevent sun exposure, especially if you are traveling to a mountainous region. You will burn and blister more easily at higher elevations.
  3. If you need an EpiPen® or nitroglycerin, make sure that you store them according to directions. They may not be effective if they are stored in your car – neither the EpiPen nor the nitro will work as expected after freezing or after being exposed to high heat. Nitro also has a short shelf-life, so check your dates before you venture out.
  4. Learn about your surroundings. Take some time to investigate the hazards that exist in the area where you will be traveling.
  5. Learn the location of the nearest medical facility.
  6. Dress and pack appropriately. Remember, in cold and wet conditions, cotton kills. Make sure that you dress and pack appropriate clothing for your destination — from your hat to your footwear.
  7. Ask yourself, “What would happen if you cut yourself? Would you know how to stop the bleeding? What if you broke your leg or your ankles? How would you get back to civilization? If you were stranded, in the cold, how would you stay warm?”
  8. Invest sometime in first-aid training.

A little thoughtful planning before you go, can make a world of difference in the event of an accident or injury.

Dr. Marren hopes to develop a wilderness medicine clinic in the future to help people who live, vacation or hunt in northern Wisconsin be prepared for emergencies.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Marren in Eagle River, call 715.477.3000; in Tomahawk, call 715.453.7200; and in Woodruff, call 715.356.8920.


Visitors and residents of Vilas County can look forward to keeping in shape on the Great Headwaters Trails

Ministry Medical Group in Eagle River, and Ministry Eagle River Memorial Hospital, recently contributed $500 to support the Great Headwaters Trails (GHT). GHT exists to create a 40-mile system of family-friendly community walking and biking trails for eastern Vilas County. The Great Headwaters Trails board is committed to having the whole trail system in place by 2020.

GHT is committed to working with the county, the municipalities, trail organizations and other service and business groups in the area to find ways to make the trail development plans as beneficial as possible to everyone.

“The contribution from Ministry Health Care will support our efforts to construct Great Headwaters Trails,” said Gary Meister, GHT board member. “Our ultimate goal is to create a trail system, which members of our community and visitors can utilize to stay active while enjoying the beautiful scenery of our region.”

“We are dedicated to promoting healthy lifestyles and the opportunity to assist Great Headwaters Trails in their efforts fits complements our mission at Ministry Health Care,” said Elmer Linboom, MD, family practice physician at Ministry Medical Group in Eagle River. “We look forward to supporting GHT throughout their goal of completing the trail system.”

GHT is an all-volunteer organization and is always looking for energetic people with skills in engineering, law, marketing, finance and other important areas. More than 20 people are working to bring the GHT System to eastern Vilas County.

For more information about Great Headwaters Trails or to make a donation, please visit GHT also invites you to donate at Trig’s in Eagle River. If you mark “61S” on receipts from any Trig’s supermarket and drop them off at the Eagle River store, a percentage of your purchase amount will go to GHT.

Another easy way to assist the effort is by recycling your aluminum cans. When you take your aluminum cans to the Eagle Waste Recycling center, tell the attendant that you want the proceeds to go to Great Headwaters Trails.


Patients have access to state-of-the-art care at James Beck Cancer Center

Patients in northern Wisconsin now have access to state-of-the-art cancer care at the James Beck Cancer Center. The newly installed TrueBeam Linear Accelerator provides technology that makes it a better option for patients.

The TrueBeam Linear Accelerator delivers more powerful cancer treatments with pinpoint accuracy and precision, and opens the door to new possibilities for the treatment of lung, breast, prostate, head and neck, as well as other cancers that are treatable with radiotherapy.

 “The TrueBeam technology decreases the total treatment time for patients,” said Peter Heiberger, MS, medical physicist at the James Beck Cancer Center. “The technology allows us to target the tumor region more accurately, which allows us to preserve the normal tissue around the tumor.”

During the procedure, the patient is more comfortable because they do not have to lie on a hard table for an extended treatment time. While patients are being treated, a sensitive communication system allows the patient and the therapist to hear each other at all times, and the therapist is always able to see the patient.

During the procedure, the lights are dimmed and patients can listen to soft music while they focus on pleasant imagery.

The Truebeam Linear Accelerator also may decrease the number of treatment sessions a patient needs from up to 45 to less than five.

The very first patient treated with the TrueBeam Linear Accelerator at the James Beck Cancer Center was Richard Weibel.

At the time, Weibel was 60 years old. Diagnosed with prostate cancer in March of 2009, he began his radiation treatment at James Beck with the Truebeam Linear Accelerator in November 2013. He continued treatment until January 2014.

When asked about his experience, Weibel said it was comfortable getting treatment at the James Beck Cancer Center. He appreciated the fact that he did not have to travel far for his treatment; he also commented that the staff was extremely friendly and took care of everything for him.

During his treatments, he didn’t even realize that anything was happening. He was aware of the music playing and was so relaxed that he actually took a couple of catnaps while on the table during his treatment.


People who have a difficult time hearing can take advantage of new technology.

The audiology department at Ministry Medical Group in Rhinelander is proud to be a CaptionCall® provider.

CaptionCall is a revolutionary new telephone and transcription service for anyone who has trouble hearing on the phone. In addition to providing exceptional sound quality with customizable audio settings based on the patient’s unique audiogram, CaptionCall uses voice recognition technology and a fast transcription service to provide written captions of what callers say on a large, easy-to-read screen.

CaptionCall allows people experiencing hearing deficits to communicate confidently with friends, family and colleagues on the telephone. The equipment is free for a limited time to patients who qualify. While hearing loss affects millions of people for many different reasons – age, illness, injury, loud working conditions, and military service among them – it doesn’t have to limit the quality of their phone conversations.

“Communicating through the telephone can be challenging for those who are hearing impaired and this technology allows us to better serve our patients,” said Karen Teter, doctor of audiology, Ministry Medical Group in Rhinelander.

“CaptionCall will also assist the individual by better connecting them to family and friends,” said Heidi Grosskopf, doctor of audiology, Ministry Medical Group in Rhinelander.

The CaptionCall phone, combined with the free-captioning service and friendly customer support, enables people everywhere to get more from their phone conversations — and from life.

For more information on Ministry ENT and audiology services in Rhinelander, call 715.361.4560. In Eagle River, call 715.477.3000, and in Tomahawk, please call 715.453.7200, or visit


Upgraded CT scanner accurately delivers less radiation to produce improved images

Patients in need of a computed tomography or CT scan at Ministry Eagle River Memorial Hospital (MERMH) will receive the service more quickly and efficiently, thanks to the installation of a new Siemens, 64-slice CT unit in the hospital’s diagnostic imaging department.

CT scans utilize X-rays to create detailed medical diagnostic imaging from inside the body. The CT scan is valuable in the diagnosis and detection of cancer, trauma and causes of pain in the chest, abdomen and head.

“The new CT scanner requires less radiation dose and improves image quality,” said Theodore Shinners, MD, Ministry Medical Group. “The examinations are also performed in a shorter period of time which allows for an improved image quality.”

While the speed is one benefit of advanced medical imaging, accuracy is another. The upgraded CT scanner at Ministry Eagle River Memorial has the ability to determine the correct radiation dose based on the patient’s size. The dose reduction technology built into the new scanner allows patients to receive a high quality exam at a significantly reduced dose.

“The biggest advantage of the scanner is the dose modulation is automated,” added Dr. Shinners. “Its automation is especially beneficial for larger and smaller patients as the amount of radiation is based on the individual’s size. It allows for diagnostic image quality to remain constant among varying sizes, from children to adults.”

Dose reduction is most important in pediatrics given a patient’s young age. “With the upgrade in technology, the system is automated as it adjusts to the individual patient,” said Dr. Shinners. “It customizes the dose to the size of the patient and the type of the exam. That allows for a significant reduction in radiation dose to smaller patients, which is an important benefit for pediatrics and young adults who are at most risk related to radiation exposure.”

It’s not common to see an advanced CT scanner in a rural community. “For a critical access hospital like Ministry Eagle River Memorial to have this caliber of a scanner is tremendous,” said Mike DeBay, radiology director, Ministry Eagle River Memorial, and Ministry Sacred Heart and Ministry Saint Mary’s Hospitals. “The 64-slice CT scanner in the City of Eagle River aligns them with larger facilities in healthcare.”

While the focus is on keeping patients first, there are advantages for Ministry’s staff. “From a technologist’s standpoint, the functionality of the new CT scanner is very friendly, which allows the hospital to utilize its staff if needed across the region, from Ministry Eagle River Memorial to Ministry Saint Mary’s in Rhinelander,” added DeBay.

In addition to the new scanner at Ministry Eagle River Memorial, Ministry Health Care was also able to purchase a new CT scanner for Ministry Saint Mary’s Hospital in Rhinelander.


If you have acute and chronic pain, the Pain Control Center can help.

Gurkirpal S. Sikka, MD, and his specially trained staff at the Pain Control Center understand pain and are interested in reducing your pain issues. The goal of this experienced pain management team is to provide patients with an improved quality of life and to allow them to experience an adequate level of comfort.

The Pain Control Center team specializes in the treatment of acute and chronic pain with a holistic approach. They use interventional-pain-medicine procedures to treat various conditions such as low-back pain, neck pain, accident-related discomfort, myofascial pain and nerve pain, such as shingles.

Treatments may include epidural-steroid injections, facet-joint injections, nerve blocks, trigger-point injections, spinal-cord stimulator placements, placement of long-term pain pumps and radiofrequency ablation.

Dr. Sikka, current medical director, founded The Pain Control Center in Rhinelander in 1985. The American Board of Anesthesiology in Pain Medicine recently recertified Dr. Sikka, who is also board certified in critical care. He practices pain medicine at Ministry Saint Mary’s Hospital in Rhinelander.

To schedule an appointment, please call 715.361.2113.


Ministry Behavioral Health Offers Stress Training

Ministry Behavioral Health in Rhinelander is offering free training on Mindfulness for Stress: Simple Practices for Everyday Use. Mindfulness for Stress is a beneficial program for anyone who wants to improve coping, flexibility and peace during encounters with the physical and mental challenges of life.

For more information, please contact Dena, Ministry Behavioral Health at 715.361.2923.


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