Distinguished Alum discusses partnership, sustainability

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Dr. Jeff Thompson

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — Dr. Jeffrey Thompson recently visited the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and engaged campus and community members in discussions about enriching the tri-state area through partnership, innovation and sustainability. He was the second presenter in UW-Platteville’s Road to Excellence speaker series, designed to foster discussion about the university’s strategic plan.

Thompson grew up in Platteville and is a 1974 graduate of UW-Platteville. He received his medical degree from UW-Madison and specializes in neonatal and pediatric medicine. He has served as chief executive officer of Gundersen Health System in La Crosse, Wis., since 2001, where his leadership has garnered international attention for the organization’s success in decreasing healthcare costs and enhancing the well being of the community by launching sustainability efforts and setting a goal of achieving energy independence.

“The first thing is to face what you are doing; what is our impact?” explained Thompson.  Thompson noted that in 2008 Gundersen answered this question by conducting an audit to determine the amount of pollutants they released. This set the organization into motion, and their accomplishments over the next several years included completely eliminating Styrofoam, implementing a comprehensive waste management program, increasing the solid waste stream recycling rate by approximately 35 percent, reducing cafeteria pre-consumer food waste by more than 70 percent and donating leftover food to shelters.

Other initiatives include a partnership with La Crosse County to convert a landfill’s waste biogas into electricity and heat, construction of a biomass boiler that burns local hardwood chips to produce electricity and heat, wind turbines and an anaerobic digester.

“It was great to learn more about a UW-Platteville alumnus who is now a national leader in sustainability,” said Amy Seeboth, UW-Platteville sustainability coordinator. “Dr. Thompson spoke about how sustainability practices have not only helped to bring down operating costs for Gundersen, but also that these initiatives minimize pollution and therefore lead to healthier people. UW-Platteville has been taking steps to minimize our environmental impact by installing energy efficient lighting, improving insulation, instituting a compost program at Bridgeway Commons and promoting recycling. We are making great strides and look to Gundersen for inspiration and leadership.”

After the presentation, Thompson continued discussions throughout the day, meeting with the Enriching the Tri-States and Control Our Own Destiny strategic plan priority groups. For more information on UW-Platteville’s strategic plan, visit the website.

Written by: Alison Parkins, UW-Platteville University Information and Communications, (608) 342-1526, parkinsal@uwplatt.edu

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