Gov. Scott Walker was back in La Crosse on Monday for the first time since winning the historic recall election, and he promised to return often despite losing the county to Democrat Tom Barrett.
Walker toured Gundersen Lutheran’s new Integrated Center for Education as part of his post-election tour of the state.
Despite winning here in 2010 and widening his margin of victory last week in 53 counties, Walker lost the county this time around by about 2,000 votes. He declined to speculate why.
The Republican governor cautioned against personalizing differences in politics and said the majority of state business is not partisan.
“The election is over,” he said. “There is no opponent.”
The media event was attended by two Democratic legislators, Rep. Jill Billings of La Crosse and Rep. Steve Doyle of Onalaska, who plan to attend a bipartisan cookout today at the governor’s residence in Madison.
Located in the basement of the former Gund Brewery ice house, the $2 million surgical training center includes a full-size operating room with an automated mannequin patient and computerized monitors that can track a doctor’s every move during training.
Dr. Jeff Thompson, Gundersen’s chief executive, said the center is a long-term investment that will help the hospital attract top students.
The governor tried out a laproscopic training table that allows surgeons to hone their skills working inside a container meant to simulate a patient’s abdomen. Surgical residents use the device to practice cutting shapes from cloth, tying knots and even peeling grapes, said Dr. Shanu Kothari. Surgery is moving in the same direction as air travel, where pilots practice first in simulators, Kothari said.
Watching on a video monitor, Walker used tiny pliers on the ends of steel rods to move a pencil holder from one peg to another. He dropped the rubber triangle, prompting Doyle to quip that he should stick to politics.
On a serious note, Walker touted the hospital’s role in creating jobs: Not only does Gundersen employ more than 6,000 people, its ongoing clinic expansion is responsible for about 200 construction-related jobs and its cost-effective care creates a draw for other businesses.
“You guys are making it happen right here in the western part of Wisconsin,” Walker said. “We’re proud of the great assets we have in the state — Gundersen Lutheran is part of that.”