“I’ve kind of got one of those jobs that allows me to be all over the place,” Eric Bashaw said.
As director of environmental compliance at Gundersen Health System, he’s not kidding: Bashaw goes from patients’ rooms all the way down to the basement.
From overseeing best practices in waste management, all the way through environmental and chemical safety, Bashaw handles everything from pharmaceutical to lab waste, and he works tirelessly with others to enhance the health of those who visit Gundersen, as well as those who visit the La Crosse area.
That means a lot of government work, but Bashaw says he’s likely one of the only people you’ll meet who will actually admit, “I love working with the government.”
“Instead of working against it,” he quickly added.
That really has to do with his own efforts, and those of his colleagues, to remain transparent and forthright.
“There’s never misunderstandings or confusion if you’re up front,” he said.
He got his undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, and went to Madison for his graduate work. He’s working on his MBA at Viterbo University.
His colleague, Mark Platt, who nominated Bashaw for Rising Stars Under 40, said he’s watched the young man develop into an innovative thinker, always putting patients first.
“Eric has been recognized at the national level through Practice GreenHealth as leading one of the top environmental initiatives for Gundersen,” Platt said. “He supervises and directs the activity of numerous staff, and is responsible for significant operating expense control and the management of major capital spending.”
That means Bashaw works hand-in-hand with such agencies as the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation.
“I’m never going to save someone’s life,” Bashaw said, “but there are ways, many of them, to put the patient first.”
Why is that important to him?
“They’re part of our community,” he said. “It gives them a value beyond what can be described.”
In the greater community, Bashaw works with nonprofits to secure donations to help their various causes, and he’s noted for his work with the heroin task force, as well as running a pharmaceutical take-back program at Gundersen.
He advises other young up-and-coming leaders to take as much away from their experiences as possible.
“Try it all,” Bashaw said. “You never know. It surprises me how much I use physics on a daily basis.”
But, he said, he also learned valuable lessons from unloading trucks at a local super store chain.
“It means something,” he said. “You just never know when you’ll need it.”
You’ll also need honesty, commitment and confidence in your work, and that requires two other elements Bashaw has learned along the way.
“Be who you are,” he said.
And, even more simply put:
“You just have to learn.”