Posted 1:25 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024

UWL Professor Tom Kernozek, a leading expert on biomechanics and injury prevention, will share his expertise as a member of Gov. Tony Evers' Task Force on the Healthcare Workforce.

Kernozek, known for work in physical therapy, named to governor's healthcare task force

As a longtime professor of health professions/physical therapy and the founding director and accomplished researcher of the La Crosse Institute for Movement Science, Tom Kernozek has a keen understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of Wisconsin’s healthcare system.  

Now, he will be using that expertise to help move the state forward. 

Kernozek was one of 25 people appointed to Gov. Tony Evers’ Task Force on the Healthcare Workforce, announced on Tuesday, Feb. 6. The group, led by Lt. Gov. Sara Rodriguez, is charged with studying the workforce challenges facing the state’s health care system, identifying ways to improve patient care and alleviate burdens, exploring educational pathways to grow a sustainable workforce, and creating a solution-oriented action plan for consideration in the governor’s 2025-27 executive budget.

“I am very honored to serve on this task force,” Kernozek says. “I’ve been here 27 years, and La Crosse is a special place to me. It will be great to represent our institution, faculty and students. Regional campuses like UW-La Crosse have a very important role in providing quality healthcare practitioners who meet workforce needs in the state and to our regional healthcare partners.” 

Kernozek says regional campuses like UWL are key to producing quality healthcare workers and improving community health outcomes.

Public conversations around the healthcare workforce often center on nursing, and for good reason, as skilled nurses are always in high demand.  

But the industry includes many other types of practitioners and educators who are integral to a strong healthcare system. 

“Nursing is a great profession and is always one of the priority areas on the list,” Kernozek says. “However, there are significant healthcare practitioner shortages in many other fields, such as occupational therapy, physician assistant studies, physical therapy, radiation therapy, nuclear medicine technology, and imaging fields like radiography and sonography.   

“These are many of the programs that UW-La Crosse effectively provides for our state and region. It is time to broaden this conversation to foster what we can deliver to meet the governor’s executive order.” 

Kernozek hopes to address challenges around the recruitment and retention of healthcare educators, stemming from salary discrepancies between educational roles and clinical roles. 

He also supports efforts to bolster campus-community partnerships, such as those between UWL, Mayo Clinic Health System and Gundersen Health System.  

“I hope to be able to articulate how important regional campuses are to the solution of meeting the healthcare workforce needs of Wisconsin,” says Kernozek, noting how universities play a key role in not just workforce development, but also in community service, outreach and research. "I am hopeful that others on the task force can see how these issues can benefit the workforce of our state.” 

Kernozek is joined on the task force by two dozen healthcare professionals from across the state: 

  • Lt. Gov. Sara Rodriguez, chair;   
  • Secretary Amy Pechacek, Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, co-vice chair;   
  • Secretary Kirsten Johnson, Wisconsin Department of Health Services, co-vice chair;   
  • Danielle Cook, education director for Health Sciences, Wisconsin Technical College System;  
  • John Raymond Sr., MD, professor of Medicine, president and CEO, Medical College of Wisconsin;   
  • Shawn Lerch, CEO, Sauk Prairie Healthcare;   
  • Joyce Mallory, community engagement manager, Heroes for Healthcare;   
  • Sondra Norder, executive committee member, LeadingAge Wisconsin, president and CEO, St. Paul Elder Services Inc.;   
  • Janet Zander, advocacy and public policy coordinator, Greater Wisconsin Agency on Aging Resources Inc.;   
  • Rick Abrams, CEO, Wisconsin Health Care Association/Wisconsin Center for Assisted Living;   
  • Heather Schimmers, president, Gundersen Health System;  
  • Robyn Woolever, director of Integrated Care Services, Children’s Wisconsin;   
  • Sharon Cox, vice president/chief nursing officer, Beloit Health System;   
  • Eric Humphrey, board chair, Center for Healthcare Careers of SE Wisconsin, chief human resources officer, Froedert ThedaCare Health;   
  • Stacey Zellmer, EMT Advanced, vice president, Wisconsin EMS Association, Board of Directors;   
  • Gina Dennik-Champion, executive director, Wisconsin Nurses Association;   
  • Barbara Nichols, executive director, Wisconsin Center for Nursing;  
  • Wendy Molaska, MD, past president, Wisconsin Medical Society, owner of private practice;   
  • Dakota Kaiser, PhD, psychologist, director of integrated services, Bridge Community Health Clinic;   
  • Dr. Amy Domeyer-Klenske, associate professor of OBGYN, UW-Madison, chair, Wisconsin Section of American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists;   
  • Tom Boelter, administrator of Health and Wellness, Forest County Potawatomi Community;   
  • Dr. Elsbeth Kalenderianu, dean and professor, Marquette University School of Dentistry; and  
  • Laura Gould, CNA, Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center; and   
  • Kelly Buchholtz, M.S.N., MBA/HCM, R.N., chief nursing officer, Mayo Clinic Health System in Northwest Wisconsin.