Women’s History Luncheon set March 16

NEW ULM – Several local women and women with strong local connections will be honored during the Women’s History Luncheon Saturday, March 16, at Turner Hall.

The luncheon will honor women who have provided medical services to impoverished and disaster areas of the world, said one of the organizers, Darla Gebhard.

The keynote speaker is Dr. Laurel Gamm.

The nominees include: Kathy Runck, Diane Lambrecht, Nancy Thomas, Lisa Monroe, Kristin Schweiss, Carol Koeckeritz and Anna Koeckeritz, Dr. Laurel Gamm, Dr. Ellen Vancura, Hazel Mickelson, Marlys Zetah, Monica Mueller and Judy Kastman.

Most have been nominated by the Brown County Historical Society; the latter three (Zetah, Mueller and Kastman) were nominated by the Turner Ladies.

Kathy Runck, Diane Lambrecht, Nancy Thomas, Lisa Monroe, Kristin Schweiss, Carol Koeckeritz and Anna Koeckeritz

The women were part of a group of 18 volunteers who travelled to Tanzania, Africa, working with the students of Kikatiti Secondary School outside of Arusha for about 16 days. The school population is about 847 youngsters ranging in age from 12 to 18. The group did 650 eye exams of students, teachers and villagers. They dispensed about 300 pair of used glasses and brought home another 200-plus prescriptions to be filled. Thomas instructed students about dental health, and the group gave out about 1,000 tooth brushes.

The group also brought 18 bins full of medical supplies to Tanzania. Some supplies went to the school and most went to a doctor the group visited in the bush who is serving the Maasi people and to a doctor who started a program called FAME. This doctor has built a clinic/24-bed hospital in the mountains serving many villages.

The group also met with two groups of women who are “women working to help women.” One group does basket work and the other is Maasi women doing native bead work. The volunteers brought back as many items as they could carry to help them, as well as to spread the word about women helping women no matter where in the world.

Dr. Laurel Gamm

Dr. Laurel Gamm worked for six months in 2012 for Doctors Without Borders, serving as a pediatric hospitalist in Carnot, Central African Republic, one of the least developed countries in the world. She oversaw a ward of 45 (overflowing) beds with children sick with malaria, respiratory and intestinal illnesses, tetanus, malnutrition and other illnesses rare in the United States. Her mission was to improve the care of children under the age of five in a country where one in five children do not live past that age.

Dr. Ellen Vancura

Dr. Ellen Vancura studied Spanish during five educational courses in Latin America so that she would be knowledgeable of her patients’ needs during three trips to impoverished areas. She travelled to a remote area of the Dominican Republic with medical students from Creighton University, mentoring these doctors and serving Dominican people who otherwise would not have had medical care. She also provided medical care at the hospital in San Lucas, Guatemala, working at the outpatient department there.

Hazel Mickelson

Hazel Mickelson was a registered nurse who served in the Army during World War II. Following the bloody separation of Bangladesh from India, the country faced crises and a void in medical care. With her daughter, Kristen, who was then a teenager, she managed a clinic for the most severely ill and impoverished babies, feeding them and providing basic medical care.

Marlys Zetah, Monica Mueller, Judy Kastman

Marlys Zetah, Monica Mueller and Judy Kastman volunteered following the storm Sandy as part of a Red Cross disaster relief program. They left Nov. 24 and returned Dec. 8, 2012. All are registered nurses and worked 12-hour days with one day off. They were based in Manhattan and served in the surrounding areas.

This was Mueller’s and Kastman’s first experience of this kind. It was the fifth time for Zetah. Twice she worked in New Orleans in shelters after Katrina. She also took medical supplies and went house to house after a tornado and a flood in the South. Zetah mentored Mueller and Kastman.

They did follow-up and comfort care, blood pressure checks and referrals of sick or in need of mental health care.


Tickets for the luncheon are $12 and can be reserved by calling the Brown County Historical Society at 507-233-2616. Please reserve by March 12.

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