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Lew Mallow recalled as local Lincoln expert

Using his encyclopedic knowledge of Abraham Lincoln and extensive collection of memorabilia relating to the 16th U.S. president, Lewis Mallow spoke to many groups of children and adults throughout the Chippewa Valley.

Regarded as a local expert on the subject, he was frequently a featured guest speaker close to Lincoln’s birthday — Feb. 12 — at the Chippewa Valley Museum.

“My memory of Lew is he was one of the museum’s most popular presenters,” said Janet Seymour, who was director of public programs from 1998 to 2005 at the museum located in Eau Claire’s Carson Park.

Mallow’s presentations would fill rooms they were held in, she said. They’d often turn into friendly conversations between him and the other Civil War-era buffs who came to hear him speak.

An avid collector of items with connections to Lincoln, Mallow would lend some of his memorabilia to the museum for temporary displays as well.

“He was very generous in sharing his time, knowledge and collections with the community,” said Seymour, who now works in Eau Claire as interim director of outreach for the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Mallow died Saturday at the age of 93 at The Rutledge Home for Assisted Living in Chippewa Falls.

A veteran of World War II, Mallow spent most of his life as an educator, teaching at the high school, technical college and university levels, according to his obituary. He retired in 1988 as a program supervisor at District One Technical Institute (now Chippewa Valley Technical College).

But he kept on teaching about his favorite subject, Lincoln.

“He seemed happiest when he was giving his presentations, answering people’s questions and having conversations with him,” Seymour said.

A February 1989 Leader-Telegram article chronicled a visit to Mallow’s home in Eau Claire.

Displayed throughout the Mallow residence were photographs, books, videocassettes and other pieces of Lincoln memorabilia. His collection included a ribbon from one of Lincoln’s political campaigns, an Illinois state flag given to Mallow at a 1983 ceremony in Springfield, Ill., and an autographed photograph of actor Gregory Peck, who portrayed Lincoln in the TV miniseries “The Blue and the Gray.”

In the 1989 article, Mallow credited Lincoln with saving the democratic way of life.

“If any one person can take credit for saving the nation during the Civil War, it was Lincoln,” he said. “Democracy was on trial.”

At the time, Mallow belonged to 16 different Lincoln societies and had made friends with many other history buffs.

“His knowledge of Lincoln and the Civil War era was extensive,” said Peter Skelly, president of The Lincoln Fellowship of Wisconsin. “His programs on Lincoln and various historical topics were legendary.”

Mallow was a lifetime member of the state organization, serving on its board for many years and as its president for a time.

In an email to the Leader-Telegram, Skelly called Mallow “a classic gentleman” and remarked he will be missed among fellow history buffs who study the 16th president.

“Always willing to share his voluminous information, he was in a category all his own,” Skelly said.

Lewis and his wife, who shared his interest in Lincoln until she died in 2004, produced several documentaries on Civil War-era figures and battles. Ten of them — two encompassing Lincoln’s rise in politics and the aftermath of his assassination — can be found on DVD at the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library in downtown Eau Claire.

Aside from becoming an expert in Lincoln, Lewis Mallow also was a longtime Mason — recognized in 2013 as a 50-year member of the fraternal organization. He also was a Zor Shriner and member of local posts of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars. Mallow also volunteered time with the Children’s Dyslexia Center of Upper Wisconsin.

US pregnancy deaths up, and report says most are preventable

More U.S. women are dying from pregnancy-related causes, and more than half of those deaths are preventable, government health officials said in a report Tuesday.

Although these deaths are rare — about 700 a year — they have been rising for decades, especially among black women.

“An American mom today is 50% more likely to die in childbirth than her own mother was,” said Dr. Neel Shah, a Harvard Medical School obstetrician.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists meanwhile has released new guidelines saying women should have a comprehensive heart-risk evaluation 12 weeks after delivery, but up to 40% of women don’t return for that visit and payment issues may be one reason.

Bleeding and infections used to cause most pregnancy-related deaths, but heart-related problems do now.

“Pregnancy is really a stress test” because of the extra blood the heart is moving for mom and child, said the head of the guidelines panel, Dr. James Martin. That can reveal previously unknown problems or lead to new ones.

Tuesday’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report found that about one third of maternal deaths happened during pregnancy, a third were during or within a week of birth, and the rest were up to a year later.

Globally, maternal mortality fell about 44% between 1990 and 2015, according to the World Health Organization. But the U.S. is out of step: Moms die in about 17 out of every 100,000 U.S. births each year, up from 12 per 100,000 a quarter century ago.

Possible factors include the high C-section rates in the U.S. and soaring rates of obesity, which raises the risk of heart disease, diabetes and other complications.

Black women in the U.S. are about three times as likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause as others, partly because of racial bias they may experience in getting care and doctors not recognizing risk factors such as high blood pressure, said Dr. Lisa Hollier, the obstetrician group’s president.

Stacy Ann Walker may be an example. She was 29, healthy and excited to be expecting her first child eight years ago “when the unimaginable happened and left both of us fighting for our life.”

The Hartford, Conn., woman said her doctor brushed off her complaints of shortness of breath, exhaustion and swelling in her legs as normal aches and pains of pregnancy. Her baby developed life-threatening complications requiring an emergency cesarean section, and weighed less than 3 pounds at delivery.

But her ordeal wasn’t over. After the birth, she developed heart valve problems and heart failure, requiring surgery.

“Never did I think my life would be in danger,” said Walker, who is black. She spoke at a news conference the obstetricians group held on the guidelines.

The CDC looked at about 3,000 pregnancy-related deaths from 2011 through 2015, using death certificates. Researchers also looked at more intensive investigations of about 250 deaths done in 13 states.

The latter review determined that 60% of deaths were preventable. Often, three or four problems contributed to a death, ranging from doctors’ mistakes to the difficulty some women had getting housing and healthy food.

The report shows the need to educate doctors and patients about risks for new moms, and to expand Medicaid health coverage in all states so that postpartum care is available for all moms up to a year after giving birth, said Dr. Alison Stuebe of the University of North Carolina.

“We as a society do a terrible job of taking care of mothers after the baby comes out,” she said.

“It’s like the baby is the candy and the mama is the wrapper,” she added. “Once the baby is out of the wrapper, the wrapper is tossed aside.”

Wisconsin-based health systems discuss possible merger

Two Wisconsin-based health systems with long histories are discussing how they might come together to collectively enhance the level of care across Wisconsin, southeastern Minnesota and northeast Iowa.

Officials from Marshfield Clinic Health System and Gundersen Health System, announcing a possible merger Tuesday, will spend the coming months working out the details of a potential union that could create a health system with more than 18,000 employees; over 100 clinics, including urgent care locations, pharmacies, medical clinics and dental and eye centers; and 13 hospitals, one of which opened in Eau Claire in July.

The announcement comes just six days after Marshfield Clinic Health System reported it had completed its affiliation with Beaver Dam Community Hospitals, expanding its footprint across Wisconsin even more.

“When you think about two rural health care organizations coming together, the opportunities are boundless,” Dr. Susan Turney, chief executive officer of Marshfield Clinic Health System, said Tuesday in Eau Claire.

“Of course, there is a lot of work that needs to happen before any of that can (happen).”

During a telephone question-and-answer session with reporters Tuesday, Dr. Scott Rathgaber, La Crosse-based Gundersen Health System’s CEO, said he wasn’t sure how long that will take.

“We want to do it right, not necessarily fast,” he said.

Providing great care for patients, their families and communities are top priorities for each organization, along with improving access to quality health care, officials said. Gundersen and Marshfield Clinic health systems have spent years seeking to improve health care access in rural areas through tele-health services, the enhancement of critical access hospitals and clinics in small communities, and recruiting and retaining clinicians to practice in rural areas.

“We realize the success of our journey to provide (a) high-quality, outstanding experience and affordable care to enrich lives and enhance the health of the communities we serve relies on working with many partners in a variety of ways,” Rathgaber said.

Officials from Gundersen and Marshfield began discussing a possible merger of their respective health systems several months ago.

“From the beginning, Gundersen has been looking at the state of the industry … and wondering how we are going to continue to be viable and strong,” Rathgaber said.

“We know the cost of care is rising, and we know that many of the reimbursement mechanisms that exist today are constrained,” Turney said. “To be efficient and effective and to really truly provide quality … care, we wanted to start thinking about who would be a good partner.”

Hearing about a potential merger, both systems’ boards were “very excited” about the possibility, Turney said, so “we decided to go to the next step, which allows us to do the due diligence that’s necessary to make this happen.”

The proposed merger would mean the new health care entity would cover more than two-thirds of Wisconsin’s counties and about 1.6 million of its residents, Turney said.

“This opportunity to unite promises the potential to magnify our impact and bring our care model to even more communities by leveraging the strengths of two mission-driven systems with more than a century of commitment to rural health care,” Rathgaber said in a news release.

Asked for his thoughts about Tuesday’s announcement, Michael Morrey, regional chair of administration for Mayo Clinic Health System of southwest and northwest Wisconsin, issued the following statement: “Mayo Clinic Health System has a long and cherished tradition of providing exceptional health care to residents in western Wisconsin. We look forward to bringing Mayo Clinic care to residents for generations to come. As a national leader in health care, Mayo Clinic is committed to providing care of the highest quality to each patient. Mayo Clinic Health System brings Mayo Clinic care to our community through a fully integrated practice that includes world-class care.”

Officials at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital declined to comment.