In Memorium: Debbie Rickelman

October 20, 2017

WHA staff and members lost a trusted colleague and dear friend this week with the passing of Debbie Rickelman, former vice president of the WHA Information Center. Debbie passed away peacefully, surrounded by her family, October 12, 2017, at Agrace HospiceCare, Fitchburg. She was born Nov. 11, 1955, in Fort Madison, Iowa, one of seven daughters.

Debbie joined the WHA Information Center (WHAIC) in its early development and returned in 2010 to lead the organization as it continued to mature and expand into new areas. Her knowledge of how to manage health information, along with her leadership and organizational skills, were tremendous assets in growing WHAIC into the organization it is today. 

On March 30, 2016, Gov. Scott Walker signed the Wisconsin Health Care Data Modernization Act into law. The bill included a number of changes and updates to Ch. 153 of the Wisconsin statutes that were Debbie’s ideas, aimed at streamlining health care data collection and improving its utility. Debbie was unable to attend the bill signing, but received one of the pens Governor Walker used to make her bill law.

Brian Potter, WHA chief operating officer, worked closely with Debbie. He remembered her as a very dedicated person who cared deeply about health care, and about the WHA team. “Even as she was going through her battle with cancer, she would stop in the office to see everyone and to ‘talk shop,’” according to Potter. “Her positive attitude and approach to a very difficult situation was an inspiration to all of us.” 

“Debbie will be greatly missed by her friends here at WHA and many colleagues across the country.  She was kind to all, soft-spoken, but always heard. She was a respected leader in her field,” said WHA President/CEO Eric Borgerding.   

Debbie’s passing was felt across the country as her colleagues from other hospital associations sent their messages to WHA remembering Debbie as a “a great resource to many of the associations over the years with her significant data and coding knowledge. Most importantly, Debbie was a joy to be around with a great warmth and a great friend to many of us at Iowa Hospital Association.” Debbie was a “special lady that we all cared deeply about and someone we just loved spending time with,” as noted by New Jersey Hospital Association. Many other hospital associations conveyed similar condolences and all sent their thoughts, prayers and condolences to her family and friends.

“On behalf of the WHA team and our members, we send our deepest condolences to Debbie’s husband, Ed, and to her children, Ben and Emma, and all her family and friends,” Borgerding said. 

Memorials may be directed to UW Carbone Cancer Center or Agrace HospiceCare. To view and sign her guestbook, please visit

This story originally appeared in the October 20, 2017 edition of WHA Newsletter