January 18th, 2017
By Tyler Brobst
by Reese Imhof
Being married in medical school has its challenges along with its advantages. My wife Nicole and I had our wedding less than a year before I entered Mayo Clinic School of Medicine. We’ve known each other since our senior year of high school and we lived together in New York, where we are both from, before making the move out to Rochester, Minnesota. Nicole works at Mayo Clinic as a licensed clinical social worker, primarily working with child and adolescent patients. Sharing the experience of being a part of the Mayo Clinic family has brought us closer during a time when being in a relationship sometimes feels quite difficult due to the demands of studying, class schedules, and other responsibilities that come along with medical school.
December 23rd, 2016
By Tyler Brobst
by Sydney Larkin
Real talk for a second: I’m currently at home in Cincinnati lying on the couch and cuddling with my cat by the fire. It’s snowy and cold out so I’m happy to be relaxing and writing this post under my big, fluffy blanket. Ha! My little brother is still at college taking finals until Wednesday, but at Mayo Med we get the whole week off! One of the best things about Mayo is how they structure their selective weeks – which is how this whole blog and couch situation is made possible. I’m currently using this week to shadow surgeons at home and recharge after a difficult week of Anatomy finals.
One of the many reasons I chose to come to Mayo was the flexibility that they offer in their curriculum for career exploration. While I was nervous at first, I have really enjoyed living my life in a blocked schedule. This means that we learn one subject intensely for 6-8 weeks and then have a “selective” week that can be used for anything we wish. Many take vacation to recharge their minds and bodies, while others use it as a chance for career exploration, shadowing, learning practical skills, doing research, or even going abroad!
November 30th, 2016
By Tyler Brobst
by Claudia Gutierrez and Simrit (Simi) Warring
Less than 12 hours after our microbiology final exam, we boarded a plane for Costa Rica. We spent a week at the rural Hospital William Allen de Turrialba, which serves local residents and an indigenous Indian population, the Cabécar tribes.
We were greeted in the pediatric unit by a child recovering from cutaneous leishmaniasis. The next patient we met was recovering from Ascaris lumbercoides so far progressed that the child had had vomiting with worms being excreted from the nose and mouth. The nurse told us the story, “As soon as the child started throwing up, I had to jump forward to grab the worms one by one as fast as I could from the child’s mouth so he wouldn’t choke.”
That morning we toured the microbiology lab. It was an incredible mix of modern technology and practicality. They had fume hoods, automated PCR machines, and microscopes similar to those at Mayo, but had a cart full of stool samples that patients had collected in cleaned out Gerber food jars - talk about being resourceful.
November 4th, 2016
By Ling Werner
The Medical School is going through many changes this year: A new school dean was named this Spring, Fredric Meyer, M.D., the interviews for the opening of the Arizona Campus in 2017, and now the change of the medical school name to Mayo Clinic School of Medicine. There were several considerations that went into revising the name of the medical school, Fredric Meyer, M.D., executive dean for Education, Mayo Clinic, says “The name Mayo Clinic is synonymous with excellence. We felt that strong brand needed to be conveyed across all of Education . . . and this was an opportunity to align our naming conventions with competitive academic medicine standards.”
The school’s social media accounts will also be revised to reflect the new school name. Our content will continue to reflect the lives of our students, highlighting their diverse experiences and successes.
What would you like to see on our social media platforms? More student life, activities, or academics? Tag us at #MayoClinicSOM or DM us on any platform and let us know!
October 12th, 2016
“It’s going to be a good day today,” were the words of encouragement from our physician leader, Dr. Bachman. I distinctly remember standing at the triage station of our clinic, assembled within a local schoolhouse building, gazing in awe at the hundreds of Nicaraguans grasping the fence with desperation in their faces. Our job was to provide the highest quality, patient-centered medical attention to each and every one of them. Feelings of personal desperation began to absorb me, sensing my own inadequacy in this dire situation. After all, what significant difference could an untrained, first-year medical student really contribute to these people in need? How was I going to effectively communicate with them, with a limited capacity to speak their native language? And communicating with them, how would I be able to convey to them a significant message to better their health and personal well-being?
April 27th, 2016
By Leah Grengs
During our second year of medical school, students participate in a course called ‘Advanced Doctoring’. The name was at first surprising to me, because as a beginning second year medical student, I still struggled to distinguish a systolic versus diastolic murmur. During the course, small groups of students would round with a preceptor on Saint Marys Hospital inpatient units, interview and examine patients, and present them to their small group.
Speaking with individuals suffering from diseases made the medicine I was reading in books more real. I will always remember the amazing patients I had the opportunity to spend an hour or more with – a lovely young woman admitted for a cystic fibrosis tune-up and an inspiring middle aged father recently diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia, to name a few. I feel like I do not truly understand a disease until I meet the patients.
The days we got to spend rounding as a small team were days that I looked forward too. I had the opportunity to work with two of my brilliant classmates. We all had very unique skills and interests and brought out the best in each other, fondly referring to ourselves as ‘the triad’, not to be confused with Virchow’s Triad of thrombosis or the Unhappy Triad of severe knee injuries.
During these weeks, we had the opportunity to work with many renowned Mayo Clinic consultants. The faculty we worked with had unique specialties and bedside manner. Having such exposure allowed me to pick out what I liked from each of their techniques to develop my own. The consultants were all devoted to education and served as great mentors. Our ‘triad’ will still occasionally meet for coffee with the brilliant General Internal Medicine physician whom we had the opportunity to work with multiple times.
These are some of my greatest memories of becoming a doctor.
Leah is a third year Mayo medical student and native Minnesotan. She is interested in Neurology and Psychiatry, especially where these fields overlap. Her hobbies include spending time with her cat and cooking.
April 13th, 2016
Mayo is one of the most exciting places I have ever been. The novelty of walking through the Peace Plaza staring into the eyes of the Gonda Building still, months later, hasn’t gotten old. Every day I’m inspired. But aside from the beautiful architecture, art, and design that surrounds us here in Rochester, the best part is certainly the people. The consultants (i.e., attending physicians) here are accessible, incredibly accomplished, and passionate about their work and their patients. But what I’ve found, thus far, is that this is true for consultants who have done any piece of their training at Mayo.
Selectives are a beautiful part of the Mayo Medical School curriculum. They are especially great because you can tailor each selective to wherever in the world you want to be. For my first selective, I wanted to go home to Michigan, where all of my family lives, but I still wanted the Mayo experience. So I took advantage of the Mayo Medical School Alumni Association Directory, which includes individuals who have done any training at Mayo or who have worked at Mayo for at least one year. I discovered there were 218 individuals in Michigan. There were consultants that specialized in Transplant Surgery, Abdominal Imaging, Infectious Disease; the options were endless. I settled on neurosurgery in Traverse City, Michigan and decided to just throw an email out into the interwebs just to see what would happen. My first choice consultant responded.
March 30th, 2016
By Leah Grengs
Medical school is stressful; there is no way around this blatant fact. You had the college thing perfected, otherwise you would not have gotten into medical school. Then 50% of you find yourself somewhere you have never been… below average in your classes. In addition to class, life happens and your time stretches even thinner at a time when you feel like you could use a clone. You may live a $200 plane ride away from family and friends and struggle to relate and keep in touch. When many people around you in your eyes are effortlessly excelling, it is hard not to feel like a failure. This can make you feel isolated and question whether you belong in medical school or should even become a doctor.
Tags: mayo clinic, Mayo Medical School, Mayo Medical School Blog, medical school, Medical Student Blog, medical students, Meet Mayo Med, mental health, Step 1, stress, Stress Relief, Student Life, Student Wellness, USMLE, USMLE Step 1, wellness
March 9th, 2016
Out of the 100+ patients I have seen and helped manage over the course of this month, the one I will remember most was not even a patient of mine. Nearing the end of the shift, I overheard rumblings about a patient coming in. The words “subdural hematoma”, “skull fracture”, “NAT”, and “CPS” were thrown around. Just as I was packing my things to leave, the resident said, “if you want to take a look at that 9 month-old in room 3, she has some interesting physical exam findings”. I took her up on the learning opportunity, realizing it was the same patient at the center of the non-accidental trauma (NAT) conversation – a particular group of children I hope to reach and serve in my career. Though I had spent hours studying NAT and imagining the emotional toll that work in this field this would take, nothing could have prepared me for what this simple yet phenomenal interaction would teach me.
I guess I thought victims of NAT would look different – that they would come in wearing signs reading “victim of child abuse”, would be surrounded by defensive, argumentative parents, and would not actually display the classic textbook signs of injury like posterior rib fractures, retinal hemorrhages, Battle’s sign, and raccoon eyes. None of these things were true. The room was quiet and dim. The only other person present was a nurse, who stood at the computer pulling up a lullaby video of a fish tank on the screen. The child sat supported in the bed, slightly reclined, calm, and looked at me with big, loving eyes. Despite the love in her eyes, though, there was fear. As I approached, her distress and distrust was evident by the furrow in her brow. She whimpered. I put my hands behind my back to make it evident I would not be touching her. To see a 9 month-old who had already developed such a fear and distrust of other human beings was heart-breaking. The Battle’s sign was also clear – bilateral bruising posterior to her ears – just like the textbooks…except not.
“It’s horrible, isn’t it?” said the nurse. “Just last week we had one, detached retinas, everything. CPS sent her home with the dad. He was on the news last night – she died.” Again, a reality check. I knew the statistics. I was not naïve to the magnitude of children that died every year at the hands of NAT. Yet, I had to keep reminding myself: These are real children. This really happens. It happens here. Somebody intentionally hurt this sweet baby girl. I had long known that if I chose to care for victims of child abuse, it would take an emotional toll and that my desire for logic and rationalization would not be satisfied. I am a person who always tries to understand all sides of the story, but trying to understand how a person could ever, ever intentionally hurt their own child is like trying to understand the logic of a mass shooter – there simply is none. It is senseless. That is hard to accept.
Meeting this 9 month-old victim of NAT was the beginning of what I hope will be a long career helping, serving, and keeping safe victims of child abuse. It was a primer not only to the physical exam findings I will see, but also the heartache and frustration I will surely re-experience each time I have an encounter like this one. Bigger than the heartache and frustration, though, is the purpose of this work. That is what I hope to keep in mind as I traverse a difficult but exceptionally meaningful career path in pediatrics.
Katie is a fourth year medical student originally from Renton, Washington. She is pursuing residency in pediatrics and aspires to focus on global health as well as vulnerable populations such as victims of child abuse, domestic violence, and sex trafficking.
Tags: Battle's sign, Child abuse, Emergency Medicine, Indiana University, Indiana University Health, Indianapolis, mayo clinic, Mayo Medical School, Mayo Medical School Blog, medical school, Medical Student Blog, medical students, Meet Mayo Med, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Pediatrics, Riley Hospital for Children
December 2nd, 2015
by Vid Yogeswaran
When I was in the Tabo monastery in the Himalayas this past summer, I had this moment of clarity. I could see one road ahead of me, and at the end all I could see was that regardless of where it takes me, I wanted to connect patients and changing health perceptions on a global scale. We drove across mountain ranges, lost three tires, and got into five accidents in order to reach Tenzin. Tenzin was a young slender woman with a slightly wrinkled face and a pleasant smile. This was at our first clinic site, an hour away from Tabo in a makeshift health camp. In Spiti Valley, we were the only source of healthcare and we had more than 100 patients that first day. Spiti Valley, a desert mountain valley, has a distinctive Buddhist culture and is a favorite spot for the Dalai Lama. There were only a few physicians overseeing us, but we guided ourselves through the proper clinical steps. She told me her eyes burned and irritated her during the day, and through the physical exam I realized why. As she dropped her smile and uncreased her eyes, I noticed the yellow membrane over her left eye. It was thick and reminded me of the dark hue of her skin. Her diagnosis was pterygium, a benign mass caused from the scorching sun at the 15,000 altitude of her home in Spiti Valley. Now it was time for a treatment plan. I offered her saline eye drops and sunglasses, but she kindly said no thank you. I was confused and asked her why. She was newly married and did not want her husband or her village to think she was less attractive because of the big frames on her face. I wear glasses everyday even though my vision is okay. This is to make sure that I don’t lose the limited vision I have, after a childhood illness, through any accidents. Her reasoning struck a chord with me and I was not prepared to let her jeopardize her vision without sharing my own story. Fifteen minutes later, she went to the pharmacy smiling in her new sunglasses. They were a little large, but she still looked beautiful.
In a way, Tenzin was lucky. Tenzin would not be isolated and alienated because of her condition. Unfortunately in these cultural communities, that can be a common issue. I remember last year when I was visiting Sri Lanka and met so many individuals who had been ostracized because of their illnesses. To me, the saddest part is that it was never their fault. During the civil war my parents narrowly escaped, and the country transformed into a pool of blood where innocent civilians were regularly beaten and raped. For many of the individuals that are now labeled as “crippled” or “diseased,” it was directly due to the violence they faced. Like with my visit to Sri Lanka, my summer experience in the Himalayas helped me see that some of the biggest barriers to care are due to perceptions in society. I don’t think this is something we can change overnight, but through small changes we can start.
Vid, a second year medical student, is a member of the Mayo Medical School Social Media Committee. She is interested in internal medicine and is originally from London, England. Her hobbies include reading, travelling, and watching too much Netflix.
Tags: Buddhism, Dalai Lama, Healthcare, Himalayas, mayo clinic, Mayo Medical School, Mayo Medical School Blog, Medical mission trip, Medical Missions, medical school, Medical Student Blog, medical students, Meet Mayo Med, mission trip, Monastery, primary care, Rural Medicine, Spiti Valley, travel, underserved
November 11th, 2015
by Jessica Saw
I’ve always valued close relationships with faculty. Some people think getting invited to a professor’s house for dinner is downright awkward while others think it is outright awesome. I am part of the latter.
Part of the reason I chose MMS was its small class size, which enables closer relationships between students and faculty. One faculty member can wear many hats and switch them out to be teacher, dean, mentor, collaborative musician, or cheerleader, depending on the situation. I do not understand how my professors find the time to play all of these roles, but I suppose it has something to do with the Mayo magic that I one day hope to acquire.
I seem to have formed a habit of bonding with professors over food. Here are two of my favorite moments:
WOOD-FIRED PIZZA WITH DR. RIZZO
All second-years are required to spend one selective week with a surgeon. I was paired with Dr. Rizzo, an orthopedic hand surgeon. One day, he pulled out a Ziploc bag full of focaccia to give to the fellow on his service. My eyes got wide – I recognized the distinctive blackened blisters blooming from the dough. “Do you have a wood-fired oven?” I asked.
He proceeded to show me videos and pictures of pizza and bread, and we geeked out about dough and fire. He asked me if I had any New Years’ plans and soon, I found myself firing pizzas and sipping limoncello with his family.
One year later, during my surgical clerkship, I saw him in the cafeteria. Hastily excusing myself from the table, I ran over to say hello. I told him how I was enjoying my current clerkship and had decided to become a surgeon. Next came a congratulatory smile, a hug, and an invitation to dinner. Needless to say, we met again and made future plans for pizza.
SNACKS IN THE BREAKROOM WITH DR. WOLANSKYJ
Studying for the USMLE Step 1 exam was a nightmare. I remember sitting in a lecture with a mini panic attack. In a desperate attempt to do anything that might remotely bring comfort, I e-mailed Dr. Wolanskyj, Associate Dean for Student Affairs. Within fifteen minutes, she responded to my email, and I was in her office.
She gave me resources, people to contact, and methods to study. Then she paused, tilted her head and said, “You need some food. Let’s feed you.” Her instincts were correct – during this stressful time, I had been eating poorly.
And so she brought me to the staff break room. Scanning the vending machine items, she dismissed the items she knew I disliked and eventually settled on a yogurt with almonds. During our snack break, we talked not about medical school, but our personal lives. We discussed shopping at the food co-op, family life, and letting go of our former paths as musicians. As I walked out with a brighter step and a nourished belly, I thanked her for reminding me that life was more than just a series of exams.
Jessica is a third-year currently taking a year off from school to do research and work at Forager, a restaurant and brewery start-up in Rochester, MN. She graduated in 2012 from Oberlin College and Conservatory of Music with a B.A. in Neuroscience and a B.Mus. in Piano Performance. She loves piano, local foods, and swing dancing.
Tags: Alexandra Wolanskyj, Doctor, faculty, Forager Brewery, Marco Rizzo, mayo clinic, Mayo Medical School, Mayo Medical School Blog, medical school, Medical Student Blog, medical students, Meet Mayo Med, Physician, Pizza, Professor, Studying, surgery, USMLE Step 1
October 21st, 2015
by Amelia Van Handel
As I left my parked car behind and started running along the beach, my shoes and socks were instantly filled with gritty sand. It was mid-April and the weather was a balmy 75 degrees, even in the late evening. I could smell the briny salt in the air and was so distracted by the sun setting over the ocean skyline that I nearly stepped into a blobby pile of grey gelatin on the sand in front of me. When I paused to investigate this potential slipping hazard, it turned out to be a dead jellyfish. Dorothy, we’re not in Minnesota anymore.
At this point, you may be wondering how I found myself running along the ocean in mid-April in the middle of my third year of medical school at Mayo Medical School in Rochester, MN. This exotic experience was made possible because of an off-campus clerkship rotation at the Mayo–Jacksonville location. In planning for my third year, I had indicated on my schedule that I would be willing to do off-campus rotations at the other Mayo sites in either Scottsdale, AZ or Jacksonville, FL, and I had the good fortune of being assigned to do my neurology rotation in Jacksonville.
When I left for Jacksonville, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect from the experience. The hospital was technically still Mayo, but it wasn’t the Rochester “mothership” location; would the culture still be the same? Would the caliber of teaching be maintained across several hundred miles? Should I still bring my suits with me? Would I still be able to focus on studying for the shelf when the weather was 40 degrees warmer?
When I turned up on the first day at the Jacksonville Mayo Clinic—another marvel of modern architecture with beautiful, sprawling grounds impeccably maintained—I was relieved to find that the culture shock wasn’t all that dramatic. There were plenty of be-suited physicians walking in from the parking lot, and as I walked into the atrium I was greeting with another Chihuly sculpture suspended from the ceiling over the elevator; just enough reminders of Rochester to make me feel at home.
The inpatient neurology team I was assigned to work with was made up of two junior residents, one senior resident, and a consultant, all of whom greeted me with excitement. “We don’t get many medical students here, so it is always exciting to have one on the team!” the intern gushed as I grappled with finding my way around the unfamiliar EMR. Before I could figure it out, it was time to start table rounds, where all the patients on the inpatient service would be discussed at length. Although I was new to the team, the consultant and senior resident engaged me in the discussions about the patients, going through their stories at length to familiarize me with the census. Although I was put on the spot a few times about localizing lesions or explaining pathophysiology, it never felt like a sin to answer incorrectly. Even though these physician-educators didn’t have much experience with medical students, they were able to quickly establish where my knowledge base was and how they could teach me in the upcoming weeks.
After table rounds, the team did bedside rounds, seeing each patient individually and explaining the plan for the day. The same patient-centered care I had always appreciated at Mayo-Rochester was out in full force, with each patient’s situation meticulously explained to them and their loved ones, the plan for the day made with their needs in mind, and the various healthcare team members working together to provide the best possible care. The social worker for the unit accompanied us on rounds, filled us in on disposition statuses, and which medications or services would be covered by a patients’ insurance; the pharmacist pushed a computer-on-wheels to easily investigate possible neurologic medication side-effects and suggest antibiotics to cover exotic bacterial meningitis on a patient who had been airlifted from the Caribbean. The diversity of pathology was striking, everything from textbook stroke syndromes to myasthenia exacerbations; post-operative neurosurgical patients to newly diagnosed demyelinating diseases. This was further evidence of the comparison that could be made between different Mayo sites: everything from the everyday to the exotic, all treated with excellent, patient-centered care.
Despite the similarities inside the hospital, being in Jacksonville offered a significantly different social and dining experience. Five beaches within driving distance of my apartment, salsa dancing three nights a week, reggae music festivals, and fish tacos on every menu filled my free time and my stomach. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, St. Augustine (the oldest city in the United States), and Amelia Island—yes, you read that correctly!—were just a day trip away. Several of my classmates were in town completing other clerkships and were all too happy to explore with me. At the end of my three week rotation, my only regret was that I hadn’t had enough time to do everything on my bucket list.
So if you ever get the chance to visit Mayo-Jacksonville for a rotation, selective, or even to complete all of your M3 and M4 clerkships there, I would encourage you to take that opportunity. And be sure to watch out for jellyfish!
Amelia Van Handel is a 4th year Mayo Medical Student from Little Chute, Wisconsin. She can frequently be found ballroom dancing around Rochester, baking sweets in her kitchen, or working out at the Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center. She is currently in the process of applying to plastic surgery residencies and will graduate in May 2016.
Tags: Clerkships, Florida, jacksonville, mayo clinic, Mayo Clinic Jacksonville, Mayo Medical School, Mayo Medical School Blog, medical school, Medical Student Blog, Medical student clerkship, medical students, Meet Mayo Med, neurology, Third year medical student
October 7th, 2015
Jessie* looked like something out of a textbook: bone thin arms, legs puffy with edema, perfectly round stomach, glazed over eyes. As the physician quizzed me on the appropriate treatment for malnutrition, Jessie barely reacted. He looked like the stereotypical “starving African child” I’d seen on ads for this non-profit or that charity fund more times than I could count. But he was right in front of me now—my patient. As we talked with his grandma, the story of his five short years took shape: his mom had left, his step-mom neglected him, and his dad was working too much to care for him. He had been passed around until he ended up in front of me, and finally he was being cared for. Over the next few days, Jessie came alive. His eyes were brighter, he looked at me (the “muzungu”, or white person) with the mix of interest and hesitancy the other children did, and he ate with vigor. A few days of cheap treatment was bringing the dead back to life before my eyes. He was getting back his personality, and with it, a second chance at life.
Tags: Africa, Bwindi, Bwindi Community Hospital, International health, mayo clinic, Mayo Medical School, Mayo Medical School Blog, medical school, Medical Student Blog, medical students, Meet Mayo Med, Pediatrics, Public Health, Rural Medicine, Selectives, travel, Uganda, Underserved medicine
September 23rd, 2015
Her hair was like black licorice, cold, curled, and still. Her lips, though dry and cracking, were full and puckered like a peach. She had the bone structure of an African goddess, one girls would kill for nowadays. Her nose, though slim and straight had a slight bend in the middle, only adding to the magnificence of her beauty. Detach yourself, detach yourself, I told myself, She’s not human anymore. She’s a corpse. Her long, slender limbs hung awkwardly from the anatomy lab table. Her wrinkled, dark brown skin reminded me of a sun-ripened raisin, especially around her eyes and mouth. She had clearly been a smiler. As I wondered what color eyes were hiding behind her thin, delicate eyelids embedded with tiny withered folds of skin, I resisted the urge to lift one to see. Standing stone still, I stared back at the body I would soon be working on, and read the nametag—“Dorothy Hollins, teacher, 85.”* She reminded me of my grandmother. Detach yourself, I heard the back of my mind tell me once again. Even though I knew I shouldn’t, I began to wonder what her life had been like. How many times had she brushed her wily curls, commanding them to lay down with every stroke as each tendril fought against it like little baby snakes fighting to gain the upper hand? Detach yourself. What was it about her heart that made her smile so much that even in death, the slight left crook of her lips with the surrounding smile lines betrayed any frown she may have had while living? I wondered if it was any bigger than other corpses I had seen. How many of her students had been enlightened by her brain, with its numerous nerve connections filled with memories, losses, and happiness, the one I knew I would end up dissecting soon? Detach yourself.
September 9th, 2015
A war fought with pipettes, stethoscopes and a whole lot of gusto is happening every day here at the Mayo Clinic. We have the chance to watch every battle of the war on cancer converge at one amazing institution. As fresh medical students, we can pick up a journal article, centrifuge tube, or stack of charts and help write the next chapter. A story of hope, love, tragedy, and science is being told every day and there is something for everyone to contribute.
There are people like me in my medical class who are in love with bench top science and there are people at the far opposite end of the spectrum who are more interested in the social implications of cancer. When we all interact and work together, I can see a bright future. This past year I remember thinking to myself, ‘Well I never thought of that’ almost every day, and that is exactly how the future will be written. [...]
Tags: Cancer, cancer research, mayo clinic, Mayo Medical School, Mayo Medical School Blog, medical school, Medical Student Blog, medical students, Meet Mayo Med, oncology, Oncology interest group, Proton Beam Therapy
August 26th, 2015
As an aspiring medical student, I always dreamed of the incredible good I could do for my future patients. I would gain extensive skills that I can use diagnose and treat all manners of diseases. Medicine seemed like such a miraculous field – I wanted to study and be part of it. As my first year of medical school came to an end, I reflected heavily. It became clear that to me that while, for many people, medicine can truly be miraculous and help return them to health and happiness, for others, the case is very different. For many people, medical problems relate to social determinants of health, and the services to address these issues are not offered in clinics, hospitals or pharmacies.
Social determinants of health are at the root of many of the health problems that our generation of healthcare professionals will have to address when working with our patients. Social determinants of health include various factors—from race and gender to grocery store access, education, living conditions, and age. These factors have a very real and powerful impact on health, and as of now, the healthcare field is ill-equipped to address many of them. More than prescriptions and surgeries, people whose health problems stem from the social determinants of health need things like education, access to healthy food and effective exercise spaces.
Dr. LaPrincess Brewer (Mayo Clinic Cardiovascular Diseases Fellow) has sought to fill some of those gaps. While working toward her Master’s degree in Public Health, Dr. Brewer and her colleagues initiated The FAITH! (Fostering African American Improvement in Total Health) program. The program takes health and health education out of the ivory towers and into the public’s backyard. Through this initiative, she collaborated with churches in her area to address many of the social determinants of health and improve the heart health of African American congregation members. This community-based program (which began in Baltimore, MD and is now in place in Rochester, MN) included significant input from the communities it wished to serve. The program includes interactive, informative sessions in many aspects of cardiovascular health including cooking and healthy eating (including a cooking demonstration), exercise classes and education on risk factors for cardiovascular disease. The Baltimore program also helped establish a FAITH! pantry where participants could purchase fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy snacks each Sunday after the church services.
A few of my classmates and I had the fantastic opportunity to volunteer for the FAITH! program as it concluded at the congregations in Rochester in April. At the start of the day, the participants were encouraged to share some of what they learned and any experiences or challenges they had in integrating a healthy lifestyle as a result of the program. Many shared what they learned regarding shopping for and cooking healthy foods. One participant shared her favorite strategy in shopping for healthy foods—never go to the grocery store when you’re hungry—a trick I use to avoid the snack food aisle’s many temptations. Another woman saved up to purchase an elliptical machine to increase her exercise. Others spoke about how they control their diabetes to prevent heart disease and other negative consequences. One grandmother even enlisted her grandson as her motivator; he reminds her to put down the potato chips and goes for walks with her! It was apparent that the group was empowered by the program and had learned a plethora of useful, easily applicable tips and tricks. Our role for the program was to measure height, weight, blood pressure and approximate body fat to help the participants track their progress throughout the program. In assisting the participants, I talked with many who were extremely grateful for the program. They expressed genuine motivation to continue to work toward their health goals. I was overjoyed to be part of this specifically catered, extremely impactful aspect of their health journey.
While the healthcare system still needs work, it was incredibly inspiring for me to witness a physician using her skills to deliver health in a non-traditional way. The benefits were obvious to me, and the participants were incredibly grateful. I know now that I will never be able to cure everyone I encounter with pills and surgery. Challenges relating to the social determinants of health require much more time, and community-based attention than the clinic can offer. However, there is hope and with more passionate efforts like Dr. Brewer's, we can spread health from clinic to the community.
Kari is a second year medical student from central Minnesota. As a kid, her mom (cardiac RN) introduced her to the most fascinating organ in the body (the heart of course!), and she has been an aspiring cardiologist ever since. She enjoys camping, hiking and other outdoor activities in her spare time.
Tags: education, First Year Medical Student, M2, mayo clinic, Mayo Medical School, Mayo Medical School Blog, Medical Student Blog, medical students, Meet Mayo Med, Mentorship, Minnesota, Rochester, Selectives, Shadowing
August 12th, 2015
My first memory of vaccines takes me back to when I was about three years old. Because I was prone to tantrums (and quite good at them, I might add), my mother would bribe me if I promised not to cry during my “shots”. At the time, I valued vaccines because they were a way for me to collect more Barbie dolls or TY Beanie Babies. I decided that the pain they brought was worth the good they also seemed to bring.In sixth grade, I had to do a project in my science class, and I was assigned the topic of Edward Jenner. I learned that Jenner pioneered the first vaccination, which was for smallpox, by studying the cowpox virus. This led me to create a home video in which I was dressed up as Edward Jenner and my friend was dressed as a cow. The video was a hit with my class, and my research on the topic led me to begin viewing vaccines as magical—how else could they prevent people from getting sick?
As a first year medical student taking microbiology, I became more aware of the ways in which vaccines truly impact health, both on a personal and global scale. For example, smallpox has been eradicated, saving an estimated 5 million lives annually. An outbreak of polio has not been reported in some time, making it likely that this debilitating disease may also be a matter of history. If children and infants are immunized, many life-threatening illnesses can be avoided and maybe even annihilated. This is a powerful concept.
July 22nd, 2015
By Tyler Brobst
Welcome back! We are excited to launch Meet Mayo Med for its second year. Our goal has been to share the incredible stories of students at Mayo Medical School in Rochester, Minnesota, both inside and outside of the classroom and hospital. We are looking forward to sharing more of these stories over the course of this academic year!
This week marked an important milestone at Mayo Medical School - members of the Class of 2019 began orientation and started their medical school journeys. We thought it would be appropriate for our first blog post of the year to focus on this amazing class. So who is the Class of 2019 exactly?
Competitive. Members of the M.D. class were selected from over 4,500 applications
Diverse. The class consists of 29 female and 25 male students. These students call 23 different U.S. States home. Some have recent roots in the countries of Germany, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Serbia and Ukraine.
Service oriented. Every single member of the incoming class has demonstrated a sincere dedication to serving others. They have been active in such organizations as:
(just to name a few!)
Passionate. These students have distinguished themselves as accomplished musicians, dancers, writers, and artists. They are athletes, emergency medical technicians, combat medics, coaches, tutors, teachers, mentors, leaders, athletes, writers, researchers, scientists, soldiers, veterans, and inventors.
Needless to say, we're incredibly excited for the big things that the Class of 2019 will do at Mayo Medical School and beyond!
Tyler, a third year medical student, is a member of the Mayo Medical School Social Media Committee and is interested in otolaryngology. He is originally from Woodbridge, Virginia and enjoys reading, cycling, and being outdoors (when it’s warm, that is).
May 6th, 2015
As I stepped up to the patient on the operating table, side by side with a doctor who had changed my life, I could feel goose bumps starting to creep up my arms and chest while the little hairs on the back of my neck began standing on end. Approaching 5 years ago today, I was on an operating table in very much the same position as the person in front of me.
A flood of images came to mind, but most vividly the pain and fear I felt on the side of a ski mountain in California when I lost feeling and movement below my waist. Would I ever walk again, hike again, have kids, or even urinate on my own again? It took only a split second to have all of these thoughts on that ski slope. At the same time I had profound, jarring, splitting pain in the middle of my back. The ski patrol was swift, and an ambulance rushed me to the local hospital. They told me I had shattered a vertebra and broke my spine in two other places. I had damaged my spinal cord and life-threatening bleeding necessitated urgent surgery. Helicoptered to a more specialized facility, I remember being asked for my consent to operate. There was a total surrender; a giving over of my life to the team and whatever else up there to heal me, to make this better. I woke up the complete next day. I had no idea where I was, in a lot of pain, and had a urinary catheter causing some admitted discomfort. But I looked down at my toes, and watched as the big toe on my left foot responded to my commands and moved, just a little bit. I screamed in elation, shot my fists up in a victory pose, and began a healing journey over the next two years that convinced me to become a doctor pursuing the study of the nervous system. It was not easy; but thanks to the exceptional care I received particularly at Mayo Clinic I made a full recovery, and graduated in the top of my class on time from college, running 5-6 miles a day.
Now, assisting in the operating room with my neurosurgeon while on a selective in Mayo Clinic Jacksonville, fixing someone’s spine with some of the same screws and titanium rods that currently sat fixed in my spine – profound gratitude. A sincere, deep feeling of thanks as I stood at the patient’s and my doctor’s side, gloved and gowned, for everyone that has been a part of this, from my surgeon to physical medicine, occupational therapy, my family, friends, and God. Thank you.
Brian Rodysill is a second year medical student from Rochester, MN with an interest in the nervous system and the process of healing. He is an avid outdoorsman and loves to hike, swim, and dance. He is also passionate about public health, nutrition, and the science of healthcare delivery.
Tags: mayo clinic, Mayo Clinic Florida, Mayo Clinic Jacksonville, Mayo Medical School, Mayo Medical School Blog, medical school, Medical Student Blog, medical students, Meet Mayo Med, neurosurgery, Spinal Fusion
April 22nd, 2015
I had never seen someone quite so helpless as Allen*, so away from the grasp of any type of comfort. When I walked into the room, the 20-year-old cancer patient was sitting on the exam table with his legs crossed. He was looking down at his electronic gaming device, pressing buttons randomly, perhaps in an effort to avoid making eye contact with anyone in the room-especially me. The thinning hair on the top of his large round head, his long and scruffy beard covering his chin, and his thin-rimmed glasses seemed odd in juxtaposition to his windbreaker pants, big white sneakers, and toy. It was as if he was both a young child and an aging old man at the same time.
I wanted more than anything to speak with Allen, though I’m not sure what I would have said if I had been given the opportunity to make anything more than small talk. I wanted him to know that I understood what it felt like to dry heave for hours during a chemotherapy treatment, how strange it was to have all your friends be afraid to talk to you and to have your mother treat you like a five-year-old again. I wanted him to know that I understood what he was going through far more than most people did. But that wouldn’t have helped Allen, because while I was standing before him, a medical student following my passion, he was dying.
I resorted to trying to make him smile. Allen, however, did not even seem annoyed, as if my presence was not even significant enough for such a thing. He seemed angry at himself, his situation, and his tumor. But the worst part about Allen’s situation was not his appearance or his sadness or even the fact that his pelvic sarcoma had relapsed for the third time and was only going to get worse. The worst part about Allen’s situation was his mother.
Tags: Cancer, First Year Medical Student, mayo clinic, Mayo Medical School, Mayo Medical School Blog, medical school, Medical Student Blog, medical students, Meet Mayo Med, oncology, Pediatric Oncology, Shadowing