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20 hours ago · An Immersive Three Weeks

by Jennifer Dens Higano

We recently finished our first full block of medical school! Arriving on the first day was nerve-wracking. Pushing open the door to the Siebens building and hoping I was in the right place, both literally and figuratively, the “what if’s” swirled in my mind: What if I fail? What if I’ve forgotten everything from my prerequisites? What if my classmates don’t like me? What if I don’t like them?  What if I decide medical school isn’t for me?

The first three weeks have proven much less worrisome than that. The student support services at Mayo are robust, and the opportunities to find my niche in medicine are enormous. I haven’t forgotten everything and my classmates (and classmates in other years) are interesting, kind, and fun people!

If one word could describe my first three weeks of medical school at Mayo it would be “immersive.” Not only because so much of Rochester is tied to Mayo, both with respect to physical space and the number of people involved, but because our days are filled with Mayo. Don’t misunderstand – the days are not filled with school because we’ve had so much homework. The first week was orientation, and then we had two weeks of the Science of Health Care Delivery as our first block. Study-wise, the last three weeks have been pretty relaxed.

Immersive, for example, is that since the first day of orientation I have seen classmates every day. We’ve had plenty of interactive and group activities during class, like our group yoga class and time spent in smaller teams discovering Rochester social service organizations during the “Day in the Life” activity as a theoretical patient. Outside of classes though, the first weekend we got together at the Dean’s Pool Party, and then the following weekend we all went camping together and spent time tubing down the river, grilling, and bonfiring.

Photo 1: Enjoying the Dean’s Pool Party!

Photo 2: Tent city during our camping weekend in southern MN

There are also all of the optional activities – interest group meetings, presentations, Grand Rounds, fitness classes, and social activities. Immersive means that some days I’ve been on campus from 8am to 8pm, and traditional classes haven’t even started yet! It sounds like a lot, but it’s been enjoyable. All the time spent has been a great way to get to know my classmates, learn more about the varied work happening around Mayo, and hear about all of the ways to get involved. It has been a little overwhelming too. There are so many options! For a relatively small medical school with only 50 students per class, even the number of student organizations is large. Maybe it’s the anxious, type-A med student thing, but sometimes I feel like I’m already behind. I’ve been reassured that this is normal, and that it takes time to figure everything out and find where to put my energy.

Photo 3: Learning knots and suturing with the Surgery Interest Group

Through orientation and the two weeks of Science of Health Care Delivery spent talking about health care system issues and context, we’ve been able to ease into medical school and get our bearings before starting the “drinking from the fire hose” phase. So far it’s been more like taking sips from a regular garden hose, allowing us to learn our way around campus, explore Rochester, and figure out how Mayo works, even while we’re getting a brief introduction to the social factors, economics, technology, advocacy, teamwork, and population health issues that make up the science of health care delivery.

Looking forward to the upcoming Biochemistry, Genetics, and Histology block, I’m feeling intimidated. With only six weeks to cover all of that material I don’t know how I’ll master it all. Somehow everyone who has gone through Mayo before me has managed it, and that is at least reassuring. As I blog throughout the year I will keep you posted on how it goes!

Photo 4: View of Gonda and Mayo buildings from the Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center

Jennifer Dens Higano is a first year medical student from Brainerd, MN by way of a decade-long detour in Minneapolis. She is still exploring what her specialty interests will be but is broadly interested in bioethics, health policy, and health care design. Outside of medical school, Jennifer loves architecture and planning, and enjoys biking, reading, skiing, and relaxing on her porch with a quality cup of coffee.

Wed, May 17 4:34pm · New Yorkers move to Rochester, Minnesota

This is our final blog post of the year. Please see the editor’s note at the end of the post!

by Reese Imhof

My wife, Nicole, and I made the move from New York to Rochester last spring. She was fortunate and landed a job in her field at Mayo Clinic right away, which gave us a reason to move sooner rather than later. We were both born and raised in the New York metropolitan area and felt a strong connection with our roots. While it was a difficult decision to leave New York, we have absolutely loved this past year at Mayo and living life in Rochester! Here are my top reasons why I love Rochester, MN and how moving from New York to Rochester has been for me.

Food: As Rochester continues to grow with the Destination Medical Center (DMC) economic development initiative underway (this includes private investments of $5.6 billion over 20 years to fuel the growth of Rochester), there seems to be almost a monthly batch of new restaurants popping up. Rochester’s restaurant scene is more about quality versus quantity. When my wife first visited Rochester with me to house hunt, we celebrated finding “the one” with a dinner at Forager (foragerbrewery.com). Their restaurant boasts an eclectic mix of locally sourced farm-to-table dishes from cast iron mac and cheese, amazing burgers, and handmade pizzas, to their “Forager skillet” fit for any foodie. Forager is also one of our favorite spots for Sunday brunch. Connected to Forager, there’s also a great coffee shop called Kutzky Market, but I’ll talk about that a little later.
Here are 10 of our favorite restaurants in Rochester:
Forager Brewery – locally sourced, farm-to-table, American dishes
Terza – upscale Italian with a rooftop bar (La Vetta)
The Redwood Room – upmarket new American with an Italian influence
Ootori Sushi – a favorite for Japanese cuisine
Pescara – fresh from scratch Seafood restaurant
Pasquale’s Neighborhood Pizzeria – New York-style pizza, Italian pastries, calzones, and garlic knots. This is the real deal!
Bleu Duck Kitchen – new American with a menu that changes once a week
Pho Chau – very popular Vietnamese restaurant
Porch and Cellar – Southern, Urban Farm Fare
Mango Thai – modern Thai cuisine

Kutzky Market (photo courtesy of Alexandra Wootla)

Drinks: Bars and restaurants go hand-in-hand and many of the above mentioned restaurants boast extensive wine lists and cocktail selections, but Rochester is also home to various breweries, coffee shops and cafes. One very popular new spot is The Doggery. This place rivals many of the speakeasy-inspired cocktail lounges found throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn. They offer food and non-alcoholic beverages as well.
The Doggery – speakeasy-inspired cocktail lounge with prohibition-era style cocktails and a moody atmosphere; they also offer hand crafted food pairings.
Grand Rounds – brewing company and pub right in the heart of downtown, the name says it all. In addition to craft beer, they offer fresh, local food and desserts (the cast iron cookie is a favorite).
Kutzky Market – connected to Forager Brewery, offers handcrafted espresso drinks and a delicious assortment of fresh baked pastries.
Café Steam – a favorite of many Mayo med students, boasting delicious coffee and loose leaf teas with plenty of workspace to study.
Old Abe Coffee Co. – during the warmer months, you’ll spot Old Abe’s coffee cargo bike outside the Mayo building and across from the medical school. His cold brew is, in my opinion, the best in town. He’ll be opening a brick and mortar shop in the Cooke Park Design District this year.

535 Gallery (photo courtesy of Alexandra Wootla)

Arts & Culture: Rochester has a lot to offer for a smaller city in terms of arts and culture. Our recently expanded Civic Center area downtown has a theater and arts center while the Cooke Park Design District continues to expand to include galleries and shops where you can purchase local DIY art and crafts.
The Rochester Civic Theater Company – professional community theater, dance, and musical performances
Rochester Art Center – contemporary art and cultural center
Dwell Local – locally sourced and owned design and art business specializing in handmade, re-purposed, and up-cycled items. Located in the Cooke Park Design District.
Fox Fern Floral – a boutique-style floral design studio. This is where I get my wife flowers! Also located in the Cooke Park Design District.
535 Gallery – new art gallery located in the Cooke Park Design District

The Great Outdoors: Something we have really enjoyed is getting outside more often now that we have access to miles of bike trails and beautiful parks.

Rochester has so much to offer in this arena and it has been a welcome change for us. The city of Rochester has 3,500 acres of park land, 85 miles of paved trails, and over 100 individual park areas to visit.

Bike path (courtesy of Alexandra Wootla)

Quarry Hill Park and Nature Center
Silver Lake Park
Extensive bike trail system – Cascade Lake, Bear Creek, Mayowood, and White Oaks/Douglas Trail are some of my favorite trail loops.

Cost of Living: Did I mention that my wife and I bought a house? This is something that would have been impossible for us as a young couple starting out in the New York metropolitan area while I’m in med school. We were able to find the perfect home close to Mayo in a neighborhood we love. As a married student with a working spouse, this made sense for us. However, if you’re looking for a more modern apartment building, there are multiple new developments popping up all over town close to Mayo Clinic. Many of my classmates live in the heart of downtown Rochester, within walking distance of the med school. Coming from New York, the cost of living in the Midwest has been a huge relief for me as a medical student and I’m glad to be able to get more for my money in a city that is undergoing so many new and exciting developments.

Social Ice (photo courtesy of Alexandra Wootla)

Community: The Rochester community has been so welcoming. The “Minnesota Nice” culture is a real thing and it’s wonderful. As a small city, there are plenty of things to do while there is also a true sense of community and solidarity with your neighbors.
Thursdays on First & 3rd – weekly street fair with food vendors, local artists and live music held throughout the summer months.
Social Ice – held in February, this event features local restaurants, professional ice sculptures, and live music.
Rochester Public Library – beautiful public library with many events and educational opportunities for residents young and old.

What the Future Holds: Rochester is evolving rapidly. In the first year of living here we’ve already seen many changes, from new housing developments, restaurants, shops, and more. It’s exciting to live in a place that is growing and changing and we are definitely happy to have made the move from the East Coast to Midwest!

All photographs featured in this blog post are used with permission from Alexandra Wootla, courtesy of the Rochester_MN instagram account (@Rochester_MN). Please visit https://www.instagram.com/rochester_mn to view more beautiful photographs of Rochester.

Reese is a first year medical student and a member of the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine Social Media Committee. He is a native New Yorker who worked as a graphic designer and entrepreneur before coming to medical school. He loves living in Rochester with his wife, Nicole, and their dog and two cats. His hobbies include biking, running, hiking, photography, and writing.

Editor’s note (Tyler Brobst): With just a few short days left until graduation, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on the last four years and all the incredible opportunities I’ve had at Mayo Clinic School of Medicine (or as I knew it until this past year, Mayo Medical School!) and in Rochester and Minnesota in general. I’ve come to know and love this area in a way I never thought possible. I think this post by Reese exemplifies Rochester’s greatest qualities, and how truly up-and-coming of a city it is. Being in Rochester at the Mayo Clinic has been an amazing place to study medicine. I’ve met an incredible group of faculty, residents, and of course, fellow classmates who share a tangible passion for learning and patient care. I’ve been incredibly inspired by these people. I am especially grateful to every student who has contributed to this blog and shared their stories. After its inception three years ago, Meet Mayo Med has been a place to share blog posts on everything from cooking to clinical rotations to life in Rochester, and I hope that this story sharing continues. Although I’ll be leaving Rochester and heading to San Diego for my pediatrics residency next month, I will always be grateful for the relationships that I’ve formed here at Mayo.

Wed, Jan 18 3:56pm · Marriage and Medical School

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.

Living with your spouse or partner in medical school is great because your support system is right there in the same household. I’m very fortunate that I have a wife who works from 8 AM to 5 PM and is able to take care of many of the household chores and responsibilities that I sometimes don’t have time to do. Besides practical support such as cooking meals or making sure I have clean clothes on weeks when I have a very hectic schedule, the emotional support Nicole provides is a lifesaver during high stress periods of medical school.

Successfully managing stress during my first year of medical school has been an ongoing process. Having a supportive spouse, who is there for me to talk to and always encourages me to keep doing my best, has been very important to me. I also find that having the commitment and bond of marriage has helped me and my wife get through times when I may not see her as often as I’d like to. That being said, it can also be challenging to focus on studying when we haven’t spent time together in a while.

Supporting each other in our educational and professional goals has always been a part of our relationship. Nicole worked full-time in the mental health field while pursuing her graduate degree along with a 12-hour a week internship, so we are both used to having one member of the relationship supporting the other in both practical and emotional ways. I remember cooking dinner for her or making sure she had clean clothes for work during the weeks when she wouldn’t get home until 11:00 at night after a long day of work, internship, and class. I also remember being there for her in times of high stress. I’m grateful that I have a relationship where we have both helped each other succeed in our separate educational pursuits. Overall, having the support of a spouse or partner during medical school can be amazing so long as you and your partner understand that there will also be difficult times and long days to get through. I look forward to seeing what the next few years of medical school will yield and how my relationship with my wife will continue to grow and be strengthened.

To end this post, I’ll share the top 5 things that have been helpful for maintaining the strength of our relationship during medical school.

  1. Protected date nights – I look at my schedule and we plan a night when things aren’t too busy, so we can go out on a date without me having to be preoccupied with med school responsibilities.
  2. Talk to each other about things other than medicine/medical school – Nicole loves hearing about what I’m doing and learning in med school and I also love talking to her about her field of healthcare. That said, it’s important to also have other interests and different things to talk about outside of medicine! I also always make sure to ask Nicole about things that are important to her, such as how her day went, what new book she’s reading, how her friends are, etc. Medical school is really exciting and it’s easy to let it consume a conversation because there will be times when all you want to do is talk about everything you’re learning and doing. It’s important to make sure you have balance and are also taking an interest in hearing what your partner wants to talk about.
  3. Try new things together – Do something different to break out of your routine. Be open to doing something completely new. Nicole even got me to try dancing lessons with her. I was skeptical at first (I didn’t really know how to dance), but we actually had a lot of fun. I got her to try camping (she had never gone before) and an “escape room challenge”.
  4. Be thankful and appreciate all the little things – Be sure to notice your partner’s efforts, appreciate all that they do to make life easier for you and remember to thank them. When we were in our Anatomy block, I would always stay in the lab or in the library until late at night. Nicole would drive to the school after she was done with work to bring me dinner she cooked, or she would just stop by with our dog in the car so I could take a short break with them. I was so grateful to her for this and I wanted to make sure she always knew how much these little moments we had together meant to me.
  5. Do something for your partner/surprise them when you can – It’s not easy being married or partnered to a medical student! There are some real sacrifices that your partner will have to make. For example, I didn’t get to celebrate Nicole’s birthday this year because it was during final exams. I had exams on her birthday and the day after her birthday, so we barely saw each other. She was so understanding as she always is, but I wanted to make it up to her. I surprised her with tickets to a concert I knew she really wanted to see and I planned a weekend getaway. In med school there will be times when you are completely swamped with work, but there will also be periods when you have more free time. Take advantage of the free time and plan something fun for your partner.

Reese is a first year medical student and a member of the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine Social Media Committee. He is a native New Yorker who worked as a graphic designer and entrepreneur before coming to medical school. He loves living in Rochester with his wife, Nicole, and their dog and two cats. His hobbies include biking, running, hiking, photography, and writing.

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