Mayo Clinic

Our first night into Rochester, we visited some patient living areas (an extension of the Mayo Clinic) to talk to anyone interested in sharing their stories with us, and were able to get several interviews for our Portraits Project.  Lee, Manny, Christine, Jan, Taylor and I talked to a woman named Joan from North Dakota.  She was battling Pancreatic Cancer and had been staying in Rochester for treatment.  She was happy to share her story and didn’t mind all of our questions.

Her story was very inspiring.  She was a very confident, no-nonsense woman.  When we asked about her struggle through treatment, she simply shrugged her shoulders saying that she was sick and would do anything to be cured.  The physical and emotional pain of treatment and having to be away from her family were tough, but she knew it was something that had to be done.  The only time we witnessed her become emotional was when she described how horrible it would have been for her children to grow up without a mother.  After the interview we stayed and chatted for a long time, drinking coffee and sharing stories.

The next day was our rest day, and we visited the Cancer Center of the Mayo Clinic.  This was the first time we were able to walk around the city during the day and take it all in.  I felt like all of Rochester revolved around the Clinic, and if you weren’t part of it in some way shape or form, you were just a tourist.  The hustle and bustle reminded me of downtown Chicago during the week, except instead of suits and ties and expensive watches everyone was wearing scrubs and lab coats. When you first walk into the hospital, you feel like you’re in a museum.  It’s massive glass doors and paintings on the walls made me think I shouldn’t touch anything, and the Dale Chihuly glass sculptures hanging from the ceiling added to this effect.

We were given a tour of an area called “The Center for Innovation.”  This was an “office” in one of the highest floors of the building where a team of 56 researchers, designers, engineers, business managers and others were all working together to solve large scale healthcare problems.  I say “office” with quotations because it was really more of a thinking space than anything.  To be honest, I felt like I was in the Google headquarters of healthcare.  There were desks where people worked, but instead of being corked up in a cubicle they were open and facing other desks and the rest of the room.  There were a million post-it notes that lined the walls, with words scribbled on and scratched out and arrows pointing every which way.  In some places people even wrote on the walls. If you ask my parents, they will be the first to tell you that I’m probably the worst at keeping things organized. My room consists of piles of clothes and books strewn about in no particular fashion, with things jotted down on the backs of newspaper and scraps of paper, mixed in with things (junk) I’m holding onto for this reason or that.  For that exact  reason, I felt like I belonged in this place.  It seemed like unorganization was encouraged, as everyone just gets their ideas out into the open, bouncing them off each other in no methodical way of rhyme or reason until someone comes up with a viable solution.  My dream job.

We sat in one of the conference rooms and heard from different members of the Center, who talked about their 21st century approach to problem solving on a large scale.  It was extremely interesting and very exciting: here we were, a handful of students from Illinois, in a top floor of the headquarters of the healthcare capital of the world, hearing from the cream of the crop in problem solving on how they go about doing their jobs.  Very cool.

The staff let us walk around anywhere we liked to check out the place, and even fed us lunch.  A news team came and filmed us.  They interviewed Divya (who is quickly becoming the I4K spokeswoman), and after the long day we were even treated to a free Chipotle dinner.  Can’t get much better than that!


So I apologize for not updating pictures earlier, but here are several to look through.  There will be more to come as soon as possible!


Comments (1)
  • Nancy Replogle says:

    Connor, Thanks for sharing your interview with Joan with us Pancreatic cancer is tough and it is sounds like she is using courage from deep within to remain optimistic. I really enjoyed your description of the Innovation room — sounds like a bit of controlled chaos, just the thing to get those creative juices flowing. The pics are terrific — my favorite is the boys washing their hair in the lake. Enjoy the rest of your ride!

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