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Assistant professor of medicine, Section of Infectious Diseases, Department of Internal Medicine
University of Nebraska Medical Center
Jasmine Marcelin, M.D. (I ’14, CTSA ’16, INFD ’17), trained at Mayo Clinic because it was one of few U.S. medical centers to offer an accessible, affordable away rotation with hands-on clinical experience for international students. After a month focusing on infectious diseases in Rochester, Minnesota, she was hooked — on the specialty and on Mayo Clinic. She adjusted her residency plans and applied to Mayo Clinic. She stayed on for an infectious diseases fellowship. Dr. Marcelin recalls the support of a Mayo Clinic physician, who described her as having a fire in her belly. Today, at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Dr. Marcelin describes her work in infectious diseases, diversity and inclusion, and resident medical education as inspiring and lighting her fire.
“Dr. Stacey Rizza at Mayo Clinic was the first person to sponsor me, which involved using her influence to create an opportunity for a junior colleague to advance my career. Her trust in me unlocked an interest in scholarly activity and informed my desire to inspire future trainees to do that kind of work. Now, when I give trainees projects they think they might not be ready for, I think of Dr. Rizza and the way she encouraged me. I’ll always remember the impact she had on me.”
I was born in Dominica, in the Caribbean. There were no physicians in my family at that time, and my only contact with a physician was during my well-child visits. At age 8, I told my pediatrician that I liked science and children, and was “trying to decide what to do with my life.” She took me seriously and suggested I could be a science teacher or a pediatrician. I thought about it and said I didn’t have the patience to be a teacher. “I’ll be a pediatrician,” I told her. To me, it was a logical decision.
I spent my undergraduate years at St. Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and got my medical degree from the American University of Antigua College of Medicine in St. John’s Antigua and Barbuda. As a fourth-year medical student, I looked for visiting student rotations. It can be hard for international medical students to find affordable away rotations that provide hands-on clinical experience, and Mayo Clinic was one of the few accessible and affordable locations where I could rotate as a visiting student.
I went to Mayo for a one-month rotation in infectious diseases and loved it. Even as a medical student, I felt like the Mayo internal medicine faculty I interacted with treated me as a colleague. If a consultant asked my opinion, they really wanted to hear what I had to say. I was fascinated by the capabilities at Mayo and availability of so many resources for scholarly activity.
I’d already submitted my residency applications by the time I rotated, and had not planned to apply to Mayo Clinic. When I met with the faculty and internal medicine residency program director at the end of the rotation, they urged me to apply for residency. Four months later, I matched! Three years later, I chose to stay at Mayo Clinic for a three-year infectious diseases fellowship, and my husband, Dr. Alberto Marcelin (FM ’16), joined the family medicine faculty as an assistant professor.
I went to Mayo knowing it was a world-class institution. The first thing I noticed was that everyone wore suits, and everyone moved in teams; I couldn’t distinguish the hierarchy in a team because everyone looked the same. Today, that impacts the way I teach at my institution. We wear white coats, but my approach is to treat all team members equally.
When I was young, I participated in regional and national science fairs. My friends did the typical projects — volcanoes, windmills. Those weren’t interesting to me. I did a grand scale epidemiological model of infectious diseases in Dominica, researching malaria, dengue and other diseases and putting together an elaborate presentation and booklet. I won the science fair.
That was the start of my interest in infectious diseases, but I didn’t know it was a medical specialty at that time. I was well into medical school before I realized that. I wanted to explore all of the specialties, but the patients I was most excited about were the ones with concurrent infections. It was clear to everyone but me that I would go into infectious diseases at first, but I eventually figured it out.
The microorganisms are one of the reasons why I love infectious diseases. We are billions of times larger than they are, but they can bring us to our knees; you have to respect that. They can move and change; treating infections is a delicate dance between them outsmarting us and us outsmarting them.
I learned that every team member’s opinions and contributions are valuable regardless of their stage of training, and everyone’s thoughts should be heard and included. I use that on a daily basis when I’m teaching on my teams.
I had a lot of research support at Mayo. A lot of my successes have come from a combination of having faculty with different strengths involved in my career.
When I was an internal medicine resident and still trying to find my way to a specialty, I went to Stacey Rizza, M.D. (MED ’95, I ’98, INFD ’01), Division of Infectious Diseases, and asked for help identifying an infectious diseases project. She sat with me, brainstormed and ultimately gave me the opportunity to be the first author on a book chapter with her as a second-year resident. I only had a month to complete the chapter, and it was one of the most challenging academic projects I’ve had to do in a short period. Dr. Rizza was the first person to sponsor me, which involved using her influence to create an opportunity for a junior colleague to advance my career. Her trust in me unlocked an interest in scholarly activity and informed my desire to inspire future trainees to do that kind of work. Now, when I give trainees projects they think they might not be ready for, I think of Dr. Rizza and the way she encouraged me. One of Dr. Rizza’s evaluations was particularly memorable: she said that I had a fire in my belly that she hadn’t seen in anyone before. I’ll always remember the impact she had on me.
I’m an infectious disease physician and associate medical director of Nebraska Medicine’s Antimicrobial Stewardship Program. We work with hospital teams to assess and optimize our antibiotic use so those medications are available to us in the future. I’m also an associate program director for the Internal Medical Residency Program — a newer role I’m very excited about. I work with trainees to identify scholarly activity, and I am committed to supporting a culture of diversity, inclusion and equity in the residency program and in our College of Medicine.
I’m also co-director of Digital Innovation and Social Media Strategy for the Division of Infectious Diseases, along with Mayo Clinic alum Kelly Cawcutt M.D. (CCMI ’13, INFD ’15, CTSA ’16). We work together on social media and blog for our division and increase its national recognition.
I’m very involved with the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) and am a founding member of its Inclusion, Diversity, Access and Equity Task Force. I am also an incoming director candidate for the IDSA Board of Directors starting in 2020.
My personal mission statement is “to create and support a healthcare workforce and graduate medical education environment that strives for excellence and values Inclusion, Diversity, Access and Equity as not only important, but necessary, for excellence (success).” This is the work that inspires me daily, lights my fire and keeps me going in medicine.
Always be yourself. You’ll encounter people who don’t appreciate or recognize your authentic self. Those aren’t always your people, and it’s OK to walk away from them, even if they may be familiar and safe. The best way to succeed is to be yourself, and people who matter will value what you bring to the table.
Those of us in medicine are very high energy and intellectually driven. It’s easy to lose yourself as you take on others’ goals for you — what they think you should be doing. Self-reflect, re-evaluate, and make sure what you do and say is authentic to your true self.
I spend as much time with my family as I can. My husband, Alberto Marcelin, M.D., completed his family medicine residency at the University of Minnesota and then worked in Family Medicine at Mayo Clinic Health System in Austin, Minnesota, while I was in fellowship. He’s now medical director of two Nebraska Medicine outpatient clinics. Our sons are 8 and 4. We play board games and have movie nights. In the summer we love playing outside and travelling when we can.
I played piano for many years and got up to grade 7 in the British system. I stopped before college and am trying to learn again. I am also rediscovering my love for painting.
Also, as a Mayo Clinic trainee, I co-founded the trainee Diversity & Inclusion Committee along with Rahma Warsame, M.D. (I ’13, HEMO ’16, HEMA ’17), Division of Hematology. I’ve enjoyed seeing how that group has been maintained and evolved and enjoyed returning as keynote speaker for the inaugural Trainee Diversity Week in 2019.
I’m very active on Twitter and use it as my primary advocacy tool. You can follow me on Twitter at @DrJRMarcelin.
See past New Chapter stories here.