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International visitors come here to learn the ‘Mayo’ way

Originally published in Mayovox, May 1990. 

“Mayo Clinic is a very famous place in Yugoslavia.  Before I came here, I perceived it as an institution that pursues the very highest standards- and I have found it to be so.”

These words of Dr. Predag Ilich, a visiting scientist from Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, reflect the worldwide recognition earned by Mayo Medical Center. Mayo attracts medical professionals and students from around the world who want to study the clinic’s organization and practice.

Mayo’s Visiting Physicians, Clinicians and Scientists programs offer learning opportunities to medical professionals form other countries. Visiting physicians usually stay for less than 30 days.  Last year, 749 physicians form 68 countries participated in the program.

Visiting physicians are assigned to a Mayo consultant.  Through observation of the consultant at work and by attendance at conference and lectures, visiting physicians learn about a specific procedure or whatever they’ve chosen to study.

Visiting clinicians, who are officially appointed, stay from three months to two years.  A Mayo staff member assumes responsibility for the clinician’s education program – with the approval of the department or division and the endorsement of Mayo’s international Education Committee.  The Visiting Scientists program is similarly structured; individuals in the program collaborate on a specific research project.  Currently about 190 visiting clinicians and scientists are at Mayo.

The Visiting Physicians and Clinicians programs are for established professionals.  Those still in training – residents, research fellows or students – apply and compete with applicants from the United States for positions at Mayo.  The most qualified individuals are chose.  About 120 residents, 100 research fellows, and 18 predoctoral students from foreign countries are presently enrolled.

“I’m impressed with the training system here,” comments first-year pediatrics resident Dr. Aengus O’Marcaigh of Dublin, Ireland. “In Ireland, you really have to train yourself.  You apply for a new job every six months for every different specialty in which you want to train and you work your way up.  In the Mayo residency program, you are guaranteed a job because your training is planned for four or more years. Lectures are organized and research opportunities exist.  Of course, you get clinical experience too,” he says.

He is amazed by the practice’s efficiency and its support staff.  “It’s a bigger effort to get things done on the job in Ireland.  Tasks take longer because the system is not as well structured as it is at Mayo.  Here, everything seems to run smoothly.  Mayo employs more people who perform a variety of services,” says Dr. O’Marcaigh.

Dr. Panbubpa Choovichian, of Bangkok, Thailand, also is impressed by the number of medical center employees.  One of four nephrologists at a 2,000-bed hospital back home, she and fellow physicians must do much of the work that is done here by support staff.

“I’m impressed with Mayo’s system. Everyone is eager to help, eager to work.  The team work works,” she adds.  “Patients are diagnosed, treated and discharged more efficiently than in Thailand.  I would like to improve the system in the nephrology unit at my hospital.  We must work on getting earlier diagnoses and treatments so we can have earlier admissions and discharges.”

She finds Rochester a quiet place, which gives her time to read, practice her English or make dinner for her Mayo colleagues.  “I made a Thai dinner for friends during which we talked about many things: religion, politics and America.  The conversation was very interesting: I seem to learn something whatever I do here,” she says.

Dr. Gianrico Farrugia, a second-year resident in internal medicine, is from Malta, a 122 square-mile island in the Mediterranean with a population of 330,000.  He’s made himself feel at home at Saint Marys Hospital, where he seems to know every other person.  Even 32-hours shifts don’t diminish his friendliness.

Despite the demanding schedule, Dr. Farrugia is glad to be here.  “Without a doubt, medicine is great here.  Everyone is very knowledgeable as well as friendly and willing to help,” he says.  “Experts in virtually every specialty are available to answer my questions.  Residents can learn more quickly and thoroughly with such resources available to them.  Another aspect of Mayo I like is that I’m not only meeting interesting people, I’m also seeing rare medical cases.”

He is enjoying other aspects of the local culture as well.  He’s played soccer on a Mayo team and has event tried ice hockey – a sport unheard of in sunny Malta.  “It was a frightening experience,” he laughs.

Dr. Maria Magocsi, a biochemist from Budapest, Hungary, lives a somewhat more quiet life here.  She is a visiting scientist who is studying the biochemical background of the effects of different hormones in the uterine tissue of pregnant rats.

In Hungary, she works for a large research group.  She came to Mayo – it is very well-known in Hungary, she says – to work with Dr. John Penniston, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.  She had read several of his papers and had written to him, asking to join his research team.

She’s thoroughly enjoying her stay.  “Every possibility is given for thorough research here.  I can read recent scientific papers and I have access to computers and other research equipment.  I like to work hard because I have such a short time here.  I want it to be worthwhile by contributing to the long-term research program of our Mayo team.  The results of the program might assist physicians in more effectively preventing premature birth.”

“In the laboratory where she works, Dr. Magocsi has met individuals from all over the world – South America, Asia and Europe.  Such meetings have given her a new perspective of her work and her life.

“At Mayo, I have learned that the world is larger than my work, than Hungary, than the United States.  I have met, out of my work, many people from Southeast Asia who cannot return to their countries.  We can return.  There are so many different worlds, so many different restrictions.  You have to look beyond your own world, and then when you turn back to your world, you will better appreciate it.”

By Moira A. Palumbo

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