(originally published in 2018)
Program director, integrative medicine, Department of Pain, Palliative Care and Integrative Medicine Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, Minneapolis
Associate professor, Department of Pediatrics
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
“I feel humbled and grateful that people put their trust in me and allow me to care for their children, especially when they are very sick or dying. I learned the importance of that honor and respect from my many mentors and teachers in life and at Mayo Clinic.”
- Fellowship: Integrative medicine, University of Arizona, Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, Tucson
- Fellowship: Medical Education Research Innovation Teaching and Scholarship, University of Chicago, Illinois
- Fellowship: MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics, University of Chicago
- Fellowship: Pediatric critical care, University of Chicago
- Residency: Pediatrics, Children’s Memorial Hospital, Northwestern University, Chicago
- Medical degree: Mayo Clinic School of Medicine, Rochester, Minnesota
- Master’s degree: Systems engineering, University of Pennsylvania, Philadephia
- Undergraduate degree: Duke University, Durham, North Carolina
- Native of: Providence, Rhode Island, and Maplewood, New Jersey
Why did you decide to pursue medicine?
As an electrical engineering undergrad at Duke, I was very interested in medicine, and one of the surgeons I met offered to let me shadow him in the operating room. That surgeon turned out to be Onye Akwari, M.D. (S ’78), a Mayo-trained physician. He told me if I was willing to get up at 5 a.m., I was welcome to join him in the OR. Dr. Akwari was a wonderful role model. I was amazed not only by his technical ability and skills but also by the compassion he had toward his patients and young scholars such as me. Throughout my life when I’m looking for my next step, I look at the people around me and think, “Would I want to be like them when I grow up?” He was someone I wanted to be like. I decided to continue my path of pursuing a degree in electrical engineering, but the experience I had with Dr. Akwari never left me.
My father was a physicist, and my mother worked in finance, so my household was science-heavy. I loved math and science, working with my hands and figuring out how things work; engineering was a natural fit. I loved engineering, but I was missing the human connection. Some of my work was making a difference in the world, but I didn’t have a personal relationship with people where I could see the difference my work was making in their lives on a day-to-day basis. I wanted more and eventually found it in medicine.
I was an engineer in the aerospace industry for three years after college, and came to Mayo Clinic as a nontraditional student.
What were your impressions of Mayo Clinic?
At Mayo, everyone was on a constant path of discovery. It was a wonderful learning environment, and it shaped my philosophy of caring for and partnering with patients. I had wonderful opportunities to work in underserved countries, including the Solomon Islands and Peru, due to the support of generous benefactors. The class size at Mayo Clinic School of Medicine was great. It felt like a place where I could open the directory, call anyone, express interest and they’d enthusiastically welcome me to shadow them or collaborate on a project. Learning, growth and development are all paramount at Mayo and an important part of what has shaped my medical career and philosophy. There’s very much a partnership with patients to figure out how best to improve their quality of life. It’s a wonderful way to be taught.
How does Mayo Clinic influence your practice?
I get meaning from my work, which influences all of my interactions. I feel humbled and grateful that people put their trust in me and allow me to care for their children, especially when they are very sick or dying. I learned the importance of that honor and respect from my many mentors and teachers in life and at Mayo Clinic.
What do you contribute to the Mayo Clinic Alumni Association?
I continue the Mayo Clinic tradition even though I’m at a different institution. I offer enthusiasm, mentorship and support for those who come after me. I hope to help people strengthen their ties to the Mayo Clinic family.
What do you do in your spare time?
I love to travel, read, garden and take in the arts. I’m very family-focused. I enjoy doing fun things with my husband and my daughters, ages 10 and 12.