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November 22nd, 2013

Bringing a little Mayo to Tajikistan

By Hoyt Finnamore

Collaboration is sewn into the fabric of most everything we do around here. It's that whole "two minds are better than one" thing. And while that collaboration often extends beyond our walls, some of those collaborations and connections still sometimes surprise us. One of those surprising collaborations recently caught the attention of the LaCrosse Tribune.

The newspaper reports that last week 10 family medicine physicians from the small, mountainous country of Tajikistan (that's north of Afghanistan in case you don't have a map handy) came to Mayo Clinic Health System–Franciscan Healthcare in La Crosse to learn more about how staff there care for patients and, we assume, how that can help them back home.

In particular, Cheri Olson, M.D., associate director of the La Crosse-Mayo Family Medicine Residency program, told the Tribune that our friends from Tajikistan were interested in learning more about how Mayo provides patient care in rural settings, its "Medical Home" projects, and its residency training. "They spent a day watching how we train and work with our residents during a casting session," Dr. Olson tells us. "They also enjoyed, in particular, the ways we do certification and ongoing training. I think they really got fired up about some of those ideas and suggestions."

Almost as fired up, perhaps, as Dr. Olson and her team were to help their visitors find new ways to improve the quality and safety of care they provide. "My own belief is that we're global citizens and can learn a great deal from people of other cultures, and different providers," she says.

And the learning wasn't all one-sided, Dr. Olson says. She and others at Mayo were also able to learn a thing or two from their guests. Things like, "The former Soviet system does a really fantastic job of having physicians think of themselves as public health providers, that they're responsible for a population," she says. "They take that very seriously and include multidisciplinary teams of doctors and nurses who go out and do home visits and go into rural communities where patients don't get access to care. And I really think we need to be doing more of that."

Exchanges and connections like this "make the world seem smaller and help promote primary care around the world, which I think is vitally important for the future of our planet," Dr. Olson says.

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