In the Loop

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September 8th, 2015

Mayo Occupational Therapist Treats Patients From All 50 States in Just Five Years

By In the Loop

In five years and two months' time, Sarah Dahlhauser had seen and treated a patient from every state in the country. A little more than five years ago, Sarah Dahlhauser saw her first patient as an occupational therapist at Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus. When she started here, she knew she'd see patients from many different places. So she decided to keep track, and she began coloring in a map of the United States to track the states her patients had traveled from.

Sarah says she expected it to take "some time" for her to be able to color in every state. That may very well have been the case … had she not worked at Mayo Clinic. "I knew Mayo had a great reputation for being one of the best in health care, but I never anticipated just how far that reputation reaches," she says.

Within her first couple of years on the job, the blank map of the United States Sarah had hung in her office was already nearly full of color. "I really wanted to see how quickly I could get every state colored in on the map," she says. Sarah got her answer last month when she saw a patient from Vermont, the state that had been her one "last holdout" for more than a year.

She'd done it. In five years and two months' time, Sarah had seen and treated a patient from every state in the nation. "It was an overwhelming sense of joy to fill in that last state for myself and my co-workers," she says. The margins of her map have been filling up, as well, as Sarah uses that space to keep a running list of the home countries of her international patients. (That list now totals 26 countries.)

Sarah's co-workers, including her supervisor Renee Andersen, say they've been impressed and inspired by her project. "What's fun about Sarah's map is it hangs at her desk, so those of us who have been around have seen the progress," Andersen tells us. "And when she meets someone who is not currently on her list, she returns to the staff room with an almost giddy excitement." That excitement, Andersen says, is nothing new for Sarah. "She brings that level of enthusiasm to her work every day, with every patient," she says. "Sarah's a rare gem."

Rare, too, is the opportunity Sarah says she's had to help people from all over the world. "For me, looking at all of those states and countries fills me with pride," she says. "Personally, it's been a joy to meet people from all walks of life and vastly different cultures. Professionally, it's been an honor to be a part of an institution that's sought after by people regardless of their circumstance or how far across the globe they are."

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Tags: Employee Stories, Sarah Dahlhauser

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