Reluctant Tourists Offer Their Reviews of a Medical Destination

Downtown Rochester viewed across the Zumbro River. Those of us who call Rochester, Minnesota, home like to joke about its landmark corn-cob water tower and say we'd like to leave in the winter, but our cars won't start. But it's no secret that the city is known more as a medical destination than a place to find frozen vegetables. And it's hard to deny the city has become more citified. The Boston Globe, in an article last week titled, "Destination for reluctant but hopeful travelers," paints a pleasant picture of Rochester as a "medical oasis in the Minnesota cornfields." (Hey, we have soybean fields, too.) The article is peppered with perspective from those who come to the city for care.

Abdullah Al Obaid, of Kuwait, extols Rochester's convenience and hospitality. He's in town for an extended stay, seeking help for multiple sclerosis. "Everything is right here," he tells Globe reporter Robert Weisman, who notes that Al Obaid and his wife are guests of the Kahler Grand Hotel. "It's easy to move between the hotel and the clinic," he tells the reporter, adding, "I like the people here." Weisman also talks with patients from Colorado, Texas and Russia, all seeking hope and help for complex medical conditions. He notes that Mayo draws about 40 percent of its patients "from outside a 500-mile radius, including more than 8,500 international patients."

Weisman calls Mayo Clinic a "world-class medical center that draws presidents, kings and entertainers." But patients, he writes, "arrive in all seasons and from every corner of the earth: the chronically ill, the suddenly stricken, the worried well … seeking answers, guidance and healing." Mayo's Mikel Prieto, M.D., medical director of the International Center, tells the Globe it all makes for a "very cosmopolitan" atmosphere.

Mayo Clinic and the city of Rochester, however, aren't ones to rest on their laurels. The Destination Medical Center initiative, which calls for "$5 billion to $6 billion in expansion projects envisioned for Mayo and Rochester," aims to "build on that tradition and further extend Mayo's reach." Lisa Clarke, executive director, Destination Medical Center, tells the Globe, "Mayo Clinic decided we're going to grow" and the city needed to step up its game. "We wanted to make sure that Rochester lifted up its brand to support what Mayo is doing," she says. "Patients expect something different than they did 10 years ago — a different kind of lodging, retail, arts and culture."

Of course, it's the medical care, backed by research and education, that brings so many to Rochester, as the patients tell Weisman. But we're thinking our slogan idea, "Rochester, Minnesota. Come for the medical care, stay because your plane is grounded by a snowstorm," still needs a little work. Especially when it's 80 degrees and a bit muggy.

Tell us why you stay (or visit) by sharing a comment below. Share this story with others using the social media tools atop this page.