As many Minnesota readers know, Mayo Clinic recently lost a beloved member of the family. Sister Generose Gervais, long-time administrator of Saint Marys Hospital, passed away peacefully at the hospital where she lived, worked and served for many of her 97 years. She’ll be remembered for her leadership and dedication, for perpetuating the Franciscan legacy, for her wise words and homemade pickles, and for her impact on countless people and programs at Mayo Clinic. One of those programs, we learned recently, is Mayo Clinic Medical Transport.
Sister Generose was the administrator at Saint Marys Hospital when the Mayo One helicopter program was established in 1984 and “had a soft spot in her heart for the program,” says Michael Farnell, M.D. Dr. Farnell, the first medical director for Mayo One, recalls a day during the development of the program that a vendor arrived on campus for a helicopter demonstration. “One of the first on board and most enthusiastic was Sister Generose,” Dr. Farnell says. “I watched from the ground as she took off for a ride, holding her veil and habit from the violent rotor wash.” When she returned from her tour over Rochester, Dr. Farnell was worried that she might have been “turned off by the experience.” Instead, “she bounced out of the helicopter beaming,” and Dr. Farnell “sensed that we had a key ally in our quest for program approval.” (Indeed.)
When the program eventually launched, Sister Generose blessed the aircraft — and each of the five that followed. “Our leadership felt strongly that we did not want to place an aircraft in service until it had been blessed by Sister Generose,” says Glenn Lyden, communications specialist for Mayo Medical Transport. “She reminded us to humbly serve all and … do our best work each time we responded to a patient’s needs.” She also blessed the flight teams, “knowing their hands would be the instruments of service to patients.” And each time she heard one of the helicopters take off or land, Sister Generose would say a prayer for both the patient and the crew.
Lyden enjoyed monthly conversations over coffee with Sister Generose and believes she viewed Mayo’s fleet of helicopters, its airplane and ambulances as “an extension to bring Mayo Clinic to the patient.” He tells us she would share stories she’d heard about Dr. William Worrall Mayo making house calls with his horse and buggy, and then observe that “we still bring Mayo care to the patient.”
Sister Generose was also the inspiration for hanging medals of St. Christopher, the patron saint of travel, in each helicopter and airplane. And in her honor, medals will soon be placed in all of the ambulances as well. “Sister Generose has been instrumental in shaping the values, vision and mission for Mayo Clinic Medical Transport, as she has with many works units,” Lyden says, adding that “due to the nature of the work done by our teams we wanted to have a daily reminder that she was praying for us and watching over us.” To that we say, amen.
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