In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

December 2, 2021

‘In a Word’: Debra Bowe on making a difference the Mayo way, more

By In the Loop
Debra Bowe


This column spotlights the kinds of people you think about when you think about Mayo Clinic. They've answered questions, serious and otherwise, so you can know them better.


You see them at bedsides. Behind desks. You may spot them walking down a hall or sprinting across a lobby, making every effort to look like they're walking. You see them talking quietly with a patient and family, or sitting down with you at a meeting. They may be friends, teammates or someone you know only by sight. But you're glad they're here. And it's reassuring to know that the health of our patients, our colleagues and the institution itself rests in their capable, friendly, earnest, caring and compassionate hands.


Debra Bowe has always enjoyed working with people — whether it was at the flower shop she managed for five years or in her current role as an operations analyst in Revenue Cycle.

Bowe started her career at the hospital in Bloomer, Wisconsin, 36 years ago, before it became part of Mayo Clinic Health System. While she says it was a bit intimidating at first to become part of a large and renowned organization like Mayo Clinic, it didn't take long for her to learn that Mayo was a special place to work.

"It soon became apparent that not only did Mayo provide top-notch care to patients, but they truly cared about their employees and supported us as we joined the team," Bowe says. "It was always very important that the patient was the center of my work, and I knew that I could make an impact."

She says she enjoys helping people and being a positive influence on others.

"We are here for our patients, and they expect excellent care and service at each interaction," she says. "I am honored to be part of an organization that puts the needs of the patient first." 

One of my favorite things about Mayo Clinic: When I can meet or exceed a patient's expectations, as well as being a positive force with staff.

The single most important thing I did at work yesterday (or expect to do tomorrow): I listened to a colleague who was facing some challenges at work and acknowledged that I'm sure others have had similar challenges, as well. Mayo provides wonderful resources and tools for staff. It's important to know that the organization is here to help. At times, we just need to take a step back and reach out to colleagues for their support. We are all in this together.

A book I would recommend, or one I want to read (and why): Being a grandma, I tend to enjoy reading children's books with my grandson. Our favorite is "Good Dog, Carl," by Alexandra Day, and I would recommend it if you have children or grandchildren in your life. There are no words printed, which gives us the opportunity to create our own story while looking at the beautiful illustrations. The perception of what is going on is different for each of us, but that is where we learn to appreciate each other and understand there are differences in life. Each time we look at this book, a new story is told using our imagination.

Mayo Clinic has taught me: Change is constant, which really is a good thing, as I feel we aren't settling. We as a team are looking to do what we can to improve. Through a combination of solid leadership and collaboration of an incredible team, we can continue to make a difference in the lives of our patients.

Most treasured or best advice from a colleague at Mayo: I remember a day more than 20 years ago at a special department meeting. Staff in attendance were a bit unsettled as we had heard that big changes were coming for Revenue Cycle. Of course, we had thoughts of: "Will we have a job? What is going to happen to all of us?" 

The manager shared that change is coming but wanted us to know that the leadership team would be there to support us, and we are in this together. There was plenty of work to be done, but the jobs we did may change tomorrow. But we would have jobs, and remaining positive was important. 

I think of that day often, but I remember leaving that meeting with a feeling of confidence that it would be OK. I remain positive and know that change is constant, but, most importantly, that our leadership team is there to support staff.

Most memorable Mayo moment: Several years ago, on a Friday evening, I was working in the Billing Department. I was set to leave for the day when my phone started ringing. I answered it. On the other end, was a distraught patient, crying about her bill and asking me how we expect her to pay this bill. She didn't have money, and she had other things going on in her life. She was clearly upset.

She did share what was going on for about 15 minutes. I listened to her. When she was done talking, I told her I was there to help — that we cared about her and what was going on in her life. I remember telling her, "Mayo is here to help you."

I talked to her about some options we had for her. I told her I would send some paperwork in the mail to her to see if she qualified for assistance. 

By the end of our conversation, she was crying again. But she was crying because she felt valued. She kept telling me, "You are so kind." She was sorry she took it out on me. She said I was her angel. 

I told her the paperwork would be in the mail, and she could call me on my direct line when she received it. I would go over it with her step by step.

I could hear the relief in her voice. She proceeded to thank me again, and we ended the call.

I was able to get the application off in the mail before I left for the weekend, mentally exhausted from the day, but feeling good that I had helped this patient.

The following week, I received a phone call. The gentleman on the other end said he got my direct number from an application that I had sent his wife. He started to talk and then stopped. I could tell he was crying. I thought maybe they were having trouble completing the form I had sent his wife. He gained his composure and shared that on the night I spoke to his wife, he could hear her sharing her frustration with me on the phone. He apologized and said his wife was having a bad day, and besides bills, she had some other things going on in her life. 

He said, "After getting off the phone with you, she came into the living room and was relieved." She told him she felt like everything was going to be OK, as she had talked to me ― Debra ― at Mayo. I was going to help them. He said it was a total relief to her.

He said, "You made a difference that night." I was humbled.

He tried to talk again, and I could hear his voice cracking. He shared that the following day, his wife, whom I just talked to Friday night, collapsed on the floor and passed away. I was overcome with tears.

He proceeded to tell me, "She was just so grateful for your kindness during that phone conversation." He felt compelled to call and thank me. 

That was the most memorable Mayo moment I had, as I will always remember this patient. It reminds me that we have to be kind with every interaction and know that we have an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others. To me, this is the Mayo way.

If I could choose the "hold" music for Mayo Clinic it would be: Soft instrumental music. But in a virtual world that would be fun, it would be the Brothers Osbourne song, "It Ain't My Fault."

Favorite space on campus this month: I'm now a full-time remote worker. But when we were able to gather in Rochester for meetings, I was in awe of the Plummer Building and its architectural style.

People who inspire me: There are many people in the world who are inspirational, but the two who come to mind for me are the birth mothers of my adopted children. 

We all have had to make tough decisions in our life. These two birth moms gave the gift of life and forever changed our lives. For that, my husband and I can never thank them enough. They both inspire me to be kind and supportive, and be the best version of myself. 

I find this relates to my work here at Mayo. Staff have the chance to inspire, mentor, help, care and give patients the excellent service they expect and deserve.

The most fun I've had at work this year: In one of the first Zoom meetings the operations analysts had, a colleague and I put on colorful wigs, glasses and hats. With the pandemic, we hadn't seen each other in person for a year. It was quite the surprise for others on the call to see our colored long hair. We all had a great laugh and realized that, even though we couldn't be in the conference room in person, we could still have a fun start to the meeting.

Team Dr. Charlie or Team Dr. Will? Or Team Mother Alfred or Team Dr. W.W. Why? This would be considered the golden team, and each one of them brought so much to Mayo. In reading about Mother Alfred Moes, she stated, "With our faith and hope and energy, it will succeed" in urging William Worrall Mayo, M.D., to support her plan to build a hospital. Her words still are inspiring today. "The cause of suffering humanity knows no religion and no sex; the charity of the Sisters of Saint Francis is as broad as their religion." What a great team to be on.

When patients recall their visit to Mayo Clinic, I hope they remember: How we made them feel. That they feel as much a part of the Mayo family as I do. I want them to know that we are genuine and truly care about patients, their families, their whole being, and they are valued and cared for.


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Tags: Debra Bowe, Employee Stories, In a Word

What a fantastic story. Thank you Debra for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

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