In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

March 14, 2022

Good Samaritan: Dr. Tom Mason serves the Salvation Army Good Samaritan Clinic

By In the Loop
Dr. Thomas Mason

In 2009, Dr. Tom Mason's daughter introduced him to the Rochester Salvation Army’s Good Samaritan Health Clinic. He's been a fixture at the clinic since, seeing patients who need a rheumatologist's care and prescriptions but do not have health insurance.


When Tom Mason, M.D., first came to Mayo Clinic, he expected to stay for just a few years to gain valuable experience. That was 29 years ago, and Dr. Mason is still seeing patients in Rheumatology at Mayo Clinic.

He and his wife, Tina Mason, a pharmacist in Rochester, came from West Virginia where they grew up in a rural community. "There were lots of people needing aid, and that impacted me profoundly," says Dr. Mason. "Now I get to be the one providing that aid."

Back in 2009, it was one of Dr. Mason's daughters who introduced him to the coordinators of The Rochester Salvation Army's Good Samaritan Health Clinic.

"My mother was a part of The Salvation Army band, so I knew their mission my whole life," he says. "My daughter thought volunteering for the Good Sam would be a good item for her resume, and I started volunteering with her as a way to brush up on my internal medicine skills."

Making a difference

Dr. Mason leads a rheumatology clinic that provides for patients of the Good Samaritan Clinic — people who are in need of a rheumatologist's care and prescriptions but do not have health insurance.

One such patient, who wishes to remain anonymous, referred to here as Anna, has a particularly challenging case of both scleroderma and lupus.

When Anna was first diagnosed, she came to Mayo Clinic terrified, thinking she was going to die. It wasn't until Anna was regularly seeing a Mayo Clinic rheumatologist that she started to gain control of her conditions.

"I know that I am very lucky. I had wonderful care at Mayo Clinic," she says. "My flare-ups are serious, but I actually get several years in between the flare-ups. Lots of people don't even get that."

Everything changed when Anna's nephew went to college. She had raised him since he was 3 months old, and to be able to help him get through school, she relinquished her health insurance.

Anna was working at a Rochester restaurant, trying to manage her conditions without a physician or medications. Her nephew was in school, doing well, when she had a frightening flare-up.

"I had developed a kidney disease," she says. "I couldn't eat or drink for a full two weeks, and I couldn't go to the emergency room because I knew I didn't have the money to afford a visit there."

Anna's inability to eat or drink, combined with her pain and continued illness, caused her to lose her job, further jeopardizing her health and livelihood. That is when Anna was referred to The Good Samaritan Medical Clinic.

"When I first met with Dr. Mason, he told me not to worry. Stress was not going to make me healthier," she says.  

Dr. Mason and the team at the Good Samaritan Clinic made sure Anna never received a bill for her care, and they have been working with her over the past year to find the best combination of medications for her dual conditions to give her the best possible quality of life.

Anna is no longer in regular pain, and once again has a primary physician to oversee her care.

Benefits all around

"When I first started volunteering in 2009, the care was a lot less developed than it is now," says Dr. Mason. "The Good Sam has turned into a health care maintenance experience for people with chronic medical conditions: hypertension, diabetes, etc. It's really gone from acute care, renewing meds and sports physicals to comprehensive care."

The Good Samaritan Medical Clinic also provides a training ground for young physicians. From the second-year Mayo Clinic medical students who volunteer to provide acute care clinics twice a week, to the third-year fellows who join Dr. Mason for the once-monthly rheumatology clinic.

"Mayo Clinic has a real focus on altruism," says Dr. Mason. "I wouldn't get to do the things I get to do at the Good Sam if that wasn't the case."

And it's gratifying to help, he says.

"We have the collective skills to provide the same care for patients in financial need with very little effort on our part," he says. "Why would we not do that?"

Note: The Salvation Army is reviving its annual Taste of the Town Celebration on April 1 to support the mission and work of The Good Samaritan Health Clinic. Dr. Allison Ducharme-Smith, medical director of the Good Samaritan Clinic, will deliver the keynote address at the event. You can find tickets at www.RochesterSA.org.


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Tags: Dr. Thomas Mason, Employee Stories

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