In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

October 7, 2022

Maria Caruso on relearning culture, language of the U.S., finding her place at Mayo Clinic

By In the Loop
Maria Caruso

During Hispanic Heritage Month, the News Center is sharing experiences of Hispanic colleagues at Mayo Clinic and their thoughts on creating a culture of empathy, support and belonging at Mayo Clinic. This "Voices of Mayo" column features Maria Caruso, a clinical research coordinator in the General Clinical Studies Unit at Mayo Clinic in Florida.


"Voices of Mayo" highlights Mayo staff and their stories, exploring their diverse backgrounds, the challenges they face, the opportunities they have been given, and their experiences at Mayo Clinic.

During Hispanic Heritage Month, the News Center is sharing the experiences of Hispanic colleagues at Mayo Clinic and their thoughts on creating a culture of empathy, support and belonging at Mayo Clinic. 


Maria Caruso, General Clinical Studies Unit

My parents were both born and raised in Venezuela. Shortly after they got married, they won a scholarship to come to the U.S. to pursue a degree. I was born in Seattle and currently live in Jacksonville with my family and a very inquisitive and loving 10-year-old son.  

When I was 5, my parents decided to move us back to Valencia, Venezuela. One of my memories as a young child was how difficult it was for me to communicate with my family and friends in Spanish as I only knew English. It didn't take me long to learn Spanish, but it taught me how resilient kids are and that I was a smart, strong-minded person who could take on the world only by believing in myself.

I am the oldest of four siblings. I have three sisters and a younger brother. I attended high school in Venezuela and graduated at 17. Due to the instability and insecurity of Venezuela, I had to make one of the hardest decisions of my life and move back to the U.S., but this time, alone. I had to relearn the culture and language to pursue a better future for myself and my family. I received my bachelor's degree in Biology with an emphasis in biomedical science at the University of Wisconsin — River Falls. I was also fortunate that Mayo Clinic allowed me to get my master's in Neurobiology of Disease.

One thing is for sure: I learn something new about this country and language every day, and I am grateful to call the U.S. my home. Especially now that I have a 10-year-old son who corrects me when I make a mistake.

I had a very good friend who explained what the Mayo Clinic was, and she encouraged me to apply for a job here. Three months before I graduated from college, I got an interview at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. I remember it as if it was yesterday. It was a Wednesday when I got the interview, and by Monday, I got the job as an electron microscopy technologist. After that, I got the opportunity to work as a technical specialist in the Biospecimens Accessioning and Processing Laboratory in Rochester. In 2017, I got the privilege to come to Mayo Clinic in Florida to work as a supervisor in the Biospecimens Accessioning and Processing Laboratory. I was very excited to move back to warmer weather and to be closer to my family, that had relocated to Miami.

In 2020, I wanted to pursue the other side of research and work closely with patients. I applied to become a research coordinator for community-based research. I love this new role because I get to help the Hispanic community, and my team is wonderful to work with. 

"I get to work with brilliant research physicians who want their research to help the communities we serve and also to ensure their study populations are diverse. I also work with patients and communities to help them better understand research studies and the research process."

Maria Caruso

Since I started working at Mayo Clinic, I have been fortunate to have never felt like an outsider. Still, it took me a little time to feel like I belonged here due to the difference in culture, language, and — especially in the beginning — the weather.

Even though I was in Rochester for about 11 years, I never got adjusted to the cold. One aspect of my culture I realized I needed to change is that it is not socially acceptable to give a kiss on the cheek or hug someone that you just met when you are greeting them, especially your co-workers or your friends. So, I learned quickly that you only shake hands so there are no misunderstandings, and personal space is much appreciated. Another aspect that I had to change a little bit to be respected as a professional was to stop and think before I spoke. I noticed that if I were too direct or to the point, people would take it as being rude when I just wanted to get to the main problem and fix it. I learned I needed to be softer when I speak, to try not to use my hands too much when trying to explain something, and that I cannot speak as fast in English as I do in Spanish if I want people to understand me. 

I have been working at Mayo Clinic for almost 16 years and have had many highlights. But one I especially want to mention is that I love my new position as a Mayo Clinic research coordinator that conducts community-based research. This position helps bring studies out to the communities where we serve to improve their health and well-being. We partner with communities to understand their needs, and then our scientists develop research studies to address those needs. I get to work with brilliant research physicians who want their research to help the communities we serve and also to ensure their study populations are diverse. I also work with patients and communities to help them better understand research studies and the research process.

In all my years at Mayo Clinic, I have had the privilege to work alongside many colleagues who later became my role models, and I am very thankful for them. I am who I am, thanks to them. I will say one thing that I love about Mayo Clinic is that if you need some support, all you need to do is ask. Most people are willing to help you or find someone to help you. When people ask me how to navigate the ups and downs at Mayo Clinic, I tell them never to be afraid to ask questions.

I think Mayo Clinic is starting to get more involved with minorities by hiring people who understand the culture and language and creating an environment of inclusivity.  One suggestion that I have for the campus in Jacksonville would be to create more satellite clinics downtown here and in Miami. I know Mayo Clinic is well-known, but the minority may see Mayo Clinic as a place they cannot afford.

I also feel Mayo should do a market study to learn which communities know the least about the clinic and conduct advertising campaigns for those communities so they can learn about all the extraordinary benefits that Mayo has to offer. For example, as a Hispanic person, I was trying to get to the Spanish version on the intranet of Mayo, and it was hard to find it. I know we have a lot of radio stations that broadcast in Spanish, but I never listen to advertising about Mayo Clinic or the research that we are doing here. Make it more accessible for the communities to learn about Mayo. Finally, it would be ideal to collaborate with universities, clinics or hospitals that focus on Hispanics here and abroad by partnering nationally and internationally with Spanish-speaking organizations to promote Mayo Clinic's research efforts.

I think Mayo Clinic is doing tremendous work in diversity and inclusion. I would suggest creating programs where people with lower income can come to Mayo Clinic and experience and receive world-renowned care. Find a way to get information out to minority communities around the world about all the resources that Mayo Clinic has to offer. Mayo Clinic is a unique place that I am very proud to be a part of, and I hope everyone can learn what we do to help patients every day.  


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Tags: Staff Stories, Voices of Mayo

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