Ognjen Gajic, M.D., on being in a punk rock band, practicing medicine during a war, more

Ognajen Gajic

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.

Ognjen Gajic, M.D., Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, was in a punk band in 1992, having just finished medical school, when a war broke out in his hometown of Sarajevo.

Dr. Gajic used his newly acquired skills to practice emergency medicine and surgery in Sarajevo during the war, which separated him from his wife and two children for nearly three years. They were finally reunited and were able to come to the U.S. as refugees.

He first worked as a patient care assistant in a nursing home and volunteered his time in research activities until he passed the United States Medical Licensing Examination. He later completed an internal medicine residency in Brooklyn, New York.

With Mayo Clinic being famous in Eastern Europe, Dr. Gajic had always dreamed of visiting the clinic. Mayo had one of the first fellowships in Critical Care Medicine — something Dr. Gajic had become interested in during his residency.

He joined Mayo for a fellowship in 1999 and has been here since.

"Coming to Mayo was a dream come true," Dr. Gajic says.

Being at the bedside of critically ill patients is really important to him, he says.    

One of my favorite things about Mayo Clinic: The patient does come first.

The single most important thing I did at work yesterday (or expect to do tomorrow): Filling out the "Get To Know Me Board" to bring a dying critically ill patient from anonymity and connect at the human level.

A book I would recommend, or one I want to read (and why): "Rochester Stories," by Paul Scanlon, M.D. It's a great collection of fun facts about Rochester beyond Mayo.

Mayo Clinic has taught me: The critical importance of teamwork, be it the incredible team of ICU nurses and respiratory therapists or the METRIC research team — both of whom I critically depend on. 

Most treasured or best advice from a colleague at Mayo: Dr. Paul Scanlon, a Rochester native said, "It takes a conscious effort to like Rochester, but once you put the effort there is hardly a better place to live."

Most memorable Mayo moment: Publishing a paper with an ICU patient as senior author.

If I could choose the "hold” music for Mayo Clinic: "La Campanella," by Franz Liszt.

Favorite space on campus this month: North staircase in the Gonda Building where music plays all night. I take it — 10 floors — when taking breaks while on call in Methodist ICU.

People who inspire me: Joseph Campbell, Salman Rushdie and Peter Medawar. 

The most fun I’ve had at work this year: Being able to share Mayo Clinic values, knowledge and experience with ICU clinicians as far away as Ukraine and Vietnam through our CERTAIN program.

Team Dr. Charlie or Team Dr. Will? Or Team Mother Alfred or Team Dr. W.W. Why? Team Dr W.W. He said, "My own religion has been to do all the good I could to my fellow men, and as little harm as possible."

When patients recall their visit to Mayo Clinic, I hope they remember: The hand of a stranger making them feel safe during the worst of their moments, when they were at the edge of life.