Mayo Clinic is a unique place: the culture, the values, the people. "Mayo Clinic Employee Experiences" explores the experiences of Mayo Clinic staff as they navigate life personally and professionally. Sharing these experiences increases understanding of others and ultimately contributes to finding connections, belonging and inclusion at work.
In this episode, you will hear from Curt Lewis, a senior analyst and programmer in Information Technology, and Molly Mathers, an advisor in the Office of Access Management, discuss their experiences as Mayo Clinic patients and their journey to becoming Mayo staff members.
This episode is in honor of Mayo Clinic Experience Week, which celebrates the dedicated staff who put patients first by garnering trust, creating experiences of hope, and using their expertise to help patients heal.
Listen as Lewis and Mathers share their experiences:
Narrator: In this episode, you will hear Curt Lewis, an IT senior analyst and programmer, and Molly Mathers, an experience education and training advisor, discuss their experiences as Mayo Clinic patients and the journey to becoming Mayo Clinic employees.
Lewis: I've been a Mayo patient since 2007. In 2003, I was diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis along with ulcerative colitis. Primary sclerosing cholangitis is a liver disease that affects the bile ducts 'where the bile ducts get hardened and narrow. When I was diagnosed, I asked my GI doctor and without hesitation, he gave me a doctor in Rochester at Mayo Clinic. The first time I called to set up an appointment, they asked what I wanted to see the doctor for, and I told them, primary sclerosing cholangitis. I get, "Just one second." And they came back and said, "Well, we can see you next week."
Lewis: That was the start of my journey with Mayo. Initially, I was going every couple of years. Or if I had an emergency, I would go up there. I then started going to Jacksonville, which is two-and-a-half hours from my home. I now go once a year for routine checkups.
Mathers: I have worked at Mayo since 2018. I'm currently in Experience. I'm an advisor. We work with staff throughout the enterprise to work on interpersonal communication skills with patients and with each other.
I was actually born in Rochester, Minnesota. When my mom was pregnant with me, I was diagnosed with a mass on my face that's called a cystic hygroma. And I had a pretty tenuous first couple of years of life. I've had 17 surgeries at Mayo in Rochester. I grew up going to the clinic, and it was just normal life.
I'm wondering how you got from coming up to Rochester and eventually, Jacksonville, to working here.
Lewis: When I was first diagnosed in 2003, I was working as an engineer for a small aircraft company in Florida. It just wasn't my cup of tea. I needed something more. An opening came up in the fire department, and I took a job as a firefighter paramedic. I absolutely loved it. I will always say it's the best job in the world. The majority of medical calls are very benign, but then you have those emergencies where people truly need somebody. I did that for 14 years.
In 2010, I saw a lot of people in the fire department getting hurt and losing their careers. That coupled with the liver disease, I figured I'd better have a good backup plan. I went back to college and got a degree in software development. Jump ahead to 2020, COVID hits. They say you've got to be careful if you've got liver disease. I have a family to think about, and it was time to go.
I left the fire department somewhat reluctantly, somewhat happily. It was quite scary. I went from working 24 hours on and 48 hours off in the field to eight hours a day in the office. Big changes.
Mathers: Wow, that's a huge change.
Lewis: I don't interact with patients directly. What I do is more for other employees of Mayo to help them do their jobs to make the patient experience better. The purpose is more than just making money.
Mathers: As you were talking, I just heard that sense of purpose come up again and again. I hope that everyone has that wherever they work, but especially at Mayo. That's fantastic.
What is it about your job right now that gives you that sense of fulfillment?
Lewis: I'm working on something for a cancer registry. This is to help everybody with cancer, not just Mayo Clinic. And I also enjoy programming. So, again, a double benefit.
Mathers: That's amazing. And you see the importance of what you're doing. Even though you don't have direct patient contact, you're helping move the research forward and also helping staff. I can relate to that in my job as well. We have that in common.
Do you think that if you hadn't had that experience as a patient, you would think about your job any differently?
Lewis: Yes. I probably wouldn't ever consider health care. I have a degree in engineering. I don't like hospitals. It definitely brings a new perspective from being a patient first to being an employee. It might sound cliche, but it makes me want to do a better job.
Mathers: Because you understand just how vital it is to the patient experience.
Lewis: Exactly. And I've had nothing but great experiences at Mayo Clinic as a patient.
Mathers: Without that, you may not have even noticed the job listing.
Lewis: I specifically went searching for Mayo. There's a part of me that wishes that I could be on the Mayo campus. I just thoroughly enjoy being there. I have never been there as an employee. But I know as a patient, there's just a huge sense of calming. And most doctors' appointments, I do not look forward to, but I always look forward to my Mayo visits.
Mathers: How lucky are we to be able to say that we get a bigger sense of peace and calm and help when we go on campus? People don't typically have that experience with hospitals. That's wonderful how a kind of tragic diagnosis has opened up doors and given you more options.
Lewis: That's awesome. I never thought of it that way.
How did you become an employee?
Mathers: I never imagined myself working for Mayo because I didn't like science. I went to college in Minneapolis, was in Colorado for a few years and wound up back in Minneapolis not really knowing what I wanted to do. I was having just a few minor health things kind of crop up when I was living in Minneapolis.
My insurance plan was out of network to come down to Rochester and see my surgeon who's done all my surgeries and knows my medical history better than I do. And that was a really scary thing to be going through this and some unknowns and feel so close yet so far away to have access to what I think of as security. After that, I got a job here in part for that security.
This is not just the best care in the world, but it's the people who know me best personally. That was a big motivator for wanting to apply here. I ended up finding a lot of purpose in my work. Just like you, I think I would view my roles totally differently if I hadn't been a patient.
My prior role was in a much more patient-facing role, and I was talking to patients all day, every day. Through my own experience, I know just how meaningful it can be to have a positive interaction with someone who works at Mayo. As a patient, whoever you're talking to represents Mayo. I know that if someone is short with you or is trying to rush you off the phone, it feels like you're not seen. I viewed my role as just a soft spot for people to land when they call or when they come.
Not only do we have next-level treatment and surgery here, but we also have the care, that demeanor of concern that a lot of other facilities don't prioritize. And I'm just so proud to work for a place that is offering that to people who are probably in the direst spot they've ever been in. People come to Rochester when they've tried everything else, when they've exhausted all other solutions. It's really an honor to give that back to people, that sense of care and offer them hope. That's what we can do as staff members.
Lewis: You mentioned a couple of things — the security, the insurance. I had some procedures done, and the pathologists outside of Mayo Clinic thought that I had a mass on my liver. They also did a liver biopsy and didn't think it was that big of a deal. And then I had a colonoscopy. While I was still coming out of sedation, the doctor told me I have colon cancer. Luckily for me, I didn't have colon cancer but at the time I didn't know.
I saw my doctor at Mayo Clinic, and then I had to go for another colonoscopy. They sent me over at Saint Marys right across the street. I get the bill, and it's $25,000. The insurance [company] says, "Well, Saint Mary's isn't in network." I was on the phone with the lawyers and doctors for the insurance company, and I said, "I went for the best care." They just got quiet. And they finally came back and said, "We're going to waive the money. Just don't ever do it again." That was my first time really thinking about insurance. To get this job with Mayo and have Mayo insurance, there is a huge sense of relief and sense of security that I really cherish.
Mathers: It's vital. That kind of bill is no joke. And we know that it could feasibly happen at any time. We both have that lurking in the background. We don't know what tomorrow will hold. And we know that we're at higher risk than others for that type of thing to happen at the drop of a hat.
Lewis: It's just the whole sense of security that was a big motivator for me.
Mathers: Absolutely. And for us both to be able to find roles here that fit our skill set and also provide that security and sense of purpose — that's the trifecta, right? We're so lucky.
Lewis: We are, and it doesn't go unnoticed with me.
Narrator: Thank you, Molly and Curt, for sharing your stories with us. Sharing these experiences increases understanding of others and ultimately contributes to finding connections, belonging and inclusion at work. For more stories like these, subscribe to Mayo Clinic Employee Experiences on popular podcast apps.
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Tags: Mayo Clinic Employee Experiences, Patient Stories, Staff Stories