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May 13, 2014 · On the Road to Mayo Clinic, with Jason Davis

DavisJason760Minnesota broadcast journalist Jason Davis has been on the road since 1979, bringing KSTP-TV viewers to interesting and intriguing locations across Minnesota, the region and even the world. Davis, who plans to retire at the end of May, wasn’t too hard to talk into taking a whirlwind tour of Mayo Clinic, which is celebrating a little history-making of its own, as you may have heard.

The resulting “On the Road: Mayo Clinic Celebrates 150 Years” episode takes on the flavor of Mayo’s sesquicentennial recognition — celebrating Mayo’s history and accomplishments, and looking to the future.

Here are five highlights from the show:

  • Matt Dacy, Mayo historian, talks about how the Mayos and the Sisters of Saint Francis helped treat wounded survivors in a dance hall and a library after the 1883 tornado, and Davis talks about how the cyclone “brought together an unlikely couple of immigrants” (Dr. W.W. Mayo and Mother Alfred Moes) to spark a new way of practicing medicine.
  • Bart Demaerschalk, M.D., drives a telemedicine robot through Mayo Clinic Hospital in Arizona to demonstrate the capabilities of the tool that brings Mayo specialists face to face with stroke patients and their physicians in rural hospitals across Arizona.
  • Bernadette Cusack discusses one of the largest collections of frozen brains in the world, which allow researchers to dig deeper into diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and ALS.
  • Andre Terzic, M.D., Ph.D., discusses research into using stem cells to regenerate tissue — to heal organs rather than replace them – and the care and feeding of these amazing cells. (“Like a baby, you need to change the diapers,” he says.)
  • Carillonneur Jeff Daehn, volunteer Jane Belau and Mayo patients discuss how music contributes to the healing environment at Mayo Clinic.

There’s much, much more, of course. You can watch the entire video below where you can also tell us what’s up in your little corner of Mayo Clinic.

Also, don’t miss Matt Dacy’s picks for the Mayo Clinic’s five most-important medical contributions on Minnesota Public Radio.

May 13, 2014 · Continuing the dance in the City of Joy


Photo by Paula Allen for V-Day

There are certain stories that stick with you. Sometimes, these are stories that, in spite of their origins in sadness and despair, speak of hope. A year ago, we brought you one such story — about Mayo Clinic volunteers (physicians, nurses and allied health staff) who traveled to the Democratic Republic of Congo to treat female victims of physical and sexual abuse. And we told you how a group of courageous women bonded together to form a community they appropriately call the City of Joy.

What makes this community unique is that “it does not view the women it serves as individuals that need to be saved; rather, the City of Joy aims to provide women with the opportunity to heal and redirect themselves … on their own terms.”

They are healing and then some.

Eve Ensler, founder of V-Day, which supports City of Joy, writes about this “oasis of transformation, healing, and love” in a heartfelt letter to the volunteers who have helped the cause. She writes that “more than 400 young women” have not only changed their own lives but are now going back and “impacting the lives of others in their community.”In her letter, Ensler includes a shout-out to the Mayo doctors and nurses who have provided care for these women. “I would like to take this moment to honor some amazing doctors, three of whom actually saved my own life when
I was diagnosed with uterine cancer. Deborah Rhodes, M.D., Sean Dowdy, M.D., Eric Dozois, M.D., Emanuel Trabuco, M.D., and nurse practitioner Lois Mc Guire all traveled from the Mayo Clinic in the U.S. to Panzi Hospital, and spent days performing operations and lectures with Dr. Mukwege,” she writes. “All of us at V-Day and City of Joy thank them for their amazing generosity … We are overjoyed they came to dance with us at City of Joy on the last day of their visit.” (Sadly, we have no video footage of said dance.)

About the women themselves, Ensler had this to say, “Their dance is the dance of those who returned from the edge, who have stepped into their bodies and vitality, released their shame and rage and hurt, and are now ready to seize the world.” Mayo’s Lois McGuire echoes Ensler’s assessment of the progress being made in the community. “The City of Joy is a wonderful place where the women of the DRC can get emotional healing,” she says. “They learn a trade and how to manage a business so they can go back to their communities with their heads held high.”

Just as they did last year, these Mayo Clinic volunteers are again organizing a run/walk — the Rochester Rising City of Joy 5k — to raise funds to help the women of the City of Joy. The run is at 6:30 p.m. on May 30. If you’re in Rochester, we hope you’ll consider walking or running for the cause. If not the event’s organizers are encouraging “virtual participation” and encourage you to run or walk where you are to support them.

If you are so moved, dance on down and share your thoughts below.

May 13, 2014 · Quote of the day

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”

Helen Keller

May 8, 2014 · Shadowing a Mayo Clinic medical illustrator

MedicalIllustation760Mayo Clinic medical student Diem Vu’s life could have gone in a different direction had she chosen to follow one of her other lifelong interests. “Art has been one of my passions ever since I could hold a pencil,” she writes in a recent blog post for in-Training, the self-described “agora of the medical student community.” It wasn’t until college that Vu says she found a way to combine art and medicine through medical illustration. In the end, she chose medicine because of “the roles and responsibilities in healing patients with which physicians are privileged.” But she says she still harbors a curiosity for medical illustration. Fortunately, we’ve got a crack team of medical illustrators here at Mayo Clinic, and Vu recently got to hang out with them and write about it for in-Training’s “Med Student Shadows” series.

During her weeklong tour with the medical illustration team (something that also satisfied a requirement in Mayo Medical School’s “selectives” curriculum) Vu writes that she “watched in amazement as the illustrators meticulously drew and painted beautiful images of hearts, arteries, bowels and stem cells on their Cintiq tablet screens.” She was also front-and-center for the magic that goes into making “muscles contract and DNA molecules spin” in creations for patient education kiosks throughout Mayo Clinic. Vu says the illustrators were more than happy to share what they know along the way. “The illustrators also helped me review anatomy and learn new surgical techniques, as many of their commissions were requested by surgeons wishing to use the images as teaching tools,” she writes.

What she came away with, she says, is a new appreciation for the role medical illustrators play in patient care. And an appreciation for their ability to turn complex medical concepts “into easily-understood illustrations and diagrams so others can learn.”

That’s all in a day’s work, according to Mayo Clinic Senior Medical Illustrator Mike King. “Illustrations help clarify narratives,” King tells us. “The drawings can supplement stories, and if done well enough, function as stories themselves. The ability to write and communicate with precision is a critical skill for the teaching physician. I think the students who visit us realize that we need to be precise and accurate with visual descriptions as well. Given this perspective, a physician begins to understand the value provided by a medical illustrator.”

King says that value, however, isn’t just a one-way street. The students and others they work with “provide us with perspective and feedback, too,” he says. “And given the level of experience and intellect of our physicians, researchers and students, that helps us continually learn and improve.”

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May 8, 2014 · Taking full advantage of a spare

Bowling760The heart attack came when Doug DeMarce was just 62 years old. “It got my attention in a hurry,” the Mankato, Minnesota, resident recently told Mankato’s KEYC-TV. So much so, it seems, that the first thing he did after getting back on his feet was to enroll himself in the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato to help make sure he didn’t find himself in that situation again.

By doing so, the program’s website suggests, Doug has effectively slashed his chances of experiencing additional heart problems by 25 percent through the program’s focus on exercise, education and counseling. It’s a balanced treatment program that Clinical Exercise Specialist Chip Gay tells KEYC-TV is specifically designed to help patients like Doug strengthen their hearts, bodies and minds, so they can get back to life as they know it as quickly as possible. “Exercise is one of the most powerful medicines you can ever take,” he tells KEYC-TV.

Aside from a healthier heart, body and mind, however, Doug tells KEYC-TV he’s seen a more tangible benefit from his participation in the cardiac rehab program:  One that he’s pretty excited about but one that the program’s designers may not have seen coming. “I started to notice that my bowling was getting better,” he says.

Doug tells KEYC-TV that before his heart attack this past December, he had an average bowling score of 200. After enrolling in the cardiac rehab program and starting in on some strength training exercises, however, he says that average score started to climb. “By the time I got started on the strength training, my scores really took off,” he says. “The last 12 weeks of the season I had an average of 222.”

The program’s strength training sessions may not be the only reason for Doug’s improved bowling scores, however. He tells KEYC-TV that the program’s educational component may have also had something to do with it. “I think that the strength training plus the fact that I’m on probably a little bit more of a heart healthy diet, so I lost a few pounds,” he says. It all helped him improve his balance and ” stay more consistent.” More consistent, KEYC-TV concludes, by participating in a program that’s “spared his life”  — a pun we can only assume was fully intended. (We figure you picked that up, too.)

Let us know the score by sharing your comments below.

May 8, 2014 · Quote of the day

“A drawing is simply a line going for a walk.”

Paul Klee

May 6, 2014 · Chris Norton’s upward mobility

LutherChris760One thing was clear in the days after Chris Norton was injured during a football game in 2010, fracturing his neck and compressing his spinal cord: he was one determined young man. Immediately after his injury, Norton was flown to Mayo Clinic, where traction, surgery and some serious rehabilitation time helped him overcome the odds. Despite initial concerns that he might never regain the use of his arms and legs, he wiggled his toes a short time after the incident. A few months later, after weeks of intensive therapy, he had regained partial mobility in all four limbs. One year later, Chris Norton stood on the football field with the help of his teammates as honorary captain of his Luther football team.

Today, Chris is continuing his studies at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and he says he’s determined to walk on stage to receive his diploma next spring, according to a Des Moines Register story published last week. He’s also become an advocate for others with spinal cord injuries, starting a foundation with a mission to “promote the long-term health, wellness, recovery, and quality of life for individuals with spinal cord injury and other neurological disorders.” His SCI-CAN Foundation has awarded more than $167,000 to help purchase rehab equipment in areas where it’s needed most — to help people like him, who are driven to improve their function, but who haven’t had access to the kinds of tools he’s had. Last year, after his foundation donated a specialized rehabilitation bicycle to Winneshiek Medical Center, Chris told the Des Moines Register that his goal is to help “people who want to get better and have the drive, they just don’t have the opportunity.”

Chris has also mixed inspiration with his perspiration, sharing his story through public speaking of the motivational type. His message for students is that “life is about your responses, not your circumstances.” And, “You can do anything you put your mind to.” (We’re sold.)

NortonChris300Norton has been in the news a lot this month, as May is National Mobility Awareness month. So he’s been sharing his story and his words of encouragement. He’s also been all over social media, thanks in part to this video produced by his girlfriend, Emily Summers, who says what amazes her most about Chris is “what he does for others.” That’s clear in a brief testimonial from the mother of a young girl using equipment Chris’ foundation donated, who tearfully says, “In our own way, we love him for what he’s done for all of us here.” Emily notes that Chris could do even more to help others if he could drive, something he hopes to be able to do one day — and maybe sooner rather than later, if he wins a contest put on by the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association, which is giving away four vehicles customized for people with disabilities. (The contest continues through May 9.)

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May 6, 2014 · Taking on the world’s challenges, at age 14

AustinMcCoy300We don’t know what you were doing at age 14, but if you’re like us, you probably weren’t trying to solve the world’s disease-detection problems. But then, we’re not Austin McCoy, a Rochester, Minn., middle school student who’s making big waves with an impressive device he’s been developing alongside a Mayo Clinic scientist.

It all started, McCoy writes on his website (yes, he has his own website, too), when he was in fifth grade. “My school partnered with the InSciEd Out Program, and I met a scientist named Dr. Chris Pierret,” he writes. “He became my mentor and allowed me to come into his lab at Mayo Clinic, where he taught me how to extract DNA and how to analyze it using electrophoresis.” (Of course.)

While the two worked side by side in the lab, Dr. Pierret began sharing experiences from trips he’d taken to India and Africa. “He told me how people were dying in third-world countries simply because technology wasn’t available for rapid disease detection,” McCoy writes. “I knew that I wanted to try to develop technology that could help these people.”

And so he did, under the guidance of Dr. Pierret. By February 2013, McCoy had designed and built “a working thermocycler,” a device that helps amplify DNA to better detect viruses. His stripped down, portable and much cheaper version of a standard lab-issue thermocycler won top honors in a national science and engineering fair in Washington, D.C., which then landed him a formal internship with Mayo Clinic. And KAAL-TV reports that Dr. Pierret recently invited McCoy and his new thermocycler to join him and others from Mayo Clinic on a trip to New Delhi, India.

McCoy helped assist with the group’s teaching efforts in India, while also talking about his new invention. “I presented at institutes and laboratories,” he tells KAAL. “I presented to universities and clinics, and I tried to figure out where it would be best to implement my thermocycler.” And as Dr. Pierret tells the station, wherever Austin spoke, people gathered to listen. “Austin was talking to a room of about 10 graduate students. I left the room, I walked down the hall, had another meeting, and when I got back, there were 300 graduate students in the room,” Dr. Pierret says.

While Austin may be taking the lead in promoting and presenting his new portable device — which KAAL-TV reports costs “around $100” compared to $10,000 for a standard lab version — he’s quick to point out that none of it would have been possible without the help of Mayo Clinic, and specifically, Dr. Pierret. According to his website, McCoy is now working on the fourth prototype of his thermocycler, which he hopes to be able to test and make available to the rest of the world. “I’m going to sell some to just basic consumers, like in the USA, that have the money to afford it, and then I’m also going to hopefully use some of that money and get grants to implement it in places that can’t afford it, like Central America, India, Ghana, etc.,” he tells KAAL-TV.

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