Going to Mayo Clinic

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“The needs of the patient come first”

It would be entirely accurate to say that you wouldn’t be reading these words had I not been the first Canadian ever invited to attend the WomenHeart Science & Leadership Symposium For Women With Heart Disease at the world-famous Mayo Clinic.

Mayo is about an hour’s drive from Minneapolis, Minnesota, surrounded by dairy farms and cornfields, in the smallish city of Rochester.

Thanks to the generosity of the Mayo Women’s Heart Clinic, WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease, and their community partners, I applied (and was accepted) to attendthis all-expenses-paid annual training event in 2008 – the same year I’d survived a “widowmaker” heart attack.

Mayo Clinic is the first and largest integrated, not-for-profit group practice in the world. With 30+ buildings and two full hospitals in downtown Rochester, Mayo Clinic looks more like an urban university campus than a health care facility.  Doctors from every medical specialty work together to care for patients, joined by common systems and a philosophy of “the needs of the patient come first”. Almost 55,000 people work at Mayo Clinic.

Part world-class cardiology training and part community activism bootcamp, every year the unique WomenHeart Symposium brings together about 50 women living with heart disease for four memorable days of clinical lectures on cardiology, diagnostics, drugs and devices, current treatments, nutrition, mental health issues for heart patients, and so much more. 

These lectures are presented by prestigious specialists described as the “rock stars of cardiology”, those whose work focuses specifically on women and heart disease.  Aside from long days of hard work, my training included guided tours of the Mayo Clinic Cardiovascular Diagnostic Center, fabulous heart-smart buffet meals, Tai Chi For Heart Health, meditation, early morning autumn walks along the lovely Zumbro River, and even public speaking training.

Mayo ‘grads’ return home as well-prepared community educators ready to help raise awareness of women’s heart health issues from the unique grassroots perspective of Mayo Clinic-trained heart patients. There are now over 600 of us volunteering through public speaking on prevention and other cardiac issues, doing one-on-one personal support, visiting heart patients in hospital, or running support groups for other women living with heart disease. Many of these support network meetings are launched through the new WomenHeart Hospital Alliance program, in which member hospitals pay annual dues which include, among other benefits, selecting two local heart patients to attend the Symposium as future leaders of the hospital-based monthly support group for women survivors. 

Read more about my own WomenHeart Symposium experience on the Sharing Mayo Clinic website, or read this Time magazine feature about the WomenHeart Symposium.

Check out this Mayo Clinic report and short videos from the 2011 Symposium.

by Carolyn Thomas


Want To Attend the WomenHeart Science & Leadership Symposium at Mayo Clinic?

Are you:

  • a woman living with heart disease?
  • at least six months past your last hospitalization for cardiac treatment?
  • able to get your doctor’s written permission to travel and to attend this WomenHeart Symposium?
  • very comfortable speaking in public?
  • fired up by a desire to make a real difference to women’s heart health by leading support groups for other survivors?

If you answer YES to each of these questions, apply to attend the  WomenHeart Science & Leadership Symposium at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota held every October.

Visit WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease.

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Such fun!  Find out why these Mayo Clinic piano-playing seniors and their spontaneous concert in the beautiful Gonda Building atrium attracted over 9 million YouTube fans. The “stars” are Marlow Cowan of Ankeny, Indiana and his bride of 60+ years, Fran.

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