Going to Mayo Clinic


by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters    

“The needs of the patient come first”

It would be entirely accurate to say that you would not 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’s main campus 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 attend this all-expenses-paid annual training event in 2008  – the same year I’d survived what doctors call the “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”.

Mayo also has affiliated winter-friendly venues in Scottsdale and Phoenix, Arizona and in Jacksonville, Florida. Mayo Clinic employs over 63,000 people, including more than 4,500 physicians and scientists and 58,400 administrative and allied health staff.

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 3-4 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, 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 900 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 community 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.

© 2019 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 patient support groups and/or educating other women?

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

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NOTE FROM CAROLYN: I wrote much more my Mayo Clinic training in my book, “A Woman’s Guide to Living with Heart Disease” . You can ask for it at your local library or favourite bookshop, or order it online (paperback, hardcover or e-book) at Amazon, Or if you  order it directly from my publisher, Johns Hopkins University Press (use the code HTWN) you will save 20% off the list price.


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