Founder's Wall
The Mayo Mystique

Introduced: January 23 2013


Haven’t you always wondered what Mayo doctors know that other doctors don’t? Here's a first-hand account of a complete physical at the revered Mayo Clinic.


Since I knew I was going to be in Scottsdale, Arizona, I decided to sign up for an executive physical at the Mayo Clinic there. (In addition to the flagship Mayo in Rochester, Minnesota, Mayo has clinics in Scottsdale and Jacksonville, Florida.)


I have been tinkering with the idea of coming to Mayo for a long time. Generally, I have a lot of confidence in my health and have no major concerns to investigate, but I don't want anything to sneak up on me. I went there to find out “what else.”


I made the appointment a long time in advance and received a lot of information leading up to the date of my appointment. They devise an itinerary of appointments for you based on your gender, age, and any special requests. My physical did not include some of the typical annual tests because I did those locally.


Driving to the Emerald City of Medicine.

On the day of my physical, I drove from Tempe to Scottsdale. Mayo is way out among the cacti. I arrived early because I wanted to make sure not to arrive late. The building was empty but well-lighted.


Promptly at 7 a.m., I was checked in and given a packet of information and my itinerary. When I looked through the information about the doctor I was to see, I was initially disappointed because he was young and had been there less than a year. This could not be the guru I thought would unlock the mystery of my optimum health. In retrospect, I would have expressed preferences to see a more experienced doctor. Also, ALL my local doctors are women, so I would have requested that, too. I didn't because I viewed doing this physical as "giving myself over" to the revered Mayo system. But now that I'm here, I wish I'd thought to ask some questions ahead of time.


(I had learned a little about the entire Mayo culture from a friend whose father went there for diagnosis and  treatment of a rare kind of cancer. She said that the environment is couple-friendly because many patients bring their spouses. I observed that seemed to be true, reminding me that dealing with chronic illness becomes a way of life – for both the patient and his or her spouse. For my physical, I enjoyed being an island, in my warm-up suit with my iPad. Note: as with any medical appointment, bring things to entertain yourself with. Sometimes your visit is extended as it was when they found something on my chest x-ray they wanted to check out further. They added the test at the bottom of itinerary. The day was busy and full -- but there was still some "down time.")


Back to the beginning: The first stop after receiving my itinerary was the lab with a complete blood work-up. Then an initial meeting and exam with my assigned doctor. The exam was speedy and thorough – checking eye movement, reflexes, ability to follow instructions, etc. The doctor was efficient -- and he WAS really young.


After that I was sent off on my scavenger hunt – a series of stops, picking up bits of information about my health along the way.  


One of the most interesting tests I had was the "Bod Pod" Fitness Indicator. Did you ever get ready to start a workout program and have the trainer pinch your side and then compute your body fat? Well, not anymore. You put on a speedo swimsuit and cap and sit in a fiberglass pod that looks something like a personal space capsule might look. In a matter of minutes, computerized pressure sensors have determined the amount of air displaced by your body. Your results are compared with "preferred profiles" for women your age, height and weight.


Lunch Break: Fugitive from the Clinic


I have a low tolerance for sitting in medical waiting rooms. That comes from having a child who had multiple surgeries and clinic appointments when we was a tyke. So, even though I'd give Mayo an "A" for their scheduling system and staying right on schedule, I decided to flee the building during my lunch break. There's a Marriott Courtyard hotel just down the driveway and they have a nice little lobby cafe.


To help pass the time, I brought along a book I'd purchased at the clinic entitled The Mayo Clinic Plan: 10 Essential Steps to a Better Body and a Healthier Life. Might as well immerse myself in all things Mayo while I'm here. After lunch, my treasure hunt resumed.


The Results

When I finished with my appointments, I returned to my very young doctor and he gave me a summary of results of all the tests. I'm sure he has a bright future in medicine; he was probably at the top of his class. But both he and the other actual doctor (rather than technician or nurse) I saw were lacking something I value. It's called "relationship." I missed my doctor who knows who I am. She would not have had to take time to ask me if smoke or if I eat enough broccoli or if I have carbon monoxide detectors at home. She would have known I'm waaay past those basics. She would have known I'm interested in leading edge medicine, innovative approaches that integrate science and nature, and proactive prevention. So the system was efficient but with the system, we lost some warmth, individuality and continuity.


(I also need to realize that having a serious illness or medical problem would result in a different experience than I had with my executive physical. I went away reassured about my health and that was worth the trip.)


Yes, Mayo does have some strengths. Its efficient scheduling doesn't leave you gnawing your fingernails because you’ve had to wait an hour and a half for your 15-minute appointment as with some other physicians. They respect people’s time. And they are poised to do follow-up tests that same day or the day after the examination basics. They have no hesitation about setting up another test and taking the next step, where indicated...just to be certain.


And they do have that cool Bod Pod!