Transforming Crisis into Hope
I awoke with a start, as I often do these days, hoping this was all a nightmare. Catching a glimpse of nearby medication bottles, I realize it isn’t. My wife and Acadicus co-founder, Kandy Brouchoud, is battling ovarian cancer, and we’ve come to Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota in search of hope.
It’s 5:30 am, and from our hotel window, we see waves of healthcare professionals making their way towards Mayo, squinting into the sunrise as they pass by the overnight shift heading home.
Our visit sits at the intersection of crisis and hope, and today is epic. Kandy is about to receive the first cycle of chemotherapy as part of a clinical trial.
I make my way over to the coffee maker, where a framed illustration depicts Rochester in 1863. This was the same year William Worrall Mayo arrived here and established his medical practice.
Where only a few small structures stood near the site of his practice in this illustration, a massive campus would soon arise. I don’t think Dr. Mayo could have possibly imagined the global impact his cornerstone practice would have on the future of healthcare, nor could he have fathomed our ineffable gratitude for the hope we’ve found here.
He stood on the precipice of an expansive frontier of opportunity.
Crisis is what often brings people to Mayo Clinic, and my first visit here several years ago was no exception.
After a difficult hospitalization with my father at a hospital in Wisconsin, Kandy and I decided to pivot our VR development company into an exclusive focus on medical simulation in hopes we could be of service. We decided to invest our modest life’s savings toward this end, and set out to meet with as many physicians, nurses, educators, and sim lab directors as possible to better understand how virtual simulation could be most impactful.
Thom Belda, Director of the Simulation Center at Mayo generously welcomed a brainstorming session and provided a tour of their cutting-edge facility. What we learned about the founding philosophy of Mayo Clinic during this visit inspired several key strategic underpinnings of our eventual roadmap.
Fellow VR enthusiast Adam Salmi provided a tour of downtown Rochester, and the Mayo Clinic campus where so many weary travelers from around the world arrive in search of a miracle. Here we witnessed a palpable authenticity in Mayo’s approach that I hadn’t experienced before or since. The hope these new arrivals find here is arguably primary to the medical care they receive.
Mayo offers a strong dose of both.
In the summer of 1883, Rochester was struck by a devastating tornado. As the town’s leading doctor, William Worral Mayo began caring for the injured. Though the nearby Sisters of Saint Francis were teachers, not nurses, they assisted in providing beds and life-saving medical care.
Their congregation leader, Mother Alfred Moes, would later suggest to Dr. Mayo that a hospital in Rochester would be an excellent and timely undertaking. He, together with his sons William and Charles, would provide medical and surgical care, while the Sisters of St. Francis would raise the funds necessary to build a hospital.
The Sisters imbued these formative years with an ethos that prioritized patient care over profit that ran contrary to traditional business practices then and now. We were inspired here to prioritize the needs of our customers over maximizing profits as a cornerstone of our own practice.
At the guidance of Kandy’s incredible primary oncology team at UW hospital in Madison, we scrambled to find any clinical trial she would match with. After rejections from one cancer treatment center after another, Mayo called with one spot left in a trial well matched to her needs. Days later, Kandy received her first treatment in the same Gonda building I had visited years earlier.
Later that evening, a tornado touched down not far from where Dr. Mayo and the Sisters of St. Francis initiated a collaboration that would revolutionize medical care throughout the world. As we sheltered in the safety of a tunnel system beneath Mayo Clinic, we held onto hope for a healing miracle, and the transformation of crisis into a bright new future ahead.