Rafael Fonseca, M.D.

Hematology/Oncology
Mayo Clinic in Arizona

Dr. Rafael Fonseca had been involved in multiple myeloma research at Mayo Clinic in Rochester for more than five years when the opportunity came to launch a similar program at Mayo Clinic in Arizona.

The program would be a significant addition to the growing research presence on the Scottsdale campus. Dr. Fonseca saw an exciting opportunity to develop individualized therapies based on genetic markers, working in close collaboration with the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) in Scottsdale and the world-leading myeloma researchers at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

When he arrived in Scottsdale in 2004, Dr. Fonseca knew that to build the program over the long-term, he would need funding from sources beyond Mayo.

"If you want to do research here, you can't just extend your hand and say, 'Give me money and time,'" says Dr. Fonseca. "Scientists at Mayo have to be entrepreneurs. The external perception may be that Mayo is a gold mine. In fact, funding here is very stringent and competitive."

"Clinical practice is the cornerstone of activity at Mayo Clinic," says Dr. Fonseca, who devotes 30 percent of his time to clinical care. He and colleagues, P. Leif Bergsagel, M.D., and A. Keith Stewart, M.B.C.h.B., who have joined him in Scottsdale, can draw upon their firsthand experiences with patients to guide their research and design clinical trials.

Research is central to the Mayo mission – and all physicians are encouraged to participate in it. But because patient care comes first, physicians must request "protected time" from their divisions for research activities. Their request is most likely to be granted if the proposed research aligns with the vision and needs of the division, says Dr. Fonseca.

For physicians considering a career at Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Dr. Fonseca counters what he describes as two common myths about research at Mayo:

Mayo research is only clinical : "We do both basic and clinical research," he says.

Mayo has limitless funds for research , but doesn't give them out: "There are budgets for research," says Dr. Fonseca, "but they are not limitless. The margin generated by the practice is small and cannot support the entire research program. That's why grants are needed."

Dr. Fonseca advises any physician considering a clinical or research position at Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale to "probe to clearly understand what will be expected of you when you come here. Understand the intricacies."