General Internal Medicine
Mayo Clinic in Rochester
Dr. Loni Neal had worked for seven years in a medical university in South Carolina prior to joining Mayo's staff in 1999 in General Internal Medicine. She had some reservations about moving to the Midwest and fitting into the Mayo culture, particularly about the diversity of Mayo's staff.
"In any organization, the greater the numbers of colors and cultures represented, the more the issues that can accompany differences dissolve," says Dr. Neal. "A diverse workforce also brings great brain power that taps into other cultures."
A commitment to diversity also takes a commitment to service. "Mayo has developed international practices in which physicians, physician assistants, and allied health staff — including language interpreters — collaborate to meet patient needs," says Dr. Neal. "It is helpful to have physician colleagues from India, Asia and other countries who speak the languages and understand the cultures." This commitment to service is foundational to Dr. Neal's professional standards and personal satisfaction.
"We know that patients develop greater trust with their care providers and more readily comply with recommended treatments when we understand their cultures, values and beliefs," explains Dr. Neal. That level of service yields the trust and respect that are the bedrock of the patient-physician relationship.
"That's key, because at the heart of care, there's a reciprocity between patients and doctors," says Dr. Neal. "Often my patients are acutely ill, but they're also brave. In the process of caring for them, they renew my strength and spiritual beliefs."
Dr. Neal continually expands the diversity of her medical career experience at home and abroad. In the community, Mayo partners with the Rochester school system and the state of Minnesota to offer breast screenings and mammograms free of charge to all women in Rochester who qualify, including African American, Middle Eastern, Somali, Hispanic, and Hmong women. "At Mayo, and in Rochester, we have many opportunities to bridge cultural gaps," says Dr. Neal.
She also participates in international meetings, furthering the intellectual and human exchanges that enrich the ideal of service. "I represented Mayo at a meeting in Croatia last year," says Dr. Neal. "Every patient you meet and every professional experience you have represents an opportunity to educate yourself about the world and to cultivate understanding of different cultures."