Virtually all medical services a patient might need — doctor visits, testing, surgery, hospital care — are intergrated in one system at Mayo Clinic. The scheduling of these services is done in a coordinated and efficient way, so that what might take months to accomplish at a community hospital can be done in a matter of days at Mayo.
Surgeons are part of the team of doctors who work together to solve patients' problems. Collaboration brings a range of ideas, knowledge and experience to bear on a problem, ultimately providing better answers than any single physician could provide individually.
"To practice good medicine, you must have not only the means to help, you must also have the desire," says Donald Northfelt, M.D., a medical oncologist at Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz. "At Mayo, as I watch my colleagues work, it's clear that everyone is interested in doing the best they can do, and in challenging themselves to come up with the best answers for patients.
"For example, one woman came to us with a breast tumor that had metastasized to the lungs. Barbara Pockaj, M.D., in our Department of General Surgery removed the tumor from the patient's breast, and thoracic surgeon Louis Lanza, M.D., removed the cancerous tissue from her lungs. Meanwhile, one of our pathologists discerned that this woman actually had a kind of squamous cell breast cancer — a different disease that requires a different approach to care. If we had followed the original diagnosis, it would have led down a completely wrong path.
"With the correct diagnosis, our treatment team was able to design a new regimen of chemotherapy, to control both the disease and the terrible pain that had developed during the course of the disease. Several years later, this woman is doing very well, and I think that's due in large part to our marshaling our forces effectively," explained Dr. Northfelt.
"At Mayo, we derive genuine satisfaction from taking a team approach to helping people. No individual oncologist would have had the resources to do what was necessary to help this woman. By working with my colleagues, I can do things to help people that I never could have done alone."
In another example, surgeons from Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) and Neurosurgery at Mayo Clinic in Rochester combine their expertise to help a patient with a cancer involving the face, ear, bone and brain.
Kerry Olson, M.D., an ENT surgeon, began the operation. He spent four hours removing part of the tumor behind the face. Next, Colin Driscoll, M.D., a neuro-otologist (ear specialist), took over to remove the cancerous portion of the temporal bone in the inner ear. Then neurosurgeon Michael Link removed the covering of the brain involved in the cancer. Finally, in late afternoon, Eric Moore, M.D., who specializes in plastic surgery, covered the missing tissue on the patient's face with a skin flap.
This level of cooperation happens every day in Mayo's integrated practice.