During the past few weeks, my Mayo Clinic experience has come full circle. As a Public Affairs intern, I am able to now use my passion for Mayo Clinic from a new perspective. My journey at Mayo Clinic began in May 2010.
In February 2010, I was diagnosed with a rare inflammatory disease known as eosinophilic esophagitis. The chronic illness, commonly found in children, is allergic in nature. The presence of the allergen results in a high concentration of eosinophils in the esophagus. Most often the allergen causing the illness is food related, however, new research shows environmental allergens are also a contributor. The main symptoms of eosinophilic esophagitis include chronic inflammation of the esophagus, pain and difficulty swallowing.
I had experienced symptoms my entire life but spent years misdiagnosed. In February 2010, I connected with a doctor who examined my past biopsies and identified the cells needed for diagnosis. Due to the rarity of the illness, I was referred to Dr. Sami Achem, a gastroenterologist at Mayo Clinic. Dr. Achem’s research interests include gastroesophageal reflux, non-cardiac chest pain and eosinophilic esophagitis.
My appointment with Dr. Achem was in May 2010, and I was extremely impressed with the time he spent speaking with me and his expertise on the illness. From my first meeting with Dr. Achem, I will say, my life changed dramatically. I spent several days at Mayo Clinic undergoing extensive testing to better understand my illness and the underlying cause. I was so pleased with the treatment by staff members, nurses and doctors. I was treated as a person, a guest on the campus, rather than a sick patient. The staff orchestrated a detailed itinerary allowing me to feel comfortable going to different departments throughout the campus for testing. Following testing, an ongoing treatment plan was prescribed including drug intervention and diet modification.
Since my first week at Mayo Clinic, I have stayed in close contact with Dr. Achem. We have had several consultations in the past year to discuss treatment modifications, new research and long term expectations for the disease. He is easily accessible and shows great concern for his patients. I owe the significant improvement in my health to him as well as to the other doctors, nurses and staff members at Mayo Clinic.
My positive patient experience at Mayo Clinic sparked a passion for this organization and the health industry. I pursued an internship opportunity in the Public Affairs department for several reasons, primarily to be a part of the organization that has given me so much.
Written by Sarah Gravina, Public Affairs Summer Intern