Ijeoma A. Azodo, M.D.

Tell us about your clerkship experience

"As a participant in the Visiting Medical Student Clerkship Program, I gained experience as part of a Mayo surgical team, learning how the operative and clinic days worked. During that program I saw a glimpse of what it's like to be a surgical resident at Mayo Clinic. It definitely helped me develop myself as a candidate for residency. For me, the clerkship was the culmination of all my Mayo experiences."

"I received the Mayo Minority Scholar Award which was based on academic record, letters of recommendation and a completed application for the Visiting Medical Student Clerkship. I received the scholarship during the first part of my fourth year clerkship, just prior to starting my rotation in Thoracic Surgery here. The award went toward the costs of travel, living and food expenses for the month that I stayed here. It was a very generous award."

How did the scholarship make a difference in your ability to pursue your goals?

"The scholarship helped make it feasible for me to rotate here as a fourth year medical student. It gave me a chance to see how I would fit here as a resident, and it allowed the staff and the residents to judge how I would be as their pupil and colleague. Without the award, it would have been a very tough financial undertaking to assume during a year of applications, interviews and traveling. In fact, this was the only 'away' rotation I completed, given the difficulty of securing one and then coordinating transportation and lodging. Ultimately, the scholarship allowed me to see that the Mayo system was one in which I could function and that would provide me with the excellent General Surgery training that I am currently receiving."

Can you share some benefits of your participation in different Mayo programs?

"The Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program is a great introduction to research at Mayo Clinic. That program and the Clinical Preceptorship Program helped me understand the process by which you take a clinical problem into the lab and then translate the research results back to a clinical setting. My mentors during those programs taught me how to develop questions, design experiments and conduct research. I learned a lot about how to synthesize information and write up the studies so that the results would be practical for others to use."

"The Career Development Program prepared me to enter the clinical phase of my medical training. I learned how to work as a team member, I honed my patient interview skills and developed the 'impressions, report, plan' portion of my assessments.

What inspires you about medicine?

"My father is a physician, and I grew up saying I wanted to be a doctor like my father. And my academic nature has also been influenced by my mother, who is a professor. While in high school and college, I grew more aware of social inequities and spent time teaching, volunteering and mentoring. I never lost my love for science, biology and the human being — down to the very smallest cell. At some point, I realized that becoming a doctor would challenge my intellect and fulfill the responsibility I feel to serve humanity."

Why Mayo Clinic?

"Being from Rochester, N.Y., I had a goal of visiting all of the Rochesters in the United States. So the 'Rochester' factor drew me first, but when I got here, I realized that the exceptional research, education and patient care that occurs at Mayo Clinic creates a great environment to pursue medical training. When I participated in the SURF program, I realized that the resources here are exceptional and the researchers and clinicians are incredibly smart. Here at Mayo Clinic, everyone is constantly working on advancing medicine and improving patient care."

Did anything surprise you about Mayo Clinic?

"When I arrived I realized that this place is a diamond in the rough. Everyone has heard about it, but many people have misconceptions about Mayo Clinic because it is not located in a major metropolitan area. In some respects, the cutting-edge research and patient care that goes on here remains undiscovered. When I was on the interview circuit a lot of people said to me, 'you don't want to go there, you won't operate,' but I found the exact opposite to be true. The range of surgical cases I've been able to participate in has been exceptional. Mayo Clinic receives referrals from around the world, and as a result, I've seen cases already that many surgeons only see once in a lifetime. Also, the apprenticeship system that is used for the surgical residency is much different than the team-based residency systems that you find in most other programs. Here you work alongside an experienced staff surgeon, and you have the opportunity to do everything that she or he does."

Tell us about your Mayo mentors and how they have shaped your training?

"My Mayo experiences and mentors have shown me clearly that I can be a multifaceted surgeon conducting research and practicing medicine. All along the way I have had excellent mentors that have shaped and supported my academic journey. Each one has left footprints for me to follow in my own aim to be an innovative and technically excellent surgeon. My mentors consider who I am and always keep that in mind as they share advice and guidance. I have been able to maintain my mentors along the way, and I keep each of their perspectives in mind as I make decisions regarding my professional journey."

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