Rozalina G. McCoy, M.D.
What attracted you to Internal Medicine?
I first realized I wanted to be a doctor at the age of three, as I helped my favorite doll recuperate from a particularly devastating bout of chicken pox. Yet my journey to medicine was filled with uncertainty surpassed only by incredible luck that helped me get to where I am today.
I spent the first ten years of my life in Latvia, where as a Russian Jew my chances of being allowed into a hospital, as a physician and/or a patient, diminished rapidly as anti-Semitic and anti-Russian sentiment spread through the political and social aspects of everyday life. In 1993, my family immigrated to the United States, where despite the challenges of starting life anew in a strange land I was nonetheless free to pursue my dreams. Working different jobs to help support my family brought me back to my childhood dream of medicine. For me, the best part of being a waitress, a cleaning lady, and an interpreter was working with people: learning about them, discussing their problems, and helping them find the inner strength to tackle their fears.
I also loved science, the intricacies of the human body, and the ability to solve "puzzles" posed by human disease. My interest in biochemistry led me to spend several years engaged in basic and translational research, first as an undergraduate and then as an HHMI-NIH fellow. I saw internal medicine as the only way for me to combine all of my passions – community involvement, patient advocacy, health policy, research, and teaching. My mentors in medical school and the National Institutes of Health became role models who guided and encouraged me to pursue opportunities I never knew I had. Most of all, I saw internal medicine as an opportunity to treat the entire patient, not just the physical ailment that brought him/her in.
What attracted you to Mayo Clinic for residency training?
I first came to Mayo Clinic out of curiosity. I could not imagine a place where academic medicine and patient care were given equal weight and both achieved world-class excellence. My undergraduate and graduate programs focused almost entirely on academics and research, such that if one wanted to pursue a meaningful career of clinical medicine he/she would have to either become an administrator or seek employment elsewhere. Mayo Clinic was said to truly respect, value, and succeed in both. My experiences and conversations during my interview day confirmed this to be true.
In addition, I really liked the residents I met at Mayo. They were not only good physicians, but also passionate, down-to-earth, diverse, generous with their time and help, and functioned seamlessly as a team. The consultants and residency program leadership where approachable, kind, and dedicated to resident education and personal well-being. This was made possible in part by the existence of an incredible multi-disciplinary team of allied health professionals, IT specialists, and other administrative and support staff.
What makes Mayo Clinic Internal Medicine residency unique?
I love that we are always learning, both in formal lectures and at the bedside. Our consultants and senior residents create a safe environment in which to ask questions and teach each other. As interns and residents, we have significant autonomy but it has to be earned such that patient safety and quality of care is never compromised. The patient population of the Mayo Clinic is also unique. We are exposed to a staggering diversity of pathology – from the most common sore throat to the rarest cancer described only in textbooks. Our patients are wealthy and poor, local and from around the globe, yet because of the Mayo philosophy and dedication to patient care all get equal treatment. Finally, Mayo is very much focused on quality, cost-effectiveness, and efficiency of care which permeates every aspect of our training and patient care experience.
Anything surprise you about Mayo's program?
I was surprised that my already high expectations of Mayo and the residency program continue to be exceeded every day. Things seem to "just happen" here – administrative, clinical, logistical details of patient care all fall into place. We have incredible nurses and other allied health professionals, who not only help us take care of patients but also teach us to become even better physicians. Efficiency and quality improvement are given high priority, and as a result the care we deliver to our patients is constantly improving as well.
Most of all, I have been amazed by how happy I have been throughout my intern year. I expected this to be a physically and emotionally draining year, as I had seen residents at other institutions collapse under the pressures and expectations of their programs. At Mayo Clinic, while we work just as hard, our emotional well-being is stressed and vigilantly promoted by our program leadership, consultants, and other residents. As a result, we learn to become not only excellent physicians but also well-rounded and happy human beings.
What is living in Rochester like for you?
Coming to Rochester was a big change; it was my first time living in a small town, in the Midwest, and far from my friends and family on the East Coast. Yet I have loved it here and have even survived my first Minnesota winter. I love the beautiful outdoors, friendly people, cultural events, and fresh produce from the year-round farmers' market. My extra-curricular devotion to exercise, cooking, and reading made me a regular at the Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center, the local apple/vegetable farm, and the Rochester Public Library. Rochester's easy commute and small size allowed me to take advantage of these opportunities, despite limitations posed by my schedule. It is also safe, affordable, and close to the Twin Cities for the times I get the urge for big city life. When I came to Rochester I was worried about the reported absence of Jewish life, but I could not be happier with the small yet vibrant Jewish community that has welcomed me with open arms. After eight months in Rochester, it truly feels like home.
What does your future look like right now?
Upon the completion of my internal medicine residency I will continue my training at Mayo as an endocrinology fellow. I am part of the Clinician-Investigator Training Program, which allows me to combine my residency and fellowship clinical training and thus devote more time to research. I hope to ultimately pursue a career of academic clinical medicine, which would allow me to see patients, conduct patient-oriented (translational) research, and mentor trainees. Though certainly daunting, I know that my training at Mayo, as well as guidance from my mentors here, will prepare me well. Although I hope to remain on staff at the Mayo Clinic, I know that the training I received at Mayo will prepare me well for wherever my professional and personal life may take me.