Sivakumar Chinnadurai, M.D.
What attracted you to Mayo Clinic?
"My initial experience with someone who had trained at Mayo Clinic occurred during my first year of medical school when I worked with an otolaryngologist in Kansas City, Mo. I was immediately impressed with his rapport with patients. He knew how to approach every problem to make his patient feel cared for and comfortable. He said it was one of the first lessons he learned during his residency at Mayo Clinic. During the time I spent with him, he told me about Mayo Clinic's residency program and the organization's emphasis on patient care."
What was your clerkship like?
"My clerkship experience sealed Mayo Clinic as my top choice for residency. In addition to their dedication to patients, I found that Mayo doctors are dedicated to teaching. During my clerkship, I rotated with the program director for otorhinolaryngology, and no matter how busy he was, he would always take me out in the hall at the end of the day to make sure I had learned something new. One day I remember in particular, he had 25 patients. At 7:30 p.m. he sat me down and gave me a brief lecture about diagnosing and treating laryngeal cancers. That dedication to teaching is what really attracted me to Mayo Clinic."
What inspires you about otolaryngology and head and neck surgery?
"I grew up with a strong interest in art and drawing. The human face inspired my art for years. Later, when I worked in Kansas City, I saw a clear connection between my art and medicine. My time there showed me how much people lose when they have cancer or a disease that affects their face. I saw very clearly how important it is to be able to give patients back that part of their life. As people, we each develop our own set of hopes and goals in life. No one sets out to have cancer, an accident or to be sick. But these are real obstacles that come between people and the rest of their lives. I feel honored to be there in that space and time when these obstacles come up in order to enable people to get through their trial and move on."
During your clerkship, how were you supported in your studies?
"During my clerkship, the staff and the residents were always willing to take time out to teach me about anything I wanted to know. They would not only answer my questions but they would also go out of the way to gather text and journal articles to further my understanding of the topic. Then when I had completed my clerkship, I had meetings with the staff. During these sessions, they volunteered to write recommendations for me, and asked if they could be of any help in furthering my career. They went out of their way to assist me before I even had a chance to ask."
Anything surprising about Mayo Clinic?
"One thing that has surprised me is the sheer volume of surgical experience and exposure that first-year residents receive. During my first year, I have already done over 60 cases as the primary surgeon and easily 60 to 70 more as a first or second assistant. I think that early exposure to high volumes of cases is the most important factor in making a confident and excellent surgeon. Additionally, I was pleased to learn that everyone on the health care team was empowered to provide the best patient care. Rounds are frequently organized with nurses and therapists in mind, so that everyone involved in the patient's care can be present to express their concerns and ideas."
Tell us about your peers and faculty at Mayo?
"The faculty of the Otorhinolaryngology Department represents every major subspecialty in the field, and most of them are leaders in their area of expertise. They are all very dedicated to what they do and many are pioneers of new surgical techniques and instrumentation. They are dedicated to their patients and dedicated to their residents. And my co-residents are excellent to work with. The residents understand that there is life outside the hospital, and are always willing to help each other get time off. They always lend a helping hand when they can."
What is living in Rochester like for you?
"Originally I was a little nervous to move to Rochester because I grew up in St. Louis. Coming to what I thought was a small town was unnerving. I found out that many of my colleagues had also come from large cities. During my time here, I have never been at a loss socially. There are great restaurants here and you can find many of the amenities available in a big city. I was able to buy and furnish a house, which I would not have been able to do in a bigger city. And recently I took up rock climbing and snowboarding. There are always people around who want to go out, and when I have a weekend off, Minneapolis is only about an hour away."