Victor Orellana

How does your experience with Mayo education compare to previous educational experiences you have received at other institutions?

My previous experiences in research were all done at a bench or in a book. My medical experiences at Dartmouth Medical School have been much more substantial and clinical, but before now I have not had the chance to participate in the kind of research I always found most interesting.

Being a medical student doing truly clinical research has been a very powerful experience, and the days and weeks at work here have convinced me that I have found something I sincerely enjoy doing. There have still been moments when I get frustrated at my progress or my project, but each time I remember the kind of questions I have been given the chance to find answers to, and it seems there is hardly a better way to devote my time.

What kind of opportunities have you been introduced to since being at Mayo?

My clinical role thus far has been limited by my standing in the academic medical hierarchy. It seemed many of those lines disappeared when I came to my position at Mayo, and I was given the chance to step up to that challenge. My mentors here brought in the most complex clinical research discussions and asked what my take was, with genuine interest in hearing my response. Already I have had many chances to try my own hand at shaping some very interesting and fundamental questions that will ultimately impact care for so many of these patients.

Outside of research, all of Mayo seems to be open from here. I have attended conferences, grand rounds, and meetings with residency directors. I have shadowed several times in both inpatient and outpatient settings. There have also been many chances to meet and interact with students from other medical schools. We share insights and methods from our own institutions, but equally important is how we have supported each other's work from that unique position that only medical students in the same place and position can do for each other.

Why did you choose Mayo Clinic verses other academic institutions?

Dartmouth medical school is in a very rural setting. We see a lot of interesting concepts in class and interesting patients in clinic, but its intimate setting is very different from the vast medical campus of Mayo and its global influx of medical mysteries. This combination provides an unusual clarity in researching rare diseases, and my time here has been a perfect opportunity to explore that world.

What is your program like? What sorts of projects/workshops have you done?

My research time is mostly spent sifting through the electronic records at Mayo. It is incredible how thoroughly this system documents each patient's experiences here, and that attention to detail over the years has let me get a very comprehensive picture of how this disease actually affects people.

Fortunately, there has also been a lot of teaching along the way, such as:

  • How to navigate the records
  • Which drugs are better than others for this given clinical scenario
  • How to appreciate the unique imprint this process has on heart tissue microscopically.

These lessons have all been informal, woven into conversations with the physicians and nurses involved in the study as the project comes along.

So far I have been able to track a significant population with a disease called giant cell myocarditis. I learned the history of its diagnosis, prognosis and treatment over the years, sit in on conference calls between the leading researchers in the field and across the country, learn to properly read and diagnose the disease pattern under the microscope, and I have even followed Dr. Cooper into the clinic to see a patient with this condition. It seems we have sampled the entire spectrum of its impact, and I will walk away from this post with what I hope is a solid understanding of this disease, its impact, and its ramifications.

What do you feel the atmosphere is like at Mayo Clinic?

For such a big name, the atmosphere at Mayo is incredibly supportive. Everyone seems to be very aware of how high the standards have been set, and it has been encouraging to see how much people here help each other inch closer to that ideal best practice. So many of the experts walk these hallways, and when a question has come up on our manuscript or when I have been shadowing in the wards, Dr. Cooper just calls a colleague upstairs and carries on. Most importantly, I have also seen him consult on cases across the world that come into his own expertise, and it is this sharing spirit that seems to make everyone better, and also to merit the value of the Mayo name as you hear it today.

What is your everyday life like in Rochester?

My everyday life is split in two — research, and everything else — and it has been just as refreshing to be able to walk away from medicine at the end of the day as anything else. Outside of work, I have been running the trails around town most days, reading some books I picked up at the public library here, and trying out some new recipes in the kitchen.

What are your plans for the future?

The next three years are booked, but my life after medical school is still a mystery to me. Part of my coming to Mayo was to explore areas of the medical world that I might see myself gravitating toward, and I have been excited by a lot of what I've found. Still, with so much left to see before I have to make the big decisions, my goal for now is to enjoy the ride and try to take in everything I can.

If you could describe Mayo in one word, what would it be?


What kinds of activities are you involved in Rochester?

Mostly I have taken advantage of how people-friendly the trails and parks of Rochester are. It has been great having so much time to get outside and enjoy summer, especially considering how much work we face during the year as medical students. I have also been touring the downtown restaurants little by little, and at this point I'd be hard-pressed to pick a favorite. So many good options...

How does Rochester differ from your hometown? College?

Traffic — or lack thereof. I grew up outside of Atlanta, so it is unheard of to be able to get to work this quickly and still be commuting from the suburbs. There is also a strong sense of community in Rochester, which was evident in a number of ways — from how the city fought to keep its former public library standing, to how the entire town comes out for Thursdays on First. It can be a serious place, but it also seems very conscious of what truly makes for a good life in its community.

Dec. 07, 2011