Rozalina G. McCoy, M.D., M.S.

Photo of Rozalina G. McCoy, M.D.
  • Senior Associate Consultant, Division of Primary Care Internal Medicine
  • Assistant Professor of Medicine

What moment or experience in your life influenced your decision to be a clinician?

I think that I first showed signs of wanting to be a doctor at the age of 3, when I helped my favorite doll recuperate from a particularly devastating bout of chickenpox. But I didn't seriously think about it until many years later, in part because growing up as a Russian-speaking Jew in Riga, Latvia, my chances of being allowed into a hospital — as a physician or a patient — diminished rapidly due to spreading anti-Semitic and anti-Russian sentiments.

In 1993, my family immigrated to the U.S. Working different jobs to help support my family brought me back to my childhood dream of practicing medicine. For me, the best part of all the odd jobs I had as a child was working with people: learning about them, discussing their problems and helping them find the inner strength to tackle their fears.

I fell in love with 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, including as a Howard Hughes fellow at the National Institutes of Health. I was also interested in health policy and patient advocacy. Ultimately, I saw internal medicine as a way to combine all these passions: community involvement, advocacy, health policy, research and teaching.

What motivated you to become a Kern Scholar?

I've been involved in health care delivery research at Mayo Clinic since January 2012. The guidance, dedication and teaching from my mentor, Nilay D. Shah, Ph.D., played an instrumental role in my decision to transition from the basic science laboratory to health services research.

I became involved in the Optum Labs collaboration at its inception and realized the potential power of patient-centered research when driven by big data and advanced analytics. As Dr. Shah helped me grow and mature as an investigator, I became keenly aware of the additional training and experience that I would need to successfully pursue an independent research career.

I am happy and proud to be a Kern Scholar because it will enable a gradual and mentored transition to independence, give me the resources and training I need to become more competent as a researcher, and facilitate mentorship from experts in the field.

What is your focus as a scholar within the Mayo Clinic Kern Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery?

My focus is on using real-world data (also known as big data), particularly in collaboration with Optum Labs, for patient-centered outcomes research in the fields of diabetes and chronic disease management.

Specifically, I want to use advanced analytic methods, such as machine learning, to develop clinical risk prediction tools aimed at identifying patients at risk of experiencing adverse events or outcomes. I will also use these methods to identify optimal strategies for treating patients with diabetes and other chronic conditions, with the goal of improving clinical outcomes at a lower cost and with less burden to the patient.

How will your research improve patient care or impact public health?

My hope is that my research can identify and promote high-value care, particularly for those patients who struggle with multiple chronic conditions that impair quality of life.

Most of the patients I see as a primary care provider and endocrinologist have more than one health condition, take multiple medications, and are often having difficulty balancing their lives and their medical treatments. Yet clinical trials generally provide information about patients with one dominant health condition, and patients enrolled in clinical trials are often not representative of the general population.

I believe that by using big data, we can figure out what works best for patients with combinations of diseases and how to most effectively use combinations of different medications. We can use outcomes from the real world, where other patients struggle with medication access and adherence.

With this knowledge, we can improve the quality of care we provide by offering the right treatments, at the right time, in the right context, and to the right patients. At the same time, we will reduce low-value services that account for a significant portion of health care expenditures and increase the burden of treatment on the patient, yet do not improve patient outcomes or quality of life.

Why did you choose Mayo Clinic to pursue your career?

I came to the Mayo Clinic in 2009 for my internal medicine residency and endocrinology fellowship.

When I was visiting different institutions and deciding where to continue my training, I was drawn to the Mayo Clinic vision of putting the needs of the patient first. I liked the multidisciplinary approach to patient care and collaborative, team-based nature of all interactions here. I was also impressed by the research infrastructure and resources available to early-career investigators. While the Mayo Clinic Kern Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery didn't exist then, I saw Mayo as a place that would support and nurture my research and clinical endeavors.

After years of training here, I still believe that Mayo Clinic is a very unique and special place to take care of patients and conduct research. I am looking forward to joining the Mayo Clinic staff as a consultant and continuing my involvement with the Mayo Clinic Kern Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery.