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I was 9 years old and had arrived in Rochester for a minor, surgical procedure. While navigating our way around Saint Marys Hospital, my family and I ran across several portraits of the Sisters of St. Francis hanging in the hallway. Being raised Lutheran, I had never seen a nun before, and my parents patiently explained that these women were former administrators of the hospital. A few moments later my dad added, “And, Jena, I know it’s not spelled the same, but the sister on the end—that’s Sister Generose.” My first thought? “That’s my name!”
To clarify, the combination of my first name, Jena, and my middle name, Rose, sounds exactly like the name Generose. As a 9-year-old, I was ecstatic that I had a phonetically-shared name with a woman of such strong devotion and prestige. Learning of the existence of the Generose Building only added to my excitement because that had to mean she was a big deal! It was this joy I carried with me and that provided me with a sense of peace and comfort throughout my impending surgery.
Fast forward 11 years: I find myself spending my college J-term as an intern in the Department of Public Affairs at Mayo Clinic. The first couple days in the office were mainly spent becoming familiar with my surroundings and expectations of the position. Little did I know that I would be presented with the opportunity for my “Mayo experience” to come full circle.
On Thursday, January 6, I was fortunate enough to attend “The Values Thread at Mayo Clinic: A Conversation with Sister Generose Gervais and John H. Noseworthy, M.D.” This event was facilitated in order to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Sponsorship.
As moderator Matt Dacy explained, the Sponsorship Board was formed in 1986, when Saint Marys Hospital, Rochester Methodist Hospital and Mayo Clinic formally integrated. Its mission is to promote the Mayo Clinic values, and to maintain and reinforce the Catholic identity of Saint Marys Hospital.
As I was told, this event was a rare chance for employees to hear both of these notable figures speak—a chance I’m glad I did not miss. Both individuals were asked to share their journeys to Mayo and their experiences along the way.
As I’m confident many attendees would agree, while Dr. Noseworthy, Mayo Clinic’s president and CEO, is indeed a brilliant, passionate man, it was Sr. Generose who truly stole the show (even Dr. Noseworthy good-naturedly said it was difficult to offer his thoughts following her answers to the audience questions). Her wisdom and faith were evident in her confident, straightforward delivery peppered with witty stories and one-liners as well as valuable pieces of advice for the audience. I left the auditorium that day amazed and feeling as if I had traveled back in time to being a young child anxiously awaiting surgery at Saint Marys.
It has been over a decade since my first experience at Mayo, but my positive feelings toward the institution remain constant. I never dreamed I would land an internship with one of the world’s leaders in healthcare—ultimately creating a definite connection between my past and present. As an intern spending time with the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media, this connection forms a parallel specifically with regard to the newly-formed “What would Dr. Will and Dr. Charlie Tweet?” project. A fusion of 20th century insight and 21st century technology, this project chronicles a Mayo brothers’ quote for each business day of 2011 via the Mayo Clinic Twitter account.
Similarly, Sr. Generose, a representative of Mayo Clinic’s rich history, possesses stores of wisdom applicable to today’s society. This became even more apparent in meeting her, when Sister discussed Scripture in relation to current events, education of today’s young people, and the plans God has in store for each of us.
This story represents what I like to call my personal “Mayo effect.” However, I now know there is much more to “Generose” than just the name of a building: she’s an icon, a living symbol, of the strength of Saint Marys and the blessing of caring compassion bestowed upon each patient.