Mayo Clinic Q&A

From complex or serious conditions like cancer and heart disease to the latest news on research and wellness, host Dr. Halena Gazelka asks the questions and gets easy-to-understand answers from Mayo Clinic experts

Most Recent Episodes

a middle-aged white women with red hair and glasses on a laptop at home or an office, with green plants near a window

Tips to stay healthy while working from home
July 21, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced people to readjust in many ways, including some companies shifting to remote work. Working from a home office has its benefits, but it also comes with quite a few challenges. Virtual offices mean added screen time which can lead to eye strain, ear problems and too much time sitting in one place. 

Living and working in the same space also can lead to challenges with setting boundaries and having an appropriate office space within the home.

"I think it's really important that if you are working from home, that you have office time and family time as separated as you can have," says Dr. Clayton Cowl, chair of the Division of Preventative, Occupational and Aerospace Medicine at Mayo Clinic. "And your home office needs to be a room — or at least a part of a room — where it's quiet, the light is appropriate, there's adequate ventilation, and it's set up ergonomically for you."

Occupational medicine is a specialty focused on helping workers stay at work and return to work.

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Cowl, and Dr. Laura Breeher, a Mayo Clinic occupational medicine specialist, discuss tips and tricks for staying healthy while working from home.

medical illustration/animation of a VAD ventricular assist device for the heart

Ventricular assist devices aid heart failure patients
July 19, 2021

ventricular assist device, also known as a VAD, is an implantable mechanical pump that helps pump blood from the lower chambers of your heart, or ventricles, to the rest of your body. Although this device can be placed in the left, right or both ventricles of your heart, it is most frequently used in the left ventricle. When placed in the left ventricle it is called a left ventricular assist device, or LVAD.

A ventricular assist device is used in people who have weakened hearts or heart failure. A VAD may be implanted while the patient waits for a heart transplant or is working to get his or her heart strong enough to effectively pump blood on its own.

"Patients with end-stage heart failure may be out of breath brushing their teeth or sitting in the recliner watching TV," says Dr. John Stulak, a Mayo Clinic cardiovascular surgeon. "When a patient ends up having symptoms at rest, that's the telltale sign that this is end-stage heart failure. What the LVAD does is help the left side of the heart pump and decongest the heart and get all the blood moving forward again. The VAD helps patients get back to basically doing everything they want to do."

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Stulak discusses technological advances in ventricular assist devices and how the therapy is underused.

On the verge of predicted COVID-19 surge with delta variant
July 15, 2021

The delta variant is being blamed for hot spots in the U.S. where cases of COVID-19 are on the rise. These hot spots account for most cases in the U.S. They are also the geographical areas that tend to have the lowest vaccination rates. 

"It's no surprise that the two go together," says Dr. Gregory Poland, an infectious diseases expert and head of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group.

"This (delta variant) is the bad actor that we predicted it would be," adds Dr. Poland. "Our seven-day average is getting up to 19,000 cases a day in the U.S. We were down to 3,000. So we're starting to see, just as we predicted, a surge as people took masks off and as restrictions were lifted before we had achieved high rates of immunization."

In this Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Poland expands on how the highly transmissible delta variant continues to spread. He also talks about the possibility of COVID-19 vaccine boosters, explains how the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System works, and much more as he answers listener questions.

medical illustrations of sarcoma tumors

Be aware of the rare cancer called sarcoma
July 12, 2021

sarcoma is a rare form of cancer that begins in the bones and in the softer connective tissues in the body. Sarcomas that begin in the bones are called "bone cancer," and sarcomas that forms in the tissues, including muscle, fat, blood vessels, nerves, tendons, and the lining of joints, are called "soft tissue sarcoma." 

"These are rare cancers, and in adults, sarcomas comprise less than 1% of new cancers diagnosed every year," says Dr. Brittany Siontis, a Mayo Clinic medical oncologist. "So most people never hear about sarcoma. And that's why we're grateful to have Sarcoma Awareness Month, to try and bring more education to the population about this rare tumor."

Because this form of cancer is rare, it is important to seek care at a center that sees a high volume of sarcoma patients.

"When we're dealing with something that is so rare, it's really important to have a team of folks who are comfortable with these cancers, familiar with how these cancers behave, and know the data to help make the best treatment plan for each patient," says Dr. Siontis. 

July is Sarcoma Awareness Month. On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Siontis discusses the various forms of sarcoma, treatment options, and research that's underway on new therapies and ways to treat sarcoma.

Dr. Okoroha in scrubs in operating room with mask

Working toward more diversity in orthopedic surgery
July 9, 2021

Of all the medical and surgical subspecialties, orthopedic surgery historically has had the lowest percentage of women and minorities. Mayo Clinic’s orthopedic surgery department is working to change that.

This summer, two female medical students are participating in an eight-week clinical and research internship in orthopedic surgery at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. The program was developed by Nth Dimensions, an organization that seeks to bring more women and minorities into the profession. 

"I think it's important to have more women, more people of color, and diversity overall in orthopedic surgery for several reasons," says Dr. Kelechi Okoroha, a Mayo Clinic orthopedic surgeon and a graduate of Nth Dimensions. "Our population in America is very diverse. I think our patients deserve an equally diverse group of surgeons who are each equipped naturally with different cultural competencies to help treat them. Additionally, diversity in our surgeons will help decrease some of the inequalities you see in health care and treatment of patients today."

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Okoroha, discusses his journey to becoming an orthopedic surgeon and his work as a mentor at Mayo Clinic.

a white adult man, perhaps a dad, trying to work at a computer with children playing around the table 3950760_0021-1024x683

The new work-life balancing act
July 7, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered the way people work. As vaccination rates increase, some people are returning to the office. But many companies have opted to keep their employees working from home permanently. This change has positive and negative side effects, including the mental health aspects of working from home. 

"Any time there are changes, it can be challenging for people, particularly when you're not used to working from home," says Dr. Greg Couser, a Mayo Clinic psychiatrist and occupational medicine specialist. "I think there's a big issue for people of setting up good boundaries between work and home. So that's a big challenge." 

Another challenge for many is missing the in-person contact with co-workers. 

"We receive some of our identity from our work," says Dr. Couser. "And so, when we don't have that sort of daily contact with our colleagues, that shifts our identity just a little bit."

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Couser discusses how to cope with the challenges of working from home.

Taking the fear out of cardiac testing
July 2, 2021

When it comes to the heart, it can be scary to seek care when you think you might be having a problem. Tests may be necessary to evaluate your heart, and the unfamiliar terminology associated with these tests can be confusing and intimidating. 

Understanding terms like electrocardiogramechocardiogramcoronary angiogram or stress test may help alleviate the fear.

"Whenever we order these tests, we don't want you to have anxiety," says Dr. Christopher DeSimone, a Mayo Clinic cardiologist. "These tests are all done for a reason: to get you a diagnosis and to help you feel better. "

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. DeSimone breaks down the terminology and explains what to expect during cardiac testing and evaluation.

Summer travel and people not in your bubble during COVID-19 pandemic
June 30, 2021

"The reason we have the COVID-19 delta variant, the reason we have the delta plus variant is because of unimmunized people who get infected," says Dr. Gregory Poland, an infectious diseases expert and head of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group. He adds that 99.2% of the recorded COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. are in people not vaccinated against the virus. 

This is why he cautions folks who may be traveling this Fourth of July holiday and throughout the summer. 

"You don't know what variants people are carrying, how symptomatic they are, the health of their immune system, or if they've been vaccinated," says Dr. Poland. "When you are around groups of people indoors that are not in your bubble, so to speak, I think you should still wear a proper mask." 

In this Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Poland explains why, even if you are fully vaccinated for COVID-19, you should still consider being masked in some situations. He also discusses breakthrough infections in certain subpopulations, and what that may mean for needing booster shots.

a medical illustration of carotid artery disease

Early detection and new therapies for carotid artery stenosis
Jun 28, 2021

Carotid artery stenosis is a narrowing of the large arteries or vessels on the sides of the neck that carry blood to the head and the brain. This narrowing is usually the result of a buildup of fatty deposits known as plaque within the arteries. Stenosis can worsen over time to completely block the artery and cause strokes. 

"Most of the time, there are no signs or symptoms. And that is a problem because it is a silent disease that progresses over time until there is an acute rupture of the plaque," says Dr. Luis Savastano, a Mayo Clinic neurosurgeon. "And when that happens, a clot can form in the surface, and the clot can be pushed downstream to the brain. And that is what causes the stroke."

But with early detection and new targeted therapies, injury to the brain can be minimized. On the Q&A podcast, Dr. Savastano discusses new techniques and the tools used to treat carotid artery stenosis and find the root cause of a stroke.

Sorting out car seat safety with the Mayo Mom
June 25, 2021

The best way to keep your children safe in the car is to secure them in a properly installed car seat. But more than half of all car seats may be improperly installed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

So many car seat options are on the market, and many parents find this overwhelming. It's important to buy the right type of car seat, properly install it, and ensure the seat and straps fit your child. The type of seat your child needs depends on several things, including your child’s age, size and developmental needs.

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, a special edition of "Ask the Mayo Mom" focuses on summer and car seat safety. Dr. Angela Mattke a Mayo Clinic pediatrician and host of "Ask the Mayo Mom" is joined by Dr. Meghan Cain, a pediatric emergency medicine physician at Mayo Clinic Children’s Center, and Nicole Guerton, a trauma center injury prevention coordinator at Mayo Clinic Children's Center and a certified child passenger safety technician.