The North Star Project, 2013-2014 Report Number Forty-Five, My Globalized Medicine Experience, by Nick Power

Most people don’t know what Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome (CECS) is, and frankly, you probably don’t want to know. It is very painful and difficult to treat properly. To sum it up, the muscles in your calf are surrounded by something called fascia, which is basically like the skin surrounding the meat of a chicken. When you exercise, your muscles expand with blood that goes in and out, but with CECS your fascia is really scarred and tight. Blood flow is restricted and the pressure increases immensely. I have had this before and I had surgery in Duluth but my condition was not resolved. In order to test for CECS, you must exercise and then after you start to get symptoms a needle is inserted in your muscles in order to read pressures. I was tested again and my pressures were not high enough to diagnose compartment syndrome. Instead these pressures were borderline, and the surgeon wanted to do another surgery even though it was in the gray area. I decided to embark to the Mayo Clinic to have more tests and explore other possibilities as to what was causing my excruciating pain. Not only did my visit lead me down the path to the proper diagnoses, but it also introduced me to how much globalization can be seen in our own state.

The Mayo Clinic employs approximately 32,000 people, which is roughly one third of the entire population of the city of Rochester, Minnesota where it is located. The Mayo Clinic is one of the best clinics in the world. It is also the top clinic in several areas, including neurology. This is impressive, but more impressive is the amount of money involved and number of people of different cultures who come to the clinic in order to get treatment. The University of Minnesota even opened a branch in Rochester mainly for research purposes at the Mayo Clinic. It spends over 500 million dollars for research every year. The entire downtown consists of buildings having to do with the Mayo Clinic, with several of the buildings towering over twenty stories high. The town is very clean and gets quiet when the clinic closes.

I had to apply to be seen. There are limited spots available, especially for those from out of town, but thankfully an orthopedist agreed to see me. In June of this year we drove five hours down to Rochester. When we arrived I felt more like I was in an airport than a clinic. Downtown there were several stores with different languages in the windows and a parking ramp with cars with license plates from nearly every state except Hawaii.

The Mayo Building in Rochester is 300ft tall

The next day my process of getting checked out began. Initially the doctor wanted me to get an MRI of my legs. This was something I have done before but when I arrived to the clinic they had just received a new technology from GE which allowed for more in depth viewing in an MRI machine that they wanted to test it on a select few individuals. Luckily, I was one of these few. I had to sign a form of consent, then they took me to a floor with approximately 36 MRI machines. The one I went to was built and shipped in two weeks before I got there and was the size of ? of a typical American school class room, and the room temperature was about 52ºF. The new technology seemed to be giving valuable data.

The Mayo Clinic collects and stores your data, including your DNA if your case is compelling (with your consent). It is one of the biggest research hospitals in the world so when they take your data they use it to better understand underlying causes of your condition. All the people who go there and all the data the hospital has is amazing; it truly is a library of the most unusual medical mysteries from all around the world.

After my MRI and other tests I had one final appointment with a vascular surgeon reputed to be the best in the country. This doctor had worked on professional athletes and Olympians. But the amazing thing was not only the visit to see him, it was also the process of getting there. When I entered the main building, there were a number of signs with different languages and many interpreters wearing suits and ties, as well as guides because the buildings are so large that people often get lost. When I arrived to my floor and entered the waiting room it was amazing to see the variety of people. There were people wearing turbans, burkas, even intriguing masks with large noses over the burkas, as well as a wide array of strange and different designer clothing I have never seen in the States. There were also many foreign languages spoken such as Arabic, Mandarin, and others that I could not distinguish.

The appointments go quickly; there were at least five entryways to call people into because it was so busy. I waited for quite some time, and it was already fifteen minutes past my appointment time when all of a sudden people stopped being called and a man in an elaborate white robe and turban came walking in with several other men and women beside him. He walked right in, and nobody further was called. I went to the front desk and asked what was going on. They told me that a V.I.P. had come in for an appointment, and mine had been rescheduled to one hour later. I was confused- it was just an appointment so why did this man get to cut in front of everyone? I later found out that he was a wealthy businessman who was able to book an appointment sort of last minute and because he paid more money than everyone he was able to get in more quickly. It was at this minute that I learned the true meaning of the phrase, “money talks.”

I eventually had my appointment, and the doctor told me that he could do the surgery required, but there was someone even better than he at a clinic in Madison, Wisconsin. All my data was shipped to the clinic in Madison and I was scheduled for surgery a month later. After a long visit, and after many extensive and quite painful tests, I was ready to go home. But I had learned a lot during my one-week visit to the Mayo Clinic. It is truly a world wonder where people from all different backgrounds and ethnicity gather for their health. It was amazing to be in the presence of such a grand place where so many groundbreaking things are happening. It also drove into my mind a sense of reality. There were many children with missing limbs or serious conditions such as cancer or other potentially fatal diseases. It really showed how fragile life is and there is always someone who has it worse than you out in the world. It made me feel lucky that I had the opportunity to go to such an amazing place, and that I didn’t have a serious life threatening illness. All in all I learned a lot, and it was definitely worth it. I will never forget how important and wonderful a place like the Mayo is, how lucky I am to have it so close, and how I may often take the ability to get such good healthcare for granted.
For all of the North Star Project 2013-2014 Reports, see
For all of the North Star Project 2013 Summer Reports, see

The North Star Project 2013-2014 School Year Reports: The Middle Ground Journal’s collaborative outreach program with K-12 classes around the world. We gratefully acknowledge North Star Academy of Duluth, Minnesota as our inaugural partner school, and the flagship of our K-12 outreach program. We also warmly welcome Duluth East High School and Dodge Middle School to the North Star Project.

Under the leadership of our North Star host teachers and student interns, The North Star Project has flourished for two years. For a brief summary, please see a recent article in the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

Having re-tooled and re-designed the collaborative program, we are drawing on the experience of our veteran student interns, ideas from our host teachers, and new projects provided by our incoming student interns. This school year The Middle Ground Journal will share brief dispatches from our North Star Project student interns, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. As of the time of this report we have confirmed student interns who will be reporting from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing presentations on theatrical representations of historical trauma, historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and different perceptions of current events from around the world. We will post their brief dispatches here, and report on their interactions with the North Star students and teachers throughout the school year.

Hong-Ming Liang, Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA, 2013-2014 School Year

(c) 2014 The Middle Ground Journal, Number 8, Spring, 2014. See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.


Filed under Professor Hong-Ming Liang

25 responses to “The North Star Project, 2013-2014 Report Number Forty-Five, My Globalized Medicine Experience, by Nick Power

    • Katy Goerke

      I would have never imagined the prestige of the Mayo Clinic going so far as to be a hot spot for medical tourism. The clinic sounds interesting enough on its own to go and see even if you don’t have a medical reason to go.

    • This reminds me of years ago when King Abdullah of Jordan came to the Mayo Clinic for emergency surgery. That’s a long way to go for the ER, but as Nick points out, “money talks.”

  1. Kirsten Olsen

    I found the authors comment about the person being able to cut in line very interesting. You would think that in the field of health care, that things like money having affect on a spot in line wouldn’t happen, but in all reality it happens all the time.

  2. Sam Yocum

    This was interesting. I had never heard of CECS and I would like to learn more. I did not realize just how many people the Mayo Clinic employed. It was more than I thought.

  3. Ruby P.

    This is such a beautifully written article. What really surprises me is how many people are employed at the Mayo. Also how diverse it is just in that city. When I think of Minnesota I just picture very secluded and small. I suppose maybe the further south one goes the more people there are. It is very true that to appreciate life more often we must experience something such as you did! Good luck with all your surgeries and tests. I hope everything goes well for you!

  4. Brianna Curtis

    The Mayo is such a unique place full of opportunities! I have always dreamt of working there. It is amazing how diverse every aspect of our world is today, especially in the U.S. It makes me love this country even more because so many beautiful cultures make up this vast area and we are all influenced by them without even realizing it. The money aspect was actually a bit shocking because I wouldn’t think that would be a major factor in a hospital, but that just goes to show what society values these days. Great article!

  5. I find this article really interesting and intriguing. I grew up about a half hour drive from Rochester, MN so Mayo is where I have always gone for general check up and when I broke my arm and so on. It’s really cool to read the wonder and awe associated with the building I take for granted because it’s just always been there like that in my mind. One small example of something is something as simple as the title “The Mayo” whereas I just address it as Mayo. I’m extremely lucky to have grown up in an area with such a great medical program.

  6. Brandon Torres

    My family has also had experience at the Mayo, and it is a truly remarkable place. It also does serve as an excellent example of globalization. When searching for hospitals in London, many chose to display some sort of connection to the Mayo clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

  7. Samantha Frascone

    This article is very detailed and it gave very good descriptions. When it first started describing CECS I felt a little sick to my stomach, since the description was so good and I was able to imagine it so easily. My parents both work at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, and it is sort of like a competitor with Mayo. They always talk about how well Regions Hospital and Healthpartners as a whole are doing, and never really mention anything about Mayo. I had no idea about Mayo’s success rates and how many people they have employed right now.

  8. Mitch VanTatenhove

    This was a very interesting article and well written article. I myself am from Hopkins Minnesota, which is not too far from Rochester. Although I knew about the Mayo Clinic, I did not know how large and important it was. The diversity also surprised me, and that people from all around the world travel here for top of the line care. Also, the wealthy business man that was able to cut in line caught me off guard. But like Nick stated, “money talks”!

  9. Maddie Kust

    I think this article acknowledges well that, in the midst of globalization, there are certain topics that can bring humans together. In this case, the topic is health. Moving forward, I hope that health care does not cater more to “V.I.P.” patients than others- especially at such a reputable clinic.

  10. Austin

    First off I’m glad your condition is not life threatening Nick! You did a great job putting life and the big picture into perspective. Who would have thought that of all the places in Minnesota Rochester would be so culturally diverse thanks to the Mayo Clinic. I truly hope that our nation can have a blend of socialized medicine with the private sector. Having facilitates such as the mayo clinic are essential for diagnosing and treating rare medical problems. At the same time everyone should have the right to healthcare. What worries me the most is when our healthcare system has less specialist doctors and also when hospitals become all about the numbers and less about the patient care. Thanks Nick for your unique perspective and insight regarding the Mayo Clinic and dealing with CECS. Hope you continue to heal!

  11. The way you described the Mayo Clinic was far from what I imagined. Especially the grandeur of the technological advancements and architecture you witnessed during your visit there. I guess I didn’t realize who far the Mayo Clinic has come in terms of patients as well. I hope that the cost of health care won’t be determined based on special treatments.

  12. Maria

    Reading about the Mayo Clinic, which is relatively close to campus, makes me wonder how Duluth would be different if they were more closely connected to Mayo. After all, the city–at least how it was presented to me–has some of the best healthcare in this country, and the amount of health and sciences students that come out of both of the colleges in the area, as well as in the cities, probably is very tied to both the Mayo clinic and the local healthcare providers. I wonder if the Mayo clinic also employs diverse staff as well. With such varied clientele, you’d think the employees would also have many different backgrounds–including languages.

    • Jimmy Lovrien

      Furthermore, how has the College of Saint Scholastica molded its education to prepare future healthcare professionals for such a global career?

  13. Jimmy Lovrien

    I found this article to be particularly fascinating. It encompasses a wide array of globalization topics and presents a useful method on how to approach/think about places in a worldly manner. I found the section regarding stores hosting different languages to be of particular interest.

    In regards to the man who was privileged enough to advance in line, it would be fascinating to dig deeper into this issue with US healthcare as a whole.

  14. Catherine Kolar

    WOW! This is beautifully written. First off, Nick, could you please re-write all my textbooks?
    It would be interesting to look at how the Mayo Clinic has changed the culture of Rochester through the years since its founding in 1889. As you said stores display more than one language in their displays, if that is the case what other linguistic and cultural practices have made themselves the norm in the community?

  15. Maija

    The Mayo is such an extraordinary place! I think it is so cool how it is in Minnesota. I know a lot of people who have gone to the Mayo and have said similar remarks about the diversity of people around and how busy, yet organized it is! A lot of people don’t know what compartment syndrome is, but considering I got to do a short research project on it, I think it’s great on how more people are now a little more informed about it.

  16. I came across this MPR article several months ago and it reminded me of your article, Nick. Because the Mayo Clinic brings people from across the United States and abroad, their wheelchairs sometimes come back home with the patients. The wheelchairs show up on opposite ends of the country and illustrate the vast area the Mayo Clinic serves.

  17. Luke Scharrer

    I hope your surgery was a success! That is an incredible experience, as far as having the opportunity to visit such experienced doctors within a reasonable distance. Also, I wonder if the city of Rochester reflects the diversity that the Mayo clinic draws, especially since they employ such a high number of people. Here in the Midwestern US, we generally have access to high-quality healthcare, but I like your connection to the “money talks” idea when you appointment was essentially outbid by someone else.

  18. Samantha Roettger

    I found the tie to globalization very intriguing especially the wealthy business man who could cut in line simply because he had more money. This aspect of money and healthcare is a very interesting topic of conversation. Great thought provoking article!

  19. Zach Friederichs

    The Mayo Clinic is a prime example of globalization and the great distances people are willing to travel in order to receive top notch healthcare. It makes me wonder about the future of healthcare and to what further extents people will go through to improve their access.

  20. Cassidy Jayne

    Thanks for sharing, Nick. The availability of medicine, treatment, and consult is a perfect example of globalization. Regardless of ancestry, or country of origin, all people (understandably) want the best of the best when it comes to medical care. Using globalization as a way to reach those who need care but can’t access it is one of the most challenging aspects of medicine today. Great insight!

  21. Kendra Trudeau

    What a compelling story Nick. It is amazing how far healthcare has came in the last few decades, particularly DNA research which has the potential to give us new insight of diseases we previously did not know how they came to be in individuals. I enjoyed this article because it is a prime example of globalization and how people from around the world gather for the sake of their own health. It really is true that we all take our health for granted until it is taken away. It shows that we really are more fragile than we often realize, and that the study of healthcare is truly a humanitarian effort.

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