Archive for August, 2008

JJ’s Issue 3: An Effort of Olympic Proportion

Posted on August 14th, 2008 by Joseph Dolence

                 Every four years (until 1994), the Olympic cauldron is ignited and a couple weeks later, it is extinguished. From the Games of the IX Olympiad in Amsterdam in 1928, that flame has inspired multiple generations of athletes and non-athletes alike. The five rings interlaced represent the five parts of the world where countries compete in the Games: Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe, and Oceania. The five rings also represent passion, faith, victory, work ethic and sportsmanship. These symbols have filled us with the spectacle, the intangibles, and the stories that light up our minds to endless possibilities.

                From 1896 in Athens, Greece, to the first games contested in the USA in 1904 (St. Louis, Missouri) to the debut of the Winter Games and their accompaniment of their Summer counterparts in 1924 (both in France by the way—Paris for the Summer, Chaminox, France for the Winter), to the first of two appearances the Summer Games made in Los Angeles  in 1932, to the heartbreak that was cancelling two editions of the Olympics during World War II, the Olympic movement stood for something this world needed badly, and really needs in current times.

                The Olympics came back in 1948 after 12 year layoff due to WWII in London, UK. The Winter Games that year were competed in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy. 1952, Helsinki, 1954, Melbourne, in 1960, Rome hosted, ’64, Mexico City, ’68, Tokyo, and in 1972 in Munich, Germany, the world was shocked to a core when eight Palestinian terrorists murdered eleven Israeli athletes. The Games went on, finished, and in 1976, Montréal picked up the baton for the XXI edition of the Summer Games. 1980 was Moscow’s show and the USA famously boycotted these, and yes, payback meant the USSR boycotted our 1984 Los Angeles Games.

                We all know the story from Lake Placid, NY when a semifinal hockey game between the US and USSR was much more than the 4-3 game indicated on that February 22, 1980 evening. Few less on that night knew that about a decade later, the USSR would collapse. Eight years later, the Summer Games were in South Korea for the first time in Seoul. 1992 was a telling year for the Olympic movement since it was the last time the Summer and Winter Games would be held the same year in Barcelona (summer) and Albertville (winter). 1994, Lillehammer, Norway, 1996, Atlanta, 1998, Nagano, Japan, 2000, Sydney, 2002, Salt Lake City, 2004, Athens, 2006 Torino, and we zoom up to the here and now, 2008 in Beijing. Many stories could be told from all of those Games. Heaven knows I could entertain many with an encyclopedic knowledge of all of those events, but that’s not the point of this blog entry. To prove my trivial knowledge, did you know that in 1954 the equestrian events were held in Stockholm, Sweden five months prior to the Games only the second time the same Olympics were held in two different countries. The other time was the Antwerp, Belgium Games in 1920. One sailing event was on Dutch waters.

                Many of you are probably thinking, why is a punk graduate student from Mayo writing an op-ed or a blog on the Olympics? The reason lies in the importance of these Games to the world, and what and how their impact will reverberate on the world. It is the first time that the country with the largest population in the world has hosted them. More than 1/5th  of humanity lives there, yet they haven’t been ready to host these till now. And if you think back 20 years, they weren’t even close then. Not even the most optimistic Chinese citizen must have even dreamed when they saved our 1984 Summer Games (the ones USSR boycotted), that 24 years later, they would be marching to the drum of their own Games.

                I write this blog because of a prevailing necessity to realize the urgency of the moment. The point of this isn’t political. The point of this is to remember we live in a very global society, and the US society in a lot of ways is still living back in the mid 1900s with no recollection of this. Maybe not in science or research, but in many other areas. We also live in a world where racism, sexism, and all the other “isms” are unacceptably practiced everyday. I write this on Mayo’s stage because we have always been a leader in the health care society and in research. We need to take that a step farther and be a leader in society. In the world at large in more than just fulfilling the needs of the patient. We work together in extraordinary ways at Mayo, and we need to convey that message to the world. I urge each and everybody who reads this to dig deep within themselves to realize the importance of the moment. Why?  Anyone who watched the Opening Ceremonies of the Beijing Games realizes that China has arrived and woken to the world stage in many ways. Maybe not on the issues of Darfur and human rights, but on other platforms.

                The happiness, joy, and prosperity this Olympiad seems to bring to the Chinese is heart-warming. In the months and years ahead, we will be challenged to work together like we did to put on a successful Games, and I hope we take those opportunities to chart a better course. We live in a global society in every sense of the imagination. In research, we can transfer knowledge, information, and reagents very quickly from each corner of the globe. In medicine, we can send patients’ chart from Seattle to New York to Rome to Auckland to Tokyo in a blink of an eye. By working together we can make this a better place, especially given the state of US right now (I said I wouldn’t get political so I won’t). In order to conquer the many disease states we all think about every day, we need this.

                I know everyone at Mayo knows these things, I just bring them up as we reflect on what we are seeing from the time zone 13 hours ahead of ours. Our mission is to help other people witness it, starting one at a time. Without these efforts, we could miss an unbelievable opportunity to change this country and this world for the better. Every generation has an opportunity to shape their lives (and future generations). I believe this is our first huge go-around at impacting the face of the earth.

                I don’t know how China will look after this is all over, but I know that it looks spectacular from here. Kudos to Beijing organizers, the IOC, the 75,000 volunteers, and especially the athletes for making this a special event for everyone.


Let’s make hope happen in the world today! 

Gōngxǐ China! Gōngxǐ Beijing! Gōngxǐ Mayo! Gōngxǐ! Gōngxǐ! 


“What’s Cooking in the Melting Pot?” (Diversity at Mayo)

Posted on August 4th, 2008 by Hena Khaja

Allow me to introduce myself – my name is Hena Khaja, I am a fourth year medical student here at Mayo.  I am glad to see so many bloggers (thanks for taking the initiative Jess) because when I moved here I experienced a huge culture shock. I was born and raised in Houston, Texas. Coming from H-town, I grew up with kids from all different backgrounds.  My best friends in high school were Caucasian, Salvadorian and Taiwanese. After graduation I went to school at the University of Texas- Austin.  There, we had an enrollment of 50,000 students, that’s half the population of Rochester!  I didn’t realize that everything really is big in Texas till I left it.  Also, I am pretty diverse myself. Not only am I American, but also Indian, and Muslim, and a diehard Longhorn!

            When I first came to Rochester for the med school interview way back when in December of 2004, I remembered only two things, bitter cold and a homogenous whiteness to the town.  No that’s not true; I also remember how incredibly and genuinely nice everybody was, from the bus driver to the dean of the med school.  Luckily at the med school orientation I saw names on the roster that were more than 5 syllables, hard to pronounce and even hyphenated!  One of my classmates has the coolest name “Babatunde”.  After moving here I saw that there are pockets of diversity, Mayo pulls people from all over the world to this small town of 97,000.  Plus there is a huge Somali community, Mong, and even Hispanic population. The unfortunate part is that even though they are here, they are all pretty isolated.  I think it happens in every culture, especially in America.  Just looking at the history of the nation, so many ethnic groups have moved to this melting pot because of persecution, exile, refugee status, etc.  They came here with a deep rooted mistrust of others. Take my own parents for example-  my parents are so racist, it’s ridiculous. Sometimes it’s hard for them to see how similar Indians are to people of any other ancestry.  People have to appreciate similarities before they can appreciate differences.  I mean, come on, how do you expect me to enjoy other cultures (by that I mean their food) when there is no free flowing discourse.  That’s why I think the blog is a great idea.  It helps overcome some of the barriers that I have seen like time constraints, language issues, etc. It allows the first generation-ers like myself to reach out and abolish some of those walls that have been unnecessarily created.  

             I am really glad I made the move because Mayo really is wonderful; I wouldn’t want to train anywhere else.  There is no other institution that takes such good care of it’s employees, students, and clients.  Last year I had the opportunity to go to Mecca for pilgrimage and the administration allowed me a few days more so I could make the journey.  When I came back I started to veil and am really glad I made that choice.  It’s allowed me to create an identity for myself.  Also it’s my small way of showing the world that a Muslim can be a normal person (even though some of my friends will beg to differ on my normality).  Ever since I started veiling people would ask me what country I am from.  Then I would get a kick out of telling them that like George Bush, I am from Texas ;)   Honestly though I am really proud to be an American.  There is no positive or negative pressure to dress a certain way, to practice a certain religion, to eat certain foods. I love it because it also allows citizens to maintain their culture and heritage.  Where else can so many people of so many different backgrounds come together like we have. 

            I also wanted to put in a word for the Diversity Committee.  During first year I started to feel pretty lonely because I had no one to practice my culture with; I was the only Muslim in my class and I really didn’t have time to interact with anyone else.  I went to the Dean and she pointed me to the Diversity Committee.  This is Mayo’s board of members that work on making the Mayo Clinic more culturally aware to address the needs of our diverse patients, promote leadership, recruitment, and retention.  The Diversity Committee was key in setting me up with a website that is maintained by Mayo and the opportunity to interact with other diversity groups.  You guys may not know but we have the following groups here: African Descendants Support Network Diversity Networking Group, Circle of Caribbean Latin African Sisters Diversity Networking Group, Faith Based Diversity Networking Group, GLBTI Professional Mentorship Group, Jamaican Diversity Networking Group, Muslim Culture Diversity Networking Group, Native American Programs, and Newcomers' Diversity Networking Group. There are links to each group on

            Also, the MCDNG is planning a huge event – the 2nd Annual Rochester Islamic Conference.  This event is open to all, Muslims and non Muslims, and the sessions for the first day are geared to educate others about the Islamic culture (don’t worry it’s not an attempt to convert Rochester). It’s a friendly invitation to come and see what Muslims are about so you can work with and live with them better.  Plus, we are going to have Somali, Arab, and South Asian foods so even if you don’t care to hear the lectures, come eat some grub.  Well I think I have said all I can about diversity and my efforts to promote it here at Mayo.  Thanks for reading.  Love, peace, and soul!      Islamic Conference