Mayo investing in future health care professionals in the community

Published 4:13 pm Monday, May 8, 2023

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Mayo Clinic Health System has been busy this week.

Susan Loch

According to Susan Loch, foundation director, volunteer services coordinator and community engagement specialist at Mayo Clinic Health System, the health system has been awarding scholarships to high school and nontraditional students in Freeborn and Mower counties. The only requirement for eligibility was that students planned to pursue a health care career.

Other determining factors in the selection process included how committed students were and how they were involved in their school and community.

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High school students received $1,000, while nontraditional students received either $1,000 or $1,500.

According to Loch, nontraditional students were defined as students going back to school, and every recipient this year went to Riverland Community College.

“We see health care is changing so much, and it’s very challenging sometimes to find people who really want to work in rural practice,” she said. “If we can sort of start helping our local students who have connections here, we’re A, helping solve a problem there aren’t enough health care professionals, and B, maybe they’re the ones that would be interested in coming back to practice in their home areas … so it seems kind of like a win-win,” she said.

Heidi Gaston, Heidi Gaston, a consultant physician with obstetrics and gynecology at Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin.

One of those recipients was Heidi Gaston, a consultant physician with obstetrics and gynecology at Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin, who currently resides in Glenville.

“I was one of those kids that wanted to be a doctor from the time I was very young,” she said, noting she was involved in extracurriculars that allowed her to interact with and provide service to people.

She also thought medicine would be a good match for her.

As a senior at Glenville-Emmons High School in 2003, she made the decision to apply for as many scholarships as possible, especially any that would be pertinent for her future plans.

“One of the things that is a huge burden to a lot of people is just the cost of higher education,” she said. “Scholarships from universities often help with the cost of tuition and room and board, but they can’t help with those additional expenses of being out on your own for the first time in your life without really having the opportunity to work a full-time job.”

The scholarship opportunity also enticed her to consider returning to Glenville, and she said Albert Lea Medical Center (now Mayo Clinic Health System) showed a belief that she could succeed in health care. She admitted returning to Glenville was a goal.

“As someone from this area knowing that we have this nationally-renowned hospital system within our reach,” she said. “I think I would have compared every other opportunity against Mayo and its affiliates.”

This year, Loch received about 45 scholarship applications.

Within the area, four Albert Lea High School students received scholarships, three United South Central students earned the scholarship, and one student each at Alden-Conger, NRHEG and Glenville-Emmons got scholarships. In addition, Naeve Hospital Auxiliary volunteers awarded two scholarships to students at Alden-Conger, while another NRHEG student was awarded one. Two scholarships were given to Riverland nontraditional students.All scholarships were worth $1,000.

Applications were sent to school guidance counselors back in January and were due back in March.

“It’s a very intense process,” Loch said.

Loch said scholarships have been rewarded for at least the last decade.

Excluding the nontraditional scholarships, only college-bound seniors are eligible to apply.

“Medicine is a long journey and it doesn’t have to be a lonely journey,” Gaston said. “Reach out for support, let people know what your goals are, have people help you get to where you want to be.

“This is one of the ways that you can have people in your community and your medical facility help support you and alert you to future opportunities.”