As division chair of Public Affairs Rochester at Mayo Clinic, Lisa Clarke, ’06 M.B.A., oversees the people who tell Mayo’s story: on the Web, to the media, to other Mayo employees, to the community, to the government and, most importantly, to patients. “We tell the story internally to build pride,” she said, “and we tell it externally so people can see where our heart is.”
The Mayo story is everywhere: an update on the Fitterer twins on Mayo.org; a newspaper article about a recent visit by medical staff to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina; a Mayo exhibit on its ambulance services, now more than 100 years old; an article on the Children’s Heart Project in the employee magazine.
When Clarke joined Mayo Clinic eight years ago, she heard people talking about putting patients first and watched to see if what she was hearing was just a slogan. It wasn’t. “I see people stop to help a patient all the time. It didn’t take me long to become a banner waver for Mayo Clinic.” Finding a job that allowed Clarke to use all of her skills to promote something she believed in was, in her words, the best thing that happened in her career. “I have the best job on the planet.”
The Gonda building, Mayo’s “front door” since 2001, symbolizes Clarke’s passion for the Mayo and its patients. Clarke walks through the building daily to see the patients coming and going and to hear the live music in the lobby – an informal piano solo by a patient, a vocal duet by staff, all offerings to lift the spirits of Mayo’s visitors. The walk is a treat and a way to connect with the people she serves.
A recent graduate of St. Thomas’ Executive UST MBA program, Clarke had considered enrolling in an MBA program earlier in her career, but she wanted to put all of her energy into her job and delayed entering graduate school. “I decided that there will never be a perfect time,” she said. She enrolled at St. Thomas for its reputation, location and for the Executive UST MBA option. Clarke relished the opportunity to interact with colleagues from a variety of backgrounds. “The program helped me look at things other companies were doing – companies that I could help and that I could learn from.”
While Clarke learned a lot from her peers and the faculty, for her the most important part of the program was learning to learn. “I feel that my learning has just begun,” she said. “I learned to ask better questions, understand all aspects of business, become more tolerant of ambiguity and become a better leader. Now I learn something daily from my staff and others here at Mayo.”
Clarke’s ability to learn from her staff may have been honed at St. Thomas, but it is a natural outgrowth of the curiosity that she credits with her success. Walking beneath a series of intricate glass sculptures on her way to the Gonda building, she wonders aloud how the pieces are cleaned. Her curiosity goes beyond idle wondering; put into action, it leads Clarke to view everyone around her as a potential role model. “I was recently on a plane coming back from Jacksonville,” she said. “I met a woman who is a chemist, an artist, a dancer and a mom. She exuded warmth, patience and joy. I thought about the qualities I liked about her, and how I could incorporate them into my life. People intrigue me, even if they aren’t in my world long. Every person you interact with every day is a gem. You never know when they’ll come back into your life, or what you’ve done for them.” Perhaps this delight in hearing the stories of others is what suits Clarke so well to her role as master storyteller.