Mayo Clinic Expertise: Shot in the arm for Beacon Health patients

Published: May. 17, 2017 at 1:32 PM EDT
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When you think of cutting-edge medical care, Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, ranks among the world's best, and that's a real shot in the arm for those of us living hundreds of miles to the south.

For the last year, Beacon Health Systems' Memorial and Elkhart General Hospitals have been partners with the Mayo Clinic Care Network, meaning hundreds of patients from our area have been able to benefit from second opinions from Mayo experts without ever leaving Michiana.

One year later, that partnership is fighting cancer and other serious illnesses through technology -- specifically, electronic consulting.

Wendy Nowicki, a 43-year-old from South Bend, and 45-year-old Carmen Leichty are both breast cancer survivors.

Wendy is the mother of a 20-year-old daughter, and Carmen is the mother of two children.

Both were shocked by their breast cancer diagnosis.

“I was going in for a routine mammogram," Wendy recalls. "They saw something; I assumed it was just a cyst. Once they did the testing, they did determine it was cancer, stage 2. It was already in my lymph nodes.”

Carmen had a similar story. “On May 31 I went in and found out it was cancer, unfortunately stage 2. It was devastating to say the least. I have a freshman in high school and a second grader.

Both are patients of oncologist Dr. Thomas Reid, and when faced with their options they were unsure what to do. Wendy explained, “I just felt overwhelmed that I couldn't make that decision on my own.”

Carmen felt the same, so Dr. Reid suggested they consider taking advantage of Memorial's collaborative effort with Mayo Clinic.

Dr. Mark Larson traveled to South Bend from Mayo this week to celebrate that one-year partnership and meet with local doctors who consult with Mayo experts via E-consults, and he explained to us how it works.

“The patient's story might include the mammogram or other imaging or perhaps the pathology information, and just package that electronically and send that to a very secure portal to Mayo Clinic team,” he explains.

The team then offers their opinion, which Dr. Dale Patterson, who heads up the collaboration at Beacon, says has been invaluable. “When you have a scary diagnosis or you have something that's unusual that you're not quite confident that your doctor has the expertise, you can turn to the doctors at Mayo and ask for help, and you can stay right here in town.”

In the last year there have been more than 300 E-consults with promising and life altering results.

Just ask these two young moms who got the peace of mind they were both looking for.

Wendy says it was a win-win treatment. “Absolutely wonderful doctors here and I trusted what they said, but there's just a peace of mind knowing that the Mayo Clinic agreed with what my doctors were saying.”

Carmen agreed, adding, “I couldn’t ask for anything better. It was definitely peace of mind to me and my family.”

Patients get top-notch treatment from their doctors here in town, and a second opinion from among the best in the nation and worldwide.

“I've been cancer free for about four months, and we're looking forward to a new year,” Carmen happily tells us.

“Cancer free for nine months and I feel great. Feeling positive,” Wendy adds.

Beacon is one of 30 hospitals nationwide chosen to join the Mayo Clinic Care Hospital and the first in Indiana. In fact, it is the only hospital with a Mayo Clinic affiliation in our region.

This collaboration gives local doctors the access to E-consults with more than 4,000 Mayo clinicians, and it will not cost Beacon patients anything.

For more information on the partnership, visit