Rochester International Airport: Mayo Clinic’s High-Flying Partner in Caring for Patients

This article was originally published on Mayo Clinic's "In the Loop" blog. 

This time of year, we imagine Rochester International Airport is filled with people leaving. That is, leaving Minnesota's numbing winter air and nonstop dumping of snow, vowing only to return in the spring after Mother Nature has gotten whatever it is that's bugging her out of her system.

But according to this story by Rochester's MedCity Beat, we're wrong. (Shocking, we know.) Every day a fleet of planes carrying Mayo Clinic patients—and thousands of pounds of cargo—flies into Rochester, the publication reports.

MedCity Beat reports "in a community known worldwide for hope and healing," that cargo, in particular, "plays a vital role" in Mayo Clinic's patient care efforts. That cargo can mean patients receive the "timely diagnostic results and life-saving treatments" their lives may depend on. "It's incredible the people's lives that are in those planes—even though there are no passengers on them," Andrew Paulsen, Pharm.D., supervisor of Mayo Clinic's Nuclear Medicine Radiopharmaceutical Lab in Rochester, tells the publication.

Dr. Paulsen would know. He and his team rely on Rochester International Airport to deliver daily shipments "from around the world." According to the publication, the materials are needed to create "radioactive medications for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes, including targeted treatments of some forms of cancer."

Dr. Paulsen tells MedCity Beat time is always of the essence. "Some of our medications that we will be administering tomorrow are just finishing up manufacturing today, and they are getting on a plane, and we have one small window in time when that medication is still good for that patient," he says. "There are times when we are picking up a vial of medication that was made in Italy and whisked here in a matter of a couple of days' time so it can treat someone's cancer and help alleviate symptoms for a disease they are struggling with. It's pretty remarkable."

Remarkable for other labs, departments, and providers throughout Mayo Clinic, as well. Like staff in Mayo Clinic Laboratories, which MedCity Beat reports relies on the nearby airport so cargo planes can deliver thousands of medical specimens every day to help provide answers, diagnoses, and hope to patients and care providers around the globe. "Often, patients are searching for answers they cannot get in their local hospitals," the publication reports. "By having the airport just down the road, Mayo Clinic Laboratories staff are able to get specimens early enough to have them tested by noon."

In turn, physicians "at a hospital across the country, or even across the world," get the same-day test results they need to begin a patient's care immediately. "That may mean somebody can go home, who otherwise might have needed to stay in a hospital that night," Tom Griffin, Global Logistics Manager for Mayo Clinic Laboratories, tells MedCity Beat. "Having access to a cargo terminal here is a wonderful thing for us."

You can read more about how Rochester International Airport contributes to Mayo Clinic's patient care efforts here.

In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic