Health Scholars at the Mayo Clinic

Modeled after the Rockswold Health Scholars Program at Hennepin County Medical Center, alumni doctors at the Mayo Clinic are thrilled to offer eight current St. Olaf students the opportunity to live together in Rochester while interning at the Mayo Clinic during the summer.

Program Philosophy

The two Health Scholars programs are made possible by the generosity of distinguished alumni. The Rockswold Health Scholars program and the Health Scholars at the Mayo Clinic program are designed to support students in their vocational discernment within healthcare, provide intensive internship opportunities to enhance their academic profiles and expand their professional networks. As a cohort internship program, students will be selected on their ability to contribute positively to living in community. Competitive students have demonstrated their commitment to serving others, strong communication and teamwork skills, and the ability to take initiative. Additionally, students will be assessed on their fit with specific research projects, based on coursework, lab, and other experiences. Preference is given to students with an academic profile that does not preclude admission to graduate or professional school, students who will be rising seniors, and students pursuing medicine (clinical research projects only).

2019 Program Details

  • Dates: Tuesday, May 28 – Friday, August 2, ten weeks of hands-on experience
  • Application Deadline: Friday, March 1 at 11:59pm
  • TracksAll students will participate in a research project. There are four clinical research projects and two healthcare innovation/administration projects.
  • Stipend of $4,000 paid to each student
  • Housing provided in Rochester, MN
  • Final project (paper, poster, presentation) to be determined by student and a Mayo Clinic faculty mentor
  • How to Apply (see below for details)

Tracks for 2019


The goal of the research experience is to provide students with hands-on experience in clinical research either in surgery, oncology, or neurology/sleep medicine.

Colon Surgery Research Project: One student will be involved with a retrospective, case controlled and cohort study in surgery. The student will be exposed to clinical informatics on practice performance and outcomes, standardization and surgical outcomes including economics, and outcomes research involving National Benchmarks and National Database.

Oncology Research Project: One student will be involved with selection of a retrospective clinical project in sarcomas. The student will be exposed to IRB, statistics, chart abstraction, and analysis of data for preparation for presentation and publication.

Sleep Neurology Research Project: One student will be involved with a research project related to sleep neurology, with a strong preference for selection of students with a major in neuroscience and/or psychology, and a planned future career interest in these or related fields. The student will be exposed to sleep neurology and analyze data for preparation for presentation and publication. It is expected that the student commit approximately 75% or more of their time primarily to research activities during their summer appointment in the sleep laboratory.

Thoracic Surgery Research Project: One student will be involved in a retrospective clinical research project analyzing data we have prospectively collected on surgical treatment of thoracic surgical diseases over the past 30 years. The student would be exposed to formulation of hypotheses, preparation of IRB research proposals, patient chart data abstraction, and analysis of data for publication and presentation. The goal for the summer would be to have a paper that could be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal, and possible oral presentation at thoracic surgical meeting.

Health care Innovation

The goal of the healthcare innovation experience is to provide students with firsthand exposure to administration at Mayo Clinic, including clinical practice, research and education.

Media Support Services Project: One student will participate in a study to evaluate the impact of a new streaming video hospital patient education and entertainment system compared to the previous video system. Measures will include impact on patient satisfaction and patient outcomes, as well as the impact on nursing efficiency and satisfaction. The student will help develop survey instruments, interview patients and staff, analyze results and participate in planning improvements to the user interface. The student will also interact with the Usability team, Nursing Administration and Video Engineering.

Biostatistics Collaborative Research

The goal of the biostatistics collaborative research is for students to be exposed to biostatistics in clinical research, including translating clinical hypotheses to statistical hypotheses, determining appropriate methods to describe and analyze data, programming with R software, and communication of research results. This is a biostatistics emphasis for students obtaining or considering obtaining a concentration in Statistics and Data Science. Students must be rising seniors (class of 2020) and completed the prerequisite STAT 272 Statistical Modeling.

Cardiovascular Research Project: One student will work with a faculty biostatistician and their team doing collaborative research in cardiovascular medicine. These studies commonly involve observational data on patients who have received care at Mayo Clinic to treat cardiovascular conditions, using those data to improve knowledge of disease mechanisms and assess potential therapies.

Ovarian Cancer Research Project: One student will work with a faculty biostatistician and their team doing research in ovarian cancer genetics, particularly focused on X chromosome inactivation. This will involve using genetic data of multiple types from Mayo Clinic ovarian cancer patients to improve knowledge of disease mechanisms. Projects will use the R programming language.

Non-Invasive Genetic Screening Project: One student will work with a faculty biostatistician and their team researching circulating cell-free DNA sequencing, with a focus on noninvasive prenatal screening and liquid tumor biopsy applications.  This project will investigate improvements in genomic data normalization and screening assay performance.

Read descriptions of the summer research projects and experience, written by the summer 2016 interns.

Students will work with a faculty mentor at Mayo Clinic. Projects/mentors for summer 2019 will be:

  • David Larson, MD, MBA – Professor of Surgery Mayo Clinic
  • Scott Okuno, MD – Professor of Oncology Mayo Clinic
  • Erik St. Louis, MD, MS – Associate Professor of Neurology Mayo Clinic
  • K. Robert Shen, MD – Associate Professor of Surgery Mayo Clinic and Mark Allen, MD – Professor of Surgery Mayo Clinic
  • Stephen Sponsel, M.S. – Director, Media Support Services, Mayo Clinic
  • Phillip J. Schulte, Ph.D. – Assistant Professor of Biostatistics Mayo Clinic
  • Stacey J. Winham, Ph.D. – Associate Professor of Biostatistics Mayo Clinic
  • Nicholas B. Larson, Ph.D., M.S. – Assistant Professor of Biostatistics Mayo Clinic

Overview of the Program

St. Olaf alumni at Mayo Clinic have established a research internship program that provides current St. Olaf students an unparalleled hands-on experience at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. Healthcare is undergoing transformative changes. Understanding how the healthcare team interacts and collaborates to serve the needs of the patient is critical in order to provide the best quality of care. Students will be exposed to how Mayo Clinic provides comprehensive integrated care through weekly seminars and exposure to healthcare innovation/administration. In addition, students will conduct directed research projects.

A unique aspect of this program includes the opportunity for selected participants to live together in the spirit of support and mutuality. Community living is intended to foster supportive relationships in an environment of reflection and intentionality. Students will work together to make decisions about grocery shopping, meals, upkeep of the living space, and social activities. As part of their commitment to learning from and with each other, participants will be expected to take part in a weekly community meal and community conversation.

How to Apply

  • Current Junior or Sophomore or (Class of 2020 or 2021)
  • Good academic standing (minimum GPA of 3.0, not on academic probation or academically dismissed according to the Registrar’s Office and Dean of Students Office)
  • Students selected for an interview will be asked to complete the Consent and Disclosure Form
Desired Qualifications

The selection committee will consider the following:

  • Ability to represent St. Olaf College in a mature, professional manner
  • Positive attitude and outlook, excellent interpersonal skills
  • Past related academic, research, and/or internship experience
Application Deadline and Process

This program’s application and interview process will be joined with the selection process for the Rockswold Health Scholars Program at HCMC. Professors Mary Walczak and Greg Muth will served on the selection committee. The Piper Center Pre-Health Coach will also be present for the interviews.

Students will apply through a video, Handshake, and a Google Form (see details below) by Friday, March 1st. All three components are required for a complete application.

  • Using a phone or computer, create a two-minute (or less) video addressing two questions*:
    • Why do you want to participate in one of the Health Scholars programs this summer?
    • Describe you current vocational and career interests and goals and explain how the Health Scholars program will contribute to your vocational discernment and career goals.
      • *If a student needs access to a computer to create a video, they can use computers located in the Piper Center. Email to reserve a room.
      • Email the video to Katie Hughes. Please be sure to list the URL for your video statement of interest and provide the password to your video if it is private.
  • In Handshake – Upload your resume (one page) and your unofficial transcript (access SIS and save as a .pdf) and apply for the position.
  • Fill out the Online Application (Google Form)  – Includes essay question, faculty references, and rank ordering of internship positions

Note: The St. Olaf orientation session for selected students will take place sometime in April. Selected students will participate in an orientation session at Mayo at the end of April or early May. St. Olaf staff will coordinate transportation for the orientation. Students should plan on 4-5 hours, during which they will travel to and from Mayo, complete paperwork required for Mayo to perform a background check, and meet faculty mentors.

Selected candidates will be invited to interview the week of March 11. Interviews will be 15 minutes in length. Students will be notified of status no later than the week of March 18

Questions? Contact Mary Walczak (, Faculty Supervisor and Associate Dean for Natural Sciences and Mathematics, RNS 302A or Katie Hughes (, Associate Director, Piper Center, Career Development and Coaching (Pre-Health) Tomson 270.