Before Perry Erdahl worked at the Mayo Clinic, he was the father of a patient. His son Jake was diagnosed with liver cancer at seven years old, and the prognosis was dire. "There was a point in time where they told us he only had a few weeks to maybe a month or two to live," Erdahl says. He and his wife took Jake to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
"I just can't say enough about the care. Nobody ever gave up," says Erdahl. A team of doctors worked together to treat Jake. Ultimately, the pediatric oncologist and pathologist teased out a piece of information that led them to believe that Jake had a different kind of cancer than they originally thought. They changed the course of treatment, and Jake got better. "That was 14 years ago," says Erdahl. "He's 21 now. He's a junior in college. He was a multi-sport athlete in high school. You would never know what he went through."
Some years after Jake's recovery, Erdahl heard about an IT job opportunity at the Mayo, and was eager to apply. Once he was hired, he was able to use his experience as the parent of a former patient. When his son was sick, he says, "My wife, who is a very competent accountant, had a whole set of spreadsheets. We had a hard time tracking which procedures she had paid for and which ones she hadn't." So Erdahl started incorporating a patient's visit number into the medical center's payment system.
The Mayo recognized his work, and invited Erdahl to join the clinic's Center for Innovation. At 59, he's a senior project manager at the center, where he develops programs to help senior citizens age better and remain independent longer. He says, "I owe the organization an awful lot."
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