Ivy Petersen, M.D.

ivy-petersenAssociate Professor of Radiation Oncology, Mayo Clinic Volunteer, American Cancer Society Hope Lodge

Hometown: Medina, Ohio

Age: 53

Family: Husband, Mark; children, Roy, Peggy and foreign exchange student Léonie

Cancer fighter: I’m a radiation oncologist. The areas I focus on in my practice are breast cancer, gynecologic cancers and sarcomas. Radiation oncology? We use radiation to treat cancer.

Vital support: Patients usually need radiation therapy every day for weeks. Obviously, it is a difficult period for them. But it can also be a time that, as medical professionals, we can be a very important source of support, and that’s powerful.

Building hope: I was on the committee that coordinated the fundraising and construction of Rochester’s Hope Lodge. I was there for the groundbreaking. Now, my largest time commitment with Hope Lodge is the annual gala, which will be held on May 10 at the DoubleTree Hotel. The theme this year is the Roaring ‘20s. I am looking forward to seeing all the fun outfits and dancing the Charleston.

Key connections: The medical team at Mayo Clinic is a support system for our patients during the day, but Hope Lodge goes way beyond that. It serves as a second family for these people. It provides emotional, mental and physical support for both patients and families. It’s a community for them in a situation where they may otherwise be isolated in a hotel room.

Quality living: When people find out I’m in oncology, they often assume it’s depressing. It’s not all rosy, but there are many uplifting moments. Even when we may not be able to extend someone’s life, we usually can make them more comfortable. We try to do everything we can to help our patients have a good quality of life, even when they may not have years and years ahead of them. Best part of your job? The patients. No question. Being able to help them and be there for them is the most gratifying part of what I do.

An unexpected teacher: One thing that surprised me about working at Mayo Clinic was the opportunity to get involved in education. For 10 years, I was program director for the Radiation Oncology residency. Growing up, being a teacher didn’t appeal to me. But this was different. I found I enjoy teaching adults. I’ve learned how to teach, and it has been very rewarding.

Working together: I’ve been at Mayo Clinic for 21 years. I like the interaction I have with the other staff here, not just in my department, but throughout Mayo Clinic. I’m not stuck in my own little corner. I’m part of the institution as a whole. Being at Mayo Clinic has also allowed me to have opportunities beyond the organization. For example, I’m on the National Cancer Institute’s Uterine Task Force, which reviews studies about uterine cancer. So, I get to interact with people in my field outside of Mayo Clinic.

Outside the office: In addition to Hope Lodge, I also volunteer with the Boy Scouts, and I’m active in the choir at Community Presbyterian Church.

Making it fit: The only reason I can do all that I do is because I have the most amazing husband in the world. He’s very busy himself, but he’s incredibly supportive. That makes all the difference. Sharing the load is key… and it makes life more fun.

Local attractions: Because my patients stay in Rochester for quite a while, we often talk about things to do. It depends on the situation, of course, but there are lots of good options: visiting Quarry Hill and Oxbow Zoo for families, exploring the walking and biking trails, checking out the Rochester Art Center or Civic Theater. Everyone can find something they like.