Dr. Prathibha Varkey is the first woman of color to serve as president of Mayo Clinic Health System

Prathibha Varkey.jpg
Prathibha Varkey

ROCHESTER — Dr. Prathibha Varkey has a long history with Mayo Clinic—she completed her preventive medicine fellowship, then remained in Rochester for 12 years as the Associate Chair of the Department of Medicine, the medical director of Ask Mayo Clinic, the program director of the Preventive Medicine Fellowship, and Director of the Quality Improvement Curriculum.

She departed in 2013 to take leadership roles at the Yale New Haven Health Northeast Medical Group and Seton Clinical Enterprise, then rejoined Mayo as the president of Mayo Clinic Health System in mid-August 2021.

The opportunity appealed to her because of the potential to “transform rural and community health care,” she says.

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“Being with and partnering with patients and communities in times of wellness and illness, while bringing hope and healing is deeply meaningful, as well as very humbling,” Varkey says. “Being part of a culture of excellence that is the hallmark of Mayo Clinic is energizing.”

The first part of leadership, though, is listening.


Over the past few months, Varkey has prioritized meeting with members of the staff to talk about the challenges the ongoing pandemic has brought.

“Our teams have gone above and beyond every day to care for an extraordinarily high volume of patients, provide testing, vaccinations, and antibody infusions to keep our communities safe,” she says.

And Varkey is already looking ahead to the much-lauded “Bold. Forward.” plan the clinic will enact by 2030.

The plan “charts a course” for Mayo Clinic Health System to become a category-of-one health system over the next eight years—transforming community medicine, while providing care for the region, including southern Minnesota, western Wisconsin, and northern Iowa.

That will mean more focus on online scheduling, video visits, home monitoring after hospitalization, and telehealth services.

“We are leading in many of these areas, but by using artificial intelligence and other digital health tools, we will accelerate this much necessary work,” Varkey says.

Her other goal is to address health disparities and lessen the gap between urban and rural access to care.

Her advice to young people?


“Approach opportunities with grit and courage; be fearless in execution and persistent despite evolving challenges. Deliver more than you promise,” she says. “There is so much opportunity to transform healthcare right now.”

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