Random Rochesterite: Abbie Brown

One resident, numerous anecdotes

Random Rochesterite - Abbie Brown
Abbie Brown on Friday, Jan. 13, 2023, in Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

Name: Abbie Brown
Age: 44
Occupation: Senior Patient Education Specialist
Where we found her: Mayo Clinic campus

Are you originally from Rochester?

I am not. I say I’m from Portland, Oregon because that is where I went to elementary school through college. But I’ve also lived in South Dakota, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Nevada. I was born in Madison, Wisconsin.

Why so many moves?

My parents were in medical school, residency, and then my dad got his first job in Oregon, so we moved out to Oregon. They moved back to Minnesota later, but I stayed in Oregon through graduate school.


What did you go to school for?

I got a degree in education and teaching so that I could teach high school English.

You’re not currently teaching high school English. No, I’m not! I taught for five years in Pahrump, Nevada. And then I decided I needed to leave Nevada. I missed my family who had moved back to Minnesota. My parents, my brother and my sister all live up in the Cities. So I moved to Minnesota.

You’re a senior patient education specialist.

What does that mean? At Mayo Clinic, all of our patient education is written by the patient education department. We have writers and editors and copyeditors and a team of specialists that work with doctors and nurses to assess educational gaps that patients might have. My role works with those doctors and nurses to figure out the best way to educate patients on a specific disease or condition or procedure.

How did you land at Mayo?

I decided I didn’t want to teach anymore, so I got a second master’s in library science. But I thought: “Wait, I don’t want to be a K-12 librarian and I don’t want to be a public librarian. Where am I going to be a librarian?!” I interned at a small hospital library in the Cities, got a lot of experience there, and then I was hired at Mayo as a research librarian. And I never looked back. I am so glad I don’t have to grade high school English papers anymore!

Biggest adventure?


“Adventure” implies fun, so this is a real downer, but I had breast cancer. The term “adventure” is a little weird for cancer, but being told I had breast cancer and being told the plan for my next 18 months was like the craziest day of my life. Not the worst day of my life, but the craziest. That was wild.

Not the worst?

There are far worse days. The day my dog died—that was a worse day. Breaking up with long-term relationships? That’s harder in a lot of ways.

And how are you doing now?

I have been “no evidence of disease” since 2017.

Five things you love?

Tubas. Family. Friends. Helping people. Skulls. Isn’t that everyone’s list?

Do tell about tubas.


I love an event called Tuba Christmas. It’s an international event, and it is where tuba and baritone players get together and pay $10 to play Christmas carols at a concert that people can come and enjoy for free. And it’s a sing-a-long. I started the one in Rochester. We just had our second year ever.

You play the tuba?

I’ve played the baritone for over 30 years. And this last April I started playing the tuba. I even bought a mighty midget tuba, which is a tuba that fits in a carry-on bag so I can fly to Texas or Georgia or wherever to play in other Tuba Christmases. But for the Tuba Christmas here, I played the baritone.

What do you love about Tuba Christmas?

I love it because, one, tuba and baritone players never get the melody anywhere else. So it’s super cool to play melody. Also, most bands you play in, especially as a kid, have just one or two tubas or baritones, so you’re often the only one. But at Tuba Christmas, there are a bunch of tuba players. This year, there were 45 musicians and the youngest was 11, the oldest was 74, and there were all the ages in between.

That does sound pretty cool.

Some people don’t actually play the tuba or baritone, but they’ve learned enough to come and play Tuba Christmas because it’s fun. It’s such a neat thing. We rehearse for one hour and we put on a concert and then don’t see each until next year. And though it’s free to attend, we did a free at-will donation this year and raised $840 for The Landing.

How do you spread the word about something like that?


I have Tuba Christmas business cards that I printed out. I put flyers up. I have my own Tuba Christmas email account. And all year, if I can get the conversation to tubas, I make it move to tubas! “You haven’t heard of Tuba Christmas? Here’s my business card with the date and time!” I’m handing those out in June!

Life philosophy?

A few years ago, in 2019, I went to a work party that had an ugly sweater contest. And I went all out. I decided, you know what, I need to let my inner Elton John out more because this is awesome. I need to just be my authentic, crazy, weird self. And life has been so much better since then.

Better how?

For so many years, I’ve felt that I’m weird and strange. Like, who loves the tuba? My favorite game is Scrabble—I have a Scrabble tattoo. And so I tried to keep my head down and stay out of trouble. And I just decided I don’t need to do that anymore. I’m just going to be my weird self. And life has been a lot more fun.

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