From: Mayo Clinic News Network
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When Taylor Sturtz first arrived at Mayo Clinic, it was as an intern in the Project Search program. Through that experience, she gained new skills and found new confidence. Today, Taylor is proud to be a Mayo Clinic employee, and she’s happy to have the opportunity to help others.
Editor’s note: Taylor Sturtz came to Mayo Clinic through Project Search — a program that provides
opportunities for young adults with learning disabilities to gain work
experience. Taylor, who has a rare genetic disorder that limits her physical
abilities, completed three internships through the program. After that, she was
hired full time as a patient appointment services specialist. Here she shares
her story of making her way to Mayo Clinic and the support she’s received from
By Taylor Sturtz
You can’t tell by looking at me, but I’m not a normal 20-year-old.
I have a rare genetic disorder, and I have limits on what I can do physically.
I have to walk a lot slower than other people my age.
The disorder basically causes all my vessels to dilate. That means I’m more likely to develop aneurysms. Right now, I have a small aneurysm in my neck that is being watched. If it gets too big, I’ll have to have surgery. I’ve already had to have two vessels replaced because of aneurysms. I had my descending aorta replaced when I was 15 and my ascending aorta replaced a year later. Now I take blood pressure medication to keep my blood pressure low, so there’s not so much stress on my vessels.
I didn’t find out about the genetic disorder until I was 13.
Once we found out, I couldn’t do any contact sports. When others played contact
sports in gym, I had to walk around the track instead. There I was, a
13-year-old kid, and I couldn’t participate with my friends.
I had a really hard time after my first surgery. I was
hospitalized for two months with tons of complications. I hated being in the
hospital and just wanted to be a normal 15-year-old. When I went back to
school, I had to be in a wheelchair, and kids teased me about it. The teacher
who helped me was not very nice. That is probably my worst memory from high
“When I found out that I got accepted to the program, I was really excited because they don’t take that many people.”
When I was getting ready to graduate, one of my teachers told me
about Project Search, which is an opportunity for kids 18 to 22 with learning
disabilities to get job experience. He thought it would be a good fit for me.
At first, I wasn’t sure. I didn’t like being around a lot of people. But two of
my teachers encouraged me to do it and so did my mom. So I decided to apply.
The application was pretty long, and there was an interview that was kind of
like a job interview. When I found out that I got accepted to the program, I
was really excited because they don’t take that many people.
When I was in Project Search, I did three internships at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. The first was in the Gift Shop, doing customer service and handling data entry. The second was in the Outpatient Pharmacy, doing customer service, and stocking and organizing medications. The final one was in Central Processing, which involved cleaning instruments and prepping blankets for surgery. I liked the first two the best. I found out I really like interacting with people.
When Project Search ended in May, I started applying everywhere
for a customer service job. But I really wanted to work at Mayo. Then I saw an
opening at Mayo for a registration representative. I applied and got an
interview. After the interview, they offered me a job on the spot. I didn’t
expect that. I said yes right away. I’m really proud that I was hired on right
“When people first get to know me, I’m quite a shy person. Project Search and my internships at Mayo really helped with that. And now my job helps me get out of my comfort zone.”
I work on the Luther campus in downtown Eau Claire. My job
involves checking people in for appointments. I’m a float, so I go to different
departments. I stay busy for the most part, which I like. I also really like my
supervisors and co-workers. Everyone is friendly, and if I have questions or
concerns, I can always talk to one of them.
When people first get to know me, I’m quite a shy person.
Project Search and my internships at Mayo really helped with that. And now my
job helps me get out of my comfort zone. I work at smiling at patients,
greeting them and asking them how their day is going. And I think my experience
as a patient makes me more comfortable asking people for all of their
information when I’m checking them in. I know it has to be done, even if
patients sometimes get frustrated by having to answer the same questions.
I have a younger sister, Maddie, who is 15. She just got diagnosed with cancer last year. She’s being treated in Rochester, Minnesota, so my mom travels a lot to be with her. My family takes turns staying at the Ronald McDonald House to be with Maddie so my mom can work. It’s hard, but Maddie is doing well. She just went on a Make-A-Wish trip to Los Angeles. I got to do a Make-A-Wish trip, too, going to Walt Disney World in Florida before my first surgery. So we have that in common.
I try to work as much as I can to help my mom with bills. It feels good to be able to help. Since Maddie’s been diagnosed, I have been thinking I would like to work in the Cancer Center someday. I think in a way I could relate to those patients.
family is really proud of me for working at Mayo. And I feel honored that of
all the people interviewed who want to do what I’m doing, I was the one they
chose. I’m honored that Mayo wants me to be part of the staff. I feel very
lucky that everything has turned out the way it has.