Mayo Clinic Doctor Chases Storms On Vacation | People

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Mayo Clinic Doctor Chases Storms On Vacation
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Mayo Clinic Doctor Chases Storms On Vacation

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- You won't find the typical degrees, certificates and awards on the walls of Dr. Jason Persoff's Mayo Clinic office. He's a fully certified hospitalist, but he chooses to decorate his office walls with monkeys, mainly the stuffed variety courtesy of his four-year-old daughter.

He does have the obligatory stack of doctor books and manuals on a case against the wall. But there's one book in there that doesn't belong with the others.

"Ah, yeah, the book on storms," Persoff said, "That's an old book given to me by a nurse, it's still very useful."

Persoff says storms have always fascinated him. He grew up on the east side of the Rockies where many strong storms are born. Now he takes two weeks of vacation each May to chase the strongest storms in the Midwest.

"The best vacation for me is stormy weather," he said laughing.

But he also puts his skills as a doctor to work while in the field. Persoff has started a storm chaser clinic, giving free medical aid to any chaser that calls his hotline. 

He says he treats typical cuts and bruises, trying to save guys a trip to the emergency room.

"Really the worst I had ever seen was a car tossed in a ditch," he said.

"Until this year, this year changed everything."

He was following the storm that spawned the Joplin tornado. He and his chasing partner made the wise decision to stay behind the storm. But as they followed the path of destruction, they had no idea what they were about to find.

"There was a primal terror, you sort of unlearn that after years of chasing, but not this one," he said.

Persoff went into doctor mode and found the one hospital in Joplin that was still operational. The other one in town had been destroyed by the storm.

"I was trying to screen people who needed help versus those who were already dead," he said.

He worked there for 10 hours before Red Cross and the National Guard took over in town.

   

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