Checking in with Dr. Donna Block
When Dr. Donna Block founded Clinic Sofia 17 years ago, she was inspired by the Greek goddess, Sophia, who symbolizes women’s wisdom and insight, and this continues to guide our work today. In honor of Women’s History Month, we wanted to take a look back and reconnect with our founder, who retired in 2018.
Dr. Block created Clinic Sofia to be a nurturing, supportive clinic for women enriched by wisdom, conversation and connection, recognizing the power and role of healthy women in the world. Clinic Sofia opened its second clinic in Maple Grove nearly a decade ago, with caregivers working in both locations to accommodate more women across the Twin Cities.
We had fun chatting with Dr. Block as she looks back, lets us know what she’s up today and what she’s most looking forward to post-pandemic.
Q. How are you enjoying retirement and what have you been up to?
A. The past few years have found me becoming reacquainted with my health and my family. I found a lake house that needed rehabilitation, which is keeping me busy. It is similar to medicine in that I had to decide what would make it better (healthier) and what would be the best approach to it. Once a plan was made, the work began and, of course, it doesn’t happen at the snap of the fingers. Additionally, I have tried to exercise more but I need more of a motivator especially during the pandemic.
Just before the pandemic I started to investigate providing input to a women’s health policy group. Now that a year has passed and vaccinations are going well here, I will follow up.
I live in an HOA where I was the treasurer for a few years. Now I find myself the president! So, again I am taking the tools of transformation with keeping my finger on the financial pulse and culture and implementing them into my home environment.
Q. How have you managed during the pandemic and how is your family doing?
A. Adjusting to the restrictions of the pandemic has been similar to what others have had to do. At first there was angst 80% of the time because of the changes and 20% acceptance. Now there is 90% acceptance and 10% wishing it was different! Initially, I helped with homeschooling the grandchildren (kindergarten and preschool). Try to imagine virtual Chinese immersion kindergarten, but I learned a few words, and I found an online program where I can take lessons. I have deep empathy for the working parents who also had virtual classes to oversee.
The pandemic didn’t stop me from traveling back to Nebraska to get my mother resituated following her stroke. She seems to have something major each year for the past three years. At 94 she is motivated and adamant that she stay in her home. I also took some time to reorganize her finances. While I was hesitant to fly given the pandemic, I just triple masked and disinfected everything during the flight. It was a treat to have a stopover in Minneapolis, which brought me many warm memories.
Q. When you originally founded Clinic Sofia, is this what you envisioned? What surprised you along the way?
A. Clinic Sofia could not have happened without the two founding members, Debbie Schumacher, RN, and me. We both had the goal of giving women the tools to stay healthy as well as work in a healthy, encouraging workplace culture. We worked well with each other and complemented each other when it came to taking care of patients but also the business aspects. It is not surprising the goal remains the same with the right people in the organization.
Surprising? This was 2004 and we were surprised to be the first ones to talk about and implement a healthy work environment. Now I have heard many companies talk about culture in their organizations. I cannot imagine being in an environment where everyone was not part of the team, encouraged and expected to do and be the best s/he could, especially in the medical field where so many lives are at stake.
I was surprised how a company took us under their wing and guided us through developing the message, website and logo. This company took our message and helped us with our brand. I was pretty green at the time, knew it had to be done, but did not know the mechanics of doing it.
Q. What is so special/important about working with women?
A. The special and important part about working with women is knowing and understanding that women keep families and organizations together. They provide the undercurrent of stability. The only way women could do this is to stay healthy. We believed this quote: “When women are fully involved, families are healthier. They are better fed. Income, savings, and reinvestment go up. And what is true of families is true of communities and eventually of whole countries,” Kofi Annan, Former Secretary-General of the United Nations.
Q. Is there anything else you’d like to share with your former patients and colleagues?
A. I miss learning more about each woman who trusted Clinic Sofia to take care of her. In conversing we were able to gather needs and wants and find a way to achieve them. It was such fun to see growth in all aspects of their lives. The same can be true about colleagues/staff in that Clinic Sofia always encouraged them to do the very best they could do (whether it is additional education or their own health) for not only themselves but also Clinic Sofia’s patients. I was always impressed that the colleagues who followed me not only believed in the mission of Clinic Sofia but also had a good idea on how to run the business as well as practice medicine. And it appears they are doing it well and effortlessly!