By Kris Leonhardt
MARSHFIELD – A veteran Marshfield doctor continues to shape medical science as he celebrates his 50 year history in the Marshfield Clinic healthcare system.
Dr. Joe Mazza grew up in a humble neighborhood in northeast Pennsylvania. A first generation American, he grew up in a family of five in the Pennsylvania coal fields. His father worked as a tailor to support the family, and he and Joe’s mother made sure that their children received adequate education.
“I was lucky enough to get a scholarship to a small private school in Pennsylvania,” said Mazza.
“I started as an engineer and then became interested in biology and physics. And because I had so many theology courses, Mother thought I was the best choice for the ministry.
“When I told her I wanted to study medicine, she was disappointed because she knew we had no money for the tuition.”
In considering higher education opportunities, Mazza had interviews on the east coast and one in Chicago.
“They always asked you: ‘Where do you get the lessons?’ The answer was always, ‘Well, I’ll borrow the money,’ ”he recalls.
“About two weeks after my interview at Loyola University in Chicago, I got this wonderful call from the administration that there were two organizations in downtown Chicago that would pay for my first two years of college.”
After four years of medical school, Mazza completed an internship at the Cook County Intercity Hospital. There Mazza was fascinated by the range of diseases he encountered.
“You saw everything. It was just amazing, ”he said of the 3,600 bed hospital.
Mazza then began a five-year fellowship program in hematology and internal medicine at the Mayo Clinic.
“When I finished my scholarship, we had our fourth child,” he recalls.
Dr. Mazza and his wife Ginny, a retired pediatric nurse, then looked for a place to raise their family and, after three visits to the clinic, eventually settled in central Wisconsin, where he accepted a position at the Marshfield Clinic .
In 1970 he joined the hospital staff as a medical oncologist / hematologist. In 1992 he was appointed director of medical education.
Mazza was Associate Director of the Internal Medicine Specialist Program for 18 years and became Director of the Medicine / Pediatrics Program in 1996.
“One of my proudest moments in my career was when I was elected director of medical education,” Mazza said in an interview with Marshfield Clinic staff. “My passion for learning and teaching has never wavered or dampened over the years. I have always felt obliged to pass on my knowledge to others through teaching.
Dr. Mazza then continued to teach residency programs while mentoring research.
“When I stopped visiting patients, I had the opportunity to move the learning needs to the research institute,” added Mazza. “Technology had put life sciences in the fast lane, and I couldn’t have found a more engaging group and learning environment to continue my need to learn medical science.”
In 2018, as a retired researcher, he reached a pivotal moment when, in addition to three published books, he reached over 150 peer-reviewed scientific manuscripts.
Mazza also holds a Masters degree from the American College of Physicians and was governor of the college for the state of Wisconsin. He was also a member of the review boards of several medical journals.
Dr. Mazza has just finished his fourth book with a former colleague at the Marshfield Clinic and Research Foundation.
He and his wife Ginny live in Marshfield.