From Siberia to gubernatorial ‘savior’

The Rochester Post-Bulletin today carries the story that easily fits in the “ain’t life interesting” category, unless you’re not awestruck by the notion that a family escapes a gulag in Siberia and, because it did, a doctor becomes the “savior” of the governor of Minnesota.

That’s how Gov. Mark Dayton described Dr. Igor Frank, the Mayo Clinic doctor who removed the governor’s cancerous prostate.

“I know he comes into contact with hundreds and hundreds of people each and every week if not more and to remember all these random facts about somebody else kind of shows you that he cares,” Frank told the paper.

Frank says he didn’t intend to reveal his family’s history; it just sort of happened because the governor was interested in the guy’s life.

To be fair to the governor, Frank’s family history is quite compelling. His maternal grandparents lived in Ukraine and were Jewish. The fled to Siberia during World War II to escape the Nazis.

His paternal grandfather was from Germany and living in Russia when the war broke out. He lived in a community of ethnic Germans known as “Volga Germans,” because they lived along the Volga River in Russia. Russian leader Joseph Stalin ordered these Volga Germans be sent to forced labor camps in Siberia during the war — including Frank’s grandparents.

Frank attended college and medical school in Massachusetts. He became a resident at Mayo Clinic in 1997. He specializes in performing robotic prostatectomy. So does it change how Frank prepares for surgery when he knows his patient is a prominent leader like a governor? Not really.

“It’s kind of like being a fighter pilot. You can go on a lot of missions and some are very important, but the reality is it becomes muscle memory and reflexes and your training kicks in,” he said.

Frank and the governor connected on another topic: hockey.

He said he played it almost every day growing up.

“I haven’t played here because I just don’t have enough time.”