No ordinary Joe; Marshfield doctor continues to leave mark on medical science
By Kris Leonhardt
MARSHFIELD – A longtime Marshfield physician continues to leave his mark on medical science, as he celebrates a 50-year history with the Marshfield Clinic health system.
Dr. Joe Mazza grew up in modest surroundings in northeastern Pennsylvania. A first-generation American, he grew up in the coal fields of Pennsylvania in a family of five. His father worked as a tailor to provide for the family, and he and Joe’s mother ensured that their children had a proper education.
“I had the good fortune of getting a scholarship to go to a small private school in Pennsylvania,” Mazza said.
“I started out in engineering, and then got interested in biology and physics. And, because I had so many theology courses, mother thought I was prime for the ministry.
“When I told her that I wanted to go to medical school, she was disappointed, because she knew we didn’t have money for tuition.”
When considering higher education options, Mazza had interviews on the East Coast and one in Chicago.
“They always asked you, ‘Where are you going to get the tuition?’ The pat answer was always ‘Well, I’m going to borrow the money,’” he recalled.
“About two weeks after I interviewed at Loyola University in Chicago, I got this wonderful call from administration that there were two organizations in downtown Chicago that were going to pay my first two years of tuition.”
After four years of medical school, Mazza did an internship with the Cook County inter-city hospital. There, Mazza was enthralled by the spectrum of illnesses in which he encountered.
“You saw everything. It was just incredible,” 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.
“By the time I completed my fellowship, we had our fourth kid,” he recalled.
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, ultimately settled on central Wisconsin where he took a position at the Marshfield Clinic.
In 1970, he joined the clinic staff as a medical oncologist/hematologist. In 1992, he was named the director of medical education.
Mazza served as assistant director of the internal medicine residency program for 18 years and became the director of the medicine/pediatric program in 1996.
“One of my proudest moments during my career was when I was selected to be the director of Medical Education,” Mazza said in a Marshfield Clinic staff interview. “My passion for learning and teaching has never wavered or been dampened through the years. I have always felt a compelling responsibility to impart my knowledge to others through teaching.
Dr. Mazza then continued teaching in residency programs, while mentoring in research.
“When I stopped seeing patients, I was given the opportunity to shift learning needs to the Research Institute,” Mazza added. “Technology had put the biosciences on the fast tract, and I could not have found a more dedicated group and better learning environment to continue my need to continue learning medical science.”
In 2018, as an emeritus researcher, he hit a defining moment when he reached over 150 published peer-reviewed scientific manuscripts, in addition to three published books.
Mazza has also received Mastership in the American College of Physicians and served as the college’s governor for the state of Wisconsin. In addition, he has served on the review boards of several peer review medical journals.
Dr. Mazza just completed his fourth book with a former colleague at the Marshfield Clinic and Research Foundation.
He and his wife, Ginny, reside in Marshfield.