The Pediatrician

Dr. Sonja Colliani sleeveless dress

As a young girl, Dr. Sonja Colianni was always drawn to helping younger kids, and worked as both a babysitter and a nanny when she was a teen. She loved school, didn’t mind homework, and knew she wanted to be a pediatrician from the 3rd grade on. There was never any question in her mind about where she was headed.

Sonja attended Colorado College, majored in Biology and minored in Latin American Studies. She studied abroad in Costa Rica to learn Spanish and to experience living somewhere else. While in Costa Rica, she volunteered at an orphanage playing with the children and running activities. She’s also worked in Nicaragua & Guatemala as an interpreter on medical trips.

She attended medical school at the Mayo Clinic, where everyone had to wear a suit, no matter who you were. When she rotated at HCMC, as a visiting medical student, she felt as if she had found her place. The physicians she worked with were inspiring on so many levels, and the patients had incredible stories. She knew she wanted to work here when she finished residency. Sticking to her plan, she ultimately accepted a position at HCMC where she’s been practicing for the last 10 years.

Like many tweens, she spent an exorbitant amount of time planning the details of her outfits. In high school, she was a downhill ski racer and spent a lot of time in spandex ski suits hurtling down hills and mountains as fast as possible. Much of her identity was wrapped up in being a ski racer, and her style reflected this.

This also transitioned well to her typical uniform at college, which was Birkenstocks and fleece. It was a sharp transition to Mayo Clinic School of Medicine, which required suits, but she would add her personality by adding colorful accessories or shoes.


Since she works with children, her style strategy is functional and fun. She gets away with pink high-tops at work, and wearing them can earn some props from her patients. As a pediatrician, she can wear a dress with a birdhouse pattern, or a sparkly t-shirt under a blazer, and it does not feel out of place. She’s always surprised when people notice her clothing, because she doesn’t think she’s particularly stylish.

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest? Oh, that’s so tough. I’d like to have Ruth Bader Ginsburg over for dinner. It would be interesting to talk about everything she’s seen in her lifetime. She’s so smart, patient and has established relationships, over time, to get things done.

Would you like to be famous?
No, the loss of anonymity would be painful. I think people underestimate this. For ten seconds, if I did something great, it would be nice to be acknowledged. Beyond that, I think it would be painful.

Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say?
Yes, in my head. I don’t love talking on the phone with people I don’t know. I don’t even like to call and order pizza. I make my husband do it.

What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
Skiing two feet of fresh powder on an untracked mountain followed by an amazing meal with people I love, and then a small venue concert by a favorite band.

When did you last sing to yourself?
Just yesterday to my daughter, or maybe this morning to wake them up. I make up songs to make them laugh or to encourage them to do something unpleasant like clean their room or homework.


If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
Mind, for sure. If I have my mind, I can still read, study, connect ideas and with people. Losing my mind would be its own prison.

Do you have a secret hunch about how you’ll die?
No, that’s a funny question. Do most people know? I’d rather not know.

What do you and your partner appear to have in common?
We like the same activities like, skiing & mountain biking, finding our new favorite restaurant, experiencing other cultures, and seeing live music. We both get fired up about politics, and value spending time helping others.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
Good health & a supportive family.

If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
I wish I would have been exposed to more diversity earlier in my life. I felt sheltered and didn’t realize it until later.

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