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one of the world's largest medical centers
Dr. William Worrall Mayo (below left) settled in Rochester, Minnesota, in 1863, and was soon one of the most popular physicians in Minnesota Territory. William James Mayo (below middle) joined his father's practice after graduating from medical school in 1883, followed by brother Charles Horace (below right) in 1888.
On July 21, 1883, Rochester was devastated by a tornado. So many people were injured that the Sisters of Saint Francis were pressed into service as nurses, despite few (if any) of the nuns having training for such work. The disaster and recovery led the sisters to establish St. Mary's Hospital, which was opened on October 1, 1889. The elder Mayo was asked to head the medical staff, which initially consisted only of his two sons.
What is now the Mayo Clinic began as the private practice operated by the Mayo's. Located at St. Mary's Hospital, the practice initially focused on providing pre- and post-operative care for the men's surgical patients, but basic general care was also provided. By 1892 the elder Mayo was ready to retire, and Dr. Augustus Stinchfield was brought in as a partner to replace him. The two sons continued to concentrate on surgery and related care, while Stinchfield tended to most of the other patients. As the patient load increased, more physicians were added to the staff, some as partners, some as salaried employees.
Each new physician brought a new specialty into the clinic, and the "integrated group practice system" the Mayo Clinic is now famous for was born. Under this system, each patient "belonged" to the Clinic, not to the individual physicians who practiced there. If one physician could not provide all of the care a patient needed, there were others who could "fill in the gaps." And, thanks to a central filing system implemented by Dr. Henry Plummer (a Clinic partner), every physician who saw the patient worked from the same medical chart.
The Mayo Clinic was formally established in 1903, when its corporate structure was changed from a partnership to a voluntary association of physicians and specialists in allied fields. It remained physically linked with St. Mary's Hospital until moving into its own building in 1914. By then doctors were coming from around the world to observe the Clinic's operation and learn new procedures from its physicians, which led to organization of the Mayo Graduate School of Medicine at the University of Minnesota. In 1915, the Mayo Brothers and their partners established the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, also at the University of Minnesota. In 1919, the founders created the Mayo Properties Association, and their private practice became a not-for-profit entity. The founders gave the Clinic properties and furnishings to this newly formed association.
The Mayo Clinic is today one of the world's largest medical centers. In addition to its main campus in Rochester, the Association also operates facilities in Phoenix, Arizona, and Jacksonville, Florida. These three facilities together see over a million patients each year.
To learn more about the history and operation of the Mayo Clinic, see its official website: www.mayoclinic.org/.
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This page was last updated on 02/06/2019.