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Party of the Century: The early beginnings of the Mayo Clinic

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- As Mayo Clinic celebrates its sesquicentennial, we're looking back at some of the key moments of those 150 years. The Mayo Clinic that we know today was born through a partnership formed after a storm.

Long before modern warning systems, weather forecasting, or healthcare, a devastating tornado swept through Rochester.

"The storm didn't last that long, but it created a huge path of destruction," said Matt Dacy, the Director of Heritage Hall at Mayo Clinic.

In that destruction, the southeastern Minnesota town that for nearly 20 years had already been the home of Dr. William Worrall Mayo, saw its future drastically change.

"The storm was kind of central to the growth and modern development of Mayo Clinic," Dacy said.

Dr. Mayo set up temporary hospital quarters in buildings still standing after the storm, recruited nuns from the Sisters of St. Francis as nurses and a partnership was formed.

"The first team at Mayo was Dr. William Worrall Mayo and Mother Alfred Moes," said Dacy.

It was Mother Alfred Moes who, in the wake of the storm, offered to build a hospital if the Mayo family would staff it.

"Our modern practice grew from that collaboration," Dacy said.

The 27-bed Saint Mary's Hospital was opened in 1889, and by that point, both Dr. Will and Dr. Charlie had graduated from medical school and returned to Rochester.

"It evolved from a solo practice, to later on a family practice and then a group practice at the hospital, and it rapidly accelerated from there," Dacy said.

Once the hospital opened, medical advancements soon followed.

"One of the key advancements happened early in 1905-06," Dacy said.

For the first time doctors were able to diagnose and remove a cancerous tumor in one operation.

"You'll notice the patient is still wearing his boots, muddy boots from the countryside," said Dacy, referencing an artistic depiction of surgery from the era.

The next major advancement was in 1907, the first integrated medical records system, the Mayo Clinic number. Then in 1919, the Mayo brothers made another major change, they donated all the assets of the Mayo Clinic and their life savings to endow a not-for-profit organization, the Mayo Clinic we know today.

"We're here now in 2014 because of their generosity and their vision a number of years ago," Dacy said.
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