Dear Answer Man: You might be wrong about the first African-American physician at Mayo Clinic. I worked with Dr. Frederick Boulware in 1970. He was a consultant in neurology and moved to Las Vegas shortly after, where he started a very successful practice. — Alert Reader with Good Memory
Wrong is a harsh word I would never use about one of my columns.
However, despite my own astounding intellect, I am, on occasion, given flawed information. A chef can't make the best dish with stale ingredients.
That type of chain reaction might result in an Answer Man column that is … well … not entirely correct.
Mayo documentary follow-up question: Mayo hired its first African-American physician in 1979…
In this case, the column you are referencing was my masterpiece from Aug. 7. A reader had watched the Ken Burns Mayo Clinic documentary. It stated that Mayo Clinic hired its first African-American physician in 1979, but the Burns film didn't name the physician in question. I tracked down the name of Dr. Franklyn G. Prendergast, which Mayo had shared with the documentarian.
After receiving your note, I had my minions reach out to Mayo Clinic to check out Dr. Boulware. You are absolutely correct that he worked at Mayo Clinic from July 1, 1970 to Dec. 22, 1971.
Here's what Mayo Clinic's Ginger Plumbo had to say on the matter:
"Even though this was short-term, he could be the first African-American physician at Mayo. Human Resources did not track this information nor was ethnicity listed on the application form, thus making it difficult to come up with the 'first,'" she wrote.
So, Alert, your letter helped correct Mayo Clinic's records as well as my own, which are extensive.
And for everyone who has been sending examples of African-American Mayo Clinic staff with Ph.Ds, this particular question is about physicians or MDs.