Mayo gastrointestinal surgeon Mark Truty, M.D.

Mayo gastrointestinal surgeon Mark Truty, M.D., looks at a frozen section image in the pathology lab. Mayo Clinic ranks No. 1 in gastroenterology and Gi surgery.

Mayo Clinic is officially the top medical destination in the United States.

For the first time, the clinic has been ranked as the best hospital in the country by U.S. News & World Report.

The breakthrough comes at a time when Mayo is celebrating not only its sesquicentennial — 150 years since Dr. W.W. Mayo established an office in Rochester — but also passage of a state initiative to solidify Mayo and Rochester's reputation as a destination medical center.

Destination Medical Center Economic Development Agency board member and president of Rochester Area Economic Development Inc. Gary Smith said, "There's nothing better than third-party ratification."

"It's a good thing, and it certainly lends credibility to the DMC as well," he said.

Mayo has long trailed just behind Johns Hopkins, which last year dropped to No. 3, behind Massachusetts General, in the quarter century that U.S. News has published the rankings.

This year, Mayo nudged out Massachusetts General, ranking No. 1 in diabetes and endocrinology; ear, nose and throat; gastroenterology and GI surgery; nephrology; neurology and neurosurgery; and pulmonology.

"These endorsements reinforce our 150-year commitment to provide the highest-quality care to each patient every day," Mayo CEO Dr. John Noseworthy said in a statement from the clinic. "While no single set of measures can perfectly represent health-care quality, we are proud to be recognized by so many."

The $6 billion Destination Medical Center plan to expand Mayo and Rochester, including more than a half billion dollars in taxpayer money from the city, county and state, is undergoing formulation and is expected to be formally submitted for approval in 2015.

The U.S. News rankings undoubtedly will boost employee morale, including in Mayo's No. 2-ranked specialties of cardiology and heart surgery, orthopedics and urology. Mayo ranks No. 3 for cancer, No. 4 for rehabilitation and rheumatology and No. 7 for psychiatry.

The new rankings come at a good time, Smith said.

"I think it says a lot about the practice here and their approach," he said.

More than a half million people visit Mayo sites in Rochester, Florida and Arizona each year.

"We are honored by this recognition, and we remain focused on our primary mission; putting the needs of our patients first and creating for them the best possible, most trusted and affordable model of health care for the future," Noseworthy said.

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By the numbers

• Mayo Clinic is ranked nationally in 15 adult and 9 pediatric specialties.

• Mayo's 1,132-bed "general medical and surgical facility" had 62,400 admissions in the most-recent year reported.

• Mayo staff performed 50,918 annual inpatient and 21,035 outpatient surgeries.

• Its emergency-room staff handled 79,542 visits.

• Mayo has more than 3,700 physicians, scientists and researchers on staff, along with 55,000 allied staff.

Health reporter Jeff Hansel writes the Pulse on Health column every Monday. Follow him on Twitter @JeffHansel.

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