During a quiet and at times touching dinner for 300 at the Siebens Building, Mayo Clinic recognized nine non-physician employees for outstanding commitment to patient service on Tuesday. The Clinic recognized two employees each from Minnesota, Florida and Arizona branches, and three from Mayo Clinic Health System.

Those gathered also paused to honor 43 units in Mayo Rochester's two hospitals and the Mayo Clinic Health System in Minnesota and Wisconsin after they finished in the top 10 percent nationally on patient satisfaction surveys.

The Clinic recognized employees in nursing, medical secretary professionals, administration, patient care, supervisory work, analytic services and maintenance. The nine recipients of the endowed Mae Berry award had to be health staff employed for three years or more, and who were nominated by their peers for having acted selflessly to meet the needs of patients with no thought of reward.

When interviewed during breaks in the event, neither of the Rochester winners expressed an inkling of ever receiving such an award, much less that they did anything out of the ordinary.

"I'm shocked and surprised," said Magdalena Anderson, who goes by Maggie. "I had never even heard of the Mae Berry award." A native of the Philippines, Anderson is a patient care assistant in thoracic surgery. Anderson began as a housekeeper at Saint Marys Hospital 17 years ago after working as a janitor at IBM.

"My dream has been to take care of sick people since I was child," she said.

The other Rochester employee recognized on Tuesday was Jacob Beckel, an analyst who helps practitioners navigate data challenges in order to better understand patient needs.

"He doesn't say 'we have an issue,' according to Jeffrey Bolton, "he says, 'We have an issue, and here are some options.'"

Beckel too, was at a loss for words.

"The other recipients have all worked with our patients," he said as he held the small statue. "While I don't do that, I can help those that do."

The clinic had arranged for recipients from Florida and Arizona to attend. After remarks from Mayo CEO Dr. John Noseworthy and the evening's benefactor, Texas A&M management professor Dr. Leonard Berry, author of the business bestseller Management Lessons from Mayo Clinic, the visiting employees were introduced by CEO's from those branches via satellite. Three recipients from Mayo Clinic Health System were honored by their CEO, as well, Dr. Robert E. Nesse.

The Service Excellence Awards Celebration has been held for 12 years, but this was the first time it was open to the public.

Berry was greeted with laughter as he told of how his proposal "took a year to make it through the committees." But the idea was only foreign at first, he said, because of a deeply ingrained culture of humility within the clinic. "The clinic was so committed to teamwork," he said, "that it had an instinctive fear that recognizing individuals would undermine the culture of teamwork."

"I knew that it strengthens the organization," he said, "it doesn't weaken it."

What's your reaction?