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Back and Forth: Learn about Mayo Clinic history during Heritage Days

This photo, courtesy of Mayo Clinic, shows a floral display celebrating the clinic's Heritage Days and 150th anniversary.

Some old sage once said, "History is what happens while you're waiting for something to happen." With Mayo Clinic's 150th anniversary in full swing, we can learn what has happened to the clinic during its Heritage Days celebration Oct. 6-10.

Mayo has done a superb job of recording history, beginning with Dr. William Worrall Mayo coming with his family to Rochester from LeSeuer in 1863. His sons Will and Charlie and the Sisters of St. Francis all added chapters to the history book. (Or should I say several books?)

Much has been written this year about the 150th anniversary, noting the lives of the Mayos and other doctors and personnel, and definitely today, with the ongoing discussions of Destination Medical Center. Just think, 50 years from now today's planning becomes the Heritage Days observances in 2064. But now we observe what's planned for early October.

Watch for a new film titled "Our Father Taught Us/A Journey Towards Teamwork," made possible with generous support from Mayo Clinic patients and benefactors. Approximately 30 minutes in length, the film features an original script and original music. This is the largest in the Heritage Film series, which started a decade ago. The writing and production team has completed a dozen award-winning documentaries and dramatizations that bring the history of Mayo to life.

The story told in the film begins in 1937, when Sister Joseph Dempsey, superintendent of Saint Marys Hospital, visits with Dr. William J. Mayo. Dempsey tells Dr. Will that she is concerned about a young surgeon who was technically gifted but did not understand the team spirit of Mayo Clinic. When the young surgeon arrives, Dr. Will realizes her concern but does not lecture him. Instead Dr. Will recounts a story, based on the historical record of how he and his brother Dr. Charlie learned the importance of working together to serve patients. That actually dated back to their father Dr. W.W. Mayo.


The plot is secret but depicts an accurate and highly dramatic key moment in Mayo history. How was the film made? All on a Sunday afternoon in August. Mayo Facilities removed all contemporary signs from the Plummer Building lobby. A cast of 30 costumed actors portrayed doctors, nurses, patients and researchers. A classic Art Deco Cadillac pulled up to the Plummer Building front door and legendary doorman "Joe Clinic" helped the passenger into the building.

Through this milieu, Sister Joseph made her way into the lobby, and the elevator (still in use) operator took her to the third floor to Dr. Will's office.

The public is invited to see "Our Father Taught Us/A Journey Toward Teamwork" during multiple showings on Heritage Days. Visit the Mayo Sesquicentennial website for information and a preview of the film. DVD copies will be sold in the Mayo Clinic gift shops on campus and via the website starting Oct. 6. Proceeds benefit Mayo's not-for-profit mission in patient care, education and research. All film showings are in Geffen Auditorium in Gonda Building, subway level.

There will be many displays in various Mayo buildings during Heritage Days. I look forward to seeing two or three vintage vehicles parked on the Anneberg Plaza between the 1928 Plummer building and the 1952 Mayo Building.

Next week:A wrap up of Country Breakfast events in 2014 and a look ahead to Country Breakfast 2015.

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