Mayo Clinic Radio celebrates 25 years

Mayo Clinic CEO John Noseworthy congratulates Dr. Tom Shives and Tracy McCray during a celebration for 25-year-old Mayo Radio on Thursday, June 16, 2016, at the Plummer Building in downtown Rochester.
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In 1987, Dr. Tom Shives, an orthopedic surgeon for the Mayo Clinic, had surgery that put him out of work for three months, and he was looking for something to do during his recuperation.

"And I always, for whatever reason, loved radio," said Shives. "And I really wanted to be on the radio."

Shives approached a friend that worked at KROC, a local Rochester radio station, about reading the news on the radio. After auditioning, Shives spent two months at the radio station. During that time, the idea for Mayo Clinic Radio began to form.

At 9 a.m. on Saturday, June 1, 1991, the first Mayo Clinic Radio show was broadcast. Since that first day, the show has always been at 9 a.m. on Saturdays. In the 25 years that the show has been on the air, there has been nearly 1,100 shows with over 350 different guests.

The Mayo Clinic community came together on Thursday to celebrate Mayo Clinic Radio's 25th anniversary.


Mayo Clinic Radio is a weekly, one-hour radio program that highlights health and medical information coming out of the Mayo Clinic. During the hour program, the two hosts, Shives and Tracy McCray, talk to medical professionals from the Mayo Clinic about a variety of medical topics, including cancer, heart health, and healthy living.

The show is syndicated across the United States and Canada, with 91 radio stations broadcasting the show on a weekly basis.

Accessible, reliable

Shives said in a world full of misinformation, Mayo Clinic Radio offers easily accessible, reliable medical information from experts. That is what makes the show so unique.

"You know that if you're listening to a Mayo Clinic expert, one of the world's experts in their field most likely, the information is up to date and reliable," said Shives. "So I think in that sense there's nothing like it."

The show's success doesn't surprise Shives.

"Considering the fact that I have so much faith in my colleagues and I know they're so good and I know they have a wealth of information to share with the public, it doesn't surprise me," said Shives. "The only thing that surprises me is that it hadn't taken off sooner."

McCray joined the show in 2011 after working at KROC for a number of years. With no medical background, McCray serves as sort of the average health-care consumer.


Made a difference

The show has made a difference in several instances.

For Shives, it was when his wife was listening to an episode that talked about coronary artery disease. After hearing the symptoms, she helped diagnose her father, who had been suffering from chest pain for years and was being treated for heartburn.

"There's no question that it ended up saving his life," said Shives.

McCray recalled a similar experience. After doing a show about strokes, a listener contacted her with a shocking story. After listening to the show, a man was having really bad headaches. He then remembered what he had heard the previous day, and took himself to the emergency room and told the doctors that he thought that he was having a stroke.

"It turns out he was and he knew it because of what he heard on the radio show," said McCray. "It's stuff like that that's really cool, and now that we're not just in the Rochester area, we don't even know the impact."

The 25th anniversary celebration was held in the library in the Plummer Building on Thursday. Medical professionals from the Mayo Clinic, many who had been guests on the show, attended.

Throughout the event, McCray interviewed people that had previously been on the show, and visitors toured the Mayo Clinic Radio's new recording studio on the ninth floor of the Plummer Building.


Dr. John Noseworthy, president and CEO of Mayo Clinic, and Dr. John Wald, Mayo Clinic's medical director of public affairs, spoke at the event, expressing their gratitude for what the show has done for the Mayo Clinic.

"It's just a phenomenal thing," said Noseworthy. "It's spreading the word about what Mayo does to meet the needs of our patients."

Giving the last speech of the evening, Shives thanked McCray and his former co-hosts, the radio team, his family, and his secretary, who he said was instrumental in getting the radio show started.

Most of all, Shives thanked the medical professionals who had taken the time to be on the show.

"I think this celebration is really a reflection of the expertise and the generosity of my colleagues," said Shives. "I always knew that if I could get my colleagues to participate in the program it would be a success."

McCray read a proclamation from Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede, who could not be in attendance. In the proclamation, Brede expressed his gratitude for Mayo Clinic Radio and declared June 16 to be Mayo Clinic Radio Day.

Shives and McCray are now looking to the future. Plans for Mayo Clinic Radio include making podcasts a more popular part of the program, as well as making video podcasts and live streaming shows on Facebook.

No matter what changes the future holds for Mayo Clinic Radio, Shives said that his hope is for the popular radio show to be around for a very, very long time.

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