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Noseworthy served as chief storyteller

John Noseworthy mug
John Noseworthy
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Health care is going through a time of great transition, and some credit Dr. John Noseworthy for his skill in steering Mayo Clinic through uncharted waters.

"As leader of this organization for eight years, he has done a remarkable job on how well as he’s managed that changing landscape from Davos to the White House to Rochester," said Richard Davis on Tuesday, after Noseworthy announced that he will retire as Mayo Clinic’s CEO and president at the end of 2018.

Davis, executive chairman and former CEO of U.S. Bancorp., is in the second year of his term on Mayo Clinic’s board of trustees. He described the role of a CEO like Noseworthy as being "the lead storyteller."

"He (Noseworthy) has a remarkably selfless approach to leading," said Davis. "I’ve never heard him accept a compliment well."

During his time as CEO and president, Mayo Clinic has collected many awards as the top medical institution in the U.S. Revenue has also grown under his leadership.

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The $5.6 billion economic development initiative, the Destination Medical Center initiative, was launched under his guidance in 2013. DMC is the focal point for upgrading the city of Rochester and preparing for a predicted influx of 30,000 jobs related to Mayo Clinic’s growth.

However, his tenure has also included controversy, with the consolidation of services at an Albert Lea location, comments about Medicaid or Medicare and disputes with labor unions.

"Because medical care has become such a lightning rod in the last five years or so, if you are the number one institution in the world, anything you say will be importantly measured," Davis said.

He pointed to the Albert Lea consolidation as an example of Noseworthy making tough decisions.

"That was a large institution putting a stake in the ground saying that the future of medicine needs to be refined. They will be criticized by whoever didn’t get the answer they wanted," Davis said. "When you have to make changes that are not unpopular, it’s important to do them well and thoughtfully."

However, Noseworthy’s critics have a different view. Service Employees International Union issued its own statement on Tuesday.

"Under Dr. Noseworthy, Mayo has taken major steps backwards in relations with their hardworking employees and patients in communities like Albert Lea where they are undermining rural healthcare," wrote SEIU Healthcare Minnesota President Jamie Gulley. "Mayo’s actions over the last seven years under Dr. Noseworthy’s leadership have put profits over the health of our communities."

Following his retirement announcement, Noseworthy said judgement of his legacy will come in the future.

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"It’s a time of national uncertainty about health care. It’s not surprising that the public is uncertain about the change," he said.

Davis believes Noseworthy’s leadership has helped pave a path for Mayo Clinic to the future.

"If his successor does as well as he (Noseworthy) did, I think in 10 years from now, when we’re looking at another successor, we’ll be looking back at how Mayo became the bellwether for changing medical provisions in America," he said.

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