Rochester, Minnesota: Medical Resort City

September, 2018

Here’s a very brief history of the Mayo Clinic, Rochester’s primary claim to fame. It was founded in the mid-1800’s, by William Worrall Mayo, who was born England in 1819 and emigrated to the United States in 1846. He held a number of positions, including pharmacist, before landing in Rochester in 1863, where he served as examining surgeon for the Minnesota State draft board during the Civil War. He opened his first clinic in Rochester that same year.

After a devastating tornado hit Rochester in 1883, killing 37 people and injuring at least 200 more, Mother Mary Alfred Moes, of the Franciscan Sisters, raised funds and supervised the construction of Rochester’s first Hospital in 1889. She convinced Dr. William Mayo to head it.

William’s sons, William James and Charles Horace, began studying medicine as young boys under their father, often attending him on his calls. After graduating from medical school, they joined their father in his practice. Several other partners joined the private practice over the years, and in 1919, they created a non-profit practice, eventually named the Mayo Clinic Foundation. The clinic added Rochester Methodist Hospital, St. Mary’s Hospital, the Eugenio Litta Children’s Hospital, plus several state-of-the-art clinic buildings, plus they added locations in Arizona and Florida.

Mother Mary Alfred Moes was not the only woman to influence the direction of health care in Rochester. Charles Horace Mayo’s wife, Edith Graham Mayo, was Saint Mary’s Hospital’s first trained nurse, anesthetist and nurse educator. She had assisted Charles in his first surgery at the hospital. She was influential in reducing hospital mortality in an era where poor anesthesia care was blamed for many deaths.

The two brothers, William H and Charles, had a very collaborative relationship, sharing the methods and knowledge they acquired individually. Their partnership was so strong that they even shared one checking account. They were very willing to share their knowledge with other physicians, and leading surgeons would come from around the world to learn from the Mayo brothers.

For more of Mayo’s history, I urge you to read the Ken Burns book “The Mayo Clinic: Faith-Hope-Science”, or watch the PBS Documentary by the same name.

247311AE-98ED-45F7-A41F-0EC4A205B415Mark and I have been using the Mayo Clinic for a few years. When we went for our first physicals there, we were very impressed by their efficiency and thoroughness. All test results, x-rays, medical records are readily available to every professional we see, usually within hours of the procedures. Follow-up tests, if needed, are scheduled right away, and often can be completed within a day or two. Not only do the medical staff have ready access to our records, we too can see the results as soon as they are available, using an app on our phones. We are given as much information as we need to make informed decisions about our own health care.

Rochester’s Mayo Clinic employs over 34,000 people, and sees over one million patients each year. The Clinic, as well as the City of Rochester, work to make these employees and visitors feel welcome. When you walk into the Nathan Landow Atrium of the Gonda Building, you immediately feel a sense of peace and calm, in spite of the numbers of people there. As Cesar Pelli, the building’s architect, said: “Healing begins when you walk in the door.”

The high ceilings and glass walls bring in the light and beauty of the outdoors. Inside, you can listen to singers or live music at the grand piano. I was not around to hear the Singing Surgeons, but I did watch a video of them performing on “Ellen” earlier this year. Beautiful!

When I walk through that atrium, I feel like I’m in a high-end resort, except that all economic and ethnic classes are welcome here. No one is expected buy an expensive drink or meal to enjoy the entertainment. It’s provided for the comfort or the patients and their families.

Dale Chihuly created the stunning glass sculpture that hangs in the Gonda Building over the Nurses’ Atrium. He left it untitled because he wanted the viewers to share the creative spirit by creating their own interpretations. He said “We wanted to create something that makes people feel good.” There are many other pieces of art throughout the buildings, an extended art gallery.

Adding to the sense of a resort are the numerous quality restaurants within walking distance of the clinic. In inclement weather, you can usually reach any destination by skyway or underground walking subway. Yes, there are some national chains, but there are also many local establishments, from casual to elegant, burgers to lobster, like Victoria’s Ristorante & Wine Bar, Terza Ristorante, Newt’s, Pescara, Chester’s, Grand Rounds Brewing, Salute Wine Bar. Most offer outdoor dining in the warm months. There are many more options, but we haven’t had a chance to try them all out yet.

Downtown Rochester hosts several outdoor events during the warm months as well. This past week, the local Boys and Girls Club hosted Tenth Annual Chili Challenge fundraiser. Every Thursday in June through August, you can enjoy beer and food while shopping at the Thursdays on First & 3rd Summer Market. One Friday a month, catch outdoor Movies in the Park at downtown’s Central Park, or enjoy Games on the Grass any day at Peace Plaza (equipment provided).

The Mayo Civic Center hosts concerts, trade shows, musicals and plays, even Presidential rallies. Art Garfunkel played here just a few weeks ago. I was disappointed that we didn’t know about it ahead of time, as we would have loved to attend. It would have been a nice follow up to the Paul Simon concert we saw recently. If you can’t guess, I was a huge Simon and Garfunkel fan, buying all of their albums, memorizing the songs and singing along (not well.)

Every good resort has shopping opportunities, and Rochester is no exception. Again, there are a few national chains, but mostly there are local boutiques and shops. This is a great place to go if you enjoy unique clothing and accessories. I know I don’t enjoy seeing my outfit walking down the street in front of me! Besides clothing, there are gifts, toys and, kitchen and entertainment items, home decor, leather goods and more. Christmas is just around the corner! You can spend a little or you can spend a lot. After all, the Mayo Clinic does attract wealthy patients from around the world.

There is plenty of lodging in the area, with more being built. There are short-term apartment options, suites hotels and traditional hotels at several price points. Even the clinic is getting in the business. They recently announced plans to add eleven floors to the 21-story Gonda Building. Four floors will be for patient care; the other seven will provide about 200  “premier” hotel rooms.


About kcbernick

I love to travel.
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