Today In Fact, 19 July

Imagine being ill and going to the doctor. The doctor is away on a conference and so you have to wait until he returns because the practice only has one doctor. You decide you can’t wait and go to the hospital. The hospital does not have an x-ray department, a physiotherapy section or an occupational therapy section. No social workers are attached the hospital. It has no chapel or visiting priests. It has no pharmacy or drugs available on site. The hospital does not have specialisms for say cancer, intensive care, acute wards or paediatric wards. Everyone is just stuck in a bed anywhere the nurses think there is a space.

This hospital has no telephone system that can connect wards and different parts of the hospital. This hospital also has no system to track individual patients. So no patient files or records. Oh but only paying patients got decent treatment while the poor just had to make do with whatever charity they could find.

Sounds like some dystopia or Third World nightmare? Well this is how Doctors operated and hospitals were run until 1919. Charles Horace Mayo and his partners changed all that by founding the Mayo clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. It was the world’s first integrated medical practice and today the Mayo clinic provides free health care to over 1 million patients from around the world every year.

Charles Mayo and his partners invented integrated medical care, the notion of medical specialisms, the practice of keeping patient records and even the idea of a telephone system in hospitals that could link different wards and departments.

The Mayo clinic also does leading medical research and teaching. It has been a non-profit organization since 1919 and in 2010 it raised over US$3 billion. It is also regarded as one of the ten best places to work.

So I guess today we can be grateful for the birth in 1865 of one Charles Horace Mayo.

– Posted by Douglas Racionzer (

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