If you can’t think of PBS without thinking of Ken Burns, then don’t worry. Burns is the executive producer and co-director (along with Erick Ewers and Christopher Loren Ewers) of a documentary on the famous Mayo Clinic that for 150 years has risen to the challenges of patient care.
It all began with an unlikely partnership between Catholic nuns and three doctors.
Former patient Anna Jenkins remembers seeing a doctor there, saying, “Not many doctors knew how to do it. He could have been arrogant and rude to use and we still would have come.” But what she found was kindness, not only at the clinic, but “the whole town seem devoted to make every visitor there have a pleasant experience.”
Erik Ewers said, the team had “unprecedented access” because “Ken Burns demands it.” Of course there is patient privacy and matters of safety and hygiene but “we need to go and see what we want to see and not be turned away” and “they really stayed out of our way.” They did have a liaison and “stacks of consent forms” during this three-year journey.
Christopher noted, “We developed relationships; we were very health educated; we were very aware of the fact there’s a surgery going on in front of us and there were very tight guidelines.”
Radiologist Dr. John Wald went to Georgetown Medical and served as a radiation safety officer in the navy on a submarine. He trained at Hartford Hospital and was “told about this place in Rochester, Minnesotta.” He was able to do a year fellowship at the Mayo Clinic in 1995.
The Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit academic medical center that employs more than 4,500 physicians and scientists. William W. Mayo was literally the founding fathers. His two sons, William and Charles, joined him in his private medical practice that would eventually become, with the help of other partners, the Mayo Clinic.
And there was Mother Alfred Moes and the Sisters of St. Francis, a teaching order, who were called on to act as nurses after a tornado struck Rochester in 1883 and a temporary hospital was established. Moes asked the senior William about establishing a hospital and in 1889 the Sisters opened Saint Marys Hospital with all three Mayos involved.
For those of us who have grown accustomed to the long waits for appointments, the scheduling and test results may dazzle you. Erik recounted one patient who as in at 5 a.m. for an exam with results by 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. confirmation of certain aspects of his cancer. Surgery was scheduled for the next morning. “That was day one for us.”
Caring staff, quick results and a town with empathy all add up to hope. “The Mayo Clinic” premieres on 25 Sept. 2018.