“Good health is an essential to happiness, and happiness is an essential to good citizenship.” – Dr. Charlie Mayo
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to participate in a two-day health program at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. My goal was to maximize my capacity to be fruitful and effective as an episcopal leader by investing in my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
My experience was unlike anything I could have imagined! Dozens of wheelchairs were lined up outside the main building at 6:30 a.m., waiting for the arrival of hundreds of patients from around the world. Every year 1.3 million people from all walks of life as well as every state and 150 countries visit one of the various Mayo facilities, most as outpatients. In 2016-17, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, was ranked as the #1 overall hospital in the United States by U.S. News & World Report.
“Within its walls all classes of people, the poor as well as the rich, without regard to color or creed, shall be cared for without discrimination.” – Dr. Will Mayo
William Worrall (WW) Mayo came to Rochester, Minnesota in 1863 as an examining surgeon for the military draft board during the Civil War. After the war was over, Mayo opened a medical practice, and his sons William James (Will) and Charles Horace (Charlie) followed in their father’s footsteps.
August 21, 1883, was a defining moment in Rochester and in the Mayo family. A tornado destroyed one-third of the town, resulting in thirty-seven deaths and over two hundred injuries. The Mayo family escaped serious harm, and W.W., his son Will, and other doctors set up a temporary hospital in the city dance hall. Called in to serve as nurses were Mother Alfred Moes and the Catholic Sisters of St. Francis, who had no medical training.
Mother Alfred Moes subsequently suggested to Dr. Mayo that she and her sisters would fund and build a hospital in Rochester if Dr. Mayo and his sons would serve as the staff. St. Mary’s Hospital opened in 1889, and an addition followed five years later. W.W. Mayo, who was seventy years old at the time, was a consulting physician at the hospital while sons Will and Charlie saw patients and performed surgeries. They, along with four other physicians, were the founders of Mayo Clinic.
“With our faith and hope and energy, it will succeed.” – Mother Alfred Moes
From the beginning, Mayo Clinic was a different kind of hospital, providing integrated care focusing on physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. According to Mayo Clinic’s website, “Mayo Clinic is a non-profit organization committed to clinical practice, education, and research, providing expert, whole-person care to everyone who needs healing.” Mayo’s mission statement is “to inspire hope and contribute to health and well-being by providing the best care to every patient through integrated clinical practice, education, and research.”
Mayo doctors consult with each other about patient care and collaborate on comprehensive diagnoses and treatment in almost every medical and surgical specialty. Since the Mayo system has 4,500 physicians and scientists as well as 57,000 health staff, most patients can receive coordinated and multidisciplinary care from many physicians and staff in a single visit.
Chaplains are available 24-hours a day, and chapels in the three main buildings are always open, including worship spaces for Muslims, Jews, and Christians. There is also a new Healthy Living Center, which offers physical activity assessments, personalized wellness plans, meditation, yoga, and classes on stress relief, resiliency, and nutrition.
“We must not forget that happiness is a state of mind, not necessarily of body, that life is what each person believes it to be. The sick man needs faith, faith in his physician, but there comes a time when faith in a higher power may be necessary to sustain his morale.” – Dr. Will Mayo
As has happened so often in American history, the Methodists made their mark on the Mayo story as well, for the church is also God’s agent for healing of mind, body, and spirit.
Twenty-three years after the Mayo’s opened their first clinic, John H. Kahler decided to build additional hospital facilities for patients near the Mayo brothers’ offices in Rochester. These buildings were a combination of hospital rooms, operating rooms, and hotels.
By the early 1950’s, the Kahler Corporation decided to offload their hospitals. A group of influential citizens, including former U.S. Supreme Court Justice and Methodist Harry Blackmun (then a Mayo Clinic legal counsel), convinced the Methodist Church in 1954 to become the sponsor of these hospitals. A new 794-bed hospital was built in 1966 and was called Rochester Methodist Hospital. By 1986, Mayo Clinic, Rochester Methodist Hospital, and Saint Mary’s Hospital integrated their operations, and in 2014, they finally became one single hospital. The Mayo Clinic Methodist Campus continues the legacy of John Wesley’s 1778 words.
“It will be a double blessing if you give yourself up to the Great Physician, that He may heal soul and body together. And unquestionably this is His design. He wants to give you . . . both inward and outward health.” – John Wesley
Is health care the privilege of those who can pay or a right for all? It continues to be a critical question. Who deserves health care in the US or anywhere in the world? And what obligation do governments have to care for the whole person, no matter what their financial resources might be? Living as I do in a state where funds for the treatment of mental illness have been cut so drastically that there are not nearly enough beds for those who need inpatient care, or therapists for those who need outpatient care, how will the church make its voice heard?
“It is a poor government that does not realize that the prolonged life, health, and happiness of its people are its greatest asset.” – Dr. Charlie Mayo
As people of faith, we know that Jesus always saw the whole person. Matthew 4:23 says, “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.” Resolution #3201 from the 2008 and 2012 United Methodist Book of Resolutions was amended and readopted in 2016 by the General Conference and includes these words,
“In a just society, all people are entitled to basic maintenance and health-care services. We reject as contrary to our understanding of the gospel, the notion of differing standards of health care for various segments of the population. The American Health Care system must serve and be sensitive to the diversity of all people in the United States and its territories.”
“If we excel at anything, it is in our capacity for translating idealism into action.” – Dr. Charlie Mayo
Every single person I encountered in my two-day health program was not only excellent, but caring: from the internist, to the integrative medicine doctor, to the x-ray techs, to Sherry, the person with the unenviable task of cleaning wax from my ears. When Sherry found out what my job is, she talked about how her parents were “dumpers”; that is, they dumped her off at the local United Methodist Church on Sunday morning without going themselves. She also testified that the faithful disciples at her church modeled how to love as Jesus loved and make a difference in the world. It was a deeply touching story that only reinforced my passion for the church and the conviction that each one of us is a healer.
“The success of the clinic must be measured by its contributions to the general good of humanity.” – Dr. Charlie Mayo and Dr. Will Mayo
With our faith and hope and energy, we can not only heal, but we can change the world!