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A New Ken Burns Documentary: The Mayo Clinic: Faith - Hope - Science

By Natalyn Klump

Mayo Clinic

Charlie started his apprenticeship when he was only 10 years old; Will was 14. This was no ordinary family business. Their father, William Worrall Mayo, was a surgeon—Charlie administered the chloroform while Will helped with the operation and thus began their careers in medicine.

The Mayo Clinic: Faith – Hope – Science, a new two-hour documentary, executive produced by Ken Burns and directed by Burns, Erik Ewers and Christopher Loren Ewers, tells the story of country doctors who started a clinic that became one of the leading medical centers in the world.

The year was 1883. When a tornado tore through their rural Minnesota community, the Mayo family took charge of recovery efforts, enlisting the help of the Sisters of Saint Francis to care for patients. Afterwards, Mother Alfred Moes, the convent’s leader, told Dr. Mayo she had a vision from God that instructed her to build a hospital, with him as its director. She believed it would become “world renowned for its medical arts.”

Dr. Mayo started the Mayo Clinic. Both of his sons went to medical school and joined their father. When he inherited, Will and Charlie continued to build the clinic. Dr. Mayo’s credo was “the needs of the patient come first” – they wouldn't treat diseases; they would treat people.

The unique multi-specialty, team-based approach to treating patients was developed early in the clinic’s growth. They created a model of care that puts patients before profits.

Today, the Mayo Clinic is a place for “hope where there is no hope.” Patients who have come to the clinic looking for answers are featured in the film. You’ll hear the story of Roger Frisch, a concert violinist whose career was threatened by an uncontrollable tremor. When no doctor could find a solution, Frisch turned to the Mayo Clinic.

You’ll see film footage taken inside the operating room, where doctors used surgery involving experimental deep brain stimulation. “I was fully wake and you have to be, because they needed me to play violin during the surgery,” explained Frisch. After the surgeons inserted the second lead into his brain, he drew a bow and it was perfectly steady. They had cured his tremors.

The filmmakers spent three years researching and producing this documentary. Blending historical narrative with contemporary patient stories, the film presents a timely look at how one institution has met the changing demands of healthcare for 150 years.

“The history of healthcare is a larger reflection of who we are as a nation,” said Burns. “This is an extraordinary story that places our fundamental need to care for each other within the larger framework of America’s healthcare system and modern medicine.”

The Mayo Clinic: Faith – Hope – Science airs Tuesday, September 25 at 9 p.m. on SCETV

Watch more from Ken Burns on SCETV Passport

Did you miss Ken Burns’ The Vietnam War last fall, or would you like to watch it again? The Vietnam War is available now on SCETV Passport through February. The documentary series tells the epic story of one of the most consequential, divisive and controversial events in American history. Watch the entire series and more from Ken Burns with SCETV Passport.

About SCETV Passport

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