Mayo Brothers’ Wisdom

More than a century ago, Dr. William J. Mayo and Dr. Charles H. Mayo, along with their father, Dr. William W. Mayo, created what has become Mayo Clinic. The tradition and heritage they began includes many innovations that have changed medicine worldwide, including the first multi-specialty group practice and the centralized medical record.

The Mayo brothers were pioneers whose far-sighted wisdom made Mayo Clinic possible. In 1919, they donated their estates to what became the Mayo Foundation and put all employees – including physicians – on a salaried basis.

Decisions like that were outgrowths of a philosophy that has defined Mayo Clinic, and that was expressed by Dr. Will Mayo in 1910, in a graduation speech to Rush Medical College in Chicago.

2010 marked the 100th anniversary of that speech, which is excerpted below in the first of a year-long series of posts with quotes from the Mayo brothers. To honor them, and in memory of their father, who passed away 100 years ago in March, we will be posting a quote from either Dr. Will or Dr. Charlie here (and on Twitter) each working day of 2011.

For more background on this series, see What would Dr. Will and Dr. Charlie Tweet?


February 16

“Democracy is not achieved in a day.” –Dr. Charlie Mayo

February 15

“Rehabilitation is to be a master word in medicine.” -Dr. Will Mayo

February 14

“We, as parents, must give up our professed right to fix our children’s thinking.” –Dr. Charlie Mayo

February 11

“Knowledge is static; wisdom is active and moves knowledge, making it effective.” -Dr. Will Mayo

February 10

“The prevention of disease today is one of the most important factors in the line of human endeavor.”Dr. Charlie Mayo

February 9

“Instruction from teachers and books teaches a man what to think, but the great need is that he should learn how to think.”  -Dr. Will Mayo

February 8

 “More personal hygiene and improved heredity are the keynote to the health of the coming generation.”-Dr. Charlie Mayo

February 7

“Health has come to be generally recognized as an economic principle.” -Dr. Charlie Mayo

February 4

 “The old should remember that they represent the past, and the young represent the future.” -Dr. Will Mayo

February 3

“The writer of textbooks should have a ready imagination and he should understand the child’s mind.” –Dr. Charlie Mayo

February 2

“Since the object of travel is primarily self-improvement, time should not be wasted looking for things done badly and for things to criticize.” -Dr. Will Mayo

February 1

“Once you start studying medicine you never get through with it.” –Dr. Charlie Mayo

January 31

“The school house is the proud monument to the desire of the people that their children shall receive a better education than they themselves had.” -Dr. Will Mayo

January 28

“Our country is no longer isolated from other countries”. -Dr. Charlie Mayo

January 27

“The mere possession of a diploma does not endow one with extraordinary knowledge on all possible medical subjects.” -Dr. Will Mayo

January 26

“Nothing endures unless it is of use in the world and in the economy of nature.”-Dr. Charlie Mayo

January 25

“When knowledge is translated into proper action we speak of it as wisdom.” -Dr. Will Mayo

January 24

“All who are benefited by community of life, especially the physician, owe something to the community.”-Dr. Charlie Mayo

January 21

“Of all cooperative enterprises public health is the most important and gives the greatest returns.” -Dr. Will Mayo

January 20

“Medicine is a profession for social service and it developed organization in response to social need.”-Dr. Charlie Mayo

January 19

“It never occurred to us that we could be anything but doctors.”-Dr. Will Mayo

January 18

“It is unfortunate that so few appreciate from what small causes diseases come.” -Dr. Charlie Mayo

January 17

“Surgery is more a matter of mental grasp than it is of handicraftsmanship.” -Dr. Will Mayo

January 14

“A surgical procedure should be planned so that the patient, with the least possible risk and loss of time, will receive the greatest possible benefit.” -Dr. Charlie Mayo

January 13

“Civilization and intellectual growth depend largely on preventive medicine.” -Dr. Will Mayo

January 12

“Medicine can be used only as people are educated to its accomplishments.” -Dr. Charlie Mayo

January 11

“Commercialism in medicine never leads to true satisfaction, and to maintain our self-respect is more precious than gold.” -Dr. Will Mayo

January 10

“Today the only thing that is permanent is change.” -Dr. Charlie Mayo

January 7

“Education must concern itself with the aspirations and needs of the common man.” -Dr. Will Mayo

January 6

“In the study of some apparently new problems we often make progress by reading the work of the great men of the past…” -Dr. Charlie Mayo

January 5

“American practice is too broad to be national. It had the scientific spirit, and science knows no country.” -Dr. Will Mayo

January 4

“The keynote of progress in the 20th century is system and organization, -in other words, ‘teamwork.'” -Dr. Charlie Mayo

January 3

“As we grow in learning, we more justly appreciate our dependence upon each other. The sum-total of medical knowledge is now so great and wide-spreading that it would be futile for one man to attempt to acquire, or for any one man to assume that he has, even a good working knowledge of any large part of the world. The very necessities of the case are driving practitioners into cooperation. The best interest of the patient is the only interest to be considered, and in order that the sick may have the benefit of advancing knowledge, union of forces is necessary.” -Dr. Will Mayo

4 Responses to “Mayo Brothers’ Wisdom”

  1. Adrian Meli Says:

    Had no idea of the history of Mayo Clinic but fascinating stuff. The Mayos were clearly very special and created something truly special in the Mayo Clinic. Would love to read more about them so look forward to future posts! – Adrian Meli

  2. kishan Says:

    Thank you for organizing this. So inspirational!

  3. Janelle Helling Says:

    Enjoyed finding this. Thanks!

  4. What would Dr. Will and Dr. Charlie Tweet? « Sharing Mayo Clinic Says:

    […] Twitter account. We’ll also be gathering these quotes here on Sharing Mayo Clinic, on the Mayo Brothers’ Wisdom […]

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