• Mayo and the Telephone

Mayo has been committed to using the latest communication technology in service to patients since the earliest days of practice.

According to family tradition, young Charlie Mayo – 14 years old at the time – set up the first telephone link in Rochester in 1879. It connected his father’s downtown office with the Mayo family’s farm in southeast Rochester. A natural mechanic, Charlie worked without plans, simply following photos and descriptions he had seen in various publications. The telephone itself was a novelty. Barely three years before, Alexander Graham Bell filed a patent to develop “an apparatus for transmitting vocal or other sounds telegraphically.”

Charlie’s father, Dr. William Worrall Mayo, quickly realized how the innovative technology could improve patient care. He became the first physician in town to install a telephone. Still, it was a challenge to get the public to accept this unusual means of communication. The Rochester Record and Union offered a helpful explanation on Dec. 12, 1879:

“The telephone line between Dr. Mayo’s office and his residence is now set up, the machines, or instruments, whichever they are, in position, and everything working splendidly. Conversation can be carried on just as rapidly and accurately as though the persons talking were only separated by a few feet instead of a mile, and familiar voices can be recognized as easily. Parties wishing to summon the Dr. between 6 in the morning and 9 in the evening can do so by making their wants known as Messrs. Geisinger and Newton’s drug store. After 9 p.m. and before 6 a.m., it will be necessary to find Mr. George Tilsbury, the night watch, who will operate the instrument between the hours named when occasion demands. This will prove not only a convenience but a positive benefit for the Dr. and his patients."

The Mayo brothers were innovators in all areas of medical practice, finding the best way to serve patients more effectively, including use of the latest communications technology.

That's why we see formation of the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media as very much in keeping with the Mayo legacy. And it's why we're passing on the Mayo brothers' wisdom through a social medium we believe they would have used if it were available in their day.

Check out the "What would Dr. Will and Dr. Charlie Tweet?" initiative, with new wisdom from our founders every working day in 2011.

If Charlie Mayo installed a telephone system at age 14, how could he not tweet today?

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