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October 27, 2017

Mayo Clinic Piano Duo Still Bringing Joy to Thousands

By Lee Aase, Director, Mayo Clinic Social Media Network

A nine-year-old video of a piano duet at Mayo Clinic by then-octogenarians Marlow and Frances Cowan of Ankeny, Iowa has gone viral.


At about noon yesterday I received an email from our MCSMN Medical Director, Dr. Farris Timimi, an avid Reddit user, that someone posted the YouTube link to Reddit just an hour earlier and it was now the #1 video on the site (click image to enlarge.)

So just as I had done in 2009 when we originally embedded the video on Sharing Mayo Clinic and posted it to our Mayo Clinic Facebook page and Twitter account, I took a screen shot of the view count so we could track the growth.

At 12:35 p.m. CDT yesterday the count stood at 11,340,702. Six hours later it increased by more than 56,000 views. The views continued to grow overnight. More on that in a bit.

Because Mr. Cowan died in May of 2016 at age 97, before doing a post about this Reddit phenomenon, I wanted to connect with his daughter, DeDe, to see how her mom was doing and also to let her know about this new Internet interest in her parents. Here's part of what she said in giving her blessing for this post:

My Mom is still trying to keep a positive outlook on life despite her physical  condition. She knows that her mission now in life is to pray for all the caregivers that help her each day and to try to make them smile or laugh before they leave her room.  She is really an amazing lady!

Just yesterday I showed my Mom all the videos you all took of them while at Mayo. It made her very happy to hear my Dad's voice in your interview of them at their home and also to hear my Dad playing the songs she loves to hear on the piano. She almost cried when she saw him kiss her after he played the "Let me call you Sweetheart" song to her.

She misses him very much and longs for the day to be reunited with him in heaven.

I came to know the Cowans well since I first interviewed them in their home in May of 2009 and interacted with them many times over the years, so it's no surprise to me that Mrs. Cowan would make it her personal mission to pray for her caregivers and to make them smile or laugh every day.

She is just doing in-person what she and her husband have done for nearly a decade on YouTube, even after his departure.

We were honored the Cowans played their final concert on the same Mayo Clinic piano at our annual conference in 2011:

Now, for the latest on Reddit.

As of this writing, about 23 hours after posting, the video has more than 50,000 upvotes and 1,410 comments.

The view count on YouTube has climbed to 11,683,478. That's an increase of more than 340,000.

So, the headline of this post understates the reality: they're still bringing joy to hundreds of thousands.

Lee Aase is a Communications Director at Mayo Clinic and Director of the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network.

Tags: Patient Involvement, reddit, Video, YouTube

Liked by Sheri Donaldson


Matthew Rehrl

Posts: 53
Joined: Feb 01, 2016
Posted by @matthewrehrl, Oct 29, 2017

Lets talk Katy Perry.

Katy Perry’s video “Roar” has 2.3 Billion views.

Her video page has a clear call to action (“buy my album!”) and I would contend that her videos content supports her mission (The empowerment of young women).

Her numbers are very good, but what makes it great – perhaps one of the best ever-is it’s relevance to her deeper mission.

I would contend that although the numbers are great for the piano video, from a mission perspective the Mayo’s best video is your second mst viewed video – the 1.3 Million viewed “Baby with Croup” video.

I think this Mayo content has actually saved lives.

This isn’t to diminish the fun with the piano video (it is super neat, and the joy and hope factor is pretty darn high) but (View Count x Mission Relevance) may be the best guide for social media value.

REFERENCE- Mayo Mission: 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.

Posted by @LeeAase, Nov 1, 2017

Thanks, Matthew. The Cowans’ video was just one of those serendipitous events that we couldn’t have planned. I completely agree that many of our other videos have had more mission-related impact, particularly by providing information and expertise at no cost to people who may never become our patients. And yet many HAVE become Mayo patients because they saw the expertise and empathy of our physicians through video.

Interestingly, the original video of the Cowans isn’t even on our Mayo Clinic YouTube channel; it was shot by the daughter of another patient, who put it on her channel.

On the other hand, if – as Reader’s Digest used to say, “Laughter is the best medicine…”

Matthew Rehrl

Posts: 53
Joined: Feb 01, 2016
Posted by @matthewrehrl, Nov 1, 2017

“Sometimes serendipity is just intention unmasked.”
― Elizabeth Berg

You may not have planned it , but you certainly earned it!

As an aside, i have presented the whooping cough video to my prior CEO and medical directors at The Everett Clinic to make several points:

1. Helpful and meaningful videos don’t necessarily require high production costs ( in fact, sometimes I think too “slick” videos are discounted as hype )

2. You have to have a culture that is willing AND has the infrastructure to create such content ( for example, many of the Mayo Clinic Videos show patients, such as your Mayo Clinic Minute Videos – which means one needs to have a friendly legal infrastructure in place a priori to consent patients or families on content distribution, etc ) Put another way, not every YouTube video needs to be $10,000 and 3 weeks to produce IF you have a system in place

Anyway have a great day and looking forward to December!

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