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December 4th, 2017

Professional Networking in Mayo Clinic’s DNA

By Lee Aase, Director, Mayo Clinic Social Media Network

Networked Communication is one of two strands in the double helix that is Mayo Clinic's cultural DNA. In last week's post in this series I examined how internal communication networks at Mayo Clinic have been essential to its scaling to the 64,000-employee organization it is today.

Professional networking with external colleagues has been equally indispensable. Helen Clapesattle described the travel customs of Dr. Will and Dr. Charlie Mayo in The Doctors Mayo (p. 158),

Whenever the brothers learned of a new operation that sounded promising, one of them set out at the earliest opportunity to see it on the spot and if it proved good, master it for use in Rochester. They established the habit of an annual "brain-dusting" to keep down the cobwebs of routine by going each year, Dr Will usually in the fall and Dr. Charlie in the spring, to spend a month or more in intensive observation of the work of other surgeons....

Whether they could afford these trips was never a question; they felt they had to afford them.

As the older brother, Dr. Will's travel was more extensive. Our Mayo Clinic Historical Unit says he visited 25 countries in his quest for learning, and for presentations about his surgical experience. Clapesattle summarizes his travels as follows (p. 405):

By the end of the 1920s Dr. Will could say he had studied surgery in every town in America and Canada of one hundred thousand population or more, and had crossed the Atlantic thirty times.

The Surgeons Club (Click to enlarge)

But just as important as the Mayo brothers' travels was their practice of welcoming visiting physicians to observe them in surgery. Those who traveled to Rochester to study under the Mayo brothers formed an informal society that became known as The Surgeons Club. These physicians paid a $1 registration per visit of whatever length, and the roster shows that nearly 3,400 traveled by train to Rochester between 1908 and 1918, including 100 physicians who splurged for the $5 lifetime membership.

This external networked communication was important both because it helped to ensure that the Mayo brothers would always be practicing the most up-to-date surgical procedures and because it spread the word about their prowess among peers who would recommend them to their own patients.

In creating what has become the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network in 2010, we were consciously following in the footsteps of our founders. At that time many of our colleagues at other institutions were having difficulty getting leadership buy-in for their social media initiatives. The fact that a well-respected organization like Mayo Clinic was using these platforms provided credibility and having the opportunity to join a Mayo-sponsored network to explore social applications together added to leaders' comfort.

It was the social media equivalent of The Surgeons Club.

We held annual health care social media conferences between 2010 and 2014 in Rochester in collaboration with Ragan Communications. In 2015 and 2016 we held domestic conferences on our Rochester campus and international conferences in Australia, first in Brisbane and then in Melbourne.

This year's conference, which has been sold out since Nov. 13, will be next Monday and Tuesday on our Mayo Clinic campus in Scottsdale, Ariz. We'll be interacting in small groups and learning with about 125 colleagues from five countries as we hear four inspiring keynotes and six case studies. We also look forward to sharing some of our latest Mayo Clinic developments.

If you're among those who'll be joining us, we look forward to seeing you on Monday.

If not, we hope you'll follow along on Twitter and interact via the #MCSMN hashtag, and that you'll plan to join us next November on our Jacksonville, Fla. campus. We'll be announcing the dates and opening registration for that conference next week.

Lee Aase is a Communications Director for Mayo Clinic's Social & Digital Innovation team and is Director of the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network. This post is part of a series called Mayo Clinic's Double Helix: How Revolutionary Organization and Networked Communication Built America's #1 Hospital.

Tags: #MayoClinicDNA, Annual Conference, Mayo Clinic History, Strategy, Tactics & Best Practices

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