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I could say "thank you"a thousand times, and still it would be inadequate to express the depth and breadth of my gratitude to the fine physicians, nurses, and support staff who attended my wife…during her recent surgical stay.

From my vantage point, three things in particular make Mayo Clinic unique and superior to all other health care facilities I have ever seen. First, the academic excellence and professionalism that is evident at every level. Second, the team approach to caring for each patient, with each doctor, nurse, and support staff contributing to the assessment, care, and recovery of each patient. And finally and of particular significance to us, the exemplary manner in which they give the highest priority to the patient-first [concept] in action and in attitude.

Before coming to Rochester, our journey had taken us to [another] surgeon who, at least on paper, appeared to be one of the most highly regarded experts in the field anywhere in the world. We eagerly awaited our visit with him, and [my wife] had prepared a list of questions to be sure she covered everything she wanted to learn from him. When he entered the room wearing a pin on the lapel of his lab coat that said "Patients First," we were both eager. But when [my wife] asked the first question, he responded that if he took the time to answer all of her questions, he would not have time to answer the questions of all the other patients who…had come from all over the world to see him.

By stark contrast, at Mayo "patients first" is not a mere lapel pin; it is a way of life.1

When this letter of thanks to the leadership of Mayo Clinic was written, neither the author, an attorney, nor his wife, the patient who is a nurse, realized that the letter was highlighting the primary value of Mayo Clinic: "The needs of the patient come first." The patient shared in a subsequent interview that the lapel pin on the surgeon's lab coat ironically clarified what she really needed in a healthcare provider. When the promise of the pin was not honored in her actual experience, the disappointment was compounded. Following the visit with the surgeon, the patient and her husband told some friends about the experience. One responded, "Well, you need to go to Mayo Clinic." The patient followed this advice, and she reports that she learned firsthand that "putting patients first is not just a slogan at Mayo Clinic."

Dr. Glenn S. Forbes, CEO of Mayo Clinic in Rochester, explains how this came to be: "If you've just communicated a value but you haven't driven it into the operations, into the policy, into the decision making, into the allocation of resources, and ultimately into the culture of the organization, then it's just words." He adds:


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