A Patient’s Guide to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota | Debunking Myths About Mayo’s

Pressed Flowers
Updated August 2019


I wrote this post for a friend who needed help diagnosing a very complex situation. I tried to get her to schedule an appointment at Mayo Clinic in Rochester to get the answers her life depended upon. I failed. As of December 2016, she’s no longer with us.

Mayo Clinic has a ‘mystique factor,’ at least in the Midwest, that may intrigue but also intimidate patients. This can have a detrimental impact on individuals who’ve perhaps known someone who faced a life threatening situation and benefitted greatly by visiting Mayo’s. I think my friend didn’t believe her health concerns were important enough, or dangerous enough to be considered life threatening.

But that wasn’t the correct ‘rule of thumb’ to use. Her situation was complex and confusing. Her specialists were disconnected from each other which contributed even more to the confusing complexities of her case.

I believe that the correct rule of thumb to use when making the decision to visit Mayo’s should have more to do with if your current care is having a positive impact on your outcome. If it isn’t, then examining why that’s true is important. If, in answering the ‘Why?’ question, you determine that communication across specialties is an important aspect that isn’t being met, then irregardless of any ‘life threatening” nature your condition may pose, seeking out answers from an institution that’s undoubtedly recognized as the ‘top tier’ or the ‘gold standard’ of medical treatment should be strongly considered. That’s been my own personal experience and my husband’s too.

If you or a loved one are facing a similar situation then I hope this information will help to aid you in making better decisions, and give you the proper tools to  allow you to successfully plan a visit to Mayo’s in Rochester. If you have more questions after reading, please contact me using the Comments section at the end of this very long article.

An Overview for First Time Patients Considering a Visit to Mayo Clinic

IntroductionMayo Scene

Mayo Clinic of Rochester Minnesota is a world-renowned medical center in the heart of Midwestern United States. The clinic, begun in 1903 attracts patients from all corners of the world.  Many of the wealthiest and most important world figures visit the small town of Rochester Minnesota for their medical care.

Yet there’s a bit of a perplexing phenomenon surrounding Mayo’s in Rochester. In Spite of, or maybe because of, the fact that Mayo’s is recognized as a world-class facility that offers a standard of care second to none in the world, Mayo’s seems to be perceived by many as inaccessible, or as vaguely elitist by regular people. 

These are people who are obviously familiar with the institution, yet who’ve never given serious consideration to actually seeking treatment there for either themselves or someone they’re close to.  The irony is that many of the people I’m referring to live within a 300 hundred mile radius of Rochester (it’s only about a 4 hour car ride away.)   Even more ironic is the fact that there are so many people who live less than 85 miles away in neighboring Minneapolis, which is Rochester’s closest large metropolitan neighbor, who never have considered visiting Mayo’s!

The Kind Of Patients Mayo’s Attracts

Royalty, Presidents, Celebrities, Sports Legends and Regular ‘Joes’ too

It is truly ironic to me that ‘Regular Joes’ with close access tend to not avail themselves of the world-class resources that are right in front of them while others from much farther away do!  Sheiks, Princes and Presidents from countries like Saudi Arabia and even the United States don’t bat an eye before hopping on a plane when some new symptoms crop up that bother or worry them.  Oftentimes they’ll bring along entire entourages too.  In the Sheik’s or Prince’s cases that entourage might include their entire family, close friends and staff!

It may sound to you like I’m exaggerating, but I assure you that I’m not in the least!  My parents saw George Bush Sr. along with his Secret Service entourage on more than one occasion.  One time Mom even had a nice chat with President Bushes Secret Service detail in the restaurant that they were all dining at (this was maybe 15 years ago.) The SS team was seated close to Mom and Dad’s table.

I myself ended up being the only non-Saudi tenant on my floor of the Marriott (including the floors above and below me too) when I went for a physical in 2013.  I’d scheduled a physical because the department that I really needed to get into wasn’t going to be available for a long time (this is one of my tricks for getting in under tricky circumstances that I cover in more detail further down.)  I ended up staying longer than the 2 days of my initial reservation.

The Saudi Prince had scheduled his appointment more recently than mine.  He asked for several floors and was given the three floors sandwiching the concierge level…which was my floor…with the exception of my room. Worth noting too is I discovered this serendipitously while grabbing some snacks from the great concierge lounge* one night…no one from the Marriott staff ever approached me or requested that I change rooms.

*In case I forget to mention this little detail in the ‘Where To Stay’ section, although the Marriott Hotel that’s directly connected to the Mayo Clinic Subway has higher priced room rates than the other ‘directly connected’ option…the Kahler Grand Hotel, by staying on the concierge level I was able to forgo the cost of meals.  

At the time I was there complete meals were provided in the lounge daily along with a great spread for cocktail hour.  Except on the weekends.  There were a few meals provided then, but much less than what’s offered during the week. This for me, was a significant savings in both time and money. An added benefit is that the concierge lounge is also a great place to meet others who’ve also made the trek to Mayo’s. Talking to other patients and family members has probably been my best source for useful information that’s not otherwise readily available.

Mayo's in the '60s Mayo’s in the ’60s

A Little More About Me

Some may be wondering who I am and what my qualifications are for purposes of discussing this topic.  While I was only tangentially connected to the medical profession many years ago when I worked as a Coopers & Lybrand consultant for the administrative side of very large outpatient medical practices, it’s my experience on the other side of the equation that has given me the necessary credentials to write this post. In that role I’m just a typical Midwesterner who became gravely ill as a child. Contrary to what my generally wise and widely loved doctor advised, my parents decided to transfer me from our local hospital to one in Rochester Minnesota. They brought me to St. Mary’s Hospital which is one of the 2 main hospitals in Rochester that’s primarily affiliated with Mayo’s. By affiliated I mean they are now all under the same corporate umbrella.  Also, in 2014 St. Mary’s was renamed the Mayo Clinic Hospital.

I’ve heard more than my share of stories that are very similar to my own…leading me to wonder why my doctor hesitated to refer me at the time…which, for the sake of thoroughness was 1964. For a multitude of reasons, many, many local doctors are hesitant to refer their patients to Mayo’s.

I’m not entirely sure why that is. I really don’t think, in this day and age, that those doctors fear losing their patients to Mayo’s…because that’s simply not how Mayo’s operates. The many years of my own personal experience as well as the experiences of many close family members who’ve sought out Mayo’s expertise all point to the same conclusion. The conclusion is that Mayo’s prefers to be used as a resource to aid in patient’s overall success…never to assume the full care of those patients. They prefer to be doing the things that they do best. Oftentimes this means helping to figure out very complex diagnoses. Once they’ve accomplished their goal they immediately send those patients back home again armed with lots of information for their own local doctors to use to treat or heal them successfully. They also can provide additional resources if called upon or if the circumstances warrant it, in an expedient manner, because the groundwork has been laid to make this possible.

In My Case I Wouldn’t Be Alive Today if My Parent’s Hadn’t Acted Against My Doctors Advice By Taking Me to Mayo’s

A few days ago I asked my Mom & Dad (who incidentally are now 88 & 92 years old…and yet another tribute to Mayo Clinic,) to relate my story to me once more just to make absolutely certain that I portrayed everything correctly. The information in the box inset below was the result.

Additional Resources

Shortly after completing this guide I learned that my Dad had also begun writing a story about Mayo Clinic for his own website a long time ago, but that he’d never finished it. After reading my guide I convinced him that he should finish his…so he did! That’s why I’m adding this link to his own story. Although he recounts many of these same events, his rendition is much different from mine. There is a fair amount of redundancy…but I think that his version may have much wider appeal than my own for a couple of reasons. The first is because he’s clearly a better writer than I am. The second is because his views are written from an entirely different perspective…that of a parent facing their young child’s life threatening health crisis. 

My Dad’s story:  The Wonderful Mayo Clinic.

Shortly after Dad published this I tried to share it on Facebook for a friend and Facebook wouldn’t allow me to. They said that my Dad’s website might pose a threat! I wrote them and told them I was intimately familiar with my (then 90 year old) Dad’s site and there was nothing even remotely threatening about it. Naturally a good 8 months or so passed before I received a stock email reply from Facebook telling me there was nothing they could do to reverse the ‘dangerous’ reputation that their automatic filters  were responsible for. In the meantime, knowing I’d probably never get any response,  much less a favorable one, I republished Dad’s post here on vsatrends so that I could share it with friends and family when situations dictated. So here’s a link to my republished version of my Dad’s post The Wonderful Mayo Clinic.

Overview of My Childhood Health Crisis

Very briefly this is what happened. At the young age of 7 years I suddenly became extremely ill. A day or two after being admitted to our local hospital the primary cause of my illness was determined to be that my kidneys were shutting down. Mom and Dad asked a lot of questions of our local hospital staff and doctors. One significant question was…how likely would it be that my kidneys might completely stop functioning and if that did occur, what treatment options would be available to us. My doctors told them that this scenario was highly unlikely. But they added that if that situation did arise they wouldn’t have the resources locally to address it. While they didn’t come right out and say this, the implication was that in that event, I would most likely die.

Mom and Dad decided that even a small chance of this occurring was too much of a chance for them to take. They packed up our family station wagon, converting the back seat into a sort of ‘traveling hospital bed’ for me and we drove to Mayo’s within hours of that conversation.

It was the right decision, because that worst case scenario did in fact occur. Despite my condition deteriorating so much that at one point a priest was enlisted to confirm me and to give me my last sacraments, I did finally manage to come back from the brink of death and ultimately I survived. Survived really isn’t the right word though because I didn’t just ‘survive.’ I made such a complete recovery that it surprised everyone except the Mayo’s doctors who’d cared for me. I thrived far beyond all expectations. :-)  But it’s still a little hard to think about sometimes.

What my family and I gained from this experience was the reassurance that we had one of the most amazing medical resources available to us should the need arise again for that kind of expertise. Over the course of many years we also learned that in general, engaging with Mayo’s as a patient early on in a process makes much better sense than leaving that option as a final resolution when all else fails.

Photo Gallery of Mayo’s in Rochester in the 1960’s

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What We Learned:  The Best Ways to Engage Mayo’s as a Resource

It probably doesn’t surprise anyone to learn that my experience as a child was a life altering one. Had I not been treated at Mayo’s no one doubts that I would be here today to tell my story. But it wasn’t just life altering for me, it was for my whole family.

Because my family got to experience first hand the unprecedented and profoundly successful mechanism that places Mayo’s in the enviable position the clinic occupies. It was also life altering. Being there helped us to understand how inclusive and completely patient-centric Mayo’s truly is.

It’s taken many, many years for me to come to my current realization that the vast majority of people don’t believe their medical issues are significant enough to warrant seeking the expertise that’s available at Mayo’s. To me that mindset is short-sighted at best and naively dangerous at worst. Perhaps the reason so many people delude themselves into thinking that their own health and life isn’t as tenuous as it may really be is rooted in fear. It’s a form of denial that serves no one well, which I know from first hand experience too. I was very lucky as a child, but some others my family is close to weren’t. Nothing is worse than finding out too late that you could have been successfully treated had you arrived sooner.

Nothing is more important than one’s health and well-being for the obvious reason that without those, life will reach it’s inevitable forgone conclusion sooner rather than later.

As I’m writing this I’ve come to the realization that the old adage…‘if you’ve got your health, you’ve got everything’ is so much more profound than it appears to be on the surface.

This really resonates with me. A lot of people I know are fanatics about eating healthy, exercising, keeping fit, or being attuned to nature and the great outdoors…in part because those are thought to be good for your health. But then when situations arise in which they have the opportunity to make really good choices about solving difficult health issues they completely drop the ball. They fail to be pro-active in pursuing the best advice medicine has to offer! The really sad reality is that far too many people choose to ignore logic until they find themselves in situations which have advanced so far that their backs are ‘up against a wall’ and there’s no place left to turn.  That’s when they choose to go to Mayo’s. Mayo’s is their last resort. 

That’s the wrong way to go about it.

Doesn’t it make more sense to stack the deck in your favor as much as possible when it comes to something as important as your health?  Doesn’t it make sense to concentrate your efforts on not letting bad situations become bad in the first place?  If you treat your medical decisions as pro-actively as your efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle then you’re giving yourself a fighting chance when the need to fight arises.  And more than likely it will at some point in your life. So having a plan and arming yourself with good information before that need arises seems to me to be the best course of action.  And waiting until there are no really good alternatives left open to you seems to me to be a really bad idea.

Why Do People Wait & Utilize Mayo’s Primarily in ‘Last Resort’ Situations?

The answer to that question continues to elude and frustrate me!

Especially when the fact that Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota is almost universally know to be perhaps the most exceptional facility worldwide in the diagnostic realm. Mayo’s has a world-class medical facility with proven positive patient outcomes that far surpass all others in the United States, and more likely in the entire world. That fact is indisputable. Their ‘patient first’ emphasis combined with their expertise should make the decision process an easy one. Yet time and time again I see instances of friends and family putting off this important decision to be their own advocate for their health until their choices are severely limited rather than early enough to allow them the greatest number of choices.

It seems to me that there’s a significant perception of ‘barrier to access‘ by the exact same patient population Mayo’s set out to serve first. Those people who are residents of smaller cities and towns or who reside in rural areas of the upper Midwest. There seems to be an aire of mystique surrounding Mayo’s leading to the belief that to visit there as a patient one must meet some vaguely defined set of rarely encountered criteria.

Some probable perceived barriers to being seen at Mayo’s Rochester:

  • That patients should be either extremely wealthy, celebrities, or highly visible public figures in some manner
  • That individuals need to be experiencing immediate life threatening symptoms or conditions
  • That generally only patients who’ve been previously treated at Mayo’s may go there
  • That people should exhaust all other medical avenues before seeking treatment at Mayo’s.
  • That their health insurance won’t cover their expenses from a facility like Mayo’s because they may be ‘out of network’ and so exhausting other ‘in network’ alternatives first is mandatory
  • That in general a world-class facility like Mayo’s must be prohibitively expensive
  • That it would be too difficult logistically to arrange for treatment there
  • That because of the distance involved and the need for travel it’s just not a viable alternative

The truth however is that these barriers simply don’t exist. Each and every barrier mentioned above can easily be addressed by Mayo’s staff if patients just gave it a chance! And in the unlikely scenario that a first contact situation doesn’t result in removal of the aforementioned barriers…then a second attempt is needed for the simple reason that sometimes you just happen to get someone who’s having a bad day.

Image 1791

Above:  World Renowned Artwork Adorns Every Available Space Within the Walls of Mayo’s Rochester 

Common Misconceptions About Mayo’s & Why They Are Misconceptions

Misconception: You should only go to Mayo’s for a diagnosis

  • The Truth

While it’s true that the one thing Mayo’s has become known for is diagnosing difficult cases, it’s also true that Mayo’s excels in many, many areas of medicine…not just the one involving making accurate diagnoses where others have failed.

But it seems at times that Mayo’s other strengths fly somewhat ‘under the radar‘ so many people may not realize them. In my case as a child, my local doctors did diagnose my condition. They were even well equipped to address many aspects of it…but not all of them. It turned out that what my local doctors couldn’t do ended up being the most important aspect of my care and it’s what saved my life.

Some US News rankings for Mayo Clinic:

  • US News & World Report ranks Mayo Clinic 1st in the US in Diabetes & Endochrinology, Gastroenterology and GI Surgery, Geriatrics, Gynecology, Nephrology, Neurology and Neurosurgery,  Pulmonology and Urology.
  • US News ranks Mayo’s 2nd in the country in Cardiology and Heart Surgery, ENT, and Orthopedics, and they’re ranked 3rd in cancer, 4th in Rheumatology, 5th in Rehabilitation and ‘high performing’ in Opthamology.

Link to US News & World Report’s current ranking of Mayo Clinic.

Misconception:  Mayo’s will be very expensive and my insurance won’t cover it

  • The Truth

Your insurance will probably cover it and you will more than likely pay less than if you would have received the same services at home.  I’ll write more about this later…but for now just trust me when I say our insurance is awful and out-of-network for Mayo’s.  The out-of-pocket costs for our most recent visits were $161 for my husbands 2 day Executive Physical. (He had A LOT of tests and the bill total was around $16,000)  I paid $200 out-of-pocket for the week-long visit that I refer to several times in this post. (My total bill was $60,000 and insurance paid all but $200.)

Because there are so many different kinds of insurance plans it probably isn’t a bad idea to call your carrier before you go. I forgot to do that and I’m sure my husband didn’t yet we had no issues. I think our plan may be a PPO…but even that is unclear. We have our own plan because my husband owns his small business and he provides coverage for a few employees too.  Our rates our exorbitant and our coverage usually is not great with very high deductibles.  I just about fainted when I saw my bill, but decided to do nothing other than wait.  I used to be a consultant for outpatient billing and insurance computer systems and know that medical providers do not send accounts to collectors unless it’s a last resort…meaning you can wait for pretty long to give your insurance the time necessary to process everything.  Once everything was processed I was again  shocked, but this time in a good way to find out how little I needed to pay personally!

Mayo’s Rochester provides information at their website about insurance coverage and billing and they give telephone numbers to call them and discuss coverage prior to a visit.  

You can go to their webpage for those numbers here.

Misconception:  Mayo’s Clinic’s locations are all the same in terms of quality, therefore if you live closer to their Arizona or Florida locations, you should go there rather than fly all the way to Minnesota.

  • The Truth

This sadly is not true. Mayo’s Clinic in Rochester Minnesota was the original clinic. Their Arizona and Florida facilities are much newer, with a newer staff and less time under their belt to master what the Rochester location has turned into an art form. No doubt, in time, these locations will get to this level…but they aren’t there yet. In addition Mayo’s has planned other expansion concepts which may or may not be in the works presently…but the same concept holds true.

Many have tried to replicate the success that Mayo’s Rochester enjoys, but to date none have been able to.  This holds true for the Mayo’s umbrella as well.  They aren’t really sure exactly why Rochester is so successful which is why they haven’t been able to replicate that success at their other locations.

So it makes sense that if you are faced with a very difficult, complex, frustrating, or ongoing medical problem that needs the highest level of expertise possible to solve it that you would want the most experienced resources available…the ones with the best proven track record…and that would be the Rochester location.

Misconception:  Getting into Mayo’s Clinic is difficult and you need to have a doctors referral.

  • The Truth

That simply is not true. All my visits as an adult have been initiated by me alone. My one and only attempt to visit using a physician’s referral failed. Since that was the first time as an adult I had made an attempt at scheduling, initially I gave up in frustration. But my Mom and Dad ho are both current patients convinced me to try again. I’m thankful I took their advice and did so. This time on my own and bypassing the department that refused me.

So now I know that all it takes is a simple phone call. You can confirm this yourself by calling and asking if you can setup your own appointment without a physician’s referral. Just call (507) 538-3260 during normal business hours.

Getting in really isn’t very difficult at all. You just need to call them and talk to someone. One reason that I decided to write this was because I did encounter difficulty getting in a few years back, and I did pretty much everything wrong that one person could do.  So I thought by putting all this information in one place and mentioning what didn’t work for me, that I could hopefully save some other people some of the frustration I experienced.

Mayo’s does offer an online mechanism for requesting an appointment but that’s all it really is…you’re just submitting a request which is still ultimately scheduled via telephone. If I’m not mistaken the online request results in their calling you. They also offer excellent online medical records and provide a lot of patient information online…they even have an app which helps considerably with managing your appointment schedule and viewing your test results and current records once you’re scheduled and in their system.

The reason I believe that Mayo’s prefers to talk to potential new patients by phone is so that they can explain how things work as well as give them the best possible advice regarding their specific medical needs. Which makes complete sense if you think about it. Be prepared to talk for a while* when you call, because you’ll get their undivided assistance in making the arrangements for and then navigating your visit there.  Also be prepared to wait for a month or two before your actual appointment.  Because there is such high demand for appointments, a couple month’s of waiting is standard unless circumstances dictate otherwise.  If there are serious immediate concerns they will work very hard to get patients in as soon as possible.

*Mine and my family’s universal experience has been that unlike traditional medical practices, every personal encounter that you will have at Mayo’s, even those leading up to an actual visit are treated as very important.  You will never be hurried and you’ll never feel as though you needed more time to ask questions…everyone from the highest level doctor on down will bend over backwards to make sure you are well taken care of.

Misconception:  Scheduling an appointment in a specific specialty is the best way to request an appointment

  • The Truth

Not necessarily. Appointments that are requested in specific departments go through a review process to determine whether or not Mayo’s services are the best use of their resources and the best alternative for patients making the request. This can end up being a lengthy process involving forwarding a lot of medical records and writing out long descriptions of why someone is seeking treatment.  Then there’s a waiting period that could be several months before you find out whether or not you’ve been accepted.  If you are, then you begin the scheduling process which can also involve a long wait for your actual appointment. If you’re not accepted you may be uncertain about how to proceed.


This is the exact scenario that I faced several years ago when requesting an appointment with the Neurology department.  I requested an appointment with Neurology and has a referral from my own doctor. I had a condition which had eluded diagnosis both locally and at a center specializing in that condition…yet all my symptoms pointed to only one diagnosis. What I learned in this scheduling process has been invaluable going forward…and it’s the second primary reason I decided to write this guide.

Neurology is perhaps the one department at Mayo’s that doesn’t appear to operate completely within the Mayo’s high standard of placing the patient’s needs above all others. This may be because the department fields many more appointment requests than it can serve.There’s a very good chance that you won’t get in at all if you request an appointment in the Neurology department.

My Successful Work-Around for the Problem of Scheduling Neurology Appointments

What works a lot better if you know that you need to see neurology is to schedule a physical in the Internal Medicine department instead.  That’s what I did when I was rejected.  My appointment date was set about a month in the future. (The first process for requesting an appointment in Neurology had taken longer than 6 months.) When I arrived I had a complete physical that was more thorough than any I’d ever encountered.  All of my medical concerns were addressed and appointments with additional specialties were scheduled for the following days.  The way these appointments are scheduled and orchestrated is pretty amazing! 

My Internist sent me to a desk with some of my records and after about a 15 minute wait I was given a schedule with a map and directions for the next 2 days of solid back to back appointments.  Every single appointment was perfectly timed so that I had just enough time to get from one to the next and they even left some time for lunch!  The last appointment on my schedule was with the Internist again.  After I completed all of those and met with my Internist a second time, he decided I needed some more tests and I went through the same process again…but this time just for one additional day.  *Then I met with him a third time to discuss results and where to go from there.

*The one little ‘chink in the armor’ (once again) was with Neurology.  While I had all the neurological tests accomplished without any problems, actually meeting with a neurologist to read my results proved to be more difficult.  Neurology actually wanted me to fly home and come back 2 weeks later!  But I wouldn’t take no for an answer this time! I badgered one of the poor, overworked desk staffers until she let me in on a little known secret.

If I was willing to arrive at 7:00 am each morning and sit patiently waiting for some extra time to appear in someone’s schedule, or for a cancellation to arise, then I could be part of a queued walk-in program…I forget what exactly they called this arrangement. But since seeing Neurology  was really my primary reason for being there and I really needed answers, I did exactly that…for 2 or 3 days…I forget the exact details. It turned out that there was a whole group of us patients waiting in this odd arrangement and we’d cover for each other to take breaks, to get food and things like that. I finally got in and once I did the Neurologists I met with couldn’t have been kinder or more helpful. And surprisingly unhurried!

Please heed my warning. The Neurology department is the one exception to the rule that Mayo’s functions as an extraordinarily efficient and well-oiled machine!


If someone from Mayo’s reads this…

please, please…

try to fix this problem!

Δ Δ Δ Δ 

Misconception:  If you visit Mayo’s Clinic as a patient, then you’ll need to continue going there for all your medical care going forward for that particular condition.

  • The Truth

Nothing could be further from the truth…the Doctors at Mayo’s will diagnose your condition and send you back home to your own doctors with a plan.

I’m not entirely sure why there is a reluctance by so many physicians to refer to Mayo’s. Maybe doctor’s fear that Mayo’s is building their amazing reputation by attracting some of the most difficult medical cases in the world and then keeping those patients to treat…as sort of a reverse ‘creme skimming concept?’  But nothing could be further from the truth.  More than likely it has to do,with the fact that most doctors really do become invested in their patient’s outcomes…and it’s very hard to both let go, as well as to realize and/or admit that you’re infallible.

Understanding their true intent and mindset is really important to understanding what Mayo’s is all about…so I’ll elaborate a little more here.

A Little Background About Mayo Clinic’s History

Mayo's Logo

The story of how Mayo’s first began is a somewhat unspectacular one. A young doctor, William Worrall Mayo moved to the area initially because he was asked by Abraham Lincoln to be the local medical examiner for the military during the Civil War.  After the war he liked the area so much that he decided to stay and raise his family there.  Fast forward a few years to when his sons joined him in practice and together they rapidly expanded the size and scope of their practice…an expansion rate which continues to this day.

The other significant event that is responsible for the core structure of Mayo’s is that right after his first son joined him there was a horrific tornado in Rochester that killed many people and injured many more.  A couple of nuns joined the Mayo’s Drs. and several other doctors in treating the injured.  Following that, one very determined nun approached Dr. Mayo Sr. about building a hospital and following an agreement they built St Mary’s hospital together, which became affiliated with the clinic. Shortly thereafter Mayo Sr. retired and several more doctors joined the ranks and together they were the founders of the first integrated group medical practice in the US.

What set this clinic apart was really just good old Midwestern work ethic and values, an intolerance for mediocrity and a model for an integrated medical practice that would operate more efficiently than any before it.

One additional key factor was one of the founding fathers, Henry Plummer.  He held an intense interest in technology and set about to utilize ground breaking technological advances in everything from the design of all of the Mayo Clinic buildings to the environmental equipment they used as well as their medical equipment.  Many years later he took on the role of Chief Engineer and dedicated his focus entirely towards making sure that every step of the way they utilized progressive  technology which served their patients far better than any other clinics of the day.  By insuring that risks such as infection were minimized their patient outcomes began to consistently be better year after year.

At the heart of the practice was the concept of keeping patients needs prioritized above all others.  Just like how really good retailers treat their customers as golden…using the concept that the customer is always right, so too does Mayo’s treat each and every patient as golden…and as deserving of the absolute best level of care that any institution could provide…patient’s needs have always been placed above anything else.

By projecting that as their message, by creating a unique culture for physicians that promotes a collegiality that de-emphasizes competitiveness, and by pursuing excellence on all fronts including patient care and leading research, Mayo’s ultimately created a phenomenon that to date has been impossible to replicate…even by themselves!

In 2008 Dartmouth Conducted a Study to Determine Why Mayo’s in Rochester Outperformed All Other Medical Clinics

Dartmouth conducted a well-known study in 2008 that focused on why Mayo’s in Rochester is so successful, and so far ahead of the curve compared to everyone else. Their main findings confirmed what many suspected all along. That not only were patient outcomes significantly better there than anywhere else in the USA, but that they were also the most efficient in terms of successful outcomes being realized earlier and using fewer resources, resulting in lower costs for both insurers and patients.

But another interesting result of that study was that while Mayo’s success was generally believed to be unparalleled…that wasn’t true. 2 other programs were also highlighted as having exemplary outcomes with high degrees of patient satisfaction coupled with low costs. The 2 programs that were also singled out for excellence were Intermountain Healthcare (IHC) in Utah and the Sutter System hospitals in Sacramento  (see more at the HealthBeat Blog.com article.)

What follows are excerpts from the article referenced above.  Mayo’s founding father, William Worrall Mayo working alongside his sons, William and Charles Mayo, created one of the first group practices in the U.S. back in 1903. So…first, the group practice concept was a new one.  Early on they began attracting some of the finest, most highly skilled providers and researchers in the world to join them. They proved to be a magnet for talent because they offered an environment unlike any other in the US at the time…thanks in part to Dr. Plummer. They focused on collaboration rather than competition (all doctors are salaried and receive the same amount of pay as their peers in their department…regardless of training or seniority…also the salaries tend to be 25% higher than elsewhere) and by striving for success on all fronts…patient satisfaction, economic success (i.e.higest profits to lowest costs) and high satisfaction amongst doctors who believe themselves to hold important roles within an enviable system.

How did they do It?  By building in factors that removed all competitive mindsets. Doctors are salaried and all doctors within a specialty receive the same pay after their first 3 years. The first 3 years are essentially their training period. If, after 3 years, they don’t seem to embrace the collaborative nature necessary they don’t continue on. Although the Dartmouth study also indicated that most physicians figured that out within their first year there. By removing the usual pay incentives that automatically introduce competition rather than cooperation, the stage is set for collegiality.

A Few More Reasons or Situations to Consider Going to Mayo’s

  • When someone is suffering from an illness or condition that is chronic or becoming chronic because their local doctors can’t pin down exactly what’s going on, they should consider going to Mayo’s Rochester.  Call it a 2nd opinion.
  • When someone is suffering from an acute condition that is life threatening or may quickly become life threatening, and their doctors at home are unable to figure out exactly what it is (and are therefore unable to determine how to treat it,) they need to get to Mayo’s ASAP!
  • When someone does have a diagnosis, but it’s a complicated one in which fine distinctions may make significant differences in how to proceed with treatment…they too should go to Mayo’s.
  • My only rule of thumb is this. If my doctor or a routine test discovers something bad or potentially bad…I’ll have 3 additional tests to diagnose or rule things out.  If, after 3 more visits, which are usually with different specialists, no one is father along to the truth…it’s time for me to go to Mayo’s.  Because usually these appointments have been spread out over several weeks and oftentimes months, and getting into Mayo’s isn’t immediate…so by the time I do make it there and finally obtain a diagnosis…more than likely 6 months have passed.  6 months can be a very long time when it comes to certain things such as cancer or matters of the heart.
  • When you do have a diagnosis but your doctors don’t have a good prognosis for you…it’s time to go to Mayo’s.

OK I’m not being completely exhaustive here…I’m sure there are more situations that apply…but common sense should rule and once you’ve  read my whole post, you should be equipped with the tools to use the right kind of common sense in making these decisions.  If you’re still confused…do you see a pattern here?  If you or a loved one is suffering for a medical condition or problem that, in spite of everyone’s best efforts, eludes diagnosing, good information for making decisions, or good treatment alternatives…that is precisely when it is the right time to go to Mayo’s.

Appointment Scheduling Resources

 The Main Patient Phone #

(507) 538-3260

 Mayo’s Clinic in Rochester

When in doubt, call the number above for anything and everything, and you’ll be directed to the right place…but do it during normal business hours.

Some Useful Phone Numbers for

New Patients to Mayo’s


Mayo’s Rochester Executive Health Program

An alternative route for scheduling a first appointment at Mayo’s is to request a physical through their Executive Health Program. Mayo’s was one of the first institutions in the world to offer such a program and its an amazing one. They recently built a whole new facility within the walls of the Mayo complex and its a beautiful space.

My husband and I visited it in 2016 and both had physicals. Our care lived up to Mayo’s highest standards and the concierge service their facility offers was top notch. This spacious, well-appointed facility is a great place to operate from for a busy executive, with amenities like its own lounge which resembles the first class lounges many airlines provide. There is an additional fee for utilizing this premium service, but its well worth it and moderately priced compared to similar executive programs at other large health institutions  in the U.S.


In addition the Executive Program offers some innovative and unique services we wouldn’t have known about otherwise. We were fortunate enough to have them orchestrate a meeting with a genetic counselor and I had genetic testing done for a  familial health condition I have. This information was extremely valuable to us and not something that would have been available  to us locally.

Getting the Lay of the Land

Mayo’s Subway

Mayo Clinic in Rochester has created an extremely patient friendly environment to navigate when people are going to appointments in many different specialties. The most unique aspect of Rochester is something they call the Subway.

The Subway isn’t what you’d normally think of when you think of a subway system.  What the Mayo’s subway actually is, is an underground complex of businesses, hotels, restaurants and of course clinics, connected by an underground tunnel system which is really almost a pedestrian urban city center…similar to those found in China, Australia and Hong Kong (and probably more countries too but those are the ones I remember being impressed with during our travels. It’s really so cool you have to see it to believe it!

The Subway at Mayo Rochester

Where To Stay

There are 2 hotels that connected to the subway that I know of for sure. Both have very good access to Mayo Clinic and you can get there o foot within 5-10 minutes without ever stepping foot outdoors…so these 2 are highly desirable in the wintertime.

In addition to those hotels, there are several more that are connected to the skywalk network….which in turn is connected to the subway.   Further down I’ll attach some maps which should help you identify what those hotels are.

  • The Marriott is where I stayed:
  • 101 1st Avenue SW
  • 1(507)280-6000
  • The Kahler Grand Hotel is where my Dad used to stay for his Lymphoma treatment
  • 20 SW 2nd Street
  • (597)280-6200

Getting There

Rochester has its own airport which is easily accessible. Go to the Rochester Airport Site.   At the airport there’s a desk for all local ground transportation.  But you can also get to that information here.


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Travel Related Links

An Inside Look at Mayo Clinic 2015

Here’s a link to a PDF I made with more information and links to both of the hotels above.

Video Links and Tours

Mayo’s has out together a lot of really helpful videos helping new patients with every aspect of logistics in getting there and getting around.  There’s even a video about the Rochester airport and their shuttle service. Here’s a link to the video page.

Links to A Great Article That Explains the Mayo Culture in More Detail

HeartBeat Blog’s 2008 Post Looks at Mayo’s from 2 Perspectives…a Returning Physician who Left to Work at Columbia in NY and A Dartmouth Study on excellence in healthcare and patient outcomes.


If you’d like to read other’s comments, or leave a comment yourself, please do so by scrolling way down this page…past my bio, past the WordPress ads, and past the Related Posts section…to the little Comment box.u


22 thoughts on “A Patient’s Guide to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota | Debunking Myths About Mayo’s

  1. Chelsea

    I really enjoyed reading *most* of this post. Sorry I didn’t read the whole thing as I have two little ones crawling on me. Anyways, I have recently been denied by the Neurology department at Mayo for chronic nerve pain that I’ve had since a surgery in September 2016. I am going to call Mayo today to find out if I have another option. The pain I have has been diagnosed as two nerves have been compromised, but it’s a confusing thing because I also had an abscess following the surgery. Do you have any tips on how I can better communicate why I am a good candidate for Mayo? I have had no relief from my chronic pain except temporary relief when I got some nerve blocks and one of the nerves essentially frozen (relief lasted two months). I had such a pleasant conversation with a woman on the phone who decided I should try to apply through the Neurology department, which made me quite hopeful, but since my rejection I have been pretty down.


    • I’m so sorry for all your troubles. Truthfully, I know this sounds dumb, but you should schedule a physical in the internal medicine department. That’s always how I get in. The internist doing your physical will then ask you about all your problems and they will manage your schedule and help you to get in to see the specialists that you need to see during your visit there.


  2. Mary (Lisa) Graber

    Hi! I was just denied from Mayo today, 8/5/19. My Pain Dimensions Dr. referred me, along with other Dr.s. I’ve been sent to probably 30 different Dr.s, and no one what’s wrong. I’ve got pain in my right ft, bottom and top. I’ve got pain in my right scapula, shoulder, arm, elbow, hand and some back pain. My records were sent and Mayo told me that there was nothing more they could do then my doctors were doing. My Drs. have no idea what’s wrong. This has been 2yrs. The pain is so severe, that I limit going to my Drs. I lost over 20lbs and weigh around 100lbs. I take Buprenorphine Transdermal Patch( for pain), change every 7 days and Gabapentin, Chlorzoxazone, plus Clonazepam for stress. I have a 10 out of 10+ 24/7. I’ll will probably end up in a wheelchair. The Dr.s in Denver/Boulder don’t know. I’ve even been to the Steadman Clinic in Vail and had nerve blocks and injections. I now just pray I go sleep and stay that way. NO, I don’t believe the Mayo cares.I’ve had so many MRI’s, Ct Scans, a Spect CT, EMG/NCD testing, dry needling, Chrio/massage and physical therapy. I’ve been on so many muscles relaxers with horrific side effects. I want to know what’s wrong with me. Can’t endure the pain and have no life. Please if you have any answers or no how I can get in, please, pleas help. People have told me to just drive up this. This is getting worse a time goes on. HELP I’D REALLY APPRECIATE IT. I hope you look at this. Thank you, Lisa


    • Hi, Thanks for taking the time to comment. I can’t begin to imagine how sort of desolate life must seem right now. I agree 100% getting a diagnosis is critical! The stress of not knowing is horrendous.

      If I were you I’d just call their 800 # and schedule a complete physical for yourself. You may have to wait several months, but you’ll get in. When you do, explain to the Internist why you’re really there. By going the physical route you have the advantage of one person who’s looking out for you, coordinating your care and generally just being a great point of contact.

      Good Luck!
      If you do get in and get a dx it would be great hearing about it.


  3. anonymous

    I needed to read this. I applied for my father and was so excited when they called me to fill out info. Then I received email they would not make appt. I feel heartbroken. I have to help him, and I know they can help.


  4. Virginia A Longway

    Thank you! Have appt for dtr in July. New seizures during pregnancies, nothing for 4 years. New nonfasting glucose of 23. She in denial. Wants to keep working and not take “sick” time.


    • So sorry I didn’t reply sooner. A lot of changes this year at WordPress have sorta goofed me up. I hope you find the answers you need and you have as great of an experience as we have. If I get it published in time, I’ll try to remember to send you the new floor directory I’m working on for Mayo…it could come in handy!

      Also, thanks for taking time to let me know!


  5. Anonymous

    Thank you for a very informative and helpful article. I am a medical professional (Medical Social Worker) and have worked in a large general hospital for 35 years, but Mayo Clinic is unique and your information will be very valuable now that I need their services.


    • Hi, So sorry to hear that. I just went through the general appointment scheduling. I told them that I had been denied in neurology and asked their advice because truly they don’t want to be turning patients away. The person I talked to because my advocate sort of and advised me a few times about the best way to approached things. If I were to do that again and didn’t get someone helpful like that, I would just keep my conversation really short and call back at a different time of day and maybe a different day in hopes of getting a different person.

      Please don’t get discouraged and try my ideas. And let me know the outcome. Especially if nothing works! Good luck.


      • Thank you! My doc is doing a referral. I found someone super helpful and they told me what department’s are pretty packed right now which was a nice hint:). Now we are waiting for the specialists to review my case. I should know by the 1st week of September 🙏🏻🤞🏻.


      • That’s so great! Good luck and I hope your visit there is productive. Remember that if the referral doesn’t work out (because that’s what I did at first, but with a too busy Dept) just schedule a physical and all your needs will be addressed during it.


  6. Anonymous

    I just got denied an appointment at Mayo clinic. I filled out all of the request forms and they sent me a denial in the mail. I’m not sure where to go from here. I have already seen every specialty in my home town (it was too expensive to fly out to Minnesota from Washington, but now it really is my last resort), and I am chronically ill and getting worse. We’re not sure which department I would even need to see, (neurology, probably [ugh] and cardiology) but I need to go. No one here knows what to do with me. Any advice on how to proceed after a denial?


    • Did you talk to anyone or go online to try and request an appointment? I was denied at first few years ago and completely frustrated because I’d been there as a child. My parents told me to call them and I did and they told me to request a physical. I went about a month later for that and the internist immediately got,the ball rolling ordering the right tests and things for me.

      Sometimes getting into one of the specialties…especially neurology can be hard but it you go for a physical they get you in. The other thing to try is getting a referral from your doctor. Or there’s also an executive physical program that costs a little more but I’m certain would get you in…which can be the tough part. It shouldn’t be and I don’t think they intend it to be but I went through exactly the same thing so I understand completely.

      Please don’t give up because it’s worth it. Just keep on trying until you get a foot in the door. And let me know what happens if you can OK? Good luck….I’ll be thinking about you!


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