Mayo Clinic, Our Health Care Super Bowl

Mayo Clinic, Our Health Care Super Bowl

To: Dr. John Noseworthy President and CEO Mayo Clinic 200 First St. SW Rochester, MN 55905

Dear Dr. Noseworthy:

The Mayo Clinic was one of a number of corporate sponsors of Super Bowl LII. In spite of severe weather and temperatures below zero, the Super Bowl set records for average ticket cost and heartfelt accolades. Commentators on radio and television, streaming video and live blogs, people who write letters to the editor of our local newspapers and even golf club members in Naples, Fla., lauded the success: Minnesota and its cadre of willing and effective volunteers can do Super Bowl! You were probably at the game and witnessed this for yourself.

But hosting the Super Bowl is a once-every-25-years event. Mayo Clinic, on the other hand, has celebrated more than 150 years since the original Mayo doctor, Dr. William Worrall Mayo, came to Rochester and opened a medical practice. And from that beginning in 1864, the group medical practice of the Mayo doctors has grown.

Growth indeed! The Mayo Clinic is one of the largest not-for-profit academic health systems in the United States, with revenue in excess of $11 billion per year and over 63,000 employees. Mayo Clinic operates in five states, with major campuses in Rochester, Minn., Jacksonville, Fla., and Scottsdale, Ariz. On an annual basis, Mayo Clinic cares for approximately 1.3 million patients. They come from all 50 states and approximately 140 countries. Mayo is ranked No. 1 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. It is the largest employer in the state of Minnesota.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, for example, could end up owing Minnesota roughly $43,000 in taxes. And he lost.

The contributions Mayo Clinic has made to Minnesota, and to medicine generally, are too numerous to list in detail, but the clinic currently employs more than 3,000 full-time research personnel and spends more than $660 million a year on research. (A list of the 150 most important contributions to medicine by Mayo Clinic can be found at ).

Eradication of goiter (see enlarged thyroid; our region used to be known as part of the goiter belt) was advanced when Mayo Clinic isolated thyroxin, the principle hormone of the thyroid gland, which led to simple drug therapy. In 1950, two Mayo Clinic team members received the Nobel Prize in medicine for their discovery of cortisone. There are many readers of this column who currently benefit from that discovery and its medical application. Hip replacement and, for that matter, joint replacement generally, followed the first FDA-approved total hip replacement in the United States, performed by Mayo Clinic. Mayo established the link between insulin and diabetes, thus becoming one of the very first clinics in the world to treat diabetes with insulin. Mayo Clinic has led research in the development of antihistamines, drugs to treat high blood pressure, and a wide variety of heart operations.

There are various estimates of what economic return that Minnesota, and more particularly Minneapolis, got out of hosting the Super Bowl; various media accounts have ranged from $300 million to $500 million. A hefty tax bill will be due the state from the locals who have profited. Robert Raiola, director of the sports and entertainment group at accounting firm PKF O’Connor Davies, estimated that Patriot quarterback Tom Brady, for example, could end up owing Minnesota roughly $43,000. And he lost.

Mayo Clinic came to the Minnesota Legislature in 2013 and laid out a plan to make Rochester a world-class medical destination—what became known as the Destination Medical Center (DMC). A total of $585 million in state, county and city taxes was allocated for the DMC. The overall plan is a unique 20-year economic development initiative, which leverages the public investment with $5 billion of privately raised funds.

Public investment in DMC is approximately equal to the public investment in U.S. Bank Stadium, the new home of the Minnesota Vikings and host facility of Super Bowl LII. There are those who would argue that public investment in sports stadia is always misplaced. By the same token, there are those who would argue that consolidation of medical practice in this five-state area should not be financed with public monies. But that debate is now over, and in any event misses the point. Smart, focused public investment can enhance the quality of life and the economy of the state.

There are those who argue that football will cease to be a major entertainment, or at least lucrative entertainment, within the next 20 years due to the impact of brain injuries on players. Nobody can predict which entertainment venues will be wildly popular decades from now.

But one can predict that the need for high-quality medical care will continue to grow, not just in this country, but internationally. Minnesota is rightfully regarded as one of the centers for quality medical care, and the success of the DMC and Mayo Clinic will enhance that reputation. Making smart public investments in medical care is one way to guarantee continued growth in our robust economy. Besides, Mayo Clinic’s research into sports injuries, and sports-related brain injuries in particular, may result in better treatment and safer play for professional football players.

Mayo Clinic is our Super Bowl of health care. Its growth and success show that in Minnesota we can do health care, just as the Super Bowl showed that in Minnesota, we can do Super Bowl. tcbmag


Vance K. Opperman
A thankful patient

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Vance K. Opperman ( is owner and CEO of MSP Communications, which publishes Twin Cities Business.

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