The 50 best Mayo Clinic doctors. Ever.

The Mayo Clinic.

While it bears the name of its founders, Mayo’s worldwide reputation is not tied inextricably to them. Instead, it rests upon countless physicians who have worked there over time.

Yesterday, my colleague Brandon Glenn ran a list of the best Cleveland Clinic doctors in history. Below is a top 50 list from a slightly more storied healthcare institution. You’ll notice a bit of a contrast: Having been born in a country whose history dates back several centuries to 3300 B.C., I have particular respect and appreciation for history. That is why my top 10 contains only those long-departed who have become legends for their contributions to healthcare.

Beyond the top 10, luminaries still abound, but there are also some who you might not think of immediately. They are those whose contributions have been lasting because they have become entirely routine.

The Mayo Clinic.

While it bears the name of its founders, Mayo’s worldwide reputation is not tied inextricably to them. Instead, it rests upon countless physicians who have worked there over time.

Yesterday, my colleague Brandon Glenn ran a list of the best Cleveland Clinic doctors in history. Below is a top 50 list from a slightly more storied healthcare institution. You’ll notice a bit of a contrast: Having been born in a country whose history dates back several centuries to 3300 B.C., I have particular respect and appreciation for history. That is why my top 10 contains only those long-departed who have become legends for their contributions to healthcare.

Beyond the top 10, luminaries still abound, but there are also some who you might not think of immediately. They are those whose contributions have been lasting because they have become entirely routine. There are educators who have imparted their skill and knowledge to thousands of students who practice all over the world. And then there are current physicians working tirelessly to solve the medical conundrums of today.

Of course, feel free to re-rank my list and add or subtract any way you please and send them to us @medcitynews on Twitter or comment below.

1. William James Mayo and Charles Horace Mayo (tie)

The Mayo Clinic might have never been established had the Mayo brothers not joined their father’s medical practice in the late 1880s after they each completed medical school.

The two, along with other partners who joined the Clinic in later years, pioneered the model for an integrated, multi-specialty group practice that has been amply copied but rarely matched. Both served their country during World War I and were honored for their distinguished service.

Both were excellent surgeons, with William specializing in surgery of the abdomen, pelvis and kidneys, while Charles was somewhat of a generalist. He was known to have pioneered procedures in several clinical areas that included thyroid, neurological, cataract and orthopedic surgery.

“Dr. Will” apparently also had a sense of humor. A story goes that an unsatisfied patient accosted him and asked whether he was the head doctor. He reportedly said, “I am the belly doctor. My brother Charlie is the head doctor.”

The two brothers died within months of each other in 1939.

3. John Kirklin

Kirklin developed the first commercial heart-lung bypass machine and refined the design of the original heart-lung machine invented by John Gibbon. In fact, Kirklin’s machine came to be known as the Gibbon-Mayo heart-lung machine.

The device represented a major accomplishment in open-heart surgery because it made it possible to use the bypass machine routinely.

For years, Kirklin was the chair of Mayo Clinic’s Department of Surgery before he left to assume a similar position at the University of Alabama School of Medicine.

4. Henry Plummer

Plummer, an internist and endocrinologist, and an early partner of the Mayo brothers, was equal parts physician and inventor.

He created the first medical record that contained the details of each patient’s history that could be easily accessed and shared by multiple doctors. It later became the model for patient records.

But Plummer’s contributions were not limited to the medical record alone. He designed several buildings and developed the pneumatic tube delivery system through which medical charts and other information could be physically transported within the Clinic.

5. Edward Kendall and Dr. Philip Hench (tie)

Plummer recognized the importance of diagnostic and research labs, but it was Drs. Edward Kendall (seated in the above photo) and Phillip Hench (far right) whose research activity won the duo, along with Swiss chemist Tadeus Rachstein, the prestigious Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1950.

The work involved the identification of cortisone, and the Nobel committee picked them for their “discoveries relating to the hormones of the adrenal cortex, their structure and biological effects.” Later, Merck became the first company to mass-produce cortisone.

Cortisone is now used most commonly to counter inflammation in patients suffering from arthritis.


7. Louis Wilson

Wilson was the chief of pathology and is remembered for developing a rapid way to diagnose and analyze microscopic specimens through what is known as frozen section procedure.

He used quick-frozen tissue sections stained with methylene blue, which enabled surgeons to explore, diagnose and repair in a single procedure.

Although Wilson was not the first to use the frozen section technique for intraoperative diagnosis, it was the publication of his technique in 1905 that led to its widespread use in modern medicine.


8. Earl Wood

Wood’s contribution to science and medicine is manifold. He is known for helping in the the development of the G-suit in the United States.

With a team assembled at the Clinic, Wood studied the impact of gravitational force on military pilots at the behest of the U.S. military. Wood himself got into the centrifuge to get an idea of what the effects of G-force were and how to mitigate them. He also tested equipment inside the planes.

But the G-suit is not Wood’s only claim to fame. He also helped in the development of the first human diagnostic catheterization, as well as modified an aircraft air pressure gauge into an instrument that subsequently became the standard method for measuring arterial blood pressure.


9. William Feldman and H. Corwin Hinshaw (tie)

Feldman, a veterinarian and researcher, was the first to test streptomycin on animals, which ultimately became the first drug to treat tuberculosis successfully. Streptomycin was the first anti-microbial drug to be developed after penicillin. Feldman and Hinshaw jointly worked on the first clinical trials using the drug on tuberculosis patients at the Mayo Clinic.

Feldman obtained the small quantities of streptomycin by traveling to Rutgers University and requesting it from Dr. Selman Waksman, whose assistant had developed it, although it hadn’t been medically tested yet.

Later, Hinshaw moved to California and continued his distinguished career at the Stanford Medical School. He was invited by the government to attend the Sixth All Union Congress on Tuberculosis held in Moscow in 1957. In 1990, Hinshaw received the Mayo Foundation Distinguished Alumnus Award.

11. John Shepherd. Shepherd is a giant in the field of cardiovascular physiology and remembered for improving the understanding of how blood flows and is regulated. Irish by birth, he came to Mayo on a Fulbright Scholarship before moving to the U.S. permanently in 1957. Aside from his contribution in medicine, Shepherd played a crucial role in education as well, including making Mayo a degree-granting institution.

12. Robert Waller. Waller was the CEO of the Clinic for 11 years and was inducted into the Health Care Hall of Fame. Well regarded as a leader and strategic thinker, Waller was responsible for transforming the Clinic into a national healthcare system. It was under his stewardship that the nonprofit organization transformed into a $3.5 billion multistate healthcare and research behemoth, up from $340 million.

13. John Lundy. Lundy was an anesthesiologist credited for creating the first blood bank in America when he stored “citrated blood in an ice box” for up to 14 days. He also was the first to establish a post-anesthesia recovery room.

14. Raymond Pruitt. Pruitt, a cardiologist, deserves mention for his contribution to medical education. He had several stints at the Mayo Clinic, one of which was as director of education for the Mayo Foundation and director of Mayo Graduate School of Medicine. He also played an important role in making medical education available to undergraduates and became the founding dean of the Mayo Medical School in 1970.

15. Mark Coventry. Coventry performed the first total hip replacement operation in the U.S. in 1969 using methyl methacrylate. But aside from performing this novel procedure, Coventry is also credited for developing one of the most comprehensive databases on joint replacements in the world. The Mayo Clinic Joint Replacement Database is a treasure trove of information that contains details of every knee, hip, shoulder, wrist, ankle, finger and elbow procedure since Coventry’s first arthroplasty back in 1969.

16. Suzanne Ildstad. Ildstad’s reputation is grounded in research, especially in the field of bone marrow and solid organ transplants. Ildstad turned many heads when she transplanted the bone marrow of a baboon into an HIV positive patient with mixed success — the patient rejected the bone marrow, but the virus could barely be detected a year later.

17. David Dahlin. Dahlin was renowned for his work as a surgical pathologist, especially with respect to bone tumors. He delved deep into the study of all bone tumors ever to be diagnosed at the Clinic and assiduously kept track of all the details by entering information into 4-by-6 index cards.

18. Irwin Schatz. Schatz is the only physician who raised questions about the ethics of the controversial The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male, in which poor, rural African-American men were part of a study to see how syphilis progressed if left untreated. Schatz sent a letter to the study author and later a reporter discovered it and media attention followed, which lead to important changes regarding patient protection in clinical studies.

19. Frank Krusen. Krusen was among a handful of physicians responsible for ensuring that physical medicine and rehabilitation be considered a medical specialty. He established the first Department of Physical Medicine at Mayo in 1936. Krusen received an award from President Dwight D. Eisenhower for his contribution to the “employment welfare to the physically handicapped.”

20. Frank Mann. Mann, director of experimental medicine at the Mayo Clinic, studied and performed heart transplantations long before human heart transplants were even considered. He did them believing that “his dog findings might eventually be of practical use in the future management of patients.”

21. Richard Weilshilboum. Given our pill-popping culture, knowing how a drug responds to individual genetic make up is invaluable. One of the leaders in the field of pharmacogenomics and individualized medicine is Richard Weilshilboum, who was approached by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences in the 1990s to chair a task force charged with charting the “best way to use the new genomic knowledge to accelerate and translate the genetics of drug response to the bedside.”

22. Thoralf Sundt. Sundt was a brain surgeon who made significant contributions to microsurgery of the cerebrovascular system, including the development of aneurysm clips. Despite being afflicted with bone marrow cancer, he continued his work at the Clinic and even performed surgery on President Ronald Reagan.

23. Russell Wilder. Wilder had a long career at the Clinic with special focus on diabetes. Before insulin was discovered, he sought to manage the disease through diet control. But after Fredrick Banting and his team discovered insulin, Wilder became part of a “small committee of experts” invited to Toronto to devise its clinical review. He won the Banting Medal awarded by the American Diabetes Association for his contribution to treating diabetes.

24. C. Anderson Aldrich. Aldrich came to Mayo Clinic in 1944 to oversee the Rochester Child Health Institute and was involved in reviewing “the health and emotional development of Rochester children from birth on in attempts to understand physical, mental and emotional growth.” He received the Lasker Award for “outstanding contributions to the education of physicians in the psychological aspects of the practice of medicine.”

25. Nicholas LaRusso. Mayo’s history is steeped in innovation. LaRusso is carrying that torch as the medical director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation by reimagining healthcare through eConsults and redesigning exam rooms. He founded CFI in 2008 and did something unexpected: hired full-time designers.

26. F. Raymond Keating. Keating is recognized for his research into hyperparathyroidism — “both its diagnosis, which is considered to be difficult, and its treatment.” He also found ways to get patients suffering from the malady well enough to endure surgery, the only real solution to the condition.

27. Eugene Kern. Kern is not only a respected educator, but also one of the best rhinologic surgeons worldwide. He has contributed greatly to the understanding of rhinologic diseases and is an ear, nose and throat expert. He is a recipient of Mayo’s Distinguished Alumnus Award.

28. Paul O’Leary. O’Leary was a famous dermatologist and syphilologist in whose honor and memory Mayo alumni created a society — one among a handful at the Mayo Clinic. O’Leary was also a doctor to Lou Gehrig, the famous baseball player.

29. Michael Hutton. Hutton is the only nonphysician to make this list. Research of Alzheimer’s disease got a big boost when Hutton, a neurobiologist, and his team collaborated with others at the University of Minnesota to create the first transgenic mice afflicted with the condition. That mouse model has been licensed to major pharmaceutical companies and is available to academics for free.

30. Denis Cortese. Considered to be one of the most influential physician-executives, Cortese was president and CEO of the Mayo Clinic before retiring in 2009. He drove many innovations in his tenure at the helm of the Clinic, including the use of new discoveries in genomics to develop patient-focused treatment plans. Cortese, who consulted with the White House when framing the tenets of healthcare reform, has also been outspoken in advocating for a system that rewards value instead of the volume of services rendered to a patient.

31. Lawrence Riggs and L. Joseph Melton III (tie). Riggs, a Distinguished Mayo Alumnus, and L. Joseph Melton, made great strides in bone research when they published data that showed the financial implications of osteoporosis, which at the time was not even considered a disease.

33. Kendall Lee. Lee has developed the Wireless Instantaneous Neurotransmitter Concentration System (WINCS) that can monitor and record electrical and chemical reactions in the brain with the hope of using deep brain stimulation to treat Parkinson’s disease, tremor, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and epilepsy.

34. Glen Hartman. A prominent radiologist and head of Mayo’s radiology department, Hartman was also the founder and head of Mayo Medical Ventures (now part of Mayo Clinic Health Solutions), apparently the Clinic’s first entrepreneurial venture. He won the prestigious gold medal of the American Roentgen Ray Society posthumously in 1990.

35. Ananda Basu and Yogish Kudva (tie). Drs. Basu and Kudva are engaged in developing an artificial pancreas that one day would make diabetics free from the pain of regular pricks and daily insulin monitoring and intake. The two endocrinologists hope that the artificial pancreas can deliver insulin automatically and can be customized for each patient.

37. Deborah Rhodes. Rhodes is the only other woman on this list. She has found a molecular breast imaging technology that is far more accurate than the standard mammogram, but believes politicization of screening tests have barred the technology from becoming more widely available.

38. Shahbudin Rahimtoola. Rahimtoola, a former Mayo cardiologist, is credited with discovering “hibernating myocardium” where some portions of the myocardium show “abnormal contractile function.” Rahimtoola is a recognized coronary expert and the winner of awards, including one from the European Society of Cardiology.

39. Chris Johnson. Johnson is a former director of pediatric critical care service and professor of pediatrics at Mayo Clinic and Mayo Foundation. But aside from caring for children seeking intensive care, Johnson is also a blogger and author of several parenting books, including “How to Talk to Your Child’s Doctor: A Handbook for Parents.”

40. Charles Moertel. Moertel was internationally renowned as a gastrointestinal cancer researcher. It was under his leadership as director of the Mayo Cancer Center that the National Institutes of Health approved it as a comprehensive cancer center.

41. James Priestley. One of the early collaborators of Charles and William Mayo, Priestley, internationally known surgeon, stood out also for his contribution to Mayo’s effort in World War II and led the unit stationed at Finschhafen near New Guinea. He also performed the first-ever successful pancreatectomy.

42. Guillermo Ruiz-Arguelles. The current president of the International Society of Hematology, Ruiz-Arguelles, is also a Mayo Distinguished Alumnus. Ruiz-Arguelles won the award for his contribution to how leukemia, lymphoma and aplastic anemia can be managed.

43. Robert Kyle. Kyle, a physician-researcher and educator, has distinguished himself in the field of multiple myeloma research. Winner of numerous awards, Kyle also has the singular honor of an award named after him that was established by the International Myeloma Foundation.

44. Peter Hauri. Hauri was the director of the Mayo Clinic Insomnia Program and co-director of Mayo’s Sleep Disorders Center. Considered a pioneer in sleep research and one of the founders of Sleep Research Society, he also wrote a popular book, “No More Sleepless Nights.”

45. Claude Deschamps. Deschamps is chair of the Department of Surgery and has twice been recognized for Excellence in Teaching at the Mayo Medical School. His specialty is in general thoracic surgery.

46. Donald Balfour. Balfour was a revered gastroenterlogical surgeon and the second director of the Mayo Foundation For Medical Education and Research. His awards included the Distinguished Service Award of the American Medical Association, the Friedenwald Medal of the American Gastrolenterological Association and the President’s Certificate of Merit for his service to the Army during World War II.

47. Samuel Haines. Haines was chairman of the board of governors and took the hitherto revolutionary step of announcing a change of policy in 1956 by which the Clinic began to accept and ask for outside funds to support research. Haines noted: “It would be unfortunate if we were to limit our research productiveness only in order to maintain our pride in this accomplishment.

48. John Stobo. Stobo, senior vice president at University of California, office of the president, is a Distinguished Mayo Alumnus honored for his contribution to the field of academic health centers. He has spent 40 years in the field serving at several institutions such as the University of Texas system in Galveston and later at Johns Hopkins in Maryland.

49. Russell Carman. Carman was a prominent radiologist and former chair of Mayo’s Section of Roentgenology (now known as Radiology). He is remembered for his contributions in the field of radiology of the gastrointestinal tract.

50. Christopher Chute. What’s in a name? Well, in medicine the name of a condition and its precise diagnosis is key to correct treatment. Chute, a biomedics informatics expert, is leading a World Health Organization effort to properly classify and define diseases so that there is no confusion in medical literature.