From humble beginnings to a center of medical excellence

Once an agrarian state on the Western frontier of an expanding United States, Minnesota has grown to be at the forefront of medical science. With its renowned Mayo Clinic and its “Medical Alley,” the state has become a great center of medical innovation. It has a venerable track record of improving the health and well-being of countless people from all over the world.

Late in the summer of 1883, a tornado destroyed the town of Rochester, Minnesota. In the aftermath of that storm, local physicians and religious leaders came together to set up a makeshift hospital to treat the storm’s victims. The partnership, born of necessity in the wake of tragedy, was the impetus for what eventually became known as Mayo Clinic.

From those humble beginnings in a small Minnesota town, Mayo Clinic has grown into one of the largest and most important medical research institutions in the world. Over the years, it has contributed to countless advancements in medical science, including to the Nobel Prize–winning research leading to the discovery of the anti-inflammatory medication cortisone.

Mayo Clinic is ranked as the Number 1 hospital in the country by U.S. News & World Report and is considered to be one of the top five places to receive specialized care in 16 areas, including cardiac care and cancer treatment.

From heads of state to ordinary citizens, people from all over the world come to Mayo Clinic in the hopes of receiving lifesaving and state-of-the-art treatments.

Today, Mayo Clinic employs more than 65,000 people across multiple locations within the United States and spends more than $660 million per year on medical research.

Inventors and pioneers

The history of medical innovation in Minnesota is more than just the history of Mayo Clinic, however. Minnesotans were the first to successfully perform lifesaving procedures such as open-heart surgery and organ transplants.

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The area encompassing Minneapolis, St. Paul, Rochester and several other cities in central Minnesota, now known as Medical Alley, is the birthplace of the medical device industry. Minnesotans working in Medical Alley gave us the implantable pacemaker, the prosthetic heart valve and the in-ear hearing aid, among countless other innovations.

Medical Alley continues to innovate today. Nearly 700 medical device companies have operations in the area, and it is home to 17 Fortune 500 companies, employing more than 125,000 people and generating almost $500 million in annual investment in 2016.

The area is at the epicenter of digital health technologies, with companies improving medical services across the board. In fact, as of 2016, Medical Alley has had more patent applications and grants per 100,000 people than anywhere else in the world, resulting in the area being named the Number 1 innovation cluster for health-information technology in the world.

This article was written by freelance writer Wesley Thompson.