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Documentarian Ken Burns stops by Rochester to discuss Mayo Clinic documentary

"A city built on the work of a father and two brothers named Mayo and the clinic named after them," Arlene Francis said when talking about Rochester back in 1956 on her show Home Show.

It was that Clinic that has helped countless lives in its more that 150 year history.

A Clinic that drew the curiosity of one talented story teller.

"We got drawn to this just by wondering: How was it that this place could, with it’s extraordinary history, have done what it’s done," Ken Burns, the award winning filmmaker, said. 

Burns was in town Wednesday to give the people at Mayo a sneak peek at his new documentary.

They also had the opportunity to pick Burns’s brain thanks to a discussion led by Mayo President and CEO Dr. John Noseworthy.

Burns, who comes to Mayo from time to time, was just blown away by some of the stories that happen there every day.

"These are not exceptional stories, they’re actually the rule and we want to figure out what kind of place in which these, anywhere else these exceptional stories, are commonplace," Burns said.

His focus was mostly on history, and not the modern-day developments of the clinic.

In some instances, he jumps back to the present, to highlight when life changing things happened.

But he didn’t want to touch on the issues the Clinic is facing now-a-days, like the consolidation of services in Austin and Albert Lea.

He says that’s not his job.

"I’m in the history business and that means we have to, kind of, put on our breaks about 25 or 30 years out," Burns said. "This is still a story for journalists."

But he also says, while he has much respect for Mayo Clinic and the people he’s met there, his film isn’t meant as a positive PR piece.

"None of us intended to make a Valentine or wet kiss to Mayo Clinic, we need to be critical thinkers and critical filmmakers and so I imagine there might be something that might make people squirm," Burns said.

However, that shouldn’t take away from the good the Clinic does.

"The end result is something that everybody here should be extraordinarily proud of," Burns said.


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