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Ken Burns’ Mayo Clinic documentary premiere screening

Ken Burns, the award-winning documentarian, has explored some of America’s most defining events over the course of his career creating wide-ranging documentaries like "The Civil War", "Jazz", and "Baseball."

His latest film "The Mayo Clinic: Faith, Hope, Science" had its premiere screening Monday in the Taylor Arena at Mayo Civic Center. 

About 5,000 people were the first to watch the full two-hour documentary learning the story behind the number one hospital in the United States.

"I’m always looking for stories that are ultimately utterly American and this is as good as it gets," said Burns.

Burns, a Mayo patient himself, explores the Clinic’s 150-Year History and its patient-first model. 

The film tells the story of William Worrall Mayo, an English immigrant who began practicing medicine with his sons Will and Charlie in Rochester, Minnesota.

Segments paid tribute to the Franciscan sisters who treat Mayo patients, starting with the tornado that swept through Rochester, a pivotal tragedy that led to the world-famous hospital today.

"When I came here I was just so impressed with how it was run and how it was founded, and the unique partnership between the sisters of Saint Francis and Dr. Mayo and his two sons."

Dr. John Noseworthy, Mayo Clinic president and CEO said the board of trustees had no editorial control over the documentary and handed Burns’ team archived footage and photos. 

"Their body of work is outstanding, we are very very honored," said Dr. Noseworthy.

"We’ve been into the operating room, we’ve been into dusty archives that have old photographs, we’ve been able to speak with many of the sisters in their 80s or 90s who witnessed a good deal of the history of the Mayo Clinic," said Burns.

Among a number of patients and staff who were interviewed were the Dalai Lama, the late Senator John McCain, and sister Generose Gervais. 

One story featured in the film Burns says still moves him to his core is the Minnesota Orchestra associate concertmaster who plays on his violin during brain surgery so doctors could gauge the correct placement of electrodes to eliminate a career-threatening tremor.

"We’re so lucky to be in Rochester, Minnesota, this is for them, this is their story too," said Noseworthy.

The two-hour Mayo Clinic documentary executive-produced by Ken Burns and directed by Erik Ewers and Christopher Loren Ewon will premier on PBS September 25 at 8 p.m. and September 26 at 9 p.m.

The Emmy-award winning documentarian is working on other documentaries including the history of country music, Muhammad Ali, and the Civil Rights movement. 


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