Leading Medical Innovation at Mayo Clinic, Minnesota's Patient Care Extraordinaire

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When you think of Minnesota - specifically in the context of healthcare and medical innovation - what comes to mind? I'd be willing to bet, 10 times out of 10, the Mayo Clinic is the first thing. If not first, definitely second. 

With innovative and humble roots in Rochester, Minnesota, the Mayo Clinic's story began in 1863 when Dr. William Worrall Mayo established a clinic to examine army recruits. In the 1880's his two sons joined the practice. As they grew they continued to welcome doctors and researchers that complemented their skills to their team, establishing an unprecedented teamwork approach to medicine. They built a strong foundation on talented practitioners, innovative medical advancements, and a commitment to research and education. Today, "more than one million people receive care at Mayo Clinic locations each year, and millions more benefit from innovations and discoveries that provide answers, healing and hope."

Minnesota Medical - Patient Care

150+ Years of Exceptional Patient Care & Counting

And yet, it seems as though the Mayo Clinic story is only just beginning. With a focus on innovation and a relentless commitment to enhanced patient care and experience, the Mayo's perpetual journey continues. Playing a vital role in this admirable trek is Mark Wehde, the chair of the Mayo Clinic Division of Engineering. 

We are a small but influential part of Mayo Clinic creating hope for our patients through the development of novel devices and technologies. Everything we do, we do to change the patient experience by providing solutions that help our healthcare teams better care for our patients.

- Mark Wehde

In the midst of leading this charge that continues to put the Mayo Clinic and Minnesota on the map, he shared his perspectives on driving medical innovations in both of these entities. 

Making a Home at Minnesota's Medical Marvel

Mark-Wehde_PHOTO-scaledFor very good reason, the Mayo Clinic is on many professionals' career bucket-list, and that includes Mark Wehde's. With his own roots in the Midwest, and a degree from one of the then few biomedical engineering schools, he was elated to find a professional home at the Mayo Clinic. (Truly a home, as his career at the Mayo encompasses parts of 5 decades.)

"Mayo Clinic is the only academic healthcare organization with an embedded professional engineering group that I have been able to find. Not a research group, not a university group with students, but a dedicated applied engineering group focused on the innovation and development of solutions to unsolved problems," said Mark. 

Throughout his career, Mark has helped bring some incredible medical innovations to the care teams at the Mayo - as well as the wider healthcare industry. This Engineering team he now leads, originally founded in 1948, played a significant role in the development of the first commercial heart lung machine under the direction of his mentor, Jim Isaacson. During his time on the team, and now at the helm, they've engineered a wide variety of products and technologies for many specialties. Here's a very short list to serve as examples:

  • PDP-11 (Programmed Data Processor) Based Data Acquisition and Storage Systems + Supporting Hardware, pre-Sun Systems & PCs 
  • Novel Telemedicine Devices for Remote Care, pre-cloud and remote care capabilities used today
  • Dozens of Surgical Instruments
  • Mission Critical Systems for Supporting Cardiac Overview Monitoring of Patients after moving out of the ICU
  • Systems that direct and manage flow of staff through the hundreds of operating suites

As tools and technology continue to evolve, so do the capabilities of engineers. And, those that call the Mayo Clinic home are some of the very best, working collectively to enhance patient care tools and technology.

Patient First, Now & Always

The founding fathers, Dr. Will and Charlie Mayo, believed by providing the best care possible for their patients and making decisions with the patient in mind, everything else would fall into place. Every Mayo Clinic employee knows this primary value. For Mark's engineering team, it provides the guidance to create meaningful solutions that enhance patient care and experiences. 

It reminds us that as much as we love the latest technology, it doesn't mean anything unless we can use it to create something useful. This plays very nicely into the engineering mindset. We aren't scientists. We aren't looking for knowledge for knowledge's sake (though I am a huge supporter of basic science research). For our team, knowledge is useful when it can be applied to solve a problem.

- Mark Wehde

All Mayo Clinic employees work to serve the patient. And, as a non-profit organization, every dollar made is reinvested to fund teams, initiatives, and ideas that do just that. For the engineering team, over the years this has included product development; this team delivers dozens of usable products to the Mayo Clinic staff each year.

Recently, an enhanced focus has been placed on product discovery as they work to support the innovation goals outlined in the Mayo Clinics 2030 'Bold.Forward.' strategy. According to Dr. Gianrico Farrugia, President and CEO of Mayo Clinic, 'Bold.Forward.' plans aim "to cure more patients, to connect people and data, to create new scalable knowledge, and to transform health care through our unique Mayo Clinic platform."  This has created opportunities for the engineering team to collaborate with the clinical innovation, business development, and Mayo Clinic Ventures teams. 

Needless to say, I think we can continue to expect quality care enhancements from the brilliant minds of Mayo employees. 

The Healthcare Hub

The Mayo Clinic, a healthcare hub in and of itself, plays a role in making Minnesota one of the top three healthcare hubs in the United States (alongside Silicon valley and the Boston area). 

Minnesota is home to some of the world's best healthcare institutions. Additionally, the Medical Alley community is home to some of the worlds leading medical device companies. Add to this a very robust set of colleges and universities - led by the University of Minnesota and strong surrounding schools from the Dakotas, Wisconsin, and Iowa - providing us with a highly educated pool of new employees with a strong mid-western work ethic and you have a recipe for success.

- Mark Wehde

The Mayo Clinic draws in patients seeking treatment, best-in-class physicians prepared to heal, curious researchers searching for answers, engineers designing solutions, and so much more. They, alongside a whole host of other medical organizations and institutions, put Minnesota on the map as a destination for excellence in healthcare delivery and innovation. "There really isn't a better place for anyone interested in the field of healthcare technology, or even healthcare in general," Mark said. 

Minnesota Medical - Mayo Clinic

Much like the Mayo Clinic's successful and revolutionary integrated healthcare approach, Minnesota aims to provide an integrated business ecosystem to support the growth and prosperity of medical companies. Talent - Tech - Economy - Resources - Suppliers - Recreational Activities - And more make Minnesota a superior place to provide and strive for healthcare and medical greatness. Another perpetual journey.

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Special thanks to Mark Wehde for sharing his time and insights with us, as a Minnesota leader and innovator in the medical industry. Thanks for all you do.