Latest Ken Burns film focuses on the history of the Mayo Clinic


TED SIMONS: THE LATEST EFFORT FROM DOCUMENTARY FILM-MAKER KEN BURNS LOOKS AT THE STORY OF THE MAYO CLINIC, A WORLD-CLASS MEDICAL INSTITUTION FOUNDED BY A COUNTRY DOCTOR AND A GROUP OF NUNS BACK IN 1883. HERE'S A CLIP FROM THE DOCUMENTARY.
CHARLIE MAYO: WHEN I WAS TEN YEARS OLD, FATHER WAS REMOVING AN OVARIAN TUMOR. HE CALLED ME IN, AND I STOOD ON A BOX AND GAVE THE CHLOROFORM WHILE WILL, WHO WAS JUST 14 YEARS OLD, HELPED WITH THE OPERATION. CHARLIE MAYO.
JUDITH HARTZELL: FROM THE TIME THEY WERE LITTLE BOYS, WHEN W.W. WENT TO VISIT PATIENTS IN THE COUNTRY, WILL AND CHARLIE CAME ALONG WITH THEIR FATHER ON THE BUGGY. THIS BUGGY BECAME A TRAVELING SCHOOL ROOM FOR THE BOYS. HE ENCOURAGED THE BOYS TO OBSERVE AND THEN HE WOULD POSE PROBLEMS.
NARRATOR: WILL AND CHARLIE BEGAN THEIR MEDICAL CAREERS SWEEPING FLOORS AND WASHING WINDOWS IN THEIR FATHER'S OFFICE. EVENTUALLY HE WOULD TAKE THEM ON HOUSE CALLS AND LET THEM HELP CARE FOR PATIENTS. AT DAY'S END, THEY WOULD SIT TOGETHER AND DISCUSS WHAT THEY HAD SEEN. LOUISE ALSO HELPED, ASSISTING WITH SURGERIES, TREATING INJURIES AND COUNSELING PATIENTS WHO SHOWED UP WHEN HER FATHER WAS AWAY. CHARLIE WOULD SAY, THE BIGGEST THING WILL AND I DID WAS TO PICK THE FATHER AND MOTHER WE HAD. BOTH BOYS WOULD GO ON TO MEDICAL SCHOOL. THE OLDER WILL AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN AND CHARLIE AT NORTHWESTERN.
TED SIMONS: JOINING US NOW ARE THE CO-DIRECTORS OF "THE MAYO CLINIC: FAITH HOPE AND SCIENCE." WE WELCOME CHRIS EWERS, HE'S WORKED ON A NUMBER OF KEN BURNS DOCUMENTARIES INCLUDING THE VIETNAM MINI-SERIES. AND HIS BROTHER ERIK EWERS, WHO'S WORKED WITH KEN BURNS FOR ALMOST 30 YEARS IN A VARIETY OF ROLES INCLUDING EDITOR, DIRECTOR AND PRODUCER. GOOD TO HAVE YOU BOTH HERE. THANKS FOR JOINING US. THIS LOOKS GOOD ALREADY. JUST WHAT WE SAW, WHY IS THE MAYO CLINIC DOCUMENTARY WORTHY?
CHRIS EWERS: IT'S DEFINITELY THE HISTORY. WHEN KEN APPROACHED US ABOUT THE PROJECT, WE KNEW LITTLE ABOUT IT OTHER THAN ITS REPUTATION. HE QUICKLY TOLD US ABOUT THE HISTORY, ABOUT HIS EXPERIENCES THERE. HE FIRST WENT TO THE CLINIC AND WAS INVITED TO DINNER. AMONGST THE SURGEONS AND OTHERS AT THE DINNER, HE WAS SITTING NEXT TO A 90-YEAR-OLD NUN. SHE BECAME FAMILIAR WITH THE HISTORY AND THE STORY OF THE RELATIONSHIP.
TED SIMONS: THAT'S THE FIRST TIME I HAVE HEARD OF THAT PARTICULAR ASPECT OF IT. WHO WAS WILLIAM WARL MAYO?

ERIK EWERS: HE'S THE FATHER. AS HE WOULD SAY, I STARTED IT ALL, BASICALLY, HE RAISED HIS SON'S WILL AND CHARLIE THROUGH THE CIVIL WAR INTO THE '80S AND '90S, AND HE TAUGHT THEM A VALUABLE LESSON ABOUT MORALITY. THEY BASICALLY CARRIED IT FORTH FROM THERE. WHEN HE RETIRED AND THEY CONTINUED WITH THE MAYO CLINIC.
TED SIMONS: HIS CREEDO WAS THE NEED OF THE PATIENTS COME FIRST.
ERIK EWERS: YES. IF WE HAVE LEARNED ONE THING ABOUT THE MAYO CLINIC, THEIR HISTORY IS APPLIED TODAY. THAT'S WHY WE ARE FASCINATED WITH IT. WE WALKED AROUND, WE HAD BEEN THERE THREE YEARS FILMING AND WORKING ON THE PROJECT. CLEARLY, THE NEEDS OF THE PATIENT COME FIRST.
TED SIMONS: WAS IT A TEAM APPROACH ORIGINALLY? DID THAT DEVELOP OVER TIME BECAUSE THE COLLABORATIVE FEATURE OF THE MAYOR CLINIC IS LEGENDARY.
CHRIS EWERS: YEAH IT CAME AROUND QUICKLY, AROUND THE TIME THEIR FATHER RETIRED, THEY REALIZED THEY NEEDED LARGER INFRASTRUCTURE, DOING MOSTLY SURGERY. INTERNIST THEY DID DIAGNOSTIC WORK, DECIDED WHO WAS FIT FOR SURGERY AND WHO WASN'T, TRIED TO ROOT OUT THE DISEASE. THAT WAS THE BEGINNING OF IT.
TED SIMONS: NOW, IF YOU GO IN WITH A TOOTH ACHE YOU HAVE 14 DOCTORS LOOKING TO BE SURE IT'S OKAY.
CHRIS EWERS: HE SAID IF I HAVE A PROBLEM WITH A PATIENT'S TREATMENT, THERE ARE 2400 OTHER SURGEONS BEHIND ME THAT CAN STEP IN AND HELP OUT WITH THE PATIENT. IT'S A COLLABORATIVE TEAM BASED APPROACH TO EVERYTHING.
TED SIMONS: AS FAR AS WHAT YOU LEARNED, WHAT SURPRISED YOU? THE RESEARCH, THREE YEAR OF RESEARCH. SOMETHING MUST HAVE COME UP.
ERIK EWERS: MANY THINGS SURPRISED US. THE HISTORY IN AND OF ITSELF WAS SURPRISING. WE KNEW NOTHING ABOUT THE MAYO CLINIC. WE ARE FROM THE EAST COAST. WHEN KEN ASKED US, YES, WE WOULD LOVE TO DO THE MAYOR CLINIC WITH YOU. WHAT’S THE MAYO CLINIC, WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT? WHAT SURPRISED ME MOST IS HOW EFFICIENT IT IS. NOT IN THE DOOR OUT THE DOOR, BUT EVERYTHING MOVES SEAMLESSLY. IN THE FILM, ARTHUR SAID IT BEST, THEY ARE FAMOUS FOR ENGINEERING SYSTEMS OF PRACTICING MEDICINE THAT ALL ARE GEARED TOWARD THE PATIENT.
TED SIMONS: ARE THOSE BEST PRACTICES FOR OTHERS TO FOLLOW. WHY ARE THERE NOT MORE HOSPTAL HEALTH GROUPS DOING WHAT THE MAYO CLINIC DOES?
CHRIS EWERS: IT'S A GREAT QUESTION. IT'S ALSO ONE OF THE QUESTIONS THAT THE FILM BEGS. IT WAS CREATED OUT OF A VOID FOR ALL INTENTS AND PURPOSES. IT WAS ESTABLISHED IN ROCHESTER, MINNESOTA ORIGINALLY, IT WAS FRONTIER MEDICINE AS WELL. THEY HAD THE ABILITY TO CREATE THEIR SYSTEMS. HOWEVER, IT WORKED BEST FOR THEM. SAME INTERVIEWEE AN ONCOLOGIST AT NEW YORK PRESBYTERIAN SAID IT'S BEEN DIFFICULT TO REPEAT THE CARE IN URBAN ENVIRONMENTS.

TED SIMONS: THE FUTURE OF MEDICAL CARE COULD OR COULD NOT BE SEEN HERE WITH MAYO CLINIC? WHAT DO YOU THINK?
ERIK EWERS: I DON'T KNOW, HONESTLY. WE SAY WE ARE NOT HEALTH EXPERTS. WE ARE MAKERS AND STORYTELLERS. WE HAD TWO DARTMOUTH NURSES SIT IN AT AN EARLY SCREENING. WE EXPECTED THEM TO ROLL THEIR EYES AND SAY THEY ARE LAYING THIS ON SO THICK. IT'S THE TRUTH. IT'S A GOOD, POSITIVE MORAL STORY. THEY TOLD US AT THE END OF THE DAY, THEY WANTED TO GO BACK TO THEIR JOBS AND BE BETTER NURSES. THAT’S WHAT ITS ALL ABOUT.
TED SIMONS: THAT'S GETTING THE JOB DONE. SPEAKING IF THE JOB, WORKING WITH KEN BURNS, WHAT MAKES A KEN BURNS DOCUMENTARY DIFFERENT THAN OTHER DOCUMENTARIES WE MIGHT SEE?
CHRIS EWERS: I THINK IT'S STRUCTURE. THE APPROACH KEN TAKES, AND THIS ONE IS NO EXCEPTION, IS TO PUT THE HISTORY FIRST. HE HAS TWO DEFINITIONS THAT WE USE AS RULE OF THUMBS. ONE IS WITHIN THE WORK'S HISTORY, A STORY. THE MOST POWERFUL IMPACTFUL HUMAN EMOTIONAL STORIES. THAT'S HOW WE APPROACH THAT.
ERIK EWERS: HISTORY IS THE STORY OF HUMAN EMOTION. THAT ALWAYS GRABS ME. WHAT PEOPLE EXPERIENCED AT THE TURN OF THE CENTURY IN THE 1890S, EARLY 1900S, THE SAME KIND OF EMOTIONS WE EXPERIENCE TODAY. THEY ARE NO DIFFERENT. THAT ALLOWS US TO GO BACK IN TIME. IF WE FOCUS ON THAT, WE BRING THAT TO LIFE FOR VIEWERS.
TED SIMONS: IS THAT SOMETHING YOU DEVELOPED IN WORKING WITH HIM ALL THESE YEARS? DOES HE YELL AT YOU A LOT?
ERIK EWERS: THE MAN IS INCAPABLE OF YELLING. HE IS ONE OF THE NICEST, KINDEST, GENTLEST, HE ENCOURAGES CREATIVE DIFFERENCES. HE LOVES A GOOD, CREATIVE FIGHT BECAUSE HE KNOWS WE ARE PASSIONATE ABOUT WHAT WE DO. HE IS REALLY A GREAT PERSON TO WORK FOR. IT'S BEEN A PRETTY SEAMLESS PROJECT FOR US.
TED SIMONS: I'M GUESSING HE HELICOPTERS IN EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE SAYING, A SLOWER PAN OR --
CHRIS EWERS: IT'S A KEN BURNS FILM. HE HAS TO DO IT.
TED SIMONS: IT LOOKS FASCINATING. CONGRATULATIONS. THREE YEARS IN THE MAKING?
CHRIS EWERS: AUGUST 2015 –
ERIK EWERS: JUNE. WE WENT TO FILM A SISTER OF ST. FRANCIS, SHE WAS 102 YEARS OLD. WE THOUGHT WE HAVE TO GET THERE QUICKLY. SHE PASSED ONLY TWO MONTHS AGO.
TED SIMONS: DID CHEF A CHANCE TO SEE IT?
ERIK EWERS: SHE DID AND SHE LOVED IT. WE HAD A SPECIAL SCREENING FOR HER.
TED SIMONS: S0 THIS IS THE FIRST TIME THIS HAS BEEN SHOWN ON TELEVISION, RIGHT?
CHRIS EWERS: ABSOLUTLEY CORRECT.
TED SIMONS: HERE'S ANOTHER CLIP FROM THE DOCUMENTARY, "THE MAYO CLINIC, FAITH HOPE AND SCEINCE."
ROGER FRISCH: FIRST TIME I NOTICED SOMETHING WAS NOT QUITE RIGHT, THE REHEARSAL STARTED, AND I STARTED DRAWING A SLOW BOAT. FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER, I NOTICED A LITTLE TINY SHAKE IN MY BOW ARM. THE ARM THAT NEEDS PERFECT CONTROL. AS A MUSICIAN, THAT'S WHEN YOU START PANICKING. I MUST HAVE GONE TO ABOUT 15 DIFFERENT DOCTORS, AND NO ONE COULD REALLY COME UP WITH AN ANSWER. I CONSIDERED THE POSSIBILITY THAT THIS WAS THE END OF MY CAREER.
KENDALL LEE: HE WOULD START TO PLAY HIS VIOLIN. IT WAS CLEAR THAT HE COULDN'T PLAY. HE SAID, CAN YOU HELP ME WITH THIS?
ROGER FRISCH: DR. LEE, HE SAID TO ME, I HAVE BEEN WORKING ON A TECHNIQUE THAT INVOLVES DRILLING A HOLE IN YOUR HEAD. I HAD ONE REACTION, NO ONE IS EVER DRILLING A HOLE IN MY HEAD. AFTER THREE MONTHS OF THE TREMOR GETTING WORSE AND WORSE, SOMEONE DRILLING A HOLE IN MY HEAD MAYBE WASN'T SUCH A BAD IDEA.
KENDALL LEE: DEEP BRAIN SIMULATION, IT'S A TECHNIQUE WHERE WE CAN TARGET ANYWHERE IN THE BRAIN WITH AN ELECTRODE AND SIMULATE THAT AREA OF THE BRAIN, AND WHAT WE FIND, AMAZINGLY, IS OUR PATIENTS WITH TREMOR, WE CAN MAKE THE SYMPTOMS GO AWAY.
ROGER FRISCH: I WAS FULLY AWAKE. YOU HAVE TO BE BECAUSE THEY NEEDED ME TO PLAY VIOLIN DURING THE SURGERY. DR. LEE INSERTED THE FIRST LEAD, AND I STARTED TO PLAY, AND THE TREMOR WAS MUCH BETTER. BUT ONLY MUCH BETTER. IT WASN'T GOOD ENOUGH TO PLAY PROFESSIONALLY.
KENDALL LEE: THE QUESTION IS WHETHER WE SHOULD INSERT THE SECOND LEAD.
ROGER FRISCH: THEY INSERTED THE SECOND LEAD, AND I DREW A BOW, AND IT WAS PERFECTLY STEADY.

“The Mayo Clinic: Faith, Hope & Science” is a new film from Ken Burns that tells the history of the medical center from its 1863 founding in Rochester, Minnesota by William Worrall Mayo.

The film’s co-directors, brothers Chris and Erik Ewers, say they knew very little about the topic when they decided to take on the project. Chris says the idea for the film came when Burns went to the clinic and was invited to a dinner where a 90-year-old nun shared some of the center’s history.

William Worrall was the man “who started it all.” It was his sons, Will and Charlie, who helped carry on the legacy of Mayo Clinic. The clinic broke ground during the Civil War, and the sons took over when their father retired.

The motto of the clinic is “the needs of the patient come first.” Erik says if they learned one thing about the Mayo Clinic, it’s that the history is still applied today. The brothers worked for three years filming and researching, and they agree that the motto holds true.

Once their father retired, Will and Charlie hired interns to do diagnostic work and conduct the initial diagnosis of each patient. Chris says that was the beginning of the clinic we know today.

“A physician we interviewed for the film said it best: ‘If I ever have a problem with a patient’s treatment, there are 2,400 other physicians behind me who are willing to step in and help,'” Chris says. “It’s a collaborative, team-based approach to everything.”

Erik says that everything they found about the history of the clinic surprised them. Being from the east coast, they didn’t know much about Mayo. He says one of the aspects of the clinic that most surprised him was its efficiency.

“It’s the good efficiency,” Erik says. “It’s not about getting you in the door then out the door. Everything moves so seamlessly.”

One question the film asks is why more health clinics don’t follow the model that Mayo created, Chris says. He says it’s because the clinic was created in a void in Rochester on the frontier. The founders had the opportunity to make their own rules and find what works best. He says it’s difficult for medical facilities in more established urban areas to replicate that.

“We had two Dartmouth nurses sit in at a very early screening,” Erik says. “We fully expected them to just roll their eyes… It’s the truth. They told us at the end of the day they wanted to go back to their jobs and be better nurses. That’s what it’s all about.”

The two-hour documentary, “The Mayo Clinic: Faith, Hope & Science,” will premiere on PBS stations on September 25 and 26.

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In this segment:

Chris Ewers: Co-Director, "The Mayo Clinic: Faith, Hope & Science"
Erik Ewers: Co-Director, "The Mayo Clinic: Faith, Hope & Science"

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