The History of the Mayo Clinic Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine
The Mayo Clinic Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine was officially formed on April 1, 1924. In its first century, the department has played pivotal roles in a variety of important developments that have advanced the specialty of anesthesiology. These include:
- Dedicated nurses at Mayo Clinic who delivered anesthesia in the 1890s, starting the field of nurse anesthesia
- Early trials that led to the use of sodium pentothal
- Innovations such as the nation’s first blood bank and postoperative intensive care unit
- Creation of the intravenous catheter
- Training of “90-day wonders,” physicians trained in anesthesiology during World War II, many of whom became major leaders of the specialty
- Co-founding and leadership of specialty organizations such as the American Society of Anesthesiologists and the American Board of Anesthesiology
Did You Know?
Charles C. Restall served in the U.S. Army from 1943 to 1946 and served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps from 1950 to 1951.
During World War II the need for physicians who were able to administer anesthetics to injured military personal was of vital importance. To accelerate the training of these individuals, the armed services created postgraduate “90-day” short courses to teach the fundamentals of the specialty. The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota was one of the locations where these programs were taught.
Dr. William J. Mayo and Dr. John S. Lundy first met at a Kings County Medical Society Meeting in Seattle, Washington on February 4, 1924. Dr. Mayo was on a trip to Australia and stopped on the West Coast before departure. According to correspondence within Dr. Mayo’s and Dr. Lundy’s papers, Dr. Mayo offered Dr. Lundy a job at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester as the new head of the department. Dr. Lundy accepted the position and began his work on April 1, 1924.
With the recruitment of John Lundy, M.D. from Seattle by Dr. William Mayo and Dr. Lundy’s start at Mayo Clinic on April 1, 1924, the new Section on Regional Anesthesia began what was to evolve progressively to the Section on Anesthesia, the Department of Anesthesiology, and now the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine.
Centennial Project Weekly Updates
Through April of 2025, the Centennial Project Team will have weekly updates that will contain very brief descriptions of articles or vignettes that highlight the department’s development, remarkable personnel across the spectrum of the department (e.g., respiratory therapists, nurse anesthetists, anesthesiologists, scientists, and administrators), and contributions to the specialty’s advances and recognition.
Mayo Clinic Anesthesiology Centennial Celebration: Update #4, September 28, 2023
We are completing the first month of our 18-month period of celebrating the Centennial Anniversary of the department. The months leading to April 2024 will be used to provide background information on the department. During the actual anniversary year (April 2024 through April 2025), there will be a variety of events and activities. These include:
- A gala celebration dinner.
- A series of visiting professors at all three sites who will speak about the history of the department and impact on the specialty.
- A special session on Mayo Clinic at the 2024 Anesthesia History Association’s annual meeting and co-hosting the association’s 2025 annual meeting in Rochester.
- Various historical vignettes about Mayo Clinic in Anesthesiology through the Centennial year.
- Two department-specific presentations in the series of dinners sponsored by Mayo Clinic’s Bruce Fye Center for History of Medicine.
- Progressive development of this webpage.
- Support for any and all of us to research, present, and publish department history.
Below are two great stories from our 2004 department newsletter. The first is about former Rochester department chair Alan Sessler and the second about one of the department’s most memorable clinicians, Charlie Restall. I think you’ll find them to be interesting and even entertaining.
- Profile of Alan Sessler. This summary encompasses two stories, one written by Peter Southorn and the other a set of reflections written by Mike Marsh. Peter is one of our most active emeritus professors. He is an astute observer of his colleagues and a prolific writer. He served as our department’s newsletter editor and co-wrote and edited our department’s history tome, Art to Science. This book was published in 2000. In many respects, our new department history website will be the next version of the book except that the website allows far more flexibility and inclusion of materials such as oral and video histories, links to many supporting materials such as digitized publications, etc. Mike formerly was a great anesthesiology and intensivist for us before leaving in 1991 to serve as long-term chair of the Department of Anesthesiology at Wayne State University.
- Fond Memories of Charlie Restall by Peter Southorn. This short summary provides hints into the amazing life of Charlie Restall. He was one of our many staff members who served in the military, with extensive action in WWII. He also is the subject of many of the department’s greatest, most humorous stories. He could be gruff and curmudgeonly as well as compassionate and soft as a teddy bear. Interesting reading.
Mayo Clinic Anesthesiology Centennial Celebration: Update #3, September 20, 2023
Will and Charlie Mayo were strong supporters of the U.S. military. Their advocacy led to the creation of the U.S. Army Medical Reserve Corps and their intensive work during WWI led to a remarkable advance in the quality of care provided to our soldiers, sailors, and pilots both during the war and far into the future. Many Mayo physicians and nurses played important roles in the military in WWI and in conflicts since that time.
The Department of Anesthesiology’s personnel also contributed to our armed forces military readiness and responses. In the coming months you will be amazed by the stories of our department colleagues and their military contributions in every branch of service. Here are two short military-related stories that provide details on some of our colleagues and a program at Mayo Clinic that helped launch the specialty of anesthesiology as we know it now.
- “Military Profiles“. This 2003 summary from one of our department newsletters describes the military experiences of four of our colleagues, with their actions involving WWII through Desert Storm.
- “The Mayo Clinic World War II Short Course and Its Effect on Anesthesiology”. This article from Anesthesiology, V 105, No 1, Jul 2006 showcases our department’s leadership in the creation and implementation of the WWII “Short Course” that rapidly produced anesthesia-trained physicians for WWII.
Steve Rettke is a distinguished U.S. Navy carrier fighter pilot and retired Navy captain, as well as long-time leader of our Methodist Hospital clinical practices. If you are a current or past department staff member and have served at any point in the U.S. Armed Forces, Steve is asking for you to send the following information to both him (Rettke.firstname.lastname@example.org) and Alec Thicke (Thicke.email@example.com). Alec is our department’s new archivist and major contributor to our Centennial Project. They are working on creating a database and will add this information and your stories to this webpage. You may include as much or little information as you feel comfortable sharing.
- MOS / Specialty
- Deployments/ Assignments
- Anesthesiology Department Association
- Photos of your time in the military, if any
Mayo Clinic Anesthesiology Centennial Celebration: Update #2, September 14, 2023
This week’s update focuses on the beginnings and history of the department.
There is some debate as to the original start of the Department of Anesthesiology, at least as we know it in its present form. Dr. Doug Bacon describes this debate in one of our 2004 department newsletters titled “How Old is the Mayo Department of Anesthesiology”
Jane Post, one of our department’s lead office staff members, worked for our Legal Department’s Harry Blackman starting in 1955, four years before Mr. Blackman became a federal court of appeals judge and in 1970 became an associate Supreme Court justice). Jane interacted with John Lundy regularly and partnered with every department chair from Albert Faulconer in 1955 through Duane Rorie when she retired in 1994. Peter Southorn’s summary of her observations from one of our 2008 newsletter articles titled “A Conversation with Mrs. Jane Post” gives us great insights into the characters and characteristics of these department chairs.
Mayo Clinic Anesthesiology Centennial Celebration: Update #1, September 7, 2023
This week’s update contains two published articles that showcase our founders, Dr. Lundy and Alice Magaw. Also included is an article by Scott Atchison, written in our 2002 department newsletter, describing our good friend and long-time colleague, Dr. Rungson Sittipong.
- “Alice Magaw (Kessel): Her Life In and Out of the Operating Room” by Jeffrey E. Nelson, CRNA, MNA; Steve F. Wilstead, CRNA, MNA. AANA Journal 2009.
- “Developing a Speciality: J.S. Lundy Three Major Contributions to Anesthesiology” by Terry A. Ellis II MD; Bradly J. Narr MD; Douglas R. Bacon MD, MA. Journal of Clinical Anesthesia Volume 16, Issue 3, May 2004, Pages 226-229.
- “Our Friend Rungson” Mayo Anesthesiology Alumni Newsletter. September 2002, Vol. 1, No. 1