Tradition & Heritage Timeline Artifacts  
The Early Years -- Learning Medicine Like Boys on a Farm
William J. Mayo
Dr. Will Writes Home from Medical School

Dr. William J. Mayo completed a three-year medical program at the University of Michigan in 1883. Inspired in his studies, he looked forward to joining his father's practice. On May 5, 1883, the young Dr. Mayo, not yet 22 years old, wrote his older sister, Gertrude Berkman, a letter that reflects his eagerness and enthusiasm for his future in medicine:

My dear sister Trude --
"This is the first time when I have had anything to write you [and] I have had time to do it. A member of our class died today, a very fine fellow and a good student -- about a week ago he was bled from the arm -- he thought he was too full of blood, the little cut in his arm suppurated and he had inflammation of the veins and died of blood poisoning. This makes three this year that have died out of our class and two have gone home to die of consumption. In our class of 120 in three years 12 men have died or broken down in their course and several in the class are injured in health, one in ten is a large proportion to give out. A good many do not learn easy -- in fact should never have entered a profession. The course is hard, but some are peculiarly adapted to this kind of a life and I guess I am one of them as I have never been sick a day nor missed a meal and have worked right along and have a good time too. And when I get home some of the rest of us must have a good time -- for we are really all one family.

"Don't let father work too hard -- and when I get home I will give him more time to run the farm and rest, for I am anxious to get out and put my shoulder to the wheel for our common good.

"For I am in love with my profession and with hard study and work with plenty of time, hope to make a success, but do not expect to do it in a day."

An Early Learning Experience Graduation and First Surgery
William J. Mayo
William J. Mayo --
Medical student

Find Mayo Clinic on

Terms of Use and Information Applicable to this Site
Copyright ©2001-2015 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. All Rights Reserved.