It threw us a little off our rhythm, recently, when we learned there's a group of Mayo poets that gathers each Friday in a meeting room in the Kahler Hotel in Rochester. Well, it's a group of POETS, really, but we'll come back to that. This past Friday, members of the little-known-but-not-that-secretive group gathered to celebrate the birthday of one of their own. That might not seem like a big deal, but getting 101 candles on a cake is no mean feat.
Lewis Woolner, M.D., an emeritus Mayo pathologist, was the birthday boy. He used the moment to share a verse that he clearly enjoyed and that struck a chord with the others gathered for the occasion.
I get up each morning and dust off my wits,
Open the paper, and read the Obits.
If I'm not there, I know I'm not dead,
So I eat a good breakfast and go back to bed!
Dr. Woolner has an impressive resume to match his impressive run, as do many in the company he keeps at the POETS gatherings. He was born in Prince Edward Island, Canada, and raised on a potato farm before coming to the cornfields of Southeast Minnesota. He was introduced to Mayo Clinic on a stop during his honeymoon to visit well-known Mayo pathologist Malcolm Dockerty, M.D., also from Prince Edward Island. (Further questioning revealed that Rochester may not have been the primary honeymoon destination.) Dr. Woolner joined the Mayo staff as a surgical pathologist in 1948. Known as one of the best ever diagnostic surgical pathologists at Mayo, he is often compared to Mayo's first pathologist, Louis Wilson, M.D., who had the same initials and a similar upbringing.
Now, lest you think these POETS are all about rhymes and resumes, we'll confess, as they did with sly grins, that POETS stands for something other than metered or free verse. We're told it's an acronym for, um, "Pee On Everything, Tomorrow's Saturday." (Well, that's one version.) The acronym comes from way, way back when many in the group were active physicians and administrators. The group may have begun with Mayo administrator Slade Schuster in the 1950s, but since one of its guiding principles is, "No minutes, no rules, no dues," we can't document that. Today, members get together to reminisce, and talk about clinic happenings, the health care environment, world events, and much more. To ensure there's good conversation and discussion, the group's membership is capped at 12 members. And to ensure that conversation and discussion remains civil, politics and religion are off limits. (So, perhaps two rules.)
The group's current members are all emeritus Mayo staff. Its newest member, although in his 80s, has been part of the POETS Group for just four years. (He calls himself the baby of the group.) He's been part of the Mayo family since the 1960s, however – a time we're told members worried about things like having to work Saturdays to pay for the Mayo Building. (The more things change …)
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