It's been more than 150 years since Dr. William Worrall Mayo and his sons, Drs. Will and Charlie, started their little "clinic in the cornfield." Over time, Mayo Clinic has grown into a premier medical research and patient care facility. In recent years, along with continued successes and advances, there was also a growing feeling that the clinic's longstanding frown on allowing staff to participate in business interests outside of the clinic walls was standing in the way of certain innovations. That changed in 2013 with a new policy that the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal reports helped usher in a flood of new ideas and approaches to patient care that might not otherwise have seen the light of day.
To be clear, Mayo Clinic didn't have a ban on entrepreneurship. While researchers and physicians were not allowed to form their own startup companies under the old policy, they were allowed and encouraged to create medical inventions. When they did, Mayo Clinic would license those inventions to existing companies. But that meant Mayo inventors "had little to no control over the businesses using their inventions," the paper reports.
But the times, as they say, are a changin'. As more medical institutions began giving employees more entrepreneurial support and freedom, Mayo Clinic leaders decided it was in the clinic's best interest (and the best interest of patients) to do the same. "There was a feeling among leadership at Mayo that we could tap the power of entrepreneurship here more than we were," Richard Ehman, M.D., Mayo Clinic's head of medical-industry relations, tells the paper.
So with the blessing of Mayo's Board of Trustees, Mayo Clinic bid farewell to its old policy and said hello to a new slate of "employee entrepreneurship programs." The paper reports this has given "Mayo Clinic doctors and researchers additional freedom" with the startup companies and products they create. In doing so, doctors like Darryl Barnes, M.D., have been able to enjoy more of the fruits of their innovative, entrepreneurial labor.
According to the Journal, Dr. Barnes, whose most recent startup venture Sonex Health "offers a minimally invasive treatment for common orthopedic problems like carpal tunnel," is among the "average of five to 10 physicians" who have formed new startup businesses each year since Mayo loosened its policy.
The change was a bold, innovative move in its own right. Gary Smith, president of Rochester Area Economic Development Inc., says it's not only been good for business, but for surrounding communities as well. "The policy change provided a whole new level of activity in terms of entrepreneurs starting businesses in Rochester," Smith tells the paper. "You feel it's continuing to grow and evolve, and will continue to do so over the next several years. And you have to give Mayo some credit for that."
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