Department History

Investigations in the Mayo Clinic Department of Health Sciences Research draw on more than a century of excellence and innovation in health care data management and analysis.

  • 1901 — Research begins at Mayo Clinic. Dr. Henry Plummer joins Dr. William W. Mayo and his sons as the fourth partner in the Mayo practice. Dr. Plummer urges the Mayos to consider a research program as a necessary and vital part of the practice, and he introduces the unit medical record for each patient in 1907.
  • 1910 — Establishment of the first diagnostic index, the Plummer-Root file. Dr. Plummer devises a diagnostic index patterned after the 1888 Nomenclature of Diseases of the Royal College of Physicians. Two sophisticated coding systems were implemented on 5-by-7 index cards to catalog all medical diagnoses and surgical procedures. These systems comprise the foundation of the existing data infrastructure used by the department today.
  • 1929 — First biostatistician at Mayo Clinic. Dr. Halbert Dunn, the first biometrician hired by Mayo Clinic, initiates the IBM coding system in medical statistics.
  • 1932 — First biostatistics department at Mayo Clinic. The Biometry and Statistical Department is created to apply the latest methodology in analyzing medical data.
  • 1934 — Reorganization of the biostatistics department. Dr. Joseph Berkson is named head of the Division of Biometry and Medical Statistics. He remains chair until 1964. He is the first to describe Berkson's bias, a unique type of selection bias widely recognized in epidemiologic literature.
  • 1935 — Reengineering of the indexing system using IBM punch card technology. Dr. Berkson introduces a medical and surgical index employing the new IBM Hollerith punch card.
  • 1964 — Establishment of the Department of Medical Statistics, Epidemiology and Population Genetics. The biostatistics department is reorganized as the Department of Medical Statistics, Epidemiology and Population Genetics. Dr. Leonard Kurland is named as the chair.
  • 1966 — Establishment of the Rochester Epidemiology Project. Dr. Kurland initiates the population-based Rochester Epidemiology Project with funding from the National Institutes of Health.
  • 1987 — Reorganization and establishment of the Department of Health Sciences Research. The department is reorganized into the Division of Biomedical Statistics and Informatics, the Division of Epidemiology, and the Division of Health Care Policy and Research. Dr. Jack Whisnant is named as chair.
  • 1993-present — A tradition of world-class leadership. Subsequent department chairs include: