With the anniversary of Elliot Memorial Hospital’s opening, the U celebrates a century of leading-edge medical education
In 1911, life expectancy was 47 years, and more than 95 percent of births took place at home. The leading causes of death were pneumonia and influenza, and antibiotics were a distant dream. Even the way medicine was taught seems completely foreign to us now, with the majority of doctors back then having had no university training.
That was all about to change. The University of Minnesota was on the pioneering edge of a new era of standardized medical instruction. With a gift of $115,000 from the family of a Minneapolis doctor whose real estate holdings proved to be quite valuable, the University’s first independent teaching hospital was born.
In what was then named Elliot Memorial Hospital — known today as the Mayo Building — students learned the latest medical techniques while providing free care to the needy.
The entrance to Elliot hospital sat approximately at the end of what is now the “C” corridor of the Mayo building. Over time, as the hospital expanded, Elliot was surrounded by new wings devoted to cancer, pediatrics, and other specialty care. Eventually, with the building of Mayo Memorial in the 1950s, the exterior of Elliot became barely visible, as newer and more modern facilities eclipsed its façade.
Elliot was made possible when a group of community donors, the state Legislature, and the University came together to build a facility that would closely connect patient care to the University’s mission to educate health care providers for the state.
Through her will, Mary Elliot contributed $115,000 of the $155,000 required to build the then-modern teaching facility in honor of her husband, Adolphus Elliot, M.D. The remaining $40,000 came from the state Legislature, which supplied an additional $44,000 for equipment. Thirty-eight prominent Minneapolis donors contributed the $42,000 needed to purchase the land.
Elliot Memorial Hospital’s first patient was admitted on September 19, 1911.
While much has changed since the construction of this first teaching hospital, the University remains true to its original mission: to be a premier teaching facility serving the community.
By Sara Martin, a writer and editor in the Academic Health Center, and Erik Moore, the University of Minnesota’s lead health sciences archivist