September 1889: Nurse Anesthesia Program Begins #throwbackthursdays

Edith Graham
Edith Graham

Upon completing her studies in Chicago, Edith Graham returned to her hometown in 1889 as the first professionally educated nurse in Rochester. She taught the Sisters of St. Francis, who were schoolteachers, in the principles of nursing and began the Mayo tradition of excellence in nurse anesthesia education. With her dedication to patients and technical skills, Edith Graham was a natural for this role, using the amber-colored ether bottle pictured above, until her marriage to Dr. Charlie in 1893.

The second nurse anesthetist was Alice Magaw who made so many contributions that the Mayo brothers called her “The Mother of Anesthesia,” an accolade that remains in the professional literature today. In 1906, she reported on 14,000 cases without one death attributable to anesthesia. That same year, a German surgeon described the phenomenon of anesthetists from the world’s leading medical centers coming to Rochester to learn from highly skilled nurses.

Today, the Nurse Anesthesia Program is internationally recognized for excellence, with practitioners at each Mayo Clinic hospital as well as alumni who work at many other institutions. In 2014, exactly 125 years after Edith Graham began teaching the Sisters of St. Francis, Mayo Clinic inaugurated a 42-month doctoral-level nurse anesthesia program (Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice — DNAP), upholding the highest professional standards in service to patients.


Kelley Schreiber

Kelley Schreiber is a Marketing Channel Manager at Mayo Medical Laboratories. She is the principle editor and writer of Insights and leads social media and direct marketing strategy. Kelley has worked at Mayo Clinic since 2013. Outside of work, you can find Kelley running, traveling, playing with her new kitten, and exploring new foods.